Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Today in the Ohio Senate

At today's session (1:30 p.m.), the Senate will consider the following legislation for concurrence:
  • Environmental Upgrades:  Senate Bill 22, sponsored by State Senator Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster), addresses a growing financial burden on many local governments and waste water agencies mandated by federal law to upgrade water and sewer systems.  These multi-million (and sometimes billion) dollar projects often result in rapid rate increases for taxpayers, many of whom have seen rates double in recent years.  The bill requires the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to work within federal flexibility guidelines to consider financial impacts when ordering these upgrades.
The Senate will also consider the following legislation:
  • Constitutional Amendment:  Senate Joint Resolution 1, sponsored by State Senator Tim Grendell (R-Chesterland), would place on the November 2011 ballot a constitutional amendment allowing Ohioans to vote to opt out of federal health care mandates passed by Congress in 2010.
  • Firearm Rights:  House Bill 54, sponsored by State Representatives Jarrod Martin and Ron Maag, would bring Ohio law into compliance with a federal court ruling on the restoration of gun ownership rights.  Certain criminal convictions can disqualify someone from owning a firearm, and those rights can only be restored through a court order.  Current Ohio law does not allow for a full restoration of gun rights by court order, and Senate Bill 61 makes the necessary changes to address that discrepancy as required under federal law.  The bill received overwhelming bipartisan support in the Ohio House, and the Senate passed a similar version of the bill, sponsored by State Senator Jason Wilson (D-Columbiana), in April.
  • Energy Exploration: House Bill 133, sponsored by State Representative John Adams (R-Sidney), would allow energy exploration on state property.  HB 133 would create a commission to oversee the leasing of state-owned land for use in Utica, Marcellus Shale and conventional sandstone development (different rock layers that can contain natural gas).  The State of Ohio is currently the largest landowner in the state, and leasing property for energy exploration could not only provide needed revenue for state parks but also jobs, economic development opportunities and lower energy prices.  The Ohio Department of Natural Resources currently has a backlog of more than a half-billion dollars in capital improvement projects that could be funded through this effort.
Contingent on approval by the Ohio House, the Senate anticipates a concurrence vote today on the following legislation: 
  • Concealed Carry:  Senate Bill 17, sponsored by State Senator Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster), would make two changes to Ohio's concealed carry law.  Ohio is the only state out of 48 that places very specific and often confusing mandates on how a firearm can be carried in a vehicle, resulting in legal problems for well-intentioned citizens who accidentally put their firearm in the wrong place in the car.  SB 17 eliminates these mandates.  Ohio is also one of only six states that prohibit a trained permit holder from carrying a firearm in a restaurant that serves alcohol.  SB 17 updates the current law to allow lawful carry in restaurants that serve alcohol as long as the license holder does not consume alcohol.  The law would still prohibit carrying in any establishment that clearly bans concealed carry on the premises. 

NOTE: SJR1, HB45/SB17, HB54/SB61, and HB133 are all votes to be counted in the WMD Ohio Legislature Scorecard.