Statehouse Full of Controversial Bills That Didn’t Pass in 2013

Dec 24, 2013

While state leaders have been busy debating and passing laws that could impact you and your family, the General Assembly has also spent many hours on bills that, in the end, were left on the table.

There were 387 bills proposed this year in the House and 257 in the Senate, and most of them didn’t pass—and some have no chance of passing. But some did come to a vote. One that sparked controversy was a bill that would make several improvements to concealed carry laws, including tighter background checks.

But Democrats immediately focused on the so-called Stand Your Ground provision. This is a measure that eliminates the requirement for a person to flee before using lethal force when faced with a deadly situation. Opponents say this law has caused problems in other states and will only increase violence in Ohio.

The Ohio Legislative Black Caucus led the charge against this bill. During rallies they used the shooting death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin as the prime example of why the state shouldn’t have the law.

Democratic Representative Alicia Reece of Cincinnati took that argument onto the House floor, where the bill’s sponsor, Republican Representative Terry Johnson of southern Ohio defended his legislation.

“There’s no kill-at-will here," said Johnson. "This is not an expansion of castle doctrine. House Bill 203 makes a change to self-defense law in places other than your home or your car.”

“We know what the provision in House Bill 203—the kill-at-will, Stand Your Ground provision does—we’ve already seen what it does when it goes wrong. We’ve already seen what it does when we allow citizens to become judge jury and executioner,” said Reece.

The bill ended up passing out of the House and now sits in the Senate.

Perhaps the issue that made the loudest noise without going anywhere at all was the so-called Right-to-Work initiative.

The legislation would prohibit the requirement of public or private workers to join unions. The bills sparked an instant backlash from Democrats and unions, comparable to the opposition mounted against SB5 in 2011.

While only one bill had just a single hearing in the House it still had its share of drama, forcing Republican committee chairman Kirk Schuring of Canton to call the crowd to order after comments by Democratic Representative Tom Letson of Warren.

“Currently, Ohio law allows for those people that do not want to belong to unions—to not belong to unions,” said Letson to applause. 

Schurling responded with a call to order, "I will call the sergeant-at-arms and the highway patrol to escort you out of here the next time you act like that.”

Leaders in the Senate and Gov. John Kasich say they aren’t interested in taking up the Right-to-Work issue at this time.

There are other hot button issues that are still sitting in the Statehouse at the end of 2013. This includes a bill to simplify Ohio’s municipal tax code.

Another bill to ban the use of traffic cameras drew an interesting debate before passing the House. This legislation was truly a nonpartisan issue with both Democrats and Republicans falling on either side of the argument.

Other bills that grabbed headlines include one to ensure that sexual offenders wouldn’t have parental rights if their victims choose to keep or adopt out babies conceived in those attacks. Also, a bill to repeal the Common Core standards in public schools, and a measure to abolish the death penalty.

There are many other bills that have gone unmentioned but could stir some debate in 2014, like the proposed increase to Ohio’s severance tax or the two dueling bills trying to designate the official state country music song. One thing’s for sure, with another year left in the session, there’s no telling what the future holds for these bills.