Guns, marijuana, trans care: 7 bills Ohio lawmakers eyeing before year ends

The Ohio General Assembly comes back in session this week for a lame-duck session following the Nov. 8 election.

The legislative schedule only allows for about five more weeks of work before year’s end. Anything that doesn’t pass by then would have to be re-filed for the 135th General Assembly next year.

Here are seven of the most consequential or controversial bills scheduled so far.

Trans care ban

A bill that would prevent anyone under age 18 from taking steps toward gender transition is up for a fifth hearing — but with a possible substitute bill coming.

The “Save Adolescents from Experimentation” Act, House Bill 454, is sponsored by state Reps. Gary Click, R-Vickery, and Diane Grendell, R-Chesterland. It would prohibit medical personnel, public or private, from helping minors transition; prohibit public funding to anyone who does so; and prohibit insurance and Medicaid from covering any gender-transition therapy or procedure for minors.

As currently written, the bill specifically targets “school nurses, counselors, teachers, principals, or other staff or officials,” requiring them to tell parents — even if those parents are potentially hostile — about a minor’s gender dysphoria.

Sex offenders

A bill sponsored by state Rep. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, would drop the penalty for failing to register as a child sex offender from a fifth-degree felony to a $2,500 civil penalty, and repeal the prohibition on such offenders living within 1,000 feet of a school. House Bill 689, up for a first hearing, would also limit prosecution of failure to report child abuse or neglect to within two years after the offense.

Gun laws

An attempt to revive some of the “Strong Ohio” proposals against gun violence, stalled in the General Assembly since 2019, faces a timeline that’s hard to meet.

State Sen. Matt Dolan, R-Chagrin Falls, is trying to resurrect some of the “Strong Ohio” proposals against gun violence that stalled in the legislature in 2019. His Senate Bill 357 will get a first hearing, but also faces a tight timeline. The bill includes a “red flag” provision, better background checks, some limitation on private sales, and using $175 million in federal funds to improve mental healthcare.

Gov. Mike DeWine has signaled approval of the bill, which includes some of the ideas he unsuccessfully floated following the August 2019 mass shooting in Dayton’s Oregon District.

Education reform

State Sen. Bill Reineke, R-Tiffin, has filed a placeholder bill expressing intent to “reform the functions and responsibilities of the State Board of Education, the Superintendent of Public Instruction, and the Department of Education.” It’s Senate Bill 178, and it’s coming up for a first hearing.

It’s unclear exactly what the bill would include. Vague placeholder bills usually have something extensive and controversial tacked on at the last minute, thus avoiding public debate.

Medical marijuana

An update to the state’s medical marijuana law that passed the Senate in December is up for a fifth hearing in a House committee, giving it a decent chance to reach the House floor by year’s end.

State Sen. Steve Huffman, R-Tipp City, sponsored the original medical marijuana law five years ago, and is also author of this update. It would add to the list of conditions eligible for medical marijuana, and the ways in which it can be taken. Huffman said it still prohibits smoking the drug. It would also increase authorized growing space and allow up to six times the current number of legal dispensaries.

Vehicle seizure

A bill sponsored by state Rep. Thomas Patton, R-Strongsville, says if a driver fails to comply with an order or signal of a police officer, police can seize their vehicle. It’s up for a first hearing as House Bill 626.

A different bill sponsored by Rep. Kevin Miller, R-Newark, which has had one committee hearing, says much the same — but also that the offender’s drivers license would be suspended. Patton’s bill leaves that out, just taking the vehicle.

Distracted driving

House Bill 283 may finally be up for a House committee vote, though that doesn’t leave it much time to get through the Senate. The bill sponsored by state Reps. Cindy Abrams, R-Harrison, and Brian Lampton, R-Beavercreek, would allow police to stop and ticket drivers solely for using mobile phones on the road, and tightens the requirement to use only hands-free devices when driving.

State Sen. Bob Hackett, R-London, has championed the bill. He said in June that House Speaker Bob Cupp, R-Lima, wanted to be assured of 60 yes votes before bringing the bill to the House floor, but only had 48 lined up at that point.

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