Weekly Legislative Report: Ohio House moves forward on bill that would expand unauthorized practice of law in Ohio

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​March 1, 2018

Get Ready to Call Your Senator: Ohio House Moves Forward on Bill That Would Expand Unauthorized Practice of Law in Ohio 

We were disappointed this week that the Ohio House moved forward in passing House Bill 182, a bill we told you about in December that would authorize debt settlement companies to operate in Ohio. This is an industry which the Ohio Supreme Court has ruled, in no uncertain terms, constitutes the unauthorized practice of law (UPL), and which members of the OSBA UPL Committee have encountered countless times as they sought to defend consumers who have fallen victim to its business practices.  

The legislation did not pass without significant objection (37 votes against), including from State Representative Nicholas Celebrezze (D-Parma), an attorney, who cautioned his colleagues in a floor speech that HB182 was likely unconstitutional because it is the Supreme Court and not the General Assembly, that regulates the practice of law in Ohio.

Despite this setback, there is still ample opportunity to affect change as the bill now moves to the Ohio Senate. In fact, the OSBA has already begun to raise its concerns with Senators, which can be summed up in the public statement we issued following the vote. In the weeks ahead we'll be encouraging OSBA members to contact their Senators directly to ensure lawmakers know why this bill would be bad for consumers and bad for Ohio.

Notary Public Modernization Act Introduced 

Folks have been talking about notary public reform for a very long time. A new bill on the topic that was introduced in the Senate this week looks like it may just have some traction. 

Senate Bill 263, sponsored by Senators Matt Huffman, an attorney from Lima, and Steve Wilson, a former local bank CEO from Maineville, seeks to "modernize" the notary public system in Ohio. The bill would pave the way for Ohioans to be able to get their documents notarized by connecting with a commissioned Ohio notary online using live audio-video communications technology, rather than having to meet face to face. To protect those consumers, the bill includes provisions to ensure the authenticity of electronic signatures and online notarial acts. It would also centralize notary commissions to be under the sole authority of the Ohio Secretary of State's Office. Currently, there are 88 counties and 88 different processes and requirements under which notaries are commissioned in Ohio. SB 263 would make the process uniform, requiring all new applicants to submit to background checks, participate in an approved training course and pass an assessment before they could get that coveted seal.

It is important to note that the commissions of all current attorney notaries would not be impacted by the new rules, though, if the bill is adopted, it could certainly impact how they provide the service to clients in the future. As such, we are grateful to the bill's sponsors for proactively seeking our input, and we look forward to working with them and the members of the Senate Insurance & Financial Institutions Committee as the bill moves through the legislative process.  

AG DeWine Files Suit Against Drug Distributors 

On Monday, in Ohio's continued battle against the opioid epidemic, Attorney General Mike DeWine filed suit against major drug distributors AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation, Cardinal Health, Inc. and its subsidiaries, McKesson Corporation and Miami-Luken, Inc. in the Madison County Court of Common Pleas. The lawsuit alleges, among several counts, that the drug companies were negligent and created a public nuisance by using unsafe distribution practices and by irresponsibly oversupplying the market in and around Ohio with highly addictive prescription opioids. According to the AG's press release, the suit was filed in Madison County because that county has consistently had a higher number of opioids distributed to it than the statewide average. In 2016, the last year for which data is available, an average of more than 76 opioid doses was distributed for every man, woman, and child in the county, a rate that was 39% higher than the Ohio statewide average for that year. We, and the rest of Ohio will be watching this suit very closely.

Selected Other Bills Passed This Week That You Should Know About 

Following up on our report of last weekHouse Bill 1, sponsored by Representatives Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) and Nathan Manning (R-North Ridgeville), which would allow victims of dating violence to petition the court for a civil protection order is now on its way to the Governor following House concurrence in Senate amendments.

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; revise the manner of determining sentence for certain violations of the offense of permitting drug abuse; as well as add lisdexamfetamine to the list of schedule II controlled substances passed the House 86-7.

Senate Bill 22, sponsored by Senator Bob Peterson (R-Washington Court House), which would incorporate into Ohio income tax law changes to federal tax law taking effect since March 30, 2017, including the recently adopted federal tax reform bill, passed the Ohio House 87-7.

Senate Bill 66, sponsored by Senators John Eklund (R-Munson Township) and Charleta Tavares (D-Columbus), which would modify criminal sentencing and corrections law by including rehabilitation as a purpose of felony sentencing; remove the one-year minimum for presumptive fourth or fifth degree felony community control sanctions; modify sanctions for a violation of a community control condition, modify the manner of calculating confinement credits, modify eligibility criteria and procedures for granting intervention in lieu of conviction; make offenders convicted of certain multiple fourth or fifth degree felonies eligible for conviction record sealing; revise procedures for the Adult Parole Authority to grant a final release or terminate post-release control, and modify the criteria for considering a prison term sanction for a post-release control violation, passed the Senate 32-0.

Senate Bill 125, sponsored by Senator Bill Beagle (R-Tipp City), which would make numerous changes to the laws governing child support as recommended by the Ohio’s Child Support Guidelines Advisory Council (comprised of state and county child professionals, judges, magistrates, legislators, attorneys, and parent advocacy groups) passed the Senate 27-5.

House Bill 96, sponsored by Representative Jim Hughes (R-Upper Arlington), which would increase the penalty for sexual imposition when the offender previously has been convicted or pleaded guilty three or more times of any of several specified sex offenses and to repeal the corroboration requirement for a sexual imposition conviction passed the House 85-0.

House Bill 271, sponsored by Representative (now Senator) Rob McColley (R-Napoleon) and Jeffery Rezabek (R-Clayton), which would authorize an alleged aggrieved party to provide a notice of an alleged accessibility law violation in advance of filing a civil action and to establish the circumstances under which an alleged aggrieved party is entitled to attorney's fees in a civil action based on the violation passed the House 90-0.

House Bill 309, sponsored by Representatives Anne Gonzales (R-Westerville) and Jeffery Rezabek (R-Clayton), which would generally prohibit a person's blindness from being used to deny or limit custody, parenting time, visitation, adoption, or service as a guardian or foster caregiver, regarding a minor passed the House 89-0. 

Tracking OSBA Legislation   

Remember, you can track all of these bills as well as OSBA priority legislation via the Legislative section at www.OhioBar.org

Week Ahead  

Governor John Kasich will be delivering his final State of the State address in his hometown of Westerville on Tuesday, March 6 at 7 p.m. Don't have tickets? No problem. You can watch it live via the Ohio Channel. In addition to the joint session for the State of the State, the Ohio House is scheduled to be in session on Wednesday, March 7, with an if-needed day set aside for Thursday, March 8. The Ohio Senate will be back in business on Wednesday, March 14.

 
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