State Request To Restrict Healthcare Access Is More Politics As Usual
Lawmaker says restricting healthcare will hurt Ohioans, slow economic growth
May 03, 2018
 
 

The Kasich Administration today filed a waiver request with the federal government, stemming from Republican attempts to undercut Ohio’s Medicaid expansion in the previous state budget. The administration says 36,036 Ohioans are in jeopardy of losing healthcare under the new restrictions, but the actual number of people impacted – if the waiver is approved – could be significantly higher if the economy slows down or more people have trouble finding work.


“Keeping people sick or taking away their health insurance won’t create more opportunity in our state or make our economy more competitive,” said state Rep. Nickie J. Antonio (D-Lakewood). “This is nothing more than a punitive partisan, one-sided attempt to take away healthcare from people in need of temporary assistance. People want an opportunity for a better life for themselves and their families. Taking away healthcare is not the way to move Ohio forward, it is not a prescription for success”


The proposed restrictions would mean people who are sick, lack transportation, experience a family emergency or simply can’t find work would lose Medicaid coverage without notice if they do not work 80 hours in a given month.


A review of past work requirement proposals in entitlement programs found that these policies do not reduce poverty and often leave participants languishing in low-wage, temporary jobs.


Antonio is the minority leader for the House Health Committee and serves on the state’s Joint Medicaid Oversight Committee.

 
 
  

State Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) today celebrated 2018 National Small Business Week, which runs from April 29 – May 3. National Small Business Week annually recognizes entrepreneurship and celebrates small businesses across the United States. Events are celebrated locally in addition to a kick-off in the nation’s capital.


“Small Business Week is a time to celebrate locally owned businesses that are the backbone of our communities,” Sykes said. “Together we can grow small businesses through policies at the state level and offer support locally to new and longstanding businesses in Akron.”


Sykes is encouraging area small businesses or people looking to start one to look into the following state resources that can help them grow, create jobs and give back to the community:


-Ohio Department of Administrative Services: http://www.das.ohio.gov/for-Business-Public/for-the-Business-Community.


-JobsOhio Regional Network Contacts: https://jobs-ohio.com/jobsohio-network/.


-Secretary of the State Website for Client Service Center: https://www.sos.state.oh.us/businesses/.


Sykes, who serves as the House Minority Whip, represents Ohio’s 34th House district, which includes Akron and parts of Cuyahoga Falls and Bath Township.

 
 
  
 
Galonski Calls On Yost To Recuse Himself From All ECOT-related Matters
Lawmaker cites Yost's conflicts of interest, calls for criminal investigation
May 02, 2018
 
 

State Rep. Tavia Galonski (D-Akron) today called on Ohio Auditor Dave Yost to recuse himself from all matters related to the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) due to conflicts of interest and to refer potential data-rigging at ECOT for review by an independent criminal prosecutor.


“According to statements made by your office this week, you received a whistleblower tip in May 2017 detailing first-hand knowledge of potential criminal fraud at the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT). According to these same statements, your office did not immediately refer these allegations to a prosecutor or outside law enforcement agency,” Rep. Galonski wrote in a letter to Yost. “Your decisions may have jeopardized Ohio’s ability to get justice. Fraud investigations demand quick action to collect evidence.”


The letter came after news broke last week that Yost’s office met multiple times last year with a former ECOT technology employee who blew the whistle with allegations the e-charter intentionally manipulated student attendance data, yet Yost failed to refer the matter for criminal investigation at that time.


Since then, the letter notes, ECOT has closed, witnesses have moved to new jobs, emails, texts and documents have presumably been lost, and money has likely been shuffled to new accounts. 


“Simply put, valuable evidence has most likely been lost while you have conducted an ‘investigation’ that you should not have been directing to begin with,” Rep. Galonski wrote.


A copy of the full letter is attached and pasted below.


Mr. Dave Yost


Ohio Auditor of State 


Office of Auditor of State


88 East Broad Street, 5th Floor


Columbus, Ohio 43215


Dear Auditor Yost:


According to statements made by your office this week, you received a whistleblower tip in May 2017 detailing first-hand knowledge of potential criminal fraud at the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT). According to these same statements, your office did not immediately refer these allegations to a prosecutor or outside law enforcement agency. Instead, you made a determination to review the allegations internally and incorporate any findings into ECOT’s regularly scheduled 2016-2017 audit to be issued next week, almost a full year after you first received information about potential criminal activity. 


Your office has not publicly stated if you will be seeking a criminal referral. Of course, now that aspects of the insider information to which you have been privy for a year have been made public, any prosecutor’s office with jurisdiction, or the FBI, can commence a criminal investigation without your permission or referral.


I write today to express serious concerns about how your office has handled allegations of criminal activity at Ohio’s largest e-charter school. ECOT is a school to which you are closely and publicly tied, which is why others have repeatedly called for your formal recusal from matters involving school. Over the last decade, you have taken nearly $30,000 in political contributions from ECOT. You gave it three awards for excellent accounting. You keynoted its 2015 graduation. Your portrait once graced its walls, and the school has been a prominent issue in your campaign for Attorney General, including the fact that you cashed three checks from the school just weeks before you shut down your last investigation of its attendance.


While your spokesman this week suggested there are “no grounds” for your recusal from ECOT matters, any objective observer would agree that your position has long presented, at a bare minimum, the appearance of a conflict.


At the time you received the fraud tip, ECOT owed Ohio taxpayers $60 million. Any further allegation of fraud at the school should have been met with referral of the matter to an independent law enforcement agency. By staying on the case, your conflict has poisoned any investigation that you may have done and any conclusions you may have reached.  For this reason, I am writing to ask that you turn over to an independent law enforcement agency any records and evidence that you may have collected regarding this fraud allegation, so that the investigation can start over.


Your decisions may have jeopardized Ohio’s ability to get justice. Fraud investigations demand quick action to collect evidence. While you have ignored your conflict and quietly overseen an investigation that has stretched a year, ECOT has closed, witnesses have moved to new jobs, emails, texts and documents have presumably been lost, and money has likely been shuffled to new accounts. Simply put, valuable evidence has most likely been lost while you have conducted an “investigation” that you should not have been directing to begin with. 


In closing, I want to once again express my disappointment with how you have handled this matter. Had you heeded calls to recuse yourself from ECOT years ago, Ohio would stand in a much stronger place. Instead, this incident only serves as more evidence that Ohio’s political system is broken, and that its watchdogs only watch out for themselves. That said, your immediate recusal and referral to an actual prosecutor can be a step toward fixing the system. It is my hope that you will take it on behalf of the people we serve.


Sincerely,


Rep. Tavia Galonski


Ohio House District 35

 
 
  
 
Columbus Reps. Boggs, Miller Introduce Bill To Clean Up Urban Blight
Say effort to remove trash and clean up neighborhoods will improve communities, increase property values
May 02, 2018
 
 

State Reps. Kristin Boggs (D-Columbus) and Adam Miller (D-Columbus) today introduced legislation to clean up blighted properties in urban communities across Ohio. The bill comes as many communities struggle with the state’s ongoing opioid crisis, underemployment and an abundance of foreclosed and abandoned properties. The Columbus-area lawmakers say their plan would combat neighborhood blight and increase local property values.


“By holding property owners accountable, we can begin to clean up and rebuild many of the areas hit hardest by foreclosure, underemployment and addiction,” said Rep. Boggs. “This bill has the power to increase property values, strengthen communities and make Ohioans proud of their neighborhoods again.”


The bill would create a criminal penalty under existing littering laws for municipal property owners who fail to keep their property free of dangerous garbage and debris. Penalties for blighted properties would mirror existing littering laws, and courts would have the ability to order cleanup. Under the proposal, property owners would have the opportunity to clean up their properties before being penalized. 


“Landowners have significant rights and freedoms, but they cannot create health and safety issues for their community by failing to keep their own property to a relative level of acceptability,” said Rep. Miller. “Their neighbors and their community have rights as well.”


Traditionally, Ohioans have had to resort to long, costly nuisance suits to clean up these types of blighted properties. Adding garbage and debris left by the landowner, tenant, or agent on their own property to Ohio’s already robust littering laws would expedite cleanup in areas of significant blight.


Community activist groups have long called for stricter laws and a more streamlined approach to urban blight—some taking neighborhood cleanup into their own hands. The South Central Hilltop Block Watch, for example, a community organization aimed at working together to keep Columbus’s Hilltop neighborhood safe and clean for more than 20 years, will be hosting its 17th annual neighborhood cleanup event Saturday, May 5, from 10:00am-1:00pm, beginning at Burroughs Park, located behind 551 S. Richardson Avenue in Columbus.


“For too long, we’ve left neighborhood groups to fight what has become a statewide issue,” added Miller. “By changing our laws to crack down on urban blight, we can begin to reclaim our neighborhoods and clean up our communities one block at a time.”


Upon numbering and referral, the bill will move to a House committee for its initial hearings.

 
 
  
 
Reps. Galonski, Smith Introduce Bill To End The Statute Of Limitations For Rape
Lawmakers say bill gives victims better opportunity for justice
May 01, 2018
 
 

State Reps. Tavia Galonski (D-Akron) and Kent Smith (D-Euclid) today introduced legislation to eliminate Ohio’s current 25-year statute of limitations for rape. More than half of U.S. states do not have limits on when victims can file rape claims.


“Victims of rape, no matter how far removed from their trauma, deserve to be heard and have an opportunity for justice,” said Rep. Galonski. “Technology has changed, and our laws should reflect that.”


Statutes of limitations have historically protected against convictions rooted in deteriorated evidence. Advocates for eliminating Ohio’s 25-year limit, however, argue that recent advances in DNA testing technology have eliminated many of these concerns.


“This legislation will help Ohio victims turn the page from a difficult chapter in their life,” said Rep. Smith. “Justice delayed is always better than justice denied.”


According to the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence, 1 in 5 women have been the victim of rape in their lifetime, which amounts to approximately 743,000 women in Ohio.


The proposed legislation is currently awaiting a bill number and committee assignment, where it receive its initial hearings.

 
 
  
 
Smith, Fedor Push For Moratorium On Controversial State Takeovers Of Local Schools
Introduce bill to prevent new academic distress commissions
April 27, 2018
 
 

State Reps. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) and Kent Smith (D-Euclid) today introduced legislation to block the state from taking over additional local school districts and privatizing local school boards. The proposed moratorium follows the controversial state takeovers of Youngstown City Schools and Lorain City Schools, where the heavy-handed approach has failed to produce any meaningful improvement or results.


“Ohio needs to invest in our kids and families, not wrestle control away from democratically elected leaders,” said Rep. Smith. “Local leaders have known what is best for their kids for a long time. It is state government that needs to change its approach.”


Under the proposed moratorium, state report card grades given prior to or under the moratorium would not ultimately affect a school’s chance for state takeover and school board privatization in the future. The ban on state takeovers, or so-called “academic distress commissions,” would last three years, through 2021.


“The takeovers in Youngstown and Lorain have had atrocious results but there are models out there that work,” said Rep. Fedor. “This moratorium will give us time to find the ways that will actually improve schools for our students and communities.”


Following the passage of amended House Bill 70 in the 131st General Assembly, the structure of academic distress commissions was changed to fast track a state takeover of local school districts when they receive three consecutive failing state report card grades. Under the new law, the schools are put under a state-run academic distress commission instead of a publicly elected board and have a CEO installed to run the school.


The lawmakers believe their ban would give lawmakers more time to find a real solution rather trapping more districts and students in another failing model for public education. 

 
 
  
 
Reps. Fedor, West Introduce Resolution Calling For Universal Preschool
Lawmakers say universal preschool sets students up for lifetime of success, reduces incarceration rates
April 26, 2018
 
 

State Reps. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) and Thomas West (D-Canton) today introduced a joint resolution to establish universal preschool in Ohio. The proposal would amend the Ohio Constitution to require free, universal preschool for all four and five-year-olds who reside in the Buckeye State.


“If we want to build a healthier, freer and better educated Ohio, we need to fund preschools—not prisons. This is how we get results. From addiction to incarceration, preschool is the answer,” said Rep. Fedor. “Our state spends more than $1 billion on prisons each year. We could send more than 300,000 students to a quality preschool with that sort of money.”


Ohio’s state budget for 2018-2019 allocates $66.7 million for early childhood education. The state spent $1.3 billion on prisons in 2015 alone.


Research suggests that access to early childhood education results in fewer arrests and incarcerations. In addition, universal preschool also has an impact on socioeconomic status, young adult and adult education achievements, health behavior and dropout rates.


“Early investments in early education will return a lifetime of riches for our state,” said Rep. West. “As we put more money into our children on the front-end, we will be saving millions on the back-end.”


If both the Ohio House and Senate pass the resolution with a three-fifths majority, the proposal would go before voters. If approved at the ballot, the language would become part of the Ohio Constitution.


Upon numbering and referral, the proposed resolution will move to a House committee for its initial hearings.

 
 
  
 
Fedor Calls For Criminal Probe Of ECOT
Whistleblower accuses Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow of deliberate scheme to pad attendance
April 25, 2018
 
 

State Rep. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) is calling for a criminal probe into the actions of the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT), an online charter school accused of putting in place a scheme to falsely inflate its attendance in order to overbill Ohio taxpayers for more money. Rep. Fedor, a former educator, has long been an advocate of charter school reform and transparency.


“ECOT owes Ohio taxpayers at least $80 million. The best way to make sure the money is repaid is to have the proper authorities launch a criminal investigation,” said Rep. Fedor. “By not properly examining the whistleblower’s allegations nearly a year ago, Auditor Yost failed the people who elected him.”


A persistent whistleblower repeatedly tried to warn state officials that ECOT put in place a scheme to pad its attendance and collect more public money, according to a report by the Associated Press (AP). His warnings were ignored.


Almost a year ago, the whistleblower met with employees of Auditor David Yost, who was paid $11,400 in campaign donations from ECOT’s founder*. After no movement from Auditor Yost, the whistleblower sent an email to the head of Ohio State Board of Education, who also did nothing. The whistleblower then emailed the Ohio Department of Education’s top lawyer. Only after the AP story was published did the Department say it is looking into the explosive claims.


* Yost also spoke at ECOT graduation ceremonies in 2014 and 2015 and awarded them an Auditor of State Award for exemplary record-keeping in 2016.

 
 
  
Rep. Cera and Judge Yoss

Monroe County Court Judge Jason A. Yoss today traveled to Columbus to shadow state Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire) as part of the Judicial-Legislative Exchange hosted by the Ohio Judicial Conference.


“I am delighted to meet with Rep. Cera to discuss concerns we have in Monroe County and to hear his plans for helping the district. It was also good to reminisce about old times when I served as a Page for the House of Representatives at the Ohio Statehouse,” said Judge Yoss.


The Ohio Judicial Conference helps create uniformity in the application of the law, rules and practice through the state. Ultimately, the OJC helps determine the judicial impact that bills and resolutions have on the state.

 
 
  
 
Bipartisan Proposal Would Strengthen Local Maple Businesses, Preserve Forests
Patterson introduces bipartisan bill to encourage sustainable maple industry growth
April 24, 2018
 
 

State Rep. John Patterson (D-Jefferson) recently introduced bipartisan legislation with Rep. Sarah LaTourette (R-Chesterland) to give a boost to local maple producers and businesses while putting recognized best practices in place for sustainable forest management throughout the state.


“Maple syrup products generate over $5 million annually for our state’s economy, and a lot of that comes from right here, in our community,” said Patterson, who serves as a ranking member on the Ohio House Agriculture and Rural Development Committee. “By strengthening local maple businesses and producers, we’re also strengthening our woodlands through sustainable practices that ensure a strong industry and strong local businesses for generations to come.”


The proposed law change, House Bill 606, exempts local producers and businesses from paying taxes on land used for maple syrup and sap production, and reimburses local schools and communities for any loss in local revenue. Under the bill, small businesses and producers who drill 30 taps on at least 12 trees per acre would also need to adopt a forest management plan in place to qualify for the tax exemption.


“I’m pleased to sponsor House Bill 606 with Rep. Patterson, what we believe to be a modest proposal to assist Ohio’s maple producers who practice a craft so rich in cultural significance to our great State,” said Rep. Sarah LaTourette.


“In our corner of the state, we know the important role a safe and healthy habitat play in economic development and our overall quality of life,” Patterson added. “Whether we’re welcoming tourists to share in our community’s natural beauty or we’re spending time fishing, hunting or just enjoying the outdoors, a vibrant environment is at the forefront of what we love about the region we call home.”


The legislation will soon be assigned to a House committee where it will receive public hearings.

 
 
  
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Leader Strahorn Responds To Continued Statehouse Dysfunction

 

State Rep. Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton) issued the following statement in response to today’s session cancellation notice from House Republicans hours before the House was scheduled to vote on a new Republican speaker:



 
 

Celebrezze Responds To Continued Statehouse Dysfunction

 

Ohio House Democratic Assistant Leader Nicholas J. Celebrezze (D-Parma) issued the following statement in response to today’s session cancellation notice from House Republicans hours before the House was scheduled to vote on a new Republican speaker:



 
 

Ramos Proposes Tuition Coverage For Ohio College Students

 

As Ohio college students don their caps and gowns this month, many will leave school with mountains of debt for four-year degrees. In fact, Ohio families and students face the highest burden of student loan debt in the nation, with the Buckeye State ranking 45th nationally for college affordability. With college out of reach for too many families and students, state Rep. Dan Ramos (D-Lorain) today introduced legislation to cover 90 percent of the cost for students to attend public college in Ohio. The Ohio Lets Everyone Achieve Right Now (LEARN) tax credit would make Ohio the first state to make college truly affordable for all students.



 
 

Lawmakers Ask DeWine For Special Prosecutor To Investigate ECOT Audit Findings

 

State Reps. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) and Tavia Galonski (D-Akron) today sent a letter asking Attorney General Mike DeWine to appoint special state prosecutor to  determine the extent of criminal activities of the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) publicized by Auditor Dave Yost in a stalled audit released today. The lawmakers are also asking that a special prosecutor determine whether state negligence contributed to additional taxpayer fraud, and whether or not state officials are liable for any additional fraud that developed as a result of their negligence or malfeasance.