Senate OKs concealed carry, abortion bill and medical marijuana

A bill to eliminate the license requirement to carry a concealed handgun cleared the Ohio Senate on Wednesday, passing largely along party lines after long and acrimonious debate.

Substitute Senate Bill 215 has three basic provisions:

  • A person at least 21 years old who is otherwise legally allowed to have a gun can carry it concealed without a permit.
  • Holders of a current concealed-carry permit no longer have to carry that license with them.
  • If stopped by police, a person with a concealed weapon no longer has to tell officers about it unless they’re specifically asked.

Concealed carry licenses will still be available for those who want them, and that law “remains essentially the same,” said the bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Terry Johnson, R-McDermott. He dismissed the usefulness of the eight-hour training requirement in the current law.

Police organizations oppose the bill, said state Sen. Cecil Thomas, D-Cincinnati, and other Democrats. Thomas said existing law protects the public while still letting people defend themselves. Under SB 215, many of the people who have been rejected for concealed-carry licenses for previous crimes could avoid background checks, he said.

State Sen. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg, spoke and voted in favor of the bill, and released a statement after its passage.

“Nowhere in the Second Amendment does it require a license to exercise this constitutional right,” he said. “I voted for this bill today because every Ohioan has a fundamental, inherent right to keep and bear arms. I will continue fighting to protect the Second Amendment rights of all Ohioans.”

A similar bill, House Bill 227, passed the state House in November. House and Senate leaders will now work out how to reconcile the two bills.

The Buckeye Firearms Association said it supports both bills, and released a statement Wednesday approving the Senate bill’s passage.

“Despite the dire predictions by opponents, SB 215 is a simple bill that merely makes licensing optional for carrying a concealed firearm,” Dean Rieck, executive director of Buckeye Firearms Association, said in the statement. “It does not change the law in any way on who can legally possess a firearm.”

Abortion bill

Technical amendments the Ohio House made to the “born alive” abortion bill sponsored by state Sen. Steve Huffman, R-Tipp City, passed the Senate on a party-line vote, as the bill itself already had.

Senate Bill 157 first passed the Senate in October and cleared the House earlier this month. Senate acceptance of minor House amendments, which Huffman endorsed, was the last step before the bill is sent to Gov. Mike DeWine.

An earlier Senate amendment by Antani says abortion clinics operating under a variance from state law cannot have emergency service agreements with any doctor who is connected to a public institution.

Only two of the state’s six abortion clinics operate under such variances: the ones in Kettering and Cincinnati. Democrats said the amendment would likely result in a de facto abortion ban in southwest Ohio.

Medical marijuana

Steve Huffman made a rare joke to close out the 2021 state Senate session before the final vote on his Senate Bill 261 to expand the state’s medical marijuana law.

“The last bill before our Christmas break, we can end on a high note,” he said, drawing groans, laughter and applause from the chamber.

The bill is an update of the original medical marijuana law Huffman sponsored five years ago.

It would add to the list of conditions eligible for medical marijuana, and the ways in which it can be taken. Huffman said it still prohibits smoking the drug.

It also increases the authorized growing space in hopes of reducing prices. Huffman said it also would allow up to one dispensary per 1,000 approved medical marijuana patients in the state; that’s six times the current number.

State Sen. Sandra Williams, D-Cleveland, said she supported the bill, but it should add protections to housing, jobs and child custody for medical marijuana cardholders. The Lupus Foundation has also asked for that disease to be added to the list qualifying for medical marijuana use, she said.

The bill passed 26-5. It now heads to the Ohio House for its consideration.

Online sales: A bill intended to increase transparency of high-volume third-party online sales passed unanimously. Detailed rules to do so will be crafted by the state attorney general, said state Sen. George Lang, R-West Chester Twp., who cosponsored the bill.

State Sen. Tina Maharath, D-Canal Winchester, said disclosure of details in online sales is necessary because consumers can’t inspect products in advance. The bill requires internet retailers to take basic steps to verify the identity of big third-party sellers who use online sales sites, but includes privacy protection for small-scale individual sellers, she said.

The bill now goes to the Ohio House.

Property taxes: A bill to limit who can file property tax valuation complaints passed the Senate by a 24-7 vote. Substitute House Bill 126 says only property owners would be able to appeal their valuations. School districts, which rely on property taxes for much of their funding, largely opposed the bill. If it becomes law, they would have to pass individual resolutions to contest a valuation complaint.

The bill now goes back to the House because it was altered from the version originally passed there.

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