COLUMBUS— Today, Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights) voiced strong opposition to the Trump administration’s decision to eliminate sleep apnea tests for truckers and train operators. Sleep apnea can cause daytime drowsiness and an inability to concentrate.  

“The Trump administration is again playing games with our safety. By eliminating sleep apnea screening for truck drivers and train engineers, the administration not only ignores the risks to these workers, but to every American family in their path,” said Senator Yuko. “This decision is misguided and frankly difficult to comprehend.”

At the state level, State Senator Michael Skindell (D-Lakewood) and Senator Yuko have introduced three separate bills this General Assembly to address rail and truck safety and protect the lives of Ohioans. 

The unifying theme of the senators’ bills is workplace safety, but each touches on a different component. Senate Bill 74 would require all freight trains to be operated by a crew of at least two individuals. Senate Bill 89 would establish standards for lighting in a rail yard and create penalties for railroad companies that are in violation. Senate Bill 90 would establish standards for walkways in rail yards and create penalties for railroad companies in violation of those standards.

“Several our Democratic colleagues have also introduced rail and driver safety legislation over the past few years,” continued Senator Yuko. "Despite the administration’s actions and the lack of movement for these bills at the state level, Democrats will continue to push for safer travel for our citizens.”

More information about the Ohio Senate Democrats’ efforts to improve rail and driver safety can be found here, here, and here.

 
 
  

Columbus—Today, Senator Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) released the following statement in response to the State Auditor's announcement that charter schools found to have been overpaid due to lack of verified student participation should seek repayment from their sponsors and management companies:

"I'm glad the Auditor's office listened to our advice and called on overpaid charter schools to seek reimbursement from their sponsors and vendors. No charter school should do what ECOT (Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow) has done – firing teachers first before anyone else takes a hit. Services for our students should be the last thing cut, especially while vendors and executives are overpaid with your tax dollars.

"This is an important step forward as the state finally begins to claw back money that was wrongly taken from local school districts and given to charter schools. I will continue to push this issue in the Statehouse and in the media until our students receive the funding they deserve."

 
 
  

GENEVA-ON-THE-LAKE – Today, the Ohio Propane Gas Association (OPGA) presented State Senator Sean O’Brien (D-Bazetta) with an award during their 69th annual summer convention in Geneva-on-the-Lake. The group recognized Senator O’Brien as their 2017 “Legislator of the Year” for his commitment to advancing the development and use of propane and other alternative fuels in Ohio.

“I was thrilled to be recognized by the OPGA today as their ‘Legislator of the Year,’ but much more still needs to be done here in Ohio to develop and improve the alternative fuels industry,” said Senator O’Brien. “Fuels like propane, compressed natural gas, and liquefied natural gas are abundant, cheap, and clean-burning, but still aren’t being as widely utilized as they could and should be.” 

For his part, Senator O’Brien has introduced legislation in the past two General Assemblies (GAs), respectively entitled House Bills (HB) 336 and 176. These bills aimed to provide incentives to individuals and public fleets to convert their vehicles to run on alternative fuels.  Despite receiving widespread bipartisan support throughout the legislature, both of those bills failed to complete the legislative process before the end of the GA.

“Although we weren’t able to get HB 336 or HB 176 all the way to the governor’s desk the past few years, the support they received throughout the Statehouse was very encouraging. I continue to see a bright future for propane and other alternative fuels in Ohio and elsewhere around the country,” continued Senator O’Brien. “Coal and oil cause tremendous pollution and won’t be around forever.  Clean burning alternative fuels are the future of the Buckeye State.”

Most recently, Senator O’Brien supported an amendment to this GA’s biennial budget bill that facilitates the conversion of school bus fleets to run on clean fuel. He is currently working on refining the latest version of his alternative fuel incentives bill for introduction at some point in the near future.

 
 
  

COLUMBUS – Today, Senator Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) announced a bill to ensure all money recovered from overpayments to charter and online schools would be returned to local school districts.
 
“Ohio schools are struggling to manage after several years of cuts to their funding. It’s only right that the state should return all money taken from these schools in error,” said Senator Schiavoni. “This bill is simple: it creates a uniform rule that all money overpaid to charter schools is sent back to the affected school districts.”
 
Under current law, recovered money is only returned to the school districts if it is the result of a Full Time Equivalency (FTE) review. However, there is nothing stipulating that schools get their money back if it is recovered after an audit by the Auditor of State. Senator Schiavoni’s bill would simplify Ohio code by establishing that all money recovered from overpayments to charter schools would be returned to the district from which it was deducted – regardless of the type of audit or review.
 
Senator Schiavoni’s bill will be introduced at nonvoting session this week. 

 
 
  

AKRON – This week, State Senator Vernon Sykes (D-Akron) hosted his annual fishing clinic for children in the community. In collaboration with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), young Ohioans participated in several fishing related activities throughout the day. The children learned about fish native to Ohio’s waters as well as how to cast a fishing rod, catch a fish, and filet and cook fish.

“Today’s urban and suburban families often have limited opportunities to connect with the environment, so I want to give children from the community a chance to learn about Ohio’s wildlife,” said Senator Sykes. “There are significant benefits to ensuring young people experience the outdoors. By showing these children the world outside their day-to-day surroundings, we encourage them to dream bigger.” 

Many of the young participants were children from the Boys and Girls Club of the Western Reserve and Dreams Academy, both located in Akron. The fishing clinic took place at the ODNR’s Youth Fishing Area at Wildlife District Three, located at 912 Portage Lakes Drive. Children 15 and under can fish on weekends, from 9 a.m to 7 p.m, at the ODNR’s designated Youth Fishing Area.

Second Harvest Food Bank provided the food for the fishing clinic. Gifted tote bags were donated by Dr. Laura Skeen’s The Leadership Center ATEAM All-Stars.

 
 
  

COLUMBUS – Today, Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights) voiced strong opposition to the Trump administration's decision to end the Department of Health and Human Service's teen pregnancy prevention program. This decision will have direct negative impacts on seven Cuyahoga County school districts, each struggling to address high teen pregnancy rates. According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, "those districts will lose about $2 million in federal grant money for prevention..." Senator Yuko released the following statement in response to the administration's actions:

“This is a terrible decision by the Trump administration, which could hurt the progress we’ve made to address Ohio’s high infant mortality rate. Cutting funding to programs that help curb teen pregnancy also makes no sense if the goal is to improve public health.

"These programs have been a real benefit to the schools in my Senate district, and cutting them will only hurt our young people. With the continued efforts to defund Planned Parenthood in Ohio and across the country, these programs are needed now more than ever.”

 
 
  

COLUMBUS –Today, State Senator Charleta B. Tavares (D-Columbus) introduced the Fair and Acceptable Income Required (FAIR) Act to update state laws that protect Ohioans, particularly women, from wage discrimination. The bill coincides with Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, which took place July 31st

“It is shameful that in this day and age women in Ohio make only 78 cents for every dollar made by a man.  Without question, equal work deserves equal pay,” said Senator Tavares. “At a time when women are increasingly responsible for the economic security of their families, it is absolutely critical to ensure that they earn a wage commensurate with their work—and on par with a man’s.”

The FAIR Act would:

  • Strengthen Ohio’s wage discrimination laws by requiring employers to substantiate pay differences—for causes other than seniority, merit, or quantity or quality of employee production—with legitimate job-related or skill-based reasons.
  • Prohibit retaliation against workers who discuss salaries with colleagues or raise concerns about wage inequality.
  • Prevent wage discrimination based upon sexual orientation.

Current law provides that an employer may not base differences in pay on race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, or ancestry. However, the law has proven far from effective in closing the wage gap between men and women in Ohio.

“While the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 improved some laws that govern pay discrimination, more must be done to close the wage gap and increase the economic security of women,” said Senator Tavares. “Fair pay would help close the wage gap and increase women’s economic security.”

According to the National Partnership for Women & Families, Ohio women working full time, year-round in 2016 typically had lower earnings than men ($37,140 compared to $47,737). This means women in Ohio are paid 78 cents for every dollar paid to men. The gap is even larger for women of color. African American women in Ohio are paid 66 cents to every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men.

This gap remains even when accounting for personal choices, industry, and education level. At a time when women are becoming increasingly important to the economic security of their families, the continued lack of income fairness places hundreds of thousands of Ohioans at risk.

 
 
  

Columbus—Today, State Senator Edna Brown (D-Toledo) provided the following statement regarding the execution of Ronald Phillips:

“I am appalled by the crimes that Ronald Phillips committed and am deeply sympathetic to the family of the victim. I believe that people should be held accountable for their actions in an appropriate manner. 

“Ohio has faced several legal obstacles over the course of more than three years just to obtain proper drugs for executions. There’s a reason why many drug manufacturers will not allow their drugs to be used in this capacity: it’s an outdated and barbaric practice.

“Aside from difficulties in obtaining drugs, the cost of capital punishment in comparison to life imprisonment is vastly more expensive. Ohio’s taxpayers should not be held accountable for a practice that many agree is deeply flawed. 

“The continued use of capital punishment is wasteful, arbitrary, and always carries the possibility of execution of an innocent person. It’s time that Ohio invests in an alternative. That is why I have once again introduced legislation (SB 94) that would replace the death penalty with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.”

 
 
  

COLUMBUS - Today, Senator Charleta B. Tavares (D-Columbus) released the following statement after President Donald Trump announced his intent to ban transgender Americans from serving in the armed forces in any capacity:

"The president's decision to ban transgender Americans from serving in the military is outrageous. It is disrespectful and demeaning to patriotic Americans who are willing to put their lives on the line to defend our freedoms. The president, who avoided serving in the military, based his decision on prejudice, not facts.

"Transgender Americans are our sons and daughters, friends and neighbors. They make many positive contributions to this nation on a daily basis. They deserve the same rights as all of us – including the opportunity to serve in our armed forces."

 
 
  

COLUMBUS—State Senator Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights) has introduced Senate Concurrent Resolution 13 to urge Congress and the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to reclassify marijuana, or cannabis, to a less restricted category. Reclassification would increase research into marijuana’s effects and ease the burden on legal medical marijuana businesses. 

“Marijuana’s Schedule I status is both inaccurate and damaging to the many Americans who benefit from medical cannabis,” said Senator Yuko. “The families of sick children who have used this product know how important it is. But researchers are afraid to study cannabis, and legal businesses are forced to remain cash-only, because the government still views it as dangerous.”

Marijuana – which is not known to have caused any overdose deaths – is currently a Schedule I drug alongside deadly substances such as heroin. Other highly addictive drugs like oxycodone and methamphetamine are listed as Schedule II, which is a lower classification and implies some potential medical use. 

According to the DEA, substances labeled as Schedule I – the highest classification – are thought to have “no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse." This classification makes it difficult for banks to accept money connected to the sale of these substances. It also drastically increases costs for legal marijuana businesses, because they are not permitted to deduct expenses related to Schedule I drugs.

Perhaps the most damaging effect is the restriction of research related to Schedule I substances. The lack of research may contribute to the FDA’s inability to examine the benefits of medical marijuana, despite significant anecdotal evidence. 

“If the federal government would acknowledge what a growing majority of states have already recognized, then more Americans could improve their quality of live through the use of safe, well-regulated medical cannabis,” said Senator Yuko. 

At least 29 states, including Ohio, and the District of Columbia, have currently legalized medical marijuana in some form.

Existing research – often conducted overseas – has shown cannabis and its derivatives to have a range of effects that may be therapeutically useful. Cannabis has been used successfully in the treatment of epilepsy, glaucoma, post-traumatic stress disorder, cancer and the side effects of cancer medication, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, symptoms of AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, and ALS, among many other conditions.

 
 
  
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Senate Democrats Lauch Statewide Tour Of Ohio Schools

 

COLUMBUS - Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) and members of the Senate Democratic Caucus have launched a series of trips around the state to gather opinions from parents and educators on ways to improve education in Ohio.



 
 

Senator Tavares To Introduce Eyewitness Protection Act

 

Columbus—Next week, Assistant Senate Democratic Leader Charleta B. Tavares (D-Columbus) will introduce legislation aimed at protecting citizens who record law enforcement and civilian involved incidents. The Eyewitness Protection Act will give a person the right to lawfully record any incident involving law enforcement or the public and to maintain custody and control of that recording and the device used to record the incident. 



 
 

Senator Thomas Testifies To Reinstate Pete Rose To Major League Baseball

 

Columbus—Today, State Senator Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati) testified before members of the State and Local Government Committee on Senate Concurrent Resolution 4 to urge Commissioner Robert Manfred to reinstate Pete Rose to Major League Baseball. The resolution also encourages the Baseball Writers' Association to consider Pete Rose for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. 



 
 

Senator Williams Issues Statement Calling For Accountability After Verdict In Michael Brelo Trial

 

Cleveland—Today, Senator Sandra Williams (D-Cleveland) released the following statement calling for accountability after Judge John O'Donnell found Officer Michael Brelo not guilty of voluntary manslaughter charges in the deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams: