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Legislation would remove ban on dogs in outdoor spaces at restaurants, fund fight against Lake Erie algal blooms, toughen penalties for fentanyl traffickers and waive CCW fees for veterans

By Jeremy Pelzer • Jul 5, 2018 at 2:00 PM

On their final session day before the Ohio General Assembly heads into summer break, both chambers passed dozens of bills during marathon sessions that lasted well into the evening.

Here's a full rundown of what the legislature did:

Blockchain bolstered: Ohio is close to becoming the latest state to offer legal support for blockchain-based business transactions, cleveland.com's Andrew Tobias reports. State legislators on June 27 approved an amended version of Senate Bill 220, a cybersecurity bill, to also update existing Ohio law involving electronic transactions. State Sen. Matt Dolan originally had introduced legislation relating to blockchain, the online, distributed ledger technology, as a standalone bill.

Money machines: The days of MacGyvering old voting machines into working instruments of democracy are soon over for Ohio's county elections officials. Cleveland.com's Jackie Borchardt reports the $114.5 million appropriated in Senate Bill 135, which cleared the legislature Wednesday, will help counties replace 12-year-old machines ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

Paw-some news for pet owners: Legislation lifting Ohio's ban on dogs in patios and other outdoor spaces at restaurants, bars and coffee shops has passed both chambers. Borchardt reports that under House Bill 263, businesses can choose to allow man's best friend in outdoor areas where food is not prepared.

Also headed to Kasich: "A bill shielding what is now Ohio's largest online school and its sponsor from the negative consequences of accepting thousands of former Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow students," writes the Toledo Blade's Jim Provance. House Bill 87 seeks to prevent Toledo-area-based Ohio Virtual Academy and its sponsor from being penalized because of the poor academic performance of the 4,200 or so ECOT students who transferred earlier this year.

Speaking of charter schools: Before passing Senate Bill 216, the House added some reforms to online charter schools in the wake of the ECOT scandal, including creating a Joint Education Oversight Committee to study the issue. In addition, SB 216 would dramatically change how teachers are evaluated.

In all: Lawmakers sent 19 bills to the governor, including measures to:

- Appropriate more than $36 million for various programs intended to combat Lake Erie algal blooms. It also would provide $2.5 million for an "OhioCorps" pilot program, under which college students would mentor at-risk teens (Senate Bill 299)

- Offer $14 million in state funding to schools for safety programs and training (House Bill 318)

- Toughen penalties for fentanyl traffickers (Senate Bill 1)

- Give judges more leeway to sentence non-violent offenders to prison alternatives (Senate Bill 66)

- Reduce state regulations by giving more power to the legislature's Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (Senate Bill 221)

- Allow military service members and veterans to get Ohio concealed handgun permits without paying a fee or going through training (Senate Bill 81)

House action: The House voted on 38 bills on June 27. Among the bills that now head to the Senate for consideration include measures to:

- Loosen Ohio's restrictions on religious expression by public-school students (House Bill 428)

- Prohibit pharmacy benefit managers from imposing "gag orders" preventing pharmacists from telling customers about cheaper drug options (House Bill 479)

- Ban sexting by Ohioans who are 18 or younger (House Bill 355)

- Ensure credit reporting agencies don't charge Ohioans to freeze their credit reports (House Bill 386)

- Specify that recordings from cameras worn by law-enforcement officers - as well as police dashboard cameras - are generally considered public records (House Bill 425)

- Crack down on "revenge porn" by banning the spread of nude or sexual images of a person without his or her consent (House Bill 497)

- Make wide-ranging changes to state rules for townships (House Bill 500)

- Raise Ohio's minimum marriage age to 18 in most cases (House Bill 511)

On the Senate side: Legislation sent by the Senate to the House would, among other things:

- Require every state agency in Ohio to slash its number of regulations by 30 percent by the end of 2022 (Senate Bill 293)

- Set up a process to review the state's occupational licensing requirements every five years (Senate Bill 255)

See you in September? After passing about 90 bills in the last two weeks, the Ohio House won't reconvene until at least September, Speaker Ryan Smith told reporters. The Senate also has a light summer schedule: "if needed" days are scheduled for July 10, Aug. 22, and two days in September (if the payday lending reform bill advances) before returning for sure on Sept. 26.

Broadband bills are still buffering: Smith, who represents an Appalachian Ohio district and has been a champion of efforts to expand Internet broadband to rural Ohio, didn't seem too fazed that bills to expand broadband access didn't pass before summer break. He noted to reporters that the House passed $1 million in SB 299 to map out areas in need of broadband access.

Vote thwarted: Democratic Sen. Mike Skindell tried to force a vote on the controversial payday lending bill Wednesday in the Senate Finance Committee. Cleveland.com's Laura Hancock has the unusual details of what happened after. (Spoiler alert, it was defeated.)

Docs back Brown: The Ohio State Medical Association today announced its endorsement of Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown for re-election, Tobias reports. The group's backing could be significant in a year in which health care is expected to be a major issue. The group was neutral in Brown's 2012 campaign and in 2016, it endorsed Republican Sen. Rob Portman over his Democratic opponent.

Don't get purged: If you don't vote often, you could be targeted for removal from Ohio's voter rolls under the Secretary of State's culling process, which was upheld earlier this month by the U.S. Supreme Court. That means you'd have to re-register before you could vote again. But you don't have to find out the hard way. Rich Exner, cleveland.com's data expert, has built a database you can search to find out if your status is in jeopardy.

Labor pains: Unions in Ohio and across the country were dealt a blow by the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday. The court "shot down the legality of fees that unionized public sector workers must pay for union activities if they decline to join the union, saying that extracting them from 'nonconsenting' workers violates the First Amendment," reports cleveland.com's Sabrina Eaton, who sorts out the effect of the decision.

Also at the Supreme Court: The union decision was the biggest news of the day from the high court - until Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement. Eaton has a rundown of how Ohioans reacted to the news.

No immigration fix: All of Ohio's congressional Democrats, plus three Republicans, helped vote down the latest proposal to fix the nation's broken immigration system, which failed 121-301 on Wednesday, Eaton reports. "Democrats denounced it as 'anti-immigrant,' voting against it along with 112 Republicans who felt it was insufficiently tough," Eaton writes. GOP Reps. Bob Latta, Jim Jordan and Warren Davidson voted no.

Connections: A law firm that recently cleared Rep. Bill Seitz of sexual harassment donated to his campaign during the investigation, reports Julie Carr Smyth of the Associated Press. The Republican lawmaker's campaign received a $1,000 donation from Taft Stettinius & Hollister's PAC. The firm, where Seitz had worked for 36 years, was selected to review the allegation by Attorney General Mike DeWine's office, Smyth writes.

On The Move

Iyadeh Davies, Rep. Alicia Reece's legislative aide, will leave his job next month to attend law school at the University of Kentucky.

Full Disclosure

Five things we've learned from Tipp City Republican Sen. Bill Beagle's April 6 financial disclosure statement.

1. In addition to lawmaking, Beagle lists sources of income from several businesses he's involved in. He's a member of the Hampton Group LLC, from which he earned $25,000 to $49,999 in 2017. He's also a member of The Beagle Investment Group LLC and Fifth Capital LLC, earning $1,000 to $9,999 from each. He received management fees from the Hampton Group of $10,000 to $24,999. As a lawmaker, the Senate paid him $65,560 last year.

2. He owns stock in Amgen Inc., Best Buy Inc., Express Scripts, Cisco, Apple, General Electric and Norfolk Southern Corp.

3. Beagle invests in real estate. He listed 23 properties and the financial disclosure form doesn't require filers to list their personal residence or recreational property. Everything he owns is in Miami County, except for a place on Main Street in Columbus.

4. The Senate gave him $3,463.20 for mileage between home and Columbus. The state Republican Senate Campaign Committee gave him $172.25 for travel.

5. Lobbyists for the Dayton Development Corp. paid Beagle's $125 registration for the Ohio Defense Forum. He reported receiving bacon and food items from Sugarcreek Packaging.

Straight From The Source

"Speaker Smith - I kind of like the sound of that."

- Democratic Rep. Kent Smith, addressing Republican House Speaker Ryan Smith on the House floor Wednesday.

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