Moving Past "Thank You For Your Service"
Guest Column from State Representative Anne Gonzales
July 03, 2014
 
 

With the Fourth of July approaching, we are in the midst of preparing for parades, cookouts and fireworks with our friends and family to celebrate our country’s declaration of independence from the British crown in 1776. This action was a bold move 238 years ago, and it showed the rest of the world what the average citizen was willing to do with self-determination. The following seven years were a difficult struggle for freedom where almost 25,000 patriots gave their lives so this country could remain free.


This spirit of sacrifice remains strong in our country to this day. Ohio has the sixth largest veteran population in the United States. Currently there are an estimated 900,000 veterans living in the state of Ohio. Of that number, almost 650,000 have served in or in support of a theater of combat. As Americans, we owe a huge debt of gratitude to these men and women who left their homes and their families to serve this country. We should not, however, simply leave our expressions of gratitude at a passing, “thank you for your service.” As a member of the General Assembly, I have sponsored and supported legislation to help our veterans with their housing, education and employment.


Recently, Governor Kasich signed into law House Bill 85, which I drafted with Representative Lou Terhar of Cincinnati, to help our disabled veterans stay in their homes longer by reducing their property tax burden. This bill increases the homestead tax exemption for 100 percent of disabled veterans from the standard $25,000 deduction, to $50,000, and the idea was brought to me by the VFW and American Legion in Gahanna. This change corrects a long standing short coming of the state by finally offering property tax relief to America’s most severely disabled veterans and is a simple way to honor their service.


Currently, Ohio law allows veterans and their dependents to receive in-state tuition at state colleges and universities, regardless of their home of record. This simple law incentivizes the veteran population to come to Ohio’s institutions of higher education and lets them get more out of the GI Bill and other veteran education benefits. Unfortunately, this law does not extend the same preferences to veterans during the application process.


Last year, a veteran who grew up in Westerville, but was stationed in Colorado, called me and told me he was waitlisted at one of Ohio’s public universities because they had too many out-of-state applicants. Eventually, because of the bureaucracy, he was not accepted and decided not to return to Ohio. While this may have been an isolated incident, I wanted to make sure this did not happen to any veteran ever again, and I drafted House Bill 449 to exempt veterans and their dependents from any residency based restrictions or quotas when applying to Ohio’s public colleges and universities. Last month, this bill passed unanimously out of the House of Representatives and is expected to pass the Senate by the end of the year.


Our military’s professional and technical education is among some of the best in the world. These men and women work in their field for years in some of the harshest and most austere conditions imaginable and come back to Ohio with these skills looking for work. Unfortunately, some of the state’s professional licensing agencies would not accept their military training and would make them go back to school if they wanted to get their license. Along with Representative Wes Retherford of Hamilton, OH, I sought to require Ohio’s licensing agencies to consider a veteran’s military education when they applied for a trade license. Last November, Governor Kasich signed House Bill 98 in to law to correct this issue and veterans can now use their military experience to apply for state licenses.


These are a few examples of how my friends and colleagues in the General Assembly have honored the service and sacrifice of America’s veterans with the resources available to us. However, legislation is not the only way to help these men and women who gave so much for us. This year, consider working with veteran service organizations like the USO assembling care packages to service members stationed overseas. Attend a steak fry at your local VFW post or American Legion hall and listen to the stories the veterans have to tell. Volunteer at the Veteran’s Administration entering data or escorting veterans with mobility issues. With America’s wars winding to a close, it is time to move past a simple “thank you for your service” and move towards Lincoln’s promise “…to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and his widow and his orphan.”

 
 
  
 
Celebrating Our Servicemen And Women This Fourth Of July
Guest Column from State Representative Michael Henne
July 03, 2014
 
 

Every year, our country celebrates its rich history and unmatched independence on the Fourth of July.  On this day in history the Declaration of Independence was signed, declaring freedom for the thirteen American colonies from the rule of the British Empire. This act of bravery and patriotism now serves as a national holiday for our country.


Many men and women have laid down their lives over the course of our nation’s history in order to keep American citizens safe and to protect our unalienable rights.  As we celebrate the birth of our nation, it is also appropriate to pay tribute to those who fought and died for our liberty and for those who have fought and returned home.  Our veterans are true American heroes and patriots.


As representative of the 40th House District, I am reminded that the Fourth of July has another special meaning; it serves as a day to recognize the wonderful accomplishments our state and nation have achieved in ensuring that our liberties endure.  Our continual goal is making certain that our rights are protected, our voices are heard and our American values are held above all else.  Serving my constituents and making sure that their ideas and issues are brought to Columbus, and the Statehouse, is my main priority.  I’m proud of our system of government, and all that is made possible because of the solid foundation this country was built upon.


As part of our democratic system,  citizen engagement in the legislative process is how laws are made and initiatives are championed.  With this in mind, I hope constituents will join me for office hours at the Vandalia Library Meeting Room (500 South Dixie Drive, Vandalia) from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on July 26. It’s a great way for constituents to share their ideas and issues with me.


This Fourth of July holiday, we can enjoy our nation’s independence through gatherings, fireworks, parades, and various events, because of the beliefs  and principles set in place by our founding fathers and the men and women in the armed forces who uphold them.  As we take time to celebrate Independence Day with our families and friends, I will also take a moment to acknowledge our veterans and the freedoms they have fought for.


I also ask you to take a moment to remember the price that comes with freedom and those that sacrificed it all so that we can continue to celebrate this historical day.  I wish you all a happy and safe Fourth of July holiday.

 
 
  
 
House Bill 488 Gives Greater Career Opportunities For Our Veterans
Guest Column from State Representative Mark Romanchuk
July 02, 2014
 
 

Each year on the fourth of July, we celebrate our country’s independence and adoption of the Declaration of Independence; a festivity full of pride for our nation.  This holiday is also a day to honor the service members who put their lives on the line so that we may continue to have the freedoms based on the ideologies of our wise founding fathers.


Every day men and women in the United States armed forces receive detailed training and instruction. Through their career in the military veterans gain a valuable education outside the ordinary classroom that can help them in their future career. The training they receive in the military is specialized and extensive, having been refined by long hours of hard work and dedication. Unfortunately,  much of the education these men and women receive while in serve is was not transferable into educational credits in the civilian world.


House Bill 488 allows military veterans to use the training they receive in the armed forces to receive college credit. This bill also assists veterans wanting to go directly into the workforce, by expediting their requests for state occupational licenses and certificates.  This process offers a transition into college or the workforce, giving these honorable men and women a pathway to a new career opportunity.


A uniform and effective process for awarding college credits is established in HB 488, through the Military Articulation and Transfer Assurance Guide. The guide provides standards on earning credit for experience in the military.  This legislation also requires state institutions of higher education to support and assist veterans and designate a contact person for veterans’ affairs. A statewide training program will also be developed to teach college faculty and staff to translate military experience into credit.


This Independence Day, as you celebrate with sparklers, picnics, and fireworks, remember to celebrate the signing of HB 488 into law; a bill that will give career opportunities to the service men and women that protect the independence we gained over 200 years ago. 

 
 
  
 
Elder Justice Act Protects Seniors
Guest Column from State Representative Stephanie Kunze
June 27, 2014
 
 

The elderly often experience abuse that goes unnoticed, and according to the National Center on Elder Abuse, as many as two million elders are abused in the United States. In response to this startling statistic, the Ohio House of Representatives has been working on legislation to help this population. House Bill 49 is a piece of legislation crafted to help Ohio seniors by tracking, studying, and finding ways to prevent this abuse.


The World Health Organization defines elder abuse as “a violation of human rights and a significant cause of illness, injury, loss of productivity, isolation and despair” to the elderly.  Abuse and neglect of Ohio’s seniors goes unnoticed every day and often goes unreported.


Due to this fact, House Bill 49, also know as the Elder Justice Act, was introduced. Through this legislation, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS), would track elder abuse by creating a registry to log reported cases. This information would then be analyzed to find patterns and trends to reduce the cases of abuse and neglect.


Under this legislation, ODJFS must submit a report describing the process of starting the registry and document cost to both state and county Job and Family Service departments. Continuous training for protective service caseworkers is also a provision in HB 49, for workers who must report abuse.


Through the Elder Justice Act, the definition of elder abuse is expanded to include both abandonment and financial abuse. Currently, the definition only focuses on physical harm. Financial abuse to the elderly is becoming more common as modern technology advances and becomes abused by criminals.


Established in 2009, the Attorney General’s Elder Abuse Commission will be added into state law through this bill. The new commission will raise awareness of elder abuse, strive to improve public policy, funding, and programming, and enhance the judicial response to elder abuse victims.


The Elder Justice Act is essential in defending seniors’ human rights.  By studying past crimes, expanding the definition of elder abuse, and adding the Elder Abuse Commission in statute our seniors will have further protections for their safety.  I support this legislation as it goes to the Ohio Senate for further consideration.

 
 
  
 
Keeping Ohioans Safe And Healthy
Guest Column from Representative Marilyn Slaby
June 25, 2014
 
 

The health and safety of Ohioans is an issue that the Ohio House of Representatives has made a priority over the course of this General Assembly.  We’re working hard to pass legislation that keeps the well-being of our constituents in mind, at all times.  This includes House Bill 49, House Bill 296 and also bills related to the opiate epidemic in the state.


Abuse and the financial exploitation of the elderly are unfortunately common in our state. House Bill 49 is designed to protect the elderly by requiring employees, who work in the financial field, to report situations of suspected abuse and neglect. The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services is also working on developing a registry to locate patterns and trends of abuse. This would help to shield older Americans from abuse and financial exploitation.


The bill also establishes a statewide Elder Abuse Commission created to research the abuse of the elderly. The commission would promote awareness, improve policies and assist these victims. 


Another bill that has gained attention is House Bill 296. Allergic reactions can cause life threatening situations for individuals with allergies. During an allergic reaction emergency, an Epinephrine Autoinjector (EpiPen) is needed to combat the reaction with a dose of adrenaline. HB 296 proposes that public schools, residential camps and day camps be granted the ability to obtain EpiPens without a license in case an emergency were to arise.


The bill will also allow drug manufacturers to donate EpiPens or let these places accept financial donations for their purchase.  This would save money and help school districts obtain EpiPens for emergency situations.


Opiate addiction has unfortunately become a major problem in the state of Ohio. It is imperative that we pass legislation that addresses this issue with the goal of strengthening the requirements for prescriptions and preventing the abuse of opioids. The standards for prescribing opioids have also been reinforced.  In order to help people from becoming addicted we must stop the pattern of addiction. Programs need to be in place to treat addiction and reduce the current problem, which is something we are working on.  It is my hope that Ohioans get the help that they need and the care that is necessary to curtail this epidemic.

 
 
  
 
Elevating The Issue Of Common Core To A State Level Issue
Guest Column from State Representative Jim Buchy
June 24, 2014
 
 

It was just over a year ago when my office began receiving calls from constituents in western Ohio concerned about the Common Core Standards.  At that time I knew that the schools were implementing new standards and they had been for some time but I had a lot to learn about how this effort was really an attempt to nationalize public education.  A lot has come out since that time and recently Senator Faber led the way in elevating the discussion of the common core to a state level issue.



Many state leaders remain unaware of the costs of common core both in hard money and dignity.  Ohio should run our own education system and the local school boards should have control over curriculum and teaching in each of our schools.  For those leaders who haven’t been able to comprehend the threat of the Common Core—now is our opportunity to share the information that we have learned.


In House Bill 487, which the Governor signed recently, there will be four standards review committees with experts, parents and teachers that will advise the Ohio Department of Education on Ohio’s Academic Content Standards.  The committees provide a platform to educate the leaders that are not yet aware of the threat of common core.


In addition to other advancements in protecting Ohio’s children from the Common Core, the bill also requires each Ohio school to establish a parental review committee or other method of input. This will give parents a say in the curriculum at the school and give them the assurance that local curriculum matches the values of the community.


HB 487 touched on several different areas to protect Ohio’s children from any unintended effects of the Common Core and elevates the discussion from the grassroots level to a state level issue.  There is still a lot of work to be done but Governor Kasich and the Ohio legislature have signified a commitment to further addressing the concerns related with the common core academic content standards.


While the amendments in HB 487 provide a temporary stop gap to the unintended consequences I am working with other legislators to advance the passage of House Bill 237 which would repeal the Common Core in its entirety.  At this time HB 237 is stuck in the House Education Committee.  I joined with some of my colleagues in signing a discharge petition.  If we can get 50 signatures it will bring the bill to the floor for an up or down vote.


Thanks to the hard work of persons in our communities this issue has become a state level issue, and it needs our attention.  In west central Ohio we have the best schools in the state.  Increasing parental involvement and keeping the Common Core out will ensure that it stays that way.

 
 
  

COLUMBUS—State Representative Gary Scherer (R-Circleville) announced that Governor Kasich signed House Bill 362, legislation which revises the requirement for Ohio’s Teacher Evaluation System (OTES). The bill also includes a new designation for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) school equivalents for a community school or chartered nonpublic school.


Recently, Senate Bill 229 proposed changes to OTES, however the Ohio Senate and House of Representatives debated over what changes to incorporate in the bill. A compromise was made and the OTES revisions were placed in H.B. 362. The basic provisions are:



  • Teachers rated as accomplished may be evaluated every three years assuming their student progress measure remains average or above.

  • Teachers rated as skilled may be evaluated every two years assuming their student progress measure remains average or above.

  • Effective with the 2014-15 school year, districts may choose an alternative framework (from the existing 50 percent teacher performance and 50 percent student progress) where student progress is weighted 42.5 percent, teacher performance is weighted 42.5 percent and 15 percent of the evaluation framework may include student surveys, peer review, student portfolios or other items approved by ODE.

  • Effective with the 2015-16 school year, districts may choose an alternative framework where student progress and teacher performance are weighted equally and cannot be weighted less than 42.5 percent. The remaining portion of the evaluation may vary from one to 15 percent.

  • Teachers on leave for more than 50 percent of the school year are exempt from evaluation.

  • Teachers whose retirement has been submitted and accepted by the board of education are exempt from evaluation.


“After hearing from teachers and administrators across Ohio, it was clear that the issues OTES was causing in schools needed to be addressed,” Representative Scherer said. “This bill will allow teachers to spend more time teaching our children and less time with the administrative burden the previous requirements caused.”


Also under the new standards of H.B. 362, chartered nonpublic and community schools will be able to share STEM programs and resources with nonprofit organizations and higher education entities.  The bill specifies that these schools are required to follow the same guidelines adhered to by traditional public schools that receive a STEM designation.  These requirements include the assurance that the school has a work partnership with higher education institutions and businesses, follows preparation guidelines for college and that the school will attract school leaders who support the curriculum.


The STEM designation issue was brought to Rep. Scherer’s attention by New Hope Christian Academy, a private school that his grandchildren attend. Since their education will be positively impacted by this legislation, the grandchildren were able to attend the bill signing and help Governor Kasich dot the “i” in his signature.


Also in attendance at the bill signing were representatives from the Ohio Department of Education, the STEM Learning Network as well as teachers and administrators from public and private schools in Ohio.


The changes enacted in H.B. 362 will take place in the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 school years.

 
 
  
Columbus - 

The Ohio House of Representatives today passed the conference committee report for House Bill 483, legislation that makes appropriation and policy changes as part of the Mid-Biennial Review (MBR), a package of bills that strives to initiate reforms to state spending, agency operations, and state policies and programs.


House Bill 483 accomplishes the goal of putting more money into Ohioans’ pockets and supporting local services that will strengthen Ohio’s communities. It maintains the Ohio House’s continued commitment to laying a foundation for a successful future for the state as a whole and for the families and small businesses within Ohio’s borders. Through a series of tax cuts and new tax relief for low- and middle-income Ohioans, House Bill 483 prioritizes the issues that matter most to Ohioans:  services for the poor and vulnerable, additional resources for education, and vital investments in local governments.  


Some components of House Bill 483 include:



  • A total of $400 million in tax relief for tax year 2014, including $225 million in tax relief for small businesses through a one-time increase of the small business tax credit and $175 million for individuals by accelerating the income tax reduction as well as changes to the personal exemption and earned income tax credit

  • Commits $10 million in additional funding to protect vulnerable older Ohioans

  • Appropriates $10 million in funding for fiscal year 2015 for Child Protective Services to provide additional safeguards for Ohio’s children

  • Ensures more uninterrupted access to quality childcare and early education for Ohio families and provides $16 million for this purpose

  • Redirects $47.5 million in funding from House Bill 59 for Mental Health and Addiction Services to provide a comprehensive continuum of care for the mentally ill and addicted

  • Provides $17 million for security upgrades at public and private schools statewide

  • Establishes a statewide system to evaluate caseworkers on the success of elevating Ohioans off of public assistance

  • Gives more flexibility to county boards of developmental disabilities in staffing and shared services

  • Grants the Board of Pharmacy more resources to upgrade the OARRS system to fight the opiate epidemic

  • $2.5 million for the Adult Opportunity Pilot Program, which will permit an eligible community college, state community college, technical college, or Ohio Technical Center to offer a program to allow eligible students to obtain a high school diploma

  • Compels the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services to develop and implement a data match program to intercept child support from lottery prize awards and casino winnings if an individual is determined to be in default.

  • Requires the administrator of a long-term care facility to search an individual’s name in the Attorney General’s sex offender database before admitting the individual as a resident of the facility and follow certain protocols if the individual is found to be a sex offender.


“This report will help our communities lift more of our people to better places,” said Chairman of the House Finance and Appropriations Committee Ron Amstutz (R-Wooster). “It helps all state income taxpayers by changing our decision to cut this year’s rate by 8.5% to make the cut 10% instead. It helps lift low income Ohioans by increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit from 5% to 10% at a cost of $25 million. It also disproportionately helps lift our lower income citizens by increasing the state income tax personal exemption for individuals under $40,000 in income by $550 to $2,250 and for individuals above $40,000 up to $80,000 by $250 to $1900. It further helps lift our employment environment by lowering the tax burden on our small- and medium-sized employers.”


The conference report for House Bill 483 was passed by the House with bipartisan support.

 
 
  
Columbus - 

The Ohio House of Representatives today concurred on Senate changes to House Bill 85, legislation to enhance the homestead exemption for military veterans who are 100 percent disabled from a service-related disability.


House Bill 85, which was jointly sponsored by State Representatives Lou Terhar (R-Cincinnati) and Anne Gonzales (R-Westerville), increases the amount of the exemption from $25,000 to $50,000 for those veterans who are permanently and totally disabled. It also ensures that county veterans service commissions do not lose funding from the loss of property tax revenue and exempts disabled veterans from means testing.


“I am appreciative that we were able to pass House Bill 85 before summer recess so that permanently disabled veterans can stay in their homes,” said Rep. Terhar. “This legislation is important not only for our state, but to the country.”


“This bill is the product of months of work with the interested parties and creates a benefit that is competitive with our neighboring states while being fiscally responsible,” said Rep. Gonzales.


The Senate included an amendment requiring the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs to confirm that a veteran is fully disabled and another to specify the program would begin in tax year 2014.


According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 47 other states provide some property tax relief for veterans who are completely and permanently disabled. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that there are approximately 8,000 permanently disabled veterans in Ohio who meet the service-related disability requirement for tax exemption under the bill.


Suzette Price of the American Legion, Jerry Kerr of Veterans of Foreign Wars, Will Davis of Disabled American Veterans, and Franklin County Auditor Clarence Mingo testified in support of House Bill 85.


House Bill 85 now awaits Governor Kasich’s signature.

 
 
  
Columbus - 

The Ohio House of Representatives today passed Senate Bill 230, legislation that establishes standards for the delivery of non-self-injectable cancer drugs.


Senate Bill 230 would prohibit the delivery of certain types of dangerous cancer medications to an individual’s home by modifying the insurance companies’ delivery requirements. Under current law, patients who receive volatile, non-self-injectable cancer medications through mail-order must take the medication to a medical facility for administration by a health care professional.


According to the bill’s sponsor, State Senator Gayle Manning, oncologic drugs need to be stored in the proper environment to ensure the drugs’ effectiveness and safety. The shipment of drugs to a patient’s home and the transportation to a medical facility creates an extra unnecessary risk.


Senate Bill 230 passed with strong bipartisan support and awaits concurrence from the Senate.

 
 
  
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OSU Marching Band To Attend Ohio House Session

 
COLUMBUS - 

State Representative Cheryl Grossman (R-Grove City) is pleased to announce that The Ohio State University Marching Band will be in attendance of the Ohio House session on Wednesday, May 7th. Rep. Grossman will be honoring the band with a resolution recognizing its contributions to the state of Ohio.



 
 

Reps. Retherford And Conditt Introduce Legislation Increasing Penalties For Drug Dealers

 
COLUMBUS - 

State Representatives Wes Retherford (R-Hamilton) and Margaret Conditt (R-Liberty Twp.) today announced that they have introduced legislation that will increase the penalties for those who knowingly sell illegal substances to pregnant women.



 
 

Ohio House Bill Would Provide Expanded Addiction Treatment Opportunities

 
COLUMBUS - 

State Representative Robert Sprague (R-Findlay) announced that the Ohio House has passed legislation requiring every county to have the full spectrum of opioid addiction recovery treatment and recovery housing. Rep. Sprague was the chair of the House Prescription Drug Addiction and Healthcare Reform Committee, which traveled around Ohio last summer learning about and studying drug abuse and addiction.



 
 

State Rep. Smith Announces That House Bill 394 Gives Pharmacists More Authority

 
COLUMBUS - 

State Representative Ryan Smith (R-Bidwell) today applauded the passage of House Bill 394 by the Ohio House. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Smith, gives pharmacists and pharmacy interns the authority to provide immunizations outside of a pediatrician.