Regional lawmakers state Reps. John Boccieri (D-Poland), Glenn Holmes (D-Girard), Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown), Michael O’Brien (D-Warren), Sen. Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) and Sen. Sean O’Brien (D- Bazetta) today sent a letter* to Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors Company (GM), expressing disappointment and concern in light of the recent layoffs of second shift employees at its Lordstown Assembly plant.


“The Valley wants to continue to support GM. As this great American company evolves to meet the demands of the future, the workers at Lordstown want to evolve with the company they have devoted themselves to,” wrote the lawmakers. “There is a will to double down and train the current workforce for the jobs of tomorrow. Our workers and our communities want to continue to be a partner in a mutually beneficial relationship with GM.”


The second shift cut comes after the company cut the plant’s third shift in January 2017. In addition to the elimination of the two shifts, hundreds of workers across the supply chain have been laid off. A total of 2,700 well-paying jobs have been lost. U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown has been an outspoken advocate for Ohio GM jobs, calling on the company to invest in Ohio and to invest in Lordstown.


“We have people in our districts who want to go back to work and continue making a living for their families with pride and dignity. We hope GM will continue to invest in the Mahoning Valley, just as our state and our communities have invested in your company,” the lawmakers continued. “We urge you to reconsider your decision to reduce opportunities in Lordstown and throughout Ohio and instead utilize the current Lordstown location and collaborate with our creative and committed Valley workers to create a vision for the GM of tomorrow.”


The Lordstown plant has been an integral part of the Youngstown area for 52 years, with unwavering support from the Valley community.

 
 
  
 
West Continues Fight For Quality, Affordable Healthcare For All Ohioans
Looks for ways to cut prescription drug costs, delay Medicaid changes that threaten patient care
June 29, 2018
 
 

State Rep. Thomas West (D-Canton) today responded to reports that a number of Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) have been charging Ohio taxpayers three to six times as much as the industry standard to process prescription drugs for Ohio Medicaid recipients. For prescriptions that should cost between 95 cents and $1.90, PBMs CVS Caremark and Optum Rx have been charging Ohio taxpayers $5.60 and $6.50 per script, respectively.


“Taxpayers are being swindled by corporate PBMs who try to bully, intimidate and claw-back money from hardworking people,” said West. “We cannot continue to give handouts to these corporations who put profits over sick, disabled and low-income Ohioans. We need to continue to look into ways to ensure the people of Ohio get a fair deal for their prescription drugs.”


The Ohio House Wednesday passed House Bill 479, Rep. West’s bipartisan bill to crack down on PBMs by prohibiting gag rules that prevent pharmacists from informing consumers when they are overpaying for prescription drugs—a move that could put millions back into the pockets of Ohio consumers.


“We passed House Bill 479 to put money back in the pockets of hardworking Ohioans and keep independent pharmacies from being run out of business by unscrupulous PBMs,” added West. “I urge my Senate colleagues to take up this legislation immediately so we can put hard-earned money back into the hands of working families.”


West also recently called for the delayed implementation of the second phase of the state’s planned Behavioral Health Redesign, following recent survey results that shows more than 60 percent of healthcare providers have been shortchanged by Medicaid since the implementation of the redesign plan in January. Drastic cuts have forced a number of providers to lay off employees, eliminate services and deny patient claims.


“This botched rollout has been a headache for providers and patients alike. We cannot continue to follow a plan that threatens healthcare access and forces providers to eliminate staff and cut essential services,” said West. “In my district right now, the Crisis Center and the Domestic Violence Project have told me they’ve already had to cut services. At a time when opioids continue to ravage our neighborhoods, we need to do everything we can to expand access to quality, affordable healthcare, not endanger it.”


Across the state, more than 50 percent of providers have had to tap into cash reserves to cover expenses. Denied claims for patients have more than doubled since the implementation of Phase I in January 2018. Phase II of the plan is scheduled to take effect July 1.


“It all comes down to people,” said West. “When prescription drugs prices soar and healthcare access is cut off, people suffer. We need to get back to a system that values people over profits. That’s what this fight is all about.”

 
 
  

Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) issued the below statement in response to today’s final passage of Senate Bill 135 providing funding to counties to purchase voting systems. The Senate concurred today in House amendments and now the bill goes to the Governor’s desk.


“Ohio has been in desperate need of voting system upgrades to meet the elections cybersecurity challenges we face today and to modernize our aging machinery. I am happy to see our boards of elections finally getting the resources they deserve after years of state budget cuts to local government funds. I was happy to support this bipartisan bill and will continue to ensure our counties are prepared for every elections challenge.”


Rep. Clyde serves as Ranking Member on the House Government Accountability and Oversight Committee, which hears elections and voting rights bills. She is a lawyer and former election official and was named 2016 Legislator of the Year by the Ohio Association of Election Officials for her voting work.

 
 
  
 
GOP Bill Gives Free Pass To Ohio's Out-of-control Charter Schools, Elected Officials
GOP failure to add accountability, transparency cheats students and taxpayers
June 27, 2018
 
 

Ohio House Democrats today voted against Senate Bill (SB) 216, a Republican-led education reform bill, saying it gives a free pass to the Republican’s fatally flawed charter school design, which lacks accountability and transparency for Ohio taxpayers. Democrats offered an amendment on the floor that would have strengthened schools and held Ohio’s charter schools and elected officials accountable, but the House’s GOP majority rejected that effort.


“The same politicians, like Keith Faber, who stalled charter school reform efforts for one year to allow more cheating time, now are looking for a quick fix to cover for decades of profiting off their failing charter school scheme,” said State Rep. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo), the lead Democrat of the House education committee. “Now, with this hijacked bill to provide political cover, the state can continue the GOP charter design as a revolving door of campaign cash and political influence. They have taken in millions in campaign donations from charter school operators who were receiving millions in taxpayer funds. It is still clearly not about the kids. It has to stop.”


State Rep. Tavia Galonski (D-Akron) offered the amendment to hire a special prosecutor to investigate the ongoing scandal involving the now-defunct Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT), an online charter school that was revealed to have cheated the state out of an estimated $1 billion in a student attendance scam.


“This is a politically motivated bill to give the same GOP politicians who used ECOT and charter school sponsors to bankroll their campaigns a free pass on taking responsibility for the mess they created,” said Galonski. “Until we hold charter schools—and the politicians who let them run wild—accountable, it’s the students and taxpayers who will continue to suffer.”


A 2017 report found that a school whistleblower came forward to tell how ECOT officials manipulated student data to increase state payments. State Auditor Dave Yost and Attorney General Mike DeWine declined to open an investigation at that time. Both Yost and DeWine have financial ties to ECOT and its founder Bill Lager, a top Republican financier. Republicans rejected Galonski’s amendment.


SB 216 now moves to the Ohio Senate for review before going to the governor’s desk.

 
 
  
 
West's Bipartisan Bill To Lower Cost Of Prescription Drugs Passes Ohio House
Targets pharmacy benefit managers who artificially drive up drug costs for Ohio consumers
June 27, 2018
 
 

State Rep. Thomas West (D-Canton) today announced the unanimous House passage of House Bill (HB) 479, the Prescription Drug Co-Pay Integrity Act, his bipartisan legislation that would save consumers money by prohibiting gag rules that prevent pharmacists from informing consumers when they are overpaying for prescription drugs.


“Today is a happy day here in Ohio because lower prescription drug prices are on their way,” said Rep. West. “The Prescription Drug Co-Pay Integrity Act will increase transparency and cut costs for millions of Ohioans who utilize pharmacies to purchase the prescription drugs they need every day. This new legislation is representative of both Democratic and Republican perspectives that culminated in commonsense consumer protections for all Ohioans. When we work together, we get things done.”


HB 479 would increase transparency by prohibiting gag orders on pharmacists preventing them from telling patients when a prescription drug is cheaper out of pocket versus using their insurance co-pay. The bill also addresses the issue of claw-backs by prohibiting Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) from retroactively adjusting a pharmacy’s reimbursement rate, which forces some pharmacies to lose money when filling patient prescriptions.


HB 479’s passage comes on the heels of reports that found CVS Caremark billed the state roughly 12 percent more for drugs than what it paid pharmacies for medications dispensed to Ohioans on Medicaid.


After passing the House, HB 479 now moves to the Senate for consideration.

 
 
  
 
Ohio House Passes Boyd-sponsored Bill To Invest $5 Million In Kinship Care
HB 126 connects families to resources and keeps kids out of foster care
June 27, 2018
 
 

The Ohio House of Representatives today unanimously passed House Bill (HB) 126, sponsored by state Reps. Janine Boyd (D-Cleveland Heights) and Jeff Rezabek (R-Dayton). HB 126 would create a statewide system of kinship navigators that will help keep families together and provide needed assistance for Ohio’s most vulnerable populations.


“In this climate of addiction crisis, it is necessary to create a system where all kinship caregivers in Ohio have equitable access to vital services, as they step up to care for these children who are facing some of the most traumatic, unpredictable and stressful moments of their lives,” said Rep. Janine Boyd. “We can do and must do better for our most vulnerable populations.”   


Kinship caregivers are family members other than a parent who are taking care of a child. More often than not, the parents of these children are facing incarceration, addiction and substance abuse, and even death.


Navigators will assist kinship caregivers who are seeking information regarding, or assistance obtaining, services and benefits available at the state and local levels that address the needs of those caregivers residing in each county. Kinship navigators will connect families to resources like publicly funded childcare, respite care, training for special needs children, legal services, as well as access to a toll-free number for additional assistance needed to keep kids with their families and out of foster care.


Under HB 126, the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services will have one year to create a system of navigator regions. There may be as few as five and up to 12 navigator regions. In order to have balanced regions, the Department of Jobs and Family Services will adhere to a few criteria: population, estimated number of kinship caregiver, available expertise and anything else that creates an equitable and effective regional system of kinship navigators.


The House appropriated $5 million to start this program, and it is anticipated that the state will be able to apply for recently available federal Title IV E funds, which would match Ohio’s investment.


HB 126 will now go to the Ohio Senate for further consideration.

 
 
  
 
Ohio Republican Majority Writes Discrimination Into Law
Anti-LGBT bill, HB 36, passes through the Ohio House
June 27, 2018
 
 

State Reps. Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) and Janine Boyd (D-Cleveland Heights) today expressed disappointment with the passage of House Bill (HB) 36, which writes discrimination into Ohio law by allowing ministers not to solemnize marriages that are contrary to their personal beliefs.


HB 36 was pushed through the Community and Family Advancement committee Tuesday after not receiving a hearing since February 2017.


“What occurred was procedural ambushing and manipulation the Republicans deliberately performed, both in committee and on the House floor, in order to pass this bill that hasn’t seen a hearing room before yesterday,” said Rep. Boyd. “HB 36, or the Pastor Protection Act, does not protect pastors or clergy people from marrying whomever they do not want to marry. That protection already exists. The U.S. Constitution extends that protection, and it always has.”


In response to this discriminatory bill, Rep. Boyd attempted to introduce a floor amendment that would add to the bill the language from Rep. Antonio’s HB 160, the Ohio Fairness Act, which would bar discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in areas of employment, housing and public accommodations in Ohio.


Unfortunately, the amendment was ruled out of order, because before Rep. Boyd could introduce the Fairness Act amendment, state Rep. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) introduced an amendment that doubled down on discrimination by giving priority to protecting pastors if a conflict arises between pastor protection and the public accommodations law.


“By ruling the Fairness Act amendment out of order and passing Rep. Seitz’s discriminatory amendment, the Ohio House of Representatives missed a true opportunity to provide civil rights protections for LGBT Ohioans,” said Rep. Antonio. “HB 36 writes discrimination into law, and while the existence of the bill may give some a new sense of protection from societal changes, it is cold comfort for those who believe in the separation of church and state and the constitutional rights already afforded religious leaders.”


“This bill, in essence, allows proprietors of property and services that rent to the public at large to turn away members of Ohio’s LGBTQ community. I know from personal experience, how hurtful and wrong it is to be turned away because of who you are,” said Rep. Boyd. “The sponsor of HB 36 referenced ‘Christian principles,’ and I would respectfully remind him, and all of my Republican brothers and sisters, that turning classes of people away is not a Christian principle.”


Ohio remains one of 28 states without clear, inclusive, non-discrimination protections for the LGBT community. Nearly two dozen Ohio cities have already passed non-discrimination ordinances, and over 80 percent of the top employers in Ohio have corporate policies that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.  


“The Ohio Fairness Act is supported by many of Ohio’s most successful businesses, The Ohio Chamber of Commerce and the Ohio Manufacturing  Association, among others, and has the potential to serve as an economic catalyst to drive innovation, spur investment and attract the best and brightest to Ohio,” said Rep. Antonio. More than 200 leading Ohio businesses have offered support of HB 160 since it was introduced earlier this year.


Rep. Boyd attempted to offer the amendment today on the floor in Rep. Antonio’s stead. In the eight years that Rep. Antonio has been in the Ohio House of Representatives, today marks a rare session absence as she is in the hospital recovering from hip surgery.


 

 
 
  
 
Ohio House Democrats Respond To Anti-worker Janus V. AFSCME SCOTUS Decision
Commit to strengthening working families and unions in Ohio
June 27, 2018
 
 

Ohio House Democratic Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton) today issued the following statement in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Janus v. AFSCME to strike down public sector union fair share, essentially bringing so-called “right to work” to public sector workplaces across America:


“Unions built the middle class and made America one of the most economically powerful and productive nations on earth. But now, misguided ideology from the bench will prevent working people and families in communities all over America from having the basic ability to do their job, safely, and with honest pay and fair benefits.”


“As union membership continues to grow, and the next generation of workers in Ohio find value in coming together to speak out for fair treatment, safe working conditions, and honest pay. House Democrats will stand with workers and families at every turn to fight back against corporate special interests who rig the economy in favor of the wealthy and powerful.”


Here’s what other House Dems are saying:


“Working people have been under siege in Ohio before, but we always emerge stronger, more unified, and more determined than ever to fight for the good paying jobs, fair benefits and safe working conditions that reflect our American values and make us the strongest country in the world.


“No court case will stop our movement. Though it’s disappointing the U.S. Supreme Court would side with corporate special interests who are hell-bent on rigging the economy against the American worker, we will continue to fight for higher pay, better benefits and more opportunity for Ohio families to have better lives.”—Assistant Democratic Whip Brigid Kelly (D-Cincinnati)


One court case won’t stop the millions of working men and women who keep our economy moving and growing day in and day out. As younger workers turn to unions more and more to fight against an economy rigged by the rich and powerful to benefit a handful of elite and greedy CEOs, Ohio Democrats are committed to making it easier to join a union to rebuild our economy from the middle-class, out.”—Democratic Whip Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron)


“Unions give American workers the power to fight for a better life for them and their families, and one court case won’t change that. When working people come together to speak out for safe working conditions, fair pay and basic benefits, our economy grows and we all win. We’ll continue to fight for an Ohio where all workers have the opportunity to realize the American Dream.”—Assistant Democratic Leader Nicholas J. Celebrezze (D-Parma) 


“For years, corporate special interests have mounted a campaign against working people, rigging the economy against folks who work hard for an honest day’s pay. As the cards continue to stack against working people and our nation’s wealth continues to rise to the top, it’s more important than ever before to stand with working people for their right to come together to stand up for fair treatment, safer working conditions and honest pay. Unions helped pave the way for a strong middle class, and by standing with working people, we can ensure the next generation has the same opportunity to achieve their share of the American Dream as the ones who came before.”—House Commerce and Labor Committee Ranking Member Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown)


“Unions helped America build the largest and most prosperous middle class the world has ever seen. This decision challenges us to rededicate ourselves to continue to stand with working people who want to come together to speak out for fairness, workplace safety and honest pay. Supporting middle class Ohioans begins with supporting workers’ rights and fighting back against the special interests who put profit over people.” —Rep. Tavia Galonski (D-Akron)


"This decision hurts unions and therefore hurts working families all across the United States of America. The Janus decision will further whittle away middle class wealth and create greater instability in our labor markets. Plain and simple, the American Dream is further out of reach because of today's U.S. Supreme Court decision." -Rep. Kent Smith (D-Euclid)


 

 
 
  
 
Ohio AG Picked Donor To Whitewash Sexual Harassment Investigation Of GOP Lawmaker, Lawmaker Says
Findings conflict with AG anti-sexual harassment training provided to lawmakers, staff
June 26, 2018
 
 

State Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown) today asked* Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine to turn over records related to a sexual harassment investigation of Rep. Bill Seitz conducted by Taft Stettinius & Hollister, the law firm where Seitz worked for 36 years. DeWine retained the law firm, which has made significant campaign contributions to the AG including one on December 1, 2017, to investigate claims made by a female House employee that Seitz’s public statements at a Republican going-away party had worsened an already hostile work environment at the Statehouse.


“The selection of Taft Stettinius & Hollister tainted the inquiry from day one,” Rep. Lepore-Hagan said. “The firm was clearly conflicted on two levels – Seitz had worked there for decades and the firm has contributed thousands of dollars to the AG. I refuse to believe that, in a city with hundreds of law firms, Taft Stettinius & Hollister was the only one qualified to conduct this investigation.”


After interviewing only three people – a man and a woman who were present at the January 23, 2018 event and Seitz himself – Taft Stettinius & Hollister concluded that Seitz had not violated the House’s anti-harassment policy, though the basis for the findings directly conflicts with the AG’s anti-sexual harassment training given to state lawmakers and staff prior to the event.


“It’s interesting to note that Bill Seitz made his disgusting, sexist remarks days after House members and staff attended mandatory training that was intended to prevent the type of behavior he engaged in,” she said. “Not only that, but the basis for the report’s findings is in direct conflict with the AG’s training for lawmakers and staff. This was clearly a work related event according to Attorney General DeWine’s office.”


The firm transmitted a report outlining its investigatory process and conclusions to the AG’s office and House leadership on April 25, 2018. Neither the House nor the AG’s office released the report or commented on it until the Associated Press reported its existence earlier this month.


“I’m certainly not surprised that the AG and House leaders attempted to bury the report because the law firm they paid $12,000 didn’t conduct a real investigation, they whitewashed the whole thing,” Rep. Lepore-Hagan said. “The selection of Taft Stettinius & Hollister, the way in which the ‘investigation’ was conducted, and the decision to bury the report all raise serious questions that the AG’s office has refused to answer. I lodged my public records requests in an attempt to uncover the truth.”


Rep. Lepore-Hagan, who was one of a group of legislators that called for Seitz to resign after his remarks were made public, said she lodged the public records request because she believes sexual harassment, assault, and intimidation must not be tolerated in any workplace.


“Refusing to aggressively pursue all the allegations related to sexual harassment in the House, interviewing only two of the more than 100 people who attended the event where Rep. Seitz degraded women, and then burying the report makes it clear that the leadership of the House and AG DeWine wanted to whitewash this particular incident,” said Lepore-Hagan. “I and many of my colleagues are simply not prepared to allow the ‘boys will be boys’ atmosphere that exists in the General Assembly to continue. We’re going to hold the people who are perpetuating this toxic environment accountable for their actions. That includes AG DeWine who has squandered the opportunity to help solve this very real problem. Hopefully, the records I’ve requested will shine some light on why he chose to do so.”

 
 
  

State Rep. David Leland (D-Columbus) today applauded concerned citizens and gun safety organizations who contacted Ohio Republican lawmakers and asked them to cancel their planned vote on House Bill 228, so-called “Stand Your Ground” legislation, this week.


“By standing their ground and raising their voices, thousands of citizens’ calls and letters let the Statehouse Republicans know that voting to increase the potential for gun violence is completely unacceptable,” said Leland. “I applaud concerned citizens and gun safety groups for staying engaged and forcing Republican lawmakers to pull down a vote on this dangerous and divisive bill that would make Ohioans less safe.”


House Speaker Ryan Smith (R-Bidwell) last week indicated to reporters that Republican members of the House would bring the gun-safety loosening bill up for a full House vote Wednesday before the legislature recesses for summer.


“Until Republicans in the legislature get serious about Ohioans’ calls for commonsense gun safety reforms, we must all keep the pressure on them to do the right thing,” Leland added.


Numerous gun safety bills, some championed by Republican Gov. John Kasich, sit idle continue to sit idle in the Ohio legislature.

 
 
  
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Rep. Clyde Denounces Pay Raises For Retirement System Executives

 

State Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) today denounced the School Employees Retirement System (SERS) of Ohio’s decision to raise salaries of its employees, including highly paid executives, by 3 percent while a three-year freeze on cost of living adjustments (COLA) for retirees is in place.



 
 

State Lawmakers Support Retired Workers, Fight To Save Pensions

 

As workers and retirees from across the nation gathered on the Ohio Statehouse lawn today to speak out for pension protections for hundreds of thousands of retired American workers, Ohio House Democratic lawmakers spoke out in support of American retirees and urged the Ohio legislature to take up legislation, House Concurrent Resolution (HCR) 8, that would urge members of congress to protect coal miner pensions.



 
 

Cera Supports Retired School Employees, Asks State Board To Rethink Administrative Raises At Retirees' Expense

 

State Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire) today announced he sent a letter to Richard Stensrud, executive director of the School Employees Retirement System of Ohio, asking him to rethink the recent decision to cut cost-of-living pay to SERS Pension holders while giving SERS administrators a three-percent pay increase.



 
 

Clyde Statement On New Purge Directives From Secretary Husted

 

Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) issued the below statement in response to Secretary Husted’s orders to resume his voter purging after the November 2018 election.