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Staff Reports



Left-to-right: Denise Martin, Betty Montgomery and Jo-Ann Davidson


LOCAL WOMAN GRADUATES FROM THE JO ANN DAVIDSON OHIO LEADERSHIP INSTITUTE

Betty D. Montgomery, Chair of the Board for The Jo Ann Davidson Ohio Leadership Institute, announced that Denise Martin of Delaware graduated from the Institute at a recent ceremony that took place in Washington, D.C.

“These outstanding women leaders are dedicated to applying their experience and skills to community and public service,” Montgomery said. “It is inspiring to watch their growth and commitment to a better future for our state and our communities.”

Former Ohio House Speaker Jo Ann Davidson, who founded the leadership program, indicated that “The Institute’s eight-month leadership training provides professional training for women aspiring to become leaders in public and community service. Extensive studies are offered in local, state and federal governments, as well as public policy, public speaking, politics and the organization of political parties.”

The final week of training took place in Washington, D.C. where national and congressional leaders addressed the Institute.

Since its first class in 2001, 336 Ohio women from over 60 counties have completed the leadership course. In the fall, the Institute will begin its 18th class.

Applications for the class are available online by going to www.jadleadershipinstitute.com.

The application deadline is June 15.

Groups Ask Disciplinary Counsel to Investigate Justice Sharon Kennedy

COLUMBUS – Organizations representing women, doctors and consumers today asked the Office of Disciplinary Counsel to investigate Ohio Supreme Court Justice Sharon Kennedy. The request centers on Kennedy’s decision to speak at a fundraiser for Greater Toledo Right to Life as the state’s high court prepares to hear a case that could close Toledo’s last abortion clinic.

“The executive and legislative branches in Ohio have passed a series of laws that compromise women’s health,” said Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio. “The judicial branch must be beyond reproach.”

The complaint calls Justice Kennedy’s speech “a clear violation of the Ohio Code of Judicial Conduct’s call to ‘avoid the appearance of impropriety’ and ‘act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.’”

Justice Kennedy has a well-established relationship with Right to Life, which successfully lobbied to close nearly half of Ohio’s abortion clinics and add 18 new abortion restrictions to Ohio law – including one facing a challenge before the very court on which Justice Kennedy sits. She has been endorsed by Ohio Right To Life and some of its affiliates, and in a questionnaire she filled out for Cincinnati Right to Life, Justice Kennedy agreed with this statement: “an unborn child is biologically human at every stage of his or her biological development, beginning at fertilization….”

She has refused requests to recuse herself from the case.

“Women in northwest Ohio must have access to the complete range of health care, and that includes abortion services,’’ said Janet Ritter, Co-Founder of the Fulton County Indivisible Alliance and Northwest Ohio Indivisible Coalition. “We cannot return to the days where access depended on where a woman lived or her ability to travel long distances for a safe and legal abortion.”

The Guttmacher Institute lists Ohio among 22 states that are “extremely hostile to abortion.’’

The law before the Ohio Supreme Court centers on a requirement that clinics have an emergency transfer agreement with a “local” hospital.

“The reason major medical groups oppose these restrictions is because they can hurt women’s health,’’ said Dr. Catherine Romanos, a family doctor from Columbus. “There is no medical basis to require abortion providers to have local hospital admitting privileges. Emergency room physicians already provide appropriate treatment to all patients with urgent medical needs, including those rare cases of abortion-related complications. There also is no medically sound reason for Ohio to impose more stringent requirements on abortion facilities than on other medical facilities that perform procedures with similar, or even greater, risks.”

After Toledo-area hospitals refused to enter into an agreement with the clinic, it reached an agreement with the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor. The state’s health director, however, determined that a hospital 52 miles away is not “local,” even though that term was not defined in state law. State legislators have since passed, and Gov. John Kasich has signed, a law defining “local” as being within 30 miles.

Last summer, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down somewhat similar requirements enacted in Texas, but the ruling has not dissuaded states from trying new restrictions.

In just the first three months of this year, legislators have introduced 431 bills to restrict access to abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

ProgressOhio organized the complaint. It was signed by 51 individuals and the following organizations: Ohio National Organization for Women, NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, Physicians Action Network, Women’s March Ohio, Fulton County Indivisible Alliance and Northwest Ohio Indivisible Coalition, Equality Ohio, New Voices for Reproductive Justice, Women Have Options, Democratic Voices of Ohio, Ohio Voter Rights Coalition, Cleveland Stonewall Democrats, Indivisible Columbus District 3, Cuyahoga County Progressive Caucus and Medical Students for Choice at Ohio University.

NARSOL issues denunciation

Washington, D.C.— The National Association for Rational Sexual Offense Laws (NARSOL) strongly denounces the Department of Justice’s directive to reverse the Smart on Crime initiative introduced by the previous administration.

NARSOL condemns United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ order to federal prosecutors directing that they seek maximum sentences. The length of sentence imposed at the end of a prosecution is the direct result of which charges are initially filed and the enhancements sought by the government. NARSOL views this policy reversal as misguided and financially irresponsible as it will undoubtedly lead to longer periods of incarceration for everyone convicted of federal offenses. The Sessions’ policy is a drastic shift from the orders given by former Attorney General Holder in 2013 when he directed federal prosecutors to reserve the harshest charges for violent criminals and the leaders of drug cartels and urged more leniency to non-violent offenders.

NARSOL fears this order will only exacerbate what is already a serious problem of excessive sentences for those convicted of these crimes, which are primarily possession or distribution of child pornography. Because of this new order, the already harsh penalties will become more extreme and greater than the penalties for hand-on, violent offenses. Sometimes the sentences imposed for possession of child pornography exceed the natural lifespan of the person. More than 15,000 inmates are currently in federal custody serving time for these sexually related offenses.

Although the Smart on Crime initiative was not specifically tailored to reduce the excessive sentences imposed for sexual offenses, it was a significant step in the right direction, which has now, by virtue of Sessions’ order, come to an abrupt halt.

NARSOL notes that the federal prison population has declined significantly in recent years from a high of 219,298 in FY 2013 to the current total of 188,797. The decrease in the number of federal prisoners was produced by several policy changes orchestrated by the U.S. Sentencing Commission and through the now-rescinded DOJ Smart on Crime directive. NARSOL views this current action as a tragic step backwards and calls on Congress to undo Sessions’ order and continue the Smart on Crime initiative.

Ohio Senator and Decorated Veteran Frank LaRose Announces Campaign for Secretary of State

COLUMBUS – Ohio Senator Frank LaRose officially declared his candidacy for Ohio Secretary of State. LaRose is a two-term state senator from northeast Ohio and decorated combat veteran who served in the U.S. Army Special Forces. His candidacy was announced through a video posted on FrankLaRose.com and sent to supporters.

“I am running for Secretary of State because of my great respect for the power of free elections. Because of this, I have an unwavering commitment to protect the integrity of our elections and defend Ohioans access to this fundamental right,” said LaRose. “I believe our elected leaders must aspire to civility, find common ground and work together while still upholding their deeply held briefs. As a principled conservative, I have endeavored to work with my colleagues on opposing sides of an issue while holding true to my core beliefs.

As Secretary of State, I will work to foster cooperation and inspire confidence in Ohio’s election system and those who administer it.”

As a Senator, LaRose has authored laws that protect the integrity of the ballot box, modernize voter registration and prevent voter fraud. His successful legislative initiatives include Ohio’s new online voter registration system and state funding for electronic poll books. LaRose has also authored legislation to reform Ohio’s redistricting process.

In addition, LaRose has sponsored legislation eliminating antiquated business regulations and streamlining the interactions between state government and small business owners.

During the Iraq War, LaRose earned the Bronze Star for his service as a Green Beret in the U.S. Army Special Forces. As a Green Beret and also as a member of the 101st Airborne Division, he defended American interests in several troubled areas including Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo and on the southern U.S. border.

“In Iraq and Kosovo, I had the privilege of witnessing dedicated men and women taking great risks to exercise their right to vote,” said LaRose. “I witnessed first hand their sacrifices in order to vote and have a voice in their government’s future for the first time in history.

As Ohio Secretary of State, those experiences will continue to inspire me as I work to administrator fair, free and open elections.”

In advance of his candidacy for Secretary of State, LaRose has shadowed board of elections directors in multiple counties to learn more about their Election Day responsibilities. In recent months, he has visited with local Republican leaders in 80 of Ohio’s 88 counties and attended 38 local Republican Party events, such as Lincoln Day Dinners.

LaRose is a graduate of The Ohio State University. He lives in Hudson with his wife Lauren and their three young children.

LaRose key legislative initiatives include:

• Sponsored legislation that created Ohio’s first online voter registration system, enhancing access while combating fraud;

• Successfully pushed for state funding of electronic poll books;

• Championed legislation to reform Ohio’s legislative and congressional redistricting processes;

• Sponsored legislation enhancing transparency by requiring electronic filing of campaign finance reports by local candidates;

• Sponsored legislation to fund the replacement of aging voting equipment;

• Sponsored cost-savings elections legislation that would eliminate primary elections when only one candidate appears on a partisan ballot;

• Sponsored legislation eliminating antiquated small business regulations and streamlining communication between state government and small business owners; and

• Co-sponsored legislation that reduced filing fees for new business registrations at the Ohio Secretary of State’s office.

LaRose career highlights include:

• Currently serving his second term in the Ohio Senate representing citizens in Stark, Summit and Wayne counties;

• Awarded the Bronze Star for his service as a Green Beret in Iraq; and

• A 10-year U.S. Army veteran, serving in the 101st Airborne Division and the U.S. Special Forces, achieving the rank of Sergeant First Class.

LaRose is a former member of the U.S. Army. Use of his military rank, job titles, and photographs in uniform does not imply the endorsement of the Department of the Army or the Department of Defense.

BROWN JOINED OHIO POLICE CHIEFS TO COMMEMORATE NATIONAL POLICE WEEK

Senator Outlines His Bipartisan Legislation to Support Law Enforcement, Families, Including Three Bills Passed Unanimously by Senate

WASHINGTON, D.C. –U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) joined Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl and Youngstown Police Chief Robin Lees to mark National Police Week and to outline bipartisan legislation in support of law enforcement officials and their families as they work to keep Ohio communities safe. Yesterday, the Senate unanimously passed three bills that Brown cosponsored. The bills now await action by the House.

“As we honor the work and sacrifices made by our law enforcement officers throughout Police Week, we need to offer more than kind words – we need action to support law enforcement as they work to keep Ohio communities safe,” said Brown. “Our law enforcement officers put their lives on the line each day to protect us. This Police Week, we owe them more than gratitude – we must do all we can to support the men and women that selflessly serve our communities and country every single day.”

Brown’s bills would:

1. Put pressure on the Department of Justice to speed up claims processing so families of disabled officers or fallen officers get the benefits they are owed more quickly.

The Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Act of 2017 was passed unanimously by the Senate yesterday. The bill would update legislation signed into law in 1976 that provides federal benefits to the family members of fallen officers. The bill would work to clear the backlog in the benefits process and would require the Department of Justice (DOJ) to post weekly status updates for the total number of pending claims on its website and report statistics related to those claims to Congress twice a year.

The legislation was introduced by U.S. Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) and is also cosponsored by Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and Chris Coons (D-DE).

2. Authorize police departments to use certain federal grant funding to hire veterans as law enforcement officers.

The American Law Enforcement Heroes Act of 2017 was also passed unanimously by the Senate yesterday. Brown’s bill prioritizes federal grant applications for DOJ’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) funding for those departments and agencies that seek to use COPS funding to hire veterans.

The legislation was introduced by U.S. Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and is also cosponsored by Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Dean Heller (R-NV), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Chris Coons (D-DE), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), and Todd Young (R-IN).

3. Help law enforcement agencies establish or enhance mental health care services, like peer mentoring pilot programs and crisis hotlines, for their officers.

The Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act would direct the Department of Justice to conduct studies of mental health practices and services for officers and make grant funding available for law enforcement agencies to develop or improve existing mental health services for officers, including crisis hotlines and annual health checks. The Senate passed the Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act unanimously passed the Senate yesterday.

The legislation was introduced by U.S. Sens. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) and Todd Young (R-IN) and is cosponsored by Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Roy Blunt (R-MO), and Chris Coons (D-DE).

4. Increase access to federal scholarship dollars for the children of public safety officers killed in the line of duty.

The Children of Fallen Heroes Scholarship Act would increase access to Pell Grant scholarships for children of public service officers who are killed in the line of duty, including police, firefighters, and EMS workers. With this bill, if the child of the fallen public service officer qualifies for a Pell Grant, they would be eligible for the maximum award authorized by law.

The legislation was introduced by U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) and is also cosponsored by Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Pat Toomey (R-PA).

The bill has been introduced and has been assigned to the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.

Brown also highlighted his work in calling for full funding of the Bulletproof Vest Partnership, a program through DOJ’s Office of Justice Programs to provide funding for local and state law enforcement to acquire bulletproof vests for officers. The Ohio Fraternal Order of Police, Buckeye State Sheriffs’ Association, National Fraternal Order of Police, National Sheriffs’ Association, National Tactical Officers Association, National Association of Police Organizations, Major Cities Chief’s Association, Major County Sheriffs’ Association, Sergeants’ Benevolent Association, and the National Narcotics Officers’ Association have voiced support for Brown’s effort.

Today, Brown also wrote to DOJ urging the agency to speed up the distribution of federal funding for the Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Grant Program, which provides funding to police departments to train first-responders as they deal with opioid related incidents, and to purchase resources and devices to use in the field to protect themselves against these deadly drugs. The grant program was created as part of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), which Brown supported.

Last month, Brown also worked with his colleagues Sens. Ed Markey (D-MA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) to introduce bipartisan legislation to help U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) keep the deadly synthetic opioid, fentanyl, out of the country. Brown’s bill, the INTERDICT Act, would provide CBP with additional high-tech screening equipment and lab resources to detect fentanyl before it enters the U.S. According to a report from the Ohio Department of Health, fentanyl-related overdose deaths in Ohio more than doubled from 503 in 2014 to 1,155 in 2015. Several state and national law enforcement organizations have endorsed Brown’s bill.

Brown was joined on the call by Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl and Youngstown Police Chief Robin Lees.

“I applaud the action of the United States Senate in taking prompt action on key legislation to support law enforcement personnel and their families. With the increasing complexity of the law enforcement and public safety environment, including its increased lethality in recent years, it is even more vital that the safety and health needs of law enforcement personnel are optimally met. Even more so, in those instances where law enforcement officers are disabled or killed in the performance of their duties, from which critical needs arise both immediately and long-term, it is paramount that federal benefits to surviving family members are provided expeditiously,” said Chief Biehl.

National Police Week honors law enforcement officers and their families and serves as a remembrance of officers who have died in the line of duty. The commemoration of National Police Week began in 1962 under a proclamation signed by President John F. Kennedy.

VoteVets PAC Endorses Connie Pillich for Governor

“Connie brings the same kind dedication to the Buckeye State that she brought to the military. She’ll make Ohio proud.”

COLUMBUS, OH – The largest progressive group of veterans in America, VoteVets PAC, is endorsing Connie Pillich for governor.

“We are huge fans of Connie’s, and all of Ohio will soon find out why,” said Jon Soltz, Iraq War Veteran and Chairman of VoteVets PAC. “Connie’s life has been about service. In the Air Force, in Berlin, and in support of Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm, she dedicated her life to serving America in uniform. Back home, she’s dedicated her life to public service to Ohio, as a public defender, and a public servant. In short, Connie brings the same kind dedication to the Buckeye State that she brought to the military She’ll make Ohio proud.”

Founded in 2006, the mission of VoteVets.org Political Action Committee is to elect Veterans to public office, with a focus on Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, and hold public officials accountable for their words and actions that impact America’s 21st century troops and veterans. Though VoteVets.org PAC is non-partisan, candidates it backs must support VoteVets.org’s core mission and beliefs.

Bill Cosponsored by Senator Brown Would Help End Draconian Collection Tactics

WASHINGTON – Americans aged 65 and older are increasingly vulnerable to having their Social Security benefits seized by the federal government to repay defaulted student loans, threatening their well-being, according to a new report by the National Consumer Law Center, Pushed into Poverty: How Student Loan Collections Threaten the Financial Security of Older Americans, documents that this collection method is needlessly pushing older borrowers into poverty, as noted in several desperate older borrowers’ stories, and calls on Congress to eliminate the practice.

“The federal government’s seizure of Social Security benefits is causing many older Americans great harm, as they forgo prescription medications or necessary medical care,” said Persis Yu, author of the report and director of the National Consumer Law Center’s Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project. “And older borrowers of color are at greater risk than white borrowers due to higher dependency on Social Security as their only source of income. Congress must act to protect vulnerable older student loan borrowers and end Social Security offsets.”

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the number of consumers aged 60 and older with student loan debt has quadrupled over the last decade. And last year, data from a U.S. General Accountability Office report showed that nearly 40 percent of federal student loan borrowers age 65 and older are in default. Older borrowers who carry student debt later into their lives often struggle to repay or have defaulted on their loans, making these borrowers vulnerable to the government’s draconian collection tactics and leaving them struggling to afford basic living needs.

In particular, the federal government has the power to seize a portion of a borrower’s Social Security benefits to repay sometimes decades old student loans. Although there are rules designed to protect a portion of the recipient’s benefits, the dollar amount protected is grossly insufficient ($750 a month or just $9,000 per year) and has not changed since 1996, more than 20 years ago.

Senators Sherrod Brown (Ohio) and Ron Wyden (Ore.), along with ten other Senators, recently introduced Senate Bill S. 959, the Protection of Social Security Benefits Restoration Act. This bill would prohibit the government from garnishing borrowers’ Social Security disability and retirement checks to pay for defaulted student loans. “We applaud Senators Wyden and Brown’s leadership on protecting older student loan borrowers. The borrowers we hear from who are struggling to repay their loans feel like there is no end in sight,” said Yu. “Hopefully, older borrowers will soon see a light at the end of this dark tunnel.”

Since 1969, the nonprofit National Consumer Law Center® (NCLC®) has used its expertise in consumer law and energy policy to work for consumer justice and economic security for low-income and other disadvantaged people, including older adults, in the United States. NCLC’s expertise includes policy analysis and advocacy; consumer law and energy publications; litigation; expert witness services, and training and advice for advocates. NCLC works with nonprofit and legal services organizations, private attorneys, policymakers, and federal and state government and courts across the nation to stop exploitative practices, help financially stressed families build and retain wealth, and advance economic fairness. www.nclc.org

Today in the Ohio Senate

Senate Passes Legislation Helping Victims of Human Trafficking Reclaim Their Lives

COLUMBUS—Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) announced the passage of legislation that provides common sense criminal justice reforms giving victims of human trafficking an opportunity to rebuild their lives.

Senate Bill 4, co-sponsored by Obhof, offers hope to human trafficking victims who are often forced to commit crimes while being victimized. Arrests stemming from coerced behavior, such as prostitution or drug use, can negatively impact the victim’s ability to apply for a job or seek permanent housing. This legislation would allow for expungement from the victim’s criminal record of certain offenses committed under duress. Additionally, the bill would permit victims of compelled prostitution to apply for intervention in lieu of conviction.

“Sadly, human trafficking is a growing criminal enterprise,” said Obhof. “As we continue our efforts to stomp out this form of modern-day slavery, we remain committed to helping victims rebuild their lives and ensuring that our civil justice system treats them fairly.”

Senate Bill 4 now goes to the House of Representatives for further consideration. Today’s legislation complements a series of bills passed over the last several years focused on combating human trafficking by increasing protections for victims as well as strengthening punishments for offenders. For more information on Ohio’s human trafficking laws and resources, visit www.humantrafficking.ohio.gov.

Investing in Safer Schools

The Senate also passed legislation today providing Ohio’s school districts a new, alternative option for accessing state support for facility needs like technology infrastructure, safety features or additional classroom space for a growing student population. Senate Bill 8, also co-sponsored by Obhof, creates a new 1:1 match option for schools that have not yet received state support or entered into an agreement with the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission. Since 1997, Ohio has dedicated more than $11.5 billion in state aid to update and improve school facilities across the state.

Commemorating the Holocaust

President Obhof today joined Governor Kasich, Speaker Rosenberger and members of the Ohio Jewish Communities at the Statehouse for the 37th Annual Governor’s Holocaust Commemoration.

Obhof said, “While we reflect on one of humanity’s darkest times, may God grant each of us the courage to stand up in protest when we are confronted with evil and hate.”

Statement from Ryan J. Smith, Executive Director of The Education Trust–West, on the 63rd Anniversary of the Brown v. Board Decision

Today we rightly celebrate the milestone Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision issued on May 17th, 1954 striking down school segregation. Yet today also marks another anniversary – the annual issuing of statements reminding us that, decades later, we still have not closed the gaps in access and opportunity that segregate our students and limit their ability to learn. When asked about William Faulkner’s essay urging the nation to “go slow” on integration, Brown v. Board attorney and future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall pointed out “They don’t mean go slow. They mean don’t go.”

In education, we are quick to celebrate successes, and we should – the educators who’ve dedicated their lives to this work and the students who’ve excelled deserve nothing less. But we are also quick to use time to defend the gradual pace of progress. It is indefensible that more than half a century after Brown v. Board, we continue to subjugate our Black and Brown students to schools that are more segregated than not. While we’ve taken the “for colored only” signs off the school entryways our Black and Brown students use, we still promote policies that de facto discriminate against these students daily. We must do better.

Nationally, we are at a crossroads as we consider the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act, the education civil rights law signed by President Obama. In California, we can choose the path of gradualism, or we can choose to live up to our professed values and do everything possible to eradicate the educational injustices that students face each and every day. If a group of parents in Topeka, Kansas had the strength and courage to do whatever it took to make schools better for their children in the face of fire hoses and police dogs, surely those of us currently working in education can pick up the pace.

Statement online: https://west.edtrust.org/press_release/63rd-anniversary-of-the-brown-v-board-decision/

GOP packs workers’ comp budget with attacks on workers

Firefighters see new barrier to care, workers pick up tab for reckless corporations, worker benefits cut

COLUMBUS— House Democratic lawmakers voted “no” on the Republican-led charge to restrict workers’ access to healthcare and benefits through the state’s Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) budget bill, House Bill 27. The bill passed the House Insurance Committee and the House Finance Committee on a party-line vote.

“I find it unconscionable that some lawmakers want to play politics with the workers’ compensation system that provides critical support and protection to Ohio workers seriously injured on the job. Creating barriers to care for our first responders and closing the door early on workers seeking treatment for workplace injuries puts the health and economic stability of our workers on the line,” said House Democratic Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton). “Republicans say they support first responders but this bill disrespects the brave men and women who run into burning buildings while everyone else runs away.”

Republican lawmakers undertook a significant rewrite of what is typically a noncontroversial budget bill to include benefit restrictions on firefighters with cancer, a loophole for big corporations who hire undocumented workers, and a legal nod to the state’s largest failing online charter school and GOP campaign fundraiser, ECOT.

“Instead of focusing on strengthening our state workers’ compensation system, Republican lawmakers instead pushed through a bill that makes it harder for first responders to access critical care and cuts in half the window for injured workers to seek the assistance they have earned,” said Rep. Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron). “This legislation is a massive disservice to hardworking Ohioans because it will leave more workers facing medical hardships and financial ruin should they suffer a workplace injury.”

New restrictions also cut the amount of time workers currently have to file a claim in half, something Democrats say could economically destabilizes thousands of Ohio families.

Though Democratic lawmakers were able to push Republican lawmakers in committee to remove greater restrictions on benefit coverage for firefighters with cancer and their families, majority party lawmakers maintained barriers to coverage for firefighters by requiring firefighters and their families to prove their specific type of cancer does not stem from causes other than exposure to toxic fumes, carcinogens and hazardous chemicals.

“We have a responsibility as Americans to support our everyday heroes and protect those who protect us,” said Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire). “Creating more hoops for injured or sick firefighters to jump through in order to get the care they need is not the support our selfless first responders deserve.”

The new restrictions on BWC coverage for firefighters with cancer weakens the legislature’s bipartisan “Michael Louis Palumbo Jr. Act,” legislation signed into law in January that ensures benefit coverage for firefighters who develop cancer in the line of duty.

Democratic lawmakers offered amendments to preserve the Palumbo Act, extend post-traumatic stress disorder coverage to first responders, remove the ECOT language, and hold corporations that hire undocumented workers accountable. All were defeated along party lines.

Here is what other Democratic lawmakers are saying about House Bill 27:

“Firefighters throughout Ohio stand up for all of us every day – we need to stand up for them,” said Rep. David Leland (D-Columbus).

“Workers’ compensation benefits are earned benefits that help hardworking Ohioans in times of medical and financial hardships brought on by participation in our workforce. It is unconscionable that the same week BWC announces a $1 billion rebate to employers, the Legislature would restrict sick and injured employees from accessing the care they’ve earned,” said State Rep. Brigid Kelly (D-Cincinnati). “Less than two months after its effective date, GOP leaders are already retreating from the bipartisan effort to increase BWC coverage for firefighters. The men and women risking their lives day in and day out to protect and serve our communities deserve the compassion and dignity of giving the Michael Louis Palumbo Jr. Act a chance to serve our firefighters and their families.”

All of Ohio’s Public Universities Extend Priority Registration to Veterans

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee is considering U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown’s (D-OH) bipartisan bill to give veterans, service members and dependents using GI education benefits priority enrollment. The bill, which Brown reintroduced in April, would help ensure that those using GI benefits can get into the classes they need to complete their degree in time. All of Ohio’s public colleges and universities currently extend priority registration to veterans when signing up for classes. The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee reviewed the legislation during a hearing today.

“At many colleges, general education requirements and prerequisite courses often fill up quickly, and it can take several semesters to secure a place in the most in-demand classes. But waiting for a spot in a required course is a luxury many veterans don’t have,” said Brown. “All of our colleges and universities need to follow Ohio’s lead. If student athletes have priority registration, we can surely extend that privilege to those who have served our nation.”

The Veterans Priority Enrollment Act of 2017, cosponsored by Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), would extend priority enrollment for college courses to veterans, servicemembers and eligible dependents who are utilizing GI education benefits. Expanding priority enrollment would allow servicemembers and veterans to plan their semesters so that they can finish their degrees before their benefits expire. Brown introduced the bill in April and at the time was joined by Youngstown State University (YSU) President Jim Tressel on a news conference call to highlight YSU’s leadership in extending priority enrollment to veterans.

Brown’s bill would expand this practice nationwide and would also include private schools with existing priority registration programs. The bill would not require colleges or universities to change their existing priority enrollment systems. The legislation is supported by Military Officers Association of America, Disabled Veterans of America, Student Veterans of America, the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Association of the United States Navy.

Bill Would Lift Cap on Beds Covered by Medicaid at Residential Treatment Facilities

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) introduced bipartisan legislation to help more Ohioans get needed treatment for opioid addiction. Current law limits use of Medicaid funding for residential mental health or substance abuse treatment to facilities with just 16 beds or less, which prevents many Ohioans from getting the help they need. The Senators’ bill would lift this outdated cap so more Ohioans can access services at these inpatient facilities.

“Red tape shouldn’t keep Ohioans from needed treatment and this simple fix will provide real relief to those struggling with addiction,” said Brown. “Ohioans on the frontlines of the opioid epidemic tell me lack of beds at these facilities is the number-one barrier to getting folks on the path to recovery. Medicaid expansion has already helped hundreds of thousands in Ohio receive treatment, and we need to build off that success to make sure all treatment options are on the table for all Ohioans, regardless of their insurance.”

“We have a heroin and prescription drug crisis in our state and this bipartisan bill would remove an unnecessary barrier that is limiting access to residential treatment in Ohio,” said Portman. “This measure will build on the work of CARA and CURES to expand options for Ohioans seeking substance abuse treatment by allowing residential facilities to treat more than 16 people under Medicaid. This is a necessary change and I’m urging the full Senate to act on this issue as quickly as possible.”

The Medicaid CARE Act would modify current law to allow Medicaid coverage for up to 40 beds at accredited residential addiction treatment facilities for up to 60 consecutive days. Medicaid covers 50 percent of all addiction treatment in Ohio, so lifting this cap is critical to ensuring that Ohioans on Medicaid get care.

The legislation also establishes a new $50 million youth inpatient addiction treatment grant program to fund facilities that provide substance use disorder treatment services to underserved, at-risk Medicaid beneficiaries who are younger than age 21, with an emphasis on rural communities. In addition, the bill would increase flexibility for pregnant and postpartum women who are seeking treatment, and would allow them to access the services they need to ensure positive birth outcomes. This legislation builds off a letter that Brown and Portman sent in August 2016 to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) pushing for greater flexibility to expand access to treatment.

BROWN APPLAUDS APPOINTMENT OF SPECIAL COUNSEL FOR RUSSIA INVESTIGATION

Senator Says Independent Investigation Long Overdue, Need to Get to the Bottom of This, Move on to Creating Jobs

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) welcomed news that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller to serve as a special counsel to lead the Department’s investigation into Russian meddling in the election. Brown has long called for an independent investigation to look into Russian meddling in the election. Brown reiterated that call after the President fired FBI Director James Comey.

“An independent investigation is long overdue. The investigation needs to be done right and it needs to be done swiftly, so the American people can get the answers they deserve, and we can move on with the business of creating jobs, renegotiating NAFTA, and investing in our infrastructure.”

Senator Recently Offered Four-Point Plan for NAFTA Renegotiation

WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Donald Trump formally notified Congress of his intent to begin NAFTA renegotiation and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) said he is ready to work with the Trump Administration to renegotiate NAFTA. This month, Brown sent Trump a four-point plan for securing the best deal for American workers in renegotiating NAFTA.

“Today we are one step closer to providing long overdue relief for Ohioans hurt by NAFTA,” said Brown. “I’ve been clear about what NAFTA renegotiation should look like and remain ready to help cut the best deal for American workers. We’ve heard a lot of promises from this Administration on trade and the President needs to follow through. As with every trade deal, I’ll hold this Administration’s approach to NAFTA to the same standard I’ve always used: does it put Ohio workers first?”

Brown held a series of roundtables with Ohio workers in recent weeks to get their input on what the priorities should be for a renegotiated NAFTA. The plan builds on Brown’s efforts to work with President Trump to fulfill the President’s campaign promises on trade.

Immediately after President Trump’s election, Brown reached out to his transition team to offer his help on retooling U.S. trade policy. Brown wrote to Trump in November offering specific steps to work together on trade and Trump responded with a handwritten note. Since then, Brown has spoken with the President about Buy American and has had multiple conversations with top White House trade advisers, including Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

Brown opposed NAFTA when it was first passed. He now sits on the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over trade agreements.

NAFTA RENEGOTIATION

Brown’s Four-Point Plan for Securing the Best Deal for American Workers

1. SECURE ANTI-OUTSOURCING AND BUY AMERICA PROVISIONS UP FRONT

We know what causes outsourcing: low wages, exploited workers and weak, or non-existent, environmental protections in other countries that encourage companies to relocate where it’s cheaper to do business. This has created a race to the bottom that hurts all workers, brings down wages and jeopardizes clean air and water. So, Brown’s plan calls on the Administration to secure commitments from Mexico and Canada to enforce strict worker and environmental protections before even sitting down at the negotiating table.

In the past, U.S. trade negotiators have used up their leverage without securing strong enough standards to protect American jobs. By securing strong anti-outsourcing provisions up front, Brown’s plan ensures American jobs aren’t up for negotiation.

In addition to tough worker and environmental protections, Brown’s plan insists that Mexico and Canada agree up front that Buy America standards will not be weakened in negotiations.

2. DON’T PIT AMERICAN WORKERS AND INDUSTRIES AGAINST EACH OTHER IN THE NEGOTIATIONS

Too often, U.S. trade negotiators have pitted American workers and industries against each other as bargaining chips in the negotiation. For example, auto industry priorities get weighed against the needs of farmers. American workers shouldn’t be horse-traded simply for the sake of cutting a deal. A renegotiated NAFTA must be a good deal for all workers.

So, Brown’s plan calls on the White House to develop individualized negotiation strategies for manufacturing sectors that have been hurt by outsourcing. Identifying sectors that are susceptible to outsourcing and developing plans to address their unique needs and vulnerabilities in advance will ensure American workers and industries aren’t sacrificed during negotiations.

3. BUILD ENFORCEMENT TOOLS THAT FAVOR AMERICAN WORKERS, NOT FOREIGN CORPORATIONS, WHEN THE DEAL IS VIOLATED

Even good trade deals don’t mean anything if they aren’t enforced. For too long, U.S. free trade agreements have included ineffective procedures for workers to challenge violations and super-sized procedures for corporations. Investor-state dispute settlement provisions have created private, C-suite courts that allow foreign corporations to undermine U.S. laws and take advantage of American workers, while workers wait years for trade violations to be addressed – if they are addressed at all.

Brown’s plan would do away with special courts for corporations and create a better process for workers to get remedies if Mexico and Canada violate the agreement.

4. INCLUDE WORKERS IN THE NEGOTIATIONS

Time after time, we’ve seen corporate lobbyists writing trade deals behind closed doors, while American workers are locked out.

Brown’s plan calls on the White House to make U.S. proposals public before and after each negotiating round and give workers, consumers and public interest advocates equal representation with corporations on Trade Advisory Committees that wield special influence in negotiations.

Stand Up With AT&T Workers

ORIGINAL EMAIL FROM AT&T WORKER CINDI CHESTERS

Brothers and sisters,

I’m going on strike on Friday ( May 19) if an agreement isn’t reached, along with 21,000 of my co-workers at AT&T. I’m a single parent of four, and there is a lot on the line for me. My kids are the reason I’m fighting so hard and why I’m ready to do whatever I have to do to make sure they have a good life. We hope to avoid having to strike, but we’re willing to make that sacrifice to make sure our livelihoods are secure.

Please stand with us. Click here to email AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson now and demand that he settle a union contract that protects good jobs.

I work at an AT&T retail store, but the company wants to keep closing stores and instead send work to third-party dealers where workers make super low wages and don’t have the union protections we have. Meanwhile, my co-workers at AT&T call centers worry that their jobs will be sent overseas.

CEO Stephenson made $28.4 million last year, while he cut our commissions, which meant I took home less pay than the year before. This fight is about making sure working people can make a decent living in this country. We are up against unaccountable corporations that are working us harder for less in order to pad their bottom line.

As the only income for a family of five, my budget is tight as it is, and the money I will lose being on strike isn’t something I take lightly. That’s why I’ve been preparing, saving money, stocking up on groceries and making a plan.

Please take action and send a message to the CEO that you support workers fighting for their livelihoods.

There is too much on the table for us to sit back and let the company take advantage of us anymore. We want to be treated like human beings.

We will be following in the footsteps of our brothers and sisters at Verizon who last year struck for 49 days and won big improvements for themselves and their families, and sent a message that corporate giants can be beat if working people stick together.

Thank you for your support,

Cindi Chesters

AT&T Sales Support Representative, Shelton, Connecticut

Why We Can’t Delay Tax Reform Any Longer

It has been over 30 years since Congress last rewrote the tax code. Since that time, it has tripled in size with pages and pages of special interest loopholes and rules that are unfair, complex and costly for families and businesses. Americans across the country agree that it is beyond repair.

In a Ways and Means Committee hearing, Congressman Pat Tiberi highlighted the urgent need to overhaul the tax code to create jobs and boost wages for hard-working Americans, asking “what is the cost of delaying tax reform?”

Here’s a recap of the expert witnesses’ answers:

· “Lost Wages.”

· “Underemployment.”

· “Participation rates in the workforce that are at historically low levels.”

· “A delay cannot happen… I need tax reform right now. My employees need it as well. They want to start saving and getting ready for the future.”

· “The cost of delay means lack of innovation, less new products, [and] less jobs. It is that simple.”

· “It has a real impact on people and how we hire.”

· “Delaying comprehensive tax reform has cost us billions of jobs, billions of dollars and so on.”

As Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee Kevin Brady said, “it’s time” for reform. This once-in-a-generation opportunity means more jobs, higher wages and a stronger economy for ALL Americans. They shouldn’t have to wait any longer.

That is why House Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee have put the wheels in motion to achieve pro-growth reforms that will deliver the lowest tax rates in modern history, unleash business investment and put more dollars in the pockets of middle-income families.

Left-to-right: Denise Martin, Betty Montgomery and Jo-Ann Davidson
http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2017/05/web1_Denise-Martin-Betty-Montgomery-and-Jo-Ann-Davidson.jpgLeft-to-right: Denise Martin, Betty Montgomery and Jo-Ann Davidson

Staff Reports