COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The Latest on legislative activity at the Ohio Statehouse as lawmakers seek to wrap up work before their summer break (all times local):
People who claim they were denied access to public records could take their complaints to the Ohio Court of Claims under a proposal that has cleared the House. The bill creates a procedure within the court to try to resolve the matter.
Senate President Keith Faber (FAY’-bur), the bill’s sponsor, says the proposal seeks to resolve public records disputes faster and cut down on expensive court battles.
The Ohio House has passed a proposal that spells out the conditions under which a court could order polling places to be kept open for extended hours on Election Day.
The bill cleared the House on a 61-32 vote Wednesday after fierce debate over election board costs versus voter access. It would only apply to cases filed in Ohio courts. The bill would not apply to people who file a complaint in a federal court seeking extended polling hours, because federal law determines those procedures.
The measure sets several requirements in order for a state court to order that a polling place remain open, including bond requirements, estimates of expenses and other conditions.
Polls generally close at 7:30 p.m., although a person who’s waiting in line at that time may vote later.
Ohio lawmakers have signed off on a measure changing how the state and its cities deal with lead in drinking water.
The bill approved by a 23-10 vote of the state Senate Wednesday now goes to Gov. John Kasich (KAY’-sik), whose office put the proposal forward.
One of the key parts of the proposal would force public water systems to alert residents within two days after lead is found at the tap.
The two-day notification calls for a much faster response than current federal rules that give water plants 60 days to notify all residents.
The proposal also includes a plan to help cities map out and remove lead pipes, and to work with schools on replacing drinking fountains and faucets that have lead parts.
Ohio hospitals and providers must cremate or bury any aborted fetal remains under a proposal that has passed the state Senate.
Ohio currently requires providers to dispose of aborted fetuses “in a humane manner,” but that’s not further defined in law.
Backers of the proposal say the measure clarifies the vague rules and ensures the unborn are treated with dignity. Opponents of the idea have called it medically unnecessary and burdensome to women and abortion providers.
Under the bill, women who have abortions would be given the choice to decide whether their fetal remains should be cremated or buried. They would have to express their choice in writing.
Senators approved the bill on a 23-10 vote Wednesday. Similar legislation is pending in the House.
A proposal to legalize medical marijuana in Ohio has narrowly cleared the state Senate over opposition of both Republicans and Democrats.
The chamber’s 18-15 vote Wednesday edges the bill toward almost certain passage. The Ohio House initiated the bill and has already approved a largely similar version of it. Key representatives have signaled support for Senate changes.
The final bill bars patients from smoking or growing marijuana for medical use, but allows its use in vapor form for certain chronic health conditions.
State Sen. Kenny Yuko, a Richmond Heights Democrat who co-sponsored the bill, said, “There is no reason why we should make Ohioans suffer any longer.”
Lawmakers are rushing the bill as they head into summer recess in hopes of offsetting a well-funded medical marijuana issue working its way to fall ballots.
Ohioans could register to vote online beginning next year under legislation headed to the governor’s desk.
The state Senate gave its final approval on Wednesday to House changes that pushed back the bill’s effective date until 2017, after the November presidential election.
A House committee also scrapped a provision allowing Ohioans to declare their political party affiliation when registering to vote or updating their addresses. Voters currently are considered affiliated with the party whose ballot they last cast in a primary.
Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted (HYOO’-sted) has said the bill is long overdue and will benefit voters and taxpayers.
Legislation that would shield the addresses of victims of domestic violence, stalking and other crimes from use by government agencies has cleared the Ohio Senate.
The bill would let victims apply for a confidential address from the secretary of state if they’re worried about attackers tracking them down. It passed Wednesday on a unanimous vote.
The address could be used when registering to vote or for any business with a government entity, such as a school or public university. The secretary of state’s office would forward mail to the real address daily.
Victims of sexual assault and human trafficking could also apply. The Ohio House approved an earlier version of the bill in January, and it would have to sign off on changes before the measure goes to the governor.
Sales of certain wines will be allowed at farmers’ markets under a proposal being sent to Ohio Gov. John Kasich (KAY’-sik).
The legislation cleared the Ohio Senate on a 32-0 vote Wednesday, after also receiving unanimous support in committee earlier in the day.
The measure has been pitched as a positive for Ohio wine makers that will add jobs.
It was also overwhelmingly supported by the House, where it cleared committee unanimously and passed the floor by a 97-1 vote.
The Ohio Senate has lent its unanimous support to legislation that would stiffen penalties for abuse of pets and other companion animals.
The legislation would make it a fifth-degree felony to knowingly cause serious physical harm to a companion animal. Such an act could include partially incapacitating an animal, causing it long-term pain or depriving it of water, food and shelter.
The measure would apply to companion animals kept in homes and those in pet stores.
Senate changes will need to be approved by the House, which approved the bill last year.
The bill’s backers say research has shown links between mistreatment of animals and other types of offenses, including crimes that hurt people.
A proposal to combine Ohio’s parks and watercraft operations into a single office is headed to the governor.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources included the merger in its budget this spring as a cost-cutting measure. The House passed the bill on a unanimous vote Wednesday, sending it to Gov. John Kasich, whose office initiated the idea.
Administration officials say merging state parks with the watercraft division will ultimately drive more dollars to boaters and park visitors. Combining them would save the boating operation about $1 million.
Almost every one of Ohio’s state parks contains a lake or river used for recreational boating. Meanwhile, parks staff are the ones who maintain docks, marinas and boating access points.
A single office would be created under the plan, with a unified corps of officers providing service.
Members of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus want references to slavery removed from the state’s constitution.
On Wednesday, the caucus announced a resolution that seeks to address a section of the constitution that says “there shall be no slavery in this State; nor involuntary servitude, unless for the punishment of crime.”
State Sen. Charleta Tavares, a Columbus Democrat, says striking that exception for crime would help the state rid itself of “any vestiges of our dark and brutal past.”
The legislature would have to act quickly on the resolution for it to appear on November ballots.
Wednesday was expected to be the last voting session for lawmakers until the fall.
The resolution requires a three-fifths majority in both the House and Senate to get it before voters.
Prison-rights advocates are fighting a move to abolish the current structure of Ohio’s bipartisan legislative prison watchdog agency.
Lawmakers reconstituted the 40-year-old Correctional Institution Inspection Committee in committee Tuesday. The legislation heads to a likely Senate vote Wednesday.
In an open letter to the Senate, executive director Joanna Saul asked for “a full and fair hearing” before the committee structure is replaced.
The amendment requires approval of four people to conduct a prison inspection and dictates a majority of committee members must be present at such reviews. Saul said getting busy lawmakers to attend inspections is difficult. Ohio law was changed in 2008 so they’re not required to attend inspections.
The proposal further removes a legal requirement that all 27 adult and three juvenile prisons be inspected biennially.