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General Assembly adjourns following busy lame-duck session

A number of bills impacting child protection issues received attention during the recent “lame-duck session,” the time between an election and when the next General Assembly term begins. In Ohio, lame-duck occurs in November/December of even-numbered years.

First, a quick overview of relevant bills and what happened in the 2016 lame-duck legislative session. Bills marked with a * are covered in more detail below. Some of these bills PCSAO had been following closely, while others, which included last-minute relevant amendments, saw action in the lame-duck session. All bills can be viewed online.

Legislation

HB325 Pregnancy-Controlled Substances (Green, O’Brien)

The purpose of this bill is to encourage pregnant women who are addicted to seek treatment. Main provisions include:

  • Prohibits a PCSA from filing a complaint solely because the mother used a controlled substance while pregnant if the mother 1) enrolled in drug treatment before the end of her 20th week of pregnancy, 2) completed treatment or is in the process of completing treatment, and 3) maintained her regularly scheduled appointments and prenatal care.
  • The bill does not prevent a PCSA from filing a complaint regarding a newborn if the PCSA determines that the mother, or any other adult caring for the newborn, is unable to provide adequate parental care.
  • Permits a court to hold a complaint in abeyance or to dismiss the complaint if the mother 1) enrolled in drug treatment after her 20th week of pregnancy, 2) is in the process of completing a treatment program, and 3) maintained her regularly scheduled appointments and prenatal care.
  • Requires certain health care professionals to encourage drug treatment for pregnant patients under certain circumstances and grants those health care professionals limited immunity.
  • Requires the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, as part of an existing program, to give priority to treating addicted pregnant women.
  • Prohibits a community addiction services provider that receives public funds from refusing to treat a pregnant woman solely because she is pregnant if the provider offers appropriate treatment.

PCSAO position: Support

Status:

  • HB325 passed the House on Feb. 23, 2016, by a vote of 96-1 and then received two hearings in the Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee in the spring.
  • During lame-duck session, the bill was amended to create a process for courts to place in abeyance or dismiss complaints made by a PCSA against a pregnant woman and/or a newborn solely because the mother used a controlled substance. In addition, the bill was amended to include a $2 million appropriation in SFY017 for GRF line item 336421, Continuum of Care Services, and distribute those funds to programs that address opiate addiction. The amended bill was reported out of committee then was passed unanimously by the Senate on Nov. 30.
  • The House did not concur with the Senate’s amended bill. However, House Finance amended the House-passed version of HB325 into SB319, known as the opiate MBR bill (Eklund) on Dec. 6.
  • The House subsequently passed SB319 on Dec. 7 and the Senate unanimously concurred on Dec. 7.

HB463 Real property foreclosure / Autism insurance / Regional child abuse prevention councils (Dever)

This bill, originally dealing with real property foreclosures, was amended during lame-duck session to include language regarding autism insurance coverage. In addition, most relevant for child protection, the bill was amended on the last day of session to include provisions related to regional child abuse prevention councils administered by the Ohio Children’s Trust Fund. The OCTF-related amendment:

  • States that no member of the council shall participate in matters of the council pertaining to their own interests, including applications for funding by an entity where the council member serves as either a board member or employee
  • May negatively impact the ability for representatives from county Family and Children First Councils and county JFS departments to serve on regional councils

The makeup of the councils includes two appointments per county by the Board of County Commissioners, with the remaining members being appointed by the Ohio Children’s Trust Fund. The County Commissioners Association of Ohio provided information about the creation of the councils in its Counties Current newsletter article.

Many counties call on their Family and Children First Council (FCFC) or Job and Family Services (JFS) directors to serve on the Regional Child Abuse Prevention Council because they have extensive knowledge of the systems and services available to children in their county. The Ohio Ethics Commission released an opinion in November that said representatives from county FCFCs or JFS departments may serve on the regional councils, stating “a public official who serves another public agency in her ‘official capacity’ is not required to recuse herself from consideration of a grant that might benefit that public agency.”

This new development could negatively affect the ability for them to serve on the regional councils and, in a county where providers and other partners are limited, may narrow the pool for commissioners’ appointments.

Status: The bill was amended and passed the Senate on Dec. 8.

HB493 Child Abuse Reporting – Abortion (Ryan)

This bill, championed by children’s hospitals, makes changes to Ohio’s child abuse and neglect reporting law, focusing primarily on reporting and other actions by health care professionals. Main provisions include:

  • If two or more health care professionals, after providing health care services to a child, determine or suspect the child has been or is being abused or neglected, the professionals may designate one of them to report the abuse or neglect. This single report meets the mandatory reporting requirement imposed on each of the professionals under continuing law.
  • Provides that if a PCSA or officer requires the mandated reporter to provide a written follow-up report, that the report must include any other information –- including results and reports of medical examinations, tests or procedures.
  • Permits radiological exams and any other medical examinations, tests or procedures if medically necessary to diagnose or treat injuries suspected to have occurred as a result of abuse or neglect and requires that the results of such tests be included in the report.
  • Permits medical examinations, tests or procedures on the siblings of a child, or other child residing in the home, who is the subject of a mandatory report if medically necessary to diagnose or treat in order to determine whether mandatory reports are required for the siblings.
  • Provides that a health care professional who has provided services in a hospital, children’s advocacy center or emergency medical facility to a child who is the subject of a mandatory report, may take reasonable steps to release or discharge the child to an appropriate environment, but clarifies that these discharge provisions do not alter the responsibility of any person under Ohio’s laws for filing a complaint or taking the child into custody (ORC 2151).

PCSAO Position: Support (after working closely with children’s hospitals to ensure current roles and responsibilities regarding making a complaint and taking a child into custody are preserved)

Status: The bill was reported out of Senate Civil Justice Committee on Nov. 30.

  • In a controversial move, on Dec. 6 the bill was amended on the Senate floor to include the “heartbeat” bill, outlawing an abortion after detection of a fetal heartbeat, and to add a $100,000 appropriation to support the establishment of a Joint Legislative Committee on Adoption Promotion and Support. The Senate passed the amended bill 21-10; the House concurred on Dec. 6 by a vote of 56-39.
  • On Dec. 13, Governor Kasich signed HB493 but line-item-vetoed the “heartbeat” language and the $100,000 appropriation. The child abuse and neglect reporting provisions of HB493 are now in law and will be effective 90 days after date of signing.

HB410 Truancy (Rezabek)

This bill modifies truancy and compulsory school attendance law. Main provisions include:

  • Eliminates the term “chronic truant” and, instead, provides that a child who has been adjudicated an habitual truant who violates that court order may be further adjudicated a “delinquent child”
  • Prohibits a school or district from suspending, expelling, or removing a student from school solely on the basis of a student’s unexcused absences
  • Requires the establishment of an absence intervention team for each student who is absent from school in excess of the threshold for habitual truant
  • Requires districts to adopt new or amended policy for addressing and reducing student absences
  • Bars districts from carrying suspensions over the summer from one school year to the next
  • Exempts districts with chronic absenteeism rates under 5% from having to establish absence intervention teams

PCSAO position: Monitor; ensure appropriate role for PCSA on pilot project

Status:

  • The bill passed the House on May 4.
  • During lame-duck session, the bill was amended to include provisions regarding National Guard scholarship recipients.
  • The bill was amended and passed out of Senate Education Committee on Dec. 6
  • The bill was amended on the Senate floor and passed 31-0 on Dec. 8.
  • The House concurred on Dec. 8 by a vote of 90-2.

SB199 Handgun Licensing (Uecker)

The bill, initially drafted to allow an active duty member of the armed forces meeting certain criteria to carry a concealed weapon without a license to do so, was amended on the floor to also include language that ultimately:

  • Provides discretion to a board of county commissioners to regulate concealed carry in certain county buildings, and
  • Restricts employers from prohibiting employees from keeping guns in vehicles on employer property, along with language specifying an employer is not liable for incidents arising from a stored firearm.