POLITICS Tax filing for troops on legislative agenda

Troops in harm's way shouldn't have to worry about filing state taxes, Republicans say.
COLUMBUS -- Tax and education help for Ohio soldiers mobilized to fight U.S. military conflicts are top priorities in the Legislature this session, Republican leaders say.
Members of the majority party Monday also proposed election reforms and creation of a statewide crimes database for law enforcement agencies.
Republicans state Rep. John Widowfield of Cuyahoga Falls and state Sen. Timothy J. Grendell of Chesterland introduced measures, symbolically designated House Bill 1 and Senate Bill 1, that would allow any federally mobilized Ohio soldier to postpone filing and payment of state income taxes.
It also would boost the number of summer scholarships available through the Ohio National Guard Scholarship Program.
Widowfield said mobilized troops qualify for waivers from federal taxes. Ohio servicemen and women headed for combat should get a state waiver too, he said.
"The last thing we want them to be doing is worrying about filing their taxes in a timely manner," Widowfield said.
Once a federally-activated soldiers return, they would have an as yet unspecified amount of time to file state returns, Widowfield said.
Voting reform
Legislators still are developing details of the proposed boost in scholarships, Widowfield said.
Republicans state Rep. Kevin DeWine of suburban Dayton and state Sen. Kevin Coughlin of Cuyahoga Falls introduced election reforms that would set rules for provisional balloting and recounts and create an Ohiowide voter database.
"The bill that's been introduced represents a starting point," said Coughlin. "This is going to be a very open process."
Other priority legislation Republicans introduced Monday would:
Ucreate the Ohio Incident-Based Reporting System in the Office of Criminal Justice Services for law-enforcement agencies;
Uprovide small businesses with flexibility to provide health-insurance plans that don't include some benefits state law now requires;
Uset up an advisory council on pre-school through higher education the Governor's Commission on Higher Education and the Economy recommended;
Ureform Ohio's workers' compensation system; and
Ucreate standards to test and criminally charge motorists suspected of driving under the influence of drugs.
The Vindicator could not reach Democratic minority leaders Monday.
Republicans outnumber Democrats 22 to 11 in the Senate and 60 to 39 in the House.

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