- Associated Press - Thursday, March 26, 2015

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - The state’s transportation budget headed to the governor Thursday amid criticism from Democrats who claim a piece of the bill would discourage out-of-state college students in Ohio from voting in the swing state.

At issue is a provision in the two-year, $7 billion spending plan that would require new residents who register to vote or file their taxes under an Ohio address to update their driver’s license and register their vehicles here within 30 days. Drivers in violation could face a minor misdemeanor.

The budget bill cleared the House on a 78-13 vote Thursday. The Senate unanimously passed it Wednesday. Gov. John Kasich’s office plans to review the bill.

GOP supporters say the bill’s requirement simply defines a deadline in state law for what’s already existing practice for new residents.

“All this does is require an Ohio resident to obtain a driver’s license after 30 days,” said Rep. Niraj Antani, a Miamisburg Republican. “It has absolutely nothing to do with voting rights.”

Some Democrats say otherwise.

“This is a financial burden on new Ohioans who just want to exercise their fundamental rights,” Rep. Kathleen Clyde, of Kent, told her House colleagues.

Democrats are urging Kasich to strike the provision. The Republican governor has authority to use his line-item-veto pen on the bill.

In a letter Wednesday, the Senate’s 10 Democrats told Kasich the provision was not properly vetted and could have unintended consequences for college students from other states and active military personnel stationed in Ohio. They said it was unclear when penalties would apply.

“How would individuals be notified that their failure to act has suddenly created a criminal liability?” they asked.

Senate President Keith Faber told reporters Wednesday that students who want to attend college in Ohio but don’t want to be residents should not have to do anything.

“Now, if you want to come to Ohio and vote, you’re saying you’re an Ohioan - that’s the very nature of being a resident of the state,” said Faber, a Celina Republican.

Ohio’s Republican elections chief has said the provision would not place a barrier before voters.

The budget 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.

Democratic senators who voted for the transportation budget cited successful efforts to remove other provisions dealing with citizenship verification on driver’s licenses and local hiring quotas on public construction projects.

A proposal to raise the state’s speed limit to 75 mph on certain rural freeways and the Ohio Turnpike was dropped from bill during legislative compromise talks.

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Associated Press writer Julie Carr Smyth contributed to this report.


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