Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Today in the Ohio Senate

t today's session (1:30 p.m.), the Senate will consider the following legislation:
  • Sentencing Reform:  House Bill 86, sponsored by State Representatives Lou Blessing and Tracy Heard, delivers a comprehensive reform of Ohio’s prison sentencing system.  The bill represents the culmination of a three-year, bipartisan, bicameral effort to address the growing cost of criminal incarceration and prison overcrowding.  Originally built to house about 38,000 inmates, Ohio prisons now hold 51,000 inmates, and the system is projected to exceed capacity by 40 percent in the next four years.  To accommodate that growth, taxpayers will have to foot a bill of more than a half-billion dollars just to construct additional facilities.  This demand for new prisons threatens to take critical funding away from other priorities, such as schools and health services.  House Bill 86 and its companion bill in the Ohio Senate, sponsored by Senator Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) offer Ohio's justice system the research-driven tools to reduce low-level, short-term inmate populations by redirecting non-violent criminals into treatment, job training, education and other rehabilitation programs.
  • Adoption:  House Bill 92, sponsored by State Representatives Jarrod Martin and Peter Beck, would align Ohio's adoption law with most other states by allowing the adoption of adults.  Representative Martin testified in committee that he received a letter from two widows who married and wanted to adopt each other's children from the previous marriages, but current Ohio law prevented the adoption of one son, who was no longer a minor.  The bill expands adoption conditions for adults.
  • Election Reform: House Bill 194, sponsored by State Representatives Robert Mecklenborg and Lou Blessing, would make comprehensive changes to modernize and improve the overall operation of Ohio elections.  The bill includes recommendations made by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, including the creation of an online voter registration system, improvements to the provisional balloting process, the development of a more accurate statewide voter database and the adoption of uniform statewide early voting standards.
  • Memorial Highway:  Senate Bill 187, sponsored by Senator Tim Grendell (R-Chesterland), would designate a portion of U.S. 322 within Geauga County as the "Chief Warrant Officer Christopher R. Thibodeau Memorial Highway."  Officer Thibodeau, who was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 4th Combat Aviation Brigade of Fort Hood, Texas, died May 26 in Paktika province, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained when his helicopter crashed during combat operations.