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Ohio's government, just like the federal government, has three branches: legislative, judicial, and executive. Ohio's government is organized as follows:

Legislative: Ohio's legislative branch, collectively known as the Ohio General Assembly, consists of the Ohio House of Representatives and the Ohio Senate. It is the legislature's responsibility to enact laws for the citizens, as elected officials.

Ohio House of Representatives: Comprised of 99 members, each representative represents about 110,000 citizens. Representatives are elected for two-year terms and can only serve four, consecutive two-year terms. To find out who your Representative is, click here.

Ohio Senate: The Senate is comprised of 33 members who represent 330,000 Ohio citizens apiece. They are elected to four-year terms and are limited to serving two, consecutive four-year terms. To find out who your Senator is, click here.

How a Bill Becomes a Law: There are two types of bills that are addressed by the legislature: bills and resolutions. Bills seek to enact new laws or to change an existing one. Bills may start in either house, but they must be considered by both chambers at three different times. Both chambers may alter, amend, or reject a bill. There are six basic steps in this process:

  1. Introduction - Ideas for bills do not come from the individual legislators alone. They can come from citizens, interest groups, businesses, and state angencies. However, a bill must be sponsored by at least one legislator and must be reviewed by the Legislative Service Commission to ensure the proper format is being used.

  2. Referral - Once a bill is introduced it is then reviewed and assigned to a standing committee for debate, testimony, and committee action.

  3. Committee Hearings - For the most part, the fate of a bill is determined in committee. The committee can decide to take action on a bill, refer the more complex issues to a subcommittee, or take not action, thus killing the bill. If the committee decides to take action, hearings are held where advocates and opponents are allowed to voice their concerns about the bill. The committee will then decide if it wants to amend, rewrite, or combine the bill with another one. Finally, the committee decides if it wants to report the bill favorably to the entire chamber or to postpone the bill indefinitely which will kill it.

  4. Rules Committees - Bills that have been reported out favorably are then placed on the calendar to be debated and voted on by the entire chamber. However, the rules committees may decide prevent further action on the bill by never placing the bill on the calendar.

  5. Full Chamber Consideration - Consideration begins by a sponsor discussing the bill's purpose and content before the entire chamber. The bill is then debated on and may be amended based on the rules of either the House or the Senate. When the bill is voted on, it must receive a simple majority from each house: 50 in the House and 17 in the Senate. Once the bill is passed before one chamber (i.e. the House), it is then sent to the other chamber (i.e. the Senate). The bill can still be changed by the other (Senate) chamber, but before it moves on to the next step, it must be approved by both chambers in the same form.

  6. Governor's Approval - Once the bill is approved by both chambers, the Governor has ten days to act on the bill. If he approves it, the bill becomes law in 90 days, unless stated otherwise in the bill or it is an emergency or appropriations bill, those are enacted immediately. The Governor also has the option to veto the bill and the bill is sent back to the legislature with the Governor's written objections. The legislator may override the Governor's veto through a three-fifths majority in both houses.

For a more in-depth look at how a bill becomes a law, including a flow chart, go here.

Ohio Budget Process - The State budget for Ohio operates on a two-year cycle. Each fiscal year begins on July 1st and ends on June 30th of the following year. The legislature works on the budget primarily in the first six months of the regular session of the General Assembly.

The majority of the State's income (excluding money from the Federal government) comes from the personal income tax. The second largest portion comes from the sales tax and such things as the corporate franchise tax, public utilities excise tax, lottery profits, non-tax income, and other taxes make up the rest.

In terms of spending, the highest portion of State money goes to K-12 education. Human services comes in at second and higher education is third. General government, corrections, and local government make up the rest of the State appropriations.

For more information on this process, take a look at chapter eight in A Guidebook for Ohio Legislators.

Judicial: The role of the judicial branch is to settle disputes between people, between a person and the government, and between agencies of the government. Courts do this by interpreting the laws made by the Constitution and legislature. The Constitution of Ohio designates three courts: Ohio Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, and Court of Common Pleas. In addition, the legislature has created a system of municipal courts, county courts, mayor's courts, and Ohio Court of Claims. For more information, please go to Ohio Judicial Branch home page

Executive: The executive branch consists of six elected officials and is led by the Governor. As a whole, the executive branch ensures the laws passed by the legislature are executed. Each official is elected to a four-year term and cannot serve more than two consecutive terms. The executive branch also consists of agencies that administer policies in areas such as the environment, transportation, and human services. For more information on the executive branch, click here.

Resources Used:
The 124th Ohio General Assembly Online
A Guidebook for Legislators
Know Your Ohio Government. Produced by the League of Women Voters of Ohio