The following legislation was signed into law this week by Gov. Ted Strickland or is being considered:
Spying on minors
COLUMBUS — A new state law will increase criminal penalties against individuals convicted of spying on nude minors.
House Bill 74 will take effect in 90 days.
Under current state law, anyone found guilty of surreptitiously videotaping, filming, photographing or recording a minor in a state of nudity faces first-degree misdemeanor penalties (up to 180 days in jail and $1,000 in fines). HB 74 increases the penalty for spying on minors in a state of nudity to a fifth-degree felony (six to 12 months incarceration and up to $2,500 in fines).
The legislation was offered by Rep. John Schlichter, a Republican from Washington Court House, in response to a constituent whose neighbor secretly videotaped her three children using the bathroom in their home.
Convicted public officials
COLUMBUS — Public officials who commit crimes will not be eligible for early prison release, under a new law finalized at the Statehouse. Substitute Senate Bill 108 will take effect in 90 days.
Under current law, eligible offenders can apply for and, upon a court’s consideration, be granted a judicial release from their prison terms. The release provision is open to individuals serving nonmandatory prison terms of 10 years or less.
Sub. SB 108 prohibits judicial releases for individuals who are serving prison terms for certain felony offenses committed while serving in federal, state or local office.
Officers added to sex law
COLUMBUS — Legislation creates penalties for officers who have sexual relations with teenagers.
House Bill 209 will take effect in 90 days.
Under current law, teachers, coaches, mental health professionals or Scout leaders engaging in such relationships can be charged with sexual battery, a second- or third-degree felony, depending on the age of the victim.
The legislation expands sexual battery to include offenses committed by peace officers, who are not currently covered in the code.
Salvia becoming illegal
COLUMBUS — A currently legal hallucinogenic herb will be off-limits in a few months. House Bill 215 adds Salvia Divinorum and its derivative, Salvinorin A, to the list of Schedule I Controlled Substances, ranking it with marijuana, hashish and other illegal drugs.
According to information compiled by the state’s Legislative Service Commission, the “perennial herb [is part of] the mint family native to certain areas of the Sierra Mazateca region of Oaxaca, Mexico. The herb can be chewed or smoked to induce illusions and hallucinations.”
Roads to honor vets
COLUMBUS — A number of roadways will be named in honor of veterans. Among them:
State Route 344 from the western boundary of Leetonia to state Route 11 will be the Pfc. Ralph Dias Memorial Highway.
U.S. Route 62 from Alliance to the Highland Memorial Park Cemetery in Beloit will be the Lance Corporal Daniel McVicker Memorial Highway.
The interchange of state Routes 45 and 82 in Champion Township will be the Sgt. Robert M. Carr Memorial Interchange.
The interchange of U.S. Route 422 and state Route 82 in Warren shall be known as the Sgt. Marco Miller Memorial Interchange.
The Lake Milton bridge on Interstate 76 in Mahoning County will be the Peter J. Delucia Memorial Bridge.
SS benefits safe in divorce
COLUMBUS — Individuals’ Social Security benefits will be protected during divorce proceedings under a new state law. Under existing law, courts must determine what constitutes marital property and separate property, then divide the two equitably between the spouses, according to an analysis by the state’s Legislative Service Commission. The new law excludes Social Security benefits from the court’s jurisdiction, meaning those benefits cannot be divided or awarded to the other spouse, according to the analysis. The provisions harmonize state and federal laws on the issue.
Joe the Plumber bill
COLUMBUS — A new state law will limit access to citizens’ confidential records.
Gov. Ted Strickland this week signed House Bill 648, a Republican-led bill offered after officials in the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services improperly accessed private, government-held data on a Toledo-area man made famous during the presidential campaign season as “Joe the Plumber.”
The legislation requires state agencies to adopt rules governing access to confidential information they maintain, increases civil and criminal penalties against individuals who violate those rules and requires the tracking of searches made on certain governmental databases.
Additionally, the bill requires state agencies to train employees about access to citizens’ confidential personal information.
The legislation came in response to a recent investigation of Helen Jones-Kelley, director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
The state Inspector General found that Jones-Kelley and others committed improper and wrongful acts in conducting background searches of Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher. The man became a household name after repeated references to him by President-elect Barack Obama and John McCain.
Jones-Kelley was suspended from work without pay and eventually resigned her position. Other department employees who were involved also were formally reprimanded.