COLUMBUS—House Democratic Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) issued a statement today following a call with Governor Mike DeWine and the entire House Democratic Caucus. During that call, Democratic members of the House expressed their thoughts on legislative remedies to the current public health and economic crises as well as shared concerns they are hearing from local leaders and constituents in their districts.
Earlier in the week, Leader Sykes created six work groups to tackle the monumental task of developing state policy in a time of a worldwide pandemic. The following work groups are assembled by policy areas and are each led by a different member of the House Democratic Caucus:
- Education Workgroup
- Working Family Support Workgroup
- Healthcare Workgroup
- Tax and Finance Workgroup
- Voting and Election Workgroup
- Government Functions Workgroup
Based on feedback from their constituents and local leaders, House Democrats have together identified more than 50 high-priority issues thus far, some requiring short-term and others requiring long-term legislative action. Some of the broad issues being immediately identified include:
- Expanding access to unemployment benefits and paid sick leave to more Ohioans;
- Providing vitally important tax relief for working families and small businesses;
- Codifying in state law that no sick Ohioans will pay for the cost of treatment and/or testing related to COVID-19;
- Protecting Medicaid and TANF benefits from interruption;
- Enhancing access to care through telehealth and allowing longer supplies of medications be prescribed;
- Prohibiting any K-12 school student from being penalized due to the governor’s emergency actions, including waiving state testing requirements;
- Providing certainty to schools and families by not allowing current expansion of EdChoice vouchers;
- Enabling state and local government bodies to meet remotely to address the needs of their constituents;
- Protecting the constitutional right of all Ohioans to vote under these extraordinary circumstances;
- Prohibiting evictions and foreclosures during this time of crisis and reassuring Ohioans they can stay safely in their homes;
- Preventing vital service interruptions from gas, water, electricity providers;
- Allowing appropriate insurance coverage for businesses and individuals.
House Democrats are also evaluating possible revenue streams for these proposals that include tapping into the Budget Stabilization fund, General Revenue funds, as well as acceptance of federal dollars. Members will discuss utilizing state emergency dollars during a meeting of the Controlling Board next week as well as working with JobsOhio to identify ways in which that agency can assist in the support of our state and local economies.
“During this time of unprecedented crisis in our state, the role of the legislature is to work in tandem with the other two branches of government as well as local and federal officials to provide the most comprehensive action plan possible that helps the most Ohioans, especially the ones hardest hurt by this pandemic,” Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) said. “Our caucus is in constant communication with various stakeholders to identify and prioritize areas that the General Assembly needs to focus on. We will continue assessing the situation in the days, weeks and months to come, appropriating funding and resources accordingly.”
The efforts of the six workgroups are in preparation to Speaker Householder’s call to convene the General Assembly next week.