Rep. Rogers Announces State Funds For Mentor Marsh Remediation Plan
Ohio's first natural landmark to undergo important restoration project
February 12, 2019
State Rep. John Rogers (Mentor-on-the-Lake)

State Rep. John Rogers* (D-Mentor-on-the-Lake) today announced that the newly created Marsh Restoration Fund will receive $250,000 in state funds for the engineering, design and planning services for remediation of the Mentor Marsh, Ohio’s first natural landmark and one of the largest natural marshes along Lake Erie’s shoreline.  Yesterday, the state’s Controlling Board released these funds, previously approved in in the FY 2019-2020 biennial Capital Budget.  

“The Mentor Marsh is an important natural and historic landmark in Lake County and these dollars are the start of what will be a tremendous investment by Ohio in this project,” said Rep. Rogers. “This is just the beginning of the efforts toward restoring this area of the Marsh and ensuring this beautiful community asset lives on for future generations.”

Additionally, $10.6 million in private funds are being earmarked for use in these restorative efforts, expected to take between two and five years.

The Mentor Marsh serves as a breeding area for Lake Erie fish and as a waypoint for migratory birds, was at one time an ecologically diverse forest wetland. In 1966, some 225,000 tons of waste salt were dumped into the wetland, creating a salt fill site with salt leaching into the Marsh over time, killing nearly all of the trees in the area.

Much of the marshland today is dominated by phragmite, an invasive cattail that does not rot and can become dry as paper, responsible for fueling several serious fires in the Marsh over the years.

Custody of the land in question is being be transferred to the Lake County Land Reutilization Corporation or Land Bank while the Ohio EPA oversees the remediation efforts. Once the work is completed and the area restored, ownership and the responsibility for preserving the Marsh will be transferred to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.


House Democratic Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) today issued a statement following the finalization of committee assignments for the 133rd General Assembly:

“I’m proud of the tremendous leadership and experience our caucus brings to the table on the issues that matter most to Ohioans. I’m confident we were able to put the right people in the right places to begin addressing the challenges facing our state. Taxpayers deserve a cooperative approach to commonsense policies that let all of our children, families and residents experience the full opportunity and promise of Ohio.”


Ohio House Democratic lawmakers today wrote a letter* to the Wright State University Board of Trustees urging them to come back to the negotiating table and work with teachers to put an end to the almost three-week faculty strike.

“As lawmakers, we want to attract talented workers to our state and provide them with the opportunities they need to build a life for their families here. Access to health care, fair compensation, safe working conditions and ensuring hardworking people have a seat at the bargaining table not only strengthens our workforce, but our entire state’s economy,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter.

At stake is employees’ right to negotiate and collectively speak out for healthcare benefits. The strike was initiated Jan. 22 when the board of trustees sought to strip healthcare from the terms and conditions of faculty-administration collective bargaining negotiations. So far, the Wright State board and administrators have refused to return to the negotiating table.

*Editor’s note: A full copy of the letter is attached.


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In a speech to the Ohio House of Representatives Wednesday, newly elected Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) inspired her colleagues to look past themselves, politics and the walls of the Statehouse to work together for the people of Ohio. Sykes commended the Republican majority for meeting Democratic calls for bipartisan cooperation and reaffirmed her caucus’ commitment to working people and families in Ohio.

Watch the speech and read Leader Sykes’ full remarks below.


Mr. Speaker, members of the general assembly, friends, family and guests. Good afternoon.

I have always found it to be a true honor to serve as the state representative for the birthplace of champions, Ohio’s 34th House district. But I count it as extra special to be elected among my colleagues to lead this group of wonderfully talented and dedicated leaders in the Democratic caucus.

I must begin by thanking my colleagues in this body for their confidence, and for this tremendous privilege to serve as the Ohio House Minority Leader for the 133rd General Assembly. 

We have a unique and historic opportunity to shape policy, bring issues that need addressed to the forefront of discussion, and to influence the legislative and policy making process. An opportunity that we have not seen in many years— an opportunity that I am confident we will take full advantage of.

I also want to thank State Representatives Kristen Boggs, Kent Smith, and Paula Hicks-Hudson for their dedication in joining a bold new leadership team that will work every day to improve the lives of Ohioans. I look forward to the great work that we will do together.

I want to thank the members of the minority caucus for coming together to work for the good of our communities. We understand there is strength in our united voices.

I also want to acknowledge two of my favorite people, my parents.

My father, state Sen. Vernon Sykes, and my mother Barbara Sykes, a former member of this esteemed body, and former president of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, are with us today.

Thank you for your love and support and for making Politics 101 part of my early childhood and k-12 education supplemental curriculum.

I’d like to thank my extended family, the members of the United Baptist Church. Who traveled down with my pastor Kevin Rushing to support me today.

Last Sunday Pastor Rushing and the entire congregation, prayed for me. That is very meaningful because as a life long member of that church I literally grew up in the building and learned the lessons, that with God all things are possible — that we should be quick to listen — slow to speak — and even slower to become angry.

They’ve also taught me to not let anyone to look down on me because I am young, but to set an example in speech, in conduct, in love and faith.

They also remind that the Lord will fight for me, I only need to remain still.

I want to thank House Speaker Larry Householder for having the vision to recognize that the People's House should do the people's work, and for reaching out across the aisle to form a historic coalition, prepared to find common ground and commonsense solutions to the pressing problems facing our state. 

All 99 members of the Ohio House are sent here by voters, in essence hired at the ballot box, to do a job and to do that job right.

Ohioans want a government that works for them. No matter what corner of the state they may live in.

Still, all of our communities — urban, suburban and rural — are suffering.

We have real problems in Ohio. But we have real opportunities too, if we dare each other to look beyond, outside of these walls, outside of capital square and outside of our own ambitions and politics to deliver results for the people who sent us here.

That starts by having the courage to be better and do better.

We need to do a better job of working for working people and working families.

We need to get it right and do better for the people who don't have a voice loud enough to register in these hallowed halls of government.

We need to make the 11 and a half million people in the state of Ohio, our priority again here in the People’s House.

Of all the Ohioans depending on us, I'm going to talk about one today: Russ Brode.

Russ Brode is a firefighter from Akron seated in the gallery. Would you please stand and be recognized by the Ohio House? Thank you, Russ.

For over 2 decades, Russ has served as a firefighter for the Akron Fire Department, rising to the ranks of Lt. and president of the local 330.

Russ was recently diagnosed with cancer after a career of exposure to toxins and chemicals in the line of duty. I spoke with Russ by phone shortly after—he was determined and hopeful. He spoke about how grateful he was that we passed the Palumbo Act to help firefighters who get sick as a result of their service. That really stuck with me.

There are people all across our state just like Russ whose lives are impacted every day by the decisions we make here together in this chamber. Russ is the reason voters hired us to get it right and to do better.

Now, I recognized my parents earlier and I would be remiss not to acknowledge that both of them during their time in the legislature proposed bills to help firefighters who suffer from cancer, diseases, and other medical conditions as a result of performing their job for us.

It’s our job to carry the torch of those who came before us to make people the priority once again in the People's House.

When Joyce Beatty took her place in history as the first black woman to be elected Minority Leader in Ohio, she spoke about how change was coming. While Congresswoman Beatty now is in a Congress with more women than ever before, I am proud to lead the first majority woman leadership team and a caucus that reflects the population of Ohio and is 50% women.

When Leader Tracy Maxwell Heard, who is here today, became leader, she said that following in the footsteps of Joyce Beatty was “really cool.” And if I may add, following in the leadership of Congresswoman Beatty and Leader Heard is really, really cool. I thank you both— you may be the first, or one of the firsts, but you made sure that you were not the last. 

Your leadership, courage and grace showed our state that, no matter our race or gender, We Belong Here.

When we start treating one another with the respect each of us deserves, then I believe we will begin to work more cooperatively together on the job that we're here to do.

Speaker Householder has agreed to give Democrats more representation on committees and is also giving us a chance to have our voices heard and our good-faith efforts to improve laws debated rather than cast aside and tabled. The respect you show us, Mr. Speaker, will be reciprocated. I thank you for your leadership.

I look forward to working with all of you, to listening carefully to your ideas, measuring your input, and yes, sometimes disagreeing with you. That’s okay as long as we comport ourselves as colleagues who understand we were sent here by voters in our communities to work for the betterment of all Ohioans.

Thank you.

Boyd Announces Aisha's Law To Protect Domestic Violence Victims
Bill aims to prevent further violence in high-risk situations
February 05, 2019

State Rep. Janine Boyd (D-Cleveland Heights) held a press conference at the Ohio Statehouse today to announce Aisha’s Law, a bill to change how law enforcement agencies respond to domestic violence cases. The bill is named for Aisha Fraser, a former Shaker Heights sixth-grade teacher who was brutally murdered by her ex-husband, former state Rep. Lance Mason, in Nov. 2018 following years of domestic abuse.

“Aisha’s Law is for all Ohioans because domestic violence leaves in its wake families, communities, and all of us who are co-victims left to pick up the pieces,” said Rep. Boyd. “Aisha’s Law is a continuum to unite law enforcement, the courts, and community stakeholders in partnership to change lives.”

Aisha’s law would require law enforcement officers responding to domestic violence complaints to utilize the Lethality Assessment Program, a strategy to identify high-risk situations that pose a threat of further violence. The program was created by the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence in 2005. The LAP is one of only two models of evidence-based intimate partner homicide prevention to be honored as a “promising practice” by the U.S. Department of Justice, and has been studied and validated.

In addition, the law requires police departments to create a task force of law enforcement officials and domestic violence advocates to review domestic violence cases and connect both victims and alleged abusers to the help they need. Cleveland’s wards 1 and 5 currently use a similar system.

The law would also eliminate the ability for prosecutors to negotiate a plea deal or dismiss a domestic violence case if the alleged abuser has any prior felony offense of violence.

After introduction, the bill now awaits a committee assignment for further consideration.

Editor’s note: Watch the press conference in full by visiting:

Driver's License Reinstatement Program Temporarily Available Through Local BMVs
Six-month program gives Ohioans low-cost option to get back on the road
February 04, 2019

House Democratic Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) today announced that Ohioans looking to get driving privileges restored may be able to do so at a reduced cost under the Reinstatement Fee Amnesty Initiative, a six-month program that began Jan 31. Sykes supported the law change in the Ohio House last year.

“For many Ohioans, going without a driver’s license makes it harder to get to work, to buy groceries or to get in to see their doctor,” said Sykes. “By offering a low-cost alternative to get back on the road, we’re making it easier for lower-income Ohioans to access transportation options that make sense for them and their families.”

The Reinstatement Fee Amnesty Initiative is a six-month program that applies to offenders whose non-commercial driver licenses have been suspended for specific violations. To qualify, applicants must complete all court-ordered sanctions related to their eligible offense, and wait at least 18 months after the end of the suspension.

Complete amnesty is available to those who currently participate in the supplemental nutrition assistance program.

For more information on the program, Ohioans can visit the Ohio BMV's suspension and reinstatement page or visit a local BMV branch.

Dem Lawmakers, DeWine Endorse Stronger State Protections For Domestic Violence Victims
Lawmaker sponsored similar domestic violence reforms that became law last year
January 30, 2019
Rep. Janine Boyd, Gov. Mike DeWine, Leader Emilia Strong Sykes

House Democratic Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) and state Rep. Janine Boyd (D-Cleveland Heights) today joined Gov. Mike DeWine for his latest executive order signing, which strengthens protections for domestic violence victims by including intimate partner violence, or dating violence, in state agency directives and guidelines.

“Dating violence is domestic violence, and anything we can do to protect victims from their abusers will save lives,” said Sykes. “I’m encouraged by Governor DeWine’s executive order today to make protecting victims of dating violence a priority in our state.”

During the 132nd General Assembly, Sykes sponsored House Bill (HB) 1, a bill allowing victims of dating violence to obtain civil protective orders against their attackers. HB 1 was signed into law in 2018.

Prior Ohio law did not allow victims of dating violence to obtain civil protection orders because these relationships did not fit the definition of domestic violence.

HB 1 now includes individuals in dating relationships under Ohio’s definition of domestic violence for the purpose of obtaining a civil protection order, gaining access to battered women’s shelters, and being included in the Attorney General’s victim’s bill of rights.

"I've seen the toll our domestic violence epidemic is taking on the families and children of our state,” said state Rep. Janine Boyd (D-Cleveland Heights). “Too many families and loved ones have been forced to wonder whether more lives could have been protected, including the life of Aisha Fraser of my district. I am grateful I had the chance to support the work of Leader Sykes, and I am honored to stand with Governor DeWine today, in a combined effort to continue to expand protections for all victims of domestic violence.”

The National Dating Violence Hotline defines intimate partner violence, which includes dating violence, as a repetitive pattern of behaviors – including physical or sexual violence, threats, intimidation, emotional abuse and economic deprivation – used to maintain power and control over an intimate partner.


State Reps. Thomas West (D-Canton) and Tavia Galonski (D-Akron) today introduced a bill to address infant mortality through increased sexually transmitted disease (STD) screening for expectant mothers. The legislation would require healthcare professionals to test pregnant women for HIV, syphilis and gonorrhea at different points of the pregnancy in order to connect mother and baby to appropriate treatment and counseling.

“This bill is about giving babies a healthy and strong start in life and connecting mothers with the tools they need to be successful,” said West. “Women and babies in the U.S. are dying at higher rates than other industrialized nations, while Ohio continues trailing behind other states in health outcomes. Although it seems we are beginning to reverse the overall infant mortality rate in Ohio, we must continue addressing deep racial disparities and all pieces of this complex issue head on so we may truly improve the lives of Ohio’s families.”   

A recent New York Times report revealed that between 2012 and 2016, the rate of congenital syphilis increased by 87 percent nationally. The sexually transmitted disease, which can be passed from mother to child during pregnancy or birth, can be severe and often life-threatening in infants. At the same time, racial disparities in birth outcomes in Ohio continued to increase in 2017, and the state continued to have one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country. West and Galonski’s bill aims to play a small but important role in improving maternal and infant health outcomes.

“As a mother and grandmother, I cannot even imagine the pain families go through when they lose an infant,” said Galonski. “We need to do everything we can to ensure the health and well-being of our most vulnerable population. Infant mortality is a complicated issue with racial and socioeconomic hurdles to conquer. This bill is a good step towards ensuring that mothers and their babies are healthy, protected, and safe.”

Stark County, which encompasses parts of West’s district, saw an increase in infant mortality, climbing from 9.0 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2016 to 9.5 in 2017, above the national average of 7.6. Akron, which covers parts of Galonski’s district, has some zip codes with the highest rates of infant mortality in the state.

West and Galonski introduced similar legislation in 2018, House Bill 613, but it received only one hearing before the end of the 132nd General Assembly in December.


The Ohio House Democratic Caucus today announced its leadership team for the 133rd General Assembly. In an all-caucus vote, Dems elected current Democratic Whip and state Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) as the next Democratic leader.

“Ohioans want leaders who put people first, who know how to work together to get things done,” said Sykes. “I am humbled by the support of this caucus and look forward to working with this leadership team, members, staff and my Republican colleagues over the next two years to improve the lives of Ohio’s children, families and workers.”

Joining Sykes will be Rep. Kristin Boggs (D-Columbus) as the next Assistant Minority Leader, her first leadership post since joining the Ohio House in 2015.

“I am excited to join this leadership team and look forward to working together on the issues that matter most to everyday Ohioans—issues like attracting good-paying jobs, protecting healthcare and improving our children’s education,” said Boggs.

Rep. Kent Smith (D-Euclid), elected to be the next Minority Whip, formerly served as the caucus’s policy chair during the 132nd General Assembly. He is serving in his third term as state representative.

“I am honored to join this leadership team and am committed to fight for Ohio's working families with my Democratic colleagues as we forge a new path to grow opportunities for the 11.5 million Ohioans that we serve,” said Smith.

State Rep. Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo), a former Toledo mayor and current state rep. serving her first term, rounds out the caucus’s leadership team as the next Assistant Whip.

“I am grateful to the caucus members for their support,” said Hicks-Hudson. “We have an incredible opportunity this General Assembly to make a difference in the lives of everyday Ohioans by giving a voice to the voiceless and continuing to move our state forward.”

A formal all-House vote on Democratic and Republican House leadership will take place Feb. 6.


Dr. King talked about the danger of staying silent on the things that matter—a sentiment as true today as it was in his time. For too many people, times may have changed, but the story stays the same: disparities in education, health, economic status and within the criminal justice system continue to threaten the next generation of black leaders, innovators, educators and workers.

As our nation’s history shows, America’s success and its victories are only won when we come together and build strong coalitions that challenge convention and inspire greatness. America wins when allies from all walks of life and ethnic and racial backgrounds join together, stand firm, demand change, and refuse to be silent.

With the start of a new General Assembly, we have a unique opportunity to break that silence and deliver real change for communities across our state—if we’re willing to put aside our partisan differences and work together to give a voice to the people whose concerns too often fall through the cracks.

We can do better to bridge our state’s opportunity divide by investing in our children’s education, ensuring every Ohioan has access to quality, affordable healthcare, attracting good-paying jobs and reforming a broken system that incarcerates too many for low-level, nonviolent crimes.

Ultimately, for Ohio to succeed, we all need the opportunity to succeed.

This Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, let’s come together, reflect on the past and look to the future—one where every Ohioan who works hard, regardless of their race or gender, has the opportunity to get ahead and achieve their own dreams.

By rising together to meet today’s challenges we honor the enduring legacy of leaders like Dr. King who stood tall and refused to remain silent, fighting to change our nation for the better.

Together, we too can dare our great nation to be even greater.

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.


-Rep. Emilia Sykes

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Boyd Announces Aisha's Law To Protect Domestic Violence Victims


State Rep. Janine Boyd (D-Cleveland Heights) held a press conference at the Ohio Statehouse today to announce Aisha’s Law, a bill to change how law enforcement agencies respond to domestic violence cases. The bill is named for Aisha Fraser, a former Shaker Heights sixth-grade teacher who was brutally murdered by her ex-husband, former state Rep. Lance Mason, in Nov. 2018 following years of domestic abuse. 


Driver's License Reinstatement Program Temporarily Available Through Local BMVs


House Democratic Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) today announced that Ohioans looking to get driving privileges restored may be able to do so at a reduced cost under the Reinstatement Fee Amnesty Initiative, a six-month program that began Jan 31. Sykes supported the law change in the Ohio House last year.


Northeast Ohio Legislators Introduce Bill To Address Infant Mortality Through STD Screening


State Reps. Thomas West (D-Canton) and Tavia Galonski (D-Akron) today introduced a bill to address infant mortality through increased sexually transmitted disease (STD) screening for expectant mothers. The legislation would require healthcare professionals to test pregnant women for HIV, syphilis and gonorrhea at different points of the pregnancy in order to connect mother and baby to appropriate treatment and counseling. 


Sykes Named To National Fellowship On Maternal And Child Health


The National Council of State Legislatures (NCSL) today named state Rep. Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) to its inaugural Maternal and Child Health Fellowship program. Sykes joins 24 other lawmakers and health policy experts from across the country who will work together to improve public policy and practices related to better maternal and child health outcomes.