COLUMBUS – Today, State Senator Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati) announced he will introduce legislation to allow municipalities to restrict open or concealed carry of firearms during events of regional or national significance. This local control bill comes after Cleveland's largest police union expressed concerns over the ability of citizens to openly carry firearms during the Republican National Convention.
“We have received feedback from public safety experts who are concerned that certain events – such as political conventions – could incite unnecessary violence and hinder the ability of law enforcement to perform their duties,” said Senator Thomas. “We want every person in our state to be safe when they are attending an important event. We also want law enforcement to have the ability to deploy the most effective methods to assure that safety.”
Senator Thomas’ bill would restore an element of local control to Ohio’s gun laws. It allows for common sense restrictions to be put in place in an efficient manner. The bill will also allow citizens and law enforcement to provide feedback to their local governments when there is an important event scheduled in their community.
“Ohioans recognize the importance of local control in many areas of the law. A one-size-fits-all approach does not work when it comes to many issues, including open and concealed carry of firearms,” said Senator Thomas. “It makes sense to listen to the input of community members and law enforcement at the local level when we’re deciding whether or not we want loaded firearms carried at an event with 50,000 people in a confined area.”
“As a former law enforcement officer, I know firsthand the added stress and anxiety placed on officers who only have protecting public safety on their minds,” said Senator Thomas. “Anxiety and stress levels rise considerably when individuals or groups decide to carry their firearms into an emotionally charged event, especially given the current climate in our nation. This bill is just a common sense approach, designed to protect our citizens and first responders.”
COLUMBUS – Today, State Senator Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati) announced that St. Bernard Elmwood Place City School District has been selected to receive about $27 million from the Ohio School Facilities Commission for the construction of a new school building for grades Pre K-12.
“I am thrilled for the students, parents, and educators in St. Bernard Elmwood Place,” said Senator Thomas. “This funding allows the district to build a modern learning environment that will benefit students throughout the community.”
The district will use the money to build one new school, which will be large enough to house all students in the district, grades Pre K – 12. The state will provide $27,062,550 to the project, while the district will contribute $5,940,560. The Controlling Board will have final approval over the project.
St. Bernard Elmwood Place City School District is one of 14 districts and one STEM Compact school that are expected to receive state funding. Each district is charged with acquiring their portion of the funding before state dollars can be released. They are expected to do so within a 13-month time period.
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Today, Governor Kasich signed into law Ohio House Bill 483, which is a mid-year budget update for the Department of Developmental Disabilities. Included in the bill is an amendment offered by Senator Lou Gentile (D-Steubenville) to designate the month of October disability history and awareness month.
“We started with this idea to make October disability history and awareness month after hearing an idea from Terrie Lincoln, a resident of Marietta,” said Senator Gentile. “It is so important to listen to people. I’m glad we were able to work across the aisle to make her idea law.”
The amendment, originally offered as Senate Bill 130, encourages schools in the state to provide instruction and events focused on disability history, people with disabilities, and the disability rights movement. Senate Bill 130 passed the Senate unanimously with thirty cosponsors, but had not yet been considered in the House when it was offered as an amendment.
“Teaching our kids the impact and contributions that Ohioans with disabilities have made in our society is part of a solid education. They need to understand that all people matter, and our different backgrounds and abilities make our communities better places to live,” Gentile concluded.
House Bill 483 makes changes for children with developmental disabilities; makes changes to residential and day facilities; expands scope of practice in some areas; and makes an appropriation. Once signed, the bill takes effect in 90 days.
Columbus—Today, Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) issued the following statement after it was announced that James Bates, the former operator of Sebring's water system, now faces criminal charges as a result of the village's lead contamination crisis:
“The criminal charges filed against the operator of Sebring’s water system are further evidence of serious mismanagement that contributed to the village’s lead contamination crisis. But, the Ohio EPA also shares some responsibility for failing to act sooner when it knew about the problem months before it notified the public. We can hope that the lessons learned from Sebring, which prompted the passage of new state laws, will prevent this type of situation from being repeated anywhere in Ohio. The bottom line: Safe drinking water must be the top priority for local communities and the state EPA.”
COLUMBUS - Today, Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni issued the following statement after a judge denied a request by the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) to block the Ohio Department of Education (ODE)’s audit of student attendance. ECOT had issued a statement earlier in the day admitting that if the state is able to conduct a thorough and accurate audit of ECOT’s records, the school would be forced to return “significant portions of [its] funding,” or even close.
“The judge’s decision to allow the Department of Education’s audit to proceed is a victory for transparency and accountability in state government. Hopefully it’s a sign of needed changes to come. ECOT’s failure to educate its students and continued wasting of tax dollars cannot go on any longer. ODE must be allowed to do its job and examine ECOT’s records.
“ECOT has now admitted that they don’t properly track attendance to ensure students are learning and eventually graduating. They even acknowledged that if ODE were to thoroughly examine their records, they could be forced to close. That explains their attempt to block a routine audit that is expected of other e-schools.
COLUMBUS – Today, Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni condemned a lawsuit filed by the Electronic Classroom Of Tomorrow (ECOT) to block the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) from doing a full audit of the school’s attendance records. ECOT argues in the lawsuit that they are not required to “provide” education to their students. They assert that they are only required to “offer,” or place, the courses online.
“This lawsuit is ECOT’s Hail Mary. It is a desperate attempt to cover up the fraud they are perpetrating on the students and taxpayers of our state,” said Senator Schiavoni. “ECOT is required by law to provide a proper education to their students. With this lawsuit, ECOT is admitting that they have something to hide.”
ECOT is Ohio’s largest online charter school. It receives about $107 million from the state per year to educate over 15,000 students. According to a recent national report, ECOT currently has one of the worst graduation rates in the country. Last year, writes the New York Times, “the school’s graduation rate did not even reach 39 percent.”
“ECOT is actually asserting in their lawsuit that they are not required to teach any student anything. But they still demand the hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars taken each year from our public schools,” said Senator Schiavoni. “They have now added high-priced lawyers to their army of high-priced lobbyists.”
Senator Schiavoni’s Senate Bill 298 would require e-schools to accurately track and report student attendance in order to ensure that students were logged on and learning. The bill has received four hearings in the Senate Finance Committee, but has yet to receive a vote.
COLUMBUS – Today, State Senator Cecil Thomas issued the following statement in response to the rash of violent shooting incidents related to community-police relations across the country. Senator Thomas served with the Cincinnati Police Department for 27 years before pursuing elected office.
“My heart aches for all lives lost this week, police and civilian. As a state and as a nation, we should be working to build an environment in which all violence becomes less and less frequent. The problem is complex. Our minority communities feel marginalized by the current system. Many are struggling to access economic opportunities and quality education. Our police officers are overworked, underpaid, and under-trained. We have set our communities and law enforcement up to fail.
“It will take all of us working together to solve the long term problem of violence in our communities. Police have asked community members to speak up when they see something awry in their communities. The same principle should apply when officers of good faith identify something troublesome within their departments. Both pieces are critical in our common goal of protecting public safety.
“This is an ongoing problem, and legislators have no excuse not to act. There is a lot we can do as a legislature to improve community-police relations and decrease instances of violence. We need to address the issues that keep minority communities on the sidelines, such as poverty and low quality education. Law enforcement oversight and criminal justice reform will also be critical to the overall solution.”
Earlier in this General Assembly, Senator Thomas introduced a bill - Senate Bill 23 – that would invest $15 million into law enforcement training throughout Ohio. It would help officers manage tense situations and teach de-escalation tactics that could save lives. Senator Thomas gave sponsor testimony on this bill in the State and Local Government Committee in February 2015. It currently awaits additional hearings.
COLUMBUS—Today, Senator Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights) announced he will introduce a resolution urging Congress to adopt legislation banning the sale of guns and explosives to individuals suspected of terrorist activities. Senator Yuko’s resolution urges Congress to take immediate action to address this ongoing issue.
“Congress has had plenty of time to create and pass this basic legislation, but they refuse to do so,” said Senator Yuko. “There is no excuse for our country to allow suspected terrorists to legally purchase firearms or explosives. It simply doesn’t make sense.”
Senator Yuko’s resolution comes in the wake of a mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, that left 49 people dead and 53 others wounded. The individual who perpetrated the killing had recently been on a federal terror watch list, but still legally purchased the assault rifle he used to carry out the shooting.
In the US Senate this month, Senator Chris Murphy stood for nearly 15 hours without a break to demand a vote on two proposals, one of which would ban terror suspects from legally purchasing firearms. In the House, Democrat members of Congress held a 25-hour sit-in to demand a vote on related bills before the body adjourned for a two-week break. Senator Murphy’s filibuster led the Senate to vote on four gun violence prevention amendments, all of which failed to pass. Thus far, neither chamber has passed legislation addressing the Orlando attack.
“The amount of gun violence and mass murder in this country is ludicrous,” said Senator Yuko. “We cannot accept the further senseless loss of innocent lives when it absolutely can be prevented. Congress must act now.”
Columbus—Yesterday, Senator Capri S. Cafaro (D-Hubbard) hosted her first public roundtable for Senate Bill 283. Introduced in February, SB 283 would create penalties for residential care facilities - more commonly known as assisted living facilities. The roundtable was attended by Area Agencies on Aging from around the state, Columbus elected officials, state ombudsmen, and concerned constituents.
Senator Cafaro discussed the need to pass Senate Bill 283 for Ohio’s 600 registered residential care facilities. The penalties for these facilities are significantly less than the penalties for other full time care facilities. The senator believes protections must be put in place to protect this vulnerable population. Ann Lawrence, whose father died when he wandered out of a residential care facility in 2014, believes there should also be a definition for memory care units. The proposed legislation aims to address this issue as well.
Senator Cafaro said, “I am pleased to see all these parties come together to discuss the importance of SB 283 and protecting our elderly loved ones. As a former caregiver for my grandfather, I understand the toll that these decisions can have on family and friends. I hope that this bill can be a first step in ensuring all facilities are held to higher standards. We should all have the confidence that our parents, siblings, and grandparents are living in safe conditions, free of danger, neglect and abuse.”
The roundtable attendees all agreed there needs to be a state definition for memory care units. Currently, the term appears to be used as an advertising tool, without any requirements by the state. The bill would seek to ensure that residential care facilities offer specific services to Alzheimer’s and Dementia patients, and that the services offered are transparent for loved ones.
The second roundtable will be held in Akron, Ohio in August. Details will be announced closer to event. The event will be open to the public.
COLUMBUS – Today, members of the Ohio Senate Democratic Caucus issued the following statements after the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-3 to strike down a Texas law that placed limits on abortion rights. The decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt could have widespread ramifications for similar laws passed across the country, including Ohio.
Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman): “Today’s SCOTUS decision is a monumental victory for reproductive rights. It sends a clear message to state legislatures across the country that these attacks on a woman’s right to choose are not only burdensome, but unconstitutional. This decision calls into question whether Ohio’s restrictive abortion laws are constitutional. It should give legislators pause before they try to pass any more targeted regulations of abortion providers. Our caucus has fought against similar anti-choice legislation here in Ohio, and we will continue to stand up for reproductive freedom.”
Assistant Senate Minority Leader Charleta B. Tavares (D-Columbus): “The Supreme Court wisely decided that hospital admitting privileges for physicians performing abortions were superfluous for this outpatient procedure. They also ruled that requiring Planned Parenthood to retrofit its facilities to meet ambulatory care facilities’ standards is unwarranted, onerous, unfair and inconsistent with regulations for other, similar health centers. The taxpayers, communities, and most importantly the patients who need health care are the clear winners with this ruling.”
Senator Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights): “Today’s ruling is a win for every American who supports access to quality, affordable healthcare. Laws like the one in Texas have been shutting down healthcare providers nationwide, often in places where they are needed most. Today, common sense spoke louder than rhetoric.”
Senator Capri Cafaro (D-Hubbard): “The ruling today ensures women will be able to maintain control over their own bodies and medical decisions. It proves, yet again, that medical decisions should not be made by the government. It is my hope that this ruling will be a step toward removing the robust barriers to women’s healthcare in place in Ohio as well.”
Senator Tom Sawyer (D-Akron): "Ohio's law is now apparently unenforceable. This is a problem for the Attorney General. We are all challenged to take action to overturn a law that is unconstitutional, or incur wasteful costs to defend a law that is unenforceable - clearly the worst of our choices."
Senator Sandra Williams (D-Cleveland): “I commend the Supreme Court of the United States for not believing the superficial rationale submitted by Texas pro-life lawmakers in their concocted effort to ‘make women’s health care safer.’ After requesting and analyzing the real evidence submitted by pro-life activists, it is clear that the law was a decisive attempt to place an undue burden on women’s access to safe and legal health services.”
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.
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.
Columbus—Today, members of the Ohio Senate Democratic Caucus submitted more than 500 amendments to House Bill 64, the biennial state budget. The amendments represent the commitment of Senate Democrats to help Ohio families, grow our communities through targeted investments and increase opportunities for everyone.
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.