Ohio House Democratic Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) today announced the election of Rep. Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo) as Minority Whip and Rep. Richard Brown (D-Canal Winchester) as Assistant Minority Whip for the 133rd General Assembly. Brown joins the Democratic leadership team after former Whip Rep. Kent Smith (D-Euclid) stepped down last week.


“I want to thank Rep. Smith for his service to this leadership team and dedication to strengthening our caucus. I know he will continue to use that same vigor to fight on behalf of his constituents here at the Statehouse,” said Leader Sykes. “I look forward to welcoming Rep. Brown into our leadership team and continuing working with Rep. Hicks-Hudson as we move Ohio forward and restore our promise as an opportunity state.”


Hicks-Hudson moves from her position as Assistant Whip to Minority Whip.


“We have an incredible leadership team that’s delivering results for taxpayers, and I look forward to continue working with members and staff to strengthen our caucus, expand opportunity for working families and build an economy that works for everyone,” said Hicks-Hudson.


Brown joins Leader Sykes, Assistant Democratic Leader Rep. Kristin Boggs (D-Columbus) and Minority Whip Hicks-Hudson on the House Democratic leadership team, which is the first majority-woman leadership team in Ohio House history.


“I am humbled by the support of my colleagues and thrilled to join this history-making leadership team,” said Rep. Brown. “I am eager to expand my role here and to work alongside members and staff to build opportunity for working people and to give every Ohioan a shot at a better life and a brighter future.”


Brown, an attorney of 37 years, was appointed to represent Ohio’s 20th House district in 2017, serving for a year and a half before winning election in 2018.


Hicks-Hudson and Brown were elected in a full-House vote.

 
 
  
 
House Dems Remain Hopeful Heading Into Budget Conference Committee
Committed to working together to invest in working people and families
June 21, 2019
 
 

Ohio House Democratic Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) and state Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire) today issued a joint statement as members of the state budget conference committee were announced. Cera, the lead Democrat on the House Finance Committee, will represent the caucus on the panel.


“The House Democratic Caucus is committed to working together on a final budget that invests in our future by prioritizing working people and families, growing our economy and restoring our promise as an opportunity state. We were pleased to see a number of the Senate changes, and remain hopeful that Democratic priorities will continue to shape the budget as we move forward.”

 
 
  
 
Leader Sykes: Bipartisan Priorities Delivering Results For Taxpayers
Says Dems focused on restoring Ohio's promise as an opportunity state
June 21, 2019
 
 

Ohio House Democratic Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) today applauded this week’s passage of a series of bipartisan priority bills, including criminal justice reforms, funding to protect Ohio waterways and a proposal to keep moms and babies healthy. Sykes joined Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) to announce the bills at a Statehouse press conference last month. Their joint-announcement followed the Democrats’ unveiling of Ohio Promise, their blueprint for Ohio’s future focused on working together to restore Ohio’s promise of better lives and brighter futures for working people and families.


House Bill 1, joint-sponsored by Rep. Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo), would focus on treatment over convictions for low-level, non-violent offenders and allow some offenders to seal records, giving them a second chance to get ahead.


“HB 1 fulfills our promise of working together to reform our broken criminal justice system,” said Leader Sykes. “Focusing on treatment rather than convictions for low-level, non-violent offenders will give every Ohioan a real chance at the American dream.”


State Rep. David Leland’s (D-Columbus) bipartisan House Bill 5 would create a student loan repayment program to incentivize young lawyers to work as public defenders in underserved areas of the state.


“Everyone should have the opportunity for a better life and a brighter future—regardless of their income,” said Sykes. “Creating the Public Defender Loan Repayment program will ensure that every Ohioan has access to the legal counsel they need.”


In addition, the House passed a bipartisan bill, House Bill 7, to protect Ohio waterways, a proposal joint-sponsored by Rep. John Patterson (D-Jefferson).


“Millions of people along both sides of Lake Erie depend upon our great lake for their drinking water,” added Sykes. “This bill a bold step to address the challenges of water quality across our state and restore our promise as a great place to live, raise a family, or start a business.”


Finally, House lawmakers overwhelmingly approved Rep. Stephanie Howse’s (D-Cleveland) House Bill 11, legislation to promote healthier moms and babies by investing in smoking cessation, dental visits and health and lead education.


“Right now in Ohio, more babies will fail to reach their first birthday than in almost any other state—and that rate is worse among Black babies,” said Sykes. “Connecting Ohio women with prenatal care is critical to reduce infant mortality and give every Ohioan a real shot at a better life and a brighter future.”


Previous bipartisan priority bills to clear the House include:



  • House Bill 2: Create Tech Cred jobs training program

  • House Bill 4: Streamline job training certificates and credential programs for Ohio workers

  • House Bill 8: Foster Caregiver training

  • House Bill 10: Creation of Governor’s Office of Drug Policy

  • House Bill 12: Create Children’s Behavioral Health Network

  • House Bill 14: Create Kinship Navigator program

 
 
  
 
Rep. Patterson Announces House Passage Of H2Ohio Program
Bill would fund water quality protection and preservation across Ohio
June 20, 2019
 
 

State Rep. John Patterson (D-Jefferson) today applauded the passage of House Bill (HB) 7, his bipartisan legislation joint-sponsored with Rep. Haraz Ghanbari (R-Perrysburg) to create the H2Ohio Trust Fund to protect, preserve and improve water quality across Ohio.


“In the entire United States I am not aware of any program such as H2Ohio Trust Fund, which seeks to protect and preserve our most precious natural resource: water,” said Rep. Patterson. “Bold in its conception, grand in its design, and visionary in its mission, it is absolutely imperative that we move HB 7 forward to address the pressing issues of water quality from Ohio’s Great Lake to Ohio’s great rivers, streams and ponds. Protecting our natural beauty is our promise to the next generation of Ohioans.”


The H2Ohio Trust Fund will be funded at up to $100 million per fiscal year through appropriations, proceeds from property transactions and debt obligations from the state treasury. The bill also creates the H2Ohio Advisory Council to coordinate grant and loan programs, support research and oversee water quality initiatives funded by the H2Ohio Trust Fund.


The Fund will address a number of diverse water quality issues, such as making purchases, developing and implementing remediation programs and other projects designed to address water quality priorities.


“HB 7 is a small but important step to address the challenges of water quality across our entire state,” added Patterson. “The problem will not be solved in the life of this General Assembly nor even in the life of this administration. This is precisely why the H2Ohio Program will be permanent—not just a ten year endeavor, but one that will require ongoing effort.”


The legislation was given priority status last month by Democratic Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) and Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford). After passing the House 90-3, HB 7 now moves to the Senate for further consideration.

 
 
  
 
Leland's Public Defender Bill Clears House
Offers student loan forgiveness for lawyers who become public defenders in underserved areas of Ohio
June 20, 2019
 
 

State Rep. David Leland (D-Columbus) today announced the passage of House Bill (HB) 5, his bipartisan bill with Rep. Brett Hudson Hillyer (R-Uhrichsville) to create the Ohio Public Defender State Loan Repayment Program to incentivize lawyers to work as public defenders in underserved areas of the state.


The program would give lawyers who become public defenders tuition loan assistance of up to $85,000 for 5 years of service. The average law student in Ohio graduates with $98,475 of debt.


“This bill will not only help provide every Ohioan the representation they deserve, but it will also help alleviate the tremendous burden of student debt,” said Rep. Leland. “HB 5 keeps the Ohio Promise of making sure the best and brightest students stay right here in Ohio.”


In Ohio, 70 percent of all defendants facing jail time cannot afford to pay for legal representation.


“Ohio’s public defenders are currently overwhelmed by an enormous caseload. That translates into potentially unnecessary jail time, unwise plea agreements, and even wrongful conviction—a clear lack of justice,” added Leland.


HB 5 was given priority status last month by Democratic Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) and Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford). After passing the House, the bill moves to the Senate for consideration.

 
 
  
 
Rep. Weinstein's Bipartisan Bill To Empower Military Families In Ohio Passes House
Legislation would facilitate job growth and keep families together
June 19, 2019
 
 

State Rep. Casey Weinstein (D-Hudson) today announced the unanimous passage of House Bill (HB) 133, bipartisan legislation joint-sponsored by Rep. Rick Perales (R-Beavercreek) that will allow for the issuing of temporary occupational licenses to active duty service members and their spouses living in Ohio as a result of undergoing a permanent change of station.


“It was the United States Air Force that brought both me and my wife, Amanda, to Ohio when we were assigned to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base,” said Weinstein. “As active duty members of the military, we were far from well off. But we were comfortable. Regrettably, I cannot say the same was true of all my married military family members in uniform. Time and time again, I saw newly stationed service members struggle as their finances were impacted by spousal unemployment.”


In 2017, the Department of Defense found that 25 percent of military spouses are unemployed, a rate seven times higher than the national average and well above the state average.


"By prohibiting military spouses from practicing the work they have already been licensed to do, Ohio is penalizing service members' families for their commitment to the United States and depriving the state of high quality, in-demand professionals like nurses and teachers,” added Weinstein. “We talk a lot about our promise to veterans, but we have a promise to active duty service members and their families as well. In passing this legislation out of the Ohio House today, we take one more step toward meeting that obligation and letting our service men and women know that when we talk about how family comes first, we include military families stationed in Ohio as well."


HB 133 was passed unanimously out of the House and now heads to the Ohio Senate for further consideration.

 
 
  

Ohio Legislative Black Caucus (OLBC) members today held a press conference outlining their Build Up Black Families legislative package in honor of Juneteenth, which marks the anniversary of the first announcement of the abolition of slavery in America.


“As we’ve been working to restore the Ohio promise of a better life and brighter future for everyone, we say that family comes first and we mean that,” said Rep. Juanita Brent (D-Cleveland). “Our members have been working together, drafting common sense legislation to deliver results for a real shot at the American Dream for black families in Ohio.”


OLBC members highlighted legislation they are proposing this General Assembly that seeks to build up black families in Ohio. OLBC First Vice President and state Rep. Thomas West (D-Canton) is a joint sponsor of one of the House’s priority bills, House Bill (HB) 12, which would establish the Ohio Children’s Behavioral Health Prevention Network that seeks to create and coordinate a comprehensive learning network to support young children in their social, emotional, and behavioral development and to seek to reduce and prevent behavioral health disparities among young children.


“HB 12 puts families first by giving parents the tools and support they need to have healthy children,” said West. “I am proud of the work we did to make HB 12 more inclusive of all voices – and I am confident that the stakeholder group’s work will reach black families and other communities who are too often burdened by stigma and experience barriers when getting help.”


OLBC Parliamentarian and state Rep. Erica Crawley (D-Columbus) spoke on an amendment in the state budget to create the first ever Pregnancy Associated Mortality Review Board in Ohio to study barriers and disparities pregnant black mothers face in Ohio and submit findings and recommendations to the Governor and legislative leaders.


“If we are really to address infant mortality in its totality, we have to address maternal health and mortality,” said Crawley. “Therefore, it is imperative that we look into the factors that contribute to, or directly cause the death of a woman and prevent future occurrences. We cannot have healthy babies or families without healthy moms.”


Senate Assistant Minority Whip Sandra Williams (D-Cleveland) has been working on Senate Bill (SB) 71, which seeks to create a committee to study the progress and challenges of African Americans in Ohio. 


“We know from previously released data that African Americans face higher rates of low-quality education, health-risks and homelessness in comparison to other ethnic groups. According to the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the homeless, 70% of homeless people in Cuyahoga County are African American.” said Williams. “I believe we can teach people about our history and use the data collected to learn from the positive and negative outcomes of current legislation, to contribute to building a better and healthier community.”


State Sen. Hearcel Craig (D-Columbus) submitted an amendment to the state budget bill that would increase funding to the Ohio Housing Trust Fund in order to help African Americans gain access to safe and affordable housing.


“We need to make sure that every Ohioan has safe and affordable housing.” said Craig. “Evictions, which largely affect families and communities of color, create health issues and fracture neighborhoods we have spent generations building. By increasing funding to housing programs and strengthening protections for homebuyers and tenants, we can keep families in their homes and our neighborhoods whole.”


On June 19, 1865 Texas became the first state to announce the abolition of slavery. Each year on June 19, dubbed Juneteenth, memorials and celebrations are held across America commemorating African American freedom, emphasizing education and achievement.


“I am proud to stand with our members today as we strive to address the challenges facing so many African American families in Ohio,” said OLBC President and state Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland). “When we build up black families, we are building up Ohio families.”


The OLBC is committed to protecting and restoring opportunity for all Ohioans. The OLBC's current legislative agenda seeks to address and close the inequality gaps in five key areas, including improving criminal justice reform, education, healthcare, economic justice, and voting rights in an effort to significantly strengthen our communities. 


African American families currently face several significant disparities in Ohio related to a median income gap at $32,163 compared to the $54,021 for the rest of the state. Additionally, there are alarming gaps in black maternal health and infant mortality rates, access to higher education, and home ownership.

 
 
  

Assistant Minority Leader Kristin Boggs (D-Columbus) and Rep. Erica Crawley (D-Columbus) introduced legislation designed to protect victims of sexual violence in Ohio in a joint press conference with state Sens. Hearcel Craig (D-Columbus) and Stephanie Kunze (R-Columbus) this afternoon at the Ohio Statehouse. The proposed legislation recognizes that health care professionals who use their status of trust and power to violate people under their care and supervision must have enhanced consequences. 


“One of our pillars of justice is the simple concept that the punishment should fit the crime,” said Assistant Minority Leader Boggs. “In this situation, the law did not take into account the special relationship chiropractors have with their patients, and the duty that such healthcare professionals have to act in the best interest of their patients—especially when working with children.”


This proposal comes in the wake of the sentencing of a Columbus chiropractor after 43 of his patients aged 14 to 74 came forward with allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct against him. He pled “no contest” to 66 counts of sexual imposition and was sentenced to just 180 days in prison to be served over 60 consecutive weekends. The proposed legislation would allow prosecutors to have charged him with gross sexual imposition, which is a more serious criminal offense that would have allowed a judge to sentence him to more time.


“With this legislation, we can let the former patients of Dr. Smith and others know that we work for them,” said Rep. Crawley.“When our laws fail to keep individuals who we hold in positions of trust accountable for the wrong they have done, it is incumbent upon us as lawmakers to address the deficiency and to do so expeditiously. That is the Ohio Promise.”


Legislators met with Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein and victims throughout the drafting process in order to present a comprehensive proposal ensuring that perpetrators of sexual assault are given proper sentencing—especially under circumstances where trusted healthcare professionals are the perpetrators of sexual assault, and where the victims are under the age of 18. Sens. Craig and Kunze will be introducing companion legislation in the Senate chamber.


The bill expands Ohio’s definition of healthcare professional to include: dentists and dental hygienists, registered nurses or licensed practical nurses, optometrists, physician’s assistants, physicians, psychologists, chiropractors, speech-language pathologists, audiologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, athletic trainers, and social workers.


“Trust is a vital part of the healthcare provider-patient relationship, and when a healthcare professional violates our trust, patients need a clear and fair path to justice,” said Sen. Craig. “Most healthcare providers nurture this trust to enable their patients to heal and grow, however, there are professionals with mal intentions who misuse their training and exploit their patients. This legislation will punish those professionals who target patients at their most vulnerable state.”


The legislation will now be assigned to committees in the Ohio House and Senate, where it will receive further consideration.

 
 
  
 
Reps. Thomas West, Phil Plummer Introduce Bipartisan Criminal Justice Reform Legislation
Bill would mandate interrogation recordings of suspected felonious homicide, sexual assault cases in Ohio
June 18, 2019
 
 

State Rep. Thomas West (D-Canton) today announced the introduction of House Bill (HB) 277, bipartisan legislation with Rep. Phil Plummer (R-Dayton) to implement mandatory recordings of suspect interrogations statewide for some of the most serious crimes, such as homicide and sexual assault cases. The two lawmakers unveiled their proposal at a press conference this morning with supporters from the Ohio Public Defenders office and the Ohio Innocence Project.


“The more transparency and accountability we can provide, the more trust Ohioans will have in our judicial and criminal justice systems,” said Rep. West. “This bill is just one piece of a bigger puzzle in ensuring all Ohioans are treated fairly, and feel safe and secure at home.”


“HB 277 will establish a statewide standard requiring agencies to keep audio or audiovisual recordings of custodial interrogations for those suspected to have committed felonious murder or sexual assault,” said Rep. Plummer. “This bill will protect the constitutional rights of the suspects and improve community trust.”


Nearly half of all states already require or encourage electronic recording of interrogations in their entirety. According to a survey done in 2017 by the University of Cincinnati, about 52 percent of law enforcement agencies in Ohio already have a written policy on recording suspect interrogations.


HB 277 outlines a few exceptions for recording, including if the person subject to the interrogations requests in writing or electronic recording that the interrogation not be recorded, if the recording equipment malfunctions and other circumstances. If the interrogation is not recorded and does not fit one of the exceptions, then the court must provide a cautionary instruction to the jury that the failure of the prosecution to record the interrogation is a violation of state law.


The bill now awaits committee assignment.

 
 
  

State Rep. Thomas E. West (D-Canton) this week announced the passage of House Bill (HB) 12, his bipartisan legislation with Rep. Don Manning (R-New Middletown) to create the Ohio Children’s Behavioral Health Network. The network would bring together a diverse group of experts to develop evidence- and outcome-based solutions to improve the mental health of children and young adults across Ohio, with a special focus on prevention.


“Having worked in the mental health space for most of my professional career, I recognize the immense need for an integrated effort at the state level to give families the tools they need to support their children’s development,” said Rep. West. “It is my hope that with this legislation, we can renew Ohio’s promise of giving children a chance to thrive, not just survive.”


The Ohio Children’s Behavioral Health Network would coordinate and plan the creation of a comprehensive learning network to support young children and their families and facilitate social, emotional, and behavioral development. The group would include the Director of the Governor’s Children’s Initiatives, the directors of Health, Mental Health and Addiction Services, the Commission on Minority Health, the Governor’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives and Medicaid and the Superintendent of Public Education. Members would also be selected from the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association, the Ohio chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, federally qualified health centers, primary and secondary schools, and community behavioral health service providers.


The group would submit recommendations to the Governor and the General Assembly after 18 months.


“I’ve heard from parents and major corporations like the Timken Company alike that they are worried about their own kids and their employees’ kids. There is no doubt we are facing a youth mental health crisis,” added West. “There is already so much incredible work being done at the local and state levels to improve children’s mental health—what we need now is to bring everyone together to build strong and supportive social networks of parents, caregivers and communities to ensure that all children are healthy and successful.”


More than 1 in 5 children living below the federal poverty level have a mental, behavioral or developmental disorder, and half of all lifetime mental illnesses start by the age of 14. Between August 2017 and March 2018, a staggering 12 students in Stark County died by suicide.


HB 12 was given priority status for the 133rd General Assembly by House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) and Democratic Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) last month. After passing the Ohio House, the bill heads to the Ohio Senate for further consideration.

 
 
  
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House Dems Announce Statewide Ohio Promise Town Hall Tour

 

House Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) today announced the launch of the Ohio Promise Tour, a statewide legislative town hall series hosted by House Democratic members to discuss the state budget, bipartisan priorities and a number of recent Democratic-led wins for working people and families.



 
 

Leader Sykes Statement As GOP Fails To Strike Budget Deal

 

Ohio House Democratic Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) today issued a statement decrying Republican Statehouse leaders whose failure to come to an agreement on the state budget now threatens a state government shutdown. The Ohio Constitution requires the budget to be passed by July 1.

 



 
 

Sweeney's Bipartisan College Credit Transfer Bill Passes House

 

State Rep. Bride Rose Sweeney (D-Cleveland) today announced the House passage of her bipartisan House Bill (HB) 9, legislation to establish general education course requirements and streamline the transfer credit system at public universities in Ohio.



 
 

Leader Sykes Statement On Supreme Court Ruling

 

Ohio House Democratic Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) today issued a statement following the Supreme Court’s decision in the North Carolina and Maryland partisan gerrymandering cases. The decision will impact the ongoing court challenge to Ohio's congressional map.