Rep. West's Bill To Improve Children's Health Signed Into Law
Says House Bill 12 gives families, caregivers tools they need to support children's
December 18, 2019

State Rep. Thomas West (D-Canton) today announced that House Bill (HB) 12, his bipartisan bill with state Rep. Don Manning (R-New Middletown) to create the Children’s Behavioral Health Prevention Network Stakeholder Group, was signed into law by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine.

“I am thrilled to see the Governor sign HB 12 into law. For too long, we have lacked a coordinated and integrated effort to adequately support our children’s social, behavioral and emotional health. This stakeholder group accomplishes that exact purpose, and it will provide Ohio’s families and caregivers with the tools they need to ensure each and every child has the opportunity to thrive, not just survive,” said West. “We know that 50 percent of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin before the age of 14, so the earlier health professionals can intervene in these cases, the better off Ohio’s children will be.”

The stakeholder group will include the Director of the Governor’s Children’s Initiatives; several state agency directors (or their designees) whose agencies are pertinent to the stakeholder group’s mission; and representatives, as chosen by the Director of the Governor’s Children’s Initiatives, from several relevant external groups.

Under the act, the Director of Children’s Initiatives will determine the scope of the group’s inquiry and coordinate the efforts of its members in developing common goals, best practices for behavioral health prevention and a prevention pilot program. The group will also collect data focused on health outcomes as well as race, ethnicity, parental income and education, and type of health insurance. At the conclusion of this 18-month process, the group will submit a report containing its recommendations to the Governor and the General Assembly.

Rep. Robinson Joins Other Dems In Call For Immediate Fix To EdChoice, State Report Cards
House Democrats vow to make education improvements a priority in 2020
December 17, 2019

State Rep. Phil Robinson (D-Solon), who serves as Ranking Member on the Committee of Primary and Secondary Education,issued a statement today concerning the immediate need to fix the state’s EdChoice voucher program.

“Expanding the EdChoice voucher program is the last thing we need to do. We have expressed concerns about this program in the past and how it takes resources away from our public schools. Taking even more public resources away from even more districts is not the answer,” Rep. Robinson said. “Our statehouse offices are being flooded this week with concerns from superintendents and parents from around the state not wanting this expansion to happen and Ohioans insisting we act on this now, prior to the February 1 application process opening. The expansion of this program presents a real strain on local school systems that are already stressed and takes taxpayer money out of our public schools. Fixing our broken voucher system is a top priority for House Democrats as we begin 2020 and we vow to work across the aisle to repair the state’s broken educational system as quickly as possible.”

Lawmakers will not return from the holiday break for committee meetings until the week of January 21 which presents a problem with the application period for the EdChoice voucher program beginning on February 1.

Yesterday, Rep. Lisa Sobecki and Sen. Teresa Fedor, who sit on the State Report Card Study Committee, voiced opposition to the State Report Card Study Committee’s Final Report that they said did not offer any concrete recommendations for improvements to the State School Report Card system. The system is inextricably connected to EdChoice since eligibility for EdChoice vouchers in private schools can be dependent upon a school’s report card grade.

Reps. Rogers And Scherer Introduce Bill To Create Tax Deduction For Post-Secondary Expenses
"Blair Deduction" aims to reduce student debt loads of Ohioans
December 16, 2019

State Representatives John Rogers (D-Mentor-On-The-Lake) and Gary Scherer (R-Circleville) today announced the introduction of the “Blair Deduction,” a proposal that would allow individuals to deduct up to $4,000 per year from their Ohio income taxes. This is the most recent iteration of legislation that was originally co-authored by Representative Rogers and the late Representative, Terry Blair.

“In today’s economy, students are increasingly having to weigh the benefits of furthering their education against the possibility of incurring insurmountable debt,” Rep. Rogers said. “The intent of this legislation recognizes the significant personal investment being made by so many, while also ensuring that an educated and talented workforce can be found here in Ohio – something essential to helping Ohio’s future economic growth and vitality.

Upon graduation from a post-secondary certificate or degreed program, an individual would be able to use the total net out of pocket cost of their qualified higher education expenses as the basis for an annual deduction of up to $4000 per year. This legislative proposal mirrors the deduction Ohio families are currently eligible to receive when they contribute to the State’s 529 College Savings Plans in an effort to save for an education beyond high school. Qualified higher education expenses include tuition, fees, books, supplies, equipment, room and board, and necessary special needs services.

“I am happy to join Representative Rogers on this bill that he has worked on for several years and originally with the great late Terry Blair,” Rep. Scherer said.

The “Blair Deduction” legislation now awaits referral to a House Committee.

Rep. Robinson's House Bill 4 Clears Ohio Senate Unanimously, Heading To Governor's Desk
Victory for expanding workforce development in Ohio from his first bill
December 12, 2019

State Rep. Phil Robinson (D-Solon) Wednesday announced the unanimous passage in the Senate of House Bill (HB) 4, his bipartisan bill alongside Rep. Tracy Richardson (R-Marysville) to help streamline the process of developing industry-recognized credential and certificate programs. This is both Rep. Robinson’s first bill as a legislator, and his first to pass both chambers to become law.

“In Northeast Ohio alone, there are more than 3,000 high paying trade and technical jobs currently available but unfulfilled. We need to connect businesses with hard working Ohioans and training programs for these middle-class pathway jobs in order to fulfill the Ohio promise of a better life,” said Rep. Robinson. “HB 4 will help expand workforce training and certification development options for people looking for the American dream to make a better life for themselves and their children’s future.”

HB 4 will set up the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation (OWT) as the “one-stop-shop,” potential first point of contact and resource for employers and companies to:

  • Be connected to existing certificate or credential programs,

  • Vet proposals and get guidance on how to work with schools and state education agencies to develop programs,

  • Help make the process quick and efficient.

An example could include a tech company is moving to the state and they want to have employees trained in specific computer coding or a new program. Or a car company is creating a new electric or autonomous vehicle and need employees trained in special manufacturing and development methods.

“Ohioans don’t want a hand out, they want a leg up, and more training options means better paying jobs and careers. This is part of the Ohio promise,” added Rep. Robinson.

HB 4 passed the Senate unanimously and now heads to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.

Leader Sykes: Unprecedented Bipartisanship So Far This General Assembly
Says Dems elevated role benefits working people and families
December 12, 2019

With the end of the 2019 legislative term, House Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) today issued a statement on the historic levels of bipartisanship during the 133rd General Assembly, which, through the first year, has seen the percentage of bills clearing the House sponsored by Democrats double over the previous two General Assemblies.

“When House Democrats say ‘we work for you’, we aren’t talking about working for lobbyists or special interest groups, we mean we work for YOU, the Ohio taxpayer,” said Leader Sykes. “As we close out the first half of the 133rd General Assembly, we know Ohioans want us to work across the aisle on the issues that matter most to them. That’s why we are proud to have passed more Democrat-sponsored bills halfway through this GA than in either of the previous two complete GAs. As we head into 2020, we will continue to work across the aisle to deliver results that put people first.”  

Some key Democratic priorities passed in 2019 include:

  • House Bill (HB) 1 (Hicks-Hudson/Plummer): Criminal justice reform prioritizing rehabilitation in lieu of conviction.

  • HB 2 (Lepore-Hagan/Cross): TechCred job training for Ohio workers.

  • HB 4 (Robinson/Richardson): Cut red tape for credentials and certificates for Ohio workers.

  • HB 5 (Leland/Hillyer): To create Public Defender Loan Repayment Program.

  • HB 7: (Patterson/Ghanbari): Create H2Ohio Advisory Council to help protect Ohio waterways, ensure clean drinking water.

  • HB 8 (Galonski/Manchester): To support foster caregivers.

  • HB 9 (Sweeney/Jones): To streamline college credit transfers and ensure more students graduate on time.

  • HB 10 (Brown/Stoltzfus): Create Governor’s Office of Drug Policy to help combat opioid crisis.

  • HB 11 (Howse/Manning): To improve prenatal and maternal health outcomes.

  • HB 12 (West/Manning): To create Children’s Behavioral Health Prevention Network to support social, emotions, behavioral health of Ohio children.

  • HB 14 (Boyd/Baldridge): Create Kinship Care Navigators Program.

As of Thursday, more than 40 percent of bills that have passed the House in 2019 had at least one Democratic sponsor, compared to just over 20 percent throughout the entire 13st and 132nd General Assemblies.

TechCred Legislation Moves To Governor's Desk
House Bill 2 creates and funds program for in demand credentials
December 12, 2019

State Representative Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown) today applauded the House concurrence of House Bill (HB) 2, moving this job training and workforce development legislation to the governor’s desk for his signature.

“The economy is rapidly evolving and highly competitive. With the right training and credentials, Ohio’s workers will put their skills, talent, energy, and work ethic to use in attracting global job opportunities,” said Rep. Lepore-Hagan. “I’m very proud of this bipartisan, workforce development effort that will yield positive results for employers, employees, Mahoning Valley and our entire state.”

Representatives Lepore-Hagan and Jon Cross (R-Kenton) sponsored HB 2. Once signed by Governor Mike DeWine, HB 2 will create the TechCred and Individual Microcredential Assistance Program (IMAP). Depending on the microcredential, employers can receive up to$2,000 reimbursements for training costs for both incumbent and prospective employees for the TechCred program.  Training providers may seek up to $3,000 reimbursement for educating individuals in IMAP, with a focus on helping low-income, underemployed or unemployed individuals.

“I’m proud that we are making meaningful progress toward restoring Ohio’s promise of better lives, better jobs and brighter futures for all by rewarding companies seeking to invest in Ohio’s workforce,” said Rep. Lepore-Hagan. “I’m thankful for the House’s leadership in prioritizing this bill and looking forward to seeing many Ohioans make this important investment in our economic future.”

Rep. Crawley Introduces Legislation To Improve Maternal Health In Ohio
Says proposals stand in contrast to extremist, anti-choice bills being debated at Statehouse in recent weeks
December 03, 2019

Rep. Erica Crawley (D-Columbus) today introduced a several bills aimed at improving maternal health outcomes in Ohio, including legislation to improve statewide reporting on maternal mortality as well as a bill to expand training at hospitals and other birthing facilities across the state to improve care for certain life-threatening complications arising from childbirth.

“Currently, women are going into a healthcare system that doesn’t treat everyone fairly or equitably and it’s having devastating results,” said Rep. Crawley. “These commonsense proposals put families first, and will take us one step closer ensuring that all mothers and babies receive the best possible standards of care here in Ohio.”

The first bill expands current law to require the Pregnancy Associated Mortality Review (PAMR) Board to report annually and to identify causes and potential risk factors related to pregnancy-associated deaths in Ohio.

A recent PAMR report found that 186 women died in Ohio due to pregnancy-related reasons between 2008 and 2016. Black women died at a rate more than two and a half times that of white women. Over half of pregnancy-related deaths between 2012 and 2016 were preventable.

Rep. Crawley’s other bill, known as the Save Our Mothers Act, would require hospitals and other birthing facilities to offer employees training on maternal health and pregnancy-related complications in order to improve standards of care and save lives. Additionally, this bill will address cultural competency training to improve birth equity, reduce peripartum racial and ethnic disparities, and address implicit bias in the healthcare system.

“Deteriorating maternal health is a public health crisis in Ohio,” Rep. Crawley said. “Instead of passing extreme laws to limit healthcare for women, we should be working together to improve health outcomes and save lives. The Save Our Mothers Act is the first step to keeping our promise of safety and security to women and families.”

The U.S. currently has the highest maternal mortality rate in the industrialized world and is the only industrialized country with increasing rates. The Centers for Disease Control recently recommended states create a robust review process of maternal deaths in order to improve maternal mortality rates. 

Rep. Lepore-Hagan Watch, Listen, And Stop Railroad-crossing Bill Passes Ohio House
House Bill 226 requires drivers to check for on-track railroad equipment
November 20, 2019

State Representative Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown) announced the unanimous House passage of House Bill (HB) 226, a bill requiring drivers to watch, listen and stop for on-track equipment at railroad crossings. 

“I’m very pleased the Ohio House took an important step forward in addressing what is truly a public safety issue,” said Rep. Lepore-Hagan. “By mandating a driver’s responsibility for other on-track equipment at a railroad-crossing, our state joins 29 others in recognizing these potential dangers to drivers.”

Joined by Representative Jon Cross (R-Kenton), HB 226 is a bipartisan effort that received unanimous support in the House Transportation and Public Safety Committee on Tuesday, November 19, 2019. It now moves to the Ohio Senate for consideration.

House Dems Outline Plan To Strengthen Ohio Families
Follows week of extremist bills they say send Ohio in wrong direction
November 20, 2019

Democratic Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) today joined Dem lawmakers to urge passage of several bills focused on strengthening Ohio families, part of their ongoing Ohio Promise campaign to grow good paying jobs and an economy that works for everyone.

The announcement comes as House GOP lawmakers last week passed a controversial bill attacking the academic integrity of public schools and introduced a total abortion ban. Senate Republicans passed two separate abortion restrictions earlier this month.

“The actions we’ve seen on the other side of the aisle in recent weeks aren’t representative of where the majority of Ohio families are on these issues,” said Leader Sykes. “Democrats are focused on putting the politics aside and putting people first, with a legislative framework to strengthen families and restore Ohio’s promise of opportunity for all.”

Sykes pointed to a number of Democratic-backed family first bills that already cleared the House, including proposals to establish the Kinship Care Navigators Program, support foster families, improve maternal health, create the state’s first-ever Children’s Behavioral Health Network, and make it easier for military families caring for a loved one with special needs to apply for Medicaid services.

“Though we’ve made progress, too many families still lack access to commonsense policies like paid leave,” said Assistant Leader Kristin Boggs (D-Columbus), sponsorof House Bill (HB) 91, which would require up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave for working families. “Increasing stability for those caring for a newborn or sick family member is essential to our promise to make lives a little easier for Ohio families.”

HB 91 would establish the Ohio Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program, which would provide economic stability to working families in times of a medical emergency, when caring for a sick loved one, or welcoming a newborn into the family.

“We support family values, but more importantly, we value families—all families,” said Rep. Jessica Miranda (D-Forest Park). “By putting politics aside and working together as Democrats and Republicans, we can build on many of the successes we’ve seen, like the creation of the Kinship Care Navigators and other programs that connect families to the tools they need to live better lives.”

Democrats also highlighted a number of other key proposals to strengthen Ohio families, including:

  • HB 390 (Crossman/Clites), the Pre-existing Protection Act, a bipartisan bill that would add several commonsense consumer protections outlined in the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) into Ohio law, including coverage for more many of the 2.1 million Ohioans living with pre-existing conditions.

  • Maternal Health Act (Crawley), which would encourage data-sharing to address gaps in maternal care and lead to better health outcomes for mothers and babies.

  • HB 206 (Boyd/Stoltzfus), bipartisan legislation to expand tax credits for families looking to adopt a child.

“You shouldn’t have to worry about losing coverage if you have a pre-existing condition,” said Rep. Jeff Crossman (D-Parma), a joint sponsor of the Preexisting Protection Act. “Our bipartisan bill protects your coverage and takes on insurance companies that want to limit the care you pay into each month.”

Additional proposals focus on eldercare and Ohio’s senior population, with bills to establish training standards for dementia care, simplify and streamline the application for SNAP and other benefits, and to improve quality of life at nursing homes.

“It’s critical for lawmakers to understand many of the issues facing our elderly populations, especially those with chronic diseases,” said Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland), who introduced a bill to better care for Ohioans living with dementia. “By having these conversations, we can better serve seniors and the elderly and connect families with the resources they need to care for their loved ones.”

Wednesday’s rollout follows the conclusion of the caucus’s Ohio Promise Tour, which saw more than two dozen town hall events in cities across the state this summer.

Rep. West Leads Bipartisan Push To Grow Ohio's Minority-owned Businesses
Says successful Stark County programs provide model for Ohio
November 19, 2019

State Rep. Thomas West (D-Canton) today joined Democratic lawmakers, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted and business leaders at a Statehouse press conference to outline their blueprint to strengthen Ohio’s minority-owned businesses. The event kicked off Minority Business Day at the Statehouse and highlighted successful business development programs in West’s district he says serve as a model for the state.  

“Minority-owned businesses are growing in Stark County thanks in part to a number of programs that connect entrepreneurs and small business owners with the tools they need to succeed,” said Rep. West. “As lawmakers, we should take notice and expand these programs statewide to strengthen Ohio’s 125,000 minority businesses and the thousands more entrepreneurs looking to get their ideas off the ground.”

The ELITE program, administered in partnership with the London Stock Exchange, is designed to help small- and medium-sized businesses grow and scale up. Currently, ELITE is working with minority-owned businesses in Stark County, as well as several businesses in Youngstown, Ohio and Southeast Ohio, to help expand operations and grow good paying jobs. ELITE recently announced the selection of Cleveland as the location for its U.S. headquarters.

Rep. West also announced $300,000 in state funds for the Stark County Minority Business Association (SCMBA), which will be used in partnership with the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce to provide mentorship and other resources to its member businesses.

“Minority-owned businesses historically have lacked access to capital and other resources to get up and running,” added West. “What we’re seeing is that these partnerships are beginning to close the gap, giving minority businesses the opportunity not just to survive, but to thrive in a changing economy.”

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Reps. West, Russo Raise Concerns About Medicaid Work Requirements To Department Director


State Reps. Thomas West (D-Canton) and Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) sent a letter to Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) Director Maureen Corcoran today expressing their concerns with the implementation of Medicaid work requirements. The lawmakers’ letter comes in light of a year-end report sent by Director Corcoran to Gov. Mike DeWine detailing a variety of issues the department has dealt with over the past year, including chronic problems with the information technology system “Ohio Benefits,” utilized by both ODM and the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) to determine benefit eligibility.


Rep. Hicks-Hudson Announces Job Training Bill Signed Into Law


State Representative Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo) today announced Gov. Mike DeWine’s signing of House Bill (HB) 2, bipartisan legislation that expands job training and workforce development opportunities in Ohio. 


Dem Lawmakers Urge House Leaders To Pass Bill To Protect Healthcare Coverage For Ohioans With Pre-existing Conditions


State Reps. Jeff Crossman (D- Parma) and Randi Clites (D-Ravenna) today called on Statehouse leaders to protect Ohioans’ healthcare by advancing the bipartisan Pre-Existing Protection Act, House Bill 390. The call comes hours after a decision in Texas v. United States raised more uncertainty about the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) future, including its provision to protect healthcare access for those with pre-existing conditions.  


Rep. West's Bill To Improve Children's Health Signed Into Law


State Rep. Thomas West (D-Canton) today announced that House Bill (HB) 12, his bipartisan bill with state Rep. Don Manning (R-New Middletown) to create the Children’s Behavioral Health Prevention Network Stakeholder Group, was signed into law by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine.