The future of traffic cameras in Ohio is now in the hands of Gov. John Kasich.
The Ohio Senate voted 21-9 Thursday night to agree to minor changes the House made in a bill designed to quash the use of traffic cameras in cities across the state.
The bill would require local governments to station a police officer at any intersection where a red light camera is operating. This move would make the cameras useless and too expensive for most cities to operate.
Red light cameras, which were first used in Toledo 10 years ago, are now used in more than 250 locations across the state including Middletown, Hamilton, New Miami, Dayton and several other local cities and towns.
Opponents of the cameras say cities are using them as cash cows and the process for fighting tickets denies motorists due process. Proponents of the cameras argue that they save lives and improve road safety for all.
There are 13 Middletown intersections and five other intersection approaches that are equipped with red light cameras. Since the program was implemented in 2005, it has generated more than $1.29 million. Through Nov. 30 of this year, the cameras have brought the city $159,877 in revenue.
“If it passes, we’ll comply with whatever the new legislation requires and adapt our processes accordingly,” City Manager Doug Adkins said of the bill.
Middletown police Chief David VanArsdale added: “The elimination of the cameras will not change traffic enforcement by our officers.”
Ohio closer to restarting executions
Executions of inmates on Ohio’s death row could resume early next year as lawmakers take steps to re-open the supply line of lethal injection drugs.
The Ohio Senate voted 20-10 on Thursday in favor of a bill that will hide the identity of pharmacists, pharmacies and drug makers that provide the drugs used in executions. The bill returns to the House next week to consider Senate changes and then it’ll go to Gov. John Kasich, who is expected to sign it into law.
The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction has had difficulty obtaining the lethal drugs from manufacturers that object to capital punishment and DRC wants to use compounding pharmacies to mix the drugs. Advocates of the bill argue that no one will be willing to provide the drugs if it means they could be publicly identified and subjected to harassment.
The bill gives drug providers confidentiality for 20 years and requires the Ohio Ethics Commission to check to make sure the companies hold required licenses.
The bill includes a provision to sunset the law after two years and to study how capital punishment is carried out in Ohio, which opens the door to exploring other using other methods of execution. Ohio eliminated the electric chair as an option in November 2001, which state Sen. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, said led to the state putting “all our eggs in one lethal injection basket.”
This study will come less than a year after Ohio Supreme Court Justice Maureen O’Connor and the Ohio State Bar Association conducted a two-year, in-depth look at capital punishment in Ohio. A handful of that task force’s 56 recommendations are included in the bill.
Locally, state Sens. Chris Widener, R-Springfield; Keith Faber, R-Celina; Bill Coley, R-West Chester Twp.; and Bill Beagle, R-Tipp City, voted in favor of the bill while state Sens. Shannon Jones, R-Springboro and Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering, opposed it.
Dennis Hetzel of the Ohio Newspaper Association said such a bill shouldn’t be rushed through in a lame duck session. “We remain concerned about excessive secrecy in this legislation and have yet to see any documentation beyond vague claims that new exemptions to our open records law are needed to protect the identities of drug suppliers,” he said. The ACLU of Ohio also opposed the bill.
Ohio last executed an inmate in January, using a previously untested combination of drugs on convicted killer Dennis McGuire, who raped and killed Joy Stewart, a pregnant West Alexandria woman, in 1989. The execution took 26 minutes, during which McGuire choked and gasped.
In May, a federal judge imposed a temporary moratorium on executions in Ohio until the state developed a new execution protocol. The moratorium expires in January. Convicted child killer Ronald Phillips of Summit County is scheduled to be executed in February 2015 and 10 others are scheduled for execution through September 2016.
Kids under 18 to require parental consent for tanning beds
In other action, the Senate voted 26-4 to restrict — but not ban — teens using tanning beds. The bill requires parents sign consent forms at the salon for 16- and 17-year-olds to be allowed to use tanning beds. Parents would have to both sign the consent and attend each tanning session for anyone under the age of 16.
“The science is clear – if you use indoor tanning beds, your risk of developing skin cancer significantly increases,” Dr. Elizabeth Kiracofe told lawmakers last week in testimony. “The incidence of malignant melanoma is especially increasing in young adult women, due to their exposure to hazardous ultraviolet tanning bed radiation.”
She noted that 24 states and the District of Columbia ban minors from using indoor tanning beds.
The tanning bill now goes to Kasich for consideration.
The American Cancer Society did not support the bill because it does not go far enough, Lehner said.
Senators also voted 29-1 to agree to House changes to a pilot plan to create a three-day sales tax holiday for back-to-school shoppers in August 2015. The bill now goes to the governor.