State lawmakers have a lot awaiting them in the fall. First an election, then a pile of pending legislation.
“It’s going to be a normal lame-duck (session),” said state Sen. Bob Hackett, R-London.
Some of those voting on legislation will know their terms will be ending at the start of 2023.
The General Assembly has a session scheduled “if needed” in September, but if that’s not used, legislators are not expected to reconvene until after the Nov. 8 general election.
Lame-duck sessions are sometimes used to get controversial items passed, Hackett said.
Perhaps the most prominent of those is Substitute HB 151. Near the end of the House’s final spring session on the night of June 1, state Rep. Jena Powell, R-Arcanum, slipped the “Save Women’s Sports Act” into an unrelated bill as an amendment on the House floor.
That bypassed the public committee process, and the bill passed the House. Powell tried the same tactic last year only to see that attempt fail after Gov. Mike DeWine spoke against it.
Substitute HB 151 would prohibit schools, state universities, private colleges and interscholastic sports bodies from allowing “individuals of the male sex to participate on athletic teams or in athletic competitions designated only for participants of the female sex.”
It only addresses athletes who transition male-to-female, not female-to-male. Opponents have pointed out it could require genital inspections of any student whose gender is questioned.
Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima, said last week he’d like to “get results” on transgender athletics by the end of this year.
“I think that we need to deal with that issue,” he said. “I think we’ll take it up in November.”
Huffman said he had no opinion on the prospect of testing or inspecting student athletes for biological sex confirmation. But he said he wanted to avoid the “considerable stomach upset” of passing legislation by insertion into unrelated bills.
“I think it’s a bad way to change policy,” Huffman said.
None of the legislators contacted mentioned reviving bills against requiring vaccination, masks or other public health measures. Several bills on those subjects got extensive debate last year, but all failed due to internal Republican disagreements on whether government should prevent private businesses from creating their own rules. Similar attempts in other states also lost support as most restrictions related to COVID-19 relaxed.
“Economic and workforce development will continue to be top priorities for our state and the legislature,” said House Speaker Bob Cupp, R-Lima. “There has also been a lot of deliberation regarding publicly-funded childcare here in Ohio, which is important.”
Continued high gas prices may give more traction to SB 277, sponsored by state Sen. Steve Huffman, R-Tipp City. It would cut the state fuel tax back to 28 cents per gallon for both gasoline and diesel for five years, then return the tax to its current level of 38.5 cents for gasoline and 47 cents for diesel fuel.
It would also suspend for five years collection of the additional registration fee for hybrid or electric vehicles: $100 a year for hybrids, and $200 for electric vehicles.
Abortion and sexual abuse
State Rep. Kyle Koehler, R-Springfield, said he expects the House to react to the potential overturn of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. The court is considering a challenge to a Mississippi law that banned most abortions, and in May a draft opinion leaked that indicated the court may overturn Roe.
One related bill is HB 598, sponsored by state Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Loveland. It’s a “trigger ban” that would outlaw abortion in Ohio if Roe is overturned. Currently the bill does not include exceptions for rape, incest or the mother’s health.
“They’re waiting to see what the decision is by the U.S. Supreme Court,” Koehler said. “The bill that will pass will be drafted after the Supreme Court rules, or if they rule.”
Schmidt’s bill would make it a felony for doctors to perform abortions.
Asked if the General Assembly might reconvene this summer to pass abortion legislation, Senate President Matt Huffman wouldn’t say.
“I don’t know the answer to that,” he said. “When we get the (Supreme Court) decision, we’re going to make that decision.”
State Rep. Scott Lipps, R-Franklin, said several legislators have expressed puzzlement that their bills which have attracted no public opposition haven’t moved through committee. That’s true for him as well.
Chief among Lipps’ priorities is HB 105, “Erin’s Law,” which he cosponsors with state Rep. Brigid Kelly, D-Cincinnati. It would require schools each year to provide age-appropriate instruction in child sexual abuse prevention for grades K-6, and age-appropriate instruction in sexual violence prevention education for grades 7-12. Parents or guardians would be notified of the scheduled lesson and allowed on request to inspect the instructional material.
Crimes old and new
Cupp said the House has passed or is working on several criminal justice measures.
“On May 18, for example, the House passed ‘Marsy’s Law,’ which is state Rep. Andrea White’s legislation to ensure crime victims are treated fairly and have the opportunity to exercise their rights in our criminal justice system,” he said.
Also known as the “Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights,” it’s named for Marsy Nicholas, a California woman murdered in 1983. Starting with California in 2008, several states have adopted it as a constitutional amendment, including Ohio in 2017.
White’s HB 343 would greatly expand Marsy’s Law, including:
—Allowing crime victims’ representatives to exercise victims’ legal rights, not just the victims themselves.
—Requiring police and court officials to give victims more information; and giving the victim a right to be notified, present and heard in any relevant proceeding except a grand jury. That includes probation and parole hearings and is emphasized for plea or sentencing hearings.
—Expanding the ability to testify by deposition or recording instead of in-person appearance.
—Adding workplace protections for victims, along with keeping their identifying information private.
—Putting some limits on defendants’ ability to subpoena or interview victims.
—Specifying that the cost of an ankle monitor for a misdemeanor offender can be imposed on the offender as a financial sanction, and expanding the rules for financial restitution to lower-level and juvenile offenses.
The bill is now in the Senate Judiciary Committee but hasn’t yet had a hearing.
Hackett is also waiting to see if Senators will get to vote on HB 283, which would revise the law for cell phone use while driving. He named that issue as a priority nearly a year ago.
“Distracted driving is a key issue for a lot of us, but it’s hard to get it through the House,” Hackett said.
Find more details about the bills listed and others at limaohio.com.