November 24, 2014

Medina
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Ohio senator from Medina reflects on year

MEDINA — Ohio Sen. Larry Obhof, of Medina, said he’s proud of his accomplishments during the last year at the Ohio Statehouse.

Obhof, who serves as the Senate majority whip, has introduced seven bills this year. Six have passed the Senate and a final one is expected to pass the Senate in January.

Larry Obhof

“Overall, it’s been a pretty good year,” Obhof said in an interview last week.

His work in the Ohio Senate, which includes monitoring legislation and working to get votes for legislation on the floor of the Senate, has earned him accolades from the Republican party this year.

GOPAC, a Republican political action committee, named him one of their emerging leaders of 2013, and invited him to speak at their leadership conference.

“I was one of 20 people named to that group and we all spoke at a conference where we talked about policy,” he said.

Obhof passed two bills in an effort to reform rules regarding corporations. Senate Bill 202 made a change to Ohio’s takeover statutes giving Ohio shareholders greater say in a corporate takeover, and Senate Bill 98 made a small change to how statutory agents are defined.

“I’m trying to make things operate more efficiently for people who want to do business in the state,” he said.

Bigger reforms he proposed included a provision he believes will make Ohio’s election process better. The most important provision would set a statewide standard for electronic poll books used by poll workers. The books are in use in 12 Ohio counties, and allow poll workers to look up a voter’s polling place and send them to the proper address rather than giving them a provisional ballot.

“Poll books aren’t mandatory, but it would allow for a statewide standard, so as more counties start to move towards using them, voters would have the same experience no matter where they vote,” he said.

He said the move would cut down on the number of provisional ballots used, and make people feel better about knowing their vote was counted and that they cast a ballot in the right place. The election reforms have been signed into law by Gov. John Kasich.

Obhof also supported a reform to Ohio law to deal with criminals who were using state casinos for money-laundering operations.

Obhof said the state didn’t have to have specific casino regulations before, but as they’re finding loopholes in the law for criminal activity, they’re working quickly to close them.

Obhof said criminals take money they get from criminal operations, turn it into chips at the casino, play a few hands, and then cash it out for “good” money.

Earlier this month, Columbus police arrested a number of people involved in a gang that laundered more than $1 million in drug money through Columbus’ Hollywood Casino. Obhof’s bill would institute a spending limit of $10,000, meaning anything more than $10,000 cashed out of a casino would have to be reported to authorities. His bill would also make it a separate crime when money is cashed out through a casino for the purpose of evading the law.

“We think at the state level that this law might be the first of its kind,” Obhof said. The bill has already passed the Senate and a committee in the House.

“When we come back in session, I expect the House to give it a vote and then the governor can sign it into law,” he said.

Obhof also said he was proud to support legislation that put an end to Internet cafes.

“The proliferation of those was not something I think the voters wanted to see,” he said.

Finally, Obhof said that while the state’s two-year budget that passed this summer was “not a perfect” bill, he’s pleased that it included tax cuts for businesses and an increase in school funding by $1 million.

“The sales tax did increase by 0.25 percent, and while I would prefer not to see an increase of any kind, that was part of an overall tax-cut package,” he said, adding that the overall tax cuts amounted to 2.7 billion overall.

Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or lgenson@medina-gazette.com.