COLUMBUS – State Sen. Sean J. O’Brien (D-Bazetta) issued the following statement today after the state Controlling Board approved the release of funds to be used for the completion of improvements at three state parks in northeastern Ohio.

 “As state Senator for the 32nd District, and also the co-chairman of the Ohio Legislative Trails Caucus, I was happy to learn of the release of funds for improvements at Geneva, Mosquito Lake, and Pymatuning,” said Sen. O’Brien.  “The economic and health benefits of the trails and the many other amenities offered by our state parks are undeniable, so I’m pleased to see the state placing a high priority on their maintenance and improvement.”

In all, the state released more than $1.1 million in funds for improvements at the three state parks – all in Sen. O’Brien district – with over $350,000 going to Geneva, over $950,000 to Mosquito Lake, and over $490,000 to Pymatuning. The funds will go toward full service upgrades to campsites at all three parks, a new shower/bathroom facility at Mosquito Lake, and renovations to the north building at Pymatuning. Construction is set to begin sometime in the near future.

“The newly renovated campsites and facilities at those three parks will really enhance the experiences people have when visiting them in the coming years,” continued O’Brien. “Ohio’s state parks are already incredible, but continuing to prioritize them in ways like this will help contribute to the physical, mental, and economic wellbeing of everyone in the Buckeye State for generations.”

Along with funds for the three state parks in Sen. O’Brien’s district, the Controlling Board also released funds for several other Ohio state parks in the same capital request, including Delaware, Dillon, Grand Lake St. Mary’s, Hocking Hills, Lake Hope, Mohican, Pike Lake, and Tar Hollow. Additional information about the recent Controlling Board release, including full descriptions of the work that will be done at each park can be found on the agenda for the Controlling Board’s November 13th, 2017 meeting here.

 
 
  

Columbus—Today, State Senators Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) and John Eklund (R-Munson Township) announced that they reintroduced a bipartisan bill to expand broadband internet access to more homes and businesses in Ohio. The bill, SB 225, would not raise taxes.

“I’m proud to be working with Democrats and Republicans to address a problem that impacts people all over Ohio,” said Senator Schiavoni. “This bill would help make Ohio competitive in a changing economy. By expanding internet access, we can create opportunities for everyone, no matter where in the state they live.”

Right now, 300,000 rural households and 88,500 businesses in Ohio do not have access to broadband internet. This hinders economic development and limits employment opportunities.

SB 225 would create a $50 million annual grant program using existing funds from Ohio Third Frontier bond revenue. It would expand broadband coverage to about 14,000 Ohio households each year without raising taxes or using money from the state’s General Revenue Fund.

“The world is moving at breakneck speed, and all Ohioans who want to keep up should have access to broadband,” said Senator Eklund. “Yet, today some Ohioans live in what may as well be an information desert. This bill gives them hope that they can fully embrace the modern age.”

The proposed grant program is modeled after a highly successful broadband infrastructure funding program in Minnesota. Under the bill, the Development Services Agency (DSA) would award grants of up to $5 million to businesses, non-profits, co-ops or political subdivisions to build broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas. 

Preference would be given to applicants who:

- Offer creative ways to stretch dollars and help as many people as possible;

- Expand broadband to vital services such as schools, hospitals, and police and fire departments.

SB 225 has eight Democratic and two Republican co-sponsors. Rep. Ryan Smith (R-Bidwell) and Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire) have introduced bipartisan companion legislation (HB 378) in the Ohio House of Representatives.

 
 
  

Columbus—Ohio lawmakers and staff members joined State Senator Charleta B. Tavares (D-Columbus) in releasing the following open letter about sexual harassment.

In the past few weeks, sexual harassment has been a topic of national conversation. Millions of Americans were shocked to learn of sexual harassment in the entertainment industry fueled by stories of Harvey Weinstein and others who allowed his behavior to continue. Now, the conversation has shifted to the pervasive sexual harassment that exists within state legislatures across the nation. Reports of misconduct have come from state capitals in California, Illinois, Iowa, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon and Rhode Island. I am disappointed to my core to acknowledge that our own Ohio Legislature is also on that list.

This behavior is not a joke. It is not playful banter. It is not flirting. This behavior exploits an elected position of power to create a hostile and intimidating work environment for women whose jobs are often in the hands of the perpetrator. This behavior is especially despicable because in situations outside the workplace, such as a bar, a golf course, a restaurant – though still illegal and disgusting – a woman is usually able to walk away from these unwanted advances. However, a woman’s job is how she earns a living to support herself and her family and a sexual predator in the workplace has now made that job unsafe, unstable, and unbearable for that woman to come to every day.

I am here to tell you that as a legislative body of officials elected to serve our constituents, we are not doing enough.

Although a start, sexual harassment training will not be enough to change the culture. In 2016, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) conducted a task force study on harassment in the workplace and found that, while trainings may help participants understand what constitutes workplace harassment, there’s no good evidence that trainings change attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors.

If we want to end harassment, we must work to close gaps in gender equality, increase the number of women in the legislature and in leadership roles, and continue to convey that we have zero tolerance for harassment in our legislature. That said, my team and I are working on a piece of legislation designed to address these issues.

As leaders in the community, representatives have an obligation to hold themselves and their colleagues accountable for their actions. I am encouraging all those who have experienced or witnessed sexual harassment in the workplace to speak out.

Women in the workforce are often afraid of retaliation, reputational harm, mockery, ridicule, being blacklisted, intimidated, or even fired. Rather than focus on the actions of the oppressor, we must acknowledge the brave victims that have come forward to expose these scandals and we must believe them! As legislators, we encourage our constituents to elect representatives whose values reflect integrity, accountability, and humility. As well as hiring staff who reflect those same values.

The hard truth is that every single woman you know has a story to tell. Every. Single. One.

I, along with the undersigned legislators and staff, are calling on all elected officials, state employees, constituents, and especially women, to intervene and to demand better. The undersigned include both women who have experienced sexual harassment and women who have not experienced sexual harassment. It represents women who are committed to creating a welcoming and safe environment. 

 

Senator Charleta B. Tavares               

Senator Sandra Williams

Representative Brigid Kelly

Representative Catherine D. Ingram

Representative Emilia Strong Sykes

Representative Janine R. Boyd

Representative Kathleen Clyde

Representative Kristin Boggs

Representative Michele Lepore-Hagan

Representative Nickie J. Antonio

Representative Stephanie D. Howse

Representative Tavia Galonski

Representative Teresa Fedor

Andrea Costin

Bethany E. Sanders

Cayla Burton

Chelsea Golterman

Cindy Peters

Emily Underation

Giulia Cambieri

Hope Lane

Jaehla Meacham

Julia Wynn

Kayla Lewis

Kelly Kefauver

Kaneeka Dalton Paul

Moriah Lieberman

Margaret M. Palmer

Megan Seitz

Sarah A. Cherry

Serena Finlay

Sara Owens

Terese Herhold

Taylor Rae Phillips

Whitney Kennard

 
 
  

Columbus—Today, State Senator Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati) released the following statement after the shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

“On Sunday morning, the lives of community members in Sutherland Springs were changed forever when a lone shooter walked into a Texas church and opened fire, killing 26 innocent people. Our hearts go out to all the families who are now left to grieve for their family members, as well as the residents of this close-knit community.

“There are no words left to say after senseless acts of tragedies such as these. Despite ‘thoughts and prayers’ and despite the periodic resurgence of the debate on gun control, these incidents keep occurring and we are continuously left speechless, knowing no words can heal the hurt of families, mend the wounds of the survivors, and prevent the next shooting from occurring. It would be irresponsible, then, to keep searching for the right words to say while simultaneously failing to take action in some way against these atrocities.

“On Monday, President Trump announced that it was too soon to talk about gun control and that the Texas tragedy was about mental illness, rather than guns. But even if that were the case, that still does not mean we should do nothing. If Republicans want to call this a mental health issue, then it is not enough to just talk about it. They need to invest in mental health care. That means raising taxes or prioritizing social services in our budgets.

“If lawmakers are not willing to do what it takes to fight mental health crises, then action needs to turn to tighter regulations on the purchasing of guns. If they are unwilling to do either, then their thoughts and prayers are empty words. As long as this administration is not willing to devote resources to what it names as the root of the problem, or to regulate access to deadly weapons, American citizens will continue to be unsafe even in their houses of worship.”

 
 
  

Columbus—Today, State Senator Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) sent a letter to the Director of the Ohio Department of Transportation requesting information about ODOT’s pending purchase of new trucks.

According to United Auto Workers Local 402, ODOT awarded a contract to purchase 144 trucks to a North Carolina manufacturer over a firm that would have built the vehicles in Ohio.

“I am deeply troubled by this news and concerned about the impact it will have on good-paying Ohio manufacturing jobs and our communities,” said Senator Schiavoni.

Based on the UAW estimates, the contract could be worth approximately $14 million, with only $600 per truck separating the two bids. Senator Schiavoni wrote to Director Jerry Wray seeking clarification on the bidding process.

“The state’s procurement process speaks volumes about our priorities–whether we choose to ensure that Ohio’s competitive, quality products have a market in their own state or choose nominal monetary savings that will negatively affect our workers and communities,” said Senator Schiavoni.

UAW Local 402 represents over 1,600 employees at a truck-manufacturing plant in Springfield, OH. 

 
 
  
 
ECOT Seeks To Make A Mockery Of Ohio's Education System
General Assembly Democrats respond to ECOT's Supreme Court lawsuit
November 02, 2017
 
 

(Columbus)—Today, Democrats in the Ohio Senate and House of Representatives filed an amicus brief with the Ohio Supreme Court in the case of The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow v. Ohio Department of Education. The brief responds to ECOT’s ongoing lawsuit to avoid repaying nearly $80 million after audits conducted by the Department of Education (ODE) determined the online charter school had inflated student attendance.
 
“If ECOT cared less about profits and more about its students, they never would have filed this lawsuit,” said Senator Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman), the attorney of record on the amicus brief and a longtime advocate for charter school reform. “It’s clear that ECOT and other e-schools are required under Ohio law to keep accurate records that show how long students are logged on their computers.”
 
ECOT filed the lawsuit more than a year ago claiming it is not required to document how many hours its students engaged in learning. Instead, the e-school says it only has to submit student enrollment numbers to receive state funding. After losing in Franklin County Common Pleas Court and the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, ECOT has appealed to the Supreme Court of Ohio.
 
“ECOT is demanding a ruling from this court which would protect its funding stream to the detriment of thousands of students they failed to teach,” members of the House and Senate Democratic Caucuses wrote in the amicus brief. “Not only would this make a mockery of the existing statutory and administrative structure, but it would render absurd Ohio’s constitutional and moral obligation to provide a ‘thorough and efficient’ public education.”
 
The amicus brief dismisses ECOT’s arguments and shows how the Ohio Revised Code clearly spells out the requirement for e-schools to keep accurate attendance records based on hours of classwork, both online and offline. Furthermore, the brief explains the intent of legislators when the General Assembly passed school funding legislation that included standards for accountability.
 
“Can Ohio truly fulfill its constitutional duties, and moral obligation, to educate its citizenry, if every year hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars flow to e-schools without any prescribed method of oversight?” Democratic legislators said in the brief. “The entire system of public school regulation is geared toward ensuring children receive an education. The record in this case reflects that ECOT and other e-school amici failed in this obligation and are callous toward that failure. The state should not have to withhold funding to guarantee those who purport to be educators take basic steps to teach children in their charge, but this case shows they must.”
 
A copy of the amicus brief can found here.

 
 
  

Columbus—Today, State Senator Charleta B. Tavares (D-Columbus) issued the following statement in regard to the State Controlling Board’s approval of funding for Ohio’s Medicaid program:

“I am pleased that members of the Controlling Board did not jeopardize health care for three million Ohioans and voted unanimously to approve the funding of our state Medicaid program. Medicaid is an important safety net program for Ohioans who need access to critical health care services. 

“Expanded Medicaid has been a success and it should continue because lives depend on it. Rather than holding the Medicaid program hostage with unnecessary votes, we as legislators should be examining ways to make sure that all Ohioans have access to high-quality health care so that they are ready to learn and ready to earn.”   

 
 
  
Senator Sykes (center) listens to testimony at redistricting meeting

COLUMBUS— State Sen. Vernon Sykes (D-Akron) and Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire) today released a joint statement following the first meeting of the General Assembly’s congressional redistricting working group. The joint, bipartisan group of lawmakers heard testimony from the public on the need to reform the state’s congressional redistricting process. The group is tasked with making recommendations to the General Assembly.

“Today’s conversation highlighted many of the issues with our current redistricting process, and one thing remains clear: Ohioans feel as though their voices aren’t being heard. Our current redistricting system has rigged the game so that it’s the politicians choosing their voters instead of the voters choosing their politicians.

“This was an important and necessary first step to ensure that we have a redistricting system in place that values openness, fairness and empowering Ohio voters. We’re optimistic that moving forward we can continue to have these productive conversations and come to a consensus about how we can make our congressional districts fairer so that the needs and voices of all Ohioans are heard and represented in Washington.” 

The Congressional Redistricting Working Group is composed of Senator Sykes, Senator Matt Huffman (R-Lima), Representative Cera and Representative Kirk Schuring (R-Canton). The next, and last, public hearing will take place on Wednesday, November 1 at 6pm in room 313 of the Ohio Statehouse.

Members of the public who are interested in testifying should bring written copies of their testimony to the working group. Witnesses should also limit their testimony to no longer than 10 minutes.

 
 
  

COLUMBUS—This week, Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights) introduced SCR 16, a concurrent resolution to urge Congress to enact legislation to require commercial trucks to install side guards and to establish technical specifications for these safety devices.

According to the National Center for Statistics and Analysis, nearly half of cyclists and more than one quarter of pedestrians killed by a large truck in the US first impacted the side of a truck. During a recent five-year period, more than 550 pedestrians and cyclists in the country were killed after side impacts with trucks.

“This legislation is long overdue,” said Senator Yuko. “As it stands, the absence of adequate regulations on commercial trucks is a serious hazard to road users. This bill could help save lives.”

Currently, the only regulations in place in the country involve rear guards and aim at preventing fatalities and minimizing damage in collisions between trucks and cars. The United Kingdom has required trucks to install side guards since 1986 and the country has subsequently seen a 61% drop in cyclist fatalities and a 20% decrease in pedestrian fatalities caused by side impact collisions.

For more information about side guards, visit: https://www.volpe.dot.gov/our-work/truck-side-guards-resource-page

 
 
  

Columbus—Today, State Senator Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights) issued the following statement regarding National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, which is observed every year on October 15.
 
“It is important to recognize the unbearable loss so many parents experience across the country and to provide support to those who have lost a child due to miscarriage, stillbirth, SIDS and other causes,” said Senator Yuko. “Within our Senate family we have recently lost one of our own. No one should have to experience the pain that comes with losing a baby.”
 
A candlelight vigil to honor babies who died during pregnancy, childbirth and infancy will be held at the Fairport Harbor Lakefront Park on Sunday, October 15 at 6:45 pm. For more information about the event, please visit: http://www.october15th.com/activities-walks/#O.

 
 
  
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Senator Yuko Introduces Legislation To Prohibit Child Marriages Under The Age Of 16

 

Columbus – Today, Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights) introduced legislation to update Ohio’s antiquated child marriage law. 



 
 

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.