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Rep. Robinson urges House to return to session, says too much left undone amid unprecedented crises

Dems announce virtual town hall tour to hear from Ohioans as GOP skips town
June 24, 2020
Phillip M. Robinson, Jr. News

COLUMBUS— State Rep. Phil Robinson (D-Solon) today 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 COVID-19 pandemic, systemic racism and police brutality, questions surrounding the November election, and looming state budget shortfalls.

“We have made a lot of bipartisan progress on addressing many aspects of the pandemic and the repercussions of the Stay-At-Home Order and business closures, when it comes to education issues related to the school closures. However, there are still issues around the reopening of schools this fall and the struggles teachers, students, and schools will face in what will not be an ordinary year for our children. We can’t wait until school starts to address these issues, we need to address them now,” said Rep. Robinson. “There has unfortunately also been some partisan and quite frankly troubling fights over issues around pandemic health and safety measures. And there has been a disappointing response from many House Republicans when it comes to the issue of police reform and systemic racism. Now is the time for my colleagues across the aisle to come back to Columbus to work with us on resolving these pressing issues our constituents are calling us about and tens of thousands are protesting about across the state.”

As ranking member of the House Primary and Secondary Education committee, Rep. Robinson has been working with fellow House Democrats in addressing K-12 education issues from the pandemic in a workgroup led by Rep. John Patterson (D-Jefferson).

Some of the COVID-19 emergency education legislation and issues Rep. Robinson has been working on advancing includes:

  • HB 612 (Sobecki, J. Miller) – Delay 5-year projection requirement of school district revenues and expenditures so schools have more fiscal planning flexibility during the pandemic;
  • HB 626, HB 627, and HB 636 (Sobecki, Crawley, J. Miller) – Addresses various issues of busing students during COVID-19;
  • HB 686 (Crossman, Sobecki) – Waiving state testing and creating exemption from report cards rating and penalties for the ’20-’21 school year.

At the press conference, 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, some highlights include:

  • 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, cosponsored by Rep. Robinson and other Democratic members, 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.

Rep. Robinson will soon be introducing legislation with Rep. Kent Smith (D-Euclid) that requiring visible and easily traceable police identification, as part of the overall effort to create police reform by the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus (OLBC) and House Democrats.

Other 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;
  • 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.

Rep. Robinson is holding one of the first virtual town halls of the tour with more planned throughout the summer. The town hall will be held Tuesday, June 30th, at 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Facebook Live to give updates and discuss the COVID-19 emergency response, police reform and systemic racism, and other Statehouse and legislative updates.