Lawmakers pass ‘stand your ground’ bill

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Lawmakers in the Ohio House opened a lame-duck session by approving relaxed gun regulations and a strict anti-abortion bill, measures long sought by Republicans and at odds with outgoing GOP Gov. John Kasich.

The House on Thursday approved the so-called anti-abortion “heartbeat bill,” which would ban abortions in Ohio after the first fetal heartbeat is detected, as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.

The Republican-controlled House voted 58-35 Thursday in favor of the legislation, which does not include exceptions for rape or incest.

The bill provides “a more consistent and reliable marker for the courts to use” when considering abortion laws’ constitutionality, said Rep. Christina Hagan, a Stark County Republican and the bill’s co-sponsor.

The American Civil Liberties Union called the measure “a total abortion ban” and promised to sue if it becomes law. Kasich vetoed a similar bill in December 2016, siding with opponents who contend it is unconstitutional.

On Wednesday, House lawmakers approved “stand your ground” gun legislation that eliminates a requirement to retreat in confrontations before using deadly force.

The House voted 64-26 in favor of the bill, a supermajority large enough to override Kasich’s expected veto.

Backers say the bill puts Ohio in line with about 35 other states.

“This bill is a huge step forward to providing the citizens of Ohio with clearer and concise gun laws and clarifying their right to bear arms,” Rep. Terry Johnson, a Republican from McDermott in southern Ohio, said in Wednesday’s debate.

Democrat Nickie Antonio accused the Legislature of being “tone deaf” to what’s happening in the country.

“Rather than put innocent Ohioans at risk and legalize a right to kill, I urge my colleagues to kill this bill and save Ohio lives,” she said.

Also Wednesday, lawmakers overrode Kasich’s veto of a measure expanding their power to revisit rules written and finalized by the government’s executive branch.

The abortion measure passed as the term-limited Kasich was in New Hampshire for the second time this year, speaking at journalism awards ceremony and boasting of his achievements in Ohio, including Medicaid expansion, tax cuts and efforts to address the deadly opioid crisis.

“People in Ohio feel pretty good,” Kasich said Thursday afternoon in Concord. “They’re not angry. They don’t feel left out. They feel like why would I change, we’re going in the right direction.”

Both bills go to the Senate next for a vote.