State Rep. Bride Rose Sweeney (D-Cleveland) this week joined Dem lawmakers to urge House Republican leaders to call the chamber back into session to address several critical issues facing the state, including health and the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic, systemic racism and police brutality, questions surrounding the November election, and looming state budget shortfalls.
“Now is not the time for the People’s House to go on summer vacation,” said Rep. Sweeney. “We have a duty to listen to our constituents by taking meaningful action to heal our society, protect public health, shore-up the economy, and restore our democracy. Ohioans cannot afford the status quo when there’s so much work to be done, especially to ensure a safe and reliable election in November.”
Democrats highlighted several coronavirus-related bills they say need immediate attention, including efforts to halt evictions and prohibit utility shutoffs. As July 1 quickly approaches, many Ohioans are worried about their ability to pay rent and utilities, and face eviction or utility shutoffs if the legislature does not act.
House Democrats have introduced several bills to protect Ohio workers’ health and financial security since the onset of the pandemic:
- HB 571 (Boggs) – Allows for workers compensation coverage for COVID-19 for first responders;
- HB 573 (Sobecki, Boggs) – Allows for workers compensation coverage for COVID-19 for individuals required to work outside of the home;
- HB 593 (Boyd, Boggs) – Provides paid leave to quarantined workers;
- HB 605 (Kelly, Patton) – Allows for workers compensation coverage for COVID-19 for grocery store and food processing workers;
- HB 633 (Boggs) – Allows for workers compensation coverage for COVID-19 for workers in nursing homes, residential care facilities and health care facilities;
Democratic lawmakers were also able to secure a significant bipartisan win for Ohio’s workers when Gov. Mike DeWine implemented key provisions of the Worker Protection Act, sponsored by Reps. Leland and Sobecki, in an executive order last week. The new order dictates that unemployed Ohioans who are over 65 or considered “high risk” will remain eligible for unemployment even if asked to return to work by their employer.
Additionally, Democrats discussed the need for immediate action on police reforms, racial justice and promoting priorities they say would build up Black families, including passage of a resolution to declare racism as a public health crisis and a number of police reform bills the caucus plans to introduce in the coming days.
Democrats are currently drafting legislation that would incorporate the Eight Can’t Wait use-of-force campaign proposals into Ohio law, and several other proposals, including:
- Prohibiting law enforcement from targeting people based on race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, gender identity or sexual orientation;
- Prohibiting the use of quotas (arrests, stops, citations) by law enforcement;
- Requiring all officer-involved shootings and other officer misconduct be independently investigated;
- Requiring the AG to create a database tracking all officer-involved shootings and other excessive uses of force;
- Requiring the AG to create a database tracking officers who have been fired or who have resigned rather than being fired;
- Requiring visible and easily traceable police identification;
- Prohibiting the use of tear gas;
- Creating Crisis Intervention Teams to respond to mental health situations;
- Banning chokeholds;
- Requiring mental health training;
- And requiring more conditions on juvenile interrogations.
Other unfinished business highlighted by House Democrats includes a plan for the November election following the chaos and confusion of the primary earlier this year. Dems introduced HB 687, which would expand online registration, make it easier for Ohioans to vote by mail, and protect safe, accessible in-person voting opportunities amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Democrats Wednesday also announced the Ohio Promise Virtual Town Hall Tour, a follow-up to more than 25 in-person events Democratic lawmakers held in the summer of 2019. The digital events will allow constituents to hear from lawmakers, ask questions and offer input on ways to address the issues facing their communities.