A man of many firsts
COLUMBUS — Several Republican state senators have been reviewing for weeks the idea of repealing Ohio’s new elections law that trims early voting days in the presidential battleground state and makes other election changes, the leader of Ohio’s Senate said Thursday.
The law has been on hold until voters can decide in November whether it should be kept or scrapped.
Senate President Tom Niehaus said he was “amazed” that Secretary of State Jon Husted, a fellow Republican, has called on the GOP-led Legislature to repeal the measure and write a new bill after this year’s presidential election.
Husted said Wednesday that a fall campaign about the details of the elections law will confuse Ohioans at the same time election officials are trying to inform people about how to vote.
The law contains many ideas backed by Husted, though state lawmakers also left their mark. A partisan fight ensued over the plan, and the elections measure cleared the state Legislature in late June with no Democratic support.
Opponents of the elections overhaul measure included Democrats and President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign, whose volunteers circulated petitions to successfully put the law on hold until Ohio voters could decide whether it should be kept.
Lawmakers would have to repeal the bill this summer for it to be struck from the ballot, Husted said.
Senators had reached out to Husted about what to do with the law as recently as Monday, but his office had not responded, Niehaus said.
The Republican Senate leader from New Richmond made the comments at a legislative preview session for journalists organized by The Associated Press. Speakers at the forum include legislative leaders, statewide officer holders and chairmen of the state’s political parties.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich told reporters he doesn’t know why some have balked about his moving the State of the State address from the Statehouse to an eastern Ohio elementary school.
“What’s the debate?” Kasich said. “It’s Old Man Change. It’s hard for people.”
Kasich offered few details about the Feb. 7 speech, which will mark the first time the address is delivered outside the Ohio Capitol. He said he doesn’t plan to use a teleprompter or prepared text, and he doesn’t have a backup plan in case of winter weather.
“We’ll get a sled ready,” he joked.
The Ohio House narrowly agreed to the move this week, with some of Kasich’s fellow Republicans voting against it. The GOP-led Senate was more in favor.
On other topics, Niehaus said he expected a bill within a month on cracking down on private ownership of exotic animals.
Ohio has some of the nation’s weakest restrictions on exotic pets. And efforts to strengthen the state’s law took on new urgency in October when police were forced to kill 48 wild animals, including endangered Bengal tigers, after their owner freed them from his Zanesville farm and then committed suicide.
Niehaus said some of his fellow Republicans are questioning whether the state should ban ownership.
A study committee and state agencies have proposed a framework for new regulations that would ban casual ownership of bears, lions, monkeys, venomous snakes and other wildlife. Zoo, circuses and research facilities would be exempt.
The legislative framework suggests the ban start on Jan. 1, 2014.
State Sen. Eric Kearney, a Cincinnati lawyer who has been picked to lead the Senate Democrats, told reporters he didn’t think there should be an outright ownership ban.
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