State Rep. Michael O’Brien (D-Warren) yesterday voted “no” on the Republican-led charge to restrict worker’s access to healthcare and benefits through the state’s Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) budget bill, House Bill 27. The bill passed the House Insurance Committee and the House Finance Committee on a party-line vote Tuesday.
“Instead of moving to strengthen protections for our selfless, everyday heroes, Republican lawmakers created more hoops for injured or ill firefighters to jump through to get the care they need,” said O’Brien. “First responders who experience life changing situations for the safety of others deserve to know they will be covered for injuries sustained on the job, but unfortunately, I cannot assure my firefighter constituents will be taken care of due to this dangerous provision.”
Democratic members of the House Insurance Committee today expressed outrage regarding the latest version of the state workers’ compensation budget, House Bill 27, which adds new barriers to firefighters and their families seeking state assistance for work-related injuries, illnesses and death.
Today’s proposed restrictions follow the House’s December 2016 passage of extended workers’ compensation protections for firefighters who developed cancer as a result of work conditions. The bill creates a condition in which courts presumes the firefighter didn't wear their protective gear correctly, resulting in the medical condition or cancer.
“This is a direct attack on our first responders, who put themselves in harm’s way every day to save lives,” said the lead Democrat on the House Insurance Committee, state Rep. John Boccieri (D-Poland). “It is horrifying to think that some Republican lawmakers would make it harder for our first responders and their families to get the help they need, when they need it.”
State Reps. John Boccieri (D-Poland), Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown), Michael O’Brien (D-Warren) and Glenn Holmes (D-McDonald) today voted to reject House Bill 49, the $63.7 billion state budget bill, which remains hundreds of millions of dollars out of balance, if not more. Valley legislators were concerned that the budget failed to protect schools and local communities from further cuts, and included no fix for the funding counties and transit systems are slated to lose with changes to Medicaid managed care organization (MCO) taxes.
“According to the statewide coroner’s association, Ohio is on track to experience six thousand opioid-related deaths this year. Just in the first weekend this April, eight people died from opioid overdoses in Trumbull County alone,” said Rep. Michael J. O’Brien (D-Warren), who offered a floor amendment to tap Rainy Day funds for adult and child protective services, local boards of health and other service providers grappling with the impacts of the opioid crisis. “Unfortunately, the funds allocated in this unbalanced budget are too little, too late. We need to do more to confront this crisis affecting so many families across the state.”
Gov. Kasich and GOP lawmakers today announced plans to cut the state budget by some $1 billion, but argued the proposed cuts won’t undercut efforts to fight the statewide opioid overdose emergency that gives Ohio the distinction as national leader in deaths from opioid overdoses.
“The idea that one-billion dollars in deep cuts to state programs and services won’t impact the statewide opioid overdose emergency is foolhardy, if not outright untrue,” said state Rep. Michael O’Brien (D-Warren). “The fact is – we haven’t fully funded anti-opioid efforts to date, and the only known strategy to stem the rising tide of people dying from drug overdoses in our state is the governor’s “Start Talking” campaign. When schools don’t have money and communities are forced to lay off more first responders, there won’t be anyone left to have those conversations in our community. There’s no fat to cut – we’re deep in the muscle at this point.”
State Reps. John Boccieri (D-Poland), Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown), Glenn Holmes (D-McDonald) and Mike O’Brien (D-Warren) this morning hosted all three Mahoning County commissioners for a meeting with House Finance Committee Chairman Ryan Smith (R-Bidwell) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Scott Oelslager (R-North Canton).
Commissioners David C. Ditzler, Carol Rimedio-Righetti and Anthony Traficanti traveled to Columbus to voice their concerns regarding the negative local impact of Gov. John Kasich’s proposed fix to the Medicaid Managed Care Organization (MCO) tax formula.
“I’m pleased our delegation’s meeting request to the budget chairmen was granted, and that our commissioners had the opportunity to express their concerns about local revenue loss,” said Boccieri. “The chairmen demonstrated that the legislature is still open to listening to local officials who are on the frontlines and can provide essential perspectives on what will keep our local communities strong and transportation systems running.”
State Rep. Michael O’Brien (D-Warren) today announced he will serve as the top Democratic member of the Ohio House Energy and Natural Resources Committee for the new legislative session.
“I am honored to be named ranking member on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee,” said O’Brien. “Advances in technology have spurred rapid growth in the energy industry in recent years, especially in Eastern Ohio. As state representative, I am committed to working to connect our working men and women with the new economic opportunities in the natural gas and advanced energy industries, while also being mindful of the need to preserve our natural resources for the benefit of our children and grandchildren.”
House Democratic lawmakers today heralded the passage of Senate Bill 27, legislation to ensure firefighters disabled by cancer as a result of their hazardous line of work are eligible for benefits from the workers’ compensation fund and the Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund.
“Firefighters go to work every day knowing there’s a possibility that they could be in an accident that could change their life and affect their families forever. However, firefighters must also grapple with the heightened risk of developing cancer on top of their already dangerous work conditions,” said Rep. Mike O’Brien (D-Warren). “This legislation is the least that we can do for these courageous men and women who sacrifice their life and good health for the safety and wellbeing of us all.”
Research conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has found that firefighters show higher rates of certain types of cancer than the general U.S. population as a result of occupational exposure. The study also found that the chance of a lunch cancer diagnosis or death for a firefighter increases with the amount of time spent at fires, while the chance of leukemia death increases with the number of fire runs.
House Democratic lawmakers today voted against Substitute Senate Bill 331, legislation that lets the state grab more power from local communities by overriding local bans on unlicensed puppy mill sales to pet stores and prohibiting local communities from taking up ballot issues on policies like minimum wage and paid family leave.
“By defunding local communities and taking away power from locally elected officials, the state is making it that much more important for voters to pay attention to who their state legislators are and how they vote.” –State Rep. Mike O’Brien (D-Warren)
The last-minute power grab comes as Toledo and Grove City pursue local ordinances banning puppy mill sales, and Cleveland and other metropolitan areas study local ordinances to raise wages and benefits within city limits.
The Ohio House today agreed on conference committee changes to House Bill 2 (HB 2), a bipartisan education bill aimed at increasing transparency and accountability for Ohio’s charter schools. The monthslong legislative process culminated in significant reforms that will strengthen oversight of a charter industry repeatedly plagued by fraud, scandal and failing report cards.
For many families, the end of summer marks the beginning of a new school year and the renewed promise of a younger generation learning the skills and knowledge to meet the future with a determination to succeed.
Public education is the cornerstone of civil society. It meets students from all backgrounds with an equal opportunity to learn, grow and build character that lasts a lifetime – or at least it should.
But over the last several years, the charter school industry has exploded in our state, siphoning over $1 billion from traditional schools with the promise of hope and choice for underserved families and children. It is now becoming apparent: that promise is broken.