Sunday, March 18, 2001

Republican leaders debate education plan

By John McCarthy
The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS, Ohio — The day after Speaker Larry Householder surprised state government with the House Republicans' school funding solution, Senate President Richard Finan gave a vivid reminder that Ohio has two other Republican leaders — himself and Gov. Bob Taft.

        Mr. Finan, quiet since parts of the plan had been leaked to the media over last weekend and scheduled to meet with Mr. Taft and Mr. Householder to discuss the plan Monday, was asked on Tuesday for a response after a committee meeting. He didn't have one.

        “Speaker Householder has still never called me about it,” Mr. Finan said.

        Mr. Householder acknowledged that he had not spoken with his fellow Republican but blamed that on a canceled meeting. Asked who had canceled the meeting, Mr. Householder said, “It wasn't me.”

        Still later on Tuesday, reporters questioned Mr. Finan about the House plan. They wanted to know whether Mr. Finan had canceled his meeting with Mr. Householder. Mr. Finan then looked around for his appointment book.

        “Well, let's see where my book is. It's right here,” Mr. Finan began.

        “Capitol exhibit? That's not him. We had caucus. We had caucus. I have Senator Johnson. ... I have Capitol Square Board. I have a photo tomorrow. I have arts luncheon tomorrow. ... (Senators) Armbruster, Mead,” he recited, pointing to the events and names in his book.

        “Any of those sound like Larry Householder? Don't to me.”

        Mr. Finan admitted he had canceled a meeting with Mr. Householder on nursing homes, scheduled for this week — not last week — because of a conflict.

        The two have since spoken, and Mr. Taft told both he wanted a “leaders-only” discussion of the issue on Monday. Mr. Taft, was on a South America trade mission — and not due back for a week — when Mr. Householder dropped his plan on state leaders.

        Mary Anne Sharkey, Mr. Taft's communications director, said the governor learned of the plan after someone in the speaker's office phoned a top aide last Sunday night. It hit the papers Monday morning.

        The events widened a rift in protocol that has emerged since the new General Assembly — with Mr. Finan and first-year speaker Mr. Householder in charge — took over in January.

        Even earlier, Republican lawmakers had grumbled about Mr. Taft's proposal to eliminate budgetary mandates the state required of school districts, but did not pay for. The lawmakers felt they were not given credit for their work.

        The top-level scene stealing and one-upmanship is a far cry from the 1997 school funding debate, which began after the Supreme Court's original ruling that the way Ohio funds its schools is unconstitutional.

        Mr. Taft said in a news release announcing Monday's no-aides-allowed meeting that it is “imperative” that the three leaders present the court with a unified response.


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