State Rep. Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron), a vocal proponent of devoting more resources to fighting Ohio’s infant mortality crisis, today responded to Gov. Mike DeWine’s creation of an advisory panel to potentially expand home-visitation programs, which have been shown to increase infant life expectancy and maternal health.


“After years of fighting for opportunities that let families and children have brighter futures, we are glad to see this Governor is making kids a priority,” said Sykes. “We look forward to working with him to push for funding in the budget that makes the lives of Ohio's children and families better.”


Ohio consistently is a national leader in the annual rate of babies who die before reaching age one. The problem is especially pronounced among black babies, who have a mortality rate three times their white counterparts.


DeWine has promised to triple the number of families served through home-visiting programs.

 
 
  

State Rep. Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) today released the following statement applauding Gov. Mike DeWine’s tone and work ethic as he begins his first day of service to Ohioans as the state’s 70th governor:


“By embracing new ideas, building bridges and surrounding himself with a majority-woman cabinet and people that know the meaning of hard work, Governor DeWine has sent a message that today is a new day in the State of Ohio.


“I applaud the governor for getting to work immediately and doing his part to better protect people from discrimination and addiction. Though we have no shortage of challenges ahead of us, we have a unique opportunity to put differences aside and work together to give all Ohioans the chance for a better life in our state.


“I look forward to working with Governor DeWine as we seek to build a better, stronger Ohio for generations to come.”

 
 
  
Rep. Brigid Kelly

Ohio House Democratic Caucus Whip and state Rep. Brigid Kelly (D-Cincinnati) today issued the following statement announcing she will leave her leadership post with the caucus at the end of Jan:


“I’m proud of the progress the House Democratic Caucus has made during my time in leadership, welcoming an historic number of women and minority lawmakers and adding nearly a half-dozen new seats to our ranks—efforts nearly a decade in the making.


“I look forward to working with the new leadership team and my colleagues to continue to find commonsense ways to come together and give working people the tools they need for a better life.”

 
 
  
Rep. Fred Strahorn

House Democratic Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton) today issued the following statement announcing his plans to step down as House Democratic leader at the end of January, after four years of serving as the Ohio House’s top ranking Democrat:


“I don’t take today’s announcement lightly, because I’m proud of the rebuilding and growth Ohio House Democrats have experienced under my leadership. After a decade of being denied a seat at the table with Republicans, we changed our direction in the legislature by engaging better with the majority on the official side and working overtime on the political side, which resulted in a net gain of five Democratic legislators in the House. Ultimately, 11.5 million Ohioans have a stronger voice and a more responsive government because of that approach.


“The caucus’ success over the last four years is shared among the talented, hardworking members and staff who each sacrificed and gave their all to further our goals of growing the middle class and ensuring working people and working families have a real opportunity for a better life in our state.


“I want to thank former Speaker Ryan Smith for his inclusiveness, leadership and shared commitment to making our state better. Though we have disagreed on the best approach at times, I believe Ryan is a man of principled integrity.


“As we move forward I am hopeful for the caucus’ continued success and will look to contribute toward that success. My decision to step down is bittersweet, but it is made sweeter knowing that I will have more time to spend with my loved ones and more time to focus on the issues that are personally important to me. I thank all the members for their trust in me over the last four years, and I look forward to this next chapter, both for myself and for the Ohio House of Representatives.”

 
 
  
 
Sykes Named To National Fellowship On Maternal And Child Health
Lawmaker looks to strengthen Ohio families by bringing together state experts
January 03, 2019
 
 

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.


“I am very excited to engage national leaders in an effort to improve the lives of women and children in Ohio,” said Sykes. “From high infant and maternal mortality to low investments in children’s services, we face serious challenges that continue to hold Ohio families back. I am hopeful we can bring together advocates and experts in our state to better inform this national discussion while also finding new ways to strengthen mothers, children, and families here at home.”


Sykes is planning a Jan. 23 listening session with Ohio health advocates and experts in advance of NCSL’s first three-day fellowship meeting later this month, which will explore policy solutions to maternal mortality and other critical issues facing families. Organizations or individuals interested in participating in the discussion can contact Rep. Sykes’s office.


The fellowship program focuses on solving problems that affect families, like access to prenatal and well-child care, pregnancy-related death and injuries, infant mortality prevention, infertility, emergency medical services, newborn screening and services for children with special health care needs.


“I am hopeful that by integrating best practices and expertise from leading health advocates in Ohio and around the country, we can find a long-term solutions to health disparities and reduce maternal mortality rates in communities across our state,” added Sykes.


During her time in the legislature, Sykes has been an outspoken advocate for health policies that reduce infant mortality, increase access to care and protect healthcare funding for Ohio women and children. Her legislation increasing adoption awareness in Ohio recently passed the legislature, and she has pending legislation to raise maternal mortality awareness, as the state’s pregnancy-related death rate continues to rise.


She serves as a member of the state’s Joint Medicaid Oversight Committee and as the Democratic leader of the House Finance Subcommittee on Health and Human Services. A lawyer, Sykes also holds a Masters of Public Health from the University of Florida.

 
 
  

The Ohio House met today in a rare session to override a number of vetoes by Republican Gov. John Kasich. Democrats largely backed a proposal to extend benefits to spouses and children of public safety personnel killed in the line of duty, but fought back as GOP lawmakers pushed to override vetoes on measures to restrict abortion access and loosen gun safety laws.


“While it’s important we came back to deliver benefits to the families of those killed in the line of duty, it’s a shame the House majority used this opportunity to push a divisive, ideological agenda,” said House Minority Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton). “Infringing on the rights of medical professionals to deliver care to women and limiting citizens’ freedom to decide what is best for their communities is not what we were sent here to do. Democrats, like millions of Ohioans and the majority of gun owners, want to see responsible gun safety laws. Today was not that. I hope that in the new year we can put the politics aside and work together to support commonsense ideas that put people first.”


House Republicans voted to override the governor’s veto of House Bill (HB) 258, one of the most restrictive measures in the country that would prohibit abortions after as early as six weeks. There are no exceptions for instances of rape and incest in the bill—and only limited exceptions for the woman’s health.


Despite passing the House, the override measure failed to receive the three-fifths support of the Senate to become law.


“Medical decisions should be left between patient and doctor, but in Ohio, that confidentiality falls by the wayside when it comes to women deciding when to start or grow a family,” said House Minority Whip Emilia Sykes (D-Akron). “This six-week ban is an unconstitutional assault on the freedom of women, the consequences of which will fall hardest on communities already struggling to access quality, affordable healthcare.”


House Republicans also voted to override the governor’s veto on HB 228, a Republican-sponsored bill to loosen gun safety laws by changing the burden of proof in alleged self-defense shootings and preempting local gun safety ordinances.


“Millions of Ohioans, including our Republican governor, want commonsense gun safety laws, but this Republican majority continues to push unconstitutional attacks on self-government that make us all less safe,” said Assistant Minority Whip Brigid Kelly (D-Cincinnati). “HB 228 is part of an agenda driven by the gun lobby that makes it harder for families affected by gun violence to seek justice. Overriding this veto is a grave disservice to Ohioans who want change.”


In addition, state lawmakers voted to override the governor’s veto on HB 296, a bill to extend benefits to the surviving spouses and children of public safety officers killed in the line of duty. The bill also had a provision attached that would institute a cost of living adjustment for various state and local elected officials.

 
 
  

State Reps. John Patterson (D-Jefferson) and Steven Arndt (R-Port Clinton) today announced the Gov. John Kasich’s signing of House Bill (HB) 454, their bipartisan legislation that would require townships to offer compensation to owners of certain unused cemetery lots or rights before they are reclaimed. Under previous law, townships have the right to resell unused cemetery lots that were sold after 1986, though not those sold before that date, leaving many vacant lots unavailable to families wishing to be buried close to loved ones.


“Families of lost loved ones deserve peace of mind and the opportunity to plan for their family member’s final wishes and burial arrangements,” said Patterson. “Our new law will provide more families with that peace of mind while creating a stronger process for families and local communities to better manage their respective needs. Nothing is more important than honoring the final wishes of a person or grieving family, and by working together in the legislature, we were able to do just that.”


Under HB 454, a township may reclaim its interest in an unused pre-1986 cemetery lot if the township provides notice to the owner and the owner does not respond within 180 days. Otherwise, a township must allow the owner to retain or renew their interest in the lot at no cost, provide the owner a different lot, or provide the owner a portion of the original purchase price.


The bill also allows a township, at any point, to repurchase a pre-1986 lot from the owner for a mutually agreed-upon price. Once burial easements and their heirs have acquired legal rights to their lots, compensation must be afforded to them as provided under the new law. 


The new law will take effect in 90 days.

 
 
  
 
Sykes' Bipartisan Push For Wrongfully Imprisoned Ohioans On Track To Become Law
Legislature approves House Bill 411 to increases access to justice
December 18, 2018
 
 

State Rep. Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) today announced the legislature’s Dec. 13 approval of House Bill (HB) 411, her bipartisan legislation to streamline access to justice for victims of wrongful imprisonment in Ohio.


“Protecting the rights and freedom of our citizens is my top priority, and when those rights are violated we have a responsibility to take action,” said Sykes. “Thanks to this bipartisan effort, Ohioans who have been wrongfully imprisoned will soon have a better path forward to reclaim their lives and receive the justice they deserve.”


Currently, only those wrongfully imprisoned on felony or aggravated felony charges are eligible to bring wrongful imprisonment claims against the state, but HB 411 expands that right to people wrongfully imprisoned on misdemeanor charges. The bill also sets a one-year time limit on plaintiff appeals and provides justice to people wrongfully imprisoned based on procedural errors or if no actual law was broken. 


After passing the House and the Senate, the bill is expected to become law 90 days after Gov. Kasich’s anticipated signature. 

 
 
  
 
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.

 
 
  
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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.



 
 

Final Hours Of General Assembly See Sweeping Changes As House Votes To Override Governor's Vetoes

 

The Ohio House met today in a rare session to override a number of vetoes by Republican Gov. John Kasich. Democrats largely backed a proposal to extend benefits to spouses and children of public safety personnel killed in the line of duty, but fought back as GOP lawmakers pushed to override vetoes on measures to restrict abortion access and loosen gun safety laws.



 
 

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.