State Political News Briefs


Sunbury News Staff



Senator Calling for Criminal Investigation Into Stock Selling by Equifax Execs

WASHINGTON, D.C. –U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) is continuing his efforts to secure protections for Ohioans affected by the Equifax data breach that exposed 143 million Americans to identity theft.

Brown announced plans today to draft legislation that will:

Provide Equifax victims with 10 years free credit monitoring, with no strings attached,

· Protect servicemembers who may have been affected by the Equifax breach, and

· Make it easy and affordable for customers to freeze their credit reports, so criminals cannot open accounts in their name.

At Brown’s urging, Equifax removed forced arbitration clauses from its free credit monitoring and identity protection services offered to customers. Yesterday, Brown joined Senators in calling on the DOJ, SEC and FTC to investigate accusations of insider trading by Equifax executives.

“If a college student in Columbus misses a credit card payment or a family in Toledo is forced into bankruptcy because of medical debt, Equifax dings their credit report. Now Equifax has left those people vulnerable to criminals, and we have to hold Equifax accountable,” Brown said.

After news of the breach broke last week, Equifax initially included forced arbitration clauses in the terms of use agreement customers must sign in order to get free credit monitoring and identity theft services it is offering. Equifax removed the arbitration clauses over the weekend from their credit monitoring product, after Brown demanded they take action Friday.

Brown was joined on the call by Mr. Bill Durfey from Hamilton, who was affected by the breach.

“We are now in our mid-70s and are hit with the perspective of having our excellent credit data used by others who have no right to use it. Senator Brown is going to bat for us requesting, through legislation, that they cover the cost of credit monitoring for a period of 10 years,” said Mr. Durfey.

Forbes: “Reversing the coverage gains that occurred under Obamacare would increase the population of uninsured veterans from 5.8% to 9.1%.”

When it comes to transferring massive sums of American wealth to defense contractors who fund their campaigns, Republicans are no strangers to using veterans as human shields to deflect from any criticism.

But when it comes to health care, it’s clear many of those same Republicans are willing to throw veterans right under the Trump Train.

But it gets worse, the same RAND Corporation study makes it clear that passing this legislation would put a real strain on the VA hospital system, and it would do-so while the VA has 50,000 vacancies Donald Trump refuses to fill.

We’re fighting to stop this disastrous bill. But we can’t do it alone.

Chip in $3 to VoteVets today to help us elevate the voices of veterans fighting to stop Republicans from passing Trumpcare as early as next week.

Veterans have a unique voices in this fight. At a time where it’s tough to cut through the partisan clutter of the health care debate, veterans have a unique ability to accomplish that task. Your donation helps ensure they are heard

Will Fischer, Iraq War Veteran and Director of Government Relations, VoteVets

It’s looking increasingly likely that in less than one week, Republicans are going to try to vote again to repeal Obamacare and take health care away from millions of Americans.

Our job in this moment is to make sure they hear the stories of veterans and military family members who stand to lose everything if Republicans get their way. Veterans like Jim Tracey, one of Senator Jeff Flake’s constituents in Arizona who wrote to VoteVets:

“The ACA has been a lifesaver. I’ve had cancer and if it weren’t for the Affordable Care Act, I likely would be dead or deathly ill with no insurance.”

This health care bill is immoral and inhumane. It’s passage would lead to untold human suffering across the country. People will die. Well, VoteVets stands in solidarity with those who are fighting against this bill, and we bring a unique perspective to the fight. Help us be heard:

Chip in $3 to VoteVets today to help us elevate the voices of veterans in the effort to stop Republicans from successfully repealing the Affordable Care Act and denying millions of Americans the health care coverage they need.

The Republicans have 9 days left to pass this bill without needing 60 votes to get it done. That means it’s up to all of us to do everything we can for that short period of time to stop them.

Ad Encouraging Senator to Stand Up for Ohio Consumers, not Wall Street

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Allied Progress launched a digital ad buy in Ohio to encourage Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) to vote against the Congressional Republican effort to repeal the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) arbitration rule. The rule protects consumers that have been taken advantage of by big banks and other financial interests from being forced into secret arbitration tribunals where industry-stacked panels call the shots and consumers hardly stand a chance.

The digital ad campaign comes just days after one of the largest data breaches in U.S. history, and uses the ensuing scandal surrounding Equifax to illustrate the importance of the CFPB’s rule. The spot, titled “Fine Print,” will begin to run in Ohio and will call on Sen. Portman to oppose S.J. Res. 47, legislation that would repeal the CFPB’s rule on forced arbitration. It encourages viewers to visit EndForcedArbitration.org or call 1-866-776-2372 to contact Sen. Portman and urge him to oppose repeal.

“Equifax’s botched attempt to force millions of consumers into arbitration after exposing their most personal information in a devastating data breach shows exactly why the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s rule is so important. More than just putting the wellbeing of their constituents in jeopardy, if Senate Republicans are successful in their attempt to repeal the CFPB’s rule, they will encourage even more reckless behavior by the Equifax’s and Wells Fargo’s of the world,” said Karl Frisch, Executive Director of Allied Progress.

“The CFPB’s arbitration rule has broad support because it gives consumers a choice. They can stick with arbitration or band together and and go to court when they are screwed over by big banks and powerful financial corporations. We are hopeful that when Senator Portman hears from his constituents about this issue, he will do the right thing and reject efforts to repeal these important protections,” he continued.

The American Future Fund recently conducted an Ohio statewide survey that found 68 percent of respondents favor the Consumer Bureau’s arbitration rule. Forty percent of respondents view banks and credit card companies unfavorably.

Conservative support for repealing the rule may be waning — it continues to lose support among conservative groups and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has announced his opposition to repeal.

The 24 initial Senate co-sponsors the repeal effort have taken more than $100 million from the financial sector over the course of their careers, according to an analysis by Public Citizen.

To speak to Karl Frisch about the ad campaign or “Fine Print,” please contact Annette McDermott at 404-545-7558 or annette@alliedprogress.org.

Script for “Fine Print” – 30 Seconds

“It’s hidden in fine print. In loan and credit contracts. Big corporations like Equifax tried to sneak it past you. To strip away your rights, and avoid accountability. It’s called forced arbitration…and Wall Street wants Washington to make it permanent. Lobbying to overturn tough new rules. But when it comes to the fine print, he may have the final say. Senator Portman can protect Ohio consumers. His vote can end forced arbitration. Period.”

Ohio and the Arbitration Rule by the Numbers

Servicemembers and Veterans: Banks and lenders use forced arbitration clauses in loans issued to Ohio’s 32,996 active-duty servicemembers and reservists and to Ohio’s veterans. Forced arbitration blocks servicemembers’ access to the courts for violations of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act and other misconduct, including illegal repossessions of active- duty servicemembers’ vehicles.

Bank Account Holders: Wells Fargo opened up to 3.5 million fake accounts – including 1,579 in Ohio – without customers’ consent. Wells Fargo has tried since 2013 to use forced arbitration to block lawsuits, including a class action that would help those Ohioans. Wells Fargo has also repeatedly tried to use forced arbitration to avoid justice for people in 49 states – including Ohio – who were charged excess overdraft fees when their accounts were not overdrawn.

Consumers with Inaccurate Credit Reports: Thousands of Ohioans have filed complaints with the CFPB about problems with credit reporting agencies and errors in credit reports, which can increase the cost of a loan or result in a denial of credit. Ohioans falsely matched with a terrorist watch list will get about $7,337 in relief from a class action against Transunion. But Transunion and other credit bureaus have tried to use forced arbitration to block class actions.

Payday Loan Borrowers: Over 99% of storefront payday lenders use forced arbitration clauses in their loan agreements in some states. Annually, Ohioans pay $184 million in fees associated with payday loans that put Ohioans in a cycle of debt. Payday lenders like ACE Cash Express have engaged in abusive lending and illegal debt collection practices.

Prepaid Card Users: Nearly one quarter of Ohioans are unbanked or underbanked, and many rural and low-income Ohioans rely on prepaid cards to manage their money. RushCard holders, including 17,276 Ohioans, and servicemembers serving overseas, were among those harmed when cards were frozen and people could not access their money for weeks. A class action will give class members up to $500 for losses and fees they suffered. The case could have been blocked by a forced arbitration clause, found in 92% of prepaid card contracts.

Families Subject to Illegal and Abusive Debt Collection Practices: Debt collectors are #1 among Ohioans’ and servicemembers’ complaints to the CFPB. Out-of-state debt buyers, who buy consumers’ debt for pennies on the dollar, engage in abusive—and often illegal—financial practices. Debt buyers frequently use arbitration clauses to avoid lawsuits – even when they can’t provide copies of the agreements.

College Students: Ohioans are among those harmed by predatory for-profit colleges, such as Corinthian Colleges, that for years have used forced arbitration clauses to block class actions over their fraudulent conduct. Ohioan students also average $31,746 in public and private student loan debt and may be impacted by abuses by Navient (formerly Sallie Mae), the largest servicer of private student loans. Navient, which has forced borrowers into arbitration, allegedly “failed to provide the most basic functions of adequate student loan servicing at every stage of repayment.” Ohioans may also fall prey to rampant abuses by sketchy student loan debt relief companies, which also use forced arbitration clauses to take away students’ day in court.

Allied Progress uses hard-hitting research and creative campaigns to stand up to Wall Street and powerful special interests and hold their allies in Congress and the White House accountable.

Donations to Allied Progress Are Tax-Deductible to the Extent Allowed by Law

Senator Pat Toomey Endorses Josh Mandel for U.S. Senate

Momentum Continues to Coalesce as Sixth Sitting United States Senator Endorses Mandel

COLUMBUS – Josh Mandel received an endorsement from United States Senator Pat Toomey, of Pennsylvania. This is the latest of several endorsements Mandel has received from sitting U.S. Senators, including from Senators Rob Portman, Marco Rubio, Mike Lee, Tom Cotton and Ted Cruz.

“Josh Mandel is a relentless fighter in Ohio ready to join me in taking on ‘the swamp,’” said Senator Toomey. “Time and time again, Josh has fought for our shared conservative values, fighting against sanctuary cities and Common Core. Josh is uniting freedom-loving conservatives from all across Ohio in support of his campaign, and I know he has what it takes to win.”

“I’m proud to receive Senator Toomey’s endorsement,” said Mandel. “Senator Toomey is an unabashed champion for conservative principles, fighting hard for the people of Pennsylvania. Together, we will fight to bring accountability and integrity to Washington so that hard-working Americans can live a more prosperous tomorrow.”

Momentum for Mandel’s candidacy continues to build across Ohio. Just last month Mandel announced a team of Faith Leaders in all corners of Ohio in addition to his strong grassroots network of conservative activists with chairmen in each of Ohio’s 88 counties.

Last-Ditch Republican Health Care Repeal Bill, Arguably The Worst Yet, Is Only A Handful Of Votes Away From Passing

In a last-ditch effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act with only Republican votes before the September 30 deadline, Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Dean Heller (R-NV) and Ron Johnson (R-WI) unveiled their latest proposal this week. While some may look at this effort as a Hail Mary pass with little chance to succeed, headlines like this one appeared over the weekend:

Sen. Cassidy said that 48 or 49 Republican senators are on board with this bill, meaning they are only a couple of votes away from being able to pass the bill on the Senate floor.

The Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson (GCHJ) bill would radically change our health care system – getting rid of the Affordable Care Act’s tax credits and Medicaid expansion, changing them into block grants with dramatically less funding for states.

It would also convert traditional Medicaid into a per capita cap program. In short, this bill would slash coverage, raise costs, eliminate protections for millions of people across America, as well as gut Medicaid. In fact, it is potentially the worst of the repeal bills that we have seen to date.

Given Republicans will have to ram this partisan repeal bill through the Senate in the next two weeks in order to meet this September 30 deadline there will be no time for a regular process for the public to fully understand the impacts on their health care – with no time for adequate hearings, consultations with experts, constituent input and amendments.

On CBS’s Face the Nation, Senator John McCain reiterated his belief that any health care repeal needs bipartisan input and public hearings, as opposed to the secret, closed, partisan process currently driving the GCHJ health care repeal.

Ohio Governor John Kasich was quick to agree: Republicans in the Senate are resorting back to a secret, partisan process to force through health care repeal out of public view. The American people need to know the facts about how this bill will impact them.

GCHJ Cuts Funding to Most States & Punishes States that Expanded Medicaid Overall, Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson cuts spending on marketplace tax credits and Medicaid expansion and converts them into a block grant. Between 2020 and 2026, GCHJ would cut $239 billion from what was projected to be spent under current law for the tax credits and expansion. After 2026, the block grant funding is eliminated altogether. Moreover, GCHJ would convert traditional Medicaid into a per capita program and cut spending by another $175 billion from 2020 to 2026. This aspect is what makes GCHJ potentially the worst among all the partisan repeal bills.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analyzed the latest Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson proposal and found that all but twelve states would receive less federal funding. In 2026, Alaska would lose $255 million; Arizona, $1.6 billion; Louisiana, $3.2 billion; Maine, $115 million; Nevada, $639 million; Ohio, $2.5 billion; and West Virginia, $554 million, just to name a few.

NFL games across the country are set to kick off in just about thirty minutes.

Before the happens, let us make something entirely clear: VoteVets supports any and all NFL players taking a knee today. Their right to do that is precisely why many of us signed up to serve.

U.S. Chamber Tax Reform Ad Campaign Goes to Ohio

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As President Trump prepares to travel the country to make the case for tax reform, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is amplifying the president’s call to action by expanding a paid media campaign about pro-growth tax reform to Ohio, a state the President plans to visit.

The seven figure campaign, on TV and digital, continues today in Ohio after launching in New York last week. The video spots feature direct-to-camera requests and ask viewers to call specific members of Congress. Messages communicated include:

America deserves a tax system that grows our economy and creates jobs. But that requires change.

So let’s close loopholes.

Let’s lower tax rates for employers.

And help families with their cost of living.

We’ve been waiting for tax reform for long enough.

The time for reform is now.

Following an August Recess where the U.S. Chamber held more than 200 events with members of Congress, their staff, and business leaders advocating for tax reform, the business association is also launching a new website today, “Tax Reform for America,” that showcases stories from real taxpayers and allows visitors to submit their own stories and write to their members of Congress.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Senior Vice President and Chief Policy Officer Neil Bradley said: “The time for tax reform is now. The proactive engagement from the White House and positive movement in Congress all bolster our confidence that tax reform will get done. As the Chamber’s president and CEO Tom Donohue made clear in an open letter to Congress about tax reform, ‘failure is not an option.’ We need lawmakers from all sides of the political spectrum to hear from their constituents — the country has been waiting long enough for a fair tax code that encourages growth and opportunity.”

The Chamber will take the message to additional states/districts throughout the coming weeks and months.

Brown Oversaw Eight Elections as Ohio’s Secretary of State

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown today filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court challenge to Ohio’s efforts to purge voters from the state’s voter rolls. Last month, Brown blasted the U.S. Department of Justice for its reversal in the case.

“We cannot allow the state of Ohio to strip away the constitutional rights of thousands of Ohioans,” said Brown, who oversaw eight elections as Ohio’s Secretary of State. “Making it harder to vote is a direct attack on democracy, and the Court should uphold the Sixth Circuit’s decision that Ohio’s purging of voters violates the law.”

In September 2016, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit found that Ohio’s process of purging voters from the rolls violated federal law. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted appealed that decision to the Supreme Court, which is scheduled to hear the case this fall. Last month, the U.S. DOJ – without explanation – reversed its position in this case. When the case was before the Sixth Circuit, the U.S. DOJ argued that Ohio’s actions to purge registered Ohio voters violated federal now. Now, the U.S. DOJ has reversed itself and arguing against its original position.

If you have asthma, you’ll pay $4,000 more. If you have diabetes, you’ll pay $6,000 more. Pregnant? $17,000 bucks.

The new version of TrumpCare has a new name — “Graham-Cassidy” — but the devastating affects are the same.

This bill would devastate the ability of working class Americans to afford healthcare. Now, a new nonpartisan study says Graham-Cassidy would rip health insurance away from 32 million Americans.

The blowback to this proposal MUST be swift and overwhelming. Call your Senator’s office at (202) 224-3121 — then sign on to say NO to any healthcare repeal bill.

Whether they call it TrumpCare, Graham-Cassidy, “repeal and replace,” or something else — one thing remains the same: They do NOTHING to make healthcare better, more affordable, or more accessible:

• Higher Costs, Less Coverage: Graham-Cassidy forces families to pay much higher out-of-pocket healthcare costs.

• Key Protections Gutted: Graham-Cassidy guts key protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

• A Crushing Age Tax: Graham-Cassidy exposes older Americans to higher premiums, no matter how healthy they are.

• Stealing from Medicaid: Graham-Cassidy ransacks funds that seniors depend on to get the long-term care they need.

Let’s fighting this with everything we got. Call your Senator’s office at (202) 224-3121 — then sign on to say NO to Graham-Cassidy and ANY healthcare repeal bill.

Thanks for standing with us,

—Tim Ryan for Congress

P.S.: Tim was on Morning Joe on MSNBC to spread the word about how the Graham-Cassidy proposal would affect working class Americans.

Meet Tim Ryan

Tim Ryan is a relentless advocate for working families in Ohio’s 13th District known for challenging both parties to do more to rebuild the middle class. Tim believes that every hardworking Ohio family deserves a good job, a quality education for their kids, affordable healthcare, and the security of knowing they can retire with dignity.

Tim was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2002 and was sworn in on January 7, 2003. Successfully reelected seven times, he is currently running for an eighth term.

AARP SAYS GRAHAM-CASSIDY WOULD DEVASTATE SENIORS

Ohio Seniors Could Face an Increase of $13,563

Columbus, Ohio – A new report released by AARP shows just how devastating the latest health care repeal plan would be for seniors in Ohio. According to the advocacy organization, premiums and out-of-pocket costs would increase significantly, and older adults could face an unaffordable “age tax.”

Graham-Cassidy “threatens to make health care unaffordable and inaccessible for millions of older Americans. The bill eliminates two sources of financial assistance – premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions – critical to ensuring that low-to-moderate income older adults are able to afford the coverage they need,” according to the AARP.

The bill would also allow states to charge older adults in the Marketplace significantly higher premiums on the basis of their age by waiving federal protections that limit the practice known as age rating. Under Graham-Cassidy, a 60-year-old Ohioan with an income of $25,000 could face an increase in total costs of up to $13,563 in 2020.

The full report, spells out just how bad this bill would be for Ohioans:

A 60-year-old Ohioan with an income of $25,000 could face a premium increase of up to $8,085.

A low-income Ohioan could face an increase of up to $6,653 in out-of-pocket costs.

A 60-year-old Ohioan in the individual market could face an “age tax” of up to $3,329.

In addition to seniors, the Graham-Cassidy bill will inflict pain on millions of Americans, including:

32 Million: At least this many people would likely lose their health insurance in the next ten years – 15 million would lose their coverage in the next year.

$4.1 Trillion: The amount of health care funding states would lose over the next two decades; which includes funding for people who need nursing home care and children with disabilities.

20 Percent: The increase in premiums next year, at minimum.

$16,174: The amount more a 60-year old making $25,000 would have to pay per year for the same coverage received today.

31 Percent: The funding cut over the next two decades for children who receive coverage through Medicaid

$17,320: The surcharge a woman would have to pay for coverage if she were pregnant.

2017 TRUMP & WALMART MAKE AMERICA WORSE TOUR STOPS AT OHIO STATE

Today’s event featured State Rep. Kristin Boggs, Central Ohio

Worker Center, UFCW, Students, and Community Leaders.

COLUMBUS, OH – A variety of student organizations, labor groups, grassroots activists, and community leaders came together for a series of events at Ohio State University to expose the shared values of President Donald Trump and Walmart, the largest private retailer in the U.S.

Today’s campus actions were part of the ‘2017 Trump & Walmart Make America Worse’ tour, organized by Making Change at Walmart (MCAW), the national organization seeking to change Walmart into a more responsible employer. The tour, which kicked off on September 5, is traveling to over 25 college campuses in a nationwide effort to raise awareness about the political and social issues impacted by Trump and Walmart.

“Through this tour, we hope to inspire college students across the country to harness their economic and political power. Who they support and where they shop matters, and we know that students have the power to stop the Trump-Walmart agenda, stand up for a better America, and really make a difference in their communities and across their generation,” said Amy Ritter, Director of Communications for Making Change at Walmart.

Today’s events on Ohio State’s campus, the seventh stop of the tour, included tabling, games, prizes, hand billing and a short online survey, and closed with a speaking program that featured State Representative Kristin Boggs, Ohio State student and activist Kierra Dickerson and Ruben Castilla Herrera with the Central Ohio Worker Center. Speakers touched on how the Trump-Walmart agenda harms Ohio State students and the local community. Speakers also made it clear that the time had come to hold Walmart and Trump accountable, and that college students, as the future leaders of this nation, have the power to change America and Columbus for the better.

“Today we engaged fellow students in a way that really brought our student, labor and working communities together around two major entities that affect our everyday lives, Trump and Walmart. We were able to show the connection they have, their destructive impact on our public education and jobs, and encourage students to stand up for a better America against the Trump-Walmart agenda.” said Kierra Dickerson, Ohio State student.

During the event held on the South Oval Lawn, MCAW supporters also signed dozens of Buckeyes through a new digital ad campaign that focuses on the Trump-Walmart alliance and their shared values. The ad campaign reached over 1,000 students the past two days.

MCAW’s Trump-Walmart Make America Worse Tour will continue with stops at prominent college campuses throughout over 20 different cities, including, University of Michigan, University of Tennessee, University of Georgia and other colleges and universities across the Midwest and South, including two prominent Historically Black Colleges, Spelman and Morehouse.

As the tour continues, press is invited to cover each rally and action, interview speakers, and collect images of the 30-foot wrapped RV as well as other tour visuals and handouts.

Learn more about Making Change at Walmart at www.changewalmart.org.

Crawford County Man Found Guilty of Causing Water Pollution

(MONNETT, Ohio)—Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced that a Crawford County man was sentenced for dumping 600 gallons of ammonia-contaminated water that ended up in a local waterway, causing a fish kill.

Wesley Christman, 62, of Monnett, was ordered to pay a $1,500 fine, complete four years of probation, and not commit any further environmental offenses. Christman pleaded no contest to the misdemeanor offense in Crawford County Municipal Court.

Investigators said while working at the Central Ohio Farmer’s Co-Op in Monnett last year, Christman released 600 gallons of ammonia-contaminated water in a gravel driveway . He then watched the water flow into a storm sewer, knowing the contaminated water would then move into Allen Run, a tributary of the Little Scioto River. The polluted water ultimately caused a fish kill.

Agents with the Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency investigated the case.

SENATORS: ADMINISTRATION TOO LAX ON WORKER SAFETY

Senators Slam Labor Department for Pulling Workplace Fatality Info from Its Website, Call on Secretary to Nominate Qualified OSHA Administrator

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Patty Murray (D-WA), Al Franken (D-MN), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) pressed Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta on a series of actions that have led the Senators to question the Administration’s attitude toward worker safety, including its failure to nominate a qualified Administrator to lead the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

The Administration also recently removed data on deaths in the workplace from its website and implemented a new policy to disclose fewer deaths – removing one of the most basic deterrents to unsafe working conditions and depriving workers and families of basic information on workplace safety.

“Everyone should be able to go to work each day knowing they will come home each night in the same condition and without experiencing any threat to their health and safety,” said the Senators in the letter. “Recent actions taken by OSHA under your leadership call into question whether the Administration shares this goal. The failure to nominate an individual to be OSHA Administrator is further indication that worker safety is not a top priority of this Administration.”

Full text of the letter is available below and here.

The Honorable Alexander Acosta

Secretary

United States Department of Labor

200 Constitution Avenue, N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20210

Dear Secretary Acosta:

We write to express our deep concern with a pattern of actions taken by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) under your direction, suggesting that the Trump Administration has adopted a cavalier attitude toward worker safety standards. Worker safety should be a top priority during your tenure as Secretary of Labor that should be demonstrated by strengthening enforcement and oversight of workplace safety standards, reversing recent actions to obscure workplace fatality data, and announcing a highly-qualified nominee to be Administrator of OSHA.

We were dismayed that the President’s FY2018 Budget included the elimination of the Susan Harwood Training Grants and offered no specifics about alternative ways the Department of Labor (DOL) would continue to support workplace safety training and education. This program provides funding to nonprofit organizations to train and educate workers and employers on ways to prevent workplace accidents and hazards. According to DOL’s website, 2.1 million workers have received training from this program since 1978. We will be fighting for the restoration of this grant program in any Congress-passed appropriations bill for FY2018 and we urge you to defend this effective program to raise awareness and increase prevention of workplace illness and injuries.

In addition, OSHA recently removed a list of workplace fatalities from the homepage of its website and instituted a new policy of publicly disclosing fewer fatalities, removing one of the most basic deterrents to unsafe working conditions and depriving workers and families of basic information. In 2010, OSHA posted to its website a running list of the names of workers who had died on the job in recent months, helping to inform the public about workplace fatalities in the U.S. The list helped to remind those of us responsible for overseeing the work of the Department, as well as both workers and employers, that OSHA’s mission to prevent workplace injuries, illnesses, and deaths remains both critically important and too frequently unfulfilled. Removing this list and further eliminating disclosure of workplace deaths simply because OSHA did not issue a citation will allow employers to better cover-up their workplace safety records and dodge accountability for unsafe workplaces.

Everyone should be able to go to work each day knowing they will come home each night in the same condition and without experiencing any threat to their health and safety. Recent actions taken by OSHA under your leadership call into question whether the Administration shares this goal. The failure to nominate an individual to be OSHA Administrator is further indication that worker safety is not a top priority of this Administration. To help us better understand the Administration’s commitment to worker safety and justification of these actions, we request your responses to the following questions by October 13, 2017.

· Is it DOL’s goal to reduce workplace injuries and illnesses for U.S. workers?

· Does DOL believe OSHA’s enforcement of federal workplace standards is an important part of achieving this goal?

· Does DOL believe data collection and monitoring are important components to improving worker safety?

· Does the Administration believe workplace safety education is an important component of prevent workplace safety injuries and illnesses?

· What alternative methods is DOL considering for developing and distributing workplace safety training materials outside of the Harwood program?

· Who did DOL consult with in advance of removing the workplace fatality statistics from the OSHA website? Please provide information on all conversations or meetings with the business community, worker safety advocacy organizations, and any other experts or stakeholders who were consulted.

· Does DOL believe that removing certain workplace fatality statistics from OSHA’s website will reduce workplace injuries and illnesses?

· Please provide any internal written justification completed in advance of the decision to remove workplace fatality statistics from the OSHA website. If no written justification was completed, please explain why not.

· Does the Administration plan to nominate an OSHA Administrator by the end of the month? If not, why not?

· Will the Administration require any OSHA Administrator nominee to have a demonstrated commitment to worker safety? If not, why not?

Thank you for your prompt response to this letter.

Cassidy-Graham-Heller Repeal Plan Would Make It Harder for Ohioans to Combat Opioid Crisis

The Cassidy-Graham-Heller repeal plan would have a devastating impact on Ohio’s ability to combat the opioid crisis. In addition to dismantling Medicaid with a $10.2 billion program cut in 2027 alone and the end of the Medicaid expansion, it would allow insurers to drop the ACA’s required coverage for substance abuse treatment. In particular Medicaid, which covers 21 percent of Ohioans, has played a critical role in this fight, providing coverage for a third of all Americans who are struggling with opioid addiction.

“The opioid epidemic has devastated communities across Ohio, and the last thing Ohioans need is for Senator Portman and his Republican colleagues to take away their access to health care and critical resources,” said DNC spokesperson Mandy McClure. “While it’s bad enough that Trump has failed to live up to his promise to formally declare the opioid epidemic a national emergency, he is now leading the charge to strip protections and resources from Ohio families who need them most. The latest GOP repeal bill is even worse for working Ohioans than previous repeal attempts. Democrats will not sit idly by while Republicans continue their heartless crusade and destroy the lives of millions of Americans.”

BACKGROUND

The Cassidy-Graham-Heller repeal plan:

Does not include additional funding to combat the opioid epidemic.

Makes deep cuts to Medicaid that are even worse than repealing the ACA expansion alone – every state, even those that did not expand Medicaid, will see cuts.

Converts Medicaid to a per-capita program, making it more difficult for states to combat public health emergencies like the opioid epidemic.

Ends the guarantee of protections for people with preexisting conditions and allows insurance companies to charge people higher premiums based on their health status, hurting people suffering from opioid addiction.

Gives states the ability to waive the ACA’s essential health benefits – which guarantee coverage for substance abuse treatment and mental health care.

Impact of Medicaid on combatting the opioid epidemic in Ohio:

More than 700,000 Ohioans have enrolled in Medicaid as a result of the ACA expansion program, and in 2016, Medicaid expansion accounted for 43 percent of total Medicaid spending on substance abuse and mental health treatment in Ohio.

Medicaid expansion has helped half a million Ohioans access substance abuse or mental health treatment.

More than 150,000 Ohioans who struggle with mental health or addiction issues have coverage through the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion.

SENATE PASSES BROWN’S BIPARTISAN BILL TO HELP VICTIMS OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING, ASSIST LAW ENFORCEMENT

Bill Includes Senator’s Provision to Create Human Trafficking Coordinator in Federal Judicial Districts Nationwide

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Legislation introduced by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) to support survivors of human trafficking and help local, state, and national law enforcement on the front lines of the fight against human trafficking passed in the Senate this week. The House of Representatives must now pass the bipartisan legislation in order for the bill to move to the President’s desk to be signed into law.

“We’ve seen the devastating effects that human trafficking has on communities in Ohio and across the country,” said Sen. Brown. “We must do more to protect Ohioans from the most heinous of crimes and to provide justice, restitution, and healing for trafficking survivors.”

The legislation includes a provision based on a bill Brown introduced earlier this year which would create a Human Trafficking Coordinator in each of the country’s federal judicial districts and a National Human Trafficking Coordinator at the Department of Justice to help the Department better coordinate its efforts to prevent and prosecute human trafficking cases. This would help improve public outreach to raise awareness of human trafficking; ensure that data on human trafficking is properly collected; and collect restitution for survivors.

In addition to this provision, Brown’s full bill, the Abolish Human Trafficking Act, enhances and expands the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, a 2015 law that increased the resources and tools available for combatting human trafficking in the United States. The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act ensures that American law enforcement is equipped to fight this crime, while helping victims rebuild their lives by using fines and penalties against their exploiters to fund restorative services and compensation.

The Abolish Human Trafficking Act would also:

· Support funding for victims’ services and law enforcement: The bill extends the life of DOJ’s Domestic Trafficking Victims’ Fund, which is financed through fines on convicted human traffickers and sexual predators, and through an annual allotment from the Community Health Centers Fund. The DOJ fund was used to provide nearly $5 million to victims’ services last year.

· Authorize key Trafficking Victims Protection Act programs. These programs are used to fund restorative services for victims and law enforcement anti-trafficking operations.

· Empower victims in the fight against trafficking: The bill authorizes the Human Trafficking Advisory Council, through which human trafficking survivors make annual recommendations to combat and prevent this crime. The legislation also requires mandatory restitution for victims of commercial sexual exploitation offenses.

· Help law enforcement fight human traffickers: The bill gives law enforcement additional tools and resources to target criminal street gangs involved in organized human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

· Increase awareness and prevention: The bill requires the Department of Homeland Security to develop specialized screening protocols for implementation across federal, state, and local law enforcement anti-trafficking task forces to ensure agencies nationwide are trained to recognize victims and refer them to services instead of arresting or prosecuting them. It also directs the Department of Health and Human Services to continue a pilot program to provide training to health care providers on human trafficking.

· Enhance reporting on human trafficking crimes: The legislation ensures that regular reporting on the number of human trafficking crimes is separated from reports on the particular form of the offense for the use of the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Program and requires the Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking to provide an annual report on the use of data received from the national human trafficking hotline. It also requires the National Institute of Justice and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct a landmark study on the long-term physical and psychological effects of the commercial sex trade.

Brown Joined Ohio Families at Children’s Hospitals in Cleveland, Cincinnati to Call for Five-Year Extension

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) joined a bipartisan group of Senators to introduce legislation to extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program, known as Healthy Start in Ohio, for five years. The bipartisan deal to extend CHIP for five years was struck by Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), the leaders of the Senate Finance Committee, on which Brown sits. The bipartisan bill will still have to be taken up and passed by the full Senate.

“Securing access to high-quality healthcare for all children was an important bipartisan effort,” said Brown. “I’m proud to be working with my colleagues to continue that bipartisan effort and extend CHIP, giving Ohio families the assurance that their children’s healthcare will be protected for years to come. I will continue working with colleagues on both sides of the aisle as we work to pass this legislation.”

Here’s what other Ohio organizations are saying:

“During these uncertain times, Congress should reassure families and states that they can rely on the federal government to back up its commitment to children’s health care by extending CHIP for five years,” said Brandi Slaughter, CEO of Voices for Ohio’s Children.

“Families and children impacted by mental illness face serious challenges every day because of these devastating health conditions. NAMI Ohio commends the bipartisan efforts of Senator Brown and Chairman Hatch to continue to fund SCHIP for another 5 years! In Ohio, that means that literally thousands of kids will have access to a full range of Medicaid State Plan Services, including a comprehensive package of mental health services. Access to mental health care saves lives and families, so this is a big deal for those we represent,” said Terry Russell, Executive Director of the National Alliance on Mental Health Ohio.

Earlier this month, Brown met with families in Cincinnati and Cleveland to call on Congress to pass a five-year extension of CHIP. Both the Ohio Department of Medicaid and the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association have written in support of a five-year extension.

CHIP, which was created in 1997, is a joint state-federal health insurance program for low to moderate income children and pregnant women who are not Medicaid eligible. Within three years of its initial passage, all 50 states opted into the program, providing millions with access to health insurance. Nationwide, CHIP provides access to comprehensive, affordable coverage to more than eight million children and Healthy Start helps cover more than 209,000 Ohioans.

Brown led efforts in the Senate to protect CHIP and Healthy Ohio and the vital coverage they provide children and pregnant women nationwide. The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 extended funding for CHIP for two years, through September of 2017.

Earlier this year, Brown secured a commitment from Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price to work with Brown on extending CHIP.

Brown was the lead sponsor of the Protecting and Retaining Our Children’s Health Insurance Program (PRO-CHIP) Act of 2015 in the Senate, which would have extended the program through 2019.

DNC Chair Tom Perez on Lack of Opioid Funding in Graham-Cassidy-Heller Bill

DNC Chair Tom Perez released the following statement about the lack of funding for opioid addiction treatment in the Graham-Cassidy-Heller bill:

“Opioid addiction is taking lives and tearing apart families. But instead of fighting to address the problem, Republicans in Congress want to ram through this partisan bill to take away people’s health care and slash billions in funding for addiction treatment. Just over a month after calling the opioid epidemic a national emergency, President Trump has done nothing to help those affected. Now he’s leading the Republican charge to strip protections and resources from the working families who need them most.

“This issue knows no party. From New Hampshire to Nevada, the opioid crisis has ravaged communities across the country. And without the Affordable Care Act, things will get even worse. Democrats believe that this urgent crisis demands urgent action. That’s why we will keep working to give families the resources they need to fight back. We cannot sit idly by while Republicans choose cruelty over compassion and destroy the lives of millions.”

Secretary Husted Addresses Franklin County Indictments

COLUMBUS – Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien announced Thursday that seven indictments concerning non-citizens illegally voting had been issued in connection with Franklin County elections in 2012, 2015, and 2016. The following statement may be directly attributed to Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted:

“Today’s indictments are added proof that if you cheat in Ohio elections you will be caught and held accountable. Earlier this year, our office identified these individuals as non-citizens who illegally registered to vote and cast ballots in previous elections. Their names were then sent to law enforcement for further investigation. Coordinated efforts like these – that included both state and local entities – have made it easy to vote and hard to cheat in Ohio. I would like to commend Prosecutor Ron O’Brien for his work in this effort.”

Attorney General DeWine Statement on Franklin County Voter Fraud Indictments

(COLUMBUS, Ohio)—Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine issued the following statement following the announcement by Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney Ron O’Brien of seven persons indicted for voter fraud:

“I want to commend our Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Prosecutor Ron O’Brien for their work leading to these indictments. Voter fraud is a serious crime. BCI diligently investigates voter fraud referrals and works with local prosecutors, who make decisions on charges. Some referrals do not warrant criminal prosecution, such as when we are referred cases involving U.S. citizens accused of non-citizen voting. When evidence warrants, we see prosecutions such as those Prosecutor O’Brien announced today. I am proud that my office is able to play an integral role in preserving voting integrity in Ohio.”

Make a call to save our health care

We don’t have a lot of time. We recently learned that Republican leaders have been gathering support for an effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act and enact huge health care cuts by the end of September.

A group of hard-right Republicans worked in secret to draft the Graham–Cassidy bill. This version could be even more disastrous than the one working people just defeated. Our senators need to hear our opposition to any bill that takes away our health care right now.

Click here or dial 888-865-8089 and make a call to tell your senators to oppose the Graham–Cassidy repeal bill and any other bill that guts our health care.

The Graham–Cassidy bill attacks health care that working people rely on. If this bill passes, it could take health care away from as many as 32 million people. It would make a 40% tax on workers’ health benefits permanent, while letting employers off the hook entirely for contributing to workers’ health care. And it would make it legal to discriminate against people with pre-existing medical conditions.

Republican leaders have tried to take away our health care at every turn in the road, using every trick in the book. They are using a political maneuver that only requires 50 senators to support this bill in order to pass it. Sen. John McCain cast a ‘No’ vote in July, but there’s a good chance they may have McCain’s vote this time around. From there, it would be like watching dominoes fall.

We’re working closely with our allies to exhaust every tool at our disposal—from phone calls and text messages, to rallies and lobby visits—to put the full-court press against health care cuts. It’s more important than ever that each of us take action now to make it clear that we do not want any bill that will take away working people’s heath care.

Dial 888-865-8089 and make a call to tell your senators to oppose the Graham–Cassidy repeal bill and any other bill that guts our health care.

Tim Burga, President, Ohio AFL-CIO

Largest cut to veterans’ health care in history

When John McCain walked onto the floor of the U.S. Senate and pointed his thumb toward the ground, many people thought that was the Republicans last chance at repealing Obamacare.

But for weeks, they have been working behind-the-scenes, in private, with no Democrats, to craft a new bill and a new strategy — one that could result in a vote before the end of September.

Make no mistake about it: the Graham-Cassidy health care bill would be the single largest cut to veterans’ health care in the history of our nation. If this bill passes, tens of thousands veterans will lose their health care, and countless military family members as well.

It’s red alert time, and we must make our voices heard:

Sign VoteVets petition calling on Congress to REJECT the latest Republican effort to repeal Obamacare and take away health care from millions of Americans.

It’s not just veterans who will be hurt by this legislation. People will lose pre-existing condition protections. Women’s health care will be slashed. Annual and lifetime caps could come back.

This bill is opposed by most physician and patient groups who have sounded off on the legislation. VoteVets opposes it as well.

Add your name to say you reject Graham-Cassidy as well.

http://action.votevets.org/save-health-care

Thank you for standing in solidarity with so many who have so much to lose in this fight.

Brown, Wyden, Stabenow, Cardin, Casey Say No to Proposals to Tax Retirement Savings for Working Families

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Top Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee, led by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), today warned the White House and Senate and House leaders against funding corporate tax breaks by slapping new taxes on retirement savings for workers.

U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Bob Casey (D-PA) joined Brown in sending a letter today in opposition to a reported Republican corporate tax break pay-for that would force all workers into Roth retirement savings plans, reducing workers’ take home pay and curtailing the freedom workers currently have to choose the best plan for themselves – making it more expensive for workers to save.

“At a time when working families are already struggling to get ahead, reducing or taking away tax-deferred retirement savings options could have significant long-term consequences,” the Senators wrote. “Tax reform should increase working families’ take-home pay, encourage savings, grow jobs and the economy, reward companies that invest in American workers and their communities, and maintain sound fiscal policy. So-called ‘rothification’ of retirement savings fails that test on all counts.”

So-called ‘rothification,’ would take away the freedom Americans currently have to choose the retirement savings plan that works best for them. Instead, it would force everyone into a Roth account. Unlike 401ks, IRAs or other retirement savings plans many Americans currently use, Roth savings are taxed up front, reducing workers’ take home pay and making it more expensive for Americans to save for retirement.

Roth plans are also more expensive for employers to offer and would make it harder for small businesses to provide retirement plans for their employees.

Further, the Senators also pointed out that rothification is fiscally irresponsible and would add to the federal deficit. “This proposal is a budget gimmick that lets Congress raise revenue by pushing income recognition from outside the ten-year budget window to inside the ten-year budget window,” the Senators wrote.

The letter was sent to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, White House Chief Economic Advisor Gary Cohn, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan, Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch and House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady.

Full text of the letter is below and here.

Dear Secretary Mnuchin, Mr. Cohn, Leader McConnell, Speaker Ryan, Chairman Hatch and Chairman Brady:

As you consider options for building a fair and progressive tax code, while maintaining fiscal responsibility, we urge you to reject any proposal that would reduce or eliminate incentives for working families to save for retirement. Millions of Americans rely on 401(k)s, IRAs, and other plans to save for their retirement and their family’s future. Putting those savings vehicles – and the financial security of seniors – at risk is antithetical to the spirit of tax reform. Tax cuts for corporations and the wealthiest Americans should not be paid for by increasing taxes on middle class families saving for retirement.

For many hardworking Americans, the tax incentive for retirement savings is a critically-important tool for building long-term financial security. Four out of five households say the incentives and favorable tax treatment of their retirement accounts encourage them to save. At a time when working families are already struggling to get ahead, reducing or taking away tax-deferred retirement savings options could have significant long-term consequences.

We are particularly concerned about rumored proposals to eliminate the traditional, tax-deferred treatment of 401(k) and IRA contributions and mandate the use of after-tax, Roth accounts. Roth accounts can be a better tool under certain circumstances for retirement saving. However, this is not always the case for all families. The current practice of allowing families the freedom to choose the type of retirement tool that is most beneficial for them based on their unique circumstances makes sense given this dynamic. Tax reform should preserve this freedom and not end it.

Families today are already not saving enough for retirement, and we are concerned that mandating Roth savings will diminish their ability to save even further. Those with limited discretionary income will need to reduce their current level of saving to afford the immediate taxes due on their savings, or they will need to reduce other necessary spending, such as on education, child care and housing costs. To the extent that these affected savers are small business owners, they may decide it is not worth the annual cost and time to establish and maintain a retirement plan at all, which will have the cascading effect of reducing workplace saving options and saving rates for their employees.

Importantly, both the tax-cut and the revenue generated by mandating Roth accounts is a mirage and will not deliver an immediate income boost for many in the middle class. Even if you assume that all of the benefits of tax reform will accrue to the middle-class, the “rothification” proposal makes those tax cuts a shell game – reducing current take-home pay with one hand for those that need to maintain their current level of savings while cutting their tax rates with the other. At worst, it is theft, reducing the take home pay for working families to finance tax cuts for the wealthy.

We are also concerned that from a fiscal perspective mandating Roth savings is a sham. As you know, retirement plan contributions are tax deferred, not tax exempt. This proposal is a budget gimmick that lets Congress raise revenue by pushing income recognition from outside the ten-year budget window to inside the ten-year budget window. This is not revenue on which tax cuts should be based. Using this revenue to pay for tax cuts will require future taxes to make up for revenue lost outside the budget window, or will require painful budget cuts to critical programs, such as in Medicaid, assistance for higher education, and disaster recovery.

Tax reform should increase working families’ take-home pay, encourage savings, grow jobs and the economy, reward companies that invest in American workers and their communities, and maintain sound fiscal policy. So-called “rothification” of retirement savings fails that test on all counts.

Sincerely,

Today in the Ohio Senate

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Ohio Senate will recognize the following at the start of today’s session, beginning at 1:30 p.m.:

Ohio State University Aviation Program: Senator Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard) will recognize the Ohio State University Aviation Program in honor of its centennial anniversary.

Central State University: Senator Bob Hackett (R-London) will present a resolution to the president of Central State University honoring the institution for being named the top historically black college by the HBCU Digest.

Central State University Basketball Coach: Senator Bob Hackett (R-London) will recognize women’s basketball coach Sheba Harrison who was recently named the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) Coach of the Year.

Central State University Track Division Champion: Senator Bob Hackett (R-London) will honor Central State University student Juan Scott for winning the NCAA Division II outdoor 110-meter hurdles, becoming the first Marauder to win a Division II national title.

Elyria High School Softball Team: Senator Gayle Manning (R-North Ridgeville) will recognize the Elyria High School Softball Team for winning the 2017 Division I state championship.

The Ohio Senate will consider the following resolutions during today’s session:

Pioneering 21st Century Hyperloop Infrastructure: Sponsored by Senators Kevin Bacon (R-Minerva Township) and Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard), Senate Resolution 175 would support efforts to develop a state-of-the-art hyperloop transportation system across Ohio.

The Ohio Senate will consider the following legislation during today’s session:

Providing Counties Greater Authority and Flexibility to Invest: Sponsored by Senator Steve Wilson (R-Maineville), Senate Bill 163 would give county treasurers greater flexibility and authority to make investment decisions that best fit their portfolio and provide increased opportunities to gain higher yields, diversify investments and protect taxpayer money.

Honoring the Life and Legacy of Moses Fleetwood Walker: House Bill 59 would designate October 7 as “Moses Fleetwood Walker Day” in honor the nation’s first African American professional baseball player, who was born and raised in Ohio. A graduate of Oberlin College, Walker earned his place in history in 1883 when he was signed by the Toledo Blue Stockings. Six years later, the American Baseball Association and the National Baseball League unofficially banned African American players—a ban that stayed in place until Jackie Robinson signed for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.

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Sunbury News Staff