Columbus – Today state Senator Vernon Sykes (D-Akron) applauded the passage of Senate Joint Resolution 5 (SJR5) by the Ohio House of Representatives.

“Getting SJR5 to this point has been an arduous process,” said Senator Sykes. “This is not a perfect plan, but we were able to include sufficient bipartisanship thresholds and strict criteria that will reject gerrymandered maps.”

Crediting the bipartisan effort behind SJR5, Representative Jack Cera (D-Bellaire) said: “By working together and making compromises, we are at a point today where Ohioans will have better representation, fairer districts and a stronger democracy than before.”   

Any reform plan had to contend with the proposal by the Fair Districts = Fair Elections coalition, which has been collecting signatures for a November ballot measure to eliminate partisan gerrymandering.

Coalition leaders paid tribute to the hard work of volunteers across the state that forced the General Assembly to act. Heather Taylor-Miesle, spokesperson for the coalition, said: “I want to wholeheartedly thank the volunteers across the state who worked tirelessly to collect signatures, and truly gave us the leverage in the room to make this deal possible.”

The resolution will be on the May ballot. If citizens support it, it will be added to the Ohio Constitution.   

Spearheading the four-member working group were the two joint sponsors of SJR5 Senators Sykes and Matt Huffman (R-Lima), along with Representative Cera and House Speaker Pro Tempore Kirk Shurring (R-Jackson Township).

 
 
  

Columbus—Today, Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights) testified before the Senate Public Utilities Committee on Senate Concurrent Resolution 16, which urges Congress to enact legislation to require commercial trucks to install side guards.

“Legislation that would make side guards standard for commercial trucks would save lives,” said Senator Yuko. “The deadliest types of vehicle crashes are those between large commercial trucks and pedestrians, cyclists, or motorists. In the past five years, over 550 pedestrians and cyclists in the US were killed by side impacts with large commercial trucks.”

Side guards also offer the potential to reduce air drag and could save truck drivers as much as $5,000 dollars in fuel every year.

“The focus of this legislation is to make our roads safer for everyone who travels them, including the truckers who are forced to deal with dangerous situations more frequently than the average driver,” said Senator Yuko. “The costs pale in comparison to the benefits of requiring side guards to be installed on large commercial trucks.”.

A WKYC investigation highlighting the dangers of not having sides guards can be viewed here.

 
 
  

Columbus – Today, members of the Ohio Senate Democratic Caucus released the following statements after the Senate unanimously (31-0) voted to pass SJR 5, which reforms the process of congressional redistricting.

Minority Leader Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights) said:

“In the past several months, the citizens of Ohio have expressed the desire to see fair bipartisan maps drawn. Many of them came to the Statehouse to testify against gerrymandering and explain how unfair districts affect them. Many more volunteered all across the state, collecting signatures to put their reform plan on the ballot. I’m confident that this resolution addresses their concerns and that it will give the minority party a say in the redistricting process, which will ensure fairer districts and better representation.

“This plan may not be picture perfect, but what we have accomplished today is an example of the necessary comprise it takes to accomplish meaningful change in politics.”

 

Senator Vernon Sykes (D-Akron), who served on the four-member working group that was formed in September last year to reform redistricting, said:

“For weeks, we met with stakeholders, interested parties and legislators from both sides of the aisle. This plan is not the plan we would have written—but it is also not the plan that our Republican colleagues originally brought to us.

“The goal of the working group was to create a congressional redistricting process that requires substantial bipartisan support and that includes strict enough criteria to prevent gerrymandering if one party draws the map. I believe the version of SJR 5 before us today achieves those two goals. While this is not a perfect plan, my colleagues and the Fair District = Fair Elections coalition recognize that it allows a fair map to be drawn and unfair maps to be blocked.”

 
 
  
Columbus – Today, state Senator Vernon Sykes (D-Akron), together with state Representatives Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) and Tavia Galonski (D-Akron), announced that a number of preschools offering quality, early childhood education programs in the Greater Akron area have open slots available at free or reduced cost.
 
Akron City School District, Springfield Local Schools and Akron’s Kids Play Child Care Learning Centers all have open slots for three to four years old.
 
“Studies show that high-quality early childhood education is linked to higher lifetime income, better health and higher educational attainment,” said Senator Sykes. “These open slots are a great opportunity to ensure children in Akron thrive. I hope parents will take advantage of them.”  
 
“Pre-school provides an important foundation of early childhood development that can help your child succeed throughout their education,” said Representative Sykes.
 
“Early childhood education is too important to the future of Akron for these spots to go unfilled,” said Representative Galonski.
 
The announcement is part of the Akron lawmakers’ efforts to raise awareness on the importance and benefits of early childhood education.
 
Parents interested in receiving more information and in enrolling their children can contact Akron City School District’s Early Learning Program at (330)-873-3396 and preschool@apslearns.org. Springfield Local Schools can be reached at (330)-798-1006, while Kids Play Child Care Learning Centers can be reached at (330)-253-2373.
 
 
  

Columbus—Today, state Senator Charleta B. Tavares (D-Columbus) announced that she will soon introduce legislation establishing the Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program, to help build stronger families, a more productive workforce and greater economic security.

“In Ohio, 38% of children live in a single-parent household, often headed by single mothers,” said Senator Tavares. “Paid family and medical leave will help these families take care of their loved ones when they need it the most.”

The proposed legislation would allow workers to continue earning a percentage of their paycheck while they take time off to care for a newborn, a newly-adopted or newly-placed foster child, a family member with a serious illness or to address their own medical condition. Workers would be provided up to 12 weeks of family and medical leave during a 12-month period at partial pay. To be eligible, employees must have worked at least 680 hours and contributed to premiums to the Family and Medical Leave Insurance Fund for at least one year.

“Family leave supports family stability, strengthens child-and-parent bonds and improves health outcomes,” said Senator Tavares. This bill will contribute to a healthier economy and a more productive, family-friendly workforce.”

Funding for the program is provided entirely by the employee through premiums deducted from their wages. Businesses would bear no financial costs.

State Reps. Janine Boyd (D-Cleveland Heights) and Kristin Boggs (D-Columbus) have announced companion legislation in the Ohio House of Representatives.

According to a survey conducted by the National Partnership for Women & Families, nearly two-thirds of Ohio voters, including both lower-wage and higher-wage workers, reported that they would be willing to contribute towards a paid leave fund.

This legislation is in alignment with Senator Tavares’ continued commitment to creating pro-family policies in Ohio, including SB 174- Fair and Acceptable Income Required Act, and the Ohio Family Stability Commission that was created through SB 30 from the 131st General Assembly.

 
 
  

Columbus—Today, Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights) testified on Senate Concurrent Resolution 19 and Senate Bill 245, which would designate Eating Disorder Awareness Week.

SCR 19 would designate February 26 through March 4, 2018 as Eating Disorder Awareness Week, while SB 245 would designate the week commencing on the last Monday of February as Eating Disorder Awareness Week. Sixteen other states have introduced similar resolutions.

“Many Ohioans are affected by eating disorders and we want to encourage them to seek help,” said Senator Yuko. “It is important that we understand the struggles that many of our friends and family members face when suffering from an eating disorder. Raising awareness is a step to educate the public and to fight the stigma that is associated with these life-threatening illnesses.”

According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), 20 million women and 10 million men in America suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their lives. Eating disorders often affect teenagers, but psychologists and doctors have diagnosed an increasing number of children and adults with these illnesses. The most common forms of eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating.

NEDA has a ‘Help and Support’ section on their website that helps people locate treatment and support in their area.

 
 
  

COLUMBUS—Today, Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights) gave sponsor testimony on Senate Concurrent Resolution 18, which urges Congress to amend the Americans with Disabilities Act and adopt a new version of the International Symbol of Access that depicts a wheelchair user in an active and engaged way.

“It is long overdue that the sign be updated to display mobility, as many people with disabilities are fully independent and enjoy a very active lifestyle,” said Senator Yuko, speaking in front of the Health, Human Services and Medicaid committee. “The new wheelchair symbol is a step towards removing the stigmas affecting those with disabilities.”

Shown above, the new symbol features a person on a wheelchair whose body is in motion, with the head and upper body leaning forward and the arms pushing backwards. The resolution calls for the new version of the symbol to replace the current International Symbol of Access. All new signs would use the new symbol and old signs would be replaced with the new symbol when they become worn out.

 
 
  

Columbus—Today, Senate Minority Leader Senator Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights) testified on Senate Concurrent Resolution 13, which urges Congress and the United States Drug Enforcement Administration to reclassify marijuana, or cannabis.

“The current scheduling of marijuana creates a catch-22, because the federal government is requiring thorough research of the medical benefits of marijuana, but the federal restrictions prohibit meaningful research from being conducted,” said Senator Yuko. “It is time that the federal government recognizes what the growing majority of states already have: that cannabis has medicinal benefits.”

Currently, marijuana is a Schedule I drug alongside heroin and LSD. However, 29 states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation to allow for comprehensive medical marijuana and cannabis programs. This classification has generated additional barriers for those who seek to use medical cannabis in research programs or as a treatment option. The rescheduling of cannabis would ease restrictions on research and ease regulatory burdens in states where marijuana is currently legal.

 “It is long overdue that the federal government acknowledges the host of people that can benefit from medical cannabis including children with cancer, veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and patients with Parkinson’s, among many other conditions.”

 
 
  

Columbus — Today, state Senator Sandra Williams (D-Cleveland), along with state Representatives Janine Boyd (D-Cleveland Heights) and Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland), hosted the Third Annual Energy Assistance Expo to provide resources to residents of Cleveland who need assistance with their energy bills.

“Colder weather adds extra financial burdens,” said Senator Williams. “Many people are unaware that there are electric and gas programs available to them. Today, we were able to help alleviate the burden for some individuals and families and shed light on programs that may be helpful to them.”

Held at the Third District Police Station, the event was attended by community organizations and agencies with the goal of educating people about their energy bill options and about setting up payment plans if they were struggling to pay their current bills.

The Council for Economic Opportunities in Greater Cleveland (CEOGC), CHN Housing Partners, First Energy and Dominion Energy were also in attendance. Attendees were given the opportunity to speak face-to-face with these organizations’ representatives and apply for the payment options they qualified for. 

“It is important for me to make sure that my constituents are informed,” said Senator Williams. “This event is always well received because there are many people in our community who need help. I want them to know that I understand the burdens they face and I am willing to help in any way that I can. Today, that help included providing a central location for residents to learn and attempt to get their energy bills under control. As always, if anyone needs assistance and couldn’t make it to the Energy Expo, please contact my office and I will provide them with the information presented today.”

 
 
  

COLUMBUS – Today, State Senator Sean J. O’Brien (D-Bazetta) announced today that the Ohio House of Representatives has unanimously adopted Senate Concurrent Resolution 8, which urges the US Department of Defense’s Missile Defense Agency (MDA) to select Camp Ravenna Joint Military Training Center as the preferred site for a future East Coast Missile Defense System. 

“Camp Ravenna, which straddles both mine and Senator John Eklund’s district, is currently being considered for a future East Coast Missile Defense Site, along with sites in Michigan and New York,” said Sen. O’Brien. “However, unlike Ohio, Michigan and New York have now hired lobbying firms in Washington to advocate for their states to be chosen as the site. It is for this reason that passage of this concurrent resolution was so urgent.”

Senator O’Brien had introduced SCR 8 in the Ohio Senate together with Senator Eklund (R-Munson Township). It was unanimously adopted by the Ohio Senate last June.  

The MDA is currently considering sites for the potential future installation of additional ground-based interceptors for homeland defense. While similar missile defense sites already exist along the West Coast, no such sites currently exist in the East.  

The selection of Camp Ravenna would provide a multi-million dollar investment in Ohio and would create hundreds of high-paying, high-education jobs. Additionally, Camp Ravenna’s selection would increase its value to the US military, greatly decreasing its chances of its closure by the federal Base Closure and Realignment Commission. 

Representatives of the Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber of Commerce, who worked closely with Sen. O’Brien on SCR 8, were also pleased by its passage. “The Eastern Ohio Military Affairs Commission, along with the Youngstown-Warren Chamber and all of those involved with the pursuit and acquisition of the East Coast Missile Defense site are very pleased with the passing of SCR 8 on the Statehouse floor today,” said Vito Abruzzino, director of the Regional Chamber’s Military Affairs Commission. “The local communities surrounding Camp Ravenna praise the legislature and the resolution’s sponsor for their quick and decisive support via this resolution.”

Now that SCR 8 has been formally adopted, the Clerk of the Ohio Senate will transmit duly authenticated copies of the resolution to the Secretary of Defense, members of the Ohio Congressional delegation and news media outlets of Ohio.

 
 
  
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