Ohio legislators recessed for the summer this week. When lawmakers return to Columbus in October they will have to decide how to divide the $9.8 billion tobacco settlement cash, and how to streamline the Department of Human Services and the Bureau of Employment into one agency.
Ten legislatures, including Ohio, technically remain in session although many of them have suspended floor debate for the summer.
Before taking off on their vacation, Ohio lawmakers approved a utility deregulation bill signed into law by Republican Gov. Bob Taft on Tuesday, July 5. When the measure takes effect on Jan. 1, 2001, it will bring competition to the state's power industry by letting cities, professional organizations and neighborhood groups negotiate with the power industry for cheaper electricity.
Like their counterparts in other states, Ohio lawmakers have been spending a great deal of time on education. They passed the OhioReads program, which utilizes volunteer tutors in grades 1-3, school safety bills and school construction funding.
A juvenile-crime bill has been passed as well. Senior citizens are now protected with laws to fend off financial exploitation and low-income or disabled elderly were given a $500 tax credit.
When the Ohio legislature reconvenes, it is expected to consider a bill that would toughen penalties on drunk drivers if their blood-alcohol content is .17 or above. Also awaiting the return of the lawmakers is an up or down vote on a proposed $2,500 annual legislative pay raise.