Senate Bill Supporting Boggs' Reagan Tokes Act Passes Ohio House
Legislation would ensure full rehabilitation, keep more Ohioans safe
December 14, 2018
 
 

State Rep. Kristin Boggs (D-Columbus) today announced the House passage of part of the Reagan Tokes Act, Senate Bill  (SB) 201, which will provide indefinite sentencing for felony-one and two-level offenders. The bill is named for Reagan Tokes, a student at The Ohio State University who was brutally kidnapped, raped and killed after leaving work at a Columbus restaurant in 2017. 


“This legislation is the first step to make Ohio safer by ensuring that the most violent offenders who have demonstrated while in prison that they continue to pose a danger to society, are not automatically released back into our neighborhoods,” said Boggs.


The additional provisions of the Reagan Tokes Act addressing post release control measures will be taken up next year.  These criminal justice reforms include requiring the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation of Corrections to adopt caseload standards for parole officers and adopt guidelines for GPS monitoring.


“While Senate Bill 201 passed the House, we know there is still more work to be done," said Boggs. "We will continue to pursue criminal justice reform in the new year to ensure we are doing everything we can to keep Ohioans safe."


On February 8, 2017, Reagan Tokes was abducted and later found in a Grove City, Ohio metro park. She was killed by a convicted sex offender who had over fifty infractions while imprisoned and been released from prison homeless three months prior, while being monitored by a GPS. It was later discovered that in the months leading up to Reagan’s death, he had committed a series of armed robberies.


SB 201 now moves back to the Senate for a final vote before its anticipated signature by Gov. Kasich.

 
 
  

State Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire) early this morning responded to the passage of Senate Bill 268, a bill increasing penalties for theft in public office. The Bellaire lawmaker supported the bill, but noted the lack of state laws that protect state employees who come forward to report wrongdoing and corruption to authorities.


“Corruption has no place in government. Over the last year, we’ve seen pay-to-play schemes, FBI investigations and the misuse of taxpayer money to line the pockets of political friends. Ohio taxpayers deserve better,” said Cera. “We need to hold elected officials accountable. That’s why I support this bill, but I also support protections for those who expose wrongdoing and corruption in state offices.”


In the last year, employees vocalized problems with the Department of Administrative Service’s rigged, no-bid IT contract scheme that saw tens of millions in misspent taxpayer dollars handed out with little to no oversight. DAS officials even investigated an employee who tried to blow the whistle on the alleged schemes.


Today, the state inspector general released a report on the incidents showing a much deeper pattern of taxpayer abuse.


“This legislation today cracks down on potential theft in the future, but doesn’t do enough to fix the ongoing corruption right in front of us,” added Cera. “I am hopeful for real reforms in the new year that empower and protect employees who witness theft and corruption that wastes Ohioans’ hard-earned tax dollars.”


Current Ohio law recognizes public and private sector employees who blow the whistle on potentially corrupt activities, but it provides them few protections from retribution, retaliation and loss of earnings and compensation for doing the right thing.


Cera and House Democrats introduced a bill earlier this year to make sweeping changes to Ohio whistleblower laws, but it has yet to receive a committee hearing from majority Republicans.


Cera’s bill would have simplified reporting, broadened coverage of protected disclosures, better protected whistleblowers from all forms of retaliation, increased the time to bring suit for retaliation, and improved remedies for those who experience retaliation. Cera says he plans to make it a priority in the new year.

 
 
  

In the late hours of lame duck session, the Ohio House of Representatives voted 82-3 to pass House Bill (HB) 461, legislation introduced by state Reps. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) and Tavia Galonski (D-Akron) to bring Ohio law into compliance with federal law in cases involving the human trafficking of minors aged 16 and 17 years old.


“Our children deserve to be rescued, not arrested,” said Fedor. “I’m grateful for the overwhelming support from both Republicans and Democrats to pass this critical piece of legislation that seeks to protect all of Ohio’s children.”


Ohio is one of the last states that has a force, fraud, or coercion requirement in their child sex trafficking laws. Under current law, Ohio’s age of consent is 16, requiring a prosecutor to prove more to convict a victim who is 16 or 17 years old. HB 461 removes this two-tiered system of treating 16 and 17 year olds differently than other minors picked up for human trafficking.


“This vote is an important signal that human trafficking is a priority for Ohioans and state lawmakers,” said Fedor. “No matter what happens before the end of the year, I trust lawmakers to act quickly so our law enforcement and others can focus their resources on supporting survivors.”


With passage falling late in the legislative calendar, HB 461 will likely die with the 132nd General Assembly. Rep. Fedor, who has authored almost all of Ohio’s human trafficking legislation and will move to the Ohio Senate for the 133rd General Assembly, will continue her advocacy for these protections early next year.

 
 
  

State Reps. John Rogers (D-Mentor-on-the-Lake) and Nathan Manning (R-North Ridgeville) today announced the concurrent passage of House Bill 497, which prohibits the nonconsensual dissemination of private sexual images, often referred to as “revenge porn,” by setting penalties to punish those who distribute sexually explicit images with the intent to harass the victim.


“The act of distributing intimate images often occurs as the result of a breakup in a relationship,” said Rogers. “When a relationship ends on a sour note, one party may react with vengeance and decide to publish or post personal images of their former significant other on social media or to friends and family members with the intent of harming their former partner.”


According to Rogers, once maliciously posted by someone, the image can spread like wildfire across the internet. Frequently, the image of the victim may include that person’s full name and contact information.


“The outcome of this conduct can cause a multitude of personal and professional issues, in addition to the humiliation and embarrassment a victim may feel when their most intimate, private exchanges are shared with the world,” said Rogers.


“This important legislation will make needed changes to our civil and criminal code to provide victims of image based violence the resources to fight back and also deter others from being victims in the future,” Manning said. 


The bill also received prominent support from Senator Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) and the nonprofit group Battling Against Demeaning and Abusive Selfie Sharing (BADASS), which is comprised of those who have personal experience with having intimate photographs and videos shared on the internet.


“I applaud my colleagues in the Senate for taking action on this legislation before we ran out of time this General Assembly,” said Senator Schiavoni. “It is about time that victims of revenge porn have legal recourse against those who distribute private sexual images without consent.”


In addition to penalties, the bill also creates certain legal rights and protections to a victim of the offense, including preventing an institution of higher learning from withholding financial assistance on the grounds that a student was a victim of nonconsensual dissemination of private sexual images, and also prevents such institutions from disciplining that student for the same reason. The bill extends these protections to licensing authorities, preventing them from refusing to license or to renew a license for victims.


The bill will now goes to the governor’s desk for approval. If signed, it will become effective 90 days later.

 
 
  
OLBC President Rep. Stephanie Howse

State Senators Charleta B. Tavares (D-Columbus), Sandra Williams (D-Cleveland) and Vernon Sykes (D-Akron), together with state Representatives Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland) and Emilia Sykes (D-Akron), today urged the legislature to study the progress and challenges of African Americans in Ohio.

“2019 marks 400 years of African Americans in America,” said Senator Tavares. “We faced a brutal beginning and have had challenges along the way. We have built America and her companies, historic buildings and economies, but we have not yet seen justice and equality for all. Our story in America, and more specifically in Ohio, needs to be researched to determine where we have made progress and the challenges we have to overcome in order to advance.” 

The lawmakers’ bill would create a committee to review the contributions and achievements of the Black community in Ohio. The group will also look at issues such as housing, transportation, health, education, employment, environment and businesses development and offer recommendations for addressing persistent challenges.

“Without an honest conversation about the issues and challenges African Americans disproportionately face in our state, all Ohioans risk falling further behind,” said Rep. Howse, who also serves as the president of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus (OLBC). “We won’t grow our economy or create more opportunity if a significant population of Ohioans are left to fend for themselves. Ohio succeeds when African Americans succeed.”

The proposed committee would consist of 30 members appointed by the Governor and the majority and minority caucuses of the legislature. Members would be representative of the Ohio History Connection, the National Museum of Afro-American History and Culture and public and private research institutions in Ohio.

The bill will soon be assigned to committee for further consideration. However, with less than a month left before the end of the current General Assembly, it is expected that the measure will be re-introduced early next year.

“Our state is stronger when we work together to solve problems that disproportionately impact certain segments of our population,” said Rep. Sykes, who serves as OLBC’s secretary. “Too often, lawmakers hyperfocus on new laws that only work in small pockets of our state but that create greater challenges for more Ohioans – especially African Americans – in the long run. By seriously examining who we are and what we’re doing as a state, we can grow jobs, strengthen healthcare and ensure all Ohioans have the tools they need for a better life.”

The lawmakers introduced the bill to mark the 400th anniversary of the first documented arrival of African slaves to America. About 20 African slaves were brought to Virginia, then a British colony, in 1619. They crossed the sea aboard the White Lion, a Dutch ship that landed in Point Comfort, and were then traded for food.

 
 
  
 
Last-minute Lawmaking To Bring Relief To Career And College-ready High School Seniors
Galonski applauds alternative pathways, sets sights on permanent solution
December 06, 2018
 
 

State Rep. Tavia Galonski (D-Akron) today announced the Ohio House will tonight pass Senate changes to House Bill 491, which extend alternative pathways to graduation for 2019 and 2020 Ohio high school seniors.


“Though I share the frustration of students and families who have been looking for a graduation solution from the Statehouse for almost a year, I am happy we will ultimately extend alternative graduation pathways through 2020,” said Galonski. “We have a lot of work left to do to ensure stability and consistency in Ohio’s ever-changing graduation requirements, so students can plan for their future and have an equal opportunity to succeed.”


The Akron lawmaker, who serves on the House Education Committee, introduced her own legislation, House Bill 630, to extend alternative pathways. The bill gained the attention of concerned students and parents, but was only given one hearing by majority Republicans. Galonski’s bill would have given career and college-ready Ohio high school seniors the opportunity to graduate in 2019 and 2020, similar to the language ultimately included in HB 491.


“I am committed to working toward fair requirements that recognize individual student success and performance instead of putting too much weight on standardized testing alone to determine graduation,” added Galonski. “We can’t afford to hold career and college-ready students back just because education standards in Columbus are broken.”


According to the Ohio Department of Education, some 50,000 students were at risk of not graduating in 2019 due to an overreliance on standardized testing – an approach that has been roundly criticized by lawmakers of both political parties.


After tonight’s vote, House Bill 491 will head to Gov. John Kasich’s desk for his anticipated signature.

 
 
  
 
Dems Raise Environmental Concerns As Bill Allowing Public Sale Of Radioactive Drilling-waste Passes House
Study shows toxic chemical levels in commercial brine far exceed EPA safety limits
December 06, 2018
 
 

House Democrats raised concerns today as Republican-sponsored House Bill (HB) 393 passed the House. The bill would allow one Ohio company to sell brine from certain oil and gas production to Ohio consumers for personal use. Democrats questioned the impact the sale and use of radioactive brine would have on health and the environment.


“This brine is chemical, industrial waste, and according to ODNR’s own study, poses a risk to our health and our environment if applied improperly,” said Minority Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton). “Without any safeguards on the use of this product, the consequences could be severe.”


A recent Ohio Department of Natural Resources study found radium levels in tested brine far exceeded the state’s “discharge to the environment limits,” which could pose significant health and environmental risks.


“The limited quantities being sold now, when tested, came back with carcinogen levels hundreds of times higher than EPA limits,” added Strahorn. “This product, no matter how effective at treating snow and ice, should not be on the shelves of Ohio retailers, plain and simple.”


A small amount of brine products have been commercially available in Ohio since 2004, and nine of Ohio’s Department of Transportation districts used similar products to de-ice roads last winter. HB 393 categorizes the product as a commodity, which would allow it to be applied to roads and sidewalks without supervision to prevent runoff into the environment and Ohio waterways.


After passing the House, the bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.

 
 
  
 
Ingram Announces Passage Of Bipartisan House Bill 705
Legislation addresses school district treasure liability for loss of public funds
December 05, 2018
 
 

State Rep. Catherine D. Ingram (D-Cincinnati) today announced the passage of House Bill (HB) 705, which provides relief to school district treasures from strict personal financial liability.


“It is important to recognize and continue to be transparent on how our school districts function in the State of Ohio,” said Ingram. “HB 705 brings to light the issue of the treasure’s personal assets being linked to the expenditure of public funds on behalf of the school district.”


Currently, The Ohio Department of Education and the State Auditor interpret Ohio law to hold school district treasures 100 percent liable if there is a monetary mistake or fraud of public funds. Under HB 705, school district treasures’ personal assets will not be at risk unless it is determined they were negligent or committed other wrongful acts while on the job. 


HB 705 now goes to the Senate for further consideration.

 
 
  

State Rep. Brigid Kelly (D-Cincinnati) today applauded the House for including language that exempts feminine hygiene products from state sales tax under House Bill (HB) 545, a larger tax-related bill which passed the Ohio House this afternoon. The provision came out of HB 61, introduced by Kelly and former state Rep. Greta Johnson (D-Akron) in February 2017.


“Eliminating the tampon tax will put more money into the pockets of women, in-turn strengthening the families they support and nurture,” said Kelly. “I am thankful we were able to come together to even the playing field for women, girls and families on medically necessary products. No one should face extra economic challenges simply because of their gender.”


Not only does taxing menstruation-control products present economic issues for women and families, but also potential health consequences. Without proper feminine hygiene products such as tampons and pads, women are at risk of developing health complications such as vaginal infections, disease and even infertility. The medicine prescribed to treat these problems is tax exempt, but the products that can prevent them are not.


“The percentage of working women in Ohio is growing, but they still face burdensome costs that men do not,” said Kelly. “I hope that during the next General Assembly, we can continue working on policies that ensure no one in Ohio is left behind.”


According to a fiscal analysis from the Legislative Service Commission, Ohio women give the state nearly $4 million in annual taxes from purchasing medically necessary feminine hygiene products. If HB 545 is signed into law, Ohio would join 15 other states embarking on the tampon tax push to exempt feminine products from sales tax.


The bill now moves to the Senate for further consideration.

 
 
  

The Ohio Controlling Board on Monday approved the release of 9.9 million dollars from the Healthy Lake Erie Fund to Lucas, Lorain, and Ashtabula Counties for projects related to the management of dredge material. The funding comes in support of state officials’ goal to end all open-lake dumping of dredge materials by 2020 to mitigate the devastating environmental impact of the practice.


“The prohibition of open lake dumping of dredged material weighs heavily upon our local communities,” said Rep. John Patterson (D-Jefferson). “These funds will allow us to replace the lower coal docks with a new Conneaut Creek Dredge Facility. The ability to process and strategically use dredged materials is a critical step toward the future; not only for the harbor, but for the health of our great lake and the culture we have built around it.”


“We know that open-lake dumping can have a devastating impact on lake ecosystems and can even exacerbate the algal blooms plaguing our coastal communities. I am thrilled to hear that the state is offering new support to the communities on the front lines of the algae crisis,” said Rep. Michael Sheehy (D-Oregon).


”I am happy to announce $4 million of the total release of funding will be dedicated to the construction of a Black River dredge facility in Lorain ,” said Rep. Dan Ramos (D-Lorain). “This needed funding will help ensure that necessary preservation of the Black River and Lake Erie is taking place. Maintaining these bodies of water is essential for creating jobs and strengthening our local economy.”

 
 
  
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Rogers' Bipartisan Revenge Porn Ban Headed To Governor's Desk

 

State Reps. John Rogers (D-Mentor-on-the-Lake) and Nathan Manning (R-North Ridgeville) today announced the concurrent passage of House Bill 497, which prohibits the nonconsensual dissemination of private sexual images, often referred to as “revenge porn,” by setting penalties to punish those who distribute sexually explicit images with the intent to harass the victim.



 
 

Dems Raise Environmental Concerns As Bill Allowing Public Sale Of Radioactive Drilling-waste Passes House

 

House Democrats raised concerns today as Republican-sponsored House Bill (HB) 393 passed the House. The bill would allow one Ohio company to sell brine from certain oil and gas production to Ohio consumers for personal use. Democrats questioned the impact the sale and use of radioactive brine would have on health and the environment.



 
 

House Passes Strictest Abortion Ban In The Nation During First Week Back At Work

 

The Republican-controlled Ohio House today passed House Bill (HB) 258, legislation that would prohibit an abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which could be as early as six weeks of pregnancy— long before most women even know they are pregnant. 



 
 

Howse Responds To Ohio House Meltdown Over Stand Your Ground "debate" On Race

 

State Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland) today released the following statement after being gaveled down and having her microphone cut while giving an impassioned speech on the consequences Stand Your Ground legislation has had on minority communities: