COLUMBUS—Today, State Senator Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights) condemned the bomb threats made against Mandel Jewish Community Center in Beachwood.

“These threats against our Jewish friends must stop, not just here in Ohio, but all across the country where other threats have been reported,” said Senator Yuko.

The community center received a second bomb threat during observance of Purim yesterday, March 12th. The building’s security and local law enforcement searched the building extensively. The teams determined that the threat was not credible and that the premises were safe.

“I greatly appreciate the rapid response of the security team and law enforcement. It is horrible that emergency services are necessary to protect against those spreading fear and hate,” Senator Yuko added.

This is the second bomb threat the Mandel JCC has received in less than a month; the center previously received a bomb threat on February 20th. According to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, there have been at least 156 bomb threats to Jewish institutions in the United States and Canada this year.

 
 
  

Today, State Senator Michael Skindell (D-Lakewood) and Assistant Senate Minority Leader Charleta B. Tavares (D-Columbus) introduced Senate Bill 91 to provide health care for all Ohioans through the creation of the Ohio Health Care Plan. This plan would provide single-payer universal access to quality health care, dental care and vision services.

“Containing health care costs and getting people—particularly low income workers—insured are still challenges. This is a burden on individuals and employers alike," said Senator Skindell. “Even with the Affordable Care Act, we have not yet attained universal coverage in our country.  This bill seeks to solve that problem at the state level.”

Providing affordable health care and containing costs has been an ongoing problem for quite some time. Many Americans are one health crisis away from financial ruin. This legislation would help address the dire health care problems in Ohio. With the uncertainty surrounding the Affordable Care Act in Washington DC, many Ohioans could lose essential insurance protections they had gained through the federal law. This would disproportionately affect those who have trouble paying for quality health care.

“While at the federal level we are debating the ACA and other proposals on their efficacy, cost savings, and most importantly whether they provide health care for all residents, now is the time to enact a state single-payer bill to provide simplification, efficiency and cost savings to Ohio’s residents,” said Senator Tavares.

Ohio has some of the best medical facilities in the world. At minimum, the senators believe Ohioans should be able to visit their doctor and receive the care they need without worrying about excessive costs. The Ohio Health Care Plan outlined in SB 91 is the blueprint needed in reengineering the state’s health care financing system.

 
 
  

COLUMBUS - Today, all members of the Ohio Senate Democratic Caucus sent the following letter to Mr. Paolo DeMaria, Ohio's Superintendent of Public Instruction, asking that the Department of Education (ODE) take additional time to seek public input on the state's plan to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The federal government offers two deadlines for submission: April 3rd or September 27th.  ODE has chosen the earlier date as its preferred target. 

  

Dear Superintendent DeMaria:

We write to you today regarding the Department of Education’s (ODE) draft plan to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).  As you well know, ESSA was developed with the objective of giving local school districts more flexibility to educate our children and to measure their performance.  This is a laudable objective, and one that we support. 

First, we want to thank you for your efforts over the past several months to gather feedback on ways to shape Ohio’s plan.  We recognize the work that was put into the surveys, webinars, and regional meetings, in which we have participated.  You clearly have a strong desire to get this right, and you and your Department have been very proactive in your approach. 

We are concerned, however, that Ohio is missing opportunities to further improve and refine our plan by attempting to meet the earliest federal deadline. While we don’t doubt that significant stakeholder feedback was gathered in the beginning of this process, we strongly believe that the timeline for public comment once the draft plan was released (just five weeks) was far too condensed.

Since the plan was made public, we have heard from interested parties across the education spectrum who have expressed significant and specific concerns about portions of the draft.  These concerns include, but are not limited to: number of tests and duration of testing; our A-F report card system and indicators within that system; accountability sub-group size; value-added growth measures (both in general and as they apply to teacher evaluations); and school improvement. 

These interested parties – many of whom are the very educators who will implement this plan – have made clear that there is more work to be done. We fear that the April submission deadline does not provide for adequate time to get us where we need to be.   

To that end, we request that you continue stakeholder engagement throughout the spring and summer, and submit the plan to the federal government by the second deadline in September.  Our constituents, particularly those who operate in our public schools every day, have identified several outstanding issues that have yet to be addressed.  It is our duty as a legislature to listen to them, and we hope that you will do the same.

Thank you for your consideration, and for your continued service to the students, educators, and communities of the State of Ohio. 

 

The full letter can be viewed in PDF format here.

 
 
  

COLUMBUS – Yesterday, State Senator Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati) introduced Senate Bill 92, which would downgrade the failure to display a front license plate to a secondary traffic offense. The senator originally introduced this legislation during the 131st General Assembly (GA), after Cincinnati native Sam DuBose was killed during a traffic stop by former University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing. DuBose was initially pulled over for failing to display a front license plate.

“Many Ohioans worry that these minor infractions can be used as an excuse to pull people over. Unnecessary traffic stops erode trust between police and the community without adding much benefit,” said Senator Thomas. “I hope this simple, reasonable bill will receive bipartisan support from my colleagues.”

Under SB 92, law enforcement officers could not stop a vehicle to issue a ticket, citation or summons solely because of the lack of a front license plate. The bill also prohibits law enforcement officers from ticketing a parked vehicle that is missing a front plate if there is no primary traffic offense. 

Representative Anthony DeVitis (R-HD 36) introduced a similar bill in the House earlier this year. However, Rep. DeVitis’ bill calls for a maximum fine of $100. Senator Thomas’ bill sets the maximum fine at $25. 

 
 
  

COLUMBUS – Today, Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D–Boardman) introduced Senate Joint Resolution 4 (SJR 4), a bipartisan resolution to address water quality issues and create jobs throughout Ohio. The resolution would permit the state to issue bonds for sewer and water capital improvements for municipal corporations, counties, townships and other governmental entities. The resolution is identical to Senator Schiavoni’s widely supported Senate Joint Resolution 3, which received hearings – but no vote – in the 131st General Assembly.

If Ohio voters approve this resolution, the General Assembly would be able to authorize up to $100 million per fiscal year over a 10-year period for sewer and water capital improvements, for a total investment of $1 billion.

This plan would not raise taxes.

“Ohio’s underground infrastructure is deteriorating rapidly,” said Leader Schiavoni. “Current funding sources cannot keep up with the rising costs of critical infrastructure maintenance and upgrades. This resolution would help our communities make these much needed improvements.”

Ohio business and community leaders expressed support for the senator’s bill.

John McNally, Mayor of the City of Youngstown:

“Sewer and water capital improvement assistance is needed all over the State of Ohio, especially in a city like Youngstown. Faced with over 750 miles of water lines to constantly maintain and a $148 million EPA consent decree, Youngstown must also deal with federal and state loan/grant programs that are not responsive to the needs of our citizens. Additional capital funding contained within the limitations of the State’s constitutional debt cap will provide funding needed by our urban areas to deal with the laudable health goals contained within federal clean water laws.”

Tim Burga, President of the Ohio AFL-CIO:

“Measures like SJR 4 will employ thousands of skilled workers while making desperately needed investment in our infrastructure. Putting Ohio’s tradesmen and women to work in order to rebuild the state’s water and sewer infrastructure will have a tremendous, positive impact on our local economies. We stand together with Senator Schiavoni in creating new jobs and protecting our communities affected by crumbling infrastructure.” 

Senate Joint Resolution 4 has bipartisan co-sponsors. It has received positive feedback from groups and organizations concerned about protecting our drinking water and Ohio’s lakes and streams. The resolution also has the support of U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown.

Senator Schiavoni is currently drafting legislation to complement SJR 4 that will address green infrastructure needs. 

Watch the senator discuss this legislation here.

 
 
  

Columbus –Today in the Senate Ways and Means Committee, Senator Edna Brown (D-Toledo) testified for Senate Bill 65, which would create a sales tax holiday in Ohio for qualifying Energy Star products on the first Friday through Sunday in April.
 
“Energy Star is a voluntary program that promotes energy-efficient products,” said Senator Brown. “The goal of the program is to reduce energy consumption, improve energy security, and reduce pollution through products that meet the highest energy-efficiency standards.”
 
Some of the products covered include air conditioning units, furnaces, heat pumps, water heaters, refrigerators, freezers, air purifiers, and dehumidifiers.
 
“Creating this sales-tax holiday and encouraging the increased purchase of Energy Star products is beneficial to both Ohio’s consumers and businesses,” Senator Brown added. “This bill champions the idea of boosting commercial activity while also producing significant savings for buyers.”
 
Currently, the states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia have similar tax holidays for Energy Star products.

 
 
  
 
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.”

 
 
  
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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: