Thanksgiving is a day to gather with family, and often that means sitting down to dinner with folks of different political persuasions.
That can fill guests with dread. They imagine themselves staring awkwardly into their plates, waiting for the bruising back-and-forth to end.
The simple solution is to keep politics off the table, but blanket bans don't always keep political junkies in line. So, here are six bills working their way through the Ohio Legislature that should be relatively safe to debate.
You can do side bends or sit-ups
After going back for a second or third helping, it's possible someone at your Thanksgiving table will crack a joke about the gym.
Well, Sen. Jay Hottinger, R-Newark, wants to make staying in shape a little bit cheaper.
Senate Bill 147 would exempt memberships to gyms or other recreational facilities operated by nonprofits from Ohio sales tax. (Think YMCAs not Cyclebars.)
"Removing the sales tax on fitness memberships would allow YMCAs, as well as other nonprofits, to lower their rates, thus making them more affordable and accessible," Hottinger told a Senate committee in October.
California, Illinois and New York also don't impose sales taxes on fitness or athletic club memberships while Louisiana and Vermont have exemptions for nonprofits.
In fact, Hottinger said Ohio is one of just three states in the nation that collects sales tax on nonprofit gym memberships.
We want prenup ... modifications
If you inherit a small fortune from a long-lost relative, Ohio law won't let you change the terms of your prenuptial agreement.
"A couple can enter into a prenuptial agreement before they marry, but they cannot enter into a postnuptial agreement," Sen. Theresa Gavarone, R-Bowling Green, said. "Additionally, a couple cannot make a single change to their prenuptial agreement after that agreement is made."
That's not practical, Gavarone added. "In life, circumstances change frequently. Couples move, jobs change, children are born and priorities shift."
So, she introduced Senate Bill 210 to let couples create or change agreements.
The changes are supported by the Ohio Judicial Conference and the Ohio Bar Association, which says it "would grant couples the critical right to have agreements between them evolve with their marriage."
Every night it's fireworks
If you've been in Ohio on the Fourth of July, you might have assumed it was legal to set off fireworks. You would be wrong.
Ohio law lets people use sparklers and some other small pyrotechnics, but Roman candles aren't legal. Yes, you can buy bottle rockets all over the state, but you aren't supposed to set them off.
Lawmakers have long acknowledged that is not what's happening.
That's why they passed House Bill 172. It would let adults use consumer-grade fireworks on private property on certain days of the year like New Year's Eve, Juneteenth, Cinco de Mayo and Memorial Day weekend.
It's all about the Benjamins
If your dinner conversation turns toward whether avocado toast, fancy coffees or crippling student debt is to blame for the financial challenges facing millennials, feel free to bring up this bill about financial literacy.
Senate Bill 1, which the governor signed into law, requires public high school freshmen "to complete one-half unit (60 hours) of financial literacy instruction" starting in 2022.
The classes will cover topics like taxes, loans, saving for retirement, interest rates and the benefits of leasing vs. buying, Sen. Steve Wilson, R-Maineville said.
A banker by profession, Wilson said he's seen firsthand the problems that come from not knowing how our financial systems work. "They’ll earn interest instead of paying interest and it will make all the difference in the world for their lives."
Sweet Home Alabama?
We may be the Buckeye State, but one southwestern Ohio lawmaker wants University of Alabama fans to be able to show their support, too.
A bill by Rep. Adam Bird, R-New Richmond, would create a new license plate for Alabama alumni, students and fans.
"I grew up in Ohio, and I am forever a fan of Ohio State football ..," Bird told lawmakers earlier this year. "But I am also forever grateful for the educational opportunity that was afforded my father by the University of Alabama and the change that it made in the lives of my family."
If approved, the new license plate would cost an extra $40 with $30 going toward scholarships benefiting Ohio students who roll tide.
And in case you're wondering, Ohio has one existing license plate for out-of-state alumni: the University of Notre Dame.
Steve Piskor hid a camera inside his mother's room at a Cleveland nursing home and discovered eight different aides had been abusing her.
The aides were fired, two were incarcerated and the home was fined $357,000.
But Piskor didn't stop there. He's been lobbying Ohio lawmakers to pass a law allowing nursing home residents and their guardians to place recording devices in their rooms.
"If it was not for the camera my mother would have been killed long ago," Piskor said. "We need Esther’s Law to keep our loved ones free of neglect and abuse."
That's the gist of Senate Bill 58.
It's not the first time lawmakers have tried to pass Esther's law (named after Piskor's mom). But the sweeping lockdowns that kept thousands of Ohioans from their loved ones last year might finally be the reason it's successful.
Anna Staver is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves the Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Akron Beacon Journal and 18 other affiliated news organizations across Ohio.
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