With long break looming, state legislators ramp up activity


By Craig Kelly - ckelly@civitasmedia.com



COLUMBUS — It was a busy week for state legislators, with several bills being passed in the final voting session until Nov. 15.

Probably the highest profile bill was House Bill 523, which provides for the legal use of marijuana for medical purposes. After passing the House by a 75-21 vote May 10, with assenting votes coming from Rep. Robert Cupp, R-Lima, Rep. Tony Burkely, R-Payne, and Rep. Robert McColley, R-Napoleon, and dissenting votes from Rep. Robert Sprague, R-Findlay, and Rep. Jim Buchy, R-Greenville, the Senate narrowly passed the bill by a 19-15 vote Wednesday, with both Sen. Keith Faber, R-Celina, and Sen. Cliff Hite, R-Findlay, voting against it. The bill now awaits a final signature from Gov. John Kasich.

Ohioans for Medical Marijuana had been attempting to get a less restrictive measure put on the November ballot, but according to a Saturday release on the group’s website, it is suspending its campaign, citing a lack of funds and the passage of HB523.

Ohio House of Representatives: On Tuesday, the House passed House Bill 85, also known as “Erin’s Law,” which gives a pathway for schools to educate K-12 students on the dangers of sexual abuse and violence in an age-appropriate manner. The bill was named for Erin Merryn, an author and activist who suffered continued abuse as a child.

According to a House news release, school districts, community schools and STEM schools would “have the freedom to elect what kind of instruction would be taught in their respective institution.”

The bill passed by a 90-7 vote, with Buchy casting one of the dissenting votes. It now goes to the Senate for consideration.

The House also passed House Bill 284 Tuesday, which adds felony extortion and perjury to the list of crimes that would result in the loss of retirement or disability benefits for any public official convicted of them.

Currently, only felony convictions of bribery, theft in office, or conspiracy are on that list.

The bill passed by a 95-2 vote, with Rep. Michael Curtin, D-Marble Cliff, and Rep. Gary Scherer, R-Circleville, casting the dissenting votes.

The House also concurred with a Senate-amended House Bill 5 Tuesday, which gives state agencies and local governments the power to have the state auditor conduct feasibility studies on two or more offices, allowing for the sharing of resources and increased efficiency.

The auditor would be authorized to provide grants to local governments to cover the costs of feasibility studies and would hold public hearings to announce the findings of such studies. The auditor would also be able to create a program in which state agencies and other political divisions would be able to share heavy equipment, such as tractors, bulldozers and backhoes, with the receiving agency assuming liability for such equipment.

The bill is now awaiting the governor’s signature.

Rep. Robert Cupp, R-Lima: On Tuesday, the House passed House Bill 436, a bill co-sponsored by Cupp that addresses an inconsistency in addressing driving privileges for second-time Operating a Vehicle Impaired offenders. Currently, a court can allow such offenders driving privileges 45 days after a driver’s license suspension but is also prohibited from releasing the offender’s vehicle from an immobilization order until after 90 days. This leaves these offenders able to drive but without a vehicle. This legislation would allow judges to lift immobilization orders earlier to coincide with the restoration of driving privileges.

“HB 436 will enable the existing law on this matter to work better and in a more practical way by making the time periods for suspension and immobilization work together,” Cupp said. “Moreover, it gives the judges handling the case needed discretion tailored to the particular circumstances.”

The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Ohio Senate

Sen. Cliff Hite, R-Findlay: The Senate unanimously passed the Hite-sponsored Senate Bill 287 Tuesday, which, according to Hite, will increase the state’s diabetes prevention and management efforts, combating a disease which affects more than 1.3 million in the state.

The bill calls for an assessment of incidence rates and the formation of a statewide strategy to address both preventing the disease itself and managing its complications, involving both legislators and medical professionals.

“With a comprehensive plan and partnership between state agencies, Ohio will be a leader in reducing the rate of diabetes,” Hite said. “The plan and the forthcoming report will offer options and opportunities to best protect the future health of Ohioans.”

The bill was introduced in the House of Representatives on Wednesday.

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By Craig Kelly

ckelly@civitasmedia.com

Reach Craig Kelly at 567-242-0390 or on Twitter @Lima_CKelly.

Reach Craig Kelly at 567-242-0390 or on Twitter @Lima_CKelly.

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