Sunday, July 11, 1999

CAPITOL INSIDER


Steer clear on emergency vehicle on roadside

BY MICHAEL HAWTHORNE
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        It used to be an unwritten rule that when drivers approached a police car, firetruck or ambulance at the side of the road, they should change lanes or slow down as they passed. Now failure to do so will be a violation of state law.

        Rep. Sam Bateman, a Milford Republican who chairs the Ohio House's Transportation and Public Safety Committee, sponsored the measure that requires drivers to clear the way for a “stationary public safety vehicle” with its emergency lights on.

        He introduced the bill after two Dayton-area police officers were killed along a road while investigating an accident. More than 100 officers are killed each year in similar situations, Mr. Bateman said.

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        State Rep. George Terwilleger failed to shepherd a bill through the General Assembly shielding local governments from lawsuits related to the Y2K computer glitch. But the Maineville Republican's idea will become law anyway.

        In another example of how lawmakers love to use must-pass measures to advance unrelated policy ideas, GOP leaders added Mr. Terwilleger's proposal to the state budget bill.

        Local governments would be immune to Y2K lawsuits if they showed a “good-faith” effort to fix computers that may confuse the year 2000 with 1900.

        Some cities and villages have a reason to be worried about Y2K. Ohio Auditor Jim Petro recently released a survey showing many local governments are behind in efforts to fix the problem.

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        The budget bill is chock-full of oddities that appear to have nothing to do with state spending.

        Another example is a provision buried in the education budget ordering the Ohio Board of Regents to figure out how much it would cost to upgrade facilities at “public universities” if Cincinnati is awarded the Summer Olympics.

        The University of Cincinnati's new lobbyist is Greg Vehr, whose brother, Nick, is heading the effort to bring the Games to town.

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        Ohio has a state snake (black racer), a state insect (ladybug), even a state rock song (“Hang on Sloopy”).

        But it appears some Columbus-area schoolchildren won't see their dream of a state fruit come true. A bill granting that distinction to the Melrose apple is withering on the legislative calendar.

        Kids at Wilson Hill Elementary School in Worthington say the Melrose is ripe for such an honor because it was developed at Ohio University.

        Legislative leaders insist they have more important work to do, such as passing the state budget and ordering a study on UC and the Olympics.

        Oh, and just before lawmakers adjourned for the summer, they passed a resolution encouraging something called Neighbors Day. Sen. Bruce Johnson, R-Westerville, celebrated by singing the Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood theme on the Senate floor.

        Michael Hawthorne covers state government for The Cincinnati Enquirer. He can be reached at (614) 224-4640.

       



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