- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 1, 2015

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Gov. John Kasich used his line-item-veto authority on Wednesday to strike a provision in the state’s transportation budget that Democrats claimed would discourage out-of-state college students in Ohio from voting in the swing state.

The Republican governor left in place a 30-day deadline for new residents to get an Ohio driver’s license and register their vehicles here, along with the penalties drivers could face if they do not.

But Kasich scrapped a contentious provision tucked into the two-year, $7 billion budget bill that would have defined residents as those who have registered to vote or filed their taxes under an Ohio address. Such actions would have triggered the requirement for drivers to get an Ohio license and tags within 30 days or face a minor misdemeanor.

For driver’s license purposes, the state currently does not exclusively define a registered voter as a resident. However, people can use their voter registration cards as a document to prove residency or legal name when getting their licenses.

It had been uncertain whether the provision could have been applied retroactively, affecting those out-of-state college students who were already registered to vote in Ohio but holding on to their home-state licenses.

Kasich said after signing the bill that Ohio law already establishes criteria that determine residency, which have been used successfully for years.

“Moreover, these changes are potentially confusing to Ohioans and to government institutions,” he wrote in the veto message.

Democrats, the League of Women Voters and the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio had called on Kasich to drop the idea from the bill. They praised him for its removal.

“We never should have had this fight, especially in the transportation budget bill,” state Rep. Kathleen Clyde, a Kent Democrat and vocal critic of the proposal, said in a statement.

The bill lays out transportation and public safety priorities for the two years beginning July 1. The bulk of the money goes to the Ohio Department of Transportation.

GOP legislators backing the vetoed provision had said it was aimed at setting a deadline in law and that the policy mirrored most states’.

John Fortney, a spokesman for majority Republicans in the Ohio Senate, said in an email that the governor’s veto did not change the provision’s intent: “to give Ohioans more clarity about when they need to comply with state law.”

The Ohio Department of Public Safety, which includes the state’s motor vehicles agencies, did not request the requirement, spokesman Joe Andrews said.

Kasich did not discuss the veto at an event in a Columbus suburb where he signed the budget measure. He was not available afterward to speak with reporters.

The state’s Republican elections chief had said the requirement would not have placed a barrier before voters.

Still, some Democrats equated the provision to a poll tax on college students from other states and active military personnel stationed in Ohio.

Residents new to Ohio can expect to pay $77 for a license and registration, depending on the county in which they live. Insurance changes could also cost them.

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