Controlling Board Releases Funds For DODD Community Assistance Projects
State dollars to fund construction of two new community homes in Trumbull County
February 27, 2017
 
 

COLUMBUS - State Senator Sean O’Brien (D-Bazetta) announced today the release of funds by the state Controlling Board, at the request of the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities (DODD), for the building of two new community homes in Trumbull County. In all, capital appropriations in the amount of $450,000 will be released to cover the cost of construction of the new facilities.

“These new facilities will be a great benefit to the disabled community in my district,” said Senator O’Brien. “We need to do all we can to help those with developmental disabilities live the happy and fulfilling lives they deserve. The construction of these new homes will go a long way toward achieving that goal.”

According to the Controlling Board capital request form, the requested funds are provided periodically for eligible community assistance projects because of terms laid out in several sections of the Ohio Administrative Code. They are secured by a 15-year participation contract between the funding recipients and the DODD.

“The quantity and quality of Ohio’s community homes is an issue that has received a lot of attention in recent years,” continued O’Brien.  “Hopefully the construction of these new homes in my district will increase confidence about the commitment of state officials to improving the quality of life for those living with developmental disabilities.”

In addition to the new home construction projects in Trumbull County, state dollars will also be released through the same capital request for the purchase of existing homes and other renovation and accessibility projects in several other Ohio counties. The list of counties includes Mahoning, Butler, Clark, Lake, Mercer, Miami, and Scioto.

 
 
  

Columbus – Today, State Senator Edna Brown (D-Toledo) testified for Senate Bill 54, her bipartisan legislation to help provide summer meals for Ohio’s children. Senator Peggy Lehner is joint-sponsoring the bill. The senators encouraged the Ohio Senate to pass the bill quickly to make sure it can be enacted in time for this coming summer break.

“The need for this bill boils down to a very simple reality: childhood hunger in Ohio does not end when school is no longer in session. But access to nutrition programs administered through the schools does end when the school buildings are no longer available,” said Senator Brown. “This bill, which I’m proud to joint sponsor along with Senator Lehner, will encourage outside food providers to use school facilities that are already conveniently located in local neighborhoods.”

Senate Bill 54 will apply to school districts that both opt out of offering summer food services for financial reasons and where 50 percent or more of the local children qualify for free or reduced meal programs. This legislation requires schools in these districts to permit an approved summer food service provider to use its facilities. 

It is important to note that Senate Bill 54 will not create an additional cost for schools. A school will be able to charge the third-party provider for use of its facilities, such as the use of equipment and the prorated amount for utilities. In addition, school districts will not be held liable for the summer food program operation.

During the last General Assembly (GA), the bill (SB 247) passed out of committee and the Senate unanimously. During this GA, Senators Brown and Lehner have located bipartisan representatives who will soon introduce a companion bill in the Ohio House.

 
 
  

COLUMBUS—Yesterday, State Senator Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights) introduced Senate Bill 62, which would designate July 8th as William Harrison Dillard Day in Ohio.

“Harrison Dillard is an outstanding athlete and one of the most consistent hurdlers the world has ever seen,” said Senator Yuko. “It is only fitting that we have a day honoring this truly impressive Olympian.”

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. During the 1948 Summer Olympics in London, he tied the world record for the 100-meter sprint, winning the gold 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, Dillard won gold for the 110-meter hurdles and the 4x100 meter relay.

“Harrison Dillard is more than a history-making athlete, he is an incredible man,” said Senator Yuko. “I am truly proud that Mr. Dillard resides in my district and continues to inspire future generations.”

Senator Yuko introduced similar legislation during the 131st General Assembly. It passed the Senate with unanimous, bipartisan support, but did not pass the House.

 
 
  
 
Senator Brown Speaks Out Against Budget Provision That Treats Teachers Like Children
Governor's budget provision would require educators to complete externships for license renewals
February 22, 2017
 
 

Columbus –Today, Senator Edna Brown (D-Toledo) spoke out against a budget provision that would force educators to complete on-site work experience with a local business as a license renewal requirement.

“It is unclear to me how this provision would in any way improve an educator’s ability to teach,” said Senator Brown. “It just places an unnecessary burden on our already underpaid and overworked teachers.” 

According to the Ohio Department of Education (ODE), in order to obtain a renewal for a five-year license, teachers must already fulfill the following requirements:

  • Six semester hours of coursework related to classroom teaching and/or the area of licensure; or
  • 18 continuing education units (CEUs) (180 contact hours); or
  • Other equivalent activities related to classroom teaching and/or the area of licensure as approved by the Local Professional Development Committee of the employing school, district or agency

“What makes the Kasich administration think that teachers stand to benefit from shadowing businesses—but businesses don’t stand to benefit from shadowing teachers?” Senator Brown added. “This provision treats Ohio educators like children and devalues the hard work they have put in to ensure our kids succeed in the classroom.”

 
 
  

COLUMBUS – Today, State Senator Michael Skindell (D- Lakewood) introduced Senate Bill 61 to increase state funding to public transportation. The bill would increase General Revenue Fund (GRF) dollars for the remainder of this current fiscal year by $5 million. In the upcoming biennium budget, it would increase the public transportation line item to $25 million in Fiscal Years 2018 and 2019.  It would also increase the use of federal flex funds in the public transportation budget to $50 million in Fiscal Years 2018 and 2019. 

The use of General Revenue Fund (GRF) dollars has radically decreased from $44 million in 2000 to $7.3 in both Fiscal Years 2016 and 2017 in the last biennium budget. Currently, the use of federal flex dollars for public transportation is only at $10 million per year.

“Public transportation in this state is quite underfunded, with Ohio ranking 47 out of the 50 states. The demands of younger Ohioans, coupled with the increased needs of our low-income and senior citizens, make such low funding unsustainable," said Senator Skindell. "Many low-income workers rely exclusively on public transit to keep a stable job. But these jobs are not exclusively located in urban areas, nor are the people who most use public transit. By providing a more robust system, the state can more adequately promote self-sustainability and independence. A better investment in affordable public transportation will best serve the needs of all citizens."

“The proposed bill to flex $50 million in highway funds to help replace bus vehicles is welcome news to RTA and all transit systems in Ohio,” said Joe Calabrese, CEO and General Manager of Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA). “Across this state, more than $400 million is needed today to replace outdated vehicles. It’s critical that this bill obtains widespread support.”

 
 
  

Columbus – Today, State Senator Edna Brown (D-Toledo) praised last week’s postponement of eight executions by Governor John Kasich. A battle in court continues over the legality of the state’s lethal injection process.

“I applaud Governor Kasich for delaying executions in our state,” Senator Brown said. “I have long held—and decades of practice and research back me up—that the death penalty is flawed to its core. The fight in court over the issue and now the Governor’s order reveal some of those flaws.” 

Between 1973 and 2016, courts across the nation exonerated at least 156 death row inmates. Several of the exonerations occurred in Ohio. During that same time period, the nation executed over 1100 people. For every ten individuals that the government kills, one person is exonerated. These numbers suggest the likelihood that innocent individuals have been and will be executed.

“Because it is so deeply flawed, I am reintroducing legislation to get rid of the death penalty,” added Senator Brown. “In its place, convicted individuals will face a life in prison sentence.”

Not only are innocent lives at stake, the cost of capital punishment is vastly more expensive in comparison to life imprisonment. In addition, research has shown that the death penalty has been and continues to be applied unevenly by juries. The race and gender of both the suspect and victim all too often determine unjust outcomes in death penalty cases. And polls show that support is growing among the public to put a stop to the practice.

 
 
  

COLUMBUS - Today, Senator Michael Skindell (D-Lakewood) introduced Senate Bill 59, which would require bicycle operators and passengers less than 18 years of age to wear bicycle helmets on roadways. It would also establish the Bicycle Safety Fund to assist low-income families in purchasing bicycle helmets.

“The goal of this legislation is to prevent head injuries, which is even more important for children whose brains are still developing. A helmet is the single most effective safety device to accomplish this goal,” said Senator Skindell.

According to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 206,000 children across the United States visited the emergency room for bicycle-related injuries in 2015.  Nearly half of these children suffered from traumatic brain injuries.  The National Safe Kids campaign estimates that properly fitted bike helmets could prevent 88% of these injuries. 

21 states, plus the District of Columbia, already require youth under a certain age to wear a helmet while riding a bicycle on roadways.  This legislation would protect hundreds of Ohio children and their families from preventable injuries.  It would also help low-income families afford these helmets with money from noncompliance fines related to the helmet requirement.

 
 
  

Columbus – Today, State Senator Edna Brown (D-Toledo) announced that she will soon reintroduce legislation to replace Ohio’s death penalty with life in prison. The senator sees a groundswell of support for a serious discussion regarding the irredeemably flawed sentence. 

“In view of recent high-profile problems that Ohio and other states have had in obtaining legal lethal drugs to carry out executions, it is past time to take a serious look at the flawed use of the death penalty,” said Senator Brown. “I will soon be reintroducing legislation to replace the death penalty in Ohio with the sentence of life imprisonment.”

Between 1973 and 2016, courts across the nation exonerated at least 156 death-row inmates. Several of the exonerations occurred in Ohio. During that same time period, the nation executed over 1100 people. For every ten individuals that the government kills, one person is exonerated. These numbers suggest a possibility that innocent individuals have been or will be executed.

Not only are innocent lives at stake, the cost of capital punishment—in comparison to life imprisonment—is vastly more expensive. In addition, research has shown that the death penalty has been and continues to be applied unevenly by juries. The race and gender of both the suspect and victim all too often determine unjust outcomes in death penalty cases. And groups such as Ohioans to Stop Executions are drawing broad support in their efforts to stop to the practice.

“At this point, the death penalty is indefensible,” added Senator Brown. “It is time for us to move past this unnecessary and flawed practice.”

For inmates presently on death row, Senator Brown’s legislation would replace death sentences with life imprisonment without any possibility of parole. For future convictions, the bill replaces the capital punishment sentence with existing sentencing life imprisonment guidelines.

 
 
  
 
Senator Michael Skindell Introduces Ohio Patient Protection Act
Bill would increase patient safety by regulating nurse-to-patient ratios in Ohio
February 14, 2017
 
 

COLUMBUS – Today, State Senator Michael Skindell (D- Lakewood) will re-introduce the Ohio Patient Protection Act. This bill, Senate Bill 55, would increase patient safety by setting limits on the number of patients a registered nurse (RN) may care for at one time. The nurse-to-patient ratio requirements would be based on the seriousness of the condition being treated or the medical procedure that each respective patient is undergoing. 

“These policies will help ensure that patients get the best medical care based on need. The bill will also make sure nurses are protected from retaliation for whistleblowing or refusing to follow potential violations of the law,” said Senator Skindell. “Genuine and enforceable safe-staffing standards will save money and lives by ensuring that patients obtain excellent nursing care."

The legislation would require a minimum numerical nurse-to-patient ratio with a provision that additional nurses be added when needed. 

Specific requirements in the bill:

  • A one-to-one patient ratio (one nurse for every patient) would be required for:
    • Patients in an operating room
    • Patients in a trauma or critical care unit.
    • Unstable newborns
    • Patients requiring resuscitation
  • An intermediate ratio level – one nurse to three patients – would be required for pediatric units and pregnant patients who are not in active labor. Certain other situations – such as infants in nurseries – would require a one-to-five nurse-patient threshold.
  • For units not listed in the legislation, a hospital-wide nursing care committee would establish ratio requirements and implement them.  When setting the ratio requirements, the committee should consider factors such as the severity of a patient’s illness, the need for patient advocacy, the patient-care delivery system, and the hospital’s physical layout. The bill would require hospitals to post these ratio requirements in public view.
  • In addition, the legislation would:
    • Require that the nurses assigned to each unit must be competent to work in the units for which they are providing care. 
    • Prohibit such mandatory overtime to meet the ratio requirements
    • Prohibit the use of cameras or monitors as substitutes for the actual nurse to fulfill the requirements.

The bill provides various protections to nurses for refusal to follow a policy they believe in good faith to be in violation of the legislation. It includes prohibitions on discrimination and discharge for such a good-faith refusal.

Members of the medical community joined the senator at today’s press conference to express their support for the senator’s legislation.

Michelle Mahon, RN, National Representative – National Nurses United (NNU):

“NNU nurses have witnessed first hand the dramatic improvements in patient care conditions that resulted from the implementation of the California staffing legislation. This life-saving measure should be extended to Ohio patients as well. Unfortunately, hospital corporations continue to place an emphasis on the bottom line, and care suffers. As patient advocates, Ohio nurses fight daily battles with hospital management to ensure that there are enough nurses to care for patients. Our patients deserve the guarantee that when they are most vulnerable they will have the constant vigilance of a skilled registered nurse to protect them.”

Rhonda Risner, RN, Dayton VA Medical Center in Dayton, Ohio:

“Studies have shown again and again that safe nurse-to-patient staffing ratios save lives.”

Debra McKinney, RN, Affinity Medical Center in Massillon, Ohio:

“With no limit on the number of patients we care for, we have a safety crisis on our hands in Ohio. Hospital administrators are free to cut corners on staffing and put their bottom line over patient safety. We need a mandatory, non-negotiable limit to the number of patients each nurse cares for in order to protect our patients from harm—and also to protect nurses and other healthcare staff.”

Susan Pratt, RN, President – UAW Local 2213:

"As patient acuity increases, so does the pressure for faster turnaround times on patient loads. These changes on increasing productivity and throughput in our industry have left little room for patients and their specific needs. Our patient is not a product or a part, they are a human being with all complexities that make us unique." 

Ohio currently has no limits on how many patients a nurse can care for at any one time.

 
 
  

Columbus – Today, State Senator Edna Brown (D-Toledo) announced that she will soon reintroduce legislation to help Ohioans pay for major household appliances that qualify as Energy Star products. The bill would create a tax holiday for the first Friday through Sunday in April.  

“My Energy Star tax holiday bill will help working families pay for major household purchases,” said Senator Brown. “This legislation helps Ohioans on two levels. The tax holiday offers significant immediate savings. And, in the long term, consumers will save on their utility bills thanks to decreased energy usage.”

Products to be covered include air conditioning units, furnaces, heat pumps, water heaters, refrigerators, freezers, air purifiers, and dehumidifiers. Currently, the states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia have similar tax holidays for Energy Star products.

“I think it is important to note that these products help meet some of the most basic needs of Ohio families,” added Senator Brown. “From the health and financial benefits of safe food storage, to relief from severe allergies, to heating and cooling during extreme temperatures, these products ensure the health, safety, and comfort of many Ohioans.”

 
 
  
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