Ohio House approves victims compensation program reforms

Legislation to reform Ohio’s victim compensation program has passed the Ohio House of Representatives with amendments added at the request of Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost.

The reforms in Senate Bill 36 would increase access to the state’s victim compensation program after the Dayton Daily News revealed that strict program rules routinely denied aid to victims and their families, including some from the 2019 Oregon District shooting.

Ohio’s victims compensation program provides financial assistance to victims of violent crime to pay for things such as medical and funeral expenses. It is funded mostly by drivers license reinstatement fees and court costs paid by people accused of crimes.

Amendments to the bill deny payments to someone while they are incarcerated, and establish a three year statute of limitation from the date of the incident in which the claimant was victimized.

The statute of limitations can be waived by the attorney general for “good cause,” and doesn’t apply if the victim was under 21 when they were victimized, as long as they file a claim before they turn 24. Claimants who were previously denied can reapply as long as it’s within three years of the incident.

The bill now returns to the Ohio Senate for a concurrence vote on these amendments. The Senate previously voted unanimously in support of the bill.

The vote in the Ohio House on Oct. 27 was bipartisan. The only opposing vote was from state Rep. Nino Vitale, R-Urbana. Vitale did not return a call to his office requesting comment.

Speaking on the House floor before the vote, state Rep. David Leland, D-Columbus, said that victims of the Dayton shooting “were denied access to this program for reasons that just don’t align with the spirit of this particular program.”

“If you or a family member are a victim of a serious crime, or you can’t work, or you need counseling or you have to pay for a murdered relative’s funeral, the state should be able to help out with a helping hand,” he said.

ExploreProposed law change would expand aid for crime victims, including of Dayton mass shooting

Bill sponsor state Sen. Stephen Huffman, R-Tipp City, said he expects the Senate to concur with the House amendments and send the legislation to Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine. DeWine supported reforms to Ohio’s victims compensation program when he was attorney general.

Proponents of the legislation include Dion Green, whose father Derrick Fudge of Springfield was killed in the 2019 Oregon District shooting. Fudge’s family was denied help with funeral expenses because of a 2011 felony conviction.

A Dayton Daily News investigation found the state denied 19 claims for assistance related to the shooting, some for unrelated prior criminal convictions or the victim having drugs in their bloodstream.

SB 36 would allow victims with years-old convictions unrelated to the incident they were a victim of to get aid; allow victims to get aid if they had controlled substances in their system; and expand eligibility for assistance to family members and caretakers of victims.

Shakyra Diaz, Ohio director for the Alliance for Safety and Justice, applauded the House passage of the bill.

“Denying people access to support — when they are trying to recover from mental and physical trauma — just serves to exacerbate pain and perpetuate cycles of crime,” she said. “The state legislature is sending a message of support to all those who have lost a loved one or are on the path to healing after violence.”

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