Following today’s first meeting of the state’s bicameral, bipartisan legislative panel tasked with fixing the insolvency of Ohio’s unemployment compensation system, one of two Democratic members of the eight-member panel, state Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire) issued the following statement:


“I am hopeful today’s meeting marks the beginning of a thoughtful and balanced approach to shoring up our state’s ability to meet the needs of jobless Ohioans. I believe it is clear to many lawmakers, businesses and working people that the most recent one-sided partisan proposal, House Bill 394, is wrong for our state because it focused on extreme cuts to the lifeline we extend to vulnerable citizens and families in times of need. I look forward to working across the aisle to come to a fair solution that prioritizes the financial stability of Ohio’s economy and families.”

 
 
  
 
Johnson Applauds Cleveland Suit Against State For Local Hiring Ban
Lawmaker says local hiring standards protected under Ohio constitution
August 23, 2016
 
 
State Rep. Greta Johnson

The highest ranking Democratic member of the House Judiciary Committee, state Rep. Greta Johnson (D-Akron), today released the following statement applauding The City of Cleveland’s decision to sue the state to challenge Republican-led legislation that prevents local communities from setting hiring standards on publicly finance projects – a possible violation of Ohio’s “home rule” guarantee in the state constitution:


“Our state’s founding document maintains a fundamental guarantee from the state to local communities that protects the liberty and freedom of local decision making. The local hiring ban ignores our constitution, and casts aside decades of work in communities like Cleveland, Akron and Cincinnati that made it possible to lift up urban communities through equal employment opportunities.”


 


 


 


 

 
 
  
 
Ohio Black Caucus Applauds Cleveland Suit Against State For Local Hiring Ban
Lawmakers say local hiring standards protected under Ohio constitution
August 23, 2016
 
 

Democratic lawmakers and members of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus today applauded The City of Cleveland’s decision to sue the state to challenge Republican-led legislation that prevents local communities from setting hiring standards on publicly financed projects – a possible violation of Ohio’s “home rule” guarantee in the state constitution.


“Our state’s guiding document, in part, is meant to protect the freedom of local decision making in communities across Ohio,” said OLBC President and state Rep. Alicia Reece (D-Cincinnati). “Local hiring standards have been an effective tool to push back against the high unemployment that plagues too many minority communities in our urban cores. For the state to take away tools that increase broad-based economic opportunity and increase our skilled workforce is unconscionable, but I applaud Cleveland leaders for fighting back against what is effectively taxation without participation.”


In May, Reece and OLBC members delivered a letter to Governor Kasich requesting that he veto House Bill 180. In their letter, the lawmakers highlighted the adverse effect the local hiring ban would have on the Cleveland Opportunity Corridor project as well as the city of Akron’s $1.4 billion sewer and water improvement plan, which had a local hiring target of 30 percent that would increase to 50 percent by 2018.


“I want to thank Mayor Frank Jackson and other local community leaders for taking a stand against eliminating local hiring standards that have been used by our city for years to increase minority participation, increase job training and keep local tax dollars in our community,” said state Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland). “As a state, we have to work in partnership with our local communities to find ways to increase access to economic opportunity. I hope that The City of Cleveland will be successful in fighting for the rights of all communities – big and small – to make decisions locally and independently that make the most sense for their residents.”


Previously, under the “home rule” guarantee of the Ohio Constitution Ohio, communities used local hiring quotas on publicly financed projects as a way to strengthen local workforce participation and, in turn, strengthen local economies. Urban areas typically have higher unemployment rates than the national average, making the decision to hire local even more impactful for improving the job market in urban areas with heavy minority populations.


“It is a sad day in our state when local communities are forced to sue the state to protect Ohio’s guiding document – our state constitution,” said state Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Akron). “Local communities have used hiring standards without undo interference from the state for years as a way to increase minority workforce participation and education while ensuring accountability on taxpayer-funded projects. Local communities should be able to make the best decisions for their residents, with the freedom to ensure the local workforce can share in the prosperity their tax dollars help build.”

 
 
  

Ohio Legislative Black Caucus President and state Rep. Alicia Reece (D-Cincinnati) responded to today’s federal appeals court decision backing Ohio’s elimination of “Golden Week,” a period in which voters were able to register to vote and cast a ballot on the same day. The appellate ruling overturned a district judge’s finding that eliminating “Golden Week” had violated the Voting Rights Act by disproportionately impacting African American voters. 


“Eliminating ‘Golden Week’ in Ohio will negatively impact low-income and minority voters. The ability for Ohioans from all walks of life to exercise their most fundamental freedom should not hinge upon whomever happens to hold the secretary of state’s office during any given election cycle,” said Reece. “Today’s ruling highlights the importance of protecting every citizen’s right to vote in our state’s constitution, so that politicians can no longer rig the rules for partisan gain.”


Reece is a long-time voting rights advocate and spoke at the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington. She also leads the ongoing push for a Voter Bill of Rights to protect all Ohioans’ right to vote. The Voter Bill of Rights would amend the state constitution to define the right to vote as a fundamental right, establish early voting dates and times, allow the legislature to prescribe proper training and staffing for polling locations, create an online voter registration system, protect against voter ID requirements and voter registration tests, and include safeguards that ensure provisional ballots are counted. 

 
 
  

State Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) released the following statement in response to the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals panel decision overturning the district court and upholding Senate Bill 238’s elimination of the first week of early voting:


“I am very disappointed in this decision from the 6th Circuit panel. The Court ignored the intensive fact-finding done by District Court Judge Watson and applied a test that would appear to allow voting restrictions straight out of the 1950s. The facts uncovered by the lower court remain: there was no sufficient justification to eliminate the first week of early voting and the burden falls disproportionately on Ohio’s minority voters.”


The 2-1 decision can be found here.

 
 
  
 
GOP Lawmakers Derail Statewide Charter School Accountability Standards
Rulemaking panel thwarts new rules that would let state close failing, for-profit charter schools
August 22, 2016
 
 

Republican lawmakers today used procedural tactics on a little-known administrative rulemaking panel to derail new rules that would have given the state authority to close the poorest performing, for-profit charter schools in Ohio this year. The rules, proposed by the Ohio Department of Education, stem from the legislature’s near-unanimous approval of the much-lauded House Bill 2 in February.


“This is a clear case of Republican charter school industry allies doing everything in their power to derail, disrupt and delay new reforms that would help hold charter schools to a reasonable standard of achievement,” said Rep. Greta Johnson, a Democratic Akron legislator on the state rulemaking panel. “It is incredibly frustrating that higher standards born out of bipartisan, statewide consensus can be derailed by legislators who are closely aligned with these failing schools.”


The procedural disruption by Republicans on the administrative rulemaking panel, JCARR, effectively casts doubt on the state’s ability to use an updated charter-school evaluation system to close failing charter schools this school year.


“It is beyond disappointing that Republican members of JCARR would seek to delay implementation of charter school reforms,” said Rep. Dan Ramos (D-Lorain), a member of JCARR. “Ohioans need to know the quality of the schools their children attend. Delaying implementation is only supposed to happen if the rule violates specific prongs, including legislative intent. The intent of the legislature was to make certain these rankings were made public this October. Today’s delay may prevent that.”


Republican efforts to disrupt the new rules aligned with a temporary change in Senate Republican membership on the panel today that gave state Sen. Bill Coley a seat at the proceedings instead of Akron lawmaker Sen. Frank LaRose. Coley reportedly accepted thousands of dollars in political contributions from William Lager, founder of the failing, online charter school ECOT. ECOT receives over $100 million in tax dollars each year.

 
 
  

State Rep. Dan Ramos (D-Lorain) today announced the release of $1,805,477 in state funds to assist state agencies in the creation of the Medical Marijuana Control Program for fiscal year 2017. This past May, lawmakers passed House Bill (HB) 523, bi-partisan legislation to legalize the use of certain forms of medical marijuana in Ohio to treat a variety of illnesses and injuries. 


“I’m pleased to see that the necessary steps are being taken immediately as this law takes effect,” said Ramos. “It is important that we are able to get this vital medicine to patients who need it as soon as possible.”


The state funds will be used to establish a Medical Marijuana Control Program Fund. The new fund will allow both the Department of Commerce (COM) and the Pharmacy Board (PRX) to operate the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program.


An appropriation of $882,400 will go to PRX to support the Board’s role in overseeing the program. The Board is responsible for hiring oversight staff, developing a patient/caregiver registration as well as updating the Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System (OARRS), licensing medical marijuana dispensaries, and operating the Ohio Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee.


Additionally, $923,077 in state funds will be utilized by COM to account for expenses associated with the Medical Marijuana Control Program via an appropriation line item under HB 523. COM is required to license medical marijuana cultivators, processors and laboratories that test the medicine, as well as spearhead the creation of a research database coinciding with the establishment of the medical marijuana program.


Rep. Ramos recommends the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program website as tool for anyone that may have questions regarding the new program. HB 523 will take effect September 8.

 
 
  
 
Fedor Urges Head Start Providers To Keep Pushing For Federal Funding Before Wednesday Deadline
Says future of Ohio's children depends on access to quality educational opportunities
August 19, 2016
 
 

With a looming Aug. 24 deadline to apply for funds through the federal Early Head Start Expansion and Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership Grants, State Rep. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) gathered with over 20 childcare experts and providers from across the state today for a news conference call to urge other Head Start providers to pursue the federal grant while the Toledo lawmaker fights for the reversal of a new Kasich Administration restriction that prohibits layering state and federal funds for early childhood education.


“I don’t want people to lose hope. Our children’s future depends on us pushing forward, collectively with one voice to say we will not back down,” said Fedor. “We will fight for our future. We will fight for our children.”


The Kasich Administration’s new restrictions could jeopardize Ohio’s share of $135 million in total program funding available through the Early Head Start Expansion and Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership Grants. Childcare experts and early education providers on the call applauded Fedor’s call to meet the Aug. 24 deadline while also highlighting challenges the new restriction puts on Ohio providers.


“We absolutely need to apply, but our ability to be competitive and win is really being compromised by the state,” said Jeff Lakes, CFO of Miami Valley Child Development Centers, Inc.


The state estimates the new rule restriction, which prohibits pre-school providers from layering federal and state funding to serve more children and families, will cut $12 million in state funding to pre-school providers throughout Ohio, not counting hundreds of millions of lost dollars in federal grants and private dollars for early childhood programs.


“We have been able to serve the most at-risk children with the highest-possible quality programs because we have been able to layer funds,” said Karen Lampe, President of Creative World of Learning, a Miami Valley early-childhood education provider. “Providers like myself in partnership with Head Start organizations have been able retain higher degree teachers, better curriculum and assessment programs and lower teacher ratios, but with the state’s new restriction we are very concerned about being able to offer that same level of high-quality.”


Fedor said that during the last 24 hours she has heard early-childhood education providers lose hope in the face of the Kasich Administration’s new funding restriction. The Northwest Ohio lawmaker promised those on the call that if they did their part and applied for the federal funds, she would continue to work toward a rule reversal in Columbus.


“We are in this harrowing situation right now because the governor never picked up the phone and called anybody,” Fedor said on the call. “Our children and their future success is not a partisan issue; Republicans, Democrats, advocates and the business community all agree that childcare providers should be able to utilize every resource available to provide low-income, vulnerable children with the early education they need and deserve.”


Fedor, in concert with numerous Democratic and Republican lawmakers, county officials, education experts and business leaders have sent Gov. John Kasich letters detailing the implications of his administration’s new restriction and calling for him to reverse the new rule.


“Ohio is risking the very real possibility of leaving at least fourteen-million new dollars on the table because of the state’s new restriction,” said Barbara Hexton, Executive Director of the Ohio Head Start Association, Inc. “We have always been very successful in our grant applications, but funding for high quality services for our children is now being jeopardized by the state.”

 
 
  
 
Rep. Fedor Pushes To Reverse Devastating Cuts To Early Childhood Education
Calls on governor to halt rule change that will harm vulnerable, low-income children
August 17, 2016
 
 

State Rep. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) today called on Gov. Kasich to put a stop to an administrative rule change effective Sept. 6 that will negatively impact Head Start/ childcare partnerships across the state by leaving them with fewer resources to provide critical enrichment opportunities to vulnerable, low-income Ohio children and their families. Lucas County Commissioners and leaders along with Lucas County, Cuyahoga County and Summit County Democratic lawmakers joined Republican state Senators Peggy Lehner, Shannon Jones and Bill Beagle in writing to Gov. Kasich to ask him to reverse the administrative rule change. 


“Just as the new school year is set to begin, the administration is changing the rules in order to cut millions of dollars in Head Start and childcare funding,” said Fedor, the highest-ranking Democrat on the House Education Committee. “We must get back on track to advance our early initiatives across our state.” 


The state estimates the rule change will cut $12 million in state funding to pre-school providers throughout Ohio, not counting hundreds of millions of lost dollars in federal grants for early childhood programs. Reductions in quality and services could include: 


-Increased adult/child ratios.
-Ending health screenings.
-Ending community collaborative partnerships with Head Start.
-Reduction in staff educational qualifications.
-Ending early learning assessments that guide individualized child instruction. 


Data compiled by childcare advocates shows that the funding cuts will disproportionately impact minority students in the state’s urban centers.* Lucas County programming will lose nearly $1 million under the rule change, while Cuyahoga County child care centers will lose roughly $2 million. 


The new restriction jeopardizes existing federal funding awards for partnerships this program year due to budgetary assumptions by providers that they would still be allowed to layer funds. The Sept. 6 effective date could cancel out existing programs and services based on budgets that are currently being implemented. 


The Toledo lawmaker also noted that the rule change to defund preschool providers was proposed without consulting or even briefing the Early Childhood Advisory Council or childcare experts throughout the state.

 
 
  
 
Rep. Antonio Calls On Kasich To Reverse Cuts To Early Childhood Education
Says state proposal will harm vulnerable, low-income children
August 17, 2016
 
 

State Rep. Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) today called on Gov. Kasich to put a stop to an administrative rule change that would leave child care centers across the state with fewer resources to provide critical enrichment opportunities to vulnerable, low-income Ohio children and their families.


The state estimates the rule change will cut $12 million in state funding to pre-school providers throughout Ohio, not counting hundreds of millions of lost dollars in federal grants for early childhood programs.


“After over a decade of an all hands on deck approach to ensuring our children have the resources necessary to get a head start on a lifetime of success and learning, the administration is pulling the rug out from under child care providers across the state,” said Antonio. “Our children, childcare experts and families deserve to know why Governor Kasich’s administration pushed through a new restriction that prohibits preschool providers from serving more children and families by layering state and federal funds to enhance and expand services.”


Data compiled by childcare advocates shows that the funding cuts will disproportionately impact minority students in the state’s urban centers.* Cuyahoga County programming will lose an estimated $2 million as a result of the new funding restriction.


The Cleveland lawmaker also noted that the rule change to defund preschool providers was proposed without consulting or even briefing the Early Childhood Advisory Council or childcare experts throughout the state.

 
 
  
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Lawmakers Push Solution To Stabilize 31 Fiscally Distressed Communities Hit Hard By Kasich's Budget Cuts

 

State Reps. Kent Smith (D-Euclid) and Kristin Boggs (D-Columbus) today announced a new plan to assist struggling communities hit hardest by Governor Kasich’s budget cuts and tax shifting policies over the past several years. Since taking office, Gov. Kasich cut over $1.7 billion in local community funding. Over 70 cities have lost at least $1 million each year due to Kasich’s budgeting and tax decisions, and 12 small cities have lost at least $2 million each, per year.



 
 

Ohio Rep. Greta Johnson On Women's Access To Healthcare: "We're Not Damsels In Distress Tied To Railroad Tracks, We Are The Train Carrying The Message."

 

Ohio House Democratic members hosted a press conference today to speak out against the recent attacks on women’s access to healthcare. Led by State Rep. Greta Johnson (D-Akron), the lawmakers introduced a package of bills aimed at securing and expanding women’s access to comprehensive healthcare services.

WATCH Rep. Johnson deliver her powerful closing above.



 
 

Dem Lawmakers Push Proposals For Women's "access To Healthcare Without Apology"

 

Ohio House Democratic members hosted a press conference today to speak out against the recent attacks on women’s access to healthcare. Led by State Rep. Greta Johnson (D-Akron), the lawmakers introduced a package of bills aimed at securing and expanding women’s access to comprehensive healthcare services.

“The women and families of our state deserve better and need not apologize for demanding access to comprehensive healthcare,” said Johnson. “We are not damsels in distress tied to the train tracks, waiting to be rescued. We have the fundamental right to make healthcare decisions about our own bodies.”



 
 

Reps. Howse, Clyde Introduce The Ohio Equal Pay Act

 

State Reps. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) and Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland) today announced the introduction of House Bill 330, the Ohio Equal Pay Act. The legislation aims to address the persistent problem of unequal pay between women and men.