COLUMBUS — One state lawmaker announced her plans to leave the Ohio House, one statewide officeholder met with the president and a couple of legislators launched their 2018 campaigns.
Here are 10 things that happened around the Statehouse last week:
1. Passed: In addition to the biennial transportation budget and legislation to allow victims of dating violence to seek civil protection orders, the Ohio House passed a couple of other bills.
HB 5 would codify the definition of “microbusiness” — that is, “independently owned and operated for-profit business” entities with fewer than 20 full-time employees.
HB 34, meanwhile, would allow state and local public offices to send certain notices by regular mail or via an electronic message, rather than by certified mail as is currently required.
The Ohio Senate was not in session.
2. Complaint Department: The state Controlling Board OK’d another $500,000 toward the Ohio Department of Transportation’s efforts to update its website, with some focus on “public comment functionalities.”
According to documents, “This additional functionality will allow easy access for public comments along with ODOT's documentation of and response to comments and questions. Typical uses will include public feedback to project plans (as required by FHWA regulation), pre-bid questions submitted by contractors, and reporting of highway incidents and complaints from the general public.”
The price tag for the total project is upward of $1.3 million, according to documents.
3. Pity the Browns: Cleveland’s football team can’t even catch a break during Ohio Supreme Court oral arguments.
Consider the following exchange that happened during a case involving officers’ search of a Youngstown-area apartment:
Attorney Louis DeFabio: “If the police knock at your door, if they’re not armed with a search warrant, you don’t have to answer. So if I’m at home watching the Browns and the police come and knock at my door and say, ‘Police, open up,’ I don’t have to open up.”
Justice Judith French: “Well, you might, to get away from the game.”
4. Leaving Columbus: State Rep. Greta Johnson (D-Akron) announced her resignation from the Ohio House, effective at the end of the month. She’s taking a position as deputy director of the law department for Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro.
“The move is both exciting and bittersweet,” Johnson said in a released statement, “I am extremely proud of the strides I made on behalf of the 35th District, as well as the statewide relationships I established. I will miss my colleagues and staff, but I know they will continue to fight for all of Ohio’s residents.”
Johnson is a former prosecutor who worked in Mahoning and Summit counties and for the city of Akron.
Ohio House Democrats will pick her replacement.
5. 2018 Watch: Two more candidates declared their intentions to run for statewide office next year.
Democratic Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) threw his hat into the gubernatorial ring, about a week after Republican Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor launched her campaign committee for governor. Both of those races could have crowded fields early on.
Additionally, state Rep. Dorothy Pelanda (R-Marysville) announced that she was running for secretary of state. Republican state Sen. Frank LaRose (R-Hudson) and Democratic state Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) also are eyeing that race.
6. Along Those Lines: Such announcements and speculations bring added significance whenever any official or rumored candidates for statewide office speak.
For example, Clyde offered an amendment to the state transportation budget to require bureaus of motor vehicles to provide voter registrations for all customers, including those who complete registrations online.
“Thankfully, we now have online voter registration in Ohio, but over at the BMV, we still require people to come to an office in person and use paper to register to vote,” she said. “The motor-voter law is meant to make voter registration easier, to be seamless with the business Ohio citizens are doing with the state and to keep our voter rolls accurate and secure as cheaply and efficiently as possible. This common sense amendment will do just that.”
Pelanda offered a rebuttal to Clyde’s amendment before the proposed changes were tabled.
“The right to vote, the exercise of voting, is the fundamental way that we participate in democracy,” Pelanda said. “It should require affirmative action on one’s part in order to register to vote.”
7. One More: And on the day that Pelanda made her announcement, LaRose introduced a joint resolution to revamp the way the state draws its congressional districts, with a focus on making that process more bipartisan.
“The current winner-take all approach, used in our state for the congressional redistricting process, is unsustainable and leads to unnecessary friction and dysfunction,” he said in a released statement. “The citizens of Ohio demand reform. SJR 3 would require bipartisan compromise, compelling statesmen and women to work cooperatively to draw fair and straightforward congressional district maps.”
8. Trump Note: Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine was in Washington, D.C., for the National Association of Attorneys General winter conference. A spokesman confirmed that DeWine met with President Donald Trump as part of the event.
9. Non-Citizen Voters: Republican Secretary of State announced that his office identified another 385 non-citizens who registered to vote in the state, 82 of whom actually cast ballots in elections.
That brought the total of non-citizens — those are folks who are in the country legally but who aren’t supposed to be voting — identified under Husted’s watch to 821, with 126 who actually cast ballots.
Here’s a little more context on the 82 spotlighted this week: Non-citizens allegedly illegally voted in 12 elections in 2016 (five in the primary, seven in the general election), four in 2015 (one in the primary, three in the general), 12 in 2014 (three in the primary, nine in the general), 9 in 2013 (one in the primary, eight in the general), 39 in 2012 (all in the general), two in 2011 (all general) and four in 2010 (all general), according to the secretary of state’s office.
10. Sick Days: House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger (R-Clarksville) was feeling under the weather during the week, so the gavel was passed to Speaker Pro Tempore Kirk Schuring (R-Canton), who presided over the House’s voting sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Marc Kovac covers the Ohio Statehouse for Gatehouse Media. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.