April 12, 2018
A delegation from the OSBA and the Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation (pictured above with central Ohio Representative Joyce Beatty) made the annual trek to Washington, D.C. this week as part of ABA Day. They met with Ohio members of Congress and their staffs to continue to stress the importance of funding for legal aid through the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) and to lobby for continued support for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF), a program which forgives student debt obligations for those who work in public service positions and pay on their loans for 10 years. PSFL has been critical for attracting the best and brightest, including young lawyers, to public service positions like legal aid.
As reported a couple of weeks back, this ongoing communication with members of Congress has been extremely effective as the recently adopted omnibus spending bill not only maintained funding for LSC but included an increase of $25 million. This time last year, the prospects for legal aid funding did not look so good as the Administration had been pushing a budget framework that would have defunded it. The OSBA, OLAF and metro bar associations immediately mobilized, and once again have played a significant role in convincing lawmakers why legal aid continues to be a good investment and a lifeline for so many Ohio families. A BIG thanks to members of the Ohio Congressional delegation who met with the Ohio crew this week and especially to those who have continued to support legal aid.
While the OSBA delegation was in Washington, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan announced he will not seek reelection to the U.S. House. Meanwhile, Ohio's Capitol Square continued to reel following Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger's announcement that he will be resigning his position effective immediately as he is the subject of an FBI inquiry. Rosenberger maintains his innocence but has said he does not want to distract from the work of the House.
Speaker Pro Tempore Kirk Schuring (R-Canton) will take over leadership until the House elects a new speaker, for which no date has been set. House Finance Committee Chairman Ryan Smith (R-Gallipolis) and Representative Larry Householder (R-Glenford) have been in an open battle for the speaker's office in the next General Assembly, as Rosenberger was term-limited. This development could certainly accelerate that race.
Busy legislative week at the Statehouse
Despite the shakeup in the Speaker's office, the work of the House and Senate continued in earnest this week as the chambers took up a combined 27 bills, some of which the OSBA's has had its eyes on:
House Bill 489, the Financial Institutions Reform Act sponsored by Representative Jonathan Dever (R-Madeira) passed the House 89-6. As you will recall from a previous report, the OSBA Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Section had worked with the sponsor during the committee process to remove a provision that would have increased the time period within which claims could be presented against an estate. The OSBA position held in the version that passed the House.
In the Senate, members unanimously rejected House amendments to Senate Bill 1, sponsored by Senator Frank LaRose (R-Hudson, which would increase the penalties for drug trafficking violations, drug possession violations, and aggravated funding of drug trafficking when the drug involved in the offense is a fentanyl-related compound, among other things. Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) explained that Senators were concerned that the bill, as passed by the House, could have the unintended consequence of making accused dealers "guilty until proven innocent." This bill will now go to conference committee to work out the differences between the two chambers.
The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 201, sponsored by Senator Kevin Bacon (R-Minerva Park) and Senator Sean O'Brien (D-Bazetta). Also known as the Reagan Tokes Law, the bill is named after the 21-year old Ohio State University student who was abducted and murdered by an offender who was subject to GPS monitoring at the time of her death. The bill is designed to address shortfalls in the criminal justice system that they believe could have prevented it.
By a vote of 31-2, Senators also passed Sierah's Law — Senate Bill 231, sponsored by Senator Randy Gardner (R-Bowling Green). Named after a girl abducted by a convicted violent offender in Northwest Ohio, the bill would provide for violent offender databases to be managed on a county-by-county basis. Senator Mike Skindell (D-Lakewood), who voted against the bill, raised mens rea concerns.
In addition, House Bill 354, sponsored by Representative Bill Reineke, which would create a joint drug docket in the Tiffin-Fostoria Municipal Court and Seneca County Court of Common Pleas, passed the Senate 33-0.
Voting begins for May 8 Primary Election
As of April 10, voting is underway for the May Primary Election. In addition to weighing in on the party nominees for state, local and federal offices as well as local issues, Ohioans will also decide the fate of a constitutional amendment that seeks to reform congressional redistricting in Ohio. Be on the lookout for more information surrounding State Issue 1 on the OSBA website in the near future, and for a broader view of what's been going on around the country as it relates to redistricting, be sure to check out the most recent Statehouse Connection column in Ohio Lawyer by OSBA Assistant Executive Director for Policy and Public Affairs Todd Book.
After an extremely busy week, the Ohio House and Senate each have only "if-needed" days scheduled for next week — the Senate for the 18th and the House for the 18th and 19th.
Tracking OSBA legislation
Remember, you can always track bills we are watching and OSBA priority legislation via the Legislative section at www.OhioBar.org.