State Senator Terry Johnson (R-McDermott) and State Senator Bob Peterson (R-Washington Court House) announced Wednesday the unanimous Senate passage of Am. Sub. H.B. 197, legislation providing several measures of emergency relief for Ohio’s families, schools, businesses and communities and ensuring the essential operations of state government during the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic.
"Today, under historic circumstances caused by the COVID-19 crisis, I was proud to stand with my colleagues — Democrat and Republican — in the Ohio Senate and pass legislation that will help all Ohioans through this difficult time." said Johnson, who co-sponsored the bill. "As a board-certified family physician with nearly three decades of practice experience, you can rest assured that the health and safety of my constituents is of paramount importance to me.

“There is never a substitute for decisive, knowledgeable leadership, and I am proud to be part of the team that is steering Ohio through these turbulent waters."

"House Bill 197 is vital to the well being and recovery of Ohioans during this pandemic," Peterson said. "I am proud that we as a General Assembly were able to come together quickly and do what is right for Ohioans."

Several relief measures passed Wednesday become part of temp law and will be in place until the Governor’s March 9, 2020 emergency order is rescinded, or until Dec. 1, 2020, whichever comes first. For a summary of all amendments to Am. Sub. H.B. 197, click here.

The relief measures include, among other things, the following:

• Ensuring Ohioans’ water supplies will not be cut off: The bill prohibits public water disconnections during the pandemic.

• Removes barriers to unemployment compensation: The bill waives the first week waiting period, changes eligibility to include COVID-19 related unemployment situations and waives the work search requirement.

• Waives K-12 standardized testing and school report cards and eases restrictions on distance learning and permits seniors to graduate: The bill waives state testing and report cards for the 2019-20 school year, creates a safe harbor from sanctions for schools and permits seniors to graduate if their school determines they are on track to do so, among other provisions. The bill also removes limits on K-12 distance learning and allows for tele-health options for special needs students.

• Provides continuity for student lunch program: The bill provides flexibility to allow for continued student meal delivery.

• Provides flexibility for teacher-child ratios in pandemic care facilities: The bill suspends the staff to child ratio requirements and maximum group sizes at operating child-care centers.

• Extends certain license expiration dates: The bill extends the validity of licenses issued by state agencies and political subdivisions and provides a 90-day window for renewal.

• Removes barriers for essential government and health workers: The bill provides greater flexibility for Ohio’s nurses and waives rehire waiting time for critical agency workers.

• Ensures flexibility and public access for public meetings: The bill permits state boards and commissions, local and county governments and higher education boards to operate meetings electronically so long as the public is aware and can participate electronically.

• Extends voting for Ohio’s primary election: The bill extends absentee voting by mail for the March 17, 2020 primary election to April 28, 2020 and authorizes funding to pay associated costs.

• Extends Ohio’s tax filing deadline to July 15, 2020: The bill extends the date for estimate payments, aligning with the federal change and waiving interest payments in addition to already waived penalties.

The Senate sent Am. Sub. H.B. 197 to the Ohio House who concurred unanimously this afternoon with the emergency measures added to the bill. The bill now goes to the Governor.

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Senator Johnson represents the 14th District in the Ohio Senate, which encompasses all of Adams, Brown, Clermont and Scioto counties as well as a portion of Lawrence County.

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Ohio Governor Mike DeWine issued the following statement after the Ohio General Assembly passed House Bill 197, which will enact numerous provisions to assist with the COVID-19 pandemic:

"I want to thank Senate President Obhof, House Speaker Householder, Minority Leaders Sykes and Yuko and all members of the Ohio General Assembly who worked for the bipartisan and unanimous passage of House Bill 197. This bill will ensure continuity of government, extended mail-in voting for our primary, clarity for schools and students, relief to workers impacted by COVID-19 and measures to make sure we are prepared to help Ohioans get back to work when this pandemic subsides. I applaud the collaborative work on this bill and look forward to signing it soon."