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Heroin abuse, human trafficking measures kick off new Senate session

By MARC KOVAC Capital Bureau Chief Published: February 1, 2017 10:31 AM

COLUMBUS -- The Ohio Senate kicked off the new legislative session Jan. 31 with its first bill introductions, including measures to combat heroin abuse and human trafficking in the state.

SB 1, sponsored by Sen. Frank LaRose (R-Copley), would increase penalties for drug dealers pushing fentanyl-laced heroin and other fentanyl products.

LaRose offered similar legislation last session aimed at the powerful opioid, which is being laced with heroin and leading to increased overdose deaths.

SB 4, meanwhile, is the latest in a series of bills directed at human trafficking, with provisions to enable victims to have related criminal convictions expunged from their records.

"We've made significant strides in working to address the human trafficking problem in Ohio, but more can be done," Sen. Scott Oelslager (R-North Canton), a primary co-sponsor of the bill, said in a released statement. "It is important that we continue to advocate for victims and to offer assistance to help these individuals rebuild."

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Other bills introduced Tuesday would deal with water quality and environmental issues, work force development, college affordability and bridge repairs.

Also, SB 8 would provide assistance to schools purchasing new technology and security systems. And SB 9 would extend the three-day sales tax holiday the state has offered in August over the past two years.

In total, nearly 30 bills were formally introduced Tuesday.

The first 10 bills in the Ohio House and Senate each session often carry increased meaning, signifying some of lawmakers' priority issues.

But Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) said the initial bill introductions and others to come will fall under one of the Senate's "governing principles" -- themes that include boosting job creation and economic growth, strengthening schools and steam-lining government.

"This is a budget year, so many of our key priorities will end up in that bill later this spring," he said. "Because of that, we've decided not to get too consumed with announcing a specific Top 10 priority list or something like that As we introduce our initial bills, all of them will [fall] into one of the themes Every bill that we introduce is important."

The new legislation will be referred to committees for further deliberation.

Obhof also announced Tuesday that the Senate was eliminating several of its former standing committees, combining their work with other panels.

"Today I'm announcing a reduction of Senate standing and sub-committees by nearly 20 percent," Obhof said. "This will allow our chamber and our senators to be more efficient and more deliberate in the legislative process, and I believe these change will give our members more stability in their committee participation."

Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at mkovac@dixcom.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.

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