Rep. Kelly's Provision To Repeal The Pink Tax Takes Effect
Says repeal will save Ohioans nearly $4 million each year on menstrual hygiene products
April 02, 2020
 
 

COLUMBUS- State Rep. Brigid Kelly (D-Cincinnati) announced the provision she sponsored in Senate Bill (SB) 26 to eliminate the Ohio sales taxes on menstrual hygiene products, commonly known as the Pink Tax, took effect on April 1st, 2020.


She released the following statement regarding the repeal:


“Individuals in our state who have periods will no longer have to pay the sales tax on these medically necessary products. This repeal helps to ensure that folks are better able to lead a healthful life, to regularly attend school, work or personal events, and to fully participate in their communities as they choose. No one should have to struggle financially because of their period.”


Anusha SinghPolicy Coordinator at PERIOD Inc., served as a community proponent of the bill. Regarding the Pink Tax repeal going into effect, Anusha stated:


“Periods do not pause for a pandemic. The emergency response to this pandemic has people stockpiling household items such as toilet paper, and even menstrual products. The virus exacerbates the issue of period poverty. However, the repeal of the pink tax in Ohio is a great first step in making access to menstrual products more equitable and affordable for Ohio women. My student organization, PERIOD at The Ohio State University, has been advocating for the repeal of the pink tax for nearly 2 years and this is a huge moment for the menstrual movement and in the fight for gender equality. We look forward to working with our legislators to continue to advocate for access to menstrual products in Ohio and fight period poverty."


According to the Legislative Service Commission, Ohio individuals previously gave the state nearly $4 million in annual taxes from purchasing menstrual hygiene products. Kelly previously sponsored legislation to eliminate the pink tax in the 132nd General Assembly, which passed the House before stalling in the Senate.

 
 
  
 
House Democrats Renew Calls For A Stop To Evictions And Foreclosures, Debt Collection During The COVID-19 Crisis
Say first day of April could be most financially devastating day yet for many Ohioans
April 01, 2020
 
 

COLUMBUS— For many, the first day of a new month means rent and bills are due. For those who have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus outbreak, April 1st could be the most financially devastating day yet as fears of evictions and foreclosures may loom.


House Democrats have been calling for a prohibition of evictions and foreclosures for weeks and as the first day of a new month begins with anxiety and panic for many, they renew this call.



  • Rep. Thomas West (D-Canton) has introduced House Bill (HB) 596 that would halt debt collection to provide temporary relief to consumers and small businesses impacted from the COVID-19 outbreak;

  • Reps. David Leland (D-Columbus) and Jeffrey Crossman (D-Parma) introduced a bipartisan bill (HB 562) to put a stop to evictions and foreclosures for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis;

  • Rep. Kent Smith (D-Euclid) introduced HB 578 that would appropriate $20 million toward homeless shelters and emergency rental assistance;

  • Rep. Leland has also introduced a bill (HB 564) to prevent utility shutoffs to residences during the COVID-19 crisis.


The Supreme Court of Ohio has issued guidance to local courts that eviction filings should be continued until a later date, however, that is not an official court ruling and therefore, not law. The governor has said that tolling the statute of limitations in HB 197 could give courts discretion to postpone eviction filings, however, he has not signed any official executive order prohibiting such filings. House Democrats believe it is the role of state lawmakers to step in and to resolve any uncertainty surrounding this issue.


We passed a sweeping, bipartisan bill last week (HB 197) that addresses many of the concerns of our constituents, but gaps still remain,” House Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) said. “Unfortunately, too many Ohioans are still facing financial hardships through no fault of their own due to this crisis. On behalf of all of those who are still hurting and need help, I also call on the Speaker and Senate President to bring the General Assembly back soon to address the many unresolved issues that remain legislatively. 


We also appeal to landlords not to evict during this crisis and to instead work with their fellow citizens and small business owners while the state rushes to expand unemployment and business assistance. These benefits have only recently been made available to large swaths of our communities, or could become available in the coming weeks, and as a result, may require some time to make it into Ohioans’ bank accounts.


People cannot adhere to the governor’s stay at home order if they have no home in which to stay. Part of protecting the public’s health is by ensuring that basic needs like food and shelter are met. By failing to act, the lives of Ohioans will be even further endangered than they are already in this public health crisis. The General Assembly can fix this, but House Democrats cannot do it alone.”


Additional gaps that House Democrats believe remain in the state and federal responses to the COVID-19 crisis:



  • More funding for JFS’s Unemployment Compensation Administration Fund to ensure they have what they need to process the massive influx of new claims;

  • Establish disinfection and work place best practices, like break room rest periods, for grocery stores and other retail food establishments to protect workers on the front lines;

  • Ensure first responders and other front-line workers can access workers compensation benefits if infected with COVID-19;

  • Allow for telehealth services to be provided and covered in the same way as in-person healthcare services;

  • Support emergency rental assistance programs to help people maintain housing, as well as homelessness programs; 


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Ohio House Democratic Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) today sent a letter to President Trump on behalf of the Ohio House Democrats urging him to approve Ohio’s Major Disaster Declaration request, which would deploy Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds to aid the state’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. 


In their letter, Democrats said that while public and private efforts in the state are making a difference in the lives of working people and families, more “can be done to support those who are both physically and economically vulnerable.”


More than 180,000 Ohioans have filed for unemployment compensation since the onset of the outbreak as businesses have shuttered in a coordinated effort to limit the spread of COVID-19.


“As a state, we need to care for the health and wellbeing of our citizens during and after the COVID-19 emergency,” wrote the lawmakers. “With the additional resources afforded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, we will be able to sustain and support Ohioans as we all face this pandemic.”


Trump has already signed off on disaster declarations in 22 states, as well as Puerto Rico, Guam and the District of Columbia. Gov. Mike DeWine’s request was filed March 28.


As of March 30, the state confirmed 1,933 coronavirus cases and 39 deaths.

 

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COLUMBUS – State Reps. Lisa Sobecki (D-Toledo) and Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) today sent a letter to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) Director Kimberly Hall highlighting additional measures the agency could take to limit COVID-19 exposure and help individuals file for unemployment.


“The suggested steps we outlined for Director Hall would help alleviate the increased volume of individuals filing for benefits and unemployment. They will also reduce in-person interactions and flatten the curve to slow the spread of COVID-19,” said Sobecki.


“The impact of COVID-19 to the economy is resulting in an unprecedented need for many of Ohio’s most vulnerable children and families,” said Russo.  “By instituting these measures, we will significantly reduce the administrative burden on our county-level Job and Family Service offices so that they can respond to other pressing needs, and also reduce the risk of virus exposure and spread.”


In the letter, Sobecki and Russo asked that Director Hall:



  • Request a three month extension of the SNAP Federal Waiver to align with guidance issued by the Director of Medicaid;

  • Ask for the Random Moment Sampling (RMS) to be suspended and instead use the last full quarter RMS, 4th Quarter 2019, to determine federal reimbursement

  • Remove the pin requirement for individuals filling for unemployment through the website;

  • Implement a similar call-back feature to the County Shared Service, currently used by County JFS offices, for those filing for unemployment by calling the phone number.

 

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Leader Sykes Issues Statement As Coronavirus Relief Bill Signed Into Law
Says changes will benefit workers, families and businesses affected by pandemic
March 27, 2020
 
 

COLUMBUS—House Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) today applauded Gov. Mike DeWine as he signed into law House Bill (HB) 197, which will provide needed supports to working people, families and businesses in Ohio amid the coronavirus outbreak. It passed both legislative chambers unanimously Wednesday.


“This bipartisan legislation will begin to ease some of the hardship facing working people, families and businesses during this crisis,” said Leader Sykes. “While we know that we everything will not be addressed in one bill, this is the first step to returning some normalcy to our lives by ensuring government continues to work for the people.”


HB 197 contains several long-held Democratic priorities, such as expanded unemployment benefits for Ohioans out of work as a result of the coronavirus, an extension of absentee voting for the Ohio primary to April 28, and commonsense solutions to support K-12 education and healthcare access for all Ohioans.


“This crisis has shown what Democrats have known for some time—that we have real holes in our social safety net that need to be addressed to ensure we’re prepared for the next crisis,” said Sykes. “In the meantime, Democrats will continue to listen to those on the front lines, our constituents,  and work together to ensure our first responders, healthcare workers and families have all the tools they need during this crisis.”


Other key components of HB 197 include:



  • Moving state tax deadline from April 15 to July 15;

  • Prohibiting water shutoffs for Ohio consumers during crisis;

  • Suspending staff-to-child ratios and maximum group sizes at child-care centers;



  • Giving the Director of Medicaid additional flexibility to support the health care workforce and providers during crisis;

  • Allowing recent nursing graduates to obtain a temporary license to practice prior to passing the licensure examination;

  • Waiving state testing for the 19-20 school year and allowing students to graduate who were already on track to do so;



  • Exempting schools from food processing requirements to ensure children have access to nutrition even if their school is closed;

  • Limiting EdChoice school buildings for 20-21 to those eligible in 19-20;

  • Allowing schools to use distance learning to make up for missed days or hours of instruction caused by statewide K-12 closures;

  • Allowing licensed special education providers to serve students through tele-health and other electronic communications methods;



  • Extending validity of state licenses and providing a 90-day renewal period;

  • Permitting public bodies to meet electronically as long as the public has ability to participate as well;


With the governor’s signing, the bill becomes effective immediately.


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House Democrats Pass Sweeping Legislation To Address COVID-19 Crisis
Omnibus bill would protect the health and financial security of everyday Ohioans and their families
March 25, 2020
 
 

COLUMBUS— State lawmakers returned to the Statehouse today to address the COVID-19 crisis and provide immediate relief to everyday Ohioans. House Democratic Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) released a statement today following the unanimous passage of an omnibus bill (HB 197) that would prohibit utility shut-offs, waive state testing requirements, freeze EdChoice eligibility, extend voting in the primary election, postpone the state income tax filing deadline among several other measures.


“In times of crisis, our state has looked to its General Assembly to lead and respond to critical needs of working people and families in our state; House Democrats were happy to answer that call today and pass a sweeping, bipartisan bill that will be the first of many steps to restore normalcy and regain control of this public health crisis and the economic destruction it is leaving behind,” said Leader Sykes. “While we know that not everything we wanted addressed was taken care of in this one bill, this is a good start to ensure our government continues to work for the people, especially during this crisis.”


Many of the provisions passed in today’s bill address issues House Democrats have long fought for to support working people and families; protect the health, safety and security of Ohioans; equip children with the tools they need to succeed; and ensure our government works for the people, not against them.


Supporting working people and families by:



  • Writing the Governor’s unemployment changes into law, including waiving waiting period, changing eligibility for COVID-19 and waiving work search requirements;

  • Moving state tax deadline from April 15 to July 15;

  • Prohibiting water shutoffs;

  • Suspending staff-to-child ratios and maximum group sizes at child-care centers;

  • Allowing JFS to continue making payments to publicly funded child care providers during the emergency;


Ensuring health and safety by:



  • Giving the Director of Medicaid additional flexibility to support the health care workforce and providers during crisis;

  • Allowing recent nursing graduates to obtain a temporary license to practice prior to passing the licensure examination;

  • Granting certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs), under certain conditions, the authority to perform additional duties or services related to anesthesia care;


Equipping children with the tools they need to succeed:



  • Waiving state testing and report cards for the 19-20 school year and allowing students to graduate who were already on track to do so;

  • Exempting schools from food processing requirements to ensure children have access to nutrition even if their school’s shut down;

  • Limiting EdChoice school buildings for 20-21 to those eligible in 19-20;

  • Allowing schools to use distance learning to make up for missed days or hours of instruction caused by statewide K-12 closures;

  • Allowing licensed special education providers to serve students through tele-health and other electronic communications methods;


Making our democracy and government work for the people by:



  • Extending absentee voting by mail for the primary to April 28;

  • Extending validity of state licenses and providing a 90-day renewal period;

  • Permitting public bodies to meet electronically as long as the public has ability to participate as well;

  • Allowing recently retired state employees to be rehired at DRC, DYS, MHA, DVS and DDD;

  • $20M (non-GRF) fund shift for DAS operation of state agency capital facility projects.


The bill now makes its way to Governor Mike DeWine’s desk for signature.


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House Democrats Announce $15M In Federal Funds To Fight COVID-19 In Ohio
Say funds will help local health departments, increase testing capacity amid public health crisis
March 25, 2020
 
 

House Democratic lawmakers today announced the approval of $15.6M in federal funds for the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) to support local health departments, increase testing capacity, create public education campaigns, and support other costs associated with the state’s response to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.


“I’m pleased we could act swiftly to direct these funds where they’re needed most—to aid our local health departments leading this fight in our communities and to increase testing capacity across the state,” said Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron).“We will continue to work with partners at the federal, state and local levels to address this once-in-a-lifetime public health and economic crisis.”


The funds are part of the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, which passed Congress and was signed into law earlier this month. It will provide funding to all 50 states to respond to the global pandemic.


“Our local health departments are working overtime to respond to this public health crisis, and today’s action gets funding to the front lines where it’s needed most,” said Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire), who sits on the state’s Controlling Board which approved the funds. “This is a step in the right direction in our collective effort to respond to this crisis.”


ODH is proposing the following:



  • $10,153,650 to support monitoring, investigation, containment, and mitigation efforts by local health departments;

  • $1,300,000 to develop multi-media public education and awareness campaigns;

  • $1,000,000 to conduct /COVID-19 testing at ODH's Public Health Laboratory;

  • $750,000 to cover payroll and contracting costs;

  • $2,417,327 to support other COVID-19 response costs, including the COVID-19 Call Center and the purchasing of personal protective equipment.

 
 
  
 
Reps. Liston And Patton Introduce Legislation To Cover Telehealth In Times Of Crisis
House Bill 580 ensures Ohioans safely receive the care they need
March 25, 2020
 
 

COLUMBUS- State Reps. Dr. Beth Liston (D-Dublin) and Thomas Patton (R-Strongsville) today introduced House Bill (HB) 580 to guarantee that health providers receive equivalent re-imbursement for covered services, regardless of whether they are conducted in person or remotely, during times of crisis. HB 580 will ensure that people get the care they need, while still maintaining safety for both the patient and the provider.


“It is critical that people in Ohio continue to have access to health care and mental health services during this crisis,” Liston said. “Right now, many providers are using telehealth to keep their patients safe.  People shouldn’t have to worry about whether this method of health care delivery is covered by their insurance.”


“I am proud to have been a part of multiple efforts to push for telemedicine in our state,” said Patton. “Because of the investments we’ve made previously, and with this bill, it has made our state more prepared and ready to deal with this health crisis.”


The proposed legislation will not expand coverage, but rather allows telehealth services to replace more traditional healthcare delivery – only during a public health emergency. Last year, in HB 166, the Ohio General Assembly enacted a provision requiring health plans to cover telehealth options.  However, that law only impacts plans issued after Jan. 2021.  In addition, the current emergency will require many services, including mental health and counseling, to be conducted remotely.


The Ohio House of Representatives is scheduled to convene todayfor the first time since the State of Emergency was declared.

 
 
  
 
Group Of Dem Lawmakers Introduce Package To Aid Schools Amid Pandemic
Say package addresses inadequate funding, burdensome regulations, and state takeovers
March 24, 2020
 
 

COLUMBUS- Several Democratic lawmakers, including Reps. John Patterson (D- Jefferson), Phil Robinson (D-Solon), Joe Miller (D-Amherst) and Mary Lightbody (D-Westerville), today introduced a legislative package to mitigate the negative impacts schools are facing as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. The package would provide resources and allow already overburdened school districts to take the necessary steps to recover from the repercussions of this ongoing public health crisis.


The legislative package would:



  • Waive certain primary and secondary education requirements to account for the closing of schools during the outbreak;

  • Place a moratorium on the expansion of Education Choice Scholarships (EdChoice vouchers) of any kind until February 1, 2021 and revert the EdChoice provisions back to pre-HB 166 status;

  • Dissolve Academic Distress Commissions;

  • Provide districts adequate assistance to recover.


Patterson says waiving state testing for the 2019-2020 school year would prevent schools from being unfairly penalized due to the increased pressures they are facing at this time.


"At this time, state testing should be the least of our concerns.  We want all those in the education community-- our students, teachers, and support staff--to be safe and healthy. Therefore, we are proposing legislation to waive mandated testing,” said Patterson. “Similarly, senior graduations and advancements for students in grades K-11 are of concern.  To this end, we propose that students who had accumulated enough credits to graduate or advance by March 17 be permitted to do so.  For those who had fallen short, it is our belief that each school district is capable of making those strategic decisions on a case by case basis."


Robinson explains that halting the expansion of EdChoice vouchers would give much needed resources to struggling school districts.


“The closure of our schools is already putting a great strain on our teachers and public schools as they do what they can to continue to support our children,” said Robinson. “Whether it be remote, online learning for students with internet and computer access to organizing Grab and Go lunches for students in need, our public schools are doing everything they can to help families in these difficult times. In return, we should not add to school districts’ financial hardships by letting the EdChoice voucher expansion happen during our current public health crisis.”


“Both the House and Senate plans for reform to EdChoice would not let the over 1,200 school list expansion happen, the only disagreement at this point between the chambers are other reforms to the program. We need to stop the expansion before the April 1 deadline and once we get through the toughest parts of the COVID-19 outbreak, then address additional voucher reforms through bipartisan and bicameral efforts. We cannot put the cost of expansion on the backs of our school districts and continue to pit private and public schools against each other. We all need to work together now more than ever.”


Miller advocates that restoring local control would allow districts to make the best decisions for themselves about how to adapt during the outbreak.


“All districts should come out of this public health crisis with an equal footing. We need to allow local school boards the ability to make decisions with state support, not state intervention. They know what is best for their schools, which is why we must put an end to Academic Distress Commissions (ADCs) and let the board members do the job they were elected to do,” said Miller.


Lightbody also agrees that eliminating Academic Distress Commissions is a necessary step.


“The years I spent teaching in the Columbus City Schools taught me that students come to school with a wide variety of life experiences outside of school that impact their success in the classroom,” said Lightbody. “I worked hard with my colleagues, parents and administrators to help every child succeed.  All communities want strong schools to help all students learn and to live the American Dream, and I am convinced that locally elected school boards across the state are best suited to provide leadership in often stressful times, such as  during this COVID-19 outbreak.”


“Elected board members represent their districts, work hard to oversee educational efforts in their districts, and are best positioned to support everyone involved in the schools – from the students and teachers to the staff, administrators, and parents.  Returning control of the districts already in so called academic distress makes the best sense, as does preventing any other districts from being so designated.”


The Ohio House of Representatives is scheduled to convene Wednesday for the first time since the State of Emergency was declared.


Here’s what other Democratic lawmakers are saying:


“The package proposed should be enacted quickly. With so much uncertainty and anxiety, the legislature must move boldly and decisively to reinforce confidence in Ohioans. As the duly elected officials of this State, we have a responsibility to be a beacon of clarity and provide guidance and resources to our public schools.”- Rep. Jessica Miranda (D-Forest Park)


Our utmost concern is for our students, administrators, teachers and staff. The work we do now is not only for this COVID-19 emergency, but also to set this state on a path towards the best outcomes for Education in Ohio. -Rep. Catherine Ingram (D-Cincinnati)


 

 
 
  

COLUMBUS—State Reps. Gil Blair (D-Weathersfield), Michael O’Brien (D-Warren) and Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown) issued a statement today following the unexpected passing of fellow Mahoning Valley state Rep. Don Manning (R-New Middletown):


“It is with great sadness that we woke this morning to learn of the passing of our colleague and neighbor Don Manning.  We send our deepest condolences to his family during these difficult times." 


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House Dems Urge President Trump To Approve Ohio's Request For Federal Aid To Fight Coronavirus

 

Ohio House Democratic Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) today sent a letter to President Trump on behalf of the Ohio House Democrats urging him to approve Ohio’s Major Disaster Declaration request, which would deploy Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds to aid the state’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. 



 
 

House Democrats Announce $15M In Federal Funds To Fight COVID-19 In Ohio

 

House Democratic lawmakers today announced the approval of $15.6M in federal funds for the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) to support local health departments, increase testing capacity, create public education campaigns, and support other costs associated with the state’s response to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.



 
 

Leader Sykes Outlines Vote By Mail Proposal As State Continues To Battle COVD-19 Outbreak

 

House Democratic Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) today detailed her caucus’ priorities as state lawmakers prepare to return to the Statehouse next week to determine the timeline and procedures by which voters will be able to cast their ballots in the Ohio primary, which was scheduled for March 17, but postponed due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.



 
 

Sobecki Files Bill To Allow Public Bodies To Meet Remotely During States Of Emergency

 

State Rep. Lisa Sobecki (D-Toledo) today filed House Bill (HB) 557 to allow public bodies to meet and conduct business remotely during a state of emergency.