Governor DeWine Signs Transportation Budget Into Law
Governor DeWine signed the state's two-year $8.3 billion transportation budget bill into law. The bill includes $2.4 billion for road improvements, $74 million for public transportation and $8 million in grants for electric charging stations.
One measure in the bill, which is a new process from the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) will allow Ohioans to renew their driver's license or state ID's online instead of having to actually go in person to a BMV office. People ages 21-65 whose current licenses or ID's were issued in person and who have photos on file with the state will be eligible. A July 2022 launch is planned.
A request by the Governor and his administration to crackdown on distracted driving, making it a primary offense, meaning police would not need another reason first to pull driver's over, was stripped from the bill. Both House and Senate Republicans chose to avoid dealing with criminal law in the spending package. A stand alone distracted driving bill will most likely be introduced in the near future.
Ohio's 'Stand Your Ground' Law
Ohio has become the 36th state to no longer require people to retreat before they a use deadly force in self defense. A new law expands the stand your ground right from an individuals house and car to any public place if that person is in a place in which the person lawfully has a right to be.
Basically, stand your ground means you do not have to turn and run. You are permitted to protect and defend yourself. If someone is threatening you and you are in fear of your life, you will no longer have a duty to retreat.
Recently, Governor DeWine has sought to toughen background checks and increase penalties for felons committing new crimes with guns. He will continue to ask the new GOP-controlled General Assembly to approve his proposals.
Transgender Athletics in Women's Sports
More than 20 states, including Ohio, have introduced bills to block transgender athletes from participating in school sports. A Republican Ohio Senator has introduced legislation that would prohibit transgender athletics from competing on teams that align with their gender identities. The bill is receiving mixed reviews among legislators.
Proponents of the bill say it is about inclusiveness and safety for women, while opponents feel the Ohio High School Athletic Association's (OHSAA) current transgender policy is objective and workable.
Under the proposed legislation, if an athlete's sex is disputed, a physician would be required to sign a statement indicating the athlete's sex based on their reproduction anatomy, testosterone levels and genetic makeup. Language in the bill would permit teammates who believe they were harmed by transgender athletes who violate the rules would have the right to file lawsuits assigned at birth. Gender identity and expression is a person's internal feeling and how one presents themself on the outside. OHSAA's current policy requires athletes and their family to notify the school of their wish to participate in sports consistent with their gender identity. The school then notifies OHSAA, and they make a decision based on the impact of any medically prescribed hormone treatment undertaken by each athlete.
A spokesperson for OHSAA believes that all students, regardless of ethnicity, race or gender, should have an equal opportunity to participate in interscholastic athletics programs and does not believe that the current legislation pending in the Senate allows for that opportunity to occur.
U.S. Census Bureau Delay Causes Questions for 2022 Races
According to an announcement from the U.S. Census Bureau, its new population data on who lives where would not be available until September 30, 2021. That date is five months later than usual, only one day before the Ohio Constitution requires lawmakers to vote on district lines for the U.S. House of Representatives and 29 days days after the state House and Senate maps are technically due. Basically, Ohio needs to adopt a new timeline for drawing its new state and federal districts.
A coalition of voting rights groups are advocating to push Ohio's primary election from May 3, 2022 to sometime in June 2022 as a result of the pandemic-related census data delays. Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman indicated that a primary date change is a potential first step, but that will not solve the fact that the data delay threatens the constitutionality of Ohio's map-making process. Huffman plans to discuss all possible solutions with other leaders in the Ohio House and Senate with a goal of having a decision by early May.
White House Cabinet Members Deputized to Sell Infrastructure Plan
President Biden has appointed five members of his cabinet, including Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh and Commerce Secretary Gina Ralmondo to represent him and his administration, front and center, before members of Congress, with governors, elected officials and engage the American people through the media and other direct communications to help sell the infrastructure plan.
Fudge, a former democratic member from Warrensville Heights, Ohio is excited in her role to promote how the American people will benefit from this investment. She described the President's proposal as historic and a once in a century kind of an infrastructure investment plan.
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