State House takes on animal abuse, voting, license plates in final votes of 2013

Updated Dec 11, 2013

The Ohio House on Wednesday passed bills to toughen penalties for people who harm pets, allow university student trustees to vote, coordinate voter databases and create a special license plate for disabled veterans, among other measures.

The Ohio Senate recessed last week until after the holidays, leaving many bills to wait for final approval until next year.

Senate Bill 23, which opens adoption records to Ohioans born between January 1964 and September 1996, passed 91-2. Adoptees during the 32 year period are currently excluded from obtaining those records in state law. No changes were made, so the bill goes to the governor for his signature.

Bill sponsor Sen. Bill Beagle, R-Tipp City, grew up alongside adopted siblings and understands adoptees’ yearnings to know about their genealogy and genetics and “just to know who they are.”

“Not only is the current system inherently unfair to adoptees who fall in this unfortunate time frame, but it also denies people access to essential health information related to their family history,” Beagle said after the bill passed the Senate last week.

Affected adoptees — an estimated 400,000 — will be able to request birth certificates by contacting the Ohio Department of Health just like Ohioans outside the window have been able to do. Birth parents will have one year to choose to have their name redacted from the birth certificate that would be released to the adoptee.

The House also sent Senate Bill 137, which requires motorists to slow down and move to an adjacent lane when approaching construction and maintenance vehicles flashing their lights, and Senate Bill 200, which reduced the minimum number of required electronic voting machines and coordinates several state agency databases with voter data.

Senate Bill 200, the only election-related bill discussed Wednesday, received some opposition from Democrats who said the voter registration change will result in Ohioans being incorrectly dropped from voter rolls. The bill passed largely along party lines in a 60-33 vote.

“This overly aggressive purging of our voter database disenfranchises Ohio voters,” said Rep. Kathleen Clyde, D-Kent.

Kasich is expected to sign both bills.

Among the bills passed Wednesday that move to the Senate:

* House Bill 104: Expands the criteria for admitting persons to mental health treatment by court order.

* House Bill 111: Allows student trustees at Ohio universities to vote.

* House Bill 181: Prohibits transmitting students’ personal identifiable information to the federal government without permission of local school boards.

People may be injuring animals to get pain medication

Currently, wrongful death of a companion animal such as a dog or cat is punishable as a first degree misdemeanor on first offense and fifth degree felony on subsequent offenses. House Bill 274 which passed Wednesday makes the violator guilty of a felony of the fifth degree on first offense.

Agriculture, livestock and poultry are exempt from the bill.

The bill also allows the Ohio Attorney General’s office to work with the Ohio Veterinary Medical Association, State Veterinary Medical Licensing Board and State Board of Pharmacy to prevent possible opioid abuse of pet medications. Jill Del Greco, a spokeswoman for the attorney general, said they have heard from police officers and community leaders that people are either abusing drugs rightfully prescribed to pets or intentionally injuring animals to obtain the drugs.

Jack Advent of the Ohio Veterinary Medical Association said veterinarians haven’t relayed evidence of the problem, but they’re happy to proactively work with the attorney general on prevention efforts.

This newspaper, WHIO-TV, News Talk Radio WHIO joined forces to produce a community service project to raise awareness about the growing prescription drug epidemic in our community. “Prescription for Pain” examined how the escalating prescription drug abuse problem is fueling a rise in heroin addiction. You can read the project online at www.whio.com/prescription-for-pain/