Ad Hoc Legislative Issues Committee Report - March 2002
Al Tonetti, Committee Chair
State Legislation (Information about state laws, legislation, legislators, etc., can be found at www.legislature.state.oh.us.
House Select Committee Studying the Effectiveness of Ohio's Historical Programs and Partnerships
Recently, the OAC made significant progress in getting the State Legislature to understand and address our concerns with the identification, evaluation, protection, and interpretation of important archaeological resources in Ohio. This progress is reflected in the Select Committee's preliminary and final reports, both of which are available here on the OAC website.
The focus of the Committee's work over the last five months was on attending hearings and preparing and presenting testimony as an interested party to the House Select Committee Studying the Effectiveness of Ohio's Historical Programs and Partnerships. Since November 7, 2001, the Select Committee met 13 times. The Legislative Issues Committee had representation at nine of these meetings. The Select Committee released its preliminary report on February 20, 2002, and submitted its final report to Speaker Householder on March 7, 2002.
On January 23, 2002, the OAC presented written and oral testimony concerning the Ohio Historical Society's archaeological programs and partnerships. On February 1, 2002, the OAC submitted written testimony providing cost estimates and potential sources of funding for implementing the recommendations contained in our January 23 testimony. On February 27, 2002, the OAC presented written and oral testimony concerning the Select Committee's preliminary report. The full text of the three testimonies is presented on the OAC website. All testimony was prepared and submitted on behalf of the OAC membership and President Brian Redmond by Legislative Issues Committee Chair Al Tonetti. All testimony was prepared with the input of the Legislative Issues Committee and the Board of Directors.
A number of the recommendations made by the OAC were accepted by the Select Committee and appear in their preliminary report. At the time this article was written, the Select Committee's final report had not been released. These recommendations include, but are not limited to:
- The Ohio Historic Preservation Office developing and implementing a state archaeological preservation plan to streamline the identification and evaluation of important archaeological sites;
- The State of Ohio developing and implementing an abandoned cemetery and unmarked human burial ground preservation program (Ohio is one of only a few states that does not have a program protecting such places);
- The repeal of the State registries of Historic Landmarks and Archaeological Landmarks because the programs are fatally flawed (only one property has been listed in 26 years);
- The Ohio Historical Society developing management plans for State Memorials;
- The Ohio Historical Society obtaining comments from interested stakeholders concerning its archaeological programs, and reporting to the State Legislature concerning the same.
Regarding the last recommendation, the Select Committee has directed the Ohio Historical Society to develop mechanisms to increase communication and input from Native American organizations and the archaeological community and to submit a written report to the Select Committee and the Governor on efforts to do so by September 30, 2002. The OAC will work to see that it is a partner in developing these mechanisms. The Select Committee also recommended that the duties of the Ohio Historic Preservation Office be transferred from the Ohio Historical Society to the Ohio Department of Development. The OAC cautiously supported this recommendation, provided that it increased financial and technological support to OHPO and integrated historic preservation concerns into all levels of State Government.
Teaching Intelligent Design (Creationism) in Public School Science Classes
Recently introduced House Bill 481 requires that "whenever explanations regarding the origins of life are presented, appropriate explanation and disclosure shall be provided regarding the historical nature of origins science and the use of any material assumption which may have provided a basis for the explanation being presented." The goal of the sponsors of this bill is to teach alternative theories concerning the origins of life, i.e., intelligent design/creationism, in public school science classes. The State Board of Education is currently debating whether to add intelligent design/creationism to science curriculum standards that will serve as the basis for a new graduation test and other student assessments. The standards are to be completed by December 31, 2002. Passage of this bill would require that the standards include teaching intelligent design/creationism. If enacted, Ohio would become the first and only state to require teaching alternatives to evolution, i.e., intelligent design/creationism, in public school science classes. The first hearing on this bill before the House Education Committee occurred March 5.
Recently introduced House Bill 484 and Senate Bill 222 require that before state science curriculum standards are adopted and implemented by the State Board of Education, on or before December 31, 2002, the standards must be approved by a concurrent resolution passed by both houses of the General Assembly. This bill provides unprecedented legislative control over the content of the science standards for public schools. It is sponsored by many of the same representatives sponsoring House Bill 481. The first hearing on this bill before the House Education Committee occurred March 5.
President Bush's proposed 2003 budget (October 1, 2002-September 30, 2003) calls for a 12% reduction ($5 million) in spending for the National Park Service's Historic Preservation Fund, dollars that support the operation of state historic preservation offices, certified local governments, and Indian tribes. A 27% cut ($18 million) is proposed for the National Park Service's Recreation and Preservation budget, funds that support the National Register of Historic Places and related historic preservation programs. Proposed cuts to other federal agencies include $112 million for the Department of Agriculture's Forest Service, a 7% reduction for the Army Corps of Engineers, including making no funds available for the planning and design of new projects, and a whopping 28% reduction ($9.2 billion) for highway spending for the Department of Transportation.