COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — In recent days, Gov. Mike DeWine has signed more than a dozen bills from the General Assembly into law. DeWine said a few bills he has yet to sign are still being looked at “very closely,” with more information from his office to come this week. 

Here are some of the new laws that will take effect in 2023:

Texting-and-driving

An enhanced distracted driving provision within a broader omnibus criminal justice bill, which DeWine vocally supported and signed during a ceremony Tuesday morning, now gives law enforcement the ability to pull a person over solely for being on their phone. It goes into effect in 90 days, although officers can only issue warnings for the first six months.

Criminal justice system

The same lengthy, newly-inked law adds offense charges, such as strangulation, and tweaks others, such as downgrading underage drinking to a third-degree misdemeanor. It also broadens the process for getting a criminal record sealed or expunged, and makes it easier for some incarcerated people to shave time off their sentences through changed earned credit programs and judicial release. 

New designations

Several days and weeks were newly designated in a bill DeWine signed into law. They include:

  • Ohio Burn Awareness Week during the first full week of February
  • Ulysses S. Grant Day on April 27, his birthday. The 18th U.S. President, from southwestern Ohio, served directly after the Civil War
  • Pollinator Week during the last full week of June. National Pollinator Week is scheduled for June 19-25, 2023
  • Eugene ‘Gene’ F. Kranz Day on Aug. 17. Kranz was a NASA engineer from Toledo who directed a number of major missions
  • Ohio Public Lands Day on the last Saturday of September. National Public Lands Day is on Sept. 23, 2023

Occupational licensure

If a job applicant in Ohio holds an occupational license or certification in another state, licensing authorities will generally extend that license or certification to them when they move to Ohio — creating universal occupational license recognition. The law aims to ease worker shortages, particularly as companies such as Intel and Honda aim to build their workforces in the state, according to previous testimony.

Printing election ballots

Lawmakers struck down a prior requirement that all election ballot printing contracts be awarded to in-state vendors — those contracts can now go to vendors outside of Ohio, and the ballots themselves can also be printed out-of-state.

Solemnizing marriages

The governor’s office said another recently ratified law means that Ohio mayors can now solemnize, or perform, marriages anywhere within the state, while previously they were only permitted to do so within county limits, according to the Ohio Revised Code.

Swatting calls

Swatting — or when a person places a false call with emergency services in an effort to prompt a heavy response from law enforcement — is now defined as a fourth-degree felony in Ohio, and could be a second-degree felony if the swatting call results in physical harm. 

If a person was accused of placing a swatting call prior to this law, they might have faced misdemeanor making false alarms and inducing panic charges, or certain felony charges, if the call resulted in physical harm.

Water pressure at pools

Under the newly signed Makenna’s Law, the state government will limit the water pressure features at swimming pools — such as splash pads — can use. It is named after a child from Cincinnati who was severely injured at a birthday party hosted at an indoor waterpark.

Minimum wage

The legal hourly minimum wage increased Sunday from $9.30 to $10.10 for nontipped workers and from $4.65 to $5.05 for tipped workers. Rather than outlined in a bill DeWine signed, Ohio’s minimum wage has been tied to inflation since November 2006, when voters ratified a constitutional amendment mandating that it rise annually with inflation. The legal minimum is scheduled to adjust on Jan. 1 each year.

Overhaul of elections

DeWine had yet to take action on House Bill 458 as of Tuesday afternoon. H.B. 458, which cleared both chambers along party lines, would alter Ohio elections in a number of ways. It would mandate photo ID at the polls, limit ballot drop boxes to one per county, and shorten request and return times for absentee ballots.  

“We have about five bills that we are looking at very closely,” DeWine said of outstanding legislation, which could include the elections bill.