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Mayor Steve Patterson and his watch party taking a group picture at Pigskin Bar, in Athens, Ohio, Nov. 7, 2023. Mayor Patterson was running for Mayor of Athens again this election.

Recent changes to Ohio's legal system affect Athens residents

Changes to state and local legislation are in store for Athens citizens after Ohio voters cast their ballots in favor of Issues 1 and 2 in the Nov. 7 election.

Issue 1 is a constitutional amendment that enshrines abortion and all other reproductive care. According to Ohio Laws & Administrative Rules, the amendment, titled “The Right to Reproductive Freedom with Protections for Health and Safety,” legalizes an individual’s right to make and carry out one’s reproductive decisions. 

Aside from Issue 1 legalizing abortion in Ohio constitutionally, the amendment will also have other effects on reproductive care.

“(The amendment) includes access to abortions, but also fertility treatment, miscarriage care, with pregnancy and reproductive health justice,” Chris Fowler, the director of the Women’s Center at Ohio University, said.

Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, an organization that offers safe and reliable reproductive and contraceptive options for women, celebrated Issue 1 passing and updated its website after election results were released; “Abortion is legal in Ohio. Our doors are open.”

Issue 1 brings in the possibility of more reproductive and contraceptive resources being available outside of the major cities of Ohio.

“The issue passing maybe could open up ways for rural communities like Athens, Southeast Ohio and Appalachian Ohio to get the resources to have abortion clinics,” Stan Yerrick, a junior studying political science, said. “I think it'll open a lot of paths for that.”

Along with voting in favor of Issue 1, the majority of Ohioans also voted “yes” to the installment of Issue 2. 

The passing of Issue 2 allows Ohio to “commercialize, regulate, legalize and tax the adult use of cannabis,” according to the Ohio Secretary of State. Ohio lawmakers are now working to regulate adult marijuana usage.

Differing from Issue 1, Issue 2 does not enact a constitutional amendment. 

“Issue 2 is interesting since it's not (a constitutional) amendment, so there's still the chance that the legislature could overturn it,” Julianna Rittenberg, a junior studying political science, said. “I think a lot of people are just kind of waiting to see if it actually comes to fruition or not.”

The laws established by the issue will go into effect Dec. 7.

However, Governor Mike DeWine is hesitant about the new law. DeWine is calling for potential changes and modifications to Issue 2 regarding smoking in public, potency and children’s safety, according to a WKYC report. 

Local issues were also on last week’s ballot for Athens County.

The voters of Athens approved an Athens City School Bond Issue. The multi-million dollar bond will fund a new high school and will be paid off over the next 30 years. 

Christine Knisley, president of the Athens city council, emphasized the significance of the bond passing for increasing tourism and the Athens population.

“(A new school facility is) certainly attractive as new people come to town and for people making decisions about their professional careers,” Knisley said.

She said once the facility is completed, it could create a strong incentive for people to stay in Athens and raise their families in the city because of the new school.

Along with the bond issue, Athens County also passed a tax levy for EMS operations this fall. The levy, according to the Athens County sample ballot from Nov. 7, would additionally tax Athenians for the next five years. The added tax would go toward funding the operating budget and maintenance of Athens County Emergency Medical Services, or ACEMS. 

“(The levy is) important for our citizens because we need to be able to adequately protect them in times when they need to call emergency services,” Knisley said.

The levy will also lead to salary increases for ACEMS workers. 

“The money from that levy will also help pay for salary increases for the employees,” Knisely said. “That’s important to be able to provide a living wage for employees and people in our community.”



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