COLUMBUS, Ohio (WDTN) – State legislators unanimously passed a bill Wednesday to address several issues created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
House Bill 197 extends absentee voting, waives state testing for students and pushes back the state tax deadline, among other changes.
“There are lots of different things in this bill,” said state Sen. Peggy Lehner (R-Kettering). “They’re all things that had to be done, and they had to be done fairly quickly.”
House Bill 197 includes about two dozen provisions addressing various issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The bill extends absentee voting for the elections scheduled for March 17 to April 28. There will be no in-person voting.
The new voting deadline of April 28 is several weeks earlier than the governor’s original request of June 2, but Sen. Lehner told 2 NEWS school districts needed to know earlier whether proposed levies would pass.
“If you can fill out your ballot and mail it back, you vote will count just as much as if you had walked into the voting booth on March 17,” Lehner said.
Lehner and Rep. Niraj Antani (R-Miamisburg) said they believe the April 28 deadline gives Ohioans enough time to vote by mail.
“We had 28 days of early, in-person and absentee voting,” Antani said. “This will give people over 30 more days to do that. That is plenty of time.”
The bill also waives state testing for K-12 students, postpones Ohio’s tax deadline to July 15 and delays deadlines for renewing licenses and vehicle registration.
“Obviously we want students to continue learning, but at the end of the day, taking one year of not having testing in this extraordinary time is something that we felt had to be done in order to give relief,” Rep. Antani said.
Lawmakers told 2 NEWS it’s very likely more legislation related to the pandemic will be passed, both in the next few weeks and farther down the line.
“The next round of things that we’ll be pushing for is to provide both employees with relief, small businesses with relief,” Antani said.
“Not all schools are as equally prepared and ready to go online with their learning,” Lehner said. “Students don’t have computers in their home, or they don’t have adequate broadband.”
In a statement released Wednesday, Governor Mike DeWine said he plans to sign the bill soon.
To request an absentee ballot, you can do so online by clicking here.