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Ohio may ban free international travel for lawmakers

Effort comes just weeks after House speaker resigns as travel raises questions.

Antani, R-Miamisburg, is sponsoring a bill that would mandate more disclosure by lawmakers who accept meals, gifts and travel and bar third parties from paying for international travel for legislators.

The bill stops short of sweeping reforms, such as switching from the self-policing ethics system Ohio now has for lawmakers or banning third parties from picking up domestic travel costs for lawmakers attending national conferences.

Related: Payday lender made 3 international trips with Rosenberger

Ohio lawmakers and lobbyists are governed by the Joint Legislative Ethics Committee, a 12-member board made up of lawmakers. Chairmanship of JLEC alternates between the Ohio Senate president and the Ohio House speaker — including Rosenberger in previous years.

Related: Special Report: Lawmakers allowed freebies under Ohio ethics law

Rosenberger, R-Clarksville, resigned last month, less than a week after telling the Dayton Daily News that he had hired a criminal defense attorney to deal with inquiries by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Rosenberger said his activities as speaker have been ethical and lawful.

The FBI declined to confirm or deny that it is investigating Rosenberger but sources who are familiar with the probe said the feds are looking at a four-day trip to London in August 2017 that Rosenberger took with legislative leaders from other states and lobbyists from multiple industries, including payday lenders.

Ohio ethics law allows lawmakers to accept free travel to conferences and meetings held by organizations to which the state or its political subdivisions pay membership dues. Antani’s bill would shut down third party-paid international trips but continue to allow it for domestic travel.

Related: Former Ohio House speaker’s travel attracts scrutiny

Lawmakers file annual financial disclosure statements that currently require disclosure of the source of gifts worth more than $75, the source and amount of paid travel, and the source of meals and beverages.

Antani’s bill would require lawmakers list a description of gifts received, description and reason for travel accepted and more description of free meals they’ve taken.