In recent years, we have seen divisions emerge in our public debate. Partisan rancor spills from the halls of government to our homes, our classrooms and on our social media. We see demonstrations of hate in small towns and big cities and read profiles of self-proclaimed white nationalists in our newspapers. While this division reveals the many imperfections of America, like Dr. King, I do not believe it defines us.


Ohioans, both black and white, march together against racial and economic injustice. Politicians work together to pursue policies to better the lives of every citizen. Neighbors come to the aid of families out of work or those struggling with opioid addiction. Countless Ohioans live as Dr. King did: with passion and purpose, fueled by a desire to spread hope, compassion and love. Dr. King believed in an America where we all work together to right the wrongs in society and afford equality and opportunity to everyone.


Dr. King believed that our policy discussions should not be about scoring political points or petty arguments. Rather, they should be about doing the most good—putting people back to work, educating our children, treating addiction and ensuring everyone has access to quality, affordable healthcare. I am excited to work with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to roll up our sleeves and get to work on these critical issues here in the new year.


Overcoming our state’s greatest challenges will not be easy, however. Though Martin Luther King was shot and killed 50 years ago, we still fight injustice on many fronts in our society, from race and economic opportunity to mass incarceration and community-police relations. Despite our shortcomings, despite our propensity to fail to live up to Dr. King’s Dream, we know that the potential for good in America is boundless. Dr. King saw this and fought for it. He taught that there is no place for hate when our hearts are filled with love.


Dr. King’s legacy is not simply something for the history books. It endures. With that, let us summon the courage to do what Dr. King did, to love in the face of hate and to rise up to meet the real challenges of our time. It is up to us, the beneficiaries of his efforts, to carry the torch of justice to truly honor the legacy of Dr. King.

 
 
  

As Martin Luther King, Jr. day nears, Ohio State Rep. Alicia Reece (D-Cincinnati) today issued the following statement on Ohio’s Voter Purge, or automatic cancellation of taxpayers’ voting registration, now being heard by the U.S. Supreme Court:


“Taxpayers deserve answers as to why their most fundamental freedom, the right to vote, can be automatically cancelled by politicians in Columbus. No other American privilege or right faces as little protection in Ohio as voting.


“I believe we can and should move past these constant assaults on our constitutional freedoms and guarantees by taking the lead, at the state level, to permanently enshrine a voter’s rights into state constitutions across our nation.”


 

 
 
  
 
Reps. Fedor, Galonski Host Ninth Annual Human Trafficking Awareness Day
Statehouse summit raises awareness, encourages dialogue on modern day slavery
January 11, 2018
 
 

State Reps. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) and Tavia Galonski (D-Akron) today hosted the Ninth Annual Human Trafficking Awareness Day at the Ohio Statehouse, as lawmakers, law enforcement officials, and hundreds of advocates and survivors from across the state gathered to raise awareness and discuss ways to further combat human trafficking in Ohio.


“Over the past decade, we’ve raised awareness and made real progress in the fight against human trafficking, but we can’t rest yet,” said Rep. Fedor. “Each year, this event inspires us to keep fighting—for survivors, for victims and for our children. We must continue to work together to protect our most vulnerable and hold those who prey on them accountable so we can put an end to what amounts to modern day slavery here in Ohio.”


This year’s keynote speaker was Megan Mattimoe, the founder and executive director of Advocating Opportunity, a Toledo-based program that provides assistance for people who have been trafficked or exploited. 


“We must continue to listen to survivors, learn from the experts and work together to build on the successes we’ve seen in recent years,” said Rep. Galonski. “By continuing to raise awareness, we move another step closer to protecting the thousands of Ohio children who live at risk of exploitation and trafficking every day.”


Human trafficking affects more than 1,000 Ohio children every year, and more than 3,000 Ohio children are considered to be at high risk for trafficking. According to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Information Crime Reports, Ohio has ranked as high as fifth among all states in total reported human trafficking cases.


This year’s event also includes the Second Annual Ohio Youth Trafficking Prevention Summit, which brings together students from across Ohio to discuss prevention and best practices for young people to combat human trafficking. The event will be held tomorrow, Friday, January 12 from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Ohio Statehouse.


For 12 years, Rep. Fedor has led the fight against human trafficking in Ohio. She recently introduced House Bill (HB) 461 to protect minors forced into sex trafficking. She was a lead sponsor and played an instrumental role in the passage of the End Demand Act, legislation to address the demand-side of the illegal sex-trafficking trade, as well as the Safe Harbor Act, which centered on protection, prosecution and prevention. While in the Ohio Senate, Fedor led the charge to pass Ohio’s first bill to define human trafficking and make it illegal.


Here is what other House Democratic lawmakers are saying


“How we work together to stop human trafficking says a lot about who we are as a state,” said House Democratic Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton). “Families and children can’t have the economic or educational opportunities they deserve until they have a sense of safety and security in our state. I applaud the work we’ve done together to combat human trafficking in Ohio, and I look forward to the renewed fight this year to reclaim our state.”


“I applaud the work of Reps. Fedor and Galonski in ensuring that human trafficking victims remain in the forefront of our minds,” said Rep. Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron). “It’s mind-boggling to know that human beings are treated in such inhumane and degrading ways in our communities, but events like today ensure that awareness and advocacy eliminate modern day slavery.”


“Protecting vulnerable Ohioans against human trafficking should be a top priority for lawmakers,” said Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent). “I stand with Representatives Fedor and Galonski on the Ninth Annual Human Trafficking Awareness Day.”


“January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Awareness Month and today is Human Trafficking Awareness Day. I am proud to be a co-sponsor on Reps. Fedor and Galonski’s legislation that will add protections for children who are victimized by this crime,” said Rep. John Rogers (D-Mentor-on-the-Lake). “The sexual exploitation of children and others is devastating to everyone involved." 


“Because of the efforts of people like Rep. Fedor and our state legislature, we have made significant progress slowing the scourge of human trafficking,” said Rep. Hearcel Craig (D-Columbus), the opening speaker at the event. “However, the fact remains: we need everyone working together, with real resources behind them, to better protect our children and communities, and to end this modern day slavery once and for all.”


“I applaud Reps. Galonski and Fedor for their work on today’s program and their tireless effort to end human trafficking in Ohio,” said Rep. Adam Miller (D-Columbus). “We have raised awareness and understanding, now we are putting pen to paper and working with all stakeholders to make the law work for victims, law enforcement, communities and those on the front lines combating human trafficking and the damage it inflicts.”


“Human trafficking destroys lives, families and futures everywhere in our state, and the Mahoning Valley is no exception,” said Rep. John Boccieri (D-Poland). “It is important that we have events like these to bring awareness to the scope of this terrible practice, hear the stories of victims and work to break the cycle of trafficking in our communities.”


“I am pleased that my colleagues have graciously moved forward with this tremendous effort to make all Ohioans aware of the devastation caused by Human Trafficking. This is an issue we must all fight,” said Rep. Catherine Ingram (D-Cincinnati). 


“Human Trafficking Awareness Day is an excellent reminder of the progress we’ve made, the work we have ahead of us, and the bravery and strength of those people spearheading our efforts to combat human trafficking here in Ohio and around the country,” said Rep. Glenn Holmes (D-McDonald). “There is no doubt in my mind that we will end this scourge once and for all.”

 
 
  

State Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire) and state Sen. Vernon Sykes (D-Akron), the two Democratic designees on the Ohio legislature’s redistricting working group, issued the following statement in response to today’s Republican congressional gerrymandering presentation to House and Senate committees:


“We are committed to achieving real reform and want to make sure that our state’s congressional districts are fair and truly representative of Ohioans. We want any congressional redistricting plan to end partisan gerrymandering.


“Unfortunately, the plan that Senator Huffman and Representative Schuring presented today doesn’t achieve that. In fact, in some ways, it is worse than our current system, as it eliminates the governor’s veto power and removes the citizen referendum from the legislative process.


“Any plan that does not include strict criteria to prevent gerrymandering or does not ensure bipartisanship weakens representation in Ohio.


“We are willing to continue discussions in good faith and hope a bipartisan plan that puts an end to gerrymandering is still possible.”

 
 
  
 
With Hundreds Of School Pipes Contaminated, State Lawmakers Press For Domestic Steel
State reports show ten percent of school water fountains with lead levels above the federal limit
January 09, 2018
 
 

State Reps. Dan Ramos (D-Lorain) and John Boccieri (D-Poland) today renewed their call for their legislation to mandate the use of domestic steel in schools amid state reports showing that ten percent of school drinking water fixtures had elevated levels of lead last year. The state testing of school water fountains was included in legislation that passed in the wake of the lead contamination crisis in Sebring last year. Boccieri and Ramos introduced House Bill 57 soon after the crisis to require that all schools receiving public funding use American steel in school construction and renovations.


“This problem is even more widespread that we could have imagined. Our children are being put in harm’s way by importing cheaply made foreign goods, containing dangerous chemicals.  We have to do something right away to protect our kids,” said Ramos.


State reports showed that over 1,400 out of 14,000 Ohio school drinking water fixtures contained lead levels above the federal limit. School districts recently completed their voluntary testing with funding from the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC). So far, the OFCC has released $500,000 for testing and drinking fountain or faucet replacement. Approximately half of the fixtures found to be contaminated have been replaced, while the rest have been shut off or are otherwise unused.


“Any number of contaminated fixtures in our schools presenting health risks to young students means we still have a problem,” said Boccieri. “We need to do more to eliminate lead contamination and protect the safety of our kids. Requiring the use of safe, American steel in our school infrastructure is one way to start getting there.”


China’s illegal over-subsidizing of their steel industry has given it a competitive advantage in markets, but has also resulted in a cheap product that is not up to American standards. Boccieri noted there have been multiple reports of faulty Chinese steel causing health and safety risks in the U.S.


HB 57 had one hearing last year in the House Labor and Economic Development Committee. The bill has 19 cosponsors, including the Chairman of the committee where the bill is being heard. 

 
 
  

Ohio House Democratic Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton) and Democratic Assistant Whip Brigid Kelly (D-Cincinnati) issued the following joint statement today in response to six proposed anti-worker state constitutional amendments:


“Taxpayers expect us to work together to increase opportunity and create jobs with wages and benefits that can sustain a family. These anti-worker, anti-family restrictions will do the exact opposite. Dangerous, divisive bills like these will only push our economy further out of balance and make people more poor and less safe on the job.”


The restrictions, introduced by state Rep. John Becker (R- Union Township), range from Right-to-Work-is-Wrong for public and private sector workers to outlawing project labor agreements, or terms and conditions of construction projects that encourage careers in the skilled trades and ensure projects are completed on time and under budget.


Over 2 million Ohio taxpayers overwhelmingly rejected similar attacks on working people in 2011, handing the Republican legislature a 62 to 38-percent defeat at the ballot box with a citizen-led repeal of Senate Bill 5.

 
 
  
 
Sykes Announces Almost $200K For Summit County Disability Housing
Funding will provide support for DODD community assistance projects
December 18, 2017
 
 

State Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) today announced the release of $190,790 in state funding for Department of Developmental Disabilities (DODD) community housing purchases and renovations in Summit County.


“Families in Summit County depend on services like community homes to ensure loved ones are able to live safely, with some level of independence,” said Sykes. “By helping purchase and improve community residences we are able to offer people with developmental disabilities access to a safe and affordable home.”


The DODD Community Capital Assistance program helps purchase and renovate homes used to provide community living space for those with disabilities. Summit County offers a variety community housing including in-home support, shared living, adult family living and foster care living.

 
 
  

State Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire) today responded to the state inspector general’s latest report from an ongoing investigation into corrupt activity at the Department of Administrative Services (DAS).


“Today’s report confirms what many have known for quite some time: powerful public officials at the highest levels of state government have misused the system and taxpayer dollars to benefit political insiders and friends. This is just the latest report of wrongdoing in what is quickly becoming a pattern of corrupt activity,” said Cera. “Ultimately, reviewing this activity and making recommendations on changing the process is not enough. Nobody is above the law. The scope of the investigation should reflect this and hold individuals accountable.”


 


Cera, a State Controlling Board member tasked with oversight of state spending, sought additional information from Inspector General Meyer in June of this year, after news reports showed DAS was steering hundreds of millions of dollars in no-bid, taxpayer-funded state contracts to a few select IT firms for consulting services.


Cera, also the lead Democrat on the House’s state budget committee, supported an amendment to the state budget to force additional oversight on hundreds of millions of dollars in no-bid handouts at DAS. The amendment passed both the House and Senate before Gov. John Kasich vetoed the added taxpayer safeguard in the final budget version.

 
 
  

State lawmakers moved to pass a last-minute cash infusion for counties and local transit authorities today, on the heels of a new state auditor report showing worsening financial stability for local communities across the state.


"Last minute lawmaking won't make up for the seven years and over two-billion dollars in cuts to local programs and services that taxpayers and businesses rely on," said Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire). "Now, as many communities across the state are facing deteriorating financial conditions, it's too little, too late from Columbus."


The last-minute amendment to House Bill 69, unrelated legislation, would divide $50 million between 88 counties and eight regional transit authorities with the potential for an additional $30 million at a later date if the state's budget is running a surplus. The amendment fails to identify where specifically the money comes from.


The effort reflects a broader acknowledgement of new budgetary problems for local communities created by the state earlier this year when the governor and lawmakers failed to find a long term fix for the state's Medicaid managed care sales tax, which generated some $200 million per year for local communities. By instituting a new fee on care providers that goes directly to the state, the governor and Republican lawmakers did, however, ensure no state funds were lost due to tightening federal restrictions on the nearly decade-old Ohio Medicaid tax.

 
 
  

State Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) today called on Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine to respect the 8th District of Ohio Court of Appeals’ recent decision declaring a 2016 state law outlawing local hiring standards, House Bill 180, unconstitutional.*


“Local hiring standards represent a commitment by cities to combat underemployment and reinvest in local communities. Workers benefit from public construction projects that often include jobs with apprenticeships – clear career paths and quality on-the-job training that pay dividends beyond the duration of a single project,” Sykes wrote in a letter to DeWine.


The City of Cleveland sued the state in 2016 after the Republican-passed bill directly conflicted with the city’s Fannie Lewis law, a local ordinance requiring public construction be completed with at least 20 percent local labor. Akron similarly uses local hiring standards on more than $1 billion in public works projects.


“Ohioans deserve a fair shot at good-paying local jobs because they have a stake in rebuilding the communities where they live and raise their families,” Sykes continued. “By putting money back in the hands of Ohio workers, local hiring ordinances like Cleveland’s Fannie Lewis Law are strengthening local businesses and giving workers the opportunity to get ahead. Without local hiring ordinances, investments would be more likely to flow to out of state companies and workers with no stake in the health and success of our regional economies.”


Sykes said she plans to introduce legislation in the new year that will strengthen Ohio communities’ ability to make decisions about local hiring standards.

 

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Bipartisan Redistricting Reform Clears Last Legislative Hurdle Before Voters Have Final Say In May

 

Following months of negotiation, the Ohio House today passed Senate Joint Resolution 5, bipartisan legislation that puts a constitutional amendment before voters in May to restrict congressional gerrymandering in the state. 

“After months of negotiation, thousands of Ohioans speaking out, and several false starts, we’re closer to stopping congressional gerrymandering today than we have ever been before. Though imperfect, this latest plan represents one of the most fundamental tenets of our American democracy – compromise,” said House Democratic Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton). “We support this plan today, with the hope and expectation that it will help impart that same spirit and guiding principle of cooperation on Washington in the near future.”

Democratic House expressed concerns over several parts of the proposed plan that they see as loopholes that, in extreme cases, could still allow partisan congressional district rigging. Ultimately, most Democrats still supported the final language in the resolution.



 
 

Dem Lawmakers Unveil Paid Family Leave Bill

 

State Reps. Janine Boyd (D-Cleveland Heights) and Kristin Boggs (D-Columbus) today announced legislation to 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. While federal law provides some workers the ability to take leave, it does not provide those workers with any guarantees that they will have compensation while on leave.



 
 

Democratic Legislative Leaders Continue Push For Bipartisan Redistricting Reform

 

In Democrats’ continued push for real bipartisan congressional redistricting reform, Senate Democratic Leader Kenny Yuko (D- Richmond Heights) and House Democratic Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton) today released the following joint statement calling for continued negotiations:

“Democrats in the Ohio General Assembly are committed to ending gerrymandering once and for all. That’s why we agreed to join the redistricting working group in the first place, because bipartisanship should be the foundation of the redistricting process.

“Democrats are committed to requiring strong bipartisanship and stopping communities from being split apart to favor one party over another.

“Unfortunately, the Republican plan would only change the way a majority party could manipulate districts in the future. In fact, the GOP proposals would continue the problem of unfair congressional districts by writing gerrymandering into our state constitution.

“We want the citizens of Ohio to know that Democrats in the legislature remain dedicated to achieving meaningful reform. There is still time to negotiate and reach an agreement.”



 
 

Ohio House Passes Measure Urging Selection Of Camp Ravenna As Missile Defense System

 

State Reps. John Boccieri (D-Poland), Mike O’Brien (D-Warren), Glenn W. Holmes (D-Girard) and Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown) today applauded the Ohio House for unanimously passing Senate Concurrent Resolution (SCR) 8, which calls on the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (USMDA) to select Camp Ravenna Joint Military Training Center as the preferred site for a future east coast Missile Defense system. MDA, a sub-agency of the Department of Defense (DOD), announced its consideration of Camp Ravenna among two other locations for a potential future deployment of additional ground-based interceptors for homeland defense.