State lawmakers are done for the summer - and most likely won't return to Capitol Square till after the election. Among the dozens of measures they approved and sent on to the governor are bills that allow online voter registration starting next year, that require the posting of cash bonds by those who seek court orders to keep polling places open on election days, that up the punishment for hurting companion animal or killing a police dog or horse, and that extend to 21 the age of eligibility for foster care and adoption assistance.
But by far the biggest deal was the historic vote to approve the legalization of medical marijuana, which could make Ohio the 25th state to do that. Sens. Dave Burke (R-Marysville), Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights), Bill Coley (R-Cincinnati) and Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) spoke out in favor of it, while Jay Hottinger (R-Newark) was the only Senator to speak publicly against it. The vote was close, and it was known all along that Democrats were going to be needed to pass the bill. Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) talked about the role his caucus would play in getting this bill passed the morning of the session.
It's been suggested by some that what the Democrats wanted to see happen was the elimination of a provision in a budget measure that would have shut down the Correctional Institution Inspection Committee, an independent watchdog agency that inspects and evaluates the state's prisons. When CIIC director Joanna Saul reportedly agreed to resign, the amendment to dismantle CIIC was revised. That angered Rep. Kevin Boyce (D-Columbus), who was gaveled down by House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger (R-Clarksville) during his speech and was seen exchanging harsh words with the Speaker after the session.
The medical marijuana bill is now before Gov. John Kasich, who has given no indication when or if he would sign it. At the time, backers of at least one of the potential ballot issues say they planned to push on. Ohioans for Medical Marijuana is part of the national Marijuana Policy Project. Its constitutional amendment would allow for home growing and smoking of medical pot and expands the conditions under which patients would qualify for medical marijuana. Aaron Marshall is with Ohioans for Medical Marijuana. (NOTE: On Saturday, Ohioans for Medical Marijuana announced it would be suspending its fall ballot campaign.)
One issue left unresolved by lawmakers is charter school regulation. There are two bills in the Senate dealing with charter schools - one that's already passed the Senate dealing with high performing public schools, and another that's still in a Senate committee that seeks to crack down on online charters. The latter bill is sponsored by Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) and it would require e-schools to keep better attendance records, to make their governing boards stream their meetings like school-board sessions, and to display their report-card score on advertisements. Sen. Peggy Lehner of (R-Kettering) chairs the Senate Education Committee, and while she's a supporter of charter schools, she's spoken out about the need to make changes in the laws governing them. I talked with her about the issue this week as well.
May 27, 2016