The Ohio General Assembly ink a bipartisan move last week unanimously approved House Bill 197, a wide range of legislation designed to address a number of issues related to the fight to mitigate the coronavirus pandemic.
The legislation extended mail-in primary voting until April 28; allowed high school seniors to graduate this school year; banned utilities from disconnecting service; and froze school voucher eligibility.
The major components of the legislation include:
- Extend state tax deadlines to July 15, same as federal filing deadlines.
- Closure of in-person voting for the 2020 primary, which had been March 17, in lieu of mail-in balloting through April 28. The Ottawa County Board of Elections reports that in order to receive a ballot and get it in before the April 28 deadline, the last day for local eligible voters to request a ballot is Saturday, April 25. Mail-in ballots already sent will be counted.
- The waving of report cards for the present school year, as well as K-12 testing, and allow the graduation of high school seniors. Schools must determine if seniors were on track to graduate before classes were halted. Schools are allowed to employ distance learning to cover the three weeks Ohio schools are being closed.
- School voucher eligibility has been frozen. EdChoice private school vouchers could balloon from about 500 to 1,200 as more schools are designated as underperforming.
- School meal programs are allowed to continue through summer.
- The Ohio EPA has prohibited public water systems from being shut down for non-payment. Most utilities have pledged not to discontinue services.
- Unemployment insurance has been expanded, waiving the waiting period for qualifying for benefits.
- Allow electronic meetings of government bodies, including public meetings.
- Allows Gov. DeWine to dip into Ohio’s $2.7 million Budget Stabilization Fund, or rainy-day fund.
- Allows recently retired state workers to be rehired at state youth and adult prisons, Dept. of Mental Health and Additions Services, Dept. of Veterans Services and Department of Developmental Disabilities.
- Extend for 90 days all state and local licenses and permits, including driver’s licenses.
- Allow nursing grads to be given temporary licenses that last 90 days or until Dec. 1.