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10 things that happened this week in the Ohio Statehouse

by MARC KOVAC | GateHouse Statehouse Bureau Published: March 24, 2017 10:05 AM
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COLUMBUS — Lawmakers continue to move legislation, including the biennial transportation budget, health officials are urging residents to take precautions against the Zika virus and the director of the Ohio Department of Health is moving on.
Here are 10 things that happened around the Statehouse this week:
 
1. Transportation Budget: The Ohio Senate, on a unanimous vote, signed off on its version of the biennial transportation budget, which outlines spending by the Ohio Department of Transportation and a handful of other agencies.
The Ohio House, also in unison, rejected the Senate version, sending the bill to a conference committee for final negotiations.
“I think there’s an awful lot of changes in this,” said Rep. Robert McColley (R-Napoleon). “There’s an awful lot of stuff that’s happened in the last several days. There’s an awful lot that we need to examine.”
A final vote by lawmakers will take place before the end of the week. And Gov. John Kasich can use his line-item veto authority to strike portions he doesn’t like.
 
2. Police Chief Training: The Ohio Senate unanimously passed SB 37, which would establish a 40-hour training program for new police chiefs, including coursework on diversity and community-police relations.
“This training program helps prepare local police chiefs to become effective and dynamic leaders in the communities they serve,” Sen. Cliff Hite (R-Findlay), primary sponsor of the legislation, said in a released statement.
The new training requirements would take effect next year. The bill next heads to the Ohio House for further consideration.
 
3. Scammers: The Ohio House, also on a unanimous vote, OK’d HB 52, which limits property deed solicitations.
Rep. Jeff Rezabek (R-Clayton) offered the bill in response to scammers who are contacting residents, telling them they need paper copies of property deeds and charging up to $90 for those copies.
“Unfortunately, for these individuals who are unaware, you do not need to have a copy of your deed,” Rezabek said. “If you’d like to obtain a copy, you can at your county recorder … for less than a dollar in most cases. In many of these cases, the individuals who fall victims to this deed solicitation scam will not come forward with their complaint to the attorney general’s office because they are embarrassed or are simply unaware of the correct way to do so.”
The bill heads to the Ohio Senate for further consideration.
 
4. Two More: The Ohio House OK’d a couple of other bills, including SB 23, designating Jan. 31 as Omphalocele Awareness Day.
According to an analysis by the state’s Legislative Service Commission, “Omphalocele is a rare abdominal wall defect in which the intestines, liver, and other abdominal organs protrude from the abdomen. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that each year about 775 babies in the United States are born with an omphalocele.”
Also, the House passed HB 100, which designates a stretch of state highway in Warren County in memory of an Springboro officer who was struck and killed by a drunken driver in 1983.
SB 23 next heads to the governor’s desk for his expected signature. HB 100 heads to the Ohio Senate for further consideration.
 
5. Speaking of New Laws: A bunch of new laws that were passed by lawmakers during their lame duck session and signed by the governor a few months back have taken effect in recent days.
For example, there are now potential criminal penalties in place for people who have sex with animals and for those who buy tickets, bet or otherwise participate in cockfighting, bearbaiting or any other activity pitting one animal against another.
You also now need to keep your car at least 3 feet away from bicyclists on the road. And you can no longer use plywood to cover windows and doors of vacant properties.
 
6. Concealed Carry: The new law list includes a bunch of changes to Ohio’s concealed carry permitting processes.
For example, active duty members of the military now can carry a concealed firearm so long as they have a military ID and proof of handgun training.
Concealed firearms also can be carried into childcare centers and other locations that were formally off limits, so long as those locations haven’t posted a sign prohibiting the practice.
And Ohio colleges and universities can allow concealed carry on their campuses, via a vote of their governing boards.
You can find out more about Ohio’s concealed carry laws, including accessing an updated manual, through the attorney general’s website (www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov/ConcealedCarry).
 
7. Spring Break: State health officials urged Ohioans traveling to countries “with active Zika virus transmission” — the list includes Mexico, the Bahamas and Puerto Rico — to take precautions to avoid infection.
Ohio has had nearly 100 confirmed Zika cases since last year, all of which have been attributed to out-of-country travel.
The Zika virus is primarily transmitted through mosquito bites but can be passed through sexual contact.
Of those who are infected, health officials say most have no symptoms. Others may have mild fevers, rashes, joint and muscle pains or headaches that last from several days to a week, but “hospitalization is uncommon.”
Of primary concern, however, is the virus’ link to infections in pregnant women and certain birth defects; the CDC is recommending pregnant women or those trying to get pregnant consider postponing travel to affected areas, including Central America, South America and Caribbean countries.
There’s more information about avoiding Zika on the Ohio Department of Health website (www.odh.ohio.gov/zika).
 
8. Health Department Postscript: Kasich named Lance Himes, an attorney at the Ohio Department of Health, as acting director of that state agency, effective at the end of the month.
He replaces Rick Hodges, who submitted his resignation to Kasich “to pursue opportunities outside of government.”
According to Hodges’ resignation letter to the governor, “I have been a part of your administration since the beginning and it has been the highlight of my professional career. I cannot imagine being part of a more successful team. I will always be grateful to you for the opportunities, support and leadership you have provided me. I hope, in at least some small way, I have contributed to the success of your administration on behalf of the people of our great state.”
 
9. John Glenn Legacy: The Ohio Democratic Party announced that its 2017 Legacy Dinner, set for April 22, will spotlight the late John Glenn, with U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown as the featured speaker.
The event will take place at the Ohio Expo Center.
 
10. Conservation Honors: You have a little more than a month to submit nominations for the annual Conservation Farm Family Award, presented annually during the Farm Science Review near London.
Winners receive receive a plaque and $400.
The deadline for submissions is May 17. Additional information is available via the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s website (www.agri.ohio.gov).
 
Kovac covers the Ohio Statehouse for Gatehouse Media. Contact him at mkovac@recordpub.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.


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