Lame ducks are curious creatures. During the final days of a legislative session, they can sprint when they want to, passing long-stalled bills (or even new ones) quick as a wink, while other measures die, awaiting rebirth in the next two years. Ideally, lame-duck sessions should be devoted to moving longstanding, well-understood bills, avoiding the delay of starting all over again.
With that in mind, the session that ended Thursday produced mixed results. After years of discussion, the Senate passed a bill that would reform the state’s highly partisan processes for drawing new legislative and congressional districts, but it did so too late for House action. The House must make the plan for a bipartisan commission a top priority in January.
A last-minute amendment to an urelated judicial bill means mayor’s courts in towns of 200 or fewer residents would be abolished, ending nine speed traps. Gov. John Kasich is expected to sign the bill. But stronger action was needed. Ohio has more than 300 mayor’s courts, judicial relics.
And while the House passed a long-debated bill to put sweepstakes parlors out of business, the measure, unfortunately, stalled in the Senate.
Meanwhile, two measures are on their way to the governor’s desk, rush jobs that should have received more careful consideration. One would update the state’s school report cards, requiring the use of letter grades. An overhaul was due, but the new system places too much weight on test scores. The other is yet another ill-conceived bill in a series weakening the state’s gun laws. It would allow guns to be stored in vehicles parked in Capitol Square parking garages, end training requirements for those renewing a concealed carry permit and allow non-permit holders to store separately a loaded magazine in a vehicle.
Unfortunately, several worthy bills died, among them an update on the state’s ethics laws and a bill that would regulate new professional roles that will be created when heath-care exchanges become a reality in Ohio. Of some comfort, a few unworthy measures were wisely held back by outgoing Senate President Tom Niehaus, although they are likely to surface next year. They include the “heartbeat” abortion bill, a bill defunding Planned Parenthood and a bill requiring photo ID to vote.