Substitute House Bill 365, which state Rep. Jim Hughes (R-Upper Arlington) joint sponsored with Rep. Kristin Boggs (D-Columbus), returns Ohio to indeterminate sentencing regarding first and second degree felonies and certain third degree felonies and makes provisions to increase the effectiveness of GPS monitoring.
The goal of this sentencing structure is to incentivize those incarcerated to take advantage of rehabilitation programs and punish those who show a clear inability to reform by ensuring they stay incarcerated past their minimum set term.
Reagan Tokes, a student at The Ohio State University, was kidnapped, raped and murdered on Feb. 8, 2017 after leaving work in the Short North.
Brian Golsby — the 30-year-old man charged with her murder — was identified by DNA evidence from a cigarette butt left in Tokes’ car, even though he was on parole and being monitored by a GPS tracker. Evidence from his GPS tracker later linked him to six additional crimes of armed robbery that took place over several weeks only a short distance from where Reagan was abducted.
The legislation addresses the following key areas within Ohio’s criminal justice system:
• Returns Ohio to indeterminate sentencing regarding first and second-degree felonies (and some specified third degree felonies)
• Requires the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) to establish a reentry program for all offenders released from prison who are not accepted by a halfway house or similar reentry facility
• Requires the DRC to establish parole officer guidelines, including maximum work-load and case-load standards
• Mandates the creation of a statewide database regarding GPS-monitored offenders and specifies its access to allow for more effective GPS monitoring of recently released offenders
• Requires the State Criminal Sentencing Commission to appoint an Offender Supervision Study Committee tasked with studying all issues related to the release and supervision of offenders
It was also discovered that Reagan’s killer had previously applied to re-entry programs in the central Ohio area following his initial release from prison, but his application was rejected.
Golsby was sentenced to life in prison for the robbery, rape, and murder of Tokes and for an additional 66 years for the other crimes committed while he was on GPS monitoring.
A 21-year-old senior psychology major, Tokes was just months from graduation when she died.
“Reagan Tokes had her whole life ahead of her. A bright, young, intelligent, hardworking student, she was taken from this earth much too early,” Hughes said. “As a state, we can and must do better to ensure that this does not happen again.”
The Reagan Tokes Act now awaits further deliberation by the Ohio Senate.
• The Ohio House passed a bill intended to protect recovering addicts from drug traffickers.
State Rep. Theresa Gavarone (R-Bowling Green) sponsored House Bill 296, which increases penalties for certain drug offense crimes when they are committed at or near a community addiction services provider and if the offender recklessly disregards the close proximity of the crime and the addiction services provider.
The increased penalties mirror those in current law for drug trafficking offenses committed near a school or a juvenile.
“Drug dealers are all too often waiting in the parking lot, across the street or around the block of a rehab facility to target this vulnerable population,” Gavarone said. “Getting these people off the street and away from these areas will give those seeking treatment for their drug addiction even greater odds for success.”
The bill seeks to create greater penalties for drug dealers who prey on recovering addicts brave enough to enter or stay at an addiction services facility. As Ohio has led the nation in drug overdose death rates, this legislation strives to protect vulnerable individuals who are attempting to pull themselves out of the rapid, downward spiral of opioid abuse.
House Bill 296 is the 10th bill sponsored by Rep. Gavarone that the House has passed in this General Assembly, and it is the third bill passed that she has sponsored addressing the opioid crisis. Having passed out of the House, the bill now awaits consideration by the Ohio Senate.
• The Ohio House passed legislation offering tax exemption for spouses of deceased public servants
State Reps. Andrew Brenner (R-Powell) and Tim Ginter (R-Salem) said this proposed law would grant surviving spouses of public service officers killed in the line of duty an extension of Ohio’s homestead exemption.
House Bill 513 would give a widow or widower of a peace officer, firefighter, EMT, or paramedic a $50,000 homestead exemption. Ohio’s homestead exemption helps certain homeowners to reduce their property tax bills by shielding some of the market value of their homes from taxation.
“House Bill 513 is just one of many ways we can show our gratitude and appreciation for those who have had so much taken from them,” Brenner said. “I hope that this bill goes a long way in showing our commitment to not only our first responders, but to their families as well.”
Currently, Ohio’s homestead exemption applies to military veterans who are disabled and low-income senior citizens. Under House Bill 513, the surviving spouse must apply to the county auditor with a letter of verification from the department or state pension fund confirming the death of the officer in the line of duty.
“There could be no more appropriate description of the spirit and goal of House Bill 513—to provide some monetary relief to the spouses of our first responders who make the ultimate sacrifice while protecting and serving the public,” Ginter said.
House Bill 513 now awaits consideration by the Ohio Senate.
• The Ohio House passed a bill restructuring F-class permits
State Rep. Laura Lanese (R-Grove City) sponsored House Bill 522, which allows holders of F-class liquor permits — those issued for festival-type events with short durations — to sell beer or liquor in outdoor refreshment areas designated specifically for the purchase and consumption of alcohol.
Previous legislation regulating designated outdoor refreshment areas (DORAs) did not fully cover the issue, preventing those festivals which would pursue F-class permits from operating in DORAs. House Bill 522 seeks to allow those festivals to participate in selling liquor in DORAs.
“House Bill 522 furthers the state’s push towards greater economic development by correcting an oversight that currently exists in Ohio law,” Lanese said. “By allowing temporary liquor permit holders to operate within designated outdoor refreshment areas, we create the opportunity for businesses and short-term events, such as the annual Grove City Wine and Arts Festival, to coexist, benefitting both retailers and consumers.”
The bill requires the Division of Liquor Control to provide an F-class permit holder with a DORA classification if the applicant satisfies certain requirements.
This legislation is supported by the Wholesale Beer and Wine Association of Ohio.
Having passed out of the House, House Bill 522 now awaits consideration by the Ohio Senate.
• The Ohio House passed legislation designating the Richland County Veterans Memorial Highway
State Rep. Mark Romanchuk (R-Mansfield) said the omnibus legislation makes several day designations and highway namings and creates multiple specialty license plates.
Senate Bill 86 incorporates a bill sponsored by Romanchuk, House Bill 372, designating a portion of Interstate Route 71 between State Route 39 and State Route 13 as the “Richland County Veterans Memorial Highway.”
“The citizens of Richland County are extremely grateful for the men and women from our community who have served in all branches of the military,” Romanchuk said. “It is my hope that this memorial highway conveys in some small way that each veteran from our county is valued and honored.”
This highway naming seeks to honor veterans who served Ohio and the nation faithfully through military service and call Richland County home. Those veterans have served in every major war, and there are eight Medal of Honor recipients in the district.
Among that number was General Frank P. Lahm, after whom Mansfield Lahm Airport was named. Lahm played a number of significant roles throughout his career and was involved in the separation of the Army Air Corps to the United States Air Force. Another local veteran, Colonel Albert Allen, was a survivor of the Bataan Death March during World War II.
Senate Bill 86 now returns to the Senate for concurrence.
• The Ohio House passed a bill giving counties more time to address property tax complaints
House Bill 36 will make it easier for county boards of revision, especially those in heavily populated counties, more time to hear property tax complaints.
Boards of revision consist of a panel of elected officials within a county to which property owners can bring complaints and concerns in regards to appraisals, sales data and other property assessment matters.
Current state law requires boards of revision to decide on property complaints within 90 days of when they are filed. Oftentimes, particularly in the state's most populous counties, this is not enough time to keep up with the number of complaints that are brought forward.
Therefore, House Bill 361, sponsored by Rep. Dave Greenspan (R-Westlake), extends the deadline for resolving a complaint to 180 days and delays the beginning of that period until the last day a complaint is filed.
House Bill 361 now awaits consideration by the Ohio Senate.
• The Ohio House passed a bill permitting motorcyclists to wear ear protection
The House unanimously approved state Rep. Riordan McClain’s (R-Upper Sandusky) bill that permits motorcyclists to wear ear protection while on Ohio’s roads.
“I’m grateful to my fellow members of the House to see the benefit in affording riders on Ohio’s roadways another option in protection,” McClain said. “It is up to the individual rider to determine the level of protection for hearing and otherwise. I look forward to continuing this conversation in the Senate.”
Current law does not allow Ohio motorcycle riders to wear in-ear hearing protection in both ears while operating a motorized vehicle. The sound of the bike is actually only part of the harmful noise riders are exposed to as wind noise at highway speeds creates 85-100 decibels. Exposure to the combined loud noises while riding for extended periods of time while riding causes irreversible hearing loss.
House Bill 548 would extend an exemption to wearing hearing protection to motorcyclists. In-ear hearing protection reduces the harmful impact from the engine and the wind noise while not eliminating all sounds so that sirens, car horns, and even normal conversation with a riding partner is audible.
The legislation provides motorcyclists on Ohio roadways the opportunity to now legally enjoy riding as they choose with the level of hearing protection that they choose.
House Bill 548 will now go to the Ohio Senate for further consideration.