State Rep. Robert Sprague Tries To Use Ohio Budget To Stick It To Recovering Drug Addicts

offical photo of State Rep. Robert Sprague, R-Findlay
State Rep. Robert Sprague, R-Findlay

State Rep. Robert Sprague, R-Findlay, is using the typical Ohio GOP trick of adding terrible legislation to the state budget so the nasty part can’t be repealed through a referendum. The terrible law he doesn’t want to expose to the ballot box? Extra rules on the placement of community drug addiction recovery homes. Which is ironic because addressing drug abuse is one of Sprague’s causes he trumpets in his press releases and through normally introduced legislation.

State Rep. Robert Sprague, R-Findlay, on Friday defended sponsoring state legislation that would require a public meeting and county commissioner approval before an addiction recovery house could be established.

“What I heard from the people at the meetings about the location of the recovery house in Findlay is that they want to know about the project and they want to be able to appeal to their local representatives. It provides better transparency in the process,” Sprague said.

Under his proposal, state grant money used to establish the recovery homes would be withheld until a county’s commissioners endorsed a plan with a letter of support.

The proposal is included in the $131.6 billion budget bill passed by the Ohio House on April 22. The bill, House Bill 64, is now in the hands of the Ohio Senate. Lawmakers have until June 30 to send their budget to Gov. John Kasich.

Rep. Sprague defends proposed rules for addiction recovery homes

Sprague’s budget item is a follow up from the dust up earlier in the year when the Hancock County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services tried to establish a recovery house in a posh neighborhood on the east side of Findlay.

The “compromise” reached in that dispute was ADAMHS selling the house and promising to seek neighborhood input should another house be selected. A stricter deal, rejected by ADAMHS, would have required “express written consent of all the owners of homes located within 200 feet of the proposed recovery house”.

Sprague’s proposed law is not much different in that any county ADAMHS board would be required to have county commissioners approval.

As pointed out in the Courier article, that approval would violate fair housing rules as no one else is held to the same requirement and can’t be held to it.

So while Sprague talks a good game about drug addiction, including supporting addicts released from jail being allowed to keep Medicaid coverage, the addicts still need a place to recover from their addiction. 

The science is clear that people who go into a program in a community recovery house, located in a stable neighborhood, are more likely to succeed in their sobriety.

State Rep. Robert Sprague shouldn’t make it harder to get off drugs by adding rules in the budget that single out struggling people.


*Ohio Civics Lesson*: Ohio Republicans have been using the budget to pass nasty laws since they were handed their asses when voters repealed Senate Bill 5 in 2011. SB 5 tried to strip the right to collective bargaining from public employee unions like police and fire unions. The public employee unions and other progressives forced a vote on the law through a referendum.

State Budget bills are exempt from referendums. The GOP have used the budget to also nickel and dime women’s reproductive rights with stricter and stricter abortion rules.

I would really love to see a state referendum that would prohibit non-budget items in the budget bill so our elected legislators would be more accountable to the people who pay their salary.

*Update 07/02/2015*

Looks like Rep. Robert Sprague and the other GOP members of the Ohio House were the only ones not to see the possible illegal outcome to his recovery house budget item. It was removed in the Senate version of the budget but added back during the conference committee work.

Finally, it was one of the 44 items vetoed by Governor Kasich:

Experts said the requirement would have violated fair housing laws, something the governor noted in his veto.

“I guess the governor and I disagree on fair housing,” Sprague said Wednesday. “I just received the veto message this morning.”

In his veto, Kasich said the requirement would be “arbitrary treatment of recovery housing projects” and said it could violate fair housing laws and could lead to “illegal discrimination.” Kasich also wrote that his action was “in the public interest.”

Sprague, R-Findlay, maintained he was just trying to promote “accountability and transparency” about how tax dollars are spent. Sprague doesn’t have any plans to continue pursuing the restrictions, but stopped short of saying he won’t bring the issue up again.

“We’ll take a look and see what we can do,” Sprague said.

Governor vetoes Sprague’s recovery house proposal

It is kind of ironic that Sprague wanted to promote “‘accountability and transparency’ about how tax dollars are spent” yet tried to force through law as part of the budget bill rather than introducing a traditional bill which would be open to public comments and possible repeal through the referendum process.