DEVELOPING:

Ex-Northwestern superintendent accused of sexual harassment, more

Ohio laws in 2017: OKs fantasy sports betting, outlaws some abortions


Ohio’s 132 state legislators wrapped up work in Columbus for 2017 with 42 bills signed into law by Gov. John Kasich — including everything from legalizing fantasy sports betting to outlawing abortions once a Down syndrom diagnosis is made.

Kasich signed 15 bills into law on Dec. 22.

Half-way through the two-year legislative session, major issues such as hammering out a new congressional redistricting plan, making changes to the payday lending laws and fixing the broken unemployment compensation system remain on the to-do list at the Ohio Statehouse.

The small number of bills signed into law, though, doesn’t recognize that one piece of legislation — the $133-billion, two-year state budget — is packed with policy changes that impact everything from high school graduation requirements to funding the fight against opiate addiction to plans to divert low-level felons from state prison.

“I feel pretty good overall about what we’ve done in the state senate this year,” said Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Medina. He noted that lawmakers got the final figures on a $1-billion gap between projected revenues and expenditures until April — about two months before the budget bill had to be adopted — and they were able to make adjustments.

“I think it’s been a great year,” said House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, R-Clarksville.

Related: How the new state budget will impact you

In addition to the massive budget bill, lawmakers adopted bills in 2017 that:

* extended the sales tax holiday for back-to-school shopping in August,

* stiffens penalties for criminals who disfigure their victims,

* assigns oversight of fantasy sports betting to the Ohio Casino Control Commission,

* change high school curriculum requirements to encourage students to take computer science classes,

* strengthen oversight of prescription opioids by the Ohio Board of Pharmacy,

* and makes it a crime for doctors to perform abortions for women seeking them because of a Down syndrome diagnosis.

Ohio also passed a two-year state transportation budget that carves out funding for 43 major highway improvements, 446 bridge projects, 615 pavement projects and 356 safety upgrades.

And while relatively few bills became law this year, legislators introduced hundreds of bills: 451 in the House and 241 in the Senate. When they return to Columbus in January, they’ll face a litany of thorny issues, including putting together a capital spending bill and hammering out a bipartisan plan to change on congressional district maps are drawn to eliminate or mitigate gerrymandering.

Both Rosenberger and Obhof expressed optimism that congressional redistricting reform is within reach — a politically charged goal that has eluded reform for years. Obhof said he expects a bill to be introduced in early January, with bipartisan support, and pass the Senate by the end of the month.

“I too would like to see something move pretty quickly,” Rosenberger said, without disclosing details.

States redraw both legislative and congressional districts every 10 years based on the latest U.S. Census data.

Related: Concerns raised over 2020 census accuracy, funding

In 2015, Ohio voters approved an amendment reforming how state legislative districts are drawn. Ohio has used a winner-take-all system. The political party that controls three of five seats on the Ohio Apportionment Board has been in control of drawing legislative district maps. Since 1991, the Republicans have held control.

The General Assembly, in turn, draws the congressional district maps. The result has been lopsided, gerrymandered districts that are drawn to favor one party over another. If lawmakers fail to come up with a new system, a grassroots group, Fair Districts Fair Elections, is collecting signatures to place a congressional redistricting plan on the statewide ballot.

And a year ago, Rosenberger and other legislators called a press conference to announce that they would have a plan by April to make the broken unemployment compensation fund solvent. That didn’t happen. State Rep. Kirk Schuring, R-Canton, introduced a reform bill and is working to get business groups and labor unions to support it.

Some lawmakers are also pushing for comprehensive changes to areas including updating how court-ordered child support is calculated, strengthening the state’s laws on vicious dogs, ending the practice of suspending very young students except in limited circumstances, limiting how much consumers pay in fees and interest when they take out payday loans.

In 2017, Ohio’s public pension systems introduced benefit cuts to help shore up the funds’ long-term finances. The largest system — Ohio Public Employees Retirement System — is pushing for legal changes to allow it to cut back on the cost of living allowances given to retirees. Schuring, who is working on this issue as well, said he does not have a deadline for passing the changes.

When lawmakers return to Columbus, they may also work in bills that: limit child marriage, change from a money bail system to one based on risk each defendant poses, outlaw a common surgical procedure used in second trimester abortions, prohibit abortions once a heart beat can be detected, and remove the duty for gun owners to retreat.

Senators may also consider a bill that will allow consumers to set off fireworks, such as firecrackers, bottle rockets and Roman candles, on their own property 24-hours a day, seven days a week. The bill already passed the Ohio House on a 77-12 vote in October.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in News

Confirmation hearing for VA secretary nominee under scrutiny postponed
Confirmation hearing for VA secretary nominee under scrutiny postponed

A Senate confirmation hearing for VA Secretary nominee Ronny Jackson was postponed while lawmakers scrutinize his background to manage the massive federal agency, reports say. Jackson, a Navy rear admiral, has served as the White House physician for President Donald Trump who nominated him for the high-level post last month. Former VA Secretary David...
Ohio Rep: ‘I’m asking all county sheriffs to completely ignore this executive order’
Ohio Rep: ‘I’m asking all county sheriffs to completely ignore this executive order’

A Butler County state lawmaker is asking county sheriffs “to completely ignore” Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s executive order signed Monday to get an update on weaknesses in the state’s gun background-check system. The order directs the Office of Criminal Justice Services to work with Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Ohio Supreme...
Second Wright State provost candidate drops out; new applicant to visit
Second Wright State provost candidate drops out; new applicant to visit

A second candidate for the Wright State University provost job has withdrawn her name from consideration. Jennifer Bott, dean of Ball State University’s college of business, will not visit campus today and Thursday as initially planned, the university announced today. PHOTOS: Check out this nearly $1M Beavercreek home with outdoor pool Bott becomes...
Clark County Common Pleas Court cases
Clark County Common Pleas Court cases

COMMON PLEAS COURT NEW SUITS 18-CV-0195 - Tina Dixon and Sean Markley, 1137 Farlow St., v. Viorel Cociorvan, Grovertown, Ind., et al., complaint in excess of $25,000 for damages and injuries suffered in an auto accident on Jan. 17. 18-CV-0204 - U.S. Bank NA v. David B. Purdin, Grove City, et al., complaint in foreclosure for property located at 1493...
‘Welcome home’: Meek Mill attends Philadelphia 76ers game after prison release
‘Welcome home’: Meek Mill attends Philadelphia 76ers game after prison release

Hours after it was announced he would be released from prison, rapper Meek Mill attended Game 5 of the NBA playoffs between the Philadelphia 76ers and Miami Heat. “Welcome home Meek Mill,” the public announcer said at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, The Associated Press reported. Cheers erupted from the crowd...
More Stories