Proposal would ease concealed gun rules for active military

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – State senators have added provisions to Ohio’s budget proposal to provide free public transportation to veterans and allow active members of the military to more easily carry a concealed handgun.

The changes were among dozens disclosed in legislative documents Tuesday as the Senate Finance Committee took testimony on its $71.3 billion, two-year spending blueprint. The legislation faces a June 30 deadline.

Under the Senate proposal, service members who are 18 or older would not need a license to carry a concealed handgun as long as they have military identification and a certificate indicating successful small-arms qualification.

Another change would bar journalists’ access to concealed handgun records. Ohio law currently allows reporters to see the permit documents but not copy them.

Republicans, who control the Senate, highlighted major policy revisions in their budget on Monday, though fuller details of their changes came Tuesday when the bill was brought before the Senate’s finance panel.

The Senate version of the budget would eliminate all income taxes for a portion of small business income and maintain a 6.3 percent cut to the state income tax that the House passed in April. It would reduce basic state aid to schools by about $65 million, as compared with the House-passed budget.

Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni, a Boardman Democrat, said he supports the proposal’s increased funding for higher education and police training. But he said in a written statement that the measure “has taken several steps in the wrong direction.”

Republican leaders have said the proposal funds what matters while returning money to taxpayers.

The Senate’s plan scraps a couple of Republican Gov. John Kasich’s ideas, including a program aimed at reducing college student debt and a proposal to let community colleges offer bachelor’s degrees under certain circumstances.

Senators set aside $1 million each year to put in place recommendations from a task force on police and community relations. Those recommendations would include a database on the use of force and shootings involving police officers, as well as a public awareness campaign.

Emergency responders with post-traumatic stress disorder could be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits for up to one year under one Senate change. Peace officers, firefighters and emergency medical workers with PTSD arising from work could get the benefits whether they were physically injured or not. Current law doesn’t allow for compensation for a psychiatric condition unless the worker with PTSD has a related physical injury or was forced into sexual conduct.

Other changes would:

– Eliminate a requirement that consumers complete a form agreeing to take fireworks outside Ohio within 48 hours after buying them, though people still would be banned from setting them off in the state.

– Remove a proposal to extend to all individuals (instead of just students) a ban on smoking or tobacco use in any area under the control of a school district, including outdoor activities.

– Prohibit a state university from requiring students to live in on-campus student housing if they reside within 40 miles of the school.

– Give pay raises to all judges and sheriffs in Ohio.

– Eliminate special elections in February and require those asking for special elections to pre-pay 65 percent of the cost.

(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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