COLUMBUS — A local state legislator is working to clarify state law regarding drug penalties.
Ohio House of Representatives
Rep. Bob Cupp, R-Lima: Cupp gave sponsor testimony Wednesday in the Ohio House Criminal Justice Committee on a bill he introduced to restore the statutory penalties for possession of cocaine.
The Ohio Supreme Court’s decision in December in the State v. Gonzalez case created problems with the penalties. House Bill 4 would modify language in the Ohio Revised Code to clarify the total compound, mixture, preparation or substance containing cocaine that is included for penalty purpose.
The Gonzales decision determined only the weight of pure cocaine in a substance could be used to set an offender’s sentence. The decision essentially meant any cocaine possession crime could only be prosecuted as a fifth-degree felony that typically carries only community control.
Authorities worried drug dealers would take advantage of the change in law and transport even larger supplies of drugs. The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation also lacks the equipment and the accreditation necessary to accurately separate and measure the amount of pure cocaine in a substance.
Sen. Cliff Hite, R-Findlay: Hite introduced Senate Bill 2, which aims to fight toxic algae in Lake Erie, a source of drinking water for many Ohio residents.
The bill would enhance the role of the Lake Erie Commission in meeting the state’s commitment in the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement to reduce phosphorus runoff by 40 percent. According to Hite’s office, the bill would assure thorough management of privately owned water systems, require ongoing asset management improvements by public water systems, harmonize federal and state law, which would allow the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency director to issue permits for those discharging into privately owned treatment facilities, and strengthen the EPA’s ability to evaluate and enforce the cleanup of landfill facilities and properties.
“This science-based, holistic legislation takes further steps to help protect one of our most precious natural resources,” Hite said. “I appreciate the partnership of the agriculture and environmental communities in crafting this important piece of legislation.”
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio: On Wednesday, Brown introduced legislation to codify sanctions on Russia, while also requiring congressional approval before any sanctions would be waived or terminated.
The Russia Sanctions Review Act was also introduced by Sens. John McCain, R-Arizona, Lindsay Graham, R-South Carolina, Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, and Marco Rubio, R-Florida, following reports of the Trump administration considering easing sanctions on Russia that were imposed after the Russian invasion of Crimea in eastern Ukraine.
“The Ukrainian community in Ohio knows firsthand the dangers of unchecked Russian aggression,” Brown said. “Lifting sanctions now would only reward Russia’s attempts to undermine democracy — from Crimea and Eastern Ukraine to our own U.S. election. This commonsense, bipartisan legislation will give Congress — and more importantly, the people we represent — a say in critical national security debates.”
On Thursday, Brown introduced the VA Employee Fairness Act, which would give health care workers at U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs medical facilities the right to bargain for wages and benefits.
VA employees have had collective bargaining rights since 1991, but health care providers have been exempted from collective bargaining on matters of professional conduct or competence, peer review or changes to employee compensation.
“Creating a better workplace for VA nurses, doctors, and other health care providers will lead to higher quality care for Ohio veterans,” Brown said. “All workers should have the opportunity to bargain for better wages, benefits, and working conditions — including those serving the Veterans Health Administration who care for our veterans.”
Companion legislation has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Mark Takano, D-California.
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio: On Monday, Portman introduced legislation to ensure that Habitat for Humanity affiliates and similar organizations can continue to receive donated appraisals on the homes they build.
“By providing safe and affordable homes for families in need, Habitat for Humanity makes a vital contribution to Ohio,” Portman said. “This commonsense bill will make it easier for Habitat to carry out its mission by eliminating an unnecessary regulation and freeing up more resources that Habitat can use to help more people in Ohio and across our great country.”
Lima News reporter Greg Sowinski contributed to this story. Reach Craig Kelly at 567-242-0390 or on Twitter @Lima_CKelly.