DeWine signs school funding, license amnesty fee bills into law


(The Center Square) — Gov. Mike DeWine has signed several bills into law, including a measure aimed at sending more money to schools in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Friday, DeWine signed House Bill 164, the “Student Religious Liberties Act.”

The bill requires public schools to provide students who want to meet for a religious reason the same access to facilities they give to secular student groups. But lawmakers tacked on several funding provisions, including an additional $24 million in General Revenue Fund (GRF) spending for schools during the 2020 fiscal year.

“COVID-19 has sadly created financial struggles for our schools, and we’ve had to do what we can to support our schools in addressing the revenue shortfall,” state Rep. Dave Greenspan, R-Westlake, said in a news release. “Of course, we all wish our schools did not have to face reductions, however, I am pleased that this legislation signed into law today will ensure that no school district in our state will receive a budget cut of more than 6 percent.”

The governor also signed House Bill 481, which appropriates $350 million from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to governments across the state. The bill also re-appropriates nearly $1.3 billion in state construction funding for pending projects for the current biennium.

“When we passed the bill, I acknowledged this is the type of legislation that us lawmakers can come together and work on in a bipartisan manner,” state Rep. Al Cutrona, R-Canfield, said in a news release. “…These funds will also benefit so many great cities across Ohio.”

The governor also signed into law House Bill 285, the Driver’s License Reinstatement Fee Debt Reduction and Amnesty Program. Under the program, the state could waive hundreds of millions of dollars in reinstatement fees for Ohio drivers whose licenses have been suspended, according to a Legislative Service Commission (LSC) analysis.

“This bill allows more Ohioans to get back on the road, in a state where having access to a vehicle is vital to get to work, school, and to the doctor,” state Rep. Juanita Brent, D-Cleveland, said in a statement.

The governor also signed into law:

House Bill 16 to give active-duty military personnel stationed in Ohio and their families in-state college tuition.

House Bill 81 to provide workers’ compensation coverage for medical diagnosis services to corrections officers exposed to another person’s bodily fluids. According to an LSC analysis, the change could increase premiums for the State Insurance Fund or self-insuring public employers.

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Todd DeFeo is a contributor to The Center Square

Todd DeFeo is a contributor to The Center Square