As the nation marks the seventh anniversary of the passage of the Affordable Care Act today, Ohio House Democratic lawmakers today spoke out against the GOP’s current efforts to decimate the landmark healthcare reform law that has expanded coverage to roughly 20 million Americans and reduced the country’s uninsured rate to an all-time low.
“After seven years of hearing partisan attacks against the Affordable Health Care Act and promises of a better way forward, it’s clear today that the American people have been misled,” said House Democratic Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton). “Not only does Trumpcare threaten economic growth and increase costs for families, seniors and individuals, but it will have life-or-death consequences, forcing families to choose between paying for medical coverage and keeping a roof over their heads or saving for their future.”
According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, 24 million fewer Americans will have access to affordable healthcare under the initial Trumpcare proposal. Ohio stands to lose some $26 billion in federal healthcare funding, while one out of four Ohioans will see reduced healthcare eligibility and services. Meanwhile, the original Trumpcare proposal will actually increase overall healthcare costs for the average Ohio enrollee by nearly $3,000, and by over $5,000 for older Ohio enrollees in 2020.
“I believe that healthcare is a right for all Americans, not a privilege for the few,” said House Democratic Whip Nickie J. Antonio (D-Lakewood). “The plan to take away healthcare is a prescription for disaster and will make our country sick again.”
Unveiled in March, the Trumpcare legislation reverses the expansion of Medicaid, reduces tax credits available to middle-class families and revises the ACA’s requirement that larger employers must offer health coverage to full-time employees. The plan also provides wealthy individuals who earn more than $774,000 a year a tax break of up to $197,000.
“Healthcare is not a political issue—it is a human issue,” said House Democratic Assistant Whip Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron). “Republicans are playing with people’s lives just to add to their scorecard. This is a dangerous game, and it goes against everything we stand for as policymakers and elected representatives. People can’t afford to pay more for less healthcare, and they certainly can’t afford to pay with their lives.”
The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote to repeal the ACA and pass Trumpcare today.
Here are what other Democratic lawmakers are saying about the Affordable Care Act:
“As a social worker, I have spent years helping families and seniors gain access to high quality healthcare on a community level and learning the needs of my neighbors. That is why I am so strongly opposed to Trumpcare. Ohio already leads the nation in opiate deaths and black infant mortality, and comes up short in health outcomes. We can’t afford limited access to care at unaffordable prices as Trumpcare is suggesting. I cannot sit back quietly and watch Republicans in Washington pass a plan that we know will hurt people who are already suffering. As the most advanced society in the world we have a duty to ensure the American people have affordable access to lifesaving healthcare.” —Rep. Thomas E. West (D-Canton)
“Undoing affordable access to healthcare jeopardizes the health and financial stability of working and middle class families and our most vulnerable citizens – our children. The most prosperous nation in the world should afford its citizens a basic level of stability through affordable healthcare to ensure Americans can hold a job and meet their financial obligations without mortgaging their family’s future.” —Rep. Hearcel Craig (D-Columbus)
State Reps. Kent Smith (D-Euclid) and Sarah LaTourette (R-Chesterland) today applauded the passage of House Bill (HB) 80, their bipartisan legislation to combat child hunger in Ohio. HB 80 would allow outside organizations to use schools as summer meal sites to ensure hungry children have access to a nutritious lunch even when school is out of session.
“It is unacceptable that over a half million Ohio children go hungry when they are not in school,” said Smith. “By allowing schools to partner with qualified organizations in the summer to provide healthy meals to students in need at no cost to the school district, we can help reduce child hunger in our state.”
In 2016, the Food Research and Action Center reported that nearly 650,000 school-aged children in Ohio were eligible for free or discounted meals in 2014-2015, yet only 10 percent of eligible children had access to these meals during the summer months when school is typically not in session. According to the report, Ohio is one of six states to most miss out on federal funding available to help feed school children in need.
“Summer nutrition programs serve as a bridge to fill the summer meal gap for students, and increased participation by summer meal sponsors at school sites will help to reduce food insecurity,” said LaTourette. “I am so pleased to see this bill move forward with this favorable vote on the House floor today.”
Current law requires each school district board in Ohio to extend either its school breakfast program or lunch program throughout the summer, or offer a summer food service program. However, district boards may opt out of the summer food requirement if they lack financial means.
Under HB 80, if a local school district in which at least half of all students are eligible for free or reduced lunches opts out of the summer food program, the district board can submit an approved summer food service program sponsor permit to the State Board of Education, allowing the sponsor to utilize available school facilities to provide meals for students.
HB 80 was voted out of the House 89-4 and now moves to the Senate for further consideration.
Democratic members of the House Economic Development, Commerce and Labor Committee today objected to the anticipated committee passage of House Bill (HB) 2 along party lines, saying the GOP-led “No Rights at Work” bill will strip Ohio employees of critical protections from workplace discrimination. The legislation was scheduled for a vote last week, until it was pulled down at the last minute. The bill will receive a fifth hearing this afternoon, but is not yet scheduled for a vote.
“Harassment and discrimination will increase in the workplace if employees lose their right to hold supervisors accountable for misbehaving and bullying,” said Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown), the highest ranking Democrat on the committee. “I believe workers deserve to feel safe and welcome when they go to work every day to provide for their families.”
House Bill 2 changes the definition of an employer to exclude anyone working on behalf of an employer either directly or indirectly, including supervisors. Democratic committee members argue this narrow definition will prevent supervisors and other individuals from being held accountable for discriminatory actions.
“House Bill 2 places Ohio on the dangerous path of rolling back workers’ civil rights in the face of racism, sexism and ageism at a time when hatred is unfortunately becoming more overt in our society,” said Rep. Alicia Reece (D-Cincinnati).
HB 2 provides an affirmative defense for employers when sexual harassment in the workplace is alleged if the employer can meet two basic requirements. The employer only needs to show that they took reasonable action to prevent or correct the alleged behavior and show the victim failed to take advantage of preventative or corrective measures to avoid harassment.
“This legislation would prevent employers and supervisors from being held accountable for workplace discrimination by tipping the scale to favor powerful bosses and supervisors,” said Rep. Brigid Kelly (D-Cincinnati). “Victims of even the most vicious harassment at the hands of a supervisor will be left stranded with little legal recourse if the legislature strips workers of longstanding protections.”
Contrary to supporters’ claims, opponents of HB 2 say the bill does little to align state and federal employment discrimination laws and instead leaves employees in Ohio with extremely limited options for seeking justice.
“It is simply unconscionable that this General Assembly wants to strip workers of civil protections that have been in place for over half a century,” said Rep. Michael Sheehy (D-Oregon). “This backwards measure will harm the working Ohioans who need protection the most.”
The bill also drastically reduces the statute of limitation for filing employment-related discrimination lawsuits from six years to one.
“House Bill 2 hurts workers by severely limiting the amount of time that they have to exercise their civil rights,” said Rep. Thomas West (D-Canton). “This anti-civil rights bill represents an enormous step in the wrong direction for our state and will only continue to perpetuate workplace environments that put profit before people.”
The Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC), the ACLU of Ohio and the Ohio Employment Lawyers Association and Protecting Ohio’s Employees (OELA) all testified in opposition to HB 2 in committee.
With the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimating that 24 million fewer Americans would be able to access healthcare over a decade should TrumpCare be enacted, Ohio House Democratic lawmakers today spoke out against the GOP’s effort to decimate the Affordable Care Act signed by President Obama.
“Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is not assured to every American if we can’t see a doctor when we’re sick, or if money decides whether or not we receive lifesaving care,” said Minority Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton). “TrumpCare would pull the rug out from under the feet of millions of Americans – including nearly one million Ohioans – who have healthcare coverage under the Affordable Care Act. More adults will die prematurely and more children will suffer.”
The CBO estimated that TrumpCare would lead to 14 million more people being uninsured in 2018 alone.
“There is a reason doctors, hospitals and patients all oppose TrumpCare – it will prevent Americans from accessing the healthcare they need, when they need it, without going bankrupt,” said Rep. Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron). “If Ohio is on the ‘verge of recession’ as Governor Kasich has indicated, going down this path will send us into a full on economic tailspin.”
Earlier analysis by the Center for Community Solutions, a nonpartisan policy think tank, concluded that Ohio would lose some $19 billion to $26 billion in healthcare funding for Medicaid over the next six years under the GOP’s healthcare. Cuts built in to the bill would likely result in reduced eligibility, reduced healthcare services and reduced care payments to providers within Ohio’s Medicaid system, impacting about 1 in 4 Ohioans.
The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), the American Medical Association (AMA), the American Nurses Association (ANA), the American Hospital Association (AHA) and the American College of Physicians (ACP) all oppose TrumpCare.
After holding a series of town halls and forums on Ohio’s proposed education model under the new federal ESSA standards, State Rep. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) today applauded the state for reversing course on a tight deadline for submission to the federal government— something Fedor says kept public input out of the Ohio plan.
“After tens of thousands of stakeholders asked for their voice to be heard, today we are one step closer to making this reality. I applaud the decision by Superintendent DeMaria to utilize the US Department of Education’s September 18, 2017 deadline for the technical submission of Ohio’s Every Student Succeeds Act state plan. The Draft Plan should be redrafted and developed with ongoing meaningful consultation and stakeholder feedback. By utilizing the September 18th deadline, Ohioans across the stakeholder spectrum will be able to engage deeply in the process of working transparently to draft a plan that supports a North Star vision for the education of our state’s children. This is a great first step toward working on a plan that will truly work for all of Ohio’s children.
“For 13 months, the Ohio Department of Education has heard from thousands of stakeholders— in community forums, letters, online surveys and first person communication. Legislators have also heard from our constituents by similar means. Now, it’s time to come together to ensure that the information collected has not been a futile exercise, but the beginning of a process that will explore the full constellation of the public response and commitment.
“ESSA represents a departure from the prescriptive measures utilized by No Child Left Behind. The bipartisan framers of ESSA, Senators Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray, recognized that, like learners themselves, education systems perform better by aspiring, not punishing, and ESSA contains the tools to provide the pathways and onramps to reach aspirational goals. They also designed ESSA as civil rights legislation.
“Pathways out of poverty can be found in education. Developing and implementing a North Star vision for Ohio and a plan to implement it will allow new generations to follow pathways to freedom out of poverty and other barriers to reaching their potential. Today, education is at the nexus of the modern civil rights movement.
“Ohioans historically value local control and the opportunity to think for ourselves. Ohio’s plan for education will only be as successful as the public’s confidence in it. Rather than rely on a technical outline written by bureaucrats, we should embrace the whole constellation of possibilities for our children. We shouldn’t miss this opportunity to develop Ohio’s plan together. On behalf of the many stakeholders who contacted me during this first phase of the ESSA process, I look forward to the deep, transparent engagement required to finish building the pathway for education in Ohio.”
State Reps. David Leland (D-Columbus) – aka “Mr. Baseball” – and Thomas West (D-Canton) applauded the Ohio House’s anticipated passage of House Bill (HB) 59 today, their legislation to honor Moses Fleetwood Walker, the nation’s first professional African American baseball player. The bill designates Walker’s birthday of October 7 as “Moses Fleetwood Walker Day” in the state of Ohio.
“In the face of unrelenting discrimination, Moses Fleetwood Walker persevered and overcame, and his story as the first African American professional baseball player still inspires even today,” said Leland, who also serves on the board of trustees for the Columbus Clippers, the Cleveland Indians’ Triple-A farm team. “It is also a reminder that sometimes after we get something right…we lose our way, and that the fight for equality and justice for all never ends.”
Born and raised in Ohio, Walker attended Oberlin College in 1877 and played on the school’s first varsity baseball team. His skill as a catcher and batter led to Walker being signed by the Toledo Blue Stockings in 1883, where he would begin his professional baseball career.
Walker’s career in baseball was cut short when both the American Association and the National League unofficially banned African American players in 1889. It would not be until 1947 when the color barrier was finally broken by the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Jackie Robinson.
“Over a half-century before Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier, Moses Fleetwood Walker overcame bigotry and racism to claim his place on the baseball diamond,” said West. “By establishing ‘Moses Fleetwood Walker’ day, we can help cement the Ohio’s native rightful place in history as the first African American to play professional baseball in the United States.”
Similar legislation was previously introduced during the 131st General assembly, received wide bipartisan support and unanimously passed out of the House of Representatives.
Once passed by the Ohio House this afternoon, the bill will be referred to the Ohio Senate for further consideration and potential passage to Gov. Kasich’s desk.
State Rep. Nickie J. Antonio (D-Lakewood), elected as Minority Whip of the 132nd General Assembly, released the following statement in honor of International Women’s Day:
“On this observance of International Women’s Day, we celebrate the achievements and advancements of women across the world while still recognizing the challenges women continue to face. I am hopeful for our future because of the strong young women and girls we have raised. I believe that a brighter future is certainly female.
“However, as we are confronted with policies from a previous era by lawmakers that believe women are less than equal, we must accept nothing less than equality. By working together to empower women to engage with political decision makers and take on more leadership positions, we can help to pass meaningful policies that not only advance women, but families, children and men— because we are stronger together.”
State Reps. Brigid Kelly (D-Cincinnati) and Kent Smith (D-Euclid) today announced new legislation – The “GET REALS Act” – to require the governor to complete an annual 40-hour externship in a public elementary or secondary school ranked A-F.
The Governor’s Externship for Training of Realistic Expectations of Academic Leadership in Schools (GET REALS) comes as Gov. Kasich seeks a law change in his state operating budget to require teachers to shadow businesspeople as a condition of maintaining their professional education licensure.
“If Governor Kasich is serious about strengthening our schools and preparing our students to succeed, his public policies should be informed by real world, on-the-ground experience that, quite frankly, he lacks,” said Smith.
Under Smith and Kelly’s bill, the governor’s annual 40-hour on-site work experience in a school would be split into five, eight-hour days, each in a differently ranked public school. The governor could work alongside teachers, food-service staff or custodial staff.
“No one understands the challenges and opportunities our children experience in the classroom better than educators, and this bill would extend that same necessary insight to the governor and his policy proposals,” said Kelly.
If passed, the GET REALS Act would require the governor and his staff to submit an annual report to legislative leaders on “How to Make all Ohio Schools A-Rated Institutions.”
State Rep. Greta Johnson (D-Akron) today announced she will step down at the end of the month as state representative to accept a new position in the office of Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro. Johnson will be working as deputy director in the Department of Law. Johnson released the following statement regarding the transition:
“Ilene has been a mentor to me for many years and I look forward to the opportunity to be a part of her team. I am excited to join in her vision for Summit County and I will bring my skills as an attorney and an advocate for working class people to the executive’s office.
“The move is both exciting and bittersweet. I am extremely proud of the strides I made on behalf of the thirty-fifth District, as well as the statewide relationships I established. I will miss my colleagues and staff, but I know they will continue to fight for all of Ohio’s residents. My staff will continue to serve the people of Akron and Barberton and service will be uninterrupted as my replacement is seated.
“It has been an honor to serve the people of the thirty-fifth District as state representative and I thank them for their confidence and support. I hope they feel that their voice was amplified at the Statehouse and that their concerns were heard and earnestly pursued. I look forward to continuing to serve them, and all residents of Summit County, in my new position.”
Johnson was elected to her first term in the Ohio House of Representatives in 2014. During her time in the legislature, she been a vocal advocate for women’s rights issues, victims’ assistance, and greater economic parity for Ohio’s workers. Johnson has received recognition for her efforts to remove spousal exemptions for rape cases, eliminate the tax on feminine hygiene products, and for her support of a statewide response to the opioid epidemic.
“Greta Johnson has been an invaluable member of the Democratic Caucus and this institution,” said House Democratic Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton). “She is a fierce and effective advocate for not just the people of the thirty-fifth District, but for all Ohioans who believe fairness, equality and opportunity strengthen our democracy and increase our quality of life. Her courage and principled voice helped start new dialogues at the Statehouse that led to amplified awareness, better advocacy and new laws. Our loss at the Statehouse is Summit County’s gain, and we know she’ll continue to standout as an effective public servant in her new position.”
Prior to being elected, Johnson served as a prosecutor in the prosecutor’s offices for Mahoning County, Summit County and the City of Akron. Johnson attended the University of Akron, earning her BA in Secondary Education in 1999, MA in Higher Education Administration in 2001, and her JD in Law in 2004. She has utilized her legal background at the Statehouse as ranking member on the House Criminal Justice and House Judiciary committees.
The House Democratic Caucus is expected to publicly announce the process for selecting a replacement in the coming days.
In a bipartisan 83-13 vote, the Ohio House today approved the proposed budget plans for the Ohio Department of Transportation and several other state agencies. House Bill 26, the $7.8 billion transportation bill, largely funds infrastructure projects and public safety programs over the next two fiscal years.
“This transportation budget provides billions for much-needed construction work on Ohio’s roads and bridges and will create jobs,” said Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire), ranking member of the House Finance Committee. “With technology advancing at a rapid pace, there is still more work to be done to fully address Ohio’s future transportation needs. However, I am confident that this bill will move Ohio forward.”
Democratic lawmakers offered several amendments on the House floor, including proposals to change the failure to display a front license plate from a primary to a secondary offense; strengthen Ohio’s motor voter law compliance; require counties who want increase license registrations by $5 to place the increase on the ballot; and hold local public transit systems harmless from cuts due to proposed changes to the Medicaid managed-care organization (MCO) tax. However, each amendment was tabled along largely partisan lines.
In addition to investing almost $8 billion, House Bill 26 also includes several other notable changes related to Ohio infrastructure and transportation:
“Without paved roads and safe bridges, middle class men and women in Ohio cannot get to work every day and help build a better life for themselves and their families,” said Minority Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Strahorn). “Although I believe more can be done to assist our communities and local transit agencies, this budget is a step in a positive direction toward improving our roadways across the state.”
House Bill 26 now goes to the Ohio Senate for further consideration.
Here are what other Democratic lawmakers are saying about HB 26:
“This bill represents lawmakers coming together in a bipartisan way to invest in Ohio’s infrastructure and includes critical funds for the Western Hills Viaduct,” said Rep. Alicia Reece (D-Cincinnati), the highest ranking Democrat on the House Finance Subcommittee on Transportation. “While I believe more investment is needed in Ohio’s public transit systems to help ensure people can get to and from work, this bill is a good compromise. In the meantime, I will also continue to fight for commonsense changes to Ohio’s transportation laws, such as removing the front license plate requirement."
“While I supported Sub HB 26 because it will fund needed infrastructure projects and create good, living-wage jobs, this bill could have been much better,” said Rep. Kent Smith (D-Euclid). “This is a highways bill, not a transportation bill, for it doesn't improve Ohio's dismal level of the public transportation funding. Ohio is seventh in population and fourteenth in ridership, yet we are thirty-eighth in per capita public transit dollars. Public transportation is an important component of our workforce strategies – we need to be able to get people to job locations after we give them the skills to compete. While this bill does put people to work, it fails to get people to work.”
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.