COLUMBUS - The Ohio House yesterday overwhelmingly voted to require its members and their Senate colleagues to travel the distance between their residences and the Statehouse before asking taxpayers to reimburse them for mileage.
Rep. Jennifer Garrison (D., Marietta) introduced House Bill 394 after an ethics complaint accused Republican Sen. Karen Gillmor of routinely accepting mileage reimbursements for 200-mile round-trip travel between the Statehouse and her Tiffin condo. She also lives in the Dublin area of Union County, where her sons are in school. The latter is less than 50 miles round trip.
Passing the chamber 91-6, the bill goes to the Senate.
"For me it is simple," Ms. Garrison said. "Taxpayers should not have to pay for mileage that was never actually traveled by the state lawmaker. I believe this legislation is a great example of common-sense good government that will save taxpayers money while enhancing transparency and accountability in the General Assembly."
Lawmakers who live outside Franklin County receive mileage reimbursement for one round trip between their residences and the Statehouse each week of the session. However, nothing requires the lawmaker to show the trip was made.
"Frankly, I think this one-sentence bill is assumed and implied," Ms. Garrison said. "However, times have changed. Some legislators own more than one house today."
The bill has no enforcement mechanism.
The Legislative Inspector General's Office dismissed the complaint filed against Ms. Gillmor, citing a recent Ohio Supreme Court ruling involving the residency of state Sen. Jon Husted. The Republican has a home in the Dayton suburb of Kettering but also lives with his wife and children in a Columbus suburb outside his Senate district.
The high court unanimously determined that a lawmaker's legal residence is where he votes and intends to return upon completion of his public service.
Ms. Gillmor called the complaint a "politically motivated stunt" and said she regularly returns to Tiffin to vote and where her car is registered. Both Tiffin and Dublin area residences are within the 26th Senate District. Mr. Husted said he regularly travels to and from his Kettering home.
In other action, the House, with a single negative vote, rubber-stamped changes the Senate made Tuesday to a bill giving juvenile court judges broader power to fight teen violence.
Sponsored by Rep. Edna Brown (D., Toledo), the bill goes to Gov. Ted Strickland. He is expected to sign the law, which would be named for Shynerra Grant, 17, a Toledoan murdered in 2005 by an ex-boyfriend who then killed himself. The law would allow juvenile court judges to issue and enforce protection orders when one minor shows he or she has reason to feel physically threatened or endangered by another. Adult courts issue such orders, but juvenile court judges only can bar its subject from physical contact with the victim.
"This is now a significant step in protecting our young people, but I shudder to think how many young people could have possibly been saved if we had passed it sooner," Ms. Brown said.
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