Bishoff Responds To Ohio Joining Aetna-Humana Merger Opposition
Lawmaker asked department of insurance for public hearings before state initially approved merger
July 22, 2016
 
 

State Rep. Heather Bishoff  (D-Blacklick) responded to today’s news that Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine will join the U.S. Department of Justice in opposition to the proposed healthcare insurance merger of Aetna and Humana. DeWine’s involvement comes after Ohio Lieutenant Governor Mary Taylor rubber-stamped the merger in May of this year, following the Blacklick lawmaker’s request to her for public hearings due to  concerns of increased consumer costs, lower-quality service and an overall reduction in Ohioans’ access to healthcare that such a merger could bring.


“I am pleased Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine agrees with my concerns that the proposed merger of Aetna and Humana could reduce access to healthcare for Ohio families,” said Bishoff. “Whenever you reduce options in the marketplace you reduce choice and competition between these companies providing benefits and services to Ohioans. I remain concerned that Lieutenant Governor Mary Taylor and the Ohio Department of Insurance failed to respond to my proposal for public input and a full vetting of the merger before they rubber-stamped the merger in May. I am hopeful that Ohio consumers, families and our state as a whole will be able to vet this multi-billion dollar acquisition that could negatively affect our costs and access to healthcare.


Taylor never responded to Bishoff’s joint request with Ohio Senator Edna Brown (D-Toledo).

 
 
  
 
Rep. Sheehy Announces Release Of Over $3M For Toledo-area Infant Mortality Program
Hospital Council of Northwest Ohio receives Northwest Ohio Pathways HUB Expansion grant
July 21, 2016
 
 

State Rep. Michael Sheehy (D-Oregon) today announced the release of over $3 million to the Hospital Council of Northwest Ohio as part of the Infant Mortality Pathways HUB Model Demonstration Expansion grant program in Toledo. The program is designed to combat Toledo’s abysmal infant mortality crisis by targeting outreach programs and services to at-risk women.


“Infant mortality is still a heart wrenching reality for too many families in our community and throughout our state,” said Sheehy. “I am pleased to see the state’s continued investment in proven programs like the Northwest Ohio Pathways HUB that connects potentially at-risk women with quality resources and practices to ensure they give birth to happy, healthy babies that live to see their first birthday.”


The Northwest Ohio Pathways HUB is one of only three provisionally certified HUBs in the country to find predominantly minority, low income, high risk, pregnant women and assist them with needed connection to prenatal care, social services and education to increase the number of full term, healthy babies being born in the Toledo-area.


To date, the HUB has served over 2,000 pregnant women and demonstrated a lower percentage of African American low birth weight babies born into the program. The expanded funding will help to enroll more pregnant women, increase the amount of health care worker in the program, upgrade technical equipment and train new HUBs across the state.


Ohio is one of the worst states in the nation for babies that don’t live to see their first birthday. More African American infants die before their first birthday in Ohio than in any other state. 

 
 
  

State Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland) today applauded the Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity for their work with “Buckeye Build,” while saying state and federal inaction has made affordable housing in the Cleveland area and throughout the state hard to come by. Recent reports show that, though the nation as a whole has experienced a decrease in the number of Americans losing their homes, more Ohioans continue to lose their homes to foreclosure.


“Though affordable housing is out of reach for too many Ohioans and our state continues to be a leader in the number of people losing their homes to foreclosure, I am pleased Habitat for Humanity has managed to build over 180 houses over the last 25 years while engaging politicians to raise awareness and get their hands dirty,” said Howse. “As Ohio’s GOP continues to provide tax cuts for the wealthy while Cleveland and many cities across the state are in dire need of assistance, Habitat for Humanity is working hard to offer some of our most vulnerable populations a path towards economic stability.”


Cleveland was among cities hit hard during the Great Recession and the housing crisis, and Howse contends federal inactionlike the inability to reach a federal budget agreement in 2013 – hit area homeowners and prospective homeowners especially hard.


The Buckeye Build Project will take place July 18-20. In addition to rehabbing two full houses, volunteers will assist roughly 15 residents with exterior improvements and install new roofs and attic insulation for five additional homes. The Buckeye Build Project comes a few months after Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity announced their three year initiative to rehabilitate 100 abandoned houses in Cleveland, starting with 10 homes in the Buckeye Neighborhood. 

 
 
  
 
Rep. Clyde Seeks Records To Determine The Impact Of Purging On Ohio Elections
Many rejected ballots belong to infrequent Ohio voters who were purged
July 14, 2016
 
 

State Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) sent the below letter to Secretary of State Jon Husted providing an analysis of the effects of rejecting ballots from ‘purged’ voters in Hamilton County and requesting records to determine the extent of the problem statewide.


“Ohioans who play by the rules are being purged from the rolls and their votes are not being counted as a result. It happened in my county, it happened in Hamilton County, and it happens in every county in our state. People who have properly registered to vote and who are eligible to vote in Ohio are being struck from the rolls arbitrarily. We need to fix this problem immediately and make sure no one is deprived of their fundamental American right to vote.” said Rep. Clyde.


Dear Secretary Husted,


I write to bring your attention to a study my office conducted on recently purged voters who attempted to exercise their right to vote in one Ohio county. I further write to request records from your office that would allow us to understand the impact of voter purging statewide.


My office conducted a review of Hamilton County voters who were purged in the summer of 2015 in order to determine the effect of that purge on the November 2015 election. We found that in the 2015 election, there were 666 Hamilton County voters whose ballots were thrown out because they were found “Not Registered.” We then compared that list of voters to the list of people who were purged in 2015, and learned that 101 people who voted in November 2015 appeared to have been purged just a few months earlier. All 101 of these voters still lived in Ohio and were eligible to vote. In fact, 77 of them still lived at the same address where they were registered when they were purged. Yet all of these voters had their ballots rejected.


My analysis only looked at Hamilton County voters who were purged in 2015. It is highly likely that many of the other supposedly “Not Registered” voters who had their ballots rejected were purged before 2015.  


Based on this finding from only one election in only one county, it is safe to assume that across the state over multiple elections, tens of thousands of purged voters have had their ballots thrown out. Even worse, these voters do not even know that their votes were rejected because they are not notified when that happens. In any event, there is no doubt, based on our study, that voter purging is having a very serious effect in preventing many Ohioans from having their votes counted.


As you know, there is nothing in Ohio statute that authorizes or requires the targeting and removal of voters from the rolls for infrequent voting. Meanwhile, the main purposes of the federal National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) are to ensure that eligible voters become registered to vote and stay on the rolls. Removing eligible voters violates that purpose. In addition, the NVRA expressly prohibits removing people from the rolls for not voting.


To fully understand the impact of purging on Ohio elections, I request public records that show which Ohio voters had their ballot rejected in the November 2015 and March 2016 elections because they were purged in 2011, 2013, or 2015. A spreadsheet showing the voter’s name, address, date the voter was purged, reason the voter was purged (i.e. infrequent voting or completed National Change of Address form), and date the voter attempted to vote again but had her ballot rejected would reveal the extent of the problem.


Thank you for your attention to this matter.


Respectfully,


Kathleen Clyde


State Representative


A lawsuit over Secretary Husted’s purging practices is ongoing. Plaintiffs ACLU, Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH), Demos, and the A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI) are appealing the recent denial of relief by a federal district court.

 

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State Rep. Nickie J. Antonio (D-Lakewood) today released the following statement regarding the recent vote by the Cleveland City Council to allow transgender Ohioans to choose whichever restroom, shower, or locker room aligns with their gender identity, without fear of discrimination:  


“I congratulate the leadership of Council President Kevin Kelly and every member of Cleveland City Council for their unanimous vote to protect transgender citizens under the city’s public accommodations law.


“This historic vote brings Cleveland's code in line with more than 100 nondiscrimination statutes across the country that protect the entire LGBT community, with no exceptions.


The council’s action will help protect transgender Ohioans in the most fundamental way – by allowing them to use the facilities that match the gender identity that they live every single day.


“Full equality, legal protections and the civil rights that most in this country enjoy are fundamental core values of our nation. LGBT Ohioans in Cleveland and 15 other cities are one step closer to enjoying the full scope of those values. I will continue to work on state legislation, such as House Bill 389, until all members of the LGBT community in Ohio enjoy full equality. We should accept nothing less.”

 
 
  
 
Lawmakers Push Equal Pay Hotline As New Resource To Fight Pay Discrimination
State hotline would allow for anonymous reports of wage discrimination, information sharing
July 13, 2016
 
 

State Reps. Kent Smith (D-Euclid) and Janine Boyd (D-Cleveland Heights) today announced a new proposal to fight pay discrimination in Ohio by establishing a toll-free equal pay hotline, an easily accessible, anonymous resource for Ohio workers to report wage discrimination and gather more information to find out if they could be victims of pay discrimination.


“Ohio’s working women and others who suspect or discover wage discrimination in their workplace have no place to turn in order to file a complaint without fear of retaliation,” said Smith. “With women making up nearly half of Ohio’s workforce, the gender wage gap not only affects them but their entire family. Real help will only be one phone call away for working people to fight back against pay discrimination, especially for Ohio women.”


The average working woman in Ohio is paid only 78 percent of what her male counterpart gets paid, regardless of educational background and job description. Minority women suffer the worst pay disparity. Nationally, African American women are paid 63 cents and Hispanic and Latina women are paid 54 cents for every $1 paid to white men.


“Ohioans should not have to worry that doing the right thing will result in them being harassed at work, demoted or even fired,” said Boyd. “The gender pay gap and other forms of wage discrimination take money out of the pockets of working people that could otherwise go to helping families put food on the table, gas in the tank or even make a rent or mortgage payment.”


According to data compiled by The Whitehouse, in 2011, a typical 25-year-old woman working full time all year earned $5,000 less than a typical 25-year-old man. In just ten years, her cumulative lost wages will reach $34,000. U.S. Census information shows, by age 65, the average woman will have lost $431,000 over her working lifetime as a result of the earnings gap.


The Ohio Civil Rights Commission, where Ohioans can currently file individual or group charges of discrimination for investigation, would operate the pay equity hotline. Calls can be made anonymously through the hotline. Anonymity is not required, but is an option for those who may fear retribution from their employer for filing a complaint.        

 
 
  

In a letter sent last week to Speaker Rosenberger and other state leaders*, Rep. Greta Johnson (D-Akron) called on the legislature to convene a task force or special legislative committee to establish a unified statewide strategy for addressing heroin and fentanyl addiction and abuse in the state. The letter comes amidst numerous overdoses that claimed the lives of citizens in Akron last week and in Columbus over the weekend.


“We have begun to address the opiate addiction epidemic destroying our communities, but not at a rate fast enough or with an approach thoughtful and thorough enough to successfully reduce the pain and burdens faced by families and communities across the state,” said Johnson. “We must bring everyone to the table – elected officials, lawmakers, law enforcement and healthcare professionals, advocates, and community members to coordinate an effective and unified strategy to take back our state.”


In the past year, lawmakers have introduced numerous pieces of legislation aimed at curbing the opiate addiction epidemic and even passed measures to increase access to Naloxone and provide immunity from prosecution to individuals who report drug overdoses. However, the Summit County lawmaker is calling for a more organized, cohesive approach to passing legislation on opiate addiction and abuse.


“State efforts in the battle against opiate addiction have so far have been narrowly focused and at times contradictory,” Johnson added. “We can continue to throw what we have at the wall to see what sticks, or we can buckle down and work together to craft a unified vision on how to combat heroin and fentanyl abuse in Ohio.”


The Summit County lawmaker says state efforts in the past have proved to be short-lived and failed to bring all interested parties together to create a unified strategy to address the Buckeye State’s opioid epidemic head on. 

 

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As we celebrate the 240th anniversary of our country’s independence from Great Britain, it’s important that we recall our founding principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These values have provided centuries of guidance in progressing the “American Dream” into a reality for many Ohio families. 


The Fourth of July is often commemorated by families across the state by firing up the grill, attending parades, and joining together to gaze at the beautiful displays of fireworks that light up the sky in an array of hues. 


We are truly fortunate to live in a country that strives to achieve equality and provide opportunity for all. However, during this holiday of celebration and reflection, it is important to acknowledge that full equality, opportunity and freedom remain out of reach for many members of our communities.


This year we celebrate the one year anniversary of marriage equality, but there is still much work to do to ensure LGBTQ Ohioans have an equal opportunity to work, have a safe place to call their home and – most importantly – be who they are without fear of intimidation, coercion or violence. Whether it’s discrimination in housing and employment, lack of legal protection against hate crimes, or falsely portraying sexual orientation and gender identity as a mental illness, members of the LGBTQ community in Ohio still face many challenges.


We know that Ohio can continue to be great place to live, work, and raise a family, but it will take the same sense of pride and togetherness that we exude annually during this first weekend in July. House Democratic lawmakers have introduced legislation that will guarantee equal opportunity for gay, lesbian and transgender Ohioans, but the General Assembly has yet to pass any of the important measures.*


It will take a bipartisan effort to pass policies that promote a path towards full equality and opportunity for all Ohioans. This Independence Day, let us remember to carry this sense of community  and pride far past the parades and fireworks.


*House Bills 247, 389, and 569; 131st General Assembly

 
 
  
 
Leader Strahorn Responds To SB 5 Resurrection
Says right to work is wrong bill is an affront to working families, Ohio voters
June 30, 2016
 
 

House Democratic Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton) today issued the statement below regarding the introduction of House Bill 583, legislation to limit the rights of public employees to collectively bargain: 


“Five years ago, Ohio voters overwhelmingly rejected Senate Bill (SB) 5, an attack on working families across the state that would have limited workers’ ability to speak with one voice to negotiate for fair wages and safe workplaces. 


“Although SB 5’s lop-sided defeat at the ballot box should have been a lesson learned, today it is clear that some have missed the message. The introduction of this SB 5-style attack is a slap in the face to the millions of working families and Ohio voters that rejected similar extreme restrictions five years ago. 


“At a time when so many hardworking families are struggling to make ends meet, it is unconscionable that some lawmakers would seek to weaken the ability of workers – including police and fire – to earn a living wage. Workers in right to work for less states take home less pay, face higher poverty and infant mortality rates, and are more likely to die on the job. 


“The reason workers in Ohio rejected SB 5 in 2011 still holds true today: because they know right to work is wrong. It is wrong for working families and it is wrong for our state.” 

 
 
  
 
With Zika Reaching Mahoning County, Boccieri Rips Congress For Failing To Fund Zika Prevention
Says politics in Congress prevented approval of crucial funding this week
June 30, 2016
 
 

State Rep. John Boccieri (D-Poland) today expressed his frustration over Congress’ majority vote against funding efforts to prevent the spread of the Zika virus after county health department officials announced that two Mahoning County residents have tested positive for the harmful virus. Federal legislation that reached the Senate floor Tuesday would have appropriated $1.1 billion to fight the mosquito-borne Zika, but Republican lawmakers inserted several various last-minute provisions that forced their Democratic colleagues to block its passage.


“This dangerous virus is in our homeland now – it’s past time to get serious about this epidemic,” said Boccieri. “We’ve got to be able to test people and prevent the virus from spreading. Part of the funding that the majority of Congressmen and women voted against would have been appropriated for testing, which could involve utilizing our mass aerial spray mission at the Youngstown Air Reserve Base. While citizens back home are getting sick, Congress is scoring political points. I believe we need to vote on a clean bill, with no other unrelated provisions on Obamacare or anything else.”


In the absence of federal support, Rep. Boccieri emphasized the need for quick action at the local level. “It’s time for our local communities at the county level to draft mosquito control plans to ensure we’re as prepared as possible,” he added.


The two Mahoning County residents that tested positive for Zika have both recently been in countries where the virus is prevalent. These new incidences bring the total number of travel-associated cases in Ohio to 18. Across the country, there have been 822 total cases confirmed.

 
 
  
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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.