Despite a broken air conditioning system and sweltering heat, state lawmakers buckled down for a marathon session on Wednesday to knock items off their to-do list before leaving town for an extended break.
Decisions made this week will impact your kids’ schools, what you’ll vote on in November, when you can start betting on sports and how Ohio will spend billions of dollars.
Here is a recap from the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau team:
Place your bets: sports gambling starts Jan. 1, 2023
Ohioans will be able to place their bets on sports starting Jan. 1, missing much of the college and professional football seasons.
The Ohio Casino Control Commission announced Wednesday that Ohio’s sports betting program would have a universal start date of Jan. 1 to allow time for applications and vetting of those that want to offer sports gaming.
Missing much of Ohio’s football season will have a cost: an estimated $1 billion in lost bets on teams like the Ohio State University Buckeyes, Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns, according to one PlayOhio.com analysis.
Training teachers to carry guns in classrooms
Gov. Mike DeWine is expected to sign into law a measure that lowers the required training for school staff to carry firearms on campus.
Under current law, school boards can allow teachers and other staff to carry guns at school, but there has been a debate over how much training is required. An Ohio Supreme Court ruling in January 2021 said those carrying must be trained as peace officers, which requires about 728 hours.
House Bill 99 would knock that down to about 24 hours of training.
Banning transgender girls from girls’ sports
Late Wednesday – the first day of Pride Month – the Ohio House took a back door route to ban transgender girls from participating in girls’ sports in high school and college.
The proposal would require transgender female athletes to join male or co-ed teams. If a student’s biological sex is called into question, they must get a signed statement from a doctor verifying it. Schools that knowingly violate these rules could face lawsuits.
Backers of the bill say the issue is about protecting women’s rights and sports. They argue transgender girls have biological advantages that make them more likely to win against their cisgender peers.
Democrats and LGBTQ advocates, on the other hand, see it as discrimination against a small group of kids who face higher rates of bullying, depression and suicide.
Lawmakers attached it to legislation that provides resources and mentorship opportunities for new teachers in a 56-28 party-line vote. It would still require action in the Ohio Senate.
Billions for parks, prisons and Intel incentives
The House and Senate approved some big spending bills. The capital budget details how Ohio will spend $3.5 billion over the next two years on parks, prisons, schools and other big ticket projects.
Embedded in the bill is a $1.1 billion package of grants and infrastructure improvements for the Intel project in Licking County. The semiconductor maker pledged to invest $20 billion to build two factories in what is being called the biggest economic development project in state history.
A second spending bill details $942 million, including $500 million to create a new Appalachian Community Grant Program, which will give money to research and implement new community projects, and $20 million for a second primary on Aug. 2.
Two ballot issues for November
Ohioans will vote on two proposed constitutional amendments this fall – and neither deal with legalizing marijuana.
Lawmakers want voters to change the state constitution to explicitly prohibit non-U.S. citizens from voting in local elections.
The push for the resolution came after New York City allowed about 800,000 green card holders and those authorized to work to vote in city council, mayoral and other local races.
The Ohio Constitution prevents noncitizens from voting in federal and state elections. But local municipalities could enact “home rule,” which could allow them the ability to give noncitizens voting powers in local elections.
Lawmakers also gave the green light to a ballot issue that addresses bail. The proposal says that when setting bail amounts, courts must consider public safety, a person’s criminal record, the likelihood the defendant will show up for court and the seriousness of the offense.
The proposal comes after the Ohio Supreme Court said in a 4-3 ruling that excessive bail designed to keep someone in jail is unconstitutional. Judges have the ability to detain someone before trial without bail if they’re deemed a flight risk or too dangerous.
The bail topic is expected to be an issue in the Ohio Supreme Court races this year.
Ohio House Republicans also approved a resolution encouraging the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom to add Canada to a watch list of countries “where the government engages in violations of religious freedom.”
Laura Bischoff is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves the Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Akron Beacon Journal and 18 other affiliated news organizations across Ohio.