In what proved to be an unpredictable year for government and politics across the nation, Ohio House Democratic Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton) says his caucus found both challenges and successes in the Buckeye State.
From helping to stop sweeping unemployment insurance cuts – at the beginning of 2016 and again at the end of legislative session in Dec. – to fighting back against GOP-led, eleventh-hour lawmaking that brought to the governor’s desk government shutdown legislation; sweeping intrusions on a woman’s sovereignty to make her own healthcare decisions; and a toppling of several self-government principles in Ohio, Democratic lawmakers have faced a busy, and at times contentious, legislative session in 2016.
This year also saw members from both parties come together, something Strahorn believes was productive, to successfully take on issues like medical marijuana, charter-school reforms and infant mortality. That approach, the Leader says, was also helpful in tempering tax shifting proposals, attacks on working people and cuts to school funding.
“It is easy for a party that controls every aspect of state government to get sidetracked with initiatives that are heavy on politics and light on good public policy, but by keeping communication open and standing up for fundamental American values when they are threatened, we have been effective in influencing legislation and having a credible voice in policy debates,” said Strahorn.
State Reps. Michael P. Sheehy (D-Oregon) today sent a letter to Governor Kasich urging him to veto House Bill (HB) 554, legislation that dramatically changes the state’s energy efficiency standards to unenforceable “goals” for the next three years.
“This legislation will undermine the economic and job growth of advanced energy businesses like First Solar in northwest Ohio,” said Sheehy. “Other leading businesses across the nation – and the globe – are turning to renewable energy sources to power their state-of-the-art 21st century facilities. Leading companies such as Apple, Coca-Cola Enterprises and General Motors have all publicly pledged to produce one-hundred percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources.”
Ohio House Democratic Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton) today applauded Gov. John Kasich’s veto of House Bill 493, legislation that would ban abortions in the state once a fetal heartbeat is detected, as early as five to six weeks. The House leader also commended today’s Montgomery County Common Pleas Court Decision against the Ohio Department of Health (ODH), effectively keeping the Women’s Med Center of Dayton open.
“At a time when people feel uncertain about the future of their healthcare, Ohio should be doing everything it can to increase access to care, not limit it with roadblocks that have been found to be unconstitutional,” said Strahorn. “Despite today’s mostly positive news, too many women across our state still face barriers to care and politicians who want to intrude on healthcare decisions best left to women in consultation with their families, faith and physicians.”
In an early Friday morning House session, the Republican-controlled House rubber stamped a sweeping bill that could shut down state government by giving the legislature new power to dissolve executive-branch state agencies. The bill, Senate Bill 329, would force some 25 state agencies every four years to spend extra money and resources to defend against elimination based on a number of factors, including the potential for privatization, and a regulations evaluation against other states.
“Not only is this sweeping transference of power an extreme and troubling departure from the American democratic foundation of checks and balances, but it puts Ohioans in danger by potentially shutting down essential services overnight,” said House Democratic Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton). “This would create chaos within our state and could lead to outsourcing primary functions of the state like education, public safety, public health and workers’ compensation. It is nothing more than a power grab under the cover of night and guise of review.”
State Reps. John Rogers (D-Mentor-on-the-Lake) and Bob Cupp (R-Allen County) today announced the Senate passage of House Bill 436, legislation to address an inconsistency in state law with regard to OVI license suspension and offender vehicle mobilization.
HB 436 previously passed unanimously in the Ohio House in March and in the Senate Transportation Commerce and Labor Committee last week.
“This bill is the product of consultation with some of my friends in the judicial branch, including Mentor Municipal Court Judge Trebets,” said Rogers. “They came to me explaining this issue, which I recognized to be an issue from my many years as a prosecutor.”
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.
“The first responders who keep us safe shouldn’t face medical uncertainty or financial instability after years of selfless sacrifice,” said Assistant Democratic Leader Nicholas J. Celebrezze (D-Parma). “That’s why this reform ensures our everyday heroes don’t have to go it alone.”
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.
State Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown) recently testified in the House Health and Aging Committee on House Bill (HB) 132—or the Ohio Prevention First Act—legislation that seeks to prevent unintended pregnancies by offering comprehensive, abstinence-inclusive sexual health education for teens and ensure greater access to contraception.
“By providing young adults with responsible sexual education, we can not only prevent unintended pregnancies, but educate those on the health risks of unprotected sex,” said Lepore-Hagan. “Adolescents will engage in sexual activity whether we acknowledge it or not. It is important that we provide them with the necessary tools to make informed decisions when it comes to sex and contraception.”
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.
“As Americans and Ohioans, we hold close the value and right of self-determination. A one-size-fits-all approach from the state just doesn’t work for our local communities.” –House Democratic Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton)
The Ohio House today put the final stamp of approval on opioid omnibus legislation after months of inaction during the rapidly growing opioid addiction crisis. Ohio was recently identified as the national leader in opioid and heroin overdose deaths by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation’s analysis of U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention Data.
“We need to deliver emergency funding for an emergency need. Communities cannot wait for ninety days or until the next budget cycle to get the support and resources they desperately need now,” said Rep. Denise Driehaus (D-Cincinnati). “In the meantime, more families will lose loved ones to addiction and treatment providers will continue to be stretched thin as they try to respond to this crisis.”
Eleventh-hour lawmaking brought the strictest abortion ban in the nation to Gov. John Kasich’s desk this evening, for his signature into law. With U.S. Senate inaction giving way to a pending U.S. Supreme Court justice appointment from President-elect Donald Trump, Ohio Republicans appear to be counting on a new federal bench to re-litigate the constitutionality of their attacks on women’s health care. But Roe v. Wade is settled law upheld most recently by the Whole Women’s Health decision which overturned undue burdens on women’s access to abortion.
“The six-week ban is a shameful, gross government invasion of deeply personal and private decisions made by families and women in consultation with medical professionals. The role of government should not be one that overrides the sovereignty women have over their own bodies and healthcare decisions. The fact that this unconstitutional ban doesn’t even include an exception for rape or incest is an embarrassment that directly conflicts with our values as Americans.” –House Democratic Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton)