State Rep. Nickie Antonio(D-Lakewood) today received The Center for Community Solutions Award for Public Service in Honor of John A. Begala for her efforts to address Ohio’s opioid addiction crisis and her work on the Joint Medicaid Oversight Committee to improve the rate of spending and quality of Medicaid care.
“I am extremely honored to accept this award from The Center for Community Solutions, an organization known for their dedicated efforts to improve the quality of life for all Ohioans,” said Antonio. “I will continue to work diligently to expand treatment opportunities for those struggling with addiction, ensure local law enforcement have adequate resources, and increase prevention programs to combat the ongoing opioid crisis in Ohio.”
Rep. Antonio was recognized at the ceremony for her work on the Joint Medicaid Oversight Committee to improve quality of care and health outcomes for individuals enrolled in the state's Medicaid program. The Lakewood lawmaker also played a key role in gaining legislative approval of language expanding access to syringe exchange programs that will help reduce the spread of disease and encourage more addicts to get needed treatment.
“What is notable about Rep. Antonio is that she works in collaboration with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to get results,” said John R. Corlett, president and executive director of The Center for Community Solutions. “This award was created to honor those who have shown a great commitment to public service, especially as it relates to improving health and human services in Ohio. Rep. Antonio has certainly done that, but she has also literally saved the lives of countless Ohioans through their legislative work.”
The public service award is named after John A. Begala, former executive director of Community Solutions and a three-term member of the Ohio House of Representatives. Begala dedicated his career to public service and the human service field, with leadership positions at The MetroHealth System in Cleveland, the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, Greater Cincinnati Hospital Association, and the Ohio Department of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities.
The Center for Community Solutions is a nonprofit, non-partisan think tank focusing on solutions to health, social and economic issues in Northeast Ohio. Established in 1913, the organization is a United Way agency.
State Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) released the below statement in response to last night’s federal district court order rejecting Secretary of State Husted’s limited remedy for purged voters and implementing a solution that will allow more people to cast ballots in the November election:
"After a federal court of appeals found Secretary Husted had illegally purged voters, the secretary still tried to get the very stingiest remedy to his wrongdoing approved by the lower court. The court soundly rejected Husted's inadequate proposal," said Rep. Clyde. "Illegally purged voters will get to vote and have their votes counted in this historic election and that is a huge victory for the people of Ohio."
Yesterday, a federal district court ordered that any voter purged for infrequent voting since 2011 may cast a provisional ballot and that ballot must be counted. The order can be found here.
State Reps. John Patterson (D-Jefferson) and Michael Sheehy (D-Oregon) today announced a legislative proposal aimed at protecting and improving Ohio’s water quality through the establishment of the Ohio Water Quality Improvement Program. Under the program, farmers would be incentivized to conserve environmentally sensitive agricultural land rather than use the property for farming or ranching.
“Ensuring safe and clean drinking water for the citizens of Ohio is of the utmost importance,” said Patterson. “While we have made great strides in working with the farming community to fight agricultural runoff, as a state we can and should do more. The Ohio Water Quality Improvement Program gives us the opportunity to partner with Ohio’s farmers to strategically conserve farmland in order to promote healthier streams, rivers and estuaries.”
If enacted, the bill would require the Ohio Department of Agriculture to establish the Ohio Water Quality Improvement Program. Modeled after the federal Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), agricultural land voluntarily enrolled by farmers in the statewide conservation initiative would be exempt from property taxes. The state would reimburse local communities for any tax revenue lost as a result of the program to ensure public school districts and community services are not adversely affected.
“This legislation is an important next step in the continuing effort to maximize crop production, boost farm profit and improve the long term water quality in the state of Ohio,” said Sheehy. “The Ohio Water Quality Improvement Program will give our agricultural partners the viable option of using their land to help reduce pollutants and excessive nutrients from leaching into our streams and rivers, thus protecting our watersheds.”
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the federal Conservation Reserve Program is the largest private-lands conservation program in the United States. Signed into law by President Ronald Reagan, CRP contributes to environmental conservation nationwide through a variety of initiatives.
For example, CRP’s Bottomland Hardwoods Initiative incentivizes farmers to replace cropland adjacent to a stream with certain hardwood trees that help restore wetlands, thereby reducing the risk of downstream flooding and helping improve overall water quality.
State Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) recently recognized the 10 graduates of the first ever Drive for Success program in Akron. Established jointly by the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) and the Akron Summit County Action Agency (ASCA), Drive for Success helps provide individuals with the opportunity to attain career readiness skills in the construction industry.
“The Drive for Success program is a marvelous example of how effective partnerships between the state and local communities can help expand access to economic opportunities for our residents,” said Sykes. “By providing these graduates with the training they need to enter and find success in the workforce, we are investing in their future as well as the future growth of our regional economy.”
The intensive five-week training course, which included behind-the-wheel commercial driver’s license (CDL) training, was made possible through a $50,000 allocation from the state that Rep. Sykes worked diligently to help secure. At the graduation ceremony last week, the Akron lawmaker presented each graduate with a commendation recognizing the valuable skills they have attained and congratulating them on their success.
State Rep. Greta Johnson (D-Akron) today applauded Summit County Council’s vote in support of legislation giving county employees six weeks paid leave following the birth or adoption of a child. Currently, county employees must exhaust all their sick and vacation benefits before tapping into the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which allows for up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave. The city of Dayton became the first Ohio city to pass a paid parental leave measure roughly one year ago, but with today’s vote Summit County becomes the first county in the state to offer paid parental leave to its employees.
“I am incredibly proud to serve in Summit County – the first county in Ohio to vote to implement paid parental leave,” said Johnson. “Allowing mothers and fathers to spend more time with their newborn children without worrying about falling behind financially will positively impact our families and communities. Providing paid parental leave is the responsible thing to do in a modern, industrialized nation, and it is also the right choice to remain competitive in attracting new workers. Seeing local communities step up to address this issue is incredibly encouraging and I look forward to continuing the push for paid family leave at the state level.
“I commend the leadership of Councilwoman Elizabeth Walters for sponsoring this important legislation and the entire Summit County Council for its support. I also appreciate Councilwoman Gloria Rodgers’ amendment to improve upon our county’s bereavement policy as well.”
Johnson is a co-sponsor of House Bill 511, state legislation introduced last spring to create a statewide paid parental leave insurance program.
State Rep. John Boccieri (D-Poland) today decried the lack of results from Ohio charter schools in light of the Ohio Department of Education (ODE)’s release of unflattering school sponsor evaluations. The Mahoning County ESC was one of many sponsors that received an overall rating of “poor,” the lowest on the scale, while also earning a “D” for academic performance, an “ineffective” for compliance, and a “significantly below standards” rating for quality practices.
“These ratings show just how ineffective charter schools have been under the current law and what a financial bust they are for taxpayers and students,” Rep. Boccieri said. “Ohio spent $1 billion in the recent state budget— the most ever documented— on for-profit charter schools that cannot make the grade above the worst performing public schools. We have been far too flexible in allowing our sponsors to duck quality measures, conflicts of interest and performance standards.”
The ratings were overall unflattering, with 20 sponsors joining Mahoning County in the “poor” category, and only eight sponsors performing quality practices at any rating above “significantly below standards.” No sponsor earned the highest rating of “exemplary.”
The ratings were part of initial attempts at accountability measures signed into law under House Bill 2, effective February of this year. Sponsors that received a “poor” rating are subject to revocation of their sponsorship authority, however, they have the option of appealing that action.
State Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) today called on Secretary of State Jon Husted to restore illegally purged Ohio voters to the rolls and count the vote of any voter who should never have been purged in the first place. Yesterday, Husted ended negotiations with voting rights advocates and filed a motion in federal district court seeking to keep purged voters off the rolls and to continue to throw out the ballots of the wrongly purged.
“Over the past five years, under Husted, Ohio has led the nation in purging voters from the rolls. That's not on accident. That's on purpose. And the court caught him. And like so many other GOP officials across the country who want to tip elections in their favor, Husted is still refusing to make things right even after he was caught red-handed,” said Rep. Clyde.
“One month ago today, the federal court found Husted guilty of illegal purging, yet he still has not restored these voters to the rolls. And, worse, he is trying to order the county boards of elections to keep them off the rolls and throw out their ballots even if they were wrongly purged. This is shameless behavior that endangers our democratic process,” said Rep. Clyde.
On September 14, the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Husted acted illegally when he purged more than 1.2 million voters from the voting rolls. The remedy phase is underway in federal district court. The motion filed yesterday by Husted can be found here.
State Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown) today raised concerns over new allegations that Ohio charter schools possibly linked to an international Islamic religious movement have misused millions in taxpayer dollars through what’s being called a “closed-loop” leaseback scheme.
“Reports that Ohio charter schools are using millions in taxpayer funds for anything other than educating our children are deeply troubling and unfortunately speak to the continuing lack of adequate oversight in our state,” said Lepore-Hagan.
Chicago-based management firm “Concept Schools,” allegedly linked to exiled Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, operates 17 charter schools across Ohio, including the Horizon Science Academy in Youngstown. In a news conference Tuesday, a lawyer for the Republic of Turkey said Horizon Science Academy and other affiliated schools are essentially using an internal sale-leaseback scheme to siphon off U.S. tax dollars for groups opposed to Turkey’s government.
“This tangled web of business operations that puts profits over our children is just the latest in a long line of charter-related schemes that to a parent or educator would appear fraudulent but that continue to thrive in Ohio,” added Lepore-Hagan. “There needs to be a full investigation followed by real work at the Statehouse to rein in the “wild west” behavior of the charter industry.”
The charter schools’ profit making scheme has been used by Ohio charter operators before to essentially profit off of taxpayer dollars through a complicated web of subsidiary companies that charge their own affiliated charter schools above-market rent. The end result is millions in taxpayer dollars diverted from the classroom in order for charter schools to line the pockets of their own subsidiaries through exorbitant rent payments.
State Rep. Greta Johnson (D-Akron) today responded to the release of the Congressional report “Dying waiting for treatment” calling Ohio “the face of the nation’s opioid epidemic.” Issued Monday by Senate Committee on Finance staff, the report released highlighted the need for additional federal funding to support policies recently passed in the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016 (CARA) for the treatment of opioid addiction.
“Sadly, this report highlights what our courts, treatment providers, law enforcement agencies, public health officials and some elected officials in our state already know: Ohio is the poster-child for the lack of mental healthcare and treatment for those struggling with opioid and heroin addiction,” said Johnson. “But we don’t need another report or more startling statistics to validate what first responders and family members are dealing with on the front lines every day. We need action from state leaders, and that includes treating opioid and heroin addiction like the statewide emergency that it is and releasing emergency funding until we can get back to work at the Statehouse in a unified and strategic way.”
The Congressional report notes the state actions taken thus far to address the opioid epidemic, including the Governor’s Cabinet Opiate Action Team (GCOAT), but concludes: “with the mortality rate…totaling 2,774 opioid-related deaths in 2014 alone, it is unlikely these steps will be enough.”
In September, Johnson and House Democratic lawmakers called on Gov. John Kasich to declare the opioid epidemic a statewide emergency and increase funding for fighting the crisis. Democratic House and Senate members also highlighted additional legislative options to address the crisis, including the passage of Senate Bill 319, the opioid and heroin omnibus legislation that has been lingering in the legislature since late May.
“Not only should we be focused on allocating the necessary state resources and capital toward fighting the epidemic as soon as possible, but we also need to push for Congress to fulfill the promises laid out in CARA,” Johnson continued. “Ohioans are losing loved ones to the opioid crisis every day and we cannot leave any dollars on the table over political disagreements.”
According to the report, Ohio would be eligible for $45 million additional dollars if Congress were to fund the White House’s full request for $920 million over two years toward access to treatment in the states.
State Rep. and President of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus (OLBC) Alicia Reece (D-Cincinnati) applauded today’s announcement that Ohio met its Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) certification goals for the second consecutive year since the program was established over 30 years ago.
“I am proud that we have been able to move a thirty-plus year law championed by the OLBC from goals and aspirations into results and reality for Ohio’s African American and minority businesses,” said Reece. “This record level of investment is historic and demonstrates that OLBC’s advocacy and partnership with the governor and state is leading to a stronger promise of prosperity and economic opportunity for our entrepreneurs and business leaders who create jobs and pay taxes.”
State contracts with minority-owned businesses in 2016 hit a record high with nearly $298 million going to purchase 23.63 percent of eligible goods and services. According to the Ohio Department of Administrative Services (DAS), “Ohio’s MBE-certified supplier base remains steady with 282 businesses receiving work in FY 2014, 325 businesses in FY 2015 and 316 in FY 2016, which ended June 30.” DAS also says that “during this period state spending with MBE-certified suppliers continued to grow” from $165 million in FY 2014 to $297 million today.
Democratic lawmakers today called on the Governor John Kasich to recognize the devastating opioid addiction epidemic for what it is: a public health emergency. At a statehouse press conference this morning the lawmakers said the state must have a strong, unified response and release emergency state funding to combat the statewide opioid crisis that is claiming lives in rural areas and urban centers alike.
“The first step in any road to recovery is admitting that you have a problem, and it’s time for the administration to recognize the opioid addiction crisis as the public health emergency that it is,” said Rep. Greta Johnson (D-Akron). “Too many Ohio families are losing loved ones to drug addiction and overdoses. We must marshal all available state resources and attention to fight back against this rapidly growing threat to our communities.”
State Rep. Greta Johnson (D-Akron), today responded to Gov. John Kasich’s Thursday comments at the Regional Judicial Opioid Initiative and the state’s actions to combat the opioid epidemic. The governor’s optimistic comments came on the same day the Ohio Department of Health released the report on 2015 Ohio Drug Overdose Data stating fentanyl-related drug overdoses more than doubled from 2014 to 2015. And the numbers continue to climb. For July 2016, Summit County alone experienced an estimated 395 overdoses, which matched the total number of overdoses in the county for the four months prior combined.*
“State leaders still refuse to call the opioid epidemic what it is: a public health crisis,” said Johnson. “It is imperative we remain hopeful and positive, but only if we are also employing all available resources to the law enforcement officers and treatment providers on the front lines. There has yet to be a coherent, statewide response to this devastating public health crisis that is killing more Ohioans than ever before. Summit County is doing a tremendous job at treating and preventing overdoses in my district, but with greater funding and direction from the state, we could be doing far more.”
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 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.