75 ways Ohio's state budget may affect you, Part 2 of 3

by MARC KOVAC | CAPITAL BUREAU CHIEF Published:

This is part two of a three-part series.

Columbus -- Pick up a copy of the actual state budget language and you'll find 3,700-some pages of legalese that may require an attorney to decipher.

For the not-so legal-minded, there's a comparison document compiled by the state's Legislative Service Commission, which is a more manageable 972 pages of explanation is everyday language (copies online at www.lsc.state.oh.us).

There aren't full details of all of the provisions, but there's enough to give guidance on how you law changes enacted by Gov. John Kasich in recent days could impact you and your household.

Here are 25 more of the 75 ways the $62 billion biennial budget may affect you:

26. Are you a supporter of the new Holocaust Memorial being built on the grounds of the Ohio Statehouse? The budget earmarks up to $300,000 for the "site preparation, utility placement" and other construction-related costs. Kasich called for the creation of the monument during a Statehouse speech months after taking office, and Capitol Square officials have been working to make it happen ever since.

27. Do you think there should be more security at the Statehouse? Lawmakers made provisions for that, too, with $1.2 million to be used to make the People's House more secure.

Luke Stedke, spokesman for the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board, said the funds will be used to purchase new security desks, metal-detecting wands and other new features to be placed at the three public entrances to the Statehouse.

Visitors will notice increased surveillance, but there are not plans for freestanding metal detectors. Yet.

28. Do you want to visit one of Ohio's casinos but aren't old enough? The budget allows individuals younger than 21 to visit the gaming facilities, so long as they are "personally escorted by licensed casino personnel … who at all times remain in close proximity."

29. Wondering how much crime is taking place at casinos? Lawmakers are, too, so they required the Joint Committee on Gaming and Wagering to prepare a report before the end of the year on the "criminal problems posed by gaming and wagering" at casinos and horse tracks operating video slots. The group also must offer recommendations for combatting such crimes.

30. Want to buy some Jell-O shots? The budget legalizes the sale of liquor-laced food products. Matt Mullins, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Commerce, said the change opens the door for the makers of spiked chocolate and other foods containing alcohol to obtain state permits to sell them at Ohio retailers.

31. Are you a licensed real estate appraiser trying to earn your broker's license? A law change will enable you to accomplish that task without completing additional classroom instruction on the appraisal process.

32. Think your local fire department could use a new truck or equipment? Under the Department of Commerce, lawmakers earmarked more than $2 million in each of the next two fiscal years for grants to help smaller cities and townships purchase safety equipment. The outlays are limited to $15,000 per fiscal year, or $25,000 per year in areas covered by a natural disaster declaration.

33. Worried that the folks at the JobsOhio economic development nonprofit might be doling out incentives improperly? The budget expands the bribery provisions in state law, prohibiting JobsOhio employees "from knowingly soliciting or accepting for self or another person any valuable thing or valuable benefit to corrupt or improperly influence" incentive decisions, according to the state's Legislative Service Commission.

34. History buff? Lawmakers set aside $250,000 to help commemorate the Battle of Lake Erie as part of bicentennial War of 1812 events. If you ever visit the Statehouse, be sure to check out the huge painting titled "Perry's Victory," that hangs in the Rotunda and recite Oliver Hazard Perry's famous line, "We have met the enemy and they are ours."

35. Want your local school to increase security to keep kids safe? Provisions allow schools to seek property tax levies to pay for school safety and security projects.

36. Think the state should provide incentives for school districts that are working to improve learning, reduce spending and focus more resources on classrooms? A "Straight A" program will provide grants to districts for such initiatives, providing about $250 million over two fiscal years.

37. Want more schoolchildren to be able to attend private schools rather than public ones? The biennial budget expands the EdChoice voucher program to cover students living in families earning up to 200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines (about $46,000 for a household of four), regardless of whether affected public schools are meeting academic standards.

38. Wondering when summer vacation will start for your school kids next year? A law change will allow districts to base their school years on the number of classroom hours (910 for all-day kindergarten through six grades, 1,001 hours for seventh-12th grades) rather than the 182 days in existing law. Districts also will have to conduct public hearings 30 days before the school year begins to adopt their new calendars.

Ohio Department of Education Spokesman John Charlton said the change will give districts more flexibility in scheduling -- for examples,"students could attend for more hours on three days and on the other two days have time to engage in other activities outside the classroom, such as apprenticeship or internship with a local business."

39. Did one of your student athletes get knocked on the head during a sporting event? Don't go to a chiropractor for an official opinion on whether he or she should return to action following a concussion. The governor vetoed language that would have allowed that.

40. Do your home-schooled children want to play on the local school sports team? A law change permits such students and those attending charter schools to participate in extracurricular activities in the district where they live.

41. Think teachers should be better trained to identify signs of human trafficking and warn their students of the potential dangers? Lawmakers OK'd language requiring human trafficking to be covered in schoolteachers' in-service training programs for safety and violence prevention.

42. Worried that students who skip school on a regular basis are going to drag down your teachers' rating? Under the biennial budget, students absent 45 or more days, excused or otherwise, will be excluded from teacher evaluations.

43. Concerned about how open enrollment policies are affecting your local school district? A new Ohio Open Enrollment Task Force will review the program and make recommendations for changes by the end of the year. The language is different from amendments backed by Sen. Tom Sawyer (D-Akron), who has offered separate legislation calling for a study and potential repeal of open enrollment. He's said repeatedly that the policy has gone unchecked for more than two decades, and the academic, social and economic consequences of students shifting from one district to another requires careful examination.

44. Thinking about getting an abortion? There are several controversial amendments included in the budget. A last-minute addition requires doctors to conduct and external search for a fetal heartbeat before performing the procedure. They also will have to provide information about the unborn to women seeking abortions or face potential criminal penalties.

45. Do you think school kids should have better access to dental services? The budget creates a "Hope for a Smile Program," between the state, the Ohio Dental Association and others, as well as a state income tax deduction dentists can use to write off the costs of providing services to needy youngsters.

46. Have a youngster in your home in need of hearing aids? Lawmakers earmarked $400,000 over the biennium to help needy families with hearing-impaired children up to age 21 to purchase the devices. The Ohio Department of Health will set up the rules governing the program and disbursement levels based on household income.

47. Think prosecutors should be able to go after individuals who were involved in alleged human trafficking activities in years past? The budget extends the period over which those crimes can be prosecuted to 20 years from six.

48. Wondering about the effectiveness public funding of private child care? Law changes will require child-care providers that receive public funding to report regularly their attendance to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. The change also enables the state to revoke certificates for home care centers that fail to comply.

49. Do you receive mental health or addiction services from the state? A new state agency will combine all such services into one office. The new Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services replaces the former Department of Mental Health and the Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services. That means the acronyms ODMH and ODADAS will become ODMHAS.

50. Worried that your mental health records in the hands of the state might be open to public perusal? Language in the budget specifically requires all documents "identifying a person and pertaining to a person's mental health condition, assessment, care and treatment" to be kept confidential, though they can be released by hospitals and other entities to insurers.

Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at mkovac@dixcom.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.

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