COLUMBUS — The Ohio House turned its attention to other legislation, Ohio Senate sub-committees continued to dig into the biennial budget bill and the Controlling Board signed off on a new state park toilet.
Here are 10 things that happened around the Statehouse this week:
1. The Schedule: Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) announced the schedule for final biennial budget deliberations, with subcommittee hearings over the next two weeks, followed by full Finance Committee sessions starting May 30.
That would set up a floor vote in early June, with an eye toward completing conference committee negotiations before the start of the new state fiscal year on July 1.
"I look forward to the hearing process and greatly value the collaboration between our Finance committee and our four subcommittees," Senate Finance Committee Chairman Scott Oelslager (R-North Canton) said in a statement. "With the short timeframe we have, this approach allows us to have more focused discussions and ensures input from every member of the Senate."
2. Another Budget: The biennial operating budget isn’t the only spending plan being OK’d by lawmakers. The Ohio House gave its unanimous approval to HB 28, the two-year budget for the state industrial commission.
It’s a little less extensive than the operating budget — a Legislative Service Commission comparison document for the bill is all of two pages long, versus 800-plus for main budget bill.
3. EpiPens: The House also unanimously passed HB 101, which would allow pharmacies to dispense epinephrine without a prescription to those at risk of anaphylaxis — allergic reactions from bee stings, foods and other causes — and to allow access to generic auto-injectors.
"This legislation is a free-market solution to the exorbitant cost of epinephrine auto-injectors," Rep. Derek Merrin, a Republican from the Toledo area and primary sponsor of the legislation, said in a statement. "By easing access and government restrictions, consumers will have a better opportunity to obtain epinephrine auto-injectors at a lower cost."
4. Another One: Merrin was primary sponsor of another bill that passed with no opposition — HB 118, which blocks county boards of revision from dismissing property owners complaints if the names listed on the latter don’t exactly match those listed on deeds.
Merrin offered, "Property owners that challenge their property values should not have their complaints dismissed based on hyper-technical errors. The bill makes the law clear, ensures fairness, and will reduce the number of property tax appeals and lawsuits. Property owners must be treated fairly when challenging their values."
5. Last One: The Ohio House OK’d HB 165, which would designate June as Congenital Cytomegalovirus Awareness Month, increasing awareness of "an infection that occurs at birth in about one out of every 200 babies. Of those babies, about one in five will be sick from the virus or have long-term health problems, which may include hearing and vision loss, intellectual disability, small head size, lack of coordination, weakness or problems using muscles, and seizures," according to an analysis by the state’s Legislative Service Commission.
6. New Member: New Rep. Tavia Galonski, a former Summit County Juvenile Court magistrate, took her oath of office, replacing former Rep. Greta Johnson (D-Akron).
"It is a privilege to represent the people of Summit County at their Statehouse in Columbus," Galonski said in a statement. "I am eager to get to work on bills and ideas that increase our quality of life in the thirty-fifth and ensure state resources come back home."
7. New Submission: As promised, the group behind a congressional redistricting reform proposal continue their efforts to place the issue before votes.
Fair Congressional Districts for Ohio resubmitted an amended summary and petition paperwork to the attorney general, who earlier this month rejected an initial submission, pointing out a couple of issues.
The ball’s back in the attorney general’s court now. He has about a week to review the new documents and either certify or reject them.
The state Ballot Board will have to give its approval before backers could begin collecting signatures.
8. Pills: Ohioans turned in more than 16 tons of prescription drugs during the National Prescription Drug Take Back Day late last month, according to Attorney General Mike DeWine.
If you still have pills you need to get rid of, there are designated drop boxes located around the state. A full list of locations is posted on the attorney general’s website (www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov).
9. Puppies: Speaking of DeWine, the attorney general also warned consumers of con artists scamming unsuspecting puppy shoppers with fake online offers. DeWine’s office has received about 40 puppy scam complaints so far this year, with an average loss of about $600.
According to a release, "In a typical puppy scam, a consumer finds an ad for a puppy online and wires a few hundred dollars to have the puppy delivered but never receives the pup… Consumers who pay once generally are contacted again and asked to pay more for seemingly legitimate costs to cover shipping insurance, crate fees, or other charges. In some cases, if consumers refuse to pay, the con artist threatens to turn them in for animal abuse or neglect."
10. Toilet Talk: The state Controlling Board released more than $240,000 for renovations at Hocking Hills State Park — namely, to install a new composting restroom next to the Ash Cave picnic area pavilion.
According to documents, "The restroom location is not near any water or sewer infrastructure. The composting restroom is an innovation for locations not served by utilities. Additional composting units are expected to be installed in park locations that have antiquated restroom facilities that have reached the end of their life cycle and are not close to utilities."
The composing restroom will be the second of its kind in use at Ohio state parks. An Ohio Department of Natural Resources spokesman says another is already in place at Malabar Farm.
Marc Kovac covers the Ohio Statehouse for Gatehouse Media. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.