Area lawmakers focus on Ohio crisis line and minors’ access to online pornography

Welcome to our legislative round-up! Twice a month, we’ll give you an update on what Portage County lawmakers are doing in Washington and in Columbus. This round-up will include information on the various bills your representatives are voting on, as well as how they’re voting. 

A bill introduced by a local Ohio lawmaker could cause a popular pornography website to go dark in Ohio, at least according to one news report.

A bill dubbed the Innocence Act by Rep. Steve Demetriou, R-Bainbridge Township, was referred to the House Criminal Justice Committee on Oct. 24.

Demetriou said in a news release that his bill would require a more rigorous age verification process to prevent Ohio minors from viewing sexually explicit material on the internet.

House Bill 295 would require all Ohioans to verify their age before accessing pornographic websites and make it illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to view sexually explicit content. Porn distributors would be charged with a third-degree felony for failing to verify the site visitor’s age. Minors who falsify their identity would be charged with a fourth-degree misdemeanor.

A Nexstar TV website says similar proposals have become law in seven states. Pornhub, an adult website that attracts billions of views annually, “has blocked access in Arkansas, Mississippi, Virginia and Utah rather than comply with the states’ age-verification laws,” the report states.

Demetriou’s bill would also prohibit the sale of “deepfake” pornography that victimizes people whose images have been manipulated without their consent.

Here is a look at what other lawmakers serving Portage County have been doing lately:

Sen. Vernon Sykes, D-Akron, and Sen. Mark Romanchuk, R-Ontario, recently introduced Senate Bill 176, which would allow judges to issue child support orders for adult children with disabilities. Sykes noted in a news release that the care children with disabilities will need will extend into their adulthoods.

The bill would affect parents who are divorced, divorcing or legally separated, so long as the disability began while the person was still a minor.

The bipartisan Senate Bill 176 was introduced Oct. 17.

Rep. Gail K. Pavliga, R-Atwater Township, noted in a Facebook post that she was a guest speaker at the Portage Substance Abuse and Mental Health Conference on Oct. 25. Among her topics was the 988 Lifeline, the focus of a bill she sponsored.

Some 225 people attended the conference to learn about numerous issues, according to the Mental Health & Recovery Board of Portage County.

In the House, Pavliga is the chair of the House Behavioral Health Committee. In the summer, she introduced legislation that would codify the administrator position and establish a dedicated fund for Ohio’s 988 crisis line, according to an earlier news release.

House Bill 231 was referred to the Finance committee, of which Pavliga is a member, on Sept. 12.

U.S. Rep. Dave Joyce, R-Bainbridge Township, announced Oct. 26 that his bill, House Resolution 5009, the Wildlife Innovation and Longevity Driver Reauthorization (WILD) Act, passed out of the House Committee on Natural Resources. The bill’s main purpose is to reauthorize wildlife habitat and conservation programs.

“This bipartisan legislation would reauthorize the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, which enables wildlife and habitat conservation in all 50 states and territories, and the Multinational Species Conservation Fund, which supports the global conservation of imperiled species, including rhinos, elephants, tigers, great apes, and turtles,” Joyce said in a news release.

U.S. Rep. Emilia Sykes, D-Akron, on Oct. 24 introduced the Stop Electronic Stalking Act, which would prohibit the use of personal tracking devices to track people without their consent.

Such devices as Apple AirTag and Tile are intended to track property, but there are reports across the country of former spouses and partners stalking victims with the devices, Sykes said in a news release.

In the U.S. Senate, Republican J.D. Vance’s amendment banning mask mandates on airplanes, commuter rail and buses passed 59-38 on Oct. 25 as part of appropriations legislation.

Radio station WOSU headlined the news this way: “In rare vote for Ohio’s U.S. Senators, (Sherrod) Brown sides with Vance to ban mask mandates on transit.”

In a statement, Vance called the bill “an emphatic step toward common sense and individual liberty.”

Brown told WOSU in an interview that he joined nine other Democrats in voting for the bill because the COVID-19 pandemic is over and mask mandates are not needed.

On Oct. 26, Brown introduced the Stabilize Medicaid and CHIP Coverage Act. Along with Sens. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., Brown introduced the bill that a news release said would “provide stability for all individuals eligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) by ensuring that they can depend on their coverage for a continuous 12-month period.”

The bill aims to prevent loss of coverage as a result of short-term changes in recipients’ incomes. The bill, Brown said, also provides incentives to states to help reduce turnover across Medicaid and CHIP programs.

CHIP –  Children’s Health Insurance Program – benefits children in families with income too high to qualify for Medicaid but too low to afford private coverage.

Brown said the Stabilize Medicaid and CHIP Coverage Act has been endorsed by America’s Essential Hospitals, the Association for Community Affiliated Plans, the Children’s Hospital Association and Families USA.

Mary Kay Quinn can be reached at [email protected].

Mary Kay Quinn
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