The Ohio House Democratic Women’s Caucus (OHDWC) today gathered with women from across the state to discuss and lobby for policy solutions to challenges Ohio women face. In its fifth year of existence, the event featured guest speakers, a lobbying seminar and policy briefings from women legislators. The group focused its efforts on equal pay, workplace discrimination, infant mortality and domestic violence.
“Every day in the legislature, important decisions are being made that affect women’s access to healthcare and economic opportunity,” said OHDWC Chair Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo). “By bringing together women from across the state we can engage in thoughtful dialogue on how to overcome the challenges women and working families face in Ohio, and we can empower Ohio’s women to engage with decision makers.”
Several women lawmakers took the opportunity to address participants about legislation they have introduced that would positively affect women and working families in Ohio.
The Women’s Lobby Day coincides with the release of a new report that shows Ohio continues to lag behind much of the nation in terms of gender equality. The Status of Women in the States report, released by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, ranked Ohio 27th in access to healthcare, 30th in poverty and opportunity measures, and 39th in health and well-being. Ohio didn’t receive a grade higher than C in any category defined by the report.
The mission of the Ohio House Democratic Women's Caucus is to develop and pass policies and legislation that improve the lives of Ohio women and their families; to identify and support emerging women leaders by serving as mentors; to educate and empower women and increase women's involvement in public life and in the Ohio General Assembly.
Here is what other Democratic lawmakers are saying about Women’s Lobby Day:
“Women constantly have to fight against unfair barriers that limit their professional success. The Equal Pay Act is a meaningful step toward protecting women from the structural discrimination that has plagued their workforce participation for far too long.”—Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland)
“This legislature spends an awful lot of time and energy placing restrictions on women’s personal healthcare decisions. If we want to be serious about preventing abortion in Ohio we need to devote more resources to providing better education and greater access to contraception – it’s as simple as that.”—Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan (Youngstown)
“The Equal Pay Act addresses the undeniable problem of women being systemically undervalued and underpaid for their work. It is our responsibility to Ohio women to eliminate any barriers standing in their way, including unequal treatment in the work place.”— Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent)
“It is imperative that women in Ohio feel empowered in their personal lives and in the justice process, but current state law leaves Ohio in the dark ages. Access to justice is the first step in empowering Ohio’s women and the changes I have proposed regarding domestic violence, rape and sexual assault will help women gain access to the justice they deserve.”— State Rep. Greta Johnson (D-Akron)
“By providing expanded access to birth control and greater education regarding women’s healthcare, Ohio will become a safer, healthier place for women, children and families.”— Rep. Heather Bishoff (D-Blacklick)
“As women, we always make it happen. Whether its paid leave or unpaid leave, somehow we always make it work. Despite this, we need to address the burden that unpaid leave places on families. The majority of young children depend on the income of working mothers, who are increasingly likely to be the primary breadwinners in their families. Paid maternity leave policies preserve income and also increase health outcomes for women and their children.”— Rep. Christie Kuhns (D-Cincinnati)
“Pregnant women already face many challenges – losing their job should not be one of them. I am hopeful that Ohio will join the 15 other states that value their female workers and outlaw termination or discrimination based on pregnancy.”—Rep. Denise Driehaus (D-Cincinnati)
“We must alert our physicians and stand united with them against this kind of legislation, which limits their capacity for care and our personal and constitutional right to make our health care choices.”—Rep. Janine Boyd (Cleveland Heights)
Rep. Michael Stinziano (D-Columbus) and Rep. Mike Duffey (R-Worthington) championed the passage of a bill from the Ohio House of Representatives today that would allow patrons to enjoy beer and wine while at certain markets.
“House Bill 37 supports small businesses by allowing vendors in markets to serve alcohol and compete with competitors who already allow the practice,” said Stinziano. “The North Market in Columbus is just one example of an establishment that would benefit from the bill.”
The North Market, established in 1876, houses over 30 vendors who showcase some of the best entrepreneurship and culinary skill in Central Ohio. House Bill 37 allows those businesses to augment their success, encourages new small businesses across Ohio, and improves the environment for tourism and patronage at markets.
House Bill 37 specifies that markets allowing limited open carry meet certain requirements, and also requires that any alcohol consumed on the premises be purchased from a D liquor license holder.
The bill will now be assigned to the appropriate standing committee in the Ohio Senate for further consideration.
State Reps. Denise Driehaus (D-Cincinnati), Kent Smith (D-Euclid) and Hearcel Craig (D-Columbus) expressed disappointment with today’s House Committee on Economic Development proceedings, after the panel dismissed a Democratic proposal requiring the state to study gender pay inequality and publicly report the findings.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, women on average make 78 cents for every dollar a man earns.
“It is disappointing that a majority of men and women want changes to achieve gender equality in the workplace, but Ohio’s legislature cannot seem to even have an honest debate about studying pay inequality,” said Rep. Driehaus.
The Democratic amendment was not allowed discussion and was ruled out of order for House Bill 103, a bill that creates “Ohio Womens' Week for Policy and Entrepreneurship” and establishes an “Ohio Womens' Policy and Entrepreneurship Committee.”
“Ohio cannot afford to be left behind in the national conversation about equal pay for equal work,” said Rep. Craig. “Our state’s women and families deserve policies that push us to be better and contribute to a higher quality of life in our state.”
The Democratic lawmakers’ amendment was modeled after previously introduced legislation and would require the state to:
-Determine the extent of the pay disparity between men and women in Ohio.
-Identify the causes of such disparity.
-Develop recommendations for legislative action to decrease the pay disparity between men and women in Ohio.
Pointing to a recently released United Nations report, Rep. Kent Smith was critical of the decision to stifle debate on the amendment saying, “As 59 countries have passed laws requiring equal pay for work of equal value, America lags behind on the issue of pay equity. Today, the House had a chance to make progress for women in Ohio, but Republicans didn’t even want the subject spoken about in the committee room.”
Ultimately, House Bill 103 passed the House panel unanimously. The bill’s passage comes as the Ohio House Democratic Women’s Caucus is holding their annual Women’s Lobby Day at the Statehouse.
State Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland) today applauded the consent decree negotiated between the City of Cleveland and the federal Department of Justice, saying the agreement is an important step toward achieving real progress on community-police relations in Cleveland.
Announced at a joint press conference this afternoon, the ground-breaking agreement between the city and federal justice officials includes provisions on community engagement, use-of-force, support and resources, minimizing stereotyping, accountability and crisis intervention. In particular, the agreement enables Cleveland to continue its city-wide implementation of body cameras for all officers and establishes a new community police commission that will work with neighborhoods to provide input into police matters.
“The reforms being implemented in Cleveland will make our officers better equipped to perform their duties while ensuring fair treatment for all city residents,” said Howse. “With the cooperation of federal authorities and local and state leaders, this brings us closer to significant justice reform in our community and state.”
The agreement also promises comprehensive cultural competency training for officers as well as case analysis of officer behavior to eliminate instances of racial or other types of discrimination. U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach also announced the formation of a new police inspector general position to be filled by a well-qualified civilian to oversee the police department’s internal affairs unit.
Today’s announcement comes on the heels of recommendations from Ohio’s Task Force on Community-Police Relations and a call to action for justice reform from Ohio’s Legislative Black Caucus (OLBC), of which Howse is a member.
State Reps. Greta Johnson (D-Akron) and Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) held a news conference today calling for changes to state laws that prevent equal justice for all survivors of rape. The lawmakers are pushing for the elimination of the statue of limitations on all rape cases in addition to making spousal rape and sexual battery illegal in Ohio.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one in three women experience rape or other physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner in their lifetime.
“This is a constitutional response to an unconscionable problem,” said Johnson. “With every day that passes, another victim of rape or sexual assault is denied access to justice and sexual predators are allowed to roam freely. We will not rest until all victims of sexual violence have equal and unfettered access to justice in our state.”
Victims of rape or sexual violence who seek justice can be prevented from doing so if the statute of limitations has passed by the time the victim is capable of reporting the crime and pursuing charges. While the two women lawmakers commended the recent passage of House Bill 6, which extends the statute of limitations on all rape cases for an additional five years, they believe that Ohio should join the growing number of states where spousal rape is illegal and there is no limit to charging perpetrators of sexual assault.
“Women want to live in a state where they feel safe and are treated equally under the law,” Rep. Fedor said. “It is past time to do away with laws that prevent Ohioans from seeking justice for sexual violence. We need to have a serious conversation in our state about these commonsense reforms that will ensure survivors equal access to justice and put criminals and rapists behind bars.”
The bill’s announcement comes one day prior to The Ohio House Democratic Women’s Caucus Annual Lobby Day.
Memorial Day originated in the 1800’s after the American Civil War. It was first recognized as Decoration Day, a day used to decorate a soldier’s grave with flowers and memorabilia. This national day of remembrance was first celebrated in the north states and, decades later, expanded to the south. It was not until 1971 that Congress passed the National Holiday Act, making Memorial Day an official nationally recognized holiday.
In 2000, the “National Moment of Remembrance” resolution was passed in an effort to re-engage Americans in the celebration of our veterans. This resolution asks that Americans voluntarily take a moment of silence at 3p.m. out of remembrance and respect to reflect on those who have fought for our country while listening to Taps.
Be sure to thank a veteran and take a moment of silence. Help keep Memorial Day sacred by honoring the men and women who gave so much for our great nation.
House Democratic Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton) today issued the statement below in response to Gov. Kasich’s plan to kill collective bargaining for workers who help Ohio’s elderly, disabled citizens and children. Gov. Kasich’s intentions to topple almost decade-old Executive Orders will ban workers from coming together to negotiate fair wages and safe working conditions.
“Ohioans support the right of men and women who provide care to our elderly, disabled and children to be able to come together to negotiate fair wages and safe working conditions. The governor’s actions will force workers who care for our most vulnerable to take home less pay and potentially face unsafe conditions at work.
“Breaking the state’s promise to nurses and childcare workers critically damages Ohioans’ fundamental belief in an honest pay for an honest day’s work. Ohioans believed the governor was finished with Senate Bill 5-style attacks on working families in our state, but it is now clear no lessons were learned from the divisive, partisan attacks of the past.
“Ultimately, this not only makes workers who provide care for our most vulnerable poorer and less safe at work, but it makes our elderly, disabled citizens and children less safe by effectively reducing their access to quality care.”
State lawmakers today held a joint session of the Ohio House and Senate to honor military members and their families at the annual Ohio Military Medal of Distinction Ceremony and Wreath Laying at the Ohio Statehouse. This year’s ceremony posthumously honors six servicemen from across Ohio who gave their lives in service of their country. The annual ceremony is held in celebration of Memorial Day and honors the courage, dedication and sacrifice of Ohio’s service members.
“It is a tremendous honor to take part in paying tribute to the brave soldiers who gave their lives defending our freedom,” said Columbus Rep. Hearcel Craig, the top Democratic member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee. “This ceremony sends an important message to service members everywhere that we are forever grateful for their valor, courage and service to our state and nation. Elected officials must also use this observance to further our sense of duty to fight for good-paying jobs and access to healthcare services for our returning soldiers.”
The Ohio Military Medal of Distinction was created in 2009 to honor fallen service members killed after Sept. 10, 2001, while fighting in combat zones or engaging in U.S. military operations. Both chambers of the Ohio legislature meet annually to recognize these individuals and their families and to pay tribute to their ultimate sacrifice.
“Throughout our nation’s history of defending freedom and fighting tyranny and injustice, Ohioans have always answered the call to serve their country and state,” said Democratic House Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton). “Their service and sacrifice is a reminder to us all that we owe our brave men and women so much more than what can be offered through a ceremony or special recognition. That is why we must continue fighting for our men and women in uniform to have the opportunity for a better life when they return home. We must heed the call to fully live up to the promise of the American Dream by creating a framework for good-paying jobs and access to a quality education and world-class health care.”
The medal has been awarded to over 200 Ohioans since 2009.
Ohio Legislative Black Caucus (OLBC) President and State Rep. Alicia Reece (D-Cincinnati) joined OLBC members today to call for justice reform and to urge the governor to release an action report on executive efforts toward reform in Ohio. The justice reform agenda* developed by the OLBC aims to guide state and community efforts in dialogue and action between communities of color and the state justice system.
“Public outcry and civil unrest following the police-led deaths of unarmed African American men has started a new public dialogue surrounding police-community relations and the need for justice reform immediately in Ohio and throughout the nation,” said Rep. Reece. “We need to take hold of a moment in time when Americans and Ohioans are crying out for meaningful justice reform that keeps us safe, treats citizens fairly and restores faith in our justice system. Now is the time to take action for real justice reform.”
OLBC and community leaders are calling for changes in police and law enforcement training, including increased mental health training for peace officers, a greater degree of diversity at the at the Ohio Police Officer Training Academy and community-police partnership incubators that allow communities and law enforcement officials to discuss best practices and create community-based solutions specific to neighborhoods and cities across Ohio.
“I am eagerly anticipating movement on improving community-police relations, restoring confidence in our justice system, and the commitment of resources to ensure reforms are implemented,” said Senator Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati). “It is time that we act on the findings of the Governor’s Task Force and maintain an awareness of community dynamics across the State of Ohio.”
Also among the OLBC’s action agenda items is an effort to change the state’s Grand Jury process through Ohio’s Constitutional Modernization Commission, requiring law enforcement to be equipped with body cameras, collecting social demographic data from police interactions to identify discriminatory policing tactics and reforming the death penalty.
“Change comes with action, not promises,” said Rep. Christie Kuhns (D-Cincinnati). “While I applaud the governor’s executive order, our communities deserve a full and thorough follow-through of the recommendations from the Task Force on Community-Police Relations.”
As part of the comprehensive action plan, OLBC President Alicia Reece and members are urging Gov. Kasich to release a report on the current status of executive action taken by his administration following recommendations issued by the Ohio Task Force on Community-Police Relations last month. The governor’s executive order created a board to develop and oversee minimum standards and best practices for police departments throughout the state.
Here is what other members of OLBC are saying about the need for justice reform:
“I applaud the work of the Governor's Taskforce on Community and Police Relations, but we want to ensure that the report and recommendations do not sit on a shelf. We studied, recommended and now it is time for action, followed by ongoing education and enforcement.”—Assistant Senate Democratic Leader Charleta B. Tavares (D-Columbus)
“The trust between law enforcement and the people they serve and protect is critical to the safety of our officers and the integrity of our criminal justice system. I look forward to continued conversations with law enforcement, community members and elected officials about how we can get this right in Ohio.”—House Democratic Whip Kevin L. Boyce (D-Columbus)
“I’m pleased to see the Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission is considering examining the effectiveness of the grand jury. I will be following the commission’s progress, but I have high hopes they will be able to recommend ways to modernize Ohio’s judiciary process. Transparency is my main focus and I believe at minimum the Court should allow transcripts to be publicly available, ensure the independence of grand jury stenographers, and require the presence of a judge.”--Senator Sandra R. Williams (D-Cleveland)
“It is of utmost importance for our communities to trust the men and women have dedicated their lives to protecting and serving the community. I look forward to the opportunity to work with the members of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, The 131st general assembly, and the administration to implement practical solutions in improving the relationship between police and the community. The future of our state depends on it.”—State Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Akron)
“Our call to action requires that the state take meaningful and substantive steps toward improving police-community relations while making changes that will help restore faith in our justice system.” –Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland)
State Reps. Christie Kuhns (D-Cincinnati) and Jonathan Dever (R-Madeira) today announced the introduction of House Resolution 107, legislation urging the Congress of the United States to renew funding for Save the Dream Ohio to help homeowners in the state avoid foreclosure.
“This program has been instrumental in helping save Ohio’s homes and the dreams of so many families,” said Rep. Kuhns. “While our communities continue to recover from the impacts of the housing crisis, a sustained effort is needed to continue to protect the economic integrity of neighborhoods. The Save the Dream Program has been a successful effort in this regard, and without federal action we stand to lose some of the ground we have gained in responding to the crisis.”
The national housing crisis led to unprecedented home price declines and higher unemployment in Ohio. In 2008, Save the Dream Ohio was created as a multi-agency foreclosure prevention outreach initiative involving partners from state government, nonprofit housing counseling agencies, and legal aid organizations to address the crisis. The Ohio Housing Finance Agency received $570.4 million from the United States Treasury Department’s Hardest Hit Fund to administer Ohio’s foreclosure prevention program through Save the Dream Ohio.
To date, nearly $400 million has been disbursed on behalf of over 24,000 homeowners at risk of foreclosure with $60 million reserved for anticipated disbursements. Additionally, $60 million was designated for a new effort, the Neighborhood Initiative Program, to help eliminate blighted, abandoned residential properties and stabilize surrounding home values. With funds running out, Save the Dream Ohio stopped accepting applications in August 2014 and payments on behalf of homeowners are expected to end sometime in late 2016. Treasury guidelines require all Hardest Hit Funds to be dispersed no later than December 31, 2017.