Senator Brown To Reintroduce Bipartisan Bill Offering Summer Meals To Youth
The senator also praised new voluntary summer food program
February 08, 2017
 
 

Columbus – Today, State Senator Edna Brown (D-Toledo) announced that she will soon reintroduce legislation to help provide summer meals for Ohio’s children. The senator also encouraged third party food providers to partner with the newly announced Summer Food Service Program Plan from the Ohio Department of Education (ODE). 

“I am glad that my push over the past several years to extend affordable nutrition to students during the summer months has been taken up by the Ohio Department of Education,” said Senator Brown. “I encourage interested parties wanting to become partners in the Summer Food Service Program Plan to contact the Department. But I also hope the Department and my fellow senators will make sure no child goes hungry over the summer by supporting the summer nutrition legislation that I will soon reintroduce with Senator Peggy Lehner.”

Senators Brown and Lehner’s jointly-sponsored bill would require school districts to permit an alternative summer meal sponsor to use school facilities if the district declines to provide summer meals itself in areas where at least one-half of the pupils are eligible for free lunches. During the last General Assembly (GA), the bill (SB 247) passed out of committee and the Ohio Senate unanimously. During this GA, Sens. Brown and Lehner have located bipartisan representatives to introduce a companion bill in the Ohio House.

Please contact Patrick Potyondy at patrick.potyondy@ohiosenate.gov or 614-466-5204 with questions or for additional information about the legislation. 

For information about the Summer Food Service Program from the ODE, please contact Jennifer Thrasher at jennifer.thrasher@education.ohio.gov. The department asks that any organization interested in becoming a sponsor or site should complete the potential sponsor survey at https://tinyurl.com/hyhjgc5 by March 3rd.

 
 
  
 
Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni Introduces Strengthened E-School Reform Bill
SB 39 includes suggestions from educators and Republican lawmakers
February 08, 2017
 
 

COLUMBUS – Today, Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) introduced Senate Bill 39, a strengthened version of his online charter school (e-school) reform bill. The new provisions are based on input from Ohioans and legislators on both sides of the aisle. The bill is similar to Senator Schiavoni’s widely supported Senate Bill 298, which received several hearings – but no vote – in the 131st General Assembly.

“Quality education should not be a partisan issue. SB 39 includes suggestions from my Republican colleagues, as well as parents and educators,” said Senator Schiavoni. “Hopefully this year we can work together to make sure Ohio’s online students have a fair shot at graduation.”

One of the new provisions in Senate Bill 39 affirms that e-schools must “provide” rather than “offer” 920 hours of learning opportunities to students in each academic year. The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) argued in a lawsuit against the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) that the law does not require e-schools to actively educate students as long as class materials are made available online. Last year, an audit determined that ECOT owed taxpayers $60 million for exaggerating student attendance.

“The governor’s budget plan leaves many districts without proper funding. But there’s one e-school that currently owes Ohio $60 million for one year of overpayments. Imagine what students and teachers at other schools could do with that money,” said Senator Schiavoni. “As Ohio prepares for a painfully tight budget, it's no longer acceptable for e-schools to simply place classes online and expect funding from the state.”

The original bill included the following requirements:

  • Requires e-schools to keep an accurate record of the number of hours each individual student actively participates in coursework each day. 
    • The information must be reported to the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) on a monthly basis and be made available on the Department’s website. 
  • If a student fails to log in for 10 consecutive days, the e-school must notify ODE, the student’s parent/guardian, and the district of residence.
  • Requires student participation logs to be checked for accuracy on a monthly basis by a qualified teacher. (A qualified teacher will licensed by ODE and therefore subject to the Licensure Code of Professional Conduct for Ohio Educators.) 
  • Increases transparency and accountability by requiring that e-school governing board meetings be live-streamed over the internet so parents and the public can watch the meetings. 
    • There must be proper advance notice of each meeting in every community newspaper from which the e-schools enroll students.
  • Specifies that if a student is enrolled in an e-school for more than 90 days and then transfers back to a traditional public school before spring assessment tests, the test results must be reflected on the report card for the e-school and not the public school.
  • Requires that, for every advertisement used by an e-school (paid for by public funds), the e-school must include a disclaimer showing their most recent state report card grades. 

Some of the new provisions include:

  • Adds a provision specifying that when the Auditor issues a Finding for Recovery from an audit of a community school, that money is returned to the school district.
  • Removes the provision that would limit blended learning schools to schools sponsored by exemplary rated sponsors only.
  • Exempts district sponsored e-schools from the requirements of the bill.
  • Removes the provision that would eliminate career tech funding for e-schools.  

Senate Bill 298 received four hearings in the Senate Finance Committee during the 131st General Assembly. It did not receive a committee vote.

 
 
  

COLUMBUS—Today, State Senator Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights) introduced Senate Bill 38, the “Workers’ Rights Act,” which will raise Ohio’s minimum wage, expand overtime protection, and prevent employee misclassification.

“Ohioans have suffered from idle wages while productivity and inflation have increased1,” said Senator Yuko. “This legislation is a common sense step toward fair wages and benefits for workers.” 

Provisions in Senate Bill 38 would do the following:

Raise the Minimum Wage—Helping the Working Poor

-Increase Ohio’s minimum wage from $8.15 to $10.15 an hour, adjusting to changes in the Consumer Price Index each year as required by the Constitution.

  • While productivity has increased, inflation-adjusted wages have actually fallen slightly in Ohio since the amended Fair Labor Standards Act. 2
  • Wages are behind in Ohio due partly to growth in low-wage jobs. “Of our thirteen most common occupations, only two pay more than 200 percent of the official poverty line for a family of three. Nine of these most common jobs pay less than $30,000 a year with full-time, year-round work.” 2
  • The prevalence of low-wage jobs means that an increase in the minimum wage would help a lot of people. If the federal minimum wage increased to $12 by 2020, roughly a third of the workforce would benefit.3 Under this bill, Ohio would take a modest, business-conscious step forward by splitting the difference with this goal.

-Eliminate the prohibition on local control of additional increases in minimum wage. This prohibition was added into SB 331 during lame duck at the end of last year.

Expand Overtime Compensation—Helping the Middle Class to Build Strong Families

-Increase the threshold for overtime compensation for salaried employees to $50,000 in the first year, then to $69,000 in following years.

  • In 2015, only workers earning an annual income of under $23,660 – or around $455 a week – qualified for mandatory overtime. This is only $2 a week above the poverty level for a family of four.4
  • In 2016, the United States Department of Labor increased the mandatory overtime threshold to a more modern $47,476, although the rule is currently in limbo. 

Employment Reclassification—Create a Better Playing Field for Collaboration & Clarity

-Replace the definition of “employee” in the Minimum Fair Wage Standards Law and the Industrial Commission and Bureau of Workers’ Compensation Law. 

-Add the definition of “employee” created under the bill to the Bimonthly Pay Law, the Prevailing Wage Law, the Unemployment Compensation Law, and the Income Tax Law.

-Prohibit any person from requiring or requesting an individual to enter into an agreement or sign a document that does not accurately reflect the individual’s relationship with an employer. 

-Prohibit an employer from retaliating against an individual who seeks employment protection and creates criminal and civil penalties for individuals who violate proposed employment provisions.

“This mirrors my efforts in fighting for working families for over forty years, as a union organizer and state representative,” said Senator Yuko. “I hope we can work to make significant strides for Ohioans.”

###

  1. Figure C. “How to Raise Wages,” Economic Policy Institute. http://www.epi.org/publication/how-to-raise-wages-policies-that-work-and-policies-that-dont/
  2. “Still Struggling: State of Working Ohio 2016,” Policy Matters Ohio. http://www.policymattersohio.org/state-of-working-ohio-2016
  3. Labor standards, labor market institutions and business practices. “How to Raise Wages,” Economic Policy Institute. http://www.epi.org/publication/how-to-raise-wages-policies-that-work-and-policies-that-dont/
  4. “Updating Overtime Rules is One Important Step in Giving Americans a Raise,” Economic Policy Institute. http://www.epi.org/publication/updating-overtime-rules-important-step-giving/
 
 
  

COLUMBUS - Today, Ohio Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) released the following statement after the US Senate voted to confirm Betsy DeVos as Secretary of the US Department of Education despite bipartisan opposition:

“Opposition to Betsy DeVos was bipartisan and widespread – and for good reason. During her confirmation hearings, Mrs. DeVos proved she is not qualified to hold the most powerful education position in the country. She was unable to answer even basic questions about fundamental debates within the education community. An advocacy group she led still owes the state of Ohio $5.3 million for breaking our election laws. Even several prominent charter school advocates opposed Mrs. DeVos' nomination.

"This was the first time in history that the Vice President has been forced to break a tie over a cabinet nominee. Sadly, 50 Republican senators – including Senator Portman – chose to ignore the concerns of constituents and vote for Mrs. DeVos. Our nation’s students will face a tougher road to success as a result.”

 
 
  

COLUMBUS – Today, State Senator Sean O’Brien (D-Bazetta) announced the release of funds by the state Controlling Board to be used for upgrades to a prison alert system at the Trumbull Correctional Institution (TCI) in his district.  Capital appropriations in the amount of $16,580.84 will be released to upgrade the Man-Down Alert System at the correctional institution and ‘tie-in’ alarm sensors to 18 additional doors in highly sensitive areas of the Leavittsburg facility.

“I’m happy to hear of the alert system improvement project at TCI in my district,” said Senator O’Brien. “With over 1,500 inmates serving time at that facility, it is imperative that we do all we can to keep everyone who works and resides in the area as safe as possible.” 

Installed at TCI as a pilot project prior to its installation at other Ohio institutions, the Man-Down Alert System upgrade will include the installation of new door sensors, key card reading devices, and servers. It will allow prison officials to better pinpoint the exact location where assistance is needed in the event of an emergency. This project is made possible by state funds.

“Technological upgrades such as these will greatly improve this facility which is so important to the justice system in northeastern Ohio,” continued O’Brien.  “I hope the day comes when we no longer need prisons in our state, but, until then, we should continue working to make our correctional institutions as safe and efficient as possible.”

In addition to the door upgrades, the system upgrade will allow prison officials to track designated assets, monitor officer rounds, control the temperature in various parts of the building, provide outdoor monitoring, and provide real-time recording of events as they happen.

 
 
  

COLUMBUS - Today, Senator Michael Skindell (D–Lakewood) introduced Senate Bill 35, which reforms Ohio's Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to assist struggling Ohioans. When passed in 2013, after years of advocacy by Senator Skindell, Ohio's EITC contained a cap and was not refundable.  Senate Bill 35 makes the tax credit stronger by removing the income restrictions and making it refundable. 

“The goal of this proposed legislation is to allow for a refundable tax-relief benefit to working families in Ohio, particularly lower-income households.  It is imperative that we provide these families who work so hard and still struggle to pay bills a fair shot in our economy,” said Senator Skindell.

The EITC currently exists as a credit for taxpayers whose Ohio adjusted gross income exceeds $20,000. The state credit equals 10% of the federal EITC. Ohio's EITC cannot currently exceed 50% of the tax due.  The credit is also nonrefundable, thus it can only result in a reduction or elimination of tax liability, not a refund.

The existing provisions make our state EITC one of the weakest in the nation. Removing the income restrictions and making the EITC refundable would boost family income and assist poor communities by stimulating local economies. When low-income families receive their refund checks with an EITC, they purchase groceries, childcare, school supplies and other goods and services. This not only helps the families, it also boosts the local economy. 

 
 
  

Columbus – Senator Edna Brown (D-Toledo) has been selected to serve as the Ranking Democratic Member on the Insurance and Financial Institutions Committee.

“I am proud to once again serve as the Ranking Member of the Senate Insurance Committee. I hope to not only improve our insurance programs but to encourage policies that provide all Ohioans with a fair shot at adequate protection,” said Senator Brown. 

Senator Brown will serve on four other committees as well, including Government Oversight and Reform; Health, Human Services and Medicaid; Rules and Reference; and Transportation, Commerce and Workforce. She is also a member of the Finance Subcommittee on Health and Medicaid.

“I look forward to working with my colleagues to accomplish mutual goals that benefit Ohio’s families and communities,” added Senator Brown.

 
 
  

COLUMBUS - State Sen. Sean O’Brien (D-Bazetta) announced today the release of standing committee assignments for all members of the Ohio Senate.  

Senator Sean J. O’Brien is set to serve as the Ranking minority ember on the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee, a position he also held on that committee in the House of Representatives last General Assembly. He will play an integral role in determining the direction of legislation assigned to that committee. The senator will also serve as the ranking member on the Senate Agriculture Committee. In addition, he has been assigned to the Judiciary, Public Utilities, and Transportation, Commerce, and Workforce Committees, though not in a ranking member position. 

“I was glad to receive my committee assignments this morning,” said Sen. O’Brien.  “Now we can begin the process of looking at the bills coming through my committees and working to ensure that the versions sent to the Senate floor are as beneficial as possible to my constituents and all Ohioans.”

These assignments, valid for the next two years during the 132nd General Assembly (GA), correspond roughly to each member’s legislative interests and give each member an additional chance during the initial deliberative phase of lawmaking to debate and alter bills that conform to the various committee subject areas.

“My committee assignments for this GA line up very well with my legislative priorities,” continued Senator O’Brien.  “Using knowledge I have gained about these fields throughout my lifetime and during my last three terms in the legislature, I am excited to play a positive and constructive role in the bills that will go through them.” 

In addition to Senator O’Brien’s five standing committee assignments, he has also been tapped to serve as the Vice Chair on the Senate General Government Finance Subcommittee.  Although not a standing committee, which meet more often throughout the duration of the GA, Sen. O’Brien’s role on the subcommittee will nevertheless mean a big role for him on financial issues related to 2018-19 budget process, a role the senator is eager to undertake.

 
 
  

COLUMBUS – Today, the Ohio Senate announced the Senate committee lineup for the 132nd General Assembly. Senator Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati) has been appointed to serve as Ranking Minority Member on the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Local Government, Public Safety, & Veterans Affairs Committee. 

“It is an honor to have been selected as the Ranking Minority Member of the Senate Judiciary and Senate Local Government, Public Safety, & Veterans Affairs committees,” said Senator Thomas.  “Coupled with my new position as Assistant Minority Whip, I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle as we seek to reform and enhance our laws in order to continue having effective and efficient governance.” 

In addition to these committees, Senator Thomas will also serve on the following:

  • Education
  • Rules & Reference
  • Ways & Means
  • Finance Subcommittee on Higher Education

“The committee process is one of the most important functions of the Ohio Senate and the Ohio General Assembly as a whole,” said Senator Thomas. “It is through public testimonies and fruitful debates that we come together as legislators to best serve our communities and the state of Ohio.”

 
 
  

Columbus – Today, State Senator Michael J. Skindell (D-Lakewood) was appointed to five key standing committees by Senate leadership, including being named as Ranking Member on the important Senate Finance Committee.  The Senate Finance Committee plays a central role in the adoption of the State's Biennial Operating Budget, as well as the Mid-Biennium Review and the Capital Budget. 

"I am truly honored by this appointment and grateful for the confidence Senator Schiavoni and my Democratic colleagues have placed in me," Senator Skindell said. “I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Operating Budget and other state funding issues.”

This will be the third session in which Senator Skindell will be the Ranking Member on the Senate Finance Committee.  Skindell previously served as Ranking Member on the Senate Finance Committee in the 129th and 131st General Assemblies.   As Ranking Member on the Finance Committee, Senator Skindell works to ensure that a fair shot is provided to allow working families to be successful in our economy, students to achieve a quality education and senior citizens to have a meaningful retirement. 

In addition, Senator Skindell will serve on the Senate Agriculture, Judiciary, Energy & Natural Resources, and Government Oversight committees. These committees will touch on public policy important to many aspects of the state of Ohio.

 
 
  
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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. 



 
 

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. 



 
 

Senator Williams Issues Statement Calling For Accountability After Verdict In Michael Brelo Trial

 

Cleveland—Today, Senator Sandra Williams (D-Cleveland) released the following statement calling for accountability after Judge John O'Donnell found Officer Michael Brelo not guilty of voluntary manslaughter charges in the deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams: