Virginia House and Senate Reach Deal on Military Education Program

Virginia Military Bill

Monday ended with another disappointment for those unhappy with recent changes to a state education assistance program for military families, but by Tuesday night, things had turned around.

Tuesday evening, the Senate of Virginia issued a press release stating that the House of Delegates and Senate finance chairs had finally reached an agreement on the Virginia Military Survivors and Dependents Education Program after a month and a half of upheaval surrounding changes made to the program in the latest state budget.

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Virginia Task Force Hears from Angered Military Families on Education Program Changes

Veteran Cemetery

The first meeting of the task force Preserving Virginia Military Survivors and Dependents Education Program was held Monday, with many of its members and those in attendance raising their voices or holding back tears as they spoke. 

“I thought VMSDEP was a formal thank you to the families of veterans, the Gold Star families,” said one attendee, the wife of a retired marine. “I am so sorry that we cost you too much,” she said, choking back tears.

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Ohio Governor Calls Special Session to Pass Measure Allowing Biden on November Ballot

Joe Biden and Mike DeWine

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) said Thursday that he is calling a special session of the General Assembly to pass legislation next week to ensure President Biden is on the November ballot for the general election.

“Ohio is running out of time to get Joe Biden, the sitting President of the United States, on the ballot this fall. Failing to do so is simply unacceptable. This is ridiculous. This is (an) absurd situation,” DeWine said, according to the Associated Press.

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Tennessee Bill Protects Property Owners from Squatters

Tim Rudd

A new law passed by the General Assembly protects Tennessee property owners from squatters, which has become a hot topic of debate around the country as the practice becomes more prevalent.

“Home ownership is the American dream for many, the foundation for building wealth and raising a family,” State Representative Tim Rudd (R-Murfreesboro) said in a press release after the passage of HB 1259. “This is proactive legislation that protects property owners but also deters bad actors who have learned to exploit the law and terrorize homeowners. This creates a streamlined process for Tennesseans to quickly take back control over what is rightfully theirs.”

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EXCLUSIVE: State Senator Brent Taylor Wants Soft-on-Crime Shelby County D.A. Mulroy to Reveal Whether ‘Restorative Justice’ Group Has Special Access to Real-Time Bail Data

On Wednesday’s episode of The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy, State Senator Brent Taylor (R-Memphis) tells listeners what he really thinks about Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy and what appears to be his cooperation with restorative justice groups working in Memphis and across Tennessee to reimagine justice and reinterpret current law through their efforts, among other things, to eliminate cash bail.

Taylor explores different ways to hold district attorneys accountable, including potential methods for termination under consideration; as well as addresses the controversial release of a murder suspect without bail and his proposed legislation to remove Judge Bill Anderson from his role in managing judicial commissioners.

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Exclusive: State Senator Mark Pody Previews School Safety Bill Proposal Set to Be Introduced Next Week

In this engaging interview on Tuesday’s episode of The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy, State Senator Mark Pody (R-Lebanon) previews for listeners his new idea for school safety. The longtime lawmaker emphasizes the importance of this comprehensive approach to school safety and highlights the need to protect teachers from assaults and false accusations.

In addition to discussing the school safety bill, the interview offers a peek behind the curtain of the Tennessee General Assembly into the complex process of navigating and passing legislation.

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Gov. Bill Lee Expected to Back Statewide Education Savings Account Legislation

The move to expand Tennessee’s Education Savings Account (ESA) program statewide is expected to have a very powerful ally in the General Assembly’s next session, sources told The Tennessee Star.

State Representative Bryan Richey (R-Maryville) said Governor Bill Lee is planning a press conference on Tuesday to discuss a bill to expand ESA beyond Metro Nashville, Memphis, and Hamilton County into all of Tennessee’s 95 counties.

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Tennessee Could be Next State to Call for Convention of States on Congressional Term Limits

After sailing through the Tennessee House of Representatives in March, a resolution proposing congressional term limits via constitutional amendment stands a solid chance of passing in the Senate, according to resolution proponents.

“I think it will go okay,” State Senator Richard Briggs (R-Knoxville), who recently announced that he will serve as Senate sponsor of House Joint Resolution 5, told The Tennessee Star.

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Abortion Looms Large in Virginia’s General Election

The issue of abortion has loomed large in this year’s General Assembly general election, as Virginia is the only state in the South not to impose additional restrictions on abortion after the release of the Dobbs decision.

As Virginia has a chance of a Republican trifecta after Nov. 7, Democrats this election season have captured national attention as they fight to preserve abortion freedoms in the state. 

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Virginia Legislative Elections in Dead-Heat: Poll

In the key battleground state of Virginia, legislative elections appear to be in a dead-heat ahead of November, with Democrats leading Republicans by just one point, according to a Monday survey.

For a generic General Assembly ballot, 45 poll of likely voters supported the Democrats and 44 percent supported the Republicans, with 11 percent of respondents undecided, according to a Founders Insight poll. All of Virginia’s 140 state legislative seats are up for reelection on Nov. 7, and Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin hopes to hold the House of Delegates and flip the Senate red.

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Tennessee Governor Bill Lee Launches Grant Program to Support Expecting Mothers and Families

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee (R) opened applications this week for the Tennessee Strong Families Grant Program to support expecting mothers and families.

According to the press release, the $20 million program aims to increase resources for moms, kids, and families while improving maternity healthcare access. It aids local nonprofit organizations across the state, including pregnancy centers.

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Commentary: Virginia Is for Lover and Voyeurs

Ophelia has given herself to Hamlet. Yet having placed her trust totally in men — her father, her brother, her lover — she is told by her beloved to remove herself to a nunnery. Or in the context of the Elizabethan age? A brothel — thus exchanging the ideas of nobility and love for pure utility and momentary pleasure.

Realizing the world for what it is — or at least, the world of Hamlet, Laertes, and Polonius — drives Ophelia insane. Having relied upon a branch made of willow, she drowns in a shallow pool, able yet unwilling to save herself and face such a world.

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Ohio Republican Bill Aims to Allow Schools to Administer Expulsions for Dangerous Students as They See Fit

Two Republican Ohio state representatives have introduced legislation to allow school superintendents to administer expulsions for dangerous students in their districts as they see fit.

House Bill (HB) 206, sponsored by State Representatives Monica Robb Blasdel (R-Columbiana County) and Gary Click (R-Vickery), looks to allow schools greater flexibility for expulsions under Ohio law and to create re-entry plans to protect both students and staff.

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Governor Bill Lee Issues Proclamation Calling Special Session of Tennessee Legislature to Take Up Red Flag Bill

Governor Bill Lee has issued a proclamation calling for a special legislative session to take up gun-control measures, including a controversial “red flag” bill that many of his GOP allies in the Republican-controlled Tennessee General Assembly say is a non-starter.

The long-expected proclamation was apparently leaked to the liberal Tennessee Lookout late Thursday afternoon before it’s official release.

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Ohio Lt. Governor Jon Husted Names Aaron Crooks as New Chief of Staff

Ohio Lt. Governor Jon Husted announced on Tuesday that he named Aaron Crooks, former director of Legislative Affairs for Governor Mike DeWine, to serve as his new chief of staff.

Crooks, of Upper Arlington, has served as DeWine’s director of legislative affairs since 2021. As director of legislative affairs, he oversaw the development and promotion of the administration’s legislative agenda with the General Assembly and other stakeholders in that capacity. He worked for CareSource, OhioHealth, and the Office of Health Transformation before joining the DeWine-Husted administration. In 2002, he took a position with the Ohio Senate.

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New Bill Would Cut Down the Number of Members on Ohio Board of Education

A Republican Ohio lawmaker introduced a bill into the Ohio House of Representatives to reduce the size of Ohio’s State Board of Education and remove governor-appointed positions.

House Bill (HB) 235 sponsored by State Representative Sarah Fowler Arthur (R-Ashtabula), and former state education board member, looks to downsize the 19-member Board of Education to fifteen members by 2027. It also aims to remove the eight positions appointed to the Board of Education by the governor beginning in 2025.

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Ohio House Speaker Is Now Confident in Lawmakers Meeting State Budget Deadline

Ohio House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) says that he is now confident in lawmakers passing the state’s biennial budget before its June 30th deadline.

This follows his previous statement that with the approximately 800 differences between the biennial budgets passed by the Ohio House and Ohio Senate, it is likely that the state legislature may miss its end-of-the-month deadline and need to pass a temporary budget until they can strike a final deal.

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Republican Ohio House Veterans Oppose Interim Budget Amendment to Homestead Exemption Bill

Six Republican Ohio House veterans wrote a letter opposing a committee adding a seven-day interim budget to a bill that gives military families a tax break.

On Monday, the House Rules and Reference Committee approved an amendment to include this budget to Senate Bill (SB) 43 to expand the situations in which surviving spouses of disabled veterans may receive the “homestead” tax exemption.

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Ohio Governor Mike DeWine Urges General Assembly to Pass State Budget

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine is urging the General Assembly to pass the full biennial budget before its June 30th deadline rather than to pass a temporary budget with negotiations continuing into July.

Under the Ohio Constitution, the state’s two-year budget must be passed and signed into law before the fiscal year’s end on June 30th. However, the budget legislation approved by the Ohio House and Ohio Senate differ significantly from one another.

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Ohio Lawmakers Introduce Legislation Increasing Penalties for Reckless Driving

Two Republican Ohio lawmakers have introduced a bill into the Ohio House of Representatives that aims to increase penalties for reckless driving.

House Bill (HB) 56 sponsored by State Representatives Andrea White (R-Kettering) and Phil Plummer (R-Dayton) aims to stop reckless driving also known as “hooning” from creating dangerous conditions on Ohio roads.

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Ohio House Unanimously Passes Legislation to Clarify Bail-Setting Procedures

The Ohio House unanimously passed Republican-backed legislation that aims to give judges in the state clear guidance in setting bail.

House Bill (HB) 191, sponsored by State Representatives D.J. Swearingen (R-Huron) (pictured above, right) and Bill Seitz (R- Cincinnati) (pictured above, left), looks to codify Criminal Rule 46, a rule that provides all state courts with instructions regarding bail-setting procedures in the Ohio Revised Code.

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Ohio Supreme Court Rules August 8th Special Election Can Continue as Planned

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled that the August 8th special election to vote on Ohio State Issue 1 aimed at altering the process of how initiative petitions can propose constitutional amendments can legally proceed as scheduled.

Ohio State Issue 1 if approved by voters would mandate a 60 percent approval percentage for any future constitutional amendments, call for signatures from all 88 counties, and do away with the opportunity to “cure” petitions by collecting additional signatures if necessary.

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Ohio House Unanimously Passes Legislation Simplifying Remote Work Tax Filing

The Ohio House unanimously passed Republican-backed legislation that aims to streamline tax reporting requirements for remote workers.

House Bill (HB) 121 sponsored by State Representatives Monica Robb Blasdel (R-Columbiana County) and Adam Mathews’ (R-Lebanon) looks to modernize the municipal net profits tax filing requirements for remote workers and allow employers to designate qualifying reporting locations to consolidate their filings to a single central business location.

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Ohio House Advances Parents Bill of Rights Legislation Promoting School Transparency About Sexually Explicit Materials

The Ohio House of Representatives advanced a Republican-backed piece of legislation that tries to require school systems to have policies that allow parents to be more active in their child’s education.

The Ohio House Primary and Secondary Education Committee passed the legislation 10-5 advancing it to the house floor for further consideration.

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Ohio Senate Budget Reinstates Proposal Requiring Verified Parental Consent Before Kids Can Use Social Media

Lawmakers in the Ohio Senate have reinstated Governor Mike DeWine’s requirement for verified parental consent before children use social media in their version of the state budget.

DeWine included the Social Media Parental Notification Act in the executive budget for 2023-24, which he submitted to the Ohio General Assembly in February. In April, the House Finance Committee removed the proposal from the budget in favor of a potential separate bill.

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Ohio Lawmakers Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Legalize Adult-Use Cannabis

A bipartisan group of Ohio lawmakers introduced a bill that would legalize adult-use cannabis in Ohio.

House Bill (HB) 168 known as the “Ohio Adult Use Act” sponsored by State Representatives Jamie Callender (R-Concord) and Casey Weinstein (D-Hudson) would permit Ohio residents over the age of 21 to grow, buy, and possess cannabis, as well as allow the expungement of conviction records for prior crimes involving cultivation and possession.

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Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost Says Public Facilities Can Separate Restroom Use According to Biological Sex

In an official opinion from the Ohio Attorney General’s office, Attorney General Dave Yost says that the Ohio Revised Code allows managers of public restrooms to separate restroom use according to biological sex.

In December, Green County Prosecutor David Hayes requested the opinion from Yost on whether Ohio civil rights law requires local governments to permit individuals to use public restrooms according to their stated gender identity rather than their biological sex.

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Ohio House Republicans Introduce Legislation Requiring Single Sex Bathroom Access in Schools

Two Republican Ohio House Representatives have introduced legislation to require single-sex bathroom access in schools and universities.

House Bill (HB) 183 sponsored by State Representatives Beth Lear (R-Galena) and Adam Bird (R-New Richmond) aims to require students at K-12 schools and universities to use the restrooms and locker rooms that match their biological sex.

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Governor DeWine Wants Additional Funding for Ohio Prisons Re-Entry Support

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine included additional millions of dollars in the 2024-2025 state budget presented to the Ohio General Assembly so that even more can be done to help individuals coming out of prison to reintegrate into society.

For fiscal year 2024, DeWine requested $2.3 billion in funds to operate the Ohio Department of Corrections, a 7.9 percent increase from 2023.

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Ohio House Republicans Introduce Legislation to Update School Social Studies Standards

Two Republican Ohio House Representatives have introduced legislation to create new social studies standards through a task force of appointed state officials.

House Bill (HB) 103, sponsored by State Representatives Don Jones (R-Freeport) and Tracy Richardson (R-Marysville), tries to create the Ohio State Social Studies Task Force to craft social studies standards to replace the existing standards in Ohio.

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Secretary of State LaRose Requests Ohio Supreme Court Throw Out One Person One Vote Lawsuit

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, through the Attorney General’s office, has asked the Ohio Supreme Court to throw out a lawsuit challenging the Ohio Constitution Protection Amendment, Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 2, and an August special election to vote on it.

A Democratic-backed group One Person One Vote, and a coalition of three Ohio residents Jeniece Brock, Brent Edwards, and Christopher Tavenor, filed the lawsuit with the Ohio Supreme Court in response to the passage of a resolution, the Ohio Constitution Protection Amendment, aimed at altering the process of how initiative petitions can propose constitutional amendments on May 10th on the grounds that the resolution is unconstitutional and illegal.

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In Bid to Cut Higher Education Costs, Virginia House Speaker Requests JLARC Study

House of Delegates Speaker Todd Gilbert has requested the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) to look into the rising cost of public higher education in Virginia – particularly the increase of administrative staff positions tied to diversity, equity and inclusion.

In a letter addressed to Hal Greer, executive director of the commission, Gilbert cites a November 2014 report from the commission entitled, “Addressing the Cost of Public Higher Education in Virginia.” In it, the commission adopted 16 recommendations. The speaker says it is “unclear which, if any,” of the recommendations were adopted from the 168-page report.

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Ohio Senate Unanimously Passes Legislation to Preserve Student’s Religious Expression

The Ohio Senate has unanimously passed legislation that aims to require local boards of education to draft “non-exhaustive” lists of religious holidays and excuse students for up to three days each academic year.

Senate Bill (SB) 49 known as the “Religious Expression Days” (R.E.D.) Act sponsored by State Senator Michele Reynolds (R-Canal Winchester) would require schools to accommodate “any missed assignments including tests” and teachers would have to accept these absences “without question” while maintaining “alternative accommodation requests confidential.”

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Bipartisan Ohio State Lawmakers Re-Introduce Bill to Prohibit Installing Tracking Devices Without Consent

A Bipartisan group of Ohio Lawmakers has re-introduced a bill to generally prohibit the installation of an electronic tracking device on someone else’s property without the other person’s consent.

Senate Bill (SB) 100, sponsored by State Senators Nathan Manning (R-North Ridgeville) and Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood), aims to establish the use of tracking devices for menacing or stalking purposes as its own offense under Ohio law – a move that the bill’s sponsors say closes a loophole in current state statutes.

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Deal on Adjustments to the Virginia Budget Could Come Later in the Summer

Negotiations on adjustments to Virginia’s two-year budget could stretch into the summer as budget wranglers in the General Assembly wait for a clearer picture of the state’s revenues, according to leading lawmakers. 

Lawmakers adjourned the legislative session in February without a final agreement on amendments to the state’s budget that passed last summer. Instead, legislators agreed to pass a “skinny” budget that addressed a few key priorities – including funding to address a $200 million shortfall for school funding due to a calculation error. 

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Ohio Governor DeWine Signs $13.5 Billion Transportation Budget Including New Rail Safety Measures

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed a nearly $13.5 billion state transportation budget on Friday, including rail safety measures that lawmakers added in reaction to the February 3rd train derailment and toxic chemical spill in East Palestine.

With oversight from the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) and the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO), among other provisions, the railway safety measures call for two-person crews for freight trains and requires the installation of wayside detectors at shorter distances, every 10 to 15 miles, to help identify issues. The Federal Railroad Administration currently permits the placement of some wayside devices up to 25 miles apart from one another.

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Ohio State Legislature Revives Cincinnati City Rail Line Sale to Norfolk Southern

The State Legislature revived Cincinnati city officials’ attempt to sell a city-owned rail line to Norfolk Southern, the same company that caused the toxic disaster in East Palestine, which stalled last month,

City leaders announced a plan to sell the rail line that runs to Chattanooga, Tennessee, to Norfolk Southern at the end of last year for $1.6 billion. However, that deal could not be done without changes to state law.

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Ohio Secretary of State LaRose Supports Prospective August Election to Protect State Constitution

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose on Tuesday supported a prospective August election as a way to change the process of how initiative petitions can propose constitutional amendments.

Republicans in both the House and Senate have introduced resolutions to raise the initiative petition voting threshold to 60 percent to amend the state Constitution.

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Virginia Gov. Youngkin Signs into Law More than 700 New Measures

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed more than 700 bills sent to his desk by the General Assembly by Monday’s action deadline, approving a slew of new laws that will take effect by July 1. 

The governor approved 738 bills by Monday’s action deadline and vetoed three as of Tuesday at 3 p.m., according to the state’s bill tracking system. The governor has also issued recommendations and amendments to 78 other measures, which the General Assembly will consider when it reconvenes in Richmond April 12. 

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Universal School Choice ‘Backpack Bill’ Reintroduced in Ohio General Assembly

Republican lawmakers have reintroduced a plan to allow state education dollars to be used by every Ohio parent to pay for private school or other education expenses. House Bill (HB) 11, sponsored by State Representatives Riordan McClain (R-Upper Sandusky) and Marilyn John (R-Richland County), aims to make all public, nonpublic, and home-school students in grades K-12 eligible for a state scholarship to attend a nonpublic school or to be home-schooled. “The Backpack Scholarship Program would empower families to find the best educational environment for their child. As a father of five, I know how different the needs of each child can be and by giving each child the opportunity to pursue the best path will lead to better outcomes. Education is not a one size fits all model. This program recognizes that and allows educational freedom as well as competition. Parental involvement is one of the most important aspects of a child’s education regardless of learning environment,” McClain said. Under the legislation, an education savings account would fund the scholarships. Scholarship recipients would receive $5,000 for students K-8 or $7,500 for high school students. The funds could be paid directly to a school or reimbursed to parents. According to the…

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Ohio House Representatives Want to be Consulted by Federal and State Authorities on Issues Regarding East Palestine, Ohio Train Derailment

In the wake of a railroad catastrophe that has continued to worry residents in East Palestine, Ohio, a group of Ohio House members want federal and state authorities to consult with them.

A bipartisan group of 26 state Representatives have sent a letter to the Ohio and United States Environmental Protection Agencies (EPA) on February 22nd requesting that the two organizations “consult and advise” them on any additional potentially needed resources.

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Ohio Republican State Senator Reynolds Introduces Bill to Preserve Student’s Religious Expression

Even though public schools in Ohio cannot close for all religious holidays, a Republican state senator says that students don’t deserve penalization for observing them and that schools should treat them as legitimate absences.

Senate Bill (SB) 49 known as the “Religious Expression Days” Act sponsored by State Senator Michele Reynolds (R-Canal Winchester) aims to require local boards of education to draft “non-exhaustive” lists of religious holidays and excuse students for up to three days each academic year.

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