State lawmakers were headed towards sure bipartisan passage of a plan to help military families at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base until a last minute amendment put the bill in jeopardy.
The proposal, HB 244, from State Rep. Andrea White, R-Kettering and Rep. Brian Lampton, R- Beavercreek, allows military families who are being relocated to Ohio and have school age children to enroll the children in their new school district before they actually move to their new home. The same proposal also permits those children to participate in virtual school enrollment or advanced enrollment as they move to the new military installation.
“This bill will allow military families who have change of station orders in hand to register and enroll their children for school even before they are physically located here,” White said.
The bill passed the Ohio House and was on its way to passage in the Senate when Sen. Andrew Brenner, R- Delaware, added a controversial amendment, causing it to lose votes from Democratic lawmakers. Brenner’s amendment mandated that public school districts and public colleges may not require students to get the coronavirus vaccine and that students may not be discriminated against if they choose not to get the shot. The change would apply only if the vaccine has not yet received full authorization for use by the US Food and Drug Administration. So far the coronavirus vaccines only have Emergency Use Authorizations.
“This is still being determined how effective these vaccinations are in the long run,” Brenner said.
The bill, with the amendment, still passed the Senate and later was approved again in the House. The fear is, among supporters of the bill, that Gov. Mike DeWine may veto it because of the vaccine amendment.
The bill is important not just to military families because it would ease their transition through their relocation to Ohio. If it makes it into Ohio law, the changes would comply with a policy request from the Department of Defense. The DOD identified ten issues important to military families such as “enhanced military spouse license portability.” It would require states to recognize the professional licenses of military spouses so that when they relocate to the new duty station, the spouse can immediately continue in their profession without re-certifying in the new state. Ohio has already adopted the license portability change and HB 244 would have taken care of two other issues on the list of ten identified by the DOD. White, Lampton and other base supporters want Ohio to be the first state in the nation to adopt all ten policy issues important to the DOD.
Dave Burrows, Vice President for Engagement at the Dayton Development Coalition, said the state’s ability to attract new missions will be influenced by the adoption of the policy changes sought by the Defense Department. It could give WPAFB an edge in the competition for missions and jobs when it goes up against other installations.
“The wish list that the DOD puts out for every state is extremely important especially when you have talks of BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) and we want to be ahead of that. We want to be all green on these ten issues,” Burrows said.
Gov. DeWine could sign the bill, veto it or let it become law without his signature. A veto may be coming because DeWine has opposed many of the General Assembly’s vaccine restrictions. If that happens, White said she is ready to re-introduce the bill and start over with yet another version without the vaccine language.
“We will work to make sure this legislation is passed and these laws are in place for our military families. One way or the other and we will do it very quickly,” White said.
DeWine is expected to make a decision this weekend or next week.
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