This week, lawmakers return to Columbus after an extended recess for a jam-packed week–the General Assembly’s second to last week of work before they adjourn until after the November elections. With only two weeks remaining, there will be a mad push to finalize legislation. Tuesday and Wednesday feature a full slate of committee hearings, including votes on several bills we’re watching. And, on Wednesday, both chambers will hold session. All eyes will be on House Republicans as they select a new Speaker to replace Cliff Rosenberger, who recently resigned amid news of a pending FBI investigation into improper influence by industry lobbyists.
Gun bills are front and center this week, as both the House and Senate will consider a package, proposed by Governor Kasich, to reform Ohio gun laws. These measures would close loopholes, improve background checks, ban bump stock and armor-piercing ammunition and enact a “red flag” law in which a judge can find an individual presents a danger to him or herself or others and order the temporary relinquishment of any weapons in their possession. Those bills–Senate Bill 288 and House Bill 585will be both heard Wednesday morning in the Senate Government Oversight and Reform committee and House State and Local Government committee, respectively.
A controversial measure–HB228–to make Ohio a “stand your ground” state, which also expands concealed carry and preempts local communities from enacting stricter gun laws, will get a sixth hearing Tuesday in House Federalism and Interstate Relations, but is not scheduled for a vote. Several other gun measures including Sen. Schiavoni’s red flag bill (SB278) and a proposal from Sen. LaRose to limit the rights of property owners to restrict firearms in subsidized rental housing, are up for first hearings in Senate Government Oversight and Reform.
Renewable Energy Legislation
Another bill we’re watching closely is HB114, which would abandon Ohio’s renewable energy standards law which requires a portion of the electricity sold in the state to be generated from renewable sources, replacing those standards with voluntary goals. The legislation is interesting, in part, because it’s one of the top legislative priorities of the state’s electric utilities.
The bill is of particular interest to Akron’s FirstEnergy, whose PAC has contributed over $372,000 to state candidates since the 2016 elections, a huge chunk of which went to the campaigns of Republican candidates for the Ohio House aligned with would-be House Speaker Representative Larry Householder. That’s a lot of campaign cash, so it’s worth asking what the company expects in return for helping sieze control of the chamber. HB114 is up for a fifth hearing Wednesday afternoon in Senator Balderson’s Energy and Natural Resources committee. As noted in our last update, a much-needed fix to Ohio’s onerous “setback” requirements for wind energy projects is tied up with the fate of HB114.
Ending Child Marriage
A bipartisan proposal (HB511) to raise Ohio’s legal marriage age to 18 would end a long-standing provision in state law that allowed girls to marry at 16 (or younger if pregnant with the permission of a guardian or a judge). Ohio is one of several states considering legislation to end legal child marriage. Kentucky recently changed its marriage age and similar efforts are underway in Missouri and Tennessee.
After news of an FBI investigation into the cozy relationship between former Speaker Rosenberger and lobbyists for the payday lending industry came to light, a House committee unexpectedly passed a reform proposal (HB123) that would reign in the abusive practices of payday lenders without including amendments industry members had been pushing for. On Wednesday, the full House will vote on the measure, potentially sending it to the Senate for further work. A group representing the payday lending industry has scheduled a Statehouse press conference Wednesday morning.
To see the full line-up of bills being heard this week, check out: