State Rep. Greta Johnson (D-Akron) today announced she will step down at the end of the month as state representative to accept a new position in the office of Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro. Johnson will be working as deputy director in the Department of Law. Johnson released the following statement regarding the transition:
“Ilene has been a mentor to me for many years and I look forward to the opportunity to be a part of her team. I am excited to join in her vision for Summit County and I will bring my skills as an attorney and an advocate for working class people to the executive’s office.
“The move is both exciting and bittersweet. I am extremely proud of the strides I made on behalf of the thirty-fifth District, as well as the statewide relationships I established. I will miss my colleagues and staff, but I know they will continue to fight for all of Ohio’s residents. My staff will continue to serve the people of Akron and Barberton and service will be uninterrupted as my replacement is seated.
“It has been an honor to serve the people of the thirty-fifth District as state representative and I thank them for their confidence and support. I hope they feel that their voice was amplified at the Statehouse and that their concerns were heard and earnestly pursued. I look forward to continuing to serve them, and all residents of Summit County, in my new position.”
Johnson was elected to her first term in the Ohio House of Representatives in 2014. During her time in the legislature, she been a vocal advocate for women’s rights issues, victims’ assistance, and greater economic parity for Ohio’s workers. Johnson has received recognition for her efforts to remove spousal exemptions for rape cases, eliminate the tax on feminine hygiene products, and for her support of a statewide response to the opioid epidemic.
“Greta Johnson has been an invaluable member of the Democratic Caucus and this institution,” said House Democratic Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton). “She is a fierce and effective advocate for not just the people of the thirty-fifth District, but for all Ohioans who believe fairness, equality and opportunity strengthen our democracy and increase our quality of life. Her courage and principled voice helped start new dialogues at the Statehouse that led to amplified awareness, better advocacy and new laws. Our loss at the Statehouse is Summit County’s gain, and we know she’ll continue to standout as an effective public servant in her new position.”
Prior to being elected, Johnson served as a prosecutor in the prosecutor’s offices for Mahoning County, Summit County and the City of Akron. Johnson attended the University of Akron, earning her BA in Secondary Education in 1999, MA in Higher Education Administration in 2001, and her JD in Law in 2004. She has utilized her legal background at the Statehouse as ranking member on the House Criminal Justice and House Judiciary committees.
The House Democratic Caucus is expected to publicly announce the process for selecting a replacement in the coming days.
In a bipartisan 83-13 vote, the Ohio House today approved the proposed budget plans for the Ohio Department of Transportation and several other state agencies. House Bill 26, the $7.8 billion transportation bill, largely funds infrastructure projects and public safety programs over the next two fiscal years.
“This transportation budget provides billions for much-needed construction work on Ohio’s roads and bridges and will create jobs,” said Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire), ranking member of the House Finance Committee. “With technology advancing at a rapid pace, there is still more work to be done to fully address Ohio’s future transportation needs. However, I am confident that this bill will move Ohio forward.”
Democratic lawmakers offered several amendments on the House floor, including proposals to change the failure to display a front license plate from a primary to a secondary offense; strengthen Ohio’s motor voter law compliance; require counties who want increase license registrations by $5 to place the increase on the ballot; and hold local public transit systems harmless from cuts due to proposed changes to the Medicaid managed-care organization (MCO) tax. However, each amendment was tabled along largely partisan lines.
In addition to investing almost $8 billion, House Bill 26 also includes several other notable changes related to Ohio infrastructure and transportation:
“Without paved roads and safe bridges, middle class men and women in Ohio cannot get to work every day and help build a better life for themselves and their families,” said Minority Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Strahorn). “Although I believe more can be done to assist our communities and local transit agencies, this budget is a step in a positive direction toward improving our roadways across the state.”
House Bill 26 now goes to the Ohio Senate for further consideration.
Here are what other Democratic lawmakers are saying about HB 26:
“This bill represents lawmakers coming together in a bipartisan way to invest in Ohio’s infrastructure and includes critical funds for the Western Hills Viaduct,” said Rep. Alicia Reece (D-Cincinnati), the highest ranking Democrat on the House Finance Subcommittee on Transportation. “While I believe more investment is needed in Ohio’s public transit systems to help ensure people can get to and from work, this bill is a good compromise. In the meantime, I will also continue to fight for commonsense changes to Ohio’s transportation laws, such as removing the front license plate requirement."
“While I supported Sub HB 26 because it will fund needed infrastructure projects and create good, living-wage jobs, this bill could have been much better,” said Rep. Kent Smith (D-Euclid). “This is a highways bill, not a transportation bill, for it doesn't improve Ohio's dismal level of the public transportation funding. Ohio is seventh in population and fourteenth in ridership, yet we are thirty-eighth in per capita public transit dollars. Public transportation is an important component of our workforce strategies – we need to be able to get people to job locations after we give them the skills to compete. While this bill does put people to work, it fails to get people to work.”
State Rep. Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) today announced the House passage of House Bill (HB) 1, her bipartisan legislation to modernize Ohio’s domestic violence laws. Joint-sponsored by Rep. Nathan Manning (R-N. Ridgeville), HB 1 will allow victims of dating violence to obtain civil protective orders against their attacker, a protection currently allowed in every state except Ohio and Georgia.
“For far too long, Ohio’s antiquated domestic violence laws have left thousands of Ohioans vulnerable to dating violence,” said Sykes. “My colleagues and I agree: it is past time to pull Ohio out of the dark ages and join the rest of the country in protecting victims of abuse. I am pleased we were able to come together in a bipartisan manner to help bring Ohio’s domestic violence protections into the 21st Century.”
The National Dating Violence Hotline defines intimate partner violence, which includes dating violence, as a repetitive pattern of behaviors – including physical or sexual violence, threats, intimidation, emotional abuse and economic deprivation – used to maintain power and control over an intimate partner.
Current Ohio law only recognizes domestic violence as violence occurring between spouses, those cohabiting or family members. HB 1 will include individuals in ongoing, substantial, intimate and romantic relationships under Ohio’s definition, providing those victims access to essential protection.
“Every Ohioan deserves equal protection under the law in the face of domestic violence, regardless of their relationship status,” said House Minority Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton). “I applaud this institution and my colleagues for coming together to lead this bipartisan effort to modernize Ohio’s domestic violence laws and protect vulnerable Ohioans.”
Women aged 18 to 24 face the highest rates of intimate partner violence. In the United States, a woman is assaulted or beaten every nine seconds.
HB 1 now moves to the Senate for further consideration.
Here’s what other Democratic members are saying:
“We know that violence can begin in the early stages of a relationship. I believe HB 1 is so important because it provides necessary protections to those who find themselves in abusive relationships but did not previously qualify for a civil protection order because they weren't married or living together.” – Rep. Kristin Boggs (D-Columbus)
“As a practicing attorney I am pleased that my colleagues in the legislature have supported this bill to help give Ohioans another avenue in protecting themselves from domestic violence.” – Rep. Nicholas J. Celebrezze (D-Parma)
“Today, Ohio moves one step closer to joining nearly every other state in the country in affirming that dating violence is domestic violence, and that such abuse is reprehensible regardless of the nature of the relationship. Ohio victims have been unjustly neglected for too long, and it is far past time Ohio catches up and provides for their protection under the law.” – Rep. Catherine Ingram (D-Cincinnati)
“As a former prosecutor, too often I saw patterns of abuse and stalking in domestically violent dating relationships. I'm proud to add my name to this bill, which will expand the legal protections not previously entitled to all Ohioans affected by the horrific crime of domestic violence.” – Rep. Greta Johnson (D-Akron).
“Today I was proud to cosponsor and vote for HB 1, which extends protection order abilities to victims of dating violence. Research indicates that these orders do reduce violence within intimate dating relationships. Passage of HB 1 will help close a dangerous loophole in Ohio and I urge the Ohio Senate to pass it and the governor to sign it into law.” – Rep. Kent Smith (D-Euclid)
“Dating violence is real, and HB 1 is a perfect example of good, bipartisan policy making that considers and includes the voices of victims who’ve been previously marginalized and excluded from the protections of Ohio law. I am proud and honored to be a co-sponsor.” – Rep. Janine Boyd (D- Cleveland Heights)
State Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) issued the following statement in response to Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted’s announcement that several dozen non-citizens may have voted in at least one election in the last year:
“This is a sad attempt to bolster the President’s lie about massive voter fraud. Secretary Husted’s own numbers again prove that ineligible people voting is almost nonexistent. My big concern is: why are we always hearing about this problem after an election when we can fix it beforehand? My Automatic Voter Registration bill, Ohio House Bill 14, would eliminate the problem of having any ineligible voters on the rolls— but Secretary Husted refuses to support my bill.
“House Bill 14 would put the experts in charge of making the list of who can vote. We would have cleaner, more accurate voter rolls and greater voting access for all eligible Ohioans. That’s a win-win. Husted should support HB 14 and focus on fixing real problems with Ohio elections.”
State Reps. Greta Johnson (D-Akron) and Kristin Boggs (D-Columbus) today introduced legislation to eliminate spousal exemptions for sex offenses, including rape and sexual battery. Ohio is one of just 13 states which legally treat marital rape differently from other forms of rape.
“We must modernize Ohio’s laws and eradicate unacceptable policy that allows someone to commit violence against their spouse,” said Boggs. “Women and men experiencing sexual violence at the hands of their spouses should not be denied the right to seek justice just because they happen to be married to the offender.”
Under current Ohio law, there must be “force or threat of force” for sexual assault perpetrated by a spouse to be considered rape. Cases where a spouse is drugged, for example, do not qualify for prosecution. Similar spousal exemptions exist throughout the Ohio Revised Code.
“Elected officials tout the importance of making Ohio a state where people want to live and work, but feeling safe and supported by the justice system is a crucial component to that equation,” said Johnson, a former Summit County assistant prosecutor. “I am appalled that there is not a larger discussion in our state about this issue. I am deeply disappointed that none of my Republican colleagues signed on as co-sponsors to this bill – protecting victims of sexual assault and rape should have nothing to do with partisan affiliation.”
Johnson introduced similar legislation in the previous General Assembly, but the bill was only granted a single committee hearing by majority lawmakers.
State Reps. John Patterson (D-Jefferson) and Brigid Kelly (D-Cincinnati) today announced the introduction of House Bill 89, bipartisan legislation to establish a three-day sales tax “holiday” during the first weekend of August for “back-to-school” clothing and school supplies. If enacted, HB 89 would establish the sales tax holiday for the third consecutive year.
“Over the last two years, we have helped Ohio families save significant amounts of money when they do their back-to-school shopping,” said Patterson. “In my district, families know they can simply cross the border into Pennsylvania to buy back-to-school clothes tax-free. Since we established the first tax holiday in 2015, we have seen a great number of families instead supporting their local businesses.”
Not only will the holiday help offset Ohio’s 4.5 percent sales tax increase enacted by the 2013 state budget, but for three days shoppers will pay no sales tax on itemized purchases as they prepare their children for the coming of the new school year. Under the lawmakers’ proposal, qualifying products include items of clothing that are $75 or less, school supplies that are $20 or less, and school instructional materials that are $20 or less.
Ohio families saved $3.3 million during the state’s first temporary sales tax holiday in August 2015, while generating $4.7 million in sales tax revenue.
“The sales tax holiday is a great opportunity to help Ohio families as they prepare for the new school year, and for members of our communities to support local workers and local businesses,” said Kelly. “By saving families money, we can encourage Ohioans to spend their hard-earned dollars in their own backyard instead of crossing over the border into a neighboring state.”
Companion legislation in the Senate was approved earlier this week by a 32-1 vote. Ohio would be one of 18 states to offer a back-to-school sales tax holiday.
State Reps. John Boccieri (D-Poland), Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown), Glenn Holmes (D-McDonald) and Mike O’Brien (D-Warren) this morning hosted all three Mahoning County commissioners for a meeting with House Finance Committee Chairman Ryan Smith (R-Bidwell) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Scott Oelslager (R-North Canton).
Commissioners David C. Ditzler, Carol Rimedio-Righetti and Anthony Traficanti traveled to Columbus to voice their concerns regarding the negative local impact of Gov. John Kasich’s proposed fix to the Medicaid Managed Care Organization (MCO) tax formula.
“I’m pleased our delegation’s meeting request to the budget chairmen was granted, and that our commissioners had the opportunity to express their concerns about local revenue loss,” said Boccieri. “The chairmen demonstrated that the legislature is still open to listening to local officials who are on the frontlines and can provide essential perspectives on what will keep our local communities strong and transportation systems running.”
The federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) have given Ohio a deadline of June 30, 2017 to remedy its MCO tax structure so that it complies with CMS policy, but any changes may threaten the millions of dollars local communities currently receive from the tax.
The governor’s budget proposal provides aid for some counties as it drops the MCO tax revenue in the long term, but the lack of a permanent replacement will leave Mahoning and Trumbull Counties without the approximately $3.7 million and $2.7 million in annual tax revenue, respectively.
“These devastating cuts will directly impact our ability to deliver essential services that help seniors and children,” said Lepore-Hagan. “Our community has already been stretched thin by repeated tax-shifting from the state over the past several years, and we cannot afford yet another hit.”
The state lawmakers also penned a letter to the governor last month detailing their concerns on this issue.
“I’m pleased that our local officials were given the opportunity to express their concerns here in Columbus,” said Holmes. “Families in the Valley expect the buses to run on time and police and fire to show up when they dial 911, but repeated budget cuts by the state have left our communities struggling to deliver essential services. We need a permanent solution to the MCO-related cut, not a temporary Band-Aid.”
Audrey Tillis, Department Head of the Mahoning County Office of Budget and Management, noted that the impacts of the revenue loss would be felt the most in the public safety and judiciary-related arena, as communities rely on the sales tax to cover much of those sectors’ budgets.
“The MCO cuts will create a budgetary nightmare in Trumbull County,” said O’Brien. “At a time when law enforcement and service providers are doing everything they can to address the statewide opioid epidemic, cutting their resources will only worsen the drug crisis.”
Joining the three Mahoning County commissioners today was a commissioner from Shelby County, as well as two representatives from the County Commissioners Association of Ohio.
State Reps. Michael Sheehy (D-Oregon) and John Patterson (D-Jefferson) today celebrate the first annual “Annie Glenn Communication Disorders Awareness Day” in honor of Mrs. Annie Glenn, to recognize all Ohioans who struggle with a communication disorder. The legislation passed last year and designates February 17, Annie Glenn’s birthday, as the official day of recognition.
“Today, the Ohio House of Representatives celebrates Annie Glenn’s 97th birthday by marking the first annual awareness day honoring her work as an advocate for communication disorders,” said Sheehy. “Afflicted with a severe stutter, Annie Glenn overcame her disorder and become a role model for others facing similar challenges.”
Mrs. Glenn, married to former astronaut and U.S. Senator John Glenn for over seventy years, struggled for most of her life with a speech impediment that caused her to stutter eighty-five percent of her words. In 1973, she completed an intensive program to address her stutter at the Communications Research Institute at Hollins College in Roanoke, Virginia. Since then, Mrs. Glenn has been able to speak freely and has even become a noted public speaker.
“Annie Glenn is an American hero and role model to many,” said Patterson. “Overcoming her speech impediment was a great achievement, and the fact that she became such an influential and inspiring public figure is a testament to her commitment to helping others with communication disorders.”
Mrs. Glenn remains a vocal advocate for raising awareness about communication disorders, and has received many awards for her activism. She serves on the National Deafness and other Communication Disorders Advisory Council of the National Institutes of Health.
State Reps. John Patterson (D-Jefferson) and Michael Sheehy (D-Oregon) today reintroduced legislation that seeks to protect and improve the state’s water quality by establishing the Ohio Water Quality Improvement Program, which would incentivize farmers to conserve environmentally sensitive agricultural land rather than use the property for farming or ranching. The bill was first introduced in the 131st General Assembly as House Bill 62.
“There’s nothing more important than the health and well-being of our citizens,” said Patterson. “In addition to ensuring safe and clean drinking water, the Ohio Water Quality Program would promote healthier streams, rivers and estuaries across the state. By partnering with Ohio’s farmers, we can strategically conserve farmland and establish a robust agricultural environment.”
If enacted, the bill would require the Ohio Department of Agriculture to establish the Ohio Water Quality Improvement Program. Modeled after the federal Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), agricultural land voluntarily enrolled by farmers in the statewide conservation initiative would be exempt from property taxes. The state would reimburse local communities for any tax revenue lost as a result of the program to ensure public school districts and community services are not adversely affected.
“The Ohio Water Quality Improvement Program offers Ohio’s farmers the viable option of seeking to reduce pollutants and excessive nutrients from leaching into our watersheds,” said Sheehy. “This legislation is the next step in our state’s continued effort to improve long term water quality, without sacrificing Ohio’s crop production or farm profit.”
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the federal Conservation Reserve Program is the largest private-lands conservation program in the United States. Signed into law by President Ronald Reagan, CRP contributes to environmental conservation nationwide through a variety of initiatives.
For example, CRP’s Bottomland Hardwoods Initiative incentivizes farmers to replace cropland adjacent to a stream with certain hardwood trees that help restore wetlands, thereby reducing the risk of downstream flooding and helping improve overall water quality.
With Ohio “on the verge of recession” and continuing to trail the nation in job growth, Democratic members of the House Finance Committee Tuesday said it was time for state leaders and lawmakers to “wake up” ahead of the next round of budget deliberations.
“Republicans promised trickle-down tax policies would grow our economy and create good-paying jobs, but these policies of the past have only held Ohio back from growth and opportunity,” said Rep. Jack Cera (D-Cera), ranking member on the House Finance Committee. “After six years in charge, Gov. Kasich now says Ohio is on the verge of a recession – and yet the state budget plan offers more of the fundamentally flawed tax shifting that got us here. Ohio’s middle class families cannot afford more of the same. It’s not working. It’s time to wake up to the on-the-ground reality in our state.”
Cera and members of the House Finance Committee noted that Ohio has fallen behind economically over the past six years Republicans have been at the helm:
-Last month Ohio lost more jobs than any state in the nation.
-Annual Ohio job creation has consistently trailed the national average since 2005.
-Ohio is the seventh largest state, but was 28th in jobs and growth since 2009.
-Nearly 30 percent of all Ohio jobs are low-wage.
“While the rest of the country is moving full speed ahead in terms of economic growth, Ohio is headed toward the edge of an economic recession,” said Rep. Alicia Reece (D-Cincinnati). “Families working two or three jobs just to keep up are looking to their leaders in Columbus for an approach that creates opportunity and growth. We need to answer their call with a plan for our future, not a failed plan from the past.”
The Cincinnati lawmaker and her colleagues underlined the fact that with less economic opportunities, the quality of life for Ohio families has unequivocally declined in recent years:
-Sixteen percent of Ohioans are living in poverty, as are 23 percent of children.
-Seventeen percent of Ohioans and 1 in 4 Ohio children are “food insecure”.
-Ohio now ranks 39th among all states on America’s Health Rankings, down from 26th in 2006.
-Ohio’s incarceration rate grew by 11 percent from 2003 to 2013.
-Ohio leads the nation in heroin and opioid overdose deaths.
“We need to put our communities and our kids first,” said Rep. Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron). “We can’t afford to keep prioritizing tax giveaways for the ultra-rich and expect a different result – it’s not working. It’s time to wake up.”
Rep. John Patterson (D-Jefferson), who sits on the House Finance Subcommittee on Primary and Secondary Education, expressed concern with the state’s backward slide in competitiveness among other states:
-Ohio has dropped from 5th among all states to 23rd on Education Week’s annual quality rankings.
-Ohio ranks 37th among all states in the percentage of adults with a bachelor's degree or higher.
-Ohio ranks 45th among all states in college affordability.
“When leading businesses like Amazon look at Ohio to create new jobs or expand, community infrastructure and an educated workforce can influence whether we win or lose,” said Patterson. “That’s why we need to make sure our children - no matter their zip code – have an equal opportunity to gain the knowledge they need to be the next generation of innovators and leaders who grow our economy. However, our children won’t have that opportunity if they’re stuck in failing, for-profit charter schools that shift critical state resources away from public schools.”
As the House prepares to draft changes to the state budget, it is unclear whether or not Republican leaders will keep the governor’s slow-growth economic philosophy intact as they have in the previous three state budgets.
Democratic lawmakers today called on the Governor John Kasich to recognize the devastating opioid addiction epidemic for what it is: a public health emergency. At a statehouse press conference this morning the lawmakers said the state must have a strong, unified response and release emergency state funding to combat the statewide opioid crisis that is claiming lives in rural areas and urban centers alike.
“The first step in any road to recovery is admitting that you have a problem, and it’s time for the administration to recognize the opioid addiction crisis as the public health emergency that it is,” said Rep. Greta Johnson (D-Akron). “Too many Ohio families are losing loved ones to drug addiction and overdoses. We must marshal all available state resources and attention to fight back against this rapidly growing threat to our communities.”
State Rep. Greta Johnson (D-Akron), today responded to Gov. John Kasich’s Thursday comments at the Regional Judicial Opioid Initiative and the state’s actions to combat the opioid epidemic. The governor’s optimistic comments came on the same day the Ohio Department of Health released the report on 2015 Ohio Drug Overdose Data stating fentanyl-related drug overdoses more than doubled from 2014 to 2015. And the numbers continue to climb. For July 2016, Summit County alone experienced an estimated 395 overdoses, which matched the total number of overdoses in the county for the four months prior combined.*
“State leaders still refuse to call the opioid epidemic what it is: a public health crisis,” said Johnson. “It is imperative we remain hopeful and positive, but only if we are also employing all available resources to the law enforcement officers and treatment providers on the front lines. There has yet to be a coherent, statewide response to this devastating public health crisis that is killing more Ohioans than ever before. Summit County is doing a tremendous job at treating and preventing overdoses in my district, but with greater funding and direction from the state, we could be doing far more.”
State Reps. Kent Smith (D-Euclid) and Kristin Boggs (D-Columbus) today announced a new plan to assist struggling communities hit hardest by Governor Kasich’s budget cuts and tax shifting policies over the past several years. Since taking office, Gov. Kasich cut over $1.7 billion in local community funding. Over 70 cities have lost at least $1 million each year due to Kasich’s budgeting and tax decisions, and 12 small cities have lost at least $2 million each, per year.
Ohio House Democratic members hosted a press conference today to speak out against the recent attacks on women’s access to healthcare. Led by State Rep. Greta Johnson (D-Akron), the lawmakers introduced a package of bills aimed at securing and expanding women’s access to comprehensive healthcare services.
WATCH Rep. Johnson deliver her powerful closing above.