Ohio House Committee Restores Public Transit Funding To Transportation Budget

An RTA bus crosses the Detroit-Superior Bridge in downtown Cleveland in 2013.
An RTA bus crosses the Detroit-Superior Bridge in Downtown Cleveland in 2013. [ideastream file photo]
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An Ohio House committee moved to restore millions of dollars in public transit funding and stripped a provision from Gov. Mike DeWine's transportation budget that targets distracted driving. 

Curt Steiner represents a coalition of 35 organizations that have been pushing for those changes, which included stiffer penalties for drivers caught while using or holding any wireless device.. Many lawmakers are telling him they’d support it as a stand-alone bill, he said.

“There’s a lot of support for the legislation, but some just don’t feel comfortable with it being in the budget bill right now," Steiner said.

Under current law, police need another reason to pull drivers over, such as speeding, before they can issue a ticket for distracted driving. Following an increase in road fatalities across Ohio, DeWine argued that distracted driving should be raised to a primary offense, meaning police don't need another reason to pull drivers over.

However, a stand-alone bill to do so languished in the last General Assembly, despite bipartisan support and backing from insurance companies.

House Finance Chairman Scott Oeslager, a Canton Republican, said lawmakers didn't want to deal with a criminal law issue in the funding proposal.

In addition to removing the distracted driving provision, the House Finance committee also restored some proposed funding cuts to public transit and eliminated a proposal to raise vehicle fees.

Under DeWine's budget proposal, public transportation funding from the state would have dropped by 90 percent to just $7 million. The House Finance committee's substitute bill provides $97 mililon annually for public transit, cleveland.com reports, including $44 million in discretionary federal funds.

The transportation budget still needs to be approved by the committee before going to a full House vote.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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