COLUMBUS — Lawmakers moved legislation in recent weeks aimed at improving the health of Ohio’s newborns and ensuring the property of law-abiding citizens isn’t confiscated without cause.
Here are 10 final law changes passed by the legislature during the lame duck session and signed by Gov. John Kasich, with most provisions set to take effect in a few months:
41. Infant Mortality: SB 332 implements the recommendations of a state panel that focused on ways to ensure the health and wellbeing of Ohio’s babies. And with good reason — the state’s infant mortality rates have been among the worst in the country.
According to the Ohio Department of Health, 1,005 Ohio infants died before their first birthday in 2015, up from 955 a year earlier. That’s about 7.2 deaths per 1,000 live births, up from 6.8 a year earlier.
Black babies are dying a rate nearly three times higher than white babies, according to health officials.
The national rate is about 6 infant deaths per 1,000 live births.
42. What Are They Going To Do About It: SB 332 includes numerous provisions aimed at tackling the infant mortality issue.
For example, the bill requires state health and Medicaid officials to provide increased access to birth and death information, with quarterly reports made available to the public. The state agencies also will be required to create scorecards that include details of baby deaths by race and region.
Medicaid officials will have to provide detailed information about how millions of dollars in state funding was used over two fiscal years and how effectively the recipient programs and initiatives addressed infant mortality in high-risk neighborhoods.
Additionally, health officials will be required to provide annual safe sleep training to parents and caregivers in infant morality hotspots and provide tobacco cessation and other programs for needy residents.
There’s also language that allowing parents of babies 30 days old or younger to deliver their children to designated newborn safety incubators without intent to return for their children.
43. Crib Bumpers: One more provision in SB 332: It bans the sale of crib bumpers, which advocates say put babies at risk of suffocation. Certain mesh crib liners are exempt.
44. Civil Forfeiture: HB 347 reforms the civil forfeiture process in the state, with an eye toward preventing law enforcement groups from confiscating private property from law-abiding citizens.
Among other provisions, the legislation requires probable cause that property was involved in the commission of certain offenses in order for civil forfeiture complaints to be filed.
According to the Buckeye Institute, a conservative think tank that supported the legislation, “This reform is most definitely an idea whose time had come. Civil asset forfeiture laws —believe it or not — had previously allowed the government to take private property without convicting or even charging the property owner of a crime.”
45. Sample Time: Would you like to take a few sips of beer, wine or spirituous liquor before buying a product?
HB 444 opens the door for certain liquor permit holders to offer up to four free tasting samples in any 24-hour period to customers age 21 and older. Samples will be limited to 2 ounces of beer or wine or a quarter ounce of spirituous liquor, and they must be given free of charge and consumed on the premises.
46. License Plates: A couple of bills included provisions for new license plates.
SB 207 had half a dozen, including a Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation plate, with proceeds to be directed to the Ohio chapter of that organization. There’s also an “Ohio Pupil Transportation…Safety First!!!” plate, with proceeds supporting efforts to improve training and programming for school bus drivers and others involved in school transportation.
HB 455, meanwhile, created the “Conquer Childhood Cancer,” “University of Notre Dame,” “Triple Negative Breast Cancer Awareness,” “Improved Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks of the World,” “Down Syndrome Awareness,” and the “Buckeye Corvette” plates.
47. Roads: Those same bills designated stretches of more than a dozen highways in memory of military service members and officers killed in the line of duty.
The list includes a section of Interstate 77 in Summit County that will honor Army Pfc. Michael Dominic Paonessa, who was killed in action in Vietnam in 1968.
Another section of I-77 in Summit County will be named the Marine Gunnery Sgt. Robert L. Gilbert II Memorial Highway. Gilbert was killed in action in 2010 while serving in combat in Afghanistan.
48. Boarding Schools: HB 455 also included language allowing cities and townships to set slower speed limits near boarding schools.
The law changes were offered by Reps. Kristina Roegner (R-Hudson) and John Patterson (D-Jefferson), both of whom have boarding schools located in their districts, including the Western Reserve Academy in Hudson.
49. Organ Donation: Are you confused about what it means when you agree to donate your organs, in the event of your death? HB 438 seeks to provide a bit of clarification, via required instruction as part of school health classes.
According to the Legislative Service Commission, “This instruction must emphasize the life-saving and life-enhancing effects of organ and tissue donation.”
50. School Appreciation: That same bill designates the week prior to Thanksgiving as “Ohio Public Education Appreciation Week.”
Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau chief. Email him at email@example.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.