Criminal justice reform, education overhaul among top bills in Ohio legislature this week
The lame-duck session for the Ohio General Assembly is heading into its final few weeks and the Republican legislative leadership is laying out what they would like to pass before the end of the year.
The schedule for committees in the House and Senate has a mix of bills that will get their first and only hearing along with pieces of legislation that could wind up on the governor’s desk.
Lawmakers seem poised to continue forward with a bill that makes sweeping changes to Ohio’s criminal justice system.
The bill, SB288, increases the ability for incarcerated people to be released early by completing different programs, gives judges more authority to decide if a criminal record should be sealed, and makes strangulation a second-degree felony.
The Senate has scheduled a possible vote out of committee for a bill that overhauls Ohio’s education department and transfers more power over to the governor’s office by creating a cabinet-level director of the department. The full Senate could also hold a vote on the bill this week.
The House Government Oversight Committee will hold another hearing on HJR6, which would require a ballot issue to receive 60% of the vote in order to amend the state constitution. The resolution is expected to be on the fast track in order to pass both chambers and be placed on the May primary ballot for voters to make the final decision on the proposal.
A Senate committee is expected to amend a controversial bill that would ban transgender athletes from girls’ sports. The current language would require an invasive exam if a high school athlete’s sex is questioned. Republican leaders have said they want to change those provisions.
A bill to increase penalties for people who call in fake emergencies, also known as swatting, will get a hearing in the Senate. The bill already passed the House and has support in both chambers.
There are other bills slated for hearings that would legalize recreational marijuana, one bill sponsored by Republicans the other sponsored by Democrats. Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) has said he does not support those measures, as well as a bill that would make texting and driving a primary offense.
As the legislature continues its work, lawmakers are also crafting potential language for a bill that would make changes to the state’s abortion ban — which is currently on hold. The changes are expected to specify what exemptions would be allowed for a legal abortion.