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Rep. Robinson, House Democrats pass sweeping legislation to address COVID-19 crisis

Bipartisan omnibus bill would protect the health and financial security of everyday Ohioans and their families
March 25, 2020
Phillip M. Robinson, Jr. News

COLUMBUS— State lawmakers returned to the Statehouse today to address the COVID-19 crisis and provide immediate relief to everyday Ohioans. State Rep. Phil Robinson (D-Solon) released a statement today following the unanimous passage of an omnibus bill, amended House Bill (HB) 197, that would prohibit utility shut-offs, waive state testing requirements, freeze EdChoice eligibility, extend voting in the primary election, postpone the state income tax filing deadline among several other measures.

“It was important for the legislature to come together in bipartisan and bicameral action to address the most immediate concerns facing the state in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic; that’s why I supported this omnibus package,” said Rep. Robinson. “This bill will help working families a great deal as they face struggles from the crisis. Although this does not resolve all my concerns from the impact of COVID-19 and social distancing, I was glad we could all work together in addressing some essential kitchen-table issues and look forward to future legislation to deal with additional concerns.”

The COVID-19 emergency omnibus bill included aspects and even exact provisions from Rep. Robinson’s and Rep. John Patterson’s (D-Jefferson) recently introduced education legislative package addressing the concerns of schools from the closures from the COVID-19 public health crisis, HB 585 and HB 587, which address waiving state education requirements and placing a moratorium on the EdChoice expansion.

“Tackling school closures and pandemic-related education issues like temporary waivers for state testing and report cards, a moratorium on the EdChoice expansion, and other issues was key for me for why I voted for the bill,” added Rep. Robinson. “With everything our teachers and schools are doing for our students during this crisis with their limited resources is amazing. Now it was the legislature’s turn to help school districts help our children.”

Many of the provisions passed in today’s bill address issues House Democrats have long fought for to support working people and families; protect the health, safety and security of Ohioans; equip children with the tools they need to succeed; and ensure our government works for the people, not against them.

The provisions of COVID-19 emergency omnibus bill include:

Equipping children with the tools they need to succeed:

  • Waiving state testing and report cards for the 19-20 school year and allowing students to graduate who were already on track to do so;
  • Exempting schools from food processing requirements to ensure children have access to nutrition even if their school is shut down;
  • Limiting EdChoice school buildings for 20-21 to those eligible in 19-20;
  • Allowing schools to use distance learning to make up for missed days or hours of instruction caused by statewide K-12 closures;
  • Allowing licensed special education providers to serve students through tele-health and other electronic communications methods;

Supporting working people and families by:

  • Writing the Governor’s unemployment changes into law, including waiving waiting period, changing eligibility for COVID-19 and waiving work search requirements;
  • Moving state tax deadline from April 15 to July 15;
  • Prohibiting water shutoffs;
  • Suspending staff-to-child ratios and maximum group sizes at child-care centers;
  • Allowing JFS to continue making payments to publicly funded child care providers during the emergency;

Ensuring health and safety by:

  • Giving the Director of Medicaid additional flexibility to support the health care workforce and providers during crisis;
  • Allowing recent nursing graduates to obtain a temporary license to practice prior to passing the licensure examination;
  • Granting certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs), under certain conditions, the authority to perform additional duties or services related to anesthesia care; 

Making our democracy and government work for the people by:

  • Extending absentee voting by mail for the primary to April 28;
  • Extending validity of state licenses and providing a 90-day renewal period;
  • Permitting public bodies to meet electronically as long as the public has ability to participate as well;
  • Allowing recently retired state employees to be rehired at DRC, DYS, MHA, DVS and DDD;
  • $20M (non-GRF) fund shift for DAS operation of state agency capital facility projects.

The bill now makes its way to Governor Mike DeWine’s desk for signature.