COLUMBUS, Ohio – Thursday afternoon, the Ohio Senate voted to unanimously pass Senate Bill 271, a bipartisan measure sponsored by State Senator Lou Gentile (D-Steubenville) and inspired by Marietta police K9 Ajax.

The bill outlines a way for retiring police officers to purchase their canine or equine partner as long as the department served agrees. Current law states that if a police animal is being retired, an officer may purchase the animal for $1.00. However, the law is not clear when the officer is retiring but the police dog or horse is still of working age. 

“Earlier this year, my office was contacted by people across the district, the state, and the country expressing their concern about police dogs and Ajax. We wrote a law that would clarify statute and prevent the confusion and stress this situation brought for anyone in the future,” said Senator Gentile.

The bill allows a retiring police officer to purchase his or her canine partner for the fair market value of the dog if the law enforcement agency agrees. This gives law enforcement agencies local control while allowing for the purchase of a police canine if that is what is determined to be best for the animal and the officer. 

“I think this bill is a win-win and keeps future officers and canines together, while bringing clarity to the law. The bond between officer and dog is unique, and we want them to be able to stay together without questions,” concluded Gentile.

Senate Bill 271 now heads to the Ohio House for approval.

 
 
  
 
Senator Thomas Pushes Bill To Prevent Traffic Stops For Front License Plate Violations
Legislation is a result of the shooting death of Samuel DuBose
December 02, 2016
 
 

COLUMBUS – Senator Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati) testified yesterday in favor of Senate Bill 202, which would make failure to display a front license plate a secondary traffic offense with a maximum fine of $25. Senator Thomas introduced the bill as a result of the fatal shooting of Samuel DuBose by University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing following a traffic stop for a missing front license plate. 

“As a former City of Cincinnati police officer of 27 years, spending the bulk of those years in patrol and investigation, I know firsthand that some officers engage in profiling by using minor equipment violations as a pretext for other investigatory stops. This violates the search and seizure rules of the U.S. Constitution,” said Senator Thomas. “These stops have cost urban cities millions in lawsuits.”

SB 202 would prohibit a law enforcement officer from doing any of the following solely because the owner or operator of a vehicle has failed to display a front license plate:

  • Stopping the motor vehicle to issue a ticket, citation, or summons for the violation
  • Causing the arrest or commencing a prosecution of the vehicle’s operator for the violation
  • Issuing a ticket, citation, or summons to the owner of a parked motor vehicle for the violation
  • Causing the arrest or commencing the prosecution of a vehicle’s owner for the violation

“It is these types of stops that erode good community-police relations and foster tension and distrust, resulting in unnecessary citizen complaints,” said Senator Thomas. “S.B. 202 is a win-win for everyone. It meets the needs of law enforcement and respects the community perception that plate violations as a primary stop are selectively enforced.” 

Senate Bill 202 received its first hearing yesterday in the Senate Transportation, Commerce, and Labor Committee. It was introduced by Senator Thomas in August of 2015.

 
 
  

Columbus – Today, State Senator Michael J. Skindell (D-Lakewood) spoke out against proposed changes to Ohio’s unemployment compensation fund because the legislation unfairly punishes workers.  A fiscal analysis of SB 374, conducted by the non-partisan Legislative Service Commission (LSC), found that the financial burden for getting the unemployment fund to solvency would fall 83% on workers and only 17% on business owners. 

“In the past, business and labor leaders got together to work out a fair deal to keep Ohio’s unemployment system fully funded.  But there’s nothing fair about this plan,” said Senator Skindell.  “Unemployed workers are being hit with massive benefit cuts while businesses will still be paying less than they did in the 1990s when you take inflation into consideration.”

The LSC analysis determined that employees would lose $3.5 billion in benefits if SB 374 is enacted while businesses would be expected to pay only $715 million in additional taxes.  The modest increase in the wage base for employment taxes from $9,000 to $11,000 is the first adjustment since 1995—a change that still leaves it below the national average of $13,500.

“This plan amounts to another gift to the business community which has already benefited from billions of dollars in tax cuts and reductions in worker’s compensation premiums,” Senator Skindell said.  “The General Assembly should take a fair approach through true negotiation and recognition that the fund is insolvent because businesses have been given a pass for 20 years.”

Only 24% of the state’s unemployed workers currently receive any benefits because Ohio has very high eligibility requirements.  SB 374 does nothing to correct this injustice and cuts benefits even further. 

 
 
  
 
Senate Democrats Condemn State's Decision To Revoke Abortion Clinic License
Women's Med Center of Dayton is one of Ohio's few remaining abortion providers
December 01, 2016
 
 

COLUMBUS – Today, members of the Ohio Senate Democratic Caucus issued statements denouncing the state’s decision to revoke the operating license for one of Ohio’s last remaining abortion providers.

In 2015, Women's Med Center of Dayton complied with the state’s request for three physicians to be available in emergencies. The Ohio Department of Health has since increased the requirement to four doctors, which the clinic has been unable to provide.

Senator Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman), Senate Minority Leader: “Ohio continues to raise the stakes with the clear intention of restricting women's access to care. It really appears from the history of this issue that if Women's Med Center had four doctors, the state would ask for five."

Senator Charleta B. Tavares (D-Columbus), Assistant Senate Minority Leader: “We are denying comprehensive women’s healthcare because of the personal and religious views held by some. Women in Ohio deserve access to healthcare that meets their needs and the needs of their families.”

Senator Capri S. Cafaro (D-Hubbard): “I am extremely frustrated by the closing of the Women's Med Center of Dayton. Closing clinics and forcing women to drive to another part of the state is just another barrier created to block a woman’s constitutionally protected right to have an abortion. The Department of Health is doing everything they can to block abortion access. We cannot stand for this.”

Senator Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights): "The state keeps cooking up new rules to chip away at the healthcare rights of women. The Department of Health’s decision to close the Women’s Med Center of Dayton means ignoring the health and safety of women throughout that entire region." 

As reported by the Dayton Daily News, “An Associated Press review last year found that the number of abortion providers in Ohio had shrunk by half amid changes to the law over the previous four years. Nine clinics, mostly in big cities, now provide complete abortion services, and two others offer limited options to women seeking the procedure.”

 
 
  

COLUMBUS – Senator Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati) yesterday gave sponsor testimony on Senate Bill 361, which creates the “Triple Negative Breast Cancer Awareness” license plate, or TNBC for short.

The Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation describes TNBC as a subtype of breast cancer in which the three receptors known to cause most breast cancers are missing.  A TNBC diagnosis means that the offending tumor is negative for all three receptors, giving rise to the term triple negative. Unfortunately, the most successful treatments for breast cancer target these three missing receptors.

“A constituent of mine, Josie Holloman-Adams, reached out to me about the loss of her daughter, Erica, to TNBC. Erica passed away at the young age of 35,” said Senator Thomas. “Josie established the Erica J. Holloman Foundation to honor her daughter, raise awareness about TNBC, and help fund research to one day find a cure.”

The Erica J. Holloman Foundation aims to raise awareness about and seek the prevention of TNBC through charitable, scientific, and educational means. The foundation notes that TNBC accounts for 20 percent of all breast cancer cases and is usually fatal to women of color under the age of 40. It is the main cause of breast cancer death in African-American women.

“A breast cancer license plate emphasizing TNBC will not only draw attention, it will make all of Ohio’s citizens aware that there are different types of breast cancer that all require our attention,” added Senator Thomas.

Proceeds from the license plates will go towards funding the organization’s educational and charitable purposes.

Senate Bill 361 received its first hearing yesterday in the Senate Transportation, Commerce, and Labor Committee. It was introduced by Senator Thomas earlier this month.

 
 
  

COLUMBUS, Ohio – On Wednesday, State Senator Lou Gentile (D-Steubenville) urged members of the Ohio Senate’s Ways and Means Committee to pass Senate Bill 302. 

The measure, which is sponsored by Sen. Gentile and Senator Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman), would expand the homestead exemption and allow fully disabled veterans to pay no property tax on the value of their home. 

“This tax relief would make a difference in the lives of thousands of disabled veterans, many of whom are on fixed incomes,” said Senator Gentile. “For relatively little cost to the state, we can help give much needed financial security and some relief to the men and women who have served our country and given so much.”

According to analysis by the non-partisan Legislative Service Commission, the cost of this proposal is just under $16 million. For reference, the state’s biennial budget is more than $70 billion. The proposal also holds school districts and other local governments harmless from lost property tax revenue.

“We believe that on average, each qualified veteran would receive more than $1,000 per year in savings on property tax. For many, this is a significant amount of money that could help pay for medicine, food, gasoline, and other necessities. 

“If we have the ability to help, and it could make a difference for the men and women who have sacrificed so much for our country, I believe we are obligated to do so,” added Gentile.

 
 
  
 
Leader Schiavoni Testifies For Bill To Give Tax Relief To Disabled Veterans
Bill would save disabled veterans an average of $1,400 annually
November 30, 2016
 
 

COLUMBUS, OH - Today Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) testified with State Senator Lou Gentile (D-Steubenville) in the Senate Ways & Means Committee for Senate Bill 302. This bill would provide a complete property tax exemption for honorably discharged veterans who were 100 percent disabled from a service-related injury.

“We have an obligation to take care of our brave heroes, many of whom are struggling financially,” Leader Schiavoni said. “It is important to honor American veterans of all wars for their patriotism, courage, willingness to serve, and sacrifice for the common good.”

This proposal expands the homestead exemption to allow all disabled veterans in Ohio a tax exemption for the entire property value of their primary residence. The bill also ensures that local school districts and jurisdictions do not lose funding from the loss of property tax revenue.

“For relatively little cost to the state, we can help give much needed financial security and some relief to the men and women who have served our country and given so much,”  added Senator Gentile. 

Enacting this tax exemption would benefit approximately 10,000 disabled veterans in Ohio by saving each of those veterans an average of $1,400.00 per year. This legislation has bipartisan cosponsors in the Ohio Senate. Senators Schiavoni and Gentile believe caring for Ohio’s veterans should not be a Democrat or Republican issue.

“SB 302 offers meaningful, financial support to those in our state who have bravely served our country and made a permanent sacrifice,” said Leader Schiavoni.

 
 
  
 
Ohio Senate Votes To Increase Funding To Fight Opioid Crisis
Senate Democrats' amendment added to HB 325
November 30, 2016
 
 

COLUMBUS – Today, The Ohio Senate voted to increase funding to combat Ohio’s opioid epidemic by adding an amendment offered by Senate Democrats to House Bill 325. The amendment appropriates $2 million for existing mental health and addiction services across the state.

“Back in September, Statehouse Democrats made clear that Ohio’s opioid crisis would be a top priority during the lame duck session,” said Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman). “We also made clear that such efforts could not be successful without additional state funding.”

According to a new report this week from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, Ohio leads the country in deaths from opioid overdoses. As reported by the Columbus Dispatch, one in nine heroin deaths in the United States take place in Ohio. 

“The funding approved today represents a down payment on what we need to do in the next General Assembly,” said Senator Schiavoni. “Our caucus vows to continue working for funds and programs to battle the opioid crisis in 2017.”

 
 
  

COLUMBUS – Today, Senator Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati) gave sponsor testimony on Senate Concurrent Resolution 7, which urges the removal of the Confederate flag or other similar flags from government property, issuances, and merchandise. 

“To those who say the Confederate flag is about heritage, I say you are entitled to your personal point of view. But your personal feelings should not be affixed to property that I pay taxes to help maintain,” said Senator Thomas. “In my opinion, there is no honor, respect, dignity, or heritage in a symbol representing bigotry, hatred, and racism.”

The resolution urges:

  • the powers of the governments that continue to make issuances containing the Confederate flag to discontinue this practice;
  • the powers of the governments that fly the Confederate flag or any flag containing imagery of the rebel flag on public property to remove those flags in question;
  • the powers of governments that have official state flags that contain imagery derived from the rebel flag to commence in the process of redesigning the official state flag immediately;
  • Ohio retailers to remove from inventory any rebel flag merchandise.

“Looking back at the start of the Civil War, there were a few rebellious, misguided leaders representing 13 Southern States under the banner of the Confederate flag, a symbol of bigotry and hatred. These misguided leaders chose war against the United States rather than relinquish their right to own slaves and maintain a free labor force,” said Senator Thomas. “Hundreds of thousands of lives were lost due to financial greed, and in the end those misguided leaders surrendered. The United States remained one country under one flag.” 

Senate Concurrent Resolution 7 received its first hearing today in the Senate Government and Oversight Committee. It was introduced by Senator Thomas and Senator Charleta B. Tavares (D-Columbus) in July of 2015.

 
 
  

Columbus—Today, Senate Bill 306 passed the Ohio Senate with unanimous, bipartisan support. SB 306 would designate July 8th as Harrison Dillard Day.

“Harrison Dillard is more than a history-making athlete, he is an incredible man,” said Senator Yuko (D-Richmond Heights), who sponsored the legislation. “It is only fitting that we have a day honoring this truly impressive Olympian, and I hope that the House will work quickly to pass this bill.”

William Harrison Dillard is the only man who has ever won Olympic medals in both sprinting and hurdles. Dillard was born in Cleveland, attended East Technical High School, and entered Baldwin-Wallace College in 1941. In the 1948 Summer Olympics in London, he tied the world record for the 100-meter sprint, winning the gold in this race in the first use of a photo finish at an Olympic Game. He also won gold in 1948 for the 4x100-meter relay. At the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, he won gold for the 110-meter hurdles and the 4x100-meter relay.

“Harrison Dillard was an outstanding athlete – one of the most consistent hurdlers the world has ever seen,” said Senator Yuko. “I am truly proud that this inspiring and groundbreaking competitor is from Northeast Ohio.” 

Senate Bill 306 now moves to the Ohio House of Representatives for consideration.

 
 
  
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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. 



 
 

Senate Democrats Submit More Than 500 Budget Amendments

 

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. 



 
 

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.