Columbus — State lawmakers have ended their voting sessions for the year, and most likely won’t be seen around the Statehouse before the start of the next general assembly in January.
But a couple of House panels went out with a bang, via a series of first hearings on bills that otherwise would never see the light of day.
There’s a rule in the chamber that members can request and receive at least one hearing on bills they introduce, providing an opportunity to discuss hot-button issues of the day.
Sometimes, these bills are offered by Democrats, and sometimes they’re offered by Republicans. They’re interesting to think about and maybe mention the next time you’re hanging out at the water cooler. You’ll probably see them again next session.
Here’s a sample of the bills that had first hearings just before the chamber completed its work for the session, with no realistic chance that any would pass:
• Motor Voter: Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) has long urged passage of law changes to ensure that Ohio is meeting federal motor-voter requirements.
She’d like to create a study committee to review related compliance issues and to improve voter registration in Ohio.
Her HB 214, which had its first hearing just before the last House session of the year, also would require annual training for employees at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles on helping customers register to vote.
“Last November, Ohio had a general election where less than 40 percent of Ohioans turned out to vote — the lowest voter turnout in modern history …,” Clyde said in testimony submitted to the House Policy and Oversight Committee. “That is shameful, and we should be doing everything we can to improve access to the polls and voter turnout in elections.”
• More Election Legislation: Rep. Alicia Reece (D-Cincinnati) submitted sponsor testimony on her HB 13, which would deal with the so-called “right church, wrong pew” issue on Election Day.
The bill would allow ballots of voters who are mistakenly directed by poll-workers to the wrong polling place to be counted.
“This bill would merely require the poll-worker to identify the voter’s correct precinct on the paperwork,” Reece said in testimony to the House Policy and Oversight Committee. “If the poll-worker doesn’t do that, doesn’t demonstrate that he knows where this voter is supposed to vote and sent the voter there, then the voter’s ballot will count.”
• GOP Bills: Rep. John Becker, a Republican from the Cincinnati area, offered sponsor testimony on four pieces of legislation.
HB 263 would require early voting to take place on weekdays from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
HB 305 would block voters from changing their party affiliations within 30 days of an election.
HJR 8 would propose expanded term limits lawmakers to 12 years instead of the current eight.
And HJR 10 would provide a means for voters to recall or expel elected officials.
“I’d much rather see government officials fearing the voters rather than the other way around,” Becker said in testimony to the House Policy and Oversight Committee.
• Flags: Manufactured home park operators and other home owners associations would not be able to block their residents from displaying the American flag and other service flags, under HB 622, sponsored by Rep. Anne Gonzales (R-Westerville).
“We need to be able to protect patriotism in this state,” Gonzales said in sponsor testimony submitted to the House’s Military and Veterans Affairs Committee the day the House adjourned its final voting session of the year. “Americans and military families are proud and should not be prohibited from displaying their pride in the form of a flag.”
Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau chief. Email him at mkovac@dixcom.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.