Portions Of The Capital Bill Put 'pork' And Puppets Ahead Of Ohio's Patriots
Local reservists want hangar at Air Reserve base to assist deploying soldiers
April 26, 2016

State Rep. John Boccieri (D-Poland) today highlighted some of the community projects that won funding in the 2016 capital budget over the Youngstown Air Reserve Station (YARS)’s request to create a Regional Joint Readiness Center (RJRC) to provide a central point for deploying reservists. The request centered on the cargo apron and hangar that reservists from the 910th Airlift Wing would immediately utilize.

According the Vindicator, the Federal Aviation Administration financed an $11.5 million 13-acre paved cargo apron area on the west side of the airport in 1999. A private developer built a building for airport cargo shipping next to it, but both facilities have remained practically unused since. On a recent visit to the area, U.S. military officials expressed interest in the idea of using the cargo apron and building as a deployment hub for troops and other military assets from all branches of the military from Northeast Ohio as well as nearby portions of neighboring states.

“I’m really surprised that the initial introduction of the capital bill placed ‘pork’ ahead of Ohio’s patriots,” Rep. Boccieri said. “The irony is almost pathetic – legislators want to construct a fifty-foot statue of the Wright brother’s first airplane ahead of prioritizing a project that will have an immediate impact on deploying soldiers who fly out of the Air Reserve Station.”

Instead of appropriating even one dollar to Western Reserve Port Authority, the legislature is on track to give $80,000 to the Bowling Green Curling Club and $500,000 toward a soccer stadium in Columbus. In addition, the state is granting the full funding amount requested by the Madcap Production for a new puppet theater, and $1 million to the Cleveland Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum for a single exhibit.

The Youngstown Air Reserve Station is the third largest employer in the Mahoning Valley and, unlike the private sector, must justify its continued existence in front of a Base Realignment and Closure Committee at the federal level. This project could cement the base as a joint station for all branches of the military as a deployment hub, and create an even larger economic impact, which currently exceeds $100 million.

“We certainly should prioritize our soldiers ahead of a puppet theater and statue of the Wright brothers’ first airplane,” Rep. Boccieri said. “I hope that there is the political will and foresight with an amendment to realign taxpayer dollars away from these projects and toward our soldiers.”

Sykes Appointed To The Ohio Commission On Minority Health
Akron lawmaker will work to combat infant mortality rate, other minority health disparities
April 26, 2016

State Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) today announced her recent appointment to the Ohio Commission on Minority Health (OCMH). As a board member, Sykes will work to support the commission’s efforts to address health disparities among minority populations, including the infant mortality rate for African Americans. According to the Ohio Department of Health, African American babies die at roughly twice the rate of white babies in Ohio.

“Ohio’s African American and other minority communities face unique and ongoing health challenges that require dedicated resources and action,” said Sykes. “It is an honor to be selected to serve as a member of the Ohio Commission on Minority Health. I believe that this collaboration—between OCMH, the state legislature, and our community healthcare providers and partners—is an important step towards closing the gap in minority health outcomes and creating a healthier Ohio for all working people.”

Since being elected to the state legislature, Sykes has worked diligently to address health disparities among minority Ohioans. She recently introduced House Bill 514, legislation to require health care professionals to complete instruction in cultural competency in order to receive or renew their license, certification or registration. The Akron lawmaker also gave the keynote speech at the OCMH’s Kickoff Event for Minority Health Month in April.

Established in 1987, the Ohio Commission on Minority Health was the first freestanding state agency in the nation to develop a concerted approach to address the disparity that exists between the health status of minority and non-minority populations. The commission seeks to alleviate such health disparities through innovative and culturally sensitive strategies, public health promotion, legislative action and public policy and systems change.


Every Ohioan depends on clean, safe water. Water is easy to take for granted. Turn on the faucet, and it is available. 

Ohio is a water-rich state, bounded by Lake Erie on the north and the Ohio River on the south, with many streams and rivers within its borders. 

In recent years, there have been concerns about the role Ohio’s agriculture community plays in protecting our environment, specifically as it relates to water quality. The good news is – through the passage of comprehensive legislation and detailed environmental regulations, Ohio has in place a robust infrastructure that can and does efficiently and effectively preserve our land, air and water. 

As a lifetime resident of the Maumee Bay area and as a member of the Ohio House Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee, I have a vested interest in finding solutions to preserve our state’s largest natural resource. Earth Day is the perfect opportunity to celebrate the demonstrable achievements as well as recognize the challenges ahead on environmental issues and implement tangible solutions. 

Ohio has long been a leader in developing and implementing best practices and regulations for nutrient management – and we have the track record to show it. Legislative proposals like Ohio Senate Bill (SB) 1, which passed in 2015 and establishes standards for on-farm nutrient management and water quality measures, are an important addition to the work livestock farmers already do to protect the state’s waters. SB 1 prohibits the spreading of fertilizer and manure in the Lake Erie Watershed when fields are frozen, snow-covered or saturated. 

In addition to SB 1, Ohio Senate Bill 150 was passed in 2014, and requires everyone who applies fertilizer on more than 50 acres for agriculture production to be certified by 2017. SB 150 is the first legislation of its kind in the nation to require certification for fertilizer application. The bill also requires some publicly-owned water treatment facilities to begin monthly monitoring of phosphorus by December 1, 2016.

Starting in 2020, SB150 will ban depositing dredged material in Ohio’s portion of Lake Erie and its tributaries. The measure also contains important provisions that go after “bad actors” – if an applicator applies fertilizer in a manner that causes a problem, they can have their certification revoked and can’t apply fertilizer. They also will face fines and additional charges.  

Although these measures are more recent, Ohio’s legislators and the agriculture industry have a long history of working together to identify workable solutions that protect the environment and address water quality issues. More than 15 years ago, Ohio’s General Assembly passed Ohio Senate Bill 141, which established the Ohio Livestock Environmental Permitting Program (LEPP) through the Ohio Department of Agriculture. LEPP is a model program that has been praised across the country for its foresight and effectiveness in assuring permitted farms maintain on-farm environmental protections. The program achieves this through a rigorous permitting process that includes reporting, inspections, public engagement and complaint investigation. 

Incorporating good management techniques like these has led to stronger environmental protection, which is good news for citizens of Toledo and across the state. I am proud of the work we have been able to accomplish over the years while continuing to position Ohio as a leader in the nation on environmental issues. With these legislative measures in place, it is now critical to let the rules work as they were designed to do, while remaining vigilant and proactive as future issues arise. 

Every Ohioan – from farmers to consumers – has a vested interest in environmentally responsible farming practices. Our state’s policy leaders and the farm community recognize that there are concerns about farming and environmental responsibility, and we will continue to work together to ensure the state’s land, air, streams and waterways are protected for future generations while ensuring our region can continue to grow and prosper. 

Gloria Steinem Joins Women Lawmakers For Day At The Statehouse
Celebrated feminist, journalist discusses Ohio issues during "Real Talk" forum
April 21, 2016

The Ohio House Democratic Women’s Caucus (OHDWC) today is hosting nationally renowned American feminist, activist and journalist Gloria Steinem for a series of events at the Ohio Statehouse. Born in Toledo, Ohio, Gloria Steinem was a key figure during the women’s rights movement of the late 1960’s and has received numerous bestselling book awards for her novels on women’s issues on personal, national and global levels. 

“Gloria Steinem is an inspiring hero and role-model for women in Ohio and across the nation,” said Rep. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo), chair of the OHDWC. “From the gender wage gap, to restrictions on women’s access to healthcare, to outdated and incomplete laws against rape, many of the challenges women in Ohio face today are the same issues Gloria has been fighting against and raising awareness of for decades. The challenges we face in Ohio are certainly real, but they are not insurmountable if we come together, speak with one voice and make a stand.” 

Steinem spent the day in Columbus with members of the OHDWC and took time to meet with staff in the morning. 

“At a time when Ohio women are feeling like their voices are not heard in the halls of the Statehouse, Gloria Steinem’s message of gender equality and women’s access to comprehensive healthcare as a fundamental right was inspiring and motivational,” said Rep. Greta Johnson (D-Akron), vice chair of the women’s caucus. “I hope today’s visit will inspire Ohio women to continue the fight for gender equality, from birth to the boardroom.” 

“Gloria Steinem has long been a leading voice on issues of gender equality and social justice, and her message is as relevant today in Ohio as it was when she began writing nearly five decades ago,” said Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Akron), co-policy chair of the women’s caucus. “It was an honor to spend time with her today and talk about the issues facing Ohio women and their families.” 

In the evening, the OHDWC is collaborating with Steinem to hold a “Real Talk” public forum in the Statehouse atrium, in which issues of gender equality and the daily challenges faced by Ohio women will be discussed. 

“She reminded us today that we must not think of the world in terms of a hierarchy, with rankings above one another, but as an interconnected web,” said House Democratic Whip Nickie J. Antonio (D-Lakewood). “This hierarchical view has allowed government to slowly chip away at women’s reproductive rights and autonomy, affecting their partners, children and families as a whole. I am pleased to have been part of this important discussion today and I hope that we can come together as a society to stop these fundamentally unjust attacks against women and their reproductive freedoms.” 

Steinem is the co-founder of Ms. magazine and also helped found New York magazine. As a freelance writer, Steinem has had her work published in Esquire and The New York Times Magazine. 

“I have long appreciated Gloria Steinem for her outspoken activism, and for using her voice to light a fire for gender equality in the hearts and minds of women – and men,” said House Minority Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton). “It is a truly special day to be able to welcome her back to her home state of Ohio.” 

Steinem has received the Lifetime Achievement in Journalism Award from the Society of Professional Journalists, among many other journalistic achievement awards.  

Sykes, Democratic Lawmakers File Public Comment Opposing Proposed GOP Medicaid Restrictions
State estimates Ohioans will lose coverage under plan signed by Kasich
April 21, 2016

State Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Akron), the lead Democratic member on the Health and Human Services House budget panel, today joined House Democratic lawmakers to file a formal protest with the Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM), opposing proposed restrictions and additional barriers to healthcare for working poor Ohioans.

GOP lawmakers proposed new Medicaid restrictions for working poor Ohioans in the state budget last June that Gov. John Kasich ultimately signed into law. New fees and set-aside health spending accounts would be required under the GOP’s so-called “Healthy Ohio” program, if the federal government should approve it.

Because the GOP’s Medicaid taxes on the working poor would be the most stringent in the nation among the few states that require nominal Medicaid fees, some skeptics believe the federal government is unlikely to approve the plan in its entirety.

The ODM is hearing public testimony at two meetings – one today at 2 p.m. in Columbus – and taking written public comment until midnight on May 16.

Sykes issued the following statement with a copy of the protest letter attached:

“This misguided plan confirms our fears and repeated warnings during the budget process that new GOP taxes on healthcare would effectively end healthcare coverage for working poor Ohioans. It is hypocritical for Governor Kasich to stand on stage and laud his work on Medicaid expansion, when his actions could now be putting over half-a-billion Ohioans in a literal life-or-death situation. The GOP’s so-called ‘Healthy Ohio’ program is anything but healthy.

 “Taxpayers deserve to have their voices heard, especially when new healthcare restrictions are being proposed for women being treated for breast and cervical cancer and teens aging out of foster care. In states that have pushed premium increases like Indiana, Oregon and Wisconsin, they have seen administrative costs go up and service go down.”

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


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Ohio Legislative Black Caucus (OLBC) President and State Rep. Alicia Reece (D-Cincinnati) today applauded the selection of Harriet Tubman as the new face of the U.S. $20 bill.

“I applaud the Obama administration for taking action to make Harriet Tubman the face of the twenty-dollar bill. Future generations will reflect upon this moment as a pivotal turning point in American history. Breaking free from slavery, serving our nation in the Civil War, shepherding so many enslaved African Americans to freedom and fighting for women’s suffrage, Tubman’s life and legacy personifies what it means to be American and believe in our nation’s most fundamental guarantee of freedom,” said Reece. “No longer will Harriet ‘Moses’ Tubman be relegated to classroom history books, but instead she will be a concrete, daily reminder of freedom and justice for women, African Americans and our entire nation. From once being enslaved in chains to now taking her rightful place as a symbol of courage, freedom and justice on one of our nation’s highest circulated bills, Tubman’s life and legacy is sure to be revived, inspiring a new generation of civic leaders and public servants.”

Reece said the OLBC plans to bring a resolution honoring the life and legacy of Harriet Tubman, and marking her historic selection as the new face of the $20 dollar bill, to the House floor sometime in the near future.

Ohio Legislation Calls On US Senate To Do Their Job, Take Action On SCOTUS Nomination
State lawmakers say U.S. Senate must uphold constitutional duty to advise and consent on Supreme Court nomination
April 20, 2016

State Rep. Dan Ramos (D-Lorain) and State Sen. Michael Skindell (D-Lakewood) today introduced companion legislation in their respective chambers to urge the U.S. Senate to consider the nomination of Appeals Court Judge Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court. The president nominated Garland on March 16, but the U.S. Senate has so far refused to hold hearings to consider his nomination.

“The U.S. Senate has a constitutional duty to advise and consent, and I believe Ohioans and the American people want their Senators to do the jobs they elected them to do,” said Rep. Ramos. “As a long-serving, well respected jurist—who has already been approved by the Senate for his current position—Judge Garland deserves fair consideration as Supreme Court nominee. Beyond that, Congress established there must be nine justices serving on the Supreme Court. It’s time to get back to working for the American people instead of moving forward with a partisan political agenda.”

Polls show that the overwhelming majority of Americans want the Senate to hold confirmations hearings to consider Garland’s candidacy and to give the experienced federal appellate judge an up or down vote. Historically, the Senate has never failed to vote for a Supreme Court Justice nominee since 1900, and it has never taken them more than 125 days to vote after the President announces his nomination.

“We are asking the U.S. Senate to give Judge Garland proper consideration,” said Sen. Skindell. “Only partisan politics would prevent a highly qualified nominee from making his case through public hearings.”

Garland was appointed to the D.C. federal appeals court by President Bill Clinton in 1997 after being confirmed by a 76-to-23 vote. He has served for 19 years on the court, and was promoted to chief judge three years ago. In 1995, Garland oversaw the investigation into the Oklahoma City bombing, which was the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil at the time. 

Ohio Legislative Black Caucus Says State Can Do More To Connect Minority Contractors To Transportation Construction Jobs
State report reveals minority-owned businesses receive disproportionately low percentage of state highway contracts
April 15, 2016

State Rep. and President of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus (OLBC) Alicia Reece (D-Cincinnati) today called on the state to take action to reduce barriers between state highway contract opportunities and minority-owned businesses in Ohio. A “disparity study” released today by the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) revealed that minority and women-owned businesses receive a disproportionately small percentage of the state highway contract opportunities available.

“Today’s news confirms what we already knew: that minority-owned businesses still face too many barriers – historic and systemic – to economic opportunities in this state,” said Reece. “It took over 30 years for the state to finally meet its Minority Business Enterprise benchmarks, and we cannot wait another 30 years to close the gap in connecting minority-owned businesses with highway construction contracts and jobs opportunities. The state can do more to create a fair and equitable environment for minority-owned businesses.”

Reece said the OLBC wants to see the state do more through increased diversity within the ODOT organization, greater access to capital and bonding for minority companies, a statewide urban apprenticeship and on-the-job training program, Minority Business Enterprise inclusion for ODOT projects, and an internship initiative with Ohio’s historically black colleges – Wilberforce University and Central State University.

 “With the realization that the state of Ohio passively participates in race- and gender-based discrimination, the state must dedicate resources to eliminate barriers within the marketplace to ensure that African American- and Hispanic-owned businesses receive a fair share of contracting opportunities,” said Howse. 

The lawmakers also said the OLBC is calling for a legislative halt to proposed local hiring bans, Senate Bill 152 and a House-passed companion version, which would prohibit communities from setting local workforce participation standards on infrastructure construction projects – a tool that has been used in urban cores with high-minority population density like Cleveland, Akron, Toledo and Cincinnati. 

“We cannot have taxation without participation,” Reece added. “The bottom line is: we can be doing more.” 

The ODOT state report showed that overall, minority- and women-owned businesses received only 14.2 percent of the relevant contracting dollars that ODOT awarded during the study period. Furthermore, African American-owned businesses fared especially poorly, receiving approximately only 31 cents for every dollar that they might be expected to receive based on their availability for the ODOT contracts awarded during the study period. 

Increasing state contract opportunities for minority-owned businesses has long been at the top of the OLBC Action Agenda, and the organization has previously helped lobby to secure $800,000 in Ohio Department of Transportation workforce development grants, including $300,000 for the Greater Cincinnati Urban League’s highly successful Construction Connections program and $500,000 for the Opportunity Corridor currently under construction in Cleveland.

Johnson Seeks To Simplify Emergency Dialing From Large-scale Phone Systems
Legislation would give caller direct access to 9-1-1 responders
April 15, 2016

In honor of National Public Safety Telecommunications Week, State Rep. Greta Johnson (D-Akron) today announced the introduction of “Kari’s Law”, legislation that aims to make it easier for Ohioans to dial 9-1-1 in cases of emergency. The bill would require multi-line telephone systems—such as the ones used by hotels and offices—to allow direct access to 9-1-1, eliminating the need for a dial out number.

“While celebrating a week to honor our invaluable dispatchers and telecommunicators, it seems more than fitting to introduce legislation to assist their efforts in keeping our communities safe,” said Johnson. “In cases of emergencies, we teach children at a very young age to dial 9-1-1 and help will arrive. I am proud to introduce legislation that ensures easier, more effective access to emergency operators throughout the state of Ohio.”

In 2013, Kari Hunt of Texas was stabbed to death in a hotel room while her young daughter attempted to call for help, unaware that the hotel line required you to dial ‘9’ before dialing out. Following the passage of “Kari’s Law” in Texas, several states including New York, Illinois, Tennessee, and Maryland, have already passed similar legislation, with legislation pending in other states.

Rep. Johnson noted that similar measures are already being put in place in Summit County. At the State of the County last month, Summit County Executive Russ Pry announced the County’s efforts to update their communications system to ensure first responders arrive quickly on the scene of an emergency. The County is also implanting the Ohio Location Based Response System to improve the accuracy of location reporting on 9-1-1 calls.

Valley Lawmakers Announce State Support For Mahoning County Sheriff Marine Patrol Unit
Ohio Department of Natural Resources grant will help sheriff's office keep waterways safe
April 13, 2016

State Rep. John Boccieri (D-Poland), State Sen. Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) and State Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown) today announced that the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office will receive a $28,035.99 Marine Patrol Assistance Grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). The state grant is intended to help the local law enforcement agency provide emergency response to boating-related incidents, conduct routine waterway patrols and purchase safety equipment for use on marine patrol vessels.

“I am pleased to see that our state is funding local efforts to improve water safety in the Valley,” said Boccieri. “Local marine patrol units play an important role in preventing boating accidents and providing quick emergency responses when people are in danger on the water.”

According to ODNR, boating-related fatalities in the state have decreased since 1996 by 12 percent, dropping from 179 to last year’s 159 deaths.

“With the summer months upon us, we are reminded that water safety remains an important issue,” said Lepore-Hagan. “The Mahoning County Sheriff Office’s marine patrol units provide a very important service to our community, and this will grant will help them continue to perform their duties effectively and efficiently.”

Ohio had a record 474,601 registered recreational watercrafts last year, a growth of almost 40,000 in three years. Overall, Ohio ranks eighth in the nation in state recreational boat registrations. The current economic impact of recreational boating in Ohio is $3.5 billion.

“Home to Lake Milton and Berlin Lake, Mahoning County is a very popular tourism spot for families during the summer months,” said Schiavoni. “This state support will go a long way to ensure that the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office has the ability to continue to provide exceptional service to both residents and visitors on our waterways.”

The award is one of 24 that ODNR distributed as a part of its 2016 Marine Patrol Assistance Grant program. Grant funding allocated to local communities comes from the state’s Waterways Safety Fund, which is comprised of the state motor fuel tax, watercraft registration and titling fees, as well as funds provided by the U.S. Coast Guard.  

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Lawmakers Push Solution To Stabilize 31 Fiscally Distressed Communities Hit Hard By Kasich's Budget Cuts


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 Rep. Greta Johnson On Women's Access To Healthcare: "We're Not Damsels In Distress Tied To Railroad Tracks, We Are The Train Carrying The Message."


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.


Dem Lawmakers Push Proposals For Women's "access To Healthcare Without Apology"


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.

“The women and families of our state deserve better and need not apologize for demanding access to comprehensive healthcare,” said Johnson. “We are not damsels in distress tied to the train tracks, waiting to be rescued. We have the fundamental right to make healthcare decisions about our own bodies.”


Reps. Howse, Clyde Introduce The Ohio Equal Pay Act


State Reps. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) and Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland) today announced the introduction of House Bill 330, the Ohio Equal Pay Act. The legislation aims to address the persistent problem of unequal pay between women and men.