A slew of last-minute bills that could affect your life were passed quickly in the waning days of Ohio’s 131st General Assembly.
During their lame duck session, state legislators approved more than 50 bills.
The “Christmas blitz” followed a year of little activity, which included fewer than 20 voting sessions — and a month-long stint from Memorial Day to after Election Day with just one voting session.
Here are some of the changes that could affect you:
ON THE ROADS
How much space do you need to give bicycle riders with whom you share the road? Three feet, according to House Bill 154.
The bill also stipulates that drivers can run red lights if, after stopping and waiting for a prolonged time, it becomes clear the light is malfunctioning.
The way has to be completely clear — it’s not just a free pass to treat lights as stop signs. If you get ticketed, you have to prove the light was malfunctioning.
Ohioans can now carry concealed firearms into daycare centers, school safety zones, and previously-secure public areas in airports due to the passage of Senate Bill 199.
Private businesses, including private colleges, can still ban firearms — everywhere but inside your car. The law now protects the right to have a gun in your car regardless of where you’re parked, and no matter what your employer says.
If you’re an active military member, you don’t even need a concealed carry permit, assuming, of course, that you’ve gotten through weapons training.
House Bill 410 stops schools from simply suspending or expelling kids who don’t show up for classes.
Instead of passing the problem on to the juvenile courts, schools will first have to use diversion programs and get parents involved in making sure kids get to class. In some cases, the law requires schools to create a team that includes teachers, guardians, social workers, and the student; it will work to see whether progress is being made and whether the child needs to be put in the justice system.
Senate Bill 3 removes the state’s power to approve the way local school districts make up their allotted snow days.
If you attend a private school, Senate Bill 3 allows you to play for a public school sports team in the district where your private school is physically located. This still requires the public superintendent to sign off.
And if you plan to play or coach on a school team, be ready to do some homework. Under Senate Bill 252, you’ll now need to go over guidelines for handling sudden cardiac arrest. Coaches will need to complete annual training on heart attacks.
Under Senate Bill 331, cities and other political bodies are not able to establish minimum wages that are different from the state’s. This measure puts the brakes on the $15 minimum wage proposal on Cleveland’s May primary ballot. The legal minimum is now $8.15 (or $4.08 for workers who get tips).
ON HEALTH MATTERS
Health insurance providers are now required by House Bill 463 to cover treatments for autism-spectrum disorders.
Originally aimed at foreclosures, late provisions added protections for families with autism. Insurance companies must now provide screening, diagnosis, and treatment for kids up to age 14 and can’t end your coverage if your child is diagnosed.
Senate Bill 127 bans abortions 20 weeks after fertilization, with no exceptions for cases involving rape and incest. Previously the law provided for abortions up to 24 weeks.
The measure was signed by Gov. John Kasich but is already under fire by the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, which cites similar bans in other states that have been struck down by federal courts.
Kasich vetoed the so-called “heartbeat bill” that would have made abortions illegal as soon as doctors could detect a fetal heartbeat, which can be six weeks into pregnancy.
House Bill 470 criminalizes assisted suicide. No matter the pain or desire of the patient, assisted suicide is now a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison.
IN THE BACKYARD
Want to do some urban farming? Set up your own coop in the backyard? Chickens (and other fowl) are allowed, of course. But now Senate Bill 235 prohibits them from wandering onto your neighbor’s property. (Ohio law previously only addressed wandering geese.) You’ve got to keep tabs on your livestock.
ON THE PHONE
AT&T successfully lobbied to place micro-wireless antennae on public utility poles as it rolls out 5G service in Ohio. Under Senate Bill 331, local cities can’t use zoning codes to prevent it. The bill would allow other wireless carriers to do the same.
On a side note, the bill also makes cockfighting a felony.