Today, on the 94th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, we pause to reflect on the struggle for women’s suffrage and to celebrate this momentous milestone on the path to voting and gender equality.
We remember those courageous, heroic women–such as Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Alice Paul— who sacrificed so much to ensure that men and women are recognized as equals at the voting booth.
However, we understand that more work remains today in the state of Ohio, in the United States and all over the globe to fully realize the goal of true gender equality.
Guided by the example of the heroes who have come before us, we must continue to strive for a world that truly fosters a level playing field for all genders, especially in the areas of education, healthcare and employment.
Appropriately, one of the greatest tools in creating this level playing field is our collective voice. By voting on Election Day, by writing or calling elected officials and by advocating on behalf of important causes, we can continue our progress and work to achieve gender equality both inside and outside of the ballot box.
State Representative Matt Lundy (D-Elyria) on Monday introduced House Bill 609, legislation prohibiting predatory auto-title lending in Ohio.
“Auto title loans are just like payday loans. They hide behind flashy claims for fast money, but usually lead to a cycle of debt,” said Rep. Lundy. “By allowing predatory short-term lenders to repossess such a valuable asset as a car, we put already-struggling families at risk of further adversity.”
Auto-title loans are secured by a certificate of title to the borrower’s motor vehicle, which stipulates vehicle repossession should the borrower default. Like storefront payday lending, auto-title lending agreements are much more likely to result in overdue payments and default due to high APR, short payback schedules and onerous fees. Auto-title lenders face very few regulations in Ohio, as they have circumvented state law and are selling loans under two lending laws, the Ohio Mortgage Loan Act and through the Credit Services Organization. HB 609 would close this loophole.
“Anyone considering an auto-title loan would be much better off to first try other resources with much more consumer-friendly practices, like a community bank or credit union,” continued Rep. Lundy.
Since August of 2012, the Ohio Attorney General’s office received nearly 130 consumer complaints about predatory auto-title lending.
House Bill 609 is now pending referral to a House standing committee.
Today, Ohio House Democrats from along the Lake Erie shoreline discussed a series of policy proposals to stop the region’s toxic algal blooms and to prevent future public health emergencies, like last weekend’s Toledo water crisis.
The lawmakers urged Gov. John Kasich to immediately declare the Maumee Watershed as a “distressed watershed” to begin the process of curbing harmful chemical pollution in Lake Erie. This designation would trigger more stringent regulations for the storage, handling and application of chemicals and fertilizers throughout the area. The state’s 2013 Phosphorus Task Force report debunks common myths about contributing factors to algal blooms, and largely points to agricultural runoff as the primary source of distress—a fact Democrats considered while working on their initiatives.
“To seriously address harmful algal blooms in our state requires a firm commitment to significant reform from all parties involved,” said Rep. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo). My colleagues and I are committed, and we know that the citizens of the Lake Erie region and of Ohio are committed. We hope now that the Governor and elected officials throughout the region will join in this commitment and we can all begin to work together to solve this crisis together.” Fedor also called on the governor to convene a multi-state task of Lake Erie state governors to develop long-term agricultural practices to ensure the sustainability of the Great Lake.
The lawmakers also said the Ohio EPA should heed the U.S. EPA’s guidelines on establishing open Lake Erie waters as an impaired waterways, so the agency could begin regulating the amount of chemicals that flow into the lake.
The Lake Erie Democrats revealed that the Ohio EPA Division of Surface Water—the authority that oversees everything from culverts to Lake Erie—is seeking public comment on their proposal to skirt Clean Water Act water quality standards, effectively lowering water quality in the state. The state EPA director’s letter detailing the proposed administrative rule change says, “I have determined that any lowering of water quality in various waters of the state as authorized by these certifications is necessary.”
“When there’s a public health crisis of this magnitude, Ohio taxpayers deserve leaders in their state that will meet environmental and public health threats with decisive action,” said Rep. State Chris Redfern (D-Catawba Island), co-chair of the Legislative Lake Erie Caucus. “And instead of that immediate action, we now find that the administration is actually looking to lower water quality standards. It is disgusting, and creates new questions that deserve the administration’s immediate attention.”
High phosphorus levels in manure and other chemical fertilizers contributed to the region’s algal bloom problems, increasing microcystin levels to dangerous levels. Federal and state environmental groups have long advocated for policy changes to prevent high microcystin levels, like applying manure to land before rainstorms or when the ground is frozen. Rep. Mike Sheehy (D-Orgeon) announced earlier this week plans to introduce legislation to better regulate manure practices.
“This bill is a common-sense first step towards curbing the amount of harmful chemicals that run into Lake Erie,” said Rep. Sheehy. “Manure application on wet or frozen ground is a major contributor to lake pollution and algal blooms, and experts have repeatedly pointed to these measures as good policy.”
To ensure drinking water is safe for the public, Rep. Michael Ashford (D-Toledo) called on the state to require and fund testing for microcystin in water supplies, the algae toxin that infiltrated Toledo’s water supply last weekend.
“We should be taking every precaution possible to ensure the safety of Ohio drinking water,” said Rep. Ashford. “The responsibility for the health and safety of Ohioans ultimately lies with the state. Further, with deep budget cuts to local communities over the past three years, the state should provide emergency funding to meet this new testing requirement.”
A Lake Erie Legislative Caucus meeting is scheduled for next Friday, August 15 at 10 a.m. at Maumee Bay State Park. Ohio EPA officials have been invited to present testimony, and the event is free and open to the public.
Nearly 50 years ago today, our country sought to prohibit racial discrimination in voting with the enactment of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Today should be a celebration of the end of an era plagued by voter suppression, yet regrettably that objective is far from being met.
While it’s true that poll taxes and literacy tests are something of the past, it is evident that our fundamental right to vote is still under attack. Voting days and hours are being shortened as the ballots of law-abiding citizens are continually tossed out for minor errors.
Ohio’s Republican-controlled legislature appears to be dead-set on implementing an agenda that suppresses the right to vote. Senate Bill 205, which makes it easier to throw-out absentee ballots, and Senate Bill 238, which shortens the early voting period, are just two examples of legislation passed this General Assembly that seek to silence the voices of Ohioans at the ballot box.
The success of democracy is dependent on voter participation and involvement in the legislative process, and I urge my fellow Ohioans to join me in carrying on the spirit of the 1965 Voting Rights Act by opposing legislation that threatens our right to vote. And make sure you vote by any means necessary!
State Rep. Chris Redfern (D-Catawba Island) today called on Gov. Kasich to remove the new Ohio Health Department Director, Rick Hodges, citing the need to have a department leader with experience in dealing with public health emergencies, like the water crisis in Toledo.
Hodges, the former Executive Director of the Ohio Turnpike, has no training or experience in healthcare-related fields—a qualification Redfern says is explicitly required by state law.
“The drinking water crisis in Toledo highlights how important it is to have a seasoned healthcare professional leading the state's response to public health emergencies. With 500,000 Ohioans in need in need of safe and reliable drinking water, it is discomforting to know that the new leader of the state’s public health agency, former Turnpike Director Rick Hodges, has no medical training or experience in healthcare,” Redfern wrote in the letter.
Redfern’s legislative district includes the western basin of Lake Erie.
A copy of the letter can be seen below:
August 4, 2014
Dear Governor Kasich,
The drinking water crisis in Toledo highlights how important it is to have a seasoned healthcare professional leading the state's response to public health emergencies. With 500,000 Ohioans in need of safe and reliable drinking water, it is discomforting to know that the new leader of the state’s public health agency, former Turnpike Director Rick Hodges, has no medical training or experience in healthcare.
Your installment of Mr. Hodges as the Director of the state health department not only undermines public faith and confidence in the state's ability to adequately respond to emergencies like the Toledo water crisis, but— as you know —it wholly violates Ohio Revised Code chapter 121 section 10.
121.10 Director of health - qualifications.
The director of health shall be either:
(A) A physician holding the degree of doctor of medicine from a medical college approved by the state medical board who, before assuming his duties, has been licensed to practice medicine in the state and who has had experience in pursuing some phase of medical practice;
(B) An individual who has had significant experience in the public health profession.
Effective Date: 07-01-1993
Declaring a state of emergency for the Toledo water crisis can bring every state resource to bear in addressing what has quickly become a public health matter.
Unfortunately, Mr. Hodges' severe lack of experience with public health policies and procedures-— in addition to the potential magnitude of public health emergencies our state is faced with —should underscore how important it is that you select a new Director for the Ohio Department of Health.
Ohioans pay for, and deserve, a director with thoughtful leadership grounded in sound and practical experiences in the public health sector. It seems clear that Mr. Hodges fails in this regard.
I look forward to your swift action and would appreciate a response.
State Rep. Chris Redfern
State Rep. Mike Sheehy (D-Oregon) will again propose legislation to help reduce toxic algal bloom growths in Lake Erie, following this weekend’s water crisis affecting over 400,000 in Northwest Ohio.
Rep. Sheehy’s bill would reduce the amount of manure run-off allowed from farms into streams and rivers that flow into Lake Erie. High phosphorus levels in manure are widely-known to contribute to algal blooms and increase dangerous microcystin levels in surrounding bodies of water. This weekend, the concentration of microcystin in the Western Lake Erie Basin surpassed World Health Organization thresholds and many residents in Lucas, Wood and Fulton counties were advised not to consume the water.
“I urge my colleagues to support any efforts to reduce run-off and stop the growth of toxic algal blooms from creating a cycle of public health crises along the Lake Erie shoreline,” said Rep. Sheehy. “This particular bloom isn’t expected to fully mature until September, so we must expedite our discussions of how to manage our state’s most precious natural resources and keep our citizens out of danger.”
In April, Rep. Sheehy offered a similar proposal to Senate Bill 150, a bill which aims to reduce the amount of phosphorus in the streams and lakes of Ohio by creating a fertilizer application certification for farmers. Rep. Sheehy’s proposal failed to gain enough support to be included in the legislation. Ultimately, SB 150 does not include manure in its definition of fertilizer and therefore fails to include the impact of manure on the Lake Erie watershed. The bill was signed into law this summer.
Rep. Sheehy’s stand-alone proposal is currently being circulated to garner bipartisan support from House members.
State Rep. Chris Redfern (D- Catawba Island) early Saturday morning announced he is working toward emergency funding to reduce and control harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie. The Lake Erie lawmaker's announcement follows early morning "do not drink" orders for City of Toledo water customers due to dangerous toxin concentrations from harmful algal blooms (HABs) in the lake. Boiling the water can pose a greater health risk, as it increases the concentration of the toxins.
"It is absolutely necessary that the state step up to meet the ongoing threat of harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie," said Rep. Redfern. "The state has a responsibility to provide for the public health of our greatest natural resource, and for the people who rely on the lake for something as fundamental as drinking water."
Saturday morning, tests at Collins Park Water Treatment Plant in Toledo showed microcystin levels at a dangerous concentration in drinking water. The city voluntarily tests for the toxic blue-green algae that is a poisonous byproduct of HABs.
Redfern said that-- although the city does choose to test for microcystin --the state should look at mandating testing requirements for the toxic algae, a measure he said could be linked with long-term funding for HAB research and mitigation.
Redfern used his position on the powerful state controlling board-- a state spending oversight panel --to call attention to the need for greater state funding when the panel approve a January appropriation for $600,000 to meet federal EPA grant requirements for university studies pinpointing HAB sources.
Redfern represents the 89th Ohio House district, which includes the western basin of Lake Erie.
A state of emergency has been declared in Lucas and Wood Counties after samples of water from an East Toledo facility containing microcystin – a harmful liver toxin released by the algal blooms plaguing the Western Lake Erie Basin - were found to exceed the level allowable for human consumption. The algal blooms are thought to be a result of high levels of phosphorus found in run-off from cities and farms nears the Maumee River watershed.
State Representative Mike Sheehy (D-Oregon), who is a member of the House Agriculture Committee and an outspoken critic of Senate Bill 150, has been calling for tougher regulations on phosphorus polluters since he took office more than a year ago.
“I have been asking my colleagues to support my efforts to reduce run-off and prevent these severe algal blooms,” said Rep. Sheehy. He went on to say, “I even drafted an amendment to Senate Bill 150 which would ban spreading manure on frozen ground, limiting the manure run-off into the Maumee River, but it never made it to the floor of the House. I hope my colleagues and the administration will work with me to seriously re-examine the issue of phosphorus loading in Lake Erie.”
Senate Bill 150, signed into law early this summer, seeks to limit the amount of phosphorus from farm run-off by creating a certification program for all who apply fertilizer to their fields.
During committee hearings, Rep. Sheehy and other interested parties questioned if the bill went far enough to curb run off and prevent severe algal blooms such as the one seen this summer.
The Ohio Health Department (ODH) on Wednesday refused to renew the health care facility license of Toledo’s last abortion clinic, Capital Care Network. The decision effectively closes the facility and cuts off medical care to thousands of Northwest Ohio women who will now have to travel out of state or over two hours to another major Ohio city for services.
“The decision to close Capital Care prioritizes a radical political agenda over medically-sound practice,” said Rep. Michael Sheehy (D-Oregon). “The Republican-controlled legislature and administration continue put themselves in the middle of healthcare decisions that are made by a woman, her doctor and her family. State changes to long-standing policies of local hospitals are obvious political attacks that chip away the rights of Ohio women.”
As part of a provision in last year’s biennial budget, ambulatory surgical centers such as Capital Care Network are required to have a transfer agreement with a local hospital in the event of a medical emergency. However, regardless of a transfer agreement, federal law requires that emergency medical responders must take patients to the nearest hospital, rendering the provision moot.
This section of the budget has been effective in allowing the Governor-appointed ODH Director to shut down clinics similar to Capital Care across the state, leaving thousands of women in Ohio without options for local care.
Yesterday, I voted to release $118,868 in state funding for upgrades to an outdated electrical system at the Ohio Veteran’s Home in Sandusky.
Old T8 lamps will now be replaced with energy efficient alternatives, saving the Veteran’s Home an estimated $61,813 per year.
The savings realized from the energy efficient lighting will create a payback on state investment in less than two years. Ohio-based LED Solutions was one of two lowest-bidders with the most potential for cost savings.
Any cost savings we can create for the Veteran’s Home means more resources can be dedicated to caring for the brave men and women who were selfless enough to serve our country. I’m proud of the work the home does for our veterans and our community.
Any investment in our state's veterans is a smart one.
Rep. Redfern serves as one of seven members on the State Controlling Board—a panel tasked with oversight of state spending. In October, Rep. Redfern cast the deciding vote in favor of expanding Medicaid low-income and disabled Ohioans, including some 52,000 veterans.