Dem Lawmakers Announce Legislation Creating Somali-East African Affairs Commission
Bill aims to empower, expand impact of immigrant communities

State Reps. Adam C. Miller (D-Columbus) and Erica C. Crawley (D-Columbus) today introduced legislation that would establish the first-ever Somali-East African Affairs Commission in Ohio, designed to address the unique challenges faced by these communities and empower them to add to Ohio’s growing diversity.

“Columbus looks very different than it did 20 years ago, and today it would be impossible to picture our great city without the Somali community,” said Miller. “Columbus is young, vibrant and growing. We are competing in the global marketplace, and Somali immigrants and their families are important reasons for this growth. This Commission will help ensure that their contributions to communities across Ohio remain strong and supported.”

The Commission would be made up of Ohioans with ethnic, cultural, or economic ties to Somalia or other East African nations. According to the Secretary of State’s office, the Columbus metropolitan area has one of the highest concentrations of Somali refugees in the nation. An estimated 45,000 Somali immigrants have moved to central Ohio in the last decade alone. 

“The Somali and East African communities have had immensely positive impacts not only in Columbus, but across the state,” said Crawley. “However, despite the diversity, talent and economic and cultural benefits they add to Columbus and Ohio, these communities still face discrimination and unique challenges every day. More work must be done to ensure that their needs are met, and I believe creating this Commission is a great first step forward.”

The Commission’s duties will include:

—Gathering and disseminating information, conduct hearings, conferences, investigations, and special studies on problems and programs concerning Somali and East African people.

—Establishing appropriate recognition of the accomplishments and contributions of Somali and East African people to this state.

—Stimulate public awareness of the problems faced by Somali and East African people by conducting a program of public education.

—Developing, coordinating, and assisting other public and private organizations that serve Somali and East African people, including the conducting of training programs for community leadership and service project staff.

—Advising the governor, General Assembly, and state departments and agencies of the nature, magnitude, and priorities of the problems faced by Somali and East African people.

—Advising the governor, General Assembly, and state departments and agencies on and assisting in the development and implementation of, comprehensive policies, programs, and procedures focusing on the unique problems and needs of Somali and East African people in the fields of education, employment, energy, health, housing, welfare, and recreation.

—Proposing new programs concerning Somali and East African people to public and private agencies and evaluating for such agencies existing programs or prospective legislation concerning Somali and East African people.

—Reviewing and approving grants to be made from federal, state, or private funds that are administered or subcontracted by the office of Somali and East African affairs.

—Providing and coordinating the exchange of information relative to the needs of Somali and East African people and promoting the delivery of state services to such people.

After its introduction, the new legislation will receive a bill number and assignment to a committee for further consideration.

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