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Coronavirus response: Ohio lawmakers add absentee voting, delay tax deadline

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  • Coronavirus response: Ohio lawmakers add absentee voting, delay tax deadline

    We brought it to their attention, and quickly got some folks on board, so along with Drivers License expiration's being extended, CCW licenses were added to the language with no arguments or push back. It's 5th from the bottom under "licenses" and includes language regarding extending the grace period for expired CCW licensees with the same parameters as set forth by the Gov for an expired drivers license.


    The Ohio Senate unanimously agreed to a sweeping bill Wednesday that would extend voting in the primary election, prohibit water companies from shutting off people’s services and give state income tax filers and expired state license holders a grace period.

    The bill, which the Ohio House is expected to approve Wednesday afternoon, will be the legislature’s first response to the coronavirus outbreak.

    >> All our stories about the coronavirus are being provided for free as a public service to our readers during the outbreak. You can find all our stories here. Please support local journalism by subscribing to The Columbus Dispatch at

    Here’s what the bill would do if approved by the House and signed by Republican Gov. Mike DeWine:

    Election Day -- Ohioans would have until April 28 to get an absentee ballot in the mail, but most won’t get another chance to vote in person.

    Secretary of State Frank LaRose had lobbied to give voters until June 2, but both Republican and Democrats said schools with levies on the March ballot couldn’t afford to wait that long.

    “This virus might not be over by June 2 even,” Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko, D-Richmond Heights, said. “At one point they thought it might be but every indication is we have no way of knowing.”

    LaRose wanted a day for in-person voting, but lawmakers decided only those who require special assistance would get that option.

    The plan for the primary also drew ire from voting rights groups like the League of Women Voters of Ohio, which wanted a mid-May deadline.

    “Our vote-by-mail system really doesn’t work great, and now we’re going to try to put that on steroids,” said Jen Miller, executive director of the league. “We have a lot of concerns about vote-by-mail even though we like it.”

    Among the problems with Ohio’s vote-by-mail system are signature matching protocols, requiring local boards of elections to contact voters to resolve clerical errors when the information is available, the groups wrote in a memo to lawmakers.

    “The exact wrong answer is to do a chintzy, half baked rushed vote by mail process because it means people are not going to get to participate and that’s just wrong,” Miller said.

    Other groups, like the ACLU of Ohio, said the voter registration deadline should have been extended and not doing so would be a violation of federal law. Senate Republicans flatly disagreed.

    “There is a distinction that needs to be made,” Sen. Matt Dolan, R-Chagrin Falls, said on a conference call with reporters. “What we did here today did not change the election date. We extended absentee ballots until April 28.”

    Schools -- The bill would make several significant but temporary changes to education in Ohio.

    For example, it would waive state testing and report card requirements for the 2019-2020 year, let distance learning count towards state requirements for hours of instruction and freeze the list of voucher-eligible school buildings at about 500 rather than letting it expand to more than 1,200 next Wednesday.

    “We decided jointly that freezing things where they were, focusing on some of the emergencies we have at hand, were important,” Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Medina, said. “Children who would have been eligible in those school districts will still be eligible.”

    As for high school seniors, Dolan said they could graduate “if their local school deems that they were on the path to graduation before this crisis.”

    Tax deadline - The bill extends the state income tax filing deadline to July 15 to align with the federal change. It also would change the date for estimated payments and waive interest payments in addition to already waived penalties.

    Licenses -- Ohioans with an expired driver’s licenses or one for a concealed firearms will have until either 90 days after the governor lifts his declaration of emergency or 90 days from December 1, 2020 to renew.

    Utilities and Evictions -- The bill didn’t include a provision to stop landlords and banks from evicting people, but it would prohibit water companies from shutting off people’s services for nonpayment.

    Obhof didn’t shut the door on passing something to help people facing either foreclosure or eviction during a phone call with reporters, adding that he expected to be back in the coming weeks for a “fiscal package or financial proposal” related to the coronavirus.

    “Not everything that we wanted to see in this bill was included, but I hope we will have the opportunity to do more soon,” Yuko said. “Right now the priority is stopping the spread of the virus and making sure Ohioans are safe.”

    Nurses -- Men and women who graduate from Ohio’s nursing schools normally have to pass a licensing exam before they can start practicing medicine. This bill would give them a temporary certificate of practice that would let them start working in hospitals, doctors’ offices and clinics immediately upon graduation. It would also give certified registered nurse anesthetists certain permissions to provide anesthesia care like administering drugs and ordering tests.

    Unemployment -- The bill simply codifies the governor’s declaration that waived the one week waiting period for benefits, work search requirements and added COVID-19 to the list of reasons for seeking unemployment.

    Remote meetings -- City councils and county commissioners could meet remotely by phone or video conference while the emergency order is in place so long as their constituents have a way to watch or listen.
    Hence it is, that democracies have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have, in general, been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths. James Madison, Federalist Paper No 10