Policy briefs are sent each week and cover the public policy news of the prior week, with an emphasis on Ohio policy and on policy relevant to Latinos. Each brief will contain legislative updates, a link to an upcoming events calculator, a collection of policy-related media articles from around the state and country, and a summary of all legislation OCHLA is currently following.

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   A. LEGISLATIVE UPDATE

1.    1.    Medicaid Expansion in Ohio

Readers have likely heard in recent weeks about the struggle in Columbus over the decision to expand Medicaid in Ohio. Whether or not to expand Medicaid eligibility is one of a few “options” that each of the 50 states have under the Affordable Care Act, colloquially known as “Obamacare”. States must make these decisions in time for January of 2014, when the Affordable Care Act finally goes “live”.

Medicaid is a federal program created in 1965, which was designed to provide health care coverage for low-income individuals and families. It is funded by both state and federal governments, but the program is administered by each state individually. People enrolled in Medicaid must be either U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents, and must meet means-based tests for eligibility. Many Medicaid enrollees are also disabled and unable to work, and receive a Supplemental Security Income.

In its basic incarnation, Medicaid is a “fee for service” program, whereby Medicaid reimburses health care providers for each individual service performed for an enrollee. Increasingly, however, many Medicaid enrollees interface with their benefits through a managed care organization, or MCO. Under this system, private health coverage providers receive a state subsidy for the costs of covering their Medicaid enrollees. This is now the most-common arrangement for Medicaid enrollees in Ohio and nationally. Every state but Wyoming and Alaska enrolls at least some of their Medicaid participants with MCO’s. Typically, the elderly and the disabled are more frequently participants in the “fee for treatment” Medicaid program, while low-income adults and children have managed care. More recently, several states have rolled out Health Insurance Premium Payment Programs – or HIPPPs – which simply pay for a Medicaid enrollee’s private health insurance.

To be eligible for Medicaid in Ohio, an applicant must be a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident, a resident of Ohio, have a social security number, and meet the financial means thresholds, which are based on federal poverty guidelines. In 2013, a family of four Ohioans must earn less than $23,500 annually to be officially classified as “poor” by the federal government. It is upon this designation that eligibility for Medicaid rests, but different applicants have different eligibility requirements relative to these figures. For example, applicants for Ohio’s “Healthy Families” program for low-income families must make 90% of the federal poverty line to be eligible. For a family of four, that means eligibility depends on a monthly income less than $1,767. For pregnant women applying for Ohio’s “Pregnant Women and Healthy Start” Medicaid program, however, the applicant must make less than 200% of the federal poverty line – a monthly income of $3,925 for a family of four. Applicants can make certain deductions to their incomes, so those that make more than these figures are still encouraged to apply. About 19% of Ohioans – 2.2 million – are currently enrolled in Medicaid. Officials expect that a further 300,000 Ohioans who are presently eligible for Medicaid but are not enrolled in the program will enroll in the next few years.

A June 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision gave states the option to participate in the Medicaid expansion. Originally, participation was mandatory but the Affordable Care Act now presents states with the choice on whether or not to “opt in” to an expansion of Medicaid eligibility. In states that opt in, the proposed expansion would raise eligibility for families to at least 133% of the federal poverty line from Ohio’s present 90%, and extend eligibility to non-disabled childless adults. This expansion would make around 336,000 additional Ohioans eligible for Medicaid, though some estimates are much higher. For states that opt in, the federal government would pay for 100% of the additional cost of these new enrollees for three years, but that contribution would fall to – and level off at – 90% of the additional cost in subsequent years. In all, expanding Medicaid in Ohio would bring about $13 billion federal dollars over seven years to the state to pay for expanding health coverage, but would create additional costs for the states, beginning three years from now. Medicaid is already Ohio’s most significant expenditure, costing the state a projected $21 billion in fiscal year 2014 and $23 billion in fiscal year 2015. Officials estimate the further cost to Ohio for expansion to be $2.5 billion between 2014 and 2022.

Proponents of Medicaid expansion point to the 9-1 return on investment, and say the program will actually save Ohio money since it will help offset the cost-sharing burden on consumers from those who lack coverage. Presently, costs for health care contemplate that many patients will be ineligible for Medicaid and unable to afford private insurance. Likewise, they say it would also combat the use of emergency rooms for primary care to which many Ohioans without health care coverage resort. Additional revenue from new jobs in Ohio’s health care industry and increased revenue from insurance and sales taxes would also offset the fiscal burden, proponents believe. Finally, supporters note that those newly-eligible for coverage under an expansion of Medicaid are already working adults, and that the program is not therefore a “handout”, but rather a safety net.

Opposition to Medicaid expansion in Ohio is strong, however.  Partially due to the increased costs at the federal level – at least 90% of the cost of the expansion in every state that expands coverage -opponents worry that the federal government will not uphold its end of the bargain, and Ohio will be left footing the bill. They also note that Medicaid expansion simply makes more states – and more people – dependent upon the federal government. Opponents decry the expansion as an attempt to fix a badly-broken system, when our nation’s health care system should be based on patient-centered initiatives. Presently, about half of the states have decided to opt in to Medicaid expansion while about a quarter will opt out. The remaining states, including Ohio, remain undecided. Very generally, those on the political “left” endorse Medicaid expansion, while most of those that oppose it are on the political “right”.

Ohio’s elected officials have not yet decided whether the state will opt in to the expansion. Governor Kasich is a strong proponent of opting into the Medicaid expansion, even though he does not support the Affordable Care Act. Governor Kasich’s expansion proposal was included in the executive budget that his office released in February, and would have raised eligibility to 138% of federal poverty guidelines as well as extend coverage to childless adults. Governor Kasich’s proposal also included a “trigger”, which would allow Ohio to roll back the expansion if the federal government alters its financial commitment.

Since then, however, leaders in Ohio’s General Assembly have removed the expansion from the budget bill, and plan to address Medicaid separately, instead calling it Medicaid “reform”. Leaders in the Ohio Senate have said they will not restore Medicaid expansion to the biennial budget bill when they pass it next week. Ohio’s legislators – like those in a handful of other states – are looking at alternative options, such as expanding Medicaid eligibility to 100% of the federal poverty level and using the remaining federal dollars to pay for private insurance for those making between 100% and 138% of the federal poverty level. These policies would be purchased on the state-specific health insurance “exchanges” – another facet of the Affordable Care Act, and one which Ohio has chosen to have the federal government administer. Many feel a private insurance component to expansion is critical to securing conservative support for the expansion.

Both chambers of the General Assembly will consider the question of Medicaid expansion and reform in the coming weeks. Majority Floor Leader Barbara Sears (R – Monclova Township) has introduced legislation in the Ohio House of Representatives that would opt the state in to the expansion, while Senator Shirley Smith (D – Cleveland) has introduced similar legislation in the Ohio Senate. This expansion contemplates low-income adults and families, a demographic of which Ohio Latinos comprise a disproportionate percentage. Ohio Latinos also suffer from persistent health disparities relative to Ohioans as a whole. OCHLA will continue to monitor the decision-making process, and is eager to put Ohio Latinos in touch with their elected leaders so that the community’s input is heard. Please contact me with questions, comments or for help in accessing the decision-making process.

For additional information, please see:

ODJFS Medicaid Eligibility Manual

Governor Kasich’s Medicaid Expansion Proposals

Affordable Care Act

Ohio Medicaid

Affordable Care Act Medicaid Reforms

2.      Update on House Bill 114

The Ohio House Transportation, Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee will not hear testimony on House Bill 114 on Tuesday, June 4th. The Committee will meet, but it will not consider House Bill 114. In my prior updates, I stated my expectation that the Committee would hear testimony on the bill on that date.

House Bill 114 is sponsored by Representative Matt Lynch, and would specifically delineate which non-U.S. citizens would be eligible for Ohio driver’s licenses. The bill was drafted to exclude recipients of the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) from eligibility. On March 29, the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles announced it would begin granting non-renewable licenses to DACA recipients after a final cross reference with a national immigration database to ensure an applicant’s deferred action status. Thus far, the BMV has issued over 700 licenses to DACA recipients. 

While the committee will not hear opponent testimony on the measure next week, it is likely to do so the following week – on Tuesday, June 11th at 1:30 pm in room 122 at the Ohio Statehouse. I will inform the community as soon as I receive official confirmation – likely next Thursday, June 6th.

Thank you for your interest, and if you have questions or comments, or would like help in preparing testimony or arranging meetings with your legislators, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

 

 

B.    UPCOMING EVENTS

Please see a calendar of upcoming events in Ohio’s Hispanic communities here.

 

C.     POLICY ARTICLES

Business, Commerce and Labor

Housing market gains continue in Ohio

The number of homes sold across Ohio rose 20.5 percent in April, according to the Ohio Association of Realtors (OAR). This marks the 22nd consecutive month the market has posted gains in activity. Sales in April reached 10,991, a 20.5 percent increase from the 9,121 sales posted during the month in 2012, and reached the best mark since 2007. The average sales price of $134,388 was a 3.5 percent increase from the prior year. “The Ohio marketplace, with each passing month, continues to make significant progress in building a solid foundation for a sustained, growing housing sector,” said OAR President Thomas J. Williams. Sales through the first four months of 2013 reached 35,412, a 15.6 percent increase from the 30,636 sales posted during the same period a year ago. The average sales price this year is $128,547, a 5.1 percent increase from the $122,349 mark set during the same period a year ago.

McDonald Hopkins Statehouse Update. 5/24/13

Climb back is steep one for manufacturing in Ohio

Manufacturing in Ohio has begun to show signs of life since the state emerged from the recession. But a new report shows just how far the sector has to go to return to levels of employment seen in 2000. In 2000, 18.3 percent of Ohio workers were employed in manufacturing, according to the report from IHS Global Insight. Today, 12.8 percent are, even after the sector has gained ground the past three years. “It’s been a miserable decade, to say the least, particularly when it comes to Ohio manufacturing,” said Karl Kuykendall, an IHS economist. “We know when we look in the rearview mirror, the pain that we felt was real,” said Eric Burkland, president of the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association. Ohio manufacturers were first hurt by a recession in the early 2000s. Then manufacturing took a nose dive during the most-recent recession, the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Job cuts were dramatic, and cash flow for much of the industry dried up to the point that Burkland said there were “worries that we would lose so much fundamental industry capability that we couldn’t recover.” The state’s manufacturing sector shed about 400,000 jobs over the decade, according to Ohio Department of Job and Family Services data. The state had about 1 million manufacturing jobs in 2000. But manufacturers have started to come back, adding about 55,000 jobs over the past three years. Productivity also is improving. Innovation has kept the industry alive. Burkland said the state’s manufacturers have developed new designs and embraced new kinds of materials and technologies. “That’s really the big story,” Burkland said. “It’s productivity increases that keep us competitive in global markets.” Even with the loss of jobs, Ohio’s manufacturing sector produced $80.7 billion worth of goods in 2011, the fifth-most in the country and 16.7 percent of the state’s total economic output. The state averaged about $85 billion from 2005 to 2007 before dropping during the recession. Despite the cuts over the years, the sector still accounts for nearly a fifth of the state’s wages, and Ohio’s percentage of workers in manufacturing is seventh-highest in the country, according to state and IHS figures. Productivity per worker is up about a third since 2000, according to IHS figures. IHS’ most-recent report shows that although Ohio continues to add manufacturing jobs, neighboring states including Indiana, Michigan and Kentucky have been adding them at a higher percentage over the past year. “Ohio came out very strong,” Kuykendall said of the state’s gains immediately after the recession. “The momentum has cooled a bit since.” Also, the state’s manufacturers have yet to benefit in a big way from the Utica shale in eastern Ohio, he said. That could change as the area, which is expected to produce significant oil and natural gas, becomes more developed and produces more manufacturing jobs, Kuykendall said. For now, manufacturers are leery of adding workers, Burkland said. Although the nation’s auto and housing industries have picked up, economic growth in the U.S. has slowed, Europe is stuck in recession and the Asian economies have stalled, Burkland said. “It all adds up to cautious hiring,” he said.

Columbus Dispatch. 5/28/13

Ohio business: April home sales up 20% from last year; Limited Brands sees earnings, sales increase; DSW says total sales are up

Ohio home sales reached their highest level since 2007, rising 20.5% in April compared to the same time last year, according to statistics from the Ohio Association of Realtors. Monthly sales reached 10,991; up from the 9,121 sales posted in April of 2012, marking the state’s 22nd consecutive month of gains, the OAR said in a release. The average sales price for the month was $134,388, a 3.5% increase from the previous year. Sales through the first four months of 2013 reached 35,412, a 15.6% jump from the 30,636 sales posted during the same period a year ago. The average sales price for the four-month period was $128,547, a 5.1% increase from the first four months of 2012. Total dollar volume between January and April was more than $4.5 billion, a 21.4% increase from the same time last year. “The ongoing recovery of the Ohio housing market is widespread…with 17 of the 20 markets we track showing gains in activity so far in 2013,” OAR President Thomas J. Williams said in a statement. “Having so many of our individual markets record positives in a state as diverse as Ohio – with its unique blend of big urban markets and smaller, rural locales – is an indication that the Buckeye State is making significant headway in its recovery effort.” Limited Brands: First-quarter earnings per share increased 17% to $0.48, while quarterly operating income and net sales also rose compared to the same time last year, the company said in a release. First quarter operating income was $311.2 million, compared to $293.2 million during the first quarter of 2012. Net income was $142.5 million, up from $124.6 million last year. Net quarterly sales were up 5% from last year, reaching $2.3 billion. Comparable store sales increased 3% over last year’s first quarter. The company stated that it expects second-quarter earnings per share to be $0.50 to $0.55, compared to adjusted earnings per share of $0.50 per share last year.  For 2013, the company said it expects earnings per share of $2.95 to $3.15. DSW: The Columbus-based shoe company reported $601.4 million in first-quarter sales, a 7.7% increase over the same time last year. However, comparable sales were down 2.4% for the quarter. Adjusted EPS rose to $1 per share, an increase of $0.02 per share from last year, the company said in a release. Net income was $34.5 million, or $0.75 per diluted share. “DSW’s first quarter performance demonstrated remarkable execution flexibility in a time of unprecedented swings in weather patterns,” President and CEO Mike MacDonald said. “Our merchandising and supply chain teams were able to adjust merchandise receipts in weather-sensitive categories while continuing to support trending categories with fresh product flow. We were pleased with the strong sales rebound in the final four weeks of the quarter that allowed us to minimize our comparable sales decline and exit the quarter with well positioned inventories.” Mr. MacDonald continued, “We are confident in the long-term growth potential of our business, which is reflected in our decision to raise our regular quarterly dividend by 39% from $0.18 per share to $0.25 per share. For the full year we expect same store sales to range from flat to 2% growth and Adjusted EPS to range from $3.40 to $3.60 per share.”

Gongwer News Service. 5/29/13

Immigration

Bill would block Ohio driver’s licenses for immigrants

A battle over driver’s licenses for young immigrants has brought a national debate to the Ohio Statehouse. The Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles decided in March, after months of confusion at local offices, to begin issuing temporary driver’s licenses to youth accepted into the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The DACA program was initiated last year by President Barack Obama to defer deportation or other action against people younger than 30 who were brought to the U.S. as children and raised here. A bill introduced in the Ohio House this month would reverse that decision and amend state law to list eligibility for licenses, explicitly excluding DACA grantees. The bill would allow citizens of other countries in the U.S. on a travel visa to obtain licenses but not undocumented immigrants. The bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Matt Lynch of Solon, said Ohio should not have to follow policy set by the federal government that preempts state laws. “Ohio is a sovereign state — we have the right to determine when and who will get driver’s license in Ohio,” Lynch said Wednesday during a small rally against immigration legislation being considered by Congress. Lynch said his bill will return the law to as it was pre-DACA and “deny illegal immigrants licenses in Ohio and protect Ohio jobs for Ohio citizens.” But Attorney General Mike DeWine, in a letter to the Ohio Commission on Hispanic/Latino Affairs, concluded DACA grantees are eligible for licenses under existing Ohio law, rules and regulations. More than 291,000 undocumented immigrants — including 1,779 in Ohio —have been accepted into the program after meeting several criteria, which include being enrolled in school, working after completing a degree or serving in the military. DACA status allows these individuals to work and attend school in the U.S. and grantees are eligible to receive a Social Security card. Individuals granted deferred action do not possess legal status, but are considered “lawfully present” by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. State licensing rules require U.S. citizenship or “legal presence” along with documents verifying name and Social Security number. The Migration Policy Institute estimates between 10,000 to 20,000 individuals in Ohio are eligible for DACA. “The license is important for them to be able to get to work, to have a little bit more access to the things people in their age group should be doing,” said Nick Torres of DreamActivist Ohio, which advocates for permanent citizenship for youth illegally brought to the U.S. “For those who have gone to high school here, it’s an important rite of passage. It’s a way for them to be able to contribute back to the community.” Officials in at least 45 states have issued driver’s licenses to DACA grantees. Only Arizona and Nebraska have not issued licenses to DACA grantees. The BMV issued 716 licenses to DACA grantees since March 29. The licenses look the same as regular licenses, but have the words “NON-RENEWABLE AND NON-TRANSFERABLE” printed below the driver’s signature and have an earlier expiration date. Groups on both sides of the issue say driver’s licenses are the tip of the iceberg for how states handle changes in federal immigration policy. Torres said the situation shows how changing immigration policy can cause confusion and he hopes the license process will help states better comply with future reforms. Lynch and supporters of his bill worry the federal government will open the doors to more immigrants, noting the Ohio Latino Affairs Commission approved a resolution urging in-state college tuition for DACA grantees. “They’re going to continue to expand these benefits to who knows where and we have to show the feds that Ohio is sovereign and we’re in charge,” Lynch said. Steve Salvi, founder of the Ohio Jobs and Justice PAC, said youth brought illegally to the U.S. have benefited from a $100,000 taxpayer-paid K-12 education. Salvi supports deporting those immigrants. “With a good American education, they can be a great value to Mexico or Colombia or wherever they came from. Let them be successful in their own countries and we’ll be happy to do trade with them,” Salvi said. Torres said the DACA recipients he knows consider themselves American. “They’ve grown up here,” Torres said. “They don’t have much identification with the country of their birth. They want to be able to live as normal a life as they can.”

Dayton Daily News. 5/28/13

Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio to appeal judge’s finding his department engaged in racial profiling

 

Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s attorneys said today they plan to appeal a federal judge’s finding that the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, helmed by Arpaio, racially profiled Latinos while on immigration patrols. Complaints of deputies pulling over and singling out people who are dark skinned and speak Spanish to check their immigration status have long been levied against the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. Tim Casey, the attorney representing Arpaio and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office said racial profiling has never been a policy of the department, but said deputies may have been given faulty training by federal authorities on immigration enforcement. “The law clearly says you cannot do that, and this judge has clearly made it known that that is not the law,and ICE (Immigrations and Customs Enforcement) taught that, and that is not correct,” he said. Casey said the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office would appeal the judge’s ruling in the next 30 days. The lawsuit was brought against the department by a group of Latinos who alleged they were racially profiled by Arpaio’s deputies for the purpose of immigration status checks. The group did not seek monetary damages in the lawsuit and instead asked for a judge to declare the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office had engaged in racial profiling and to order policy changes. “We were looking for a declaration from the court that these are unconstitutional practices as an important first step in stopping those practices,” said Don Pochoda, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union, which has championed the case. The 142-page ruling was issued on Friday, more than eight months after a seven-day bench trial was held in the case. U.S. District Court Judge G. Murray Snow wrote that “the evidence introduced at trial establishes that, in the past, the MCSO has aggressively protected its right to engage in immigration and immigration-related enforcement operations even when it had no accurate legal basis for doing so.” A hearing has been set on June 14 in Phoenix to discuss how to carry out the orders in the ruling. Arpaio, who will turn 81 in June, is serving his sixth consecutive term as sheriff of Arizona’s most populous county, which includes Phoenix. The self-styled “America’s Toughest Sheriff” has made national headlines for everything from putting inmates in pink underwear to creating the nation’s first all-female chain gang. In February, he tapped actor Steven Seagal to lead members of the Arizona sheriff’s volunteer posse through a simulated school shooting.

 

ABC News. 5/25/13

Obama courts Hispanic leaders as Senate drafts immigration bill

 

Hispanic business leaders will descend on Washington this week for an all-day meeting hosted by top administration officials as President Barack Obama seeks to maintain congressional momentum for immigration legislation even while saying little about the issue publicly. The immigration bill is Obama’s best chance of a major legislative victory in his second term. So, he’s been choosing his words carefully — or often, not at all. Obama has taken just one immigration-focused trip this year, traveling to Las Vegas to outline his views in January. In recent appearances in Austin, Texas, and Baltimore, he’s not mentioned the topic at all, focusing instead on the economy. The May 29 meeting, the inaugural event of the Hispanic Business Leaders Forum, underscores the cautious strategy Obama has adopted to push for his top domestic priority. While Obama remains quiet in public, his staff is escalating a private White House campaign to build support for the bill. At the same time, the White House is also working to stay close to a constituency that backed Obama by 71 percent in the last election — no matter what the outcome with the immigration bill on Capitol Hill. While immigration is certainly on the agenda for this week’s meeting, White House officials stress that the administration is engaging Latino executives as national business leaders who care about the nation’s pressing economic issues. Obama’s approach to the immigration bill is an acknowledgment that support among Republicans, whose votes are crucial to passage, will be weakened if the bill is too closely allied with the Democratic president. “He could have just come in and said, ‘Look this is my priority and I think I won the election by virtue of the fact I’m for it,'” said Marshall Fitz, director of immigration policy at the Center for American Progress. “But the political reality that he’s reading is that he would have had this immediate backlash.” Seventy-five business leaders are expected to attend the event, held in conjunction with the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew is scheduled to discuss the economy, domestic policy adviser Cecilia Munoz to brief participants on the implementation of the health care law, and Chief Technology Officer Todd Park to detail the administration’s open data initiatives. Senior adviser Valerie Jarrett will offer opening remarks. Administration officials said they expect detailed conversations about taxes, economic competitiveness, and other fiscal issues. Attendees will include Joe Echevarria, chief executive of Deloitte LLP, Gustavo Arnavat, executive director of the Inter-American Development Bank, Kimberly Casiano, president of Casiano Communications, the largest Hispanic-owned publisher in the U.S., and Linda Alvarado, president of Alvarado Construction and the owner of the Colorado Rockies baseball team. The wide-ranging group and the schedule go beyond just another meeting of supporters eager to push the revamp of immigration laws, which the president has largely left in the hands of allies on Capitol Hill — at their request. As a bipartisan Senate working group began drafting a bill earlier this year, Democratic allies asked Obama to keep a low-profile on immigration legislation, warning him that strong statements could make it impossible for Republicans to embrace a bipartisan agreement. “They don’t want to give the president a win,” said Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, in an interview on Capitol Hill earlier this month. “That’s part of the reality of this town.” Some supporters, though, said strategy carries significant political risk. The president and his team followed a similar playbook in their push for gun control earlier this year. That effort ended in defeat when the Senate voted down a stripped-down version of Obama’s plan. Democratic supporters criticized the president’s decision to stay quiet, saying he didn’t fight push forcefully. “If the bill does go down he’s going to be blamed,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, a Washington-based immigration advocacy organization. “He was re-elected with strong support from Latino and Asian American voters and he could be setting himself up for the accusation that he didn’t fight hard enough.” In an effort to stave off those claims and build backing for the bill, White House officials have been working quietly to shore up support. There are near-daily calls with people and groups that have a stake in the outcome. On May 7, White House aides, including Munoz and Park, hosted a roundtable with officials from 25 different business, technology, and university groups. While the advocates pressed for increasing the number of visas available for high-skilled workers, White House officials pushed the groups to take their pro-immigration message across the country, according to attendees. The effort reaches across departments, with lower-level officials fanning out to events across the country promoting the immigration overhaul. Earlier this month, Alejandro Mayorkas, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, hosted an interactive town hall meeting about streamlining technology visas at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business with executives from local startups. On May 13, Mark Doms, the undersecretary of economic affairs at the Department of Commerce, addressed an immigration forum at the St. Regis in Aspen, Colorado, hosted by the Aspen Institute. He shared the stage with Ari Matusiak, the director of private sector engagement at the White House. The president has held White House meetings with supporters, most recently hosting Asian-American leaders on May 8 and Latinos on April 29. In those sessions, he’s urged them to back the bill even if they had concerns about the details, stressing the importance of a large vote in the Senate, according to a participant who asked for anonymity to discuss the private meeting. The Senate Judiciary panel approved that chamber’s proposal earlier this month and the full Senate will debate the measure in June. A bipartisan House group has reached an agreement in principle on its own immigration proposal and will start preparing legislation. The Senate legislation is similar in approach to what Obama outlined in Las Vegas, though there are some key differences. The Senate bill makes citizenship for undocumented immigrants contingent on securing the U.S. border, which Obama’s plan does not. It also doesn’t recognize same-sex couples, a proposal Obama supports. The White House has stressed that the president remains in constant contact with key lawmakers on Capitol Hill. “A lot of work remains to be done,” Jay Carney, the White House press secretary told reporters this month. “We’re engaged in this process with the Senate and monitoring very closely the developments.” Obama has long struggled to strike the right balance with Congress. During his first two and a half years in office, he was immersed in legislative wrangling, meeting quietly to convince lawmakers to pass the health care bill, economic stimulus package, and Wall Street regulations. After talks to strike a debt deal with House Speaker John Boehner failed in 2011, Obama switched to what aides call an “outside-in” strategy of using public rallies to pressure lawmakers. Still, he lost on his first big initiative of his second term: Tougher background checks for gun buyers. That measure, a stripped-down version of the gun control package initially proposed by the president, failed when five Democrats and 41 Republicans voted against the bill. Supporters say the politics of immigration differ from that of gun issues, largely because there’s more Republican support for taking up the issue. The November election changed the political calculus for Republicans, who watched as 71 percent of Hispanic voters sided with Obama. Even in the House, where immigration legislation faces a steeper fight, the proposals have won praise from Speaker Boehner and Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. Republicans involved with the effort have praised Obama’s approach, saying they’ve kept the president briefed on their progress and in return he’s left them to their work of building support for the measure in the Senate. “He’s trying to grow the vote,” said Senator Lindsey Graham in an interview earlier this month on Capitol Hill. “He has tried to give the Democrats cover and give Republicans the space they need to get to yes.”

 

Bloomberg Business Week. 5/28/13

 

Health and Safety

States’ policies on health care exclude some of the poorest

The refusal by about half the states to expand Medicaid will leave millions of poor people ineligible for government-subsidized health insurance under President Obama’s health care law even as many others with higher incomes receive federal subsidies to buy insurance. Starting next month, the administration and its allies will conduct a nationwide campaign encouraging Americans to take advantage of new high-quality affordable insurance options. But those options will be unavailable to some of the neediest people in states like Texas, Florida, Kansas, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Georgia, which are refusing to expand Medicaid. More than half of all people without health insurance live in states that are not planning to expand Medicaid. People in those states who have incomes from the poverty level up to four times that amount ($11,490 to $45,960 a year for an individual) can get federal tax credits to subsidize the purchase of private health insurance. But many people below the poverty line will be unable to get tax credits, Medicaid or other help with health insurance. Sandy Praeger, the insurance commissioner of Kansas, said she would help consumers understand their options. She said, however, that many of “the poorest of the poor” would fall into a gap in which no assistance is available. The Kansas Medicaid program provides no coverage for able-bodied childless adults. And adults with dependent children are generally ineligible if their income exceeds 32 percent of the poverty level, Ms. Praeger said. In most cases, she said, adults with incomes from 32 percent to 100 percent of the poverty level ($6,250 to $19,530 for a family of three) “will have no assistance.” They will see advertisements promoting new insurance options, but in most cases will not learn that they are ineligible until they apply. Administration officials said they worried that frustrated consumers might blame President Obama rather than Republicans like Gov. Rick Perry of Texas and Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, who have resisted the expansion of Medicaid. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that 25 million people will gain insurance under the new health care law. Researchers at the Urban Institute estimate that 5.7 million uninsured adults with incomes below the poverty level could also gain coverage except that they live in states that are not expanding Medicaid. In approving the health care law in 2010, Congressional Democrats intended to expand Medicaid eligibility in every state. But the Supreme Court ruled last year that the expansion was an option for states, not a requirement. At least 25 states — mainly those with Republican governors or Republican-controlled legislatures — have balked at expanding the program, in part because of concerns about long-term costs. Several Republican governors, like Rick Scott in Florida, wanted to expand Medicaid, but met resistance from state legislators. Mr. Obama and administration officials, including Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, plan to fly around the country this summer promoting the health care law to a public largely unaware of the new insurance options. Bee Moorhead, the executive director of Texas Impact, an interfaith group that favors the expansion of coverage, said: “A lot of people will come in, file applications and find they are not eligible for help because they are too poor. We’ll have to tell them, ‘If only you had a little more money, you could get insurance subsidies, but because you are so poor, you cannot get anything.’ “That’s an odd message, a very strange message. And if people are sick, they will be really upset.” In Atlanta, Amanda Ptashkin, the director of outreach and advocacy at Georgians for a Healthy Future, a consumer group, said: “Hundreds of thousands of people with incomes below the poverty level would be eligible for Medicaid if the state decided to move forward with the expansion of Medicaid. As things now stand, they will not be eligible for anything. What do we do for them? What do we tell them?” Jonathan E. Chapman, the executive director of the Louisiana Primary Care Association, which represents more than two dozen community health centers, described the situation in his state this way: “If the breadwinner in a family of four works full time at a job that pays $14 an hour and the family has no other income, he or she will be eligible for insurance subsidies. But if they make $10 an hour, they will not be eligible for anything.” Bruce Lesley, the president of First Focus, a child advocacy group, said: “In states that do not expand Medicaid, some of the neediest people will not get coverage. But people who are just above the poverty line or in the middle class can get subsidized coverage. People will be denied assistance because they don’t make enough money. Trying to explain that will be a nightmare.”The subsidies, for the purchase of private insurance, will vary with income and are expected to average more than $5,000 a year in 2014 for each person who qualifies. Evan S. Dillard, the chief executive of Forrest General Hospital in Hattiesburg, Miss., said the eligibility rules would be “very confusing to working poor individuals in this, the poorest state in the country.” Starting in January, most Americans will be required to have health insurance and will be subject to tax penalties if they go without coverage. However, the penalties will not apply to low-income people denied access to Medicaid because they live in states that chose not to expand eligibility. Deborah H. Tucker, the chief executive of Whatley Health Services, a community health center in Tuscaloosa, Ala., said it was wonderful that many uninsured people would gain coverage, but “tragic that some of the most vulnerable, lowest-income people” would be excluded. Ms. Tucker said her clinics cared for nearly 30,000 patients a year, including 16,000 who were uninsured. More than 75 percent of the uninsured patients have incomes below the poverty level and are unlikely to qualify for Medicaid or subsidies, she said. The Obama administration is urging people who “need health insurance” to report their telephone numbers and e-mail addresses to the government via a Web site, healthcare.gov, so they can be notified of new insurance options. Consumers will not necessarily know whether they are eligible for premium tax credits, Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program. So if a person applies for one program, federal and state officials will check eligibility for all three. People who are currently eligible but not enrolled may sign up for Medicaid, even in states that do not expand the program. Still, Roy S. Mitchell, the executive director of the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program, a nonprofit group that supports the expansion of Medicaid, said “there’s going to be a huge void” as many uninsured poor people find that they are not eligible for Medicaid or insurance subsidies. “There will be an outcry,” Mr. Mitchell said. “It may bolster our advocacy efforts.”  The history of Medicaid shows that it took several years for some states to sign up in the 1960s, raising the possibility that additional states may decide to expand eligibility in coming years.

New York Times. 5/24/13

Ohio’s aging bridges raise safety concerns

Ohio has 278 bridges similar to the one that collapsed in Washington state last week, sending cars and people into the water below. Although Ohio transportation officials point out that Washington’s bridge collapse was caused by a truck that hit a girder — not a failing bridge — the accident renews concerns about bridge safety as infrastructure ages throughout the country and Ohio. “What happened in Washington could happen anywhere, and it’s going to happen over and over again,” Mark Policinski, executive director of the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments — the region’s top transportation planning agency — told The Cincinnati Enquirer. “You don’t have to be a doom and gloomer to see that,” Mr. Policinski said. “You just have to be a realist. These structures are way behind their lifespan. You have to have the political will to say this has to be a national priority, and what we have to develop first is the will to do what’s right to protect people’s lives.” Of Ohio’s 44,000 bridges, 278 are similar to the one that collapsed in Washington, according to the County Engineers Association of Ohio. They are known as through-truss bridges. Damage to one key piece could bring down an entire span. In Washington on Thursday, a truck that was too tall for the span hit a girder, causing the bridge to collapse. Two cars fell into the Skagit River below. Nobody was killed. The bridge had been deemed “functionally obsolete,” or not meeting current design standards. Across Ohio, 5,761 of about 26,900 county-maintained bridges are considered functionally obsolete or structurally deficient, Fred Pausch, executive director of the state county engineers association, told The Columbus Dispatch. Today, bridges are built with a 50-year life expectancy, Mr. Pausch said. Many are older. Five in central Ohio are more than 100 years old. In the Cincinnati area and in northern Kentucky — just across the Ohio River — the Enquirer reports that nearly 100 bridges are either so old or have such significant defects that they require weight limits. Like the Washington bridge that collapsed, the 50-year-old Brent Spence Bridge — which spans the Ohio River between Cincinnati and northern Kentucky and is the region’s most heavily traveled bridge — has been listed as functionally obsolete. The bridge has narrow lanes, no emergency shoulders, and limited visibility on the lower deck. Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, and the Cincinnati business community have been pushing for a new bridge to be built. A finance plan is not in place. Federal earmarks have been banned, and Northern Kentucky state lawmakers have resisted passing legislation they fear would lead to tolling the Kentucky-owned bridge. In Cleveland, the rusting Inner Belt Bridge over the Cuyahoga River is in “serious condition,” inspectors reported, and the Ohio Department of Transportation — which has spent $10 million to bolster weak sections — advises trucks not to use it, according to the Plain Dealer. The bridge will be closed to traffic later this year for good and demolished, once the first of two new bridges is finished. Also in Cleveland last year, the department banned trucks from using the Main Avenue Bridge for five months after an inspection revealed weakness in several steel plates. The department did $500,000 in emergency repairs on the bridge, which inspectors rate in “poor” condition. Steve Faulkner, an Ohio Department of Transportation spokesman, emphasized that human error led to the bridge collapse in Washington. “Even the safest bridge in Ohio isn’t safe from a motorist who doesn’t follow laws and restrictions,” Mr. Faulkner said. Although the Federal Highway Administration requires that bridges be inspected every two years, Ohio inspects its bridges every year, he said. For bridges that collapse like the one in Washington, though, it comes down to simple physics. “One overweight [or too-tall] truck that hits a bridge in the wrong spot, and you see what can happens,” Mr. Pausch said.

Associated Press. 5/28/13

Ohio remains in bottom third on U.S. health list

Ohioans spent about $500 more per person on health care during the past five years, but those expenditures yielded little to no progress in several key health measures, based on a new analysis of government and private health statistics by the Health Policy Institute of Ohio. Ohio ranks near the bottom of list of states with the healthiest populations as a result of its high rates of infant mortality, diabetes, smoking and obesity, among other factors, according to HPIO. The nonprofit, nonpartisan health care research organization cited annual state rankings from the United Health Foundation, which ranked Ohio No. 37 for best health outcomes last year, up from No. 41 in 2007. Over the same period, however, per capita spending on health care in the Buckeye State rose to $7,076, from $6,558, HPIO found. The average cost of a day of inpatient care at hospital alone rose about 17 percent to $2,138 last year from $1,833 in 2007. Compared to other states, the increase in per capita health spending was moderate, ranking Ohio among the middle third of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Nevertheless, spending was up while the health of many Ohioans declined. The obesity rate of the adult population rose to 30 percent from 28 percent over the past five years, while diabetes was up to 10 percent from 7 percent over the same period and the smoking rate increased from 22 percent to 25 percent. “It’s not as though we are underinvesting overall in terms of health spending, but we’re likely not investing in the right kinds of things to get the kinds of outcomes we want,” said HPIO president Amy Rohling McGee. Ohio ranked in the upper third of states in two categories: reducing the number of preventable deaths before age 75, and the percentage of the population with angina or coronary heart disease, which inched down to 5 percent from 6 percent over the past five years, HPIO reported. But the state ranked in the lower third of states nationally in eight of the 13 metrics listed on HPIO’s online Health Outcomes and Costs Dashboard, which it uses to track Ohio’s progress in improving health outcomes while also controlling health care costs. “We have a lot of work to do to improve health value in Ohio,’’ said Amy Bush Stevens, a researcher and policy analyst at HPIO. To that end, HPIO is planning a meeting with health officials, providers and other stakeholders from across the state to seek ways to improve health outcomes while also controlling costs. The group will charged with developing a standardized set of health measures that can be tracked over time, reflecting the impact of health spending and costs on the health outcomes for Ohioans. “We all agree we need better value in our health system, the question is how would we recognize better value if we saw it,” Rohling McGee said. “We’re trying to quantify that.” Jeff Cooper, assistant to the Montgomery County health commissioner, applauded HPIO’s efforts and said an epidemiologist from Public Health-Dayton & Montgomery County would participate in the work group. Cooper said the Health Outcomes and Costs Dashboard underscores the need for more spending on public health and prevention programs. “We believe that on a community wide basis, you get a much better return on your dollar if you spend that money on trying to prevent chronic diseases rather than having to pay for treatment of chronic diseases through medical care or hospitalization,” Cooper said. “Public health as an agency is very supportive of the concept of trying to figure out ways to get better long-term quality health care for the community while reducing costs.” Chris Jensen of Dayton is not waiting for the work group’s recommendations. He began walking on a treadmill at the downtown YMCA several weeks ago to help control his high blood pressure and maybe “stop spending so much on medication.” At 71, he’s hardly the youngest person in the gym. But it’s never too late to get started, he said. “For me, the idea of going to the gym was always like, well, I don’t think so,” Jensen said. “But I lost seven pounds in five days. Now I can walk and talk with somebody at the same time without losing my breath.”

Dayton Daily News. 5/30/13

Proposed OVI law change not an easy sell

A National Transportation Safety Board proposal to lower the blood alcohol content to be considered driving drunk from 0.08 to 0.05 is meeting with skeptics in some quarters. Lou Kennedy, owner of the Royal Oaks bar on Oak Street, said he does not think the new proposal would do much to cut down on drunken driving, and will only increase arrests for people accused of driving under the influence as well as cut down on alcohol sales. He said hardcore drinkers will not be deterred by the lowering of the limit, but other customers will. “People who drink, drink,” Kennedy said. “It’s the other people that come out. It’s the husband and wife that go out to dinner and the wife will be afraid to have a glass of wine. It’ll cut into alcohol sales.” The NTSB earlier this month recommended the limit be cut. It based the recommendation on the fact that 100 countries have a limit of 0.05 and they have far less accidents and fatalities from drunken drivers. It would equal one drink for a woman weighing 120 pounds and two drinks for a man weighing 160 pounds. Youngstown Police Detective Sgt. Patricia Garcar runs the Accident Investigation Unit for her department and said she does not believe lowering the limit will help to decrease the number of serious crashes. She said in all the serious crashes with alcohol she’s investigated usually the driver’s limit is way over 0.08. “I’ve never had one that low [0.05],” Garcar said. “It’s been significantly higher.” Campbell police Detective Sgt. John Rusnak also said he does not think lowering the limit would do much to curb drunken-driving accidents. He said serious accidents involving drunk drivers are often caused by people who are much over the legal limit. “They’re way over 0.10,” Rusnak said. He also said it would cause normal people who only wanted a drink or two to be afraid they were breaking the law — and it would not stop serious drinkers from getting drunk. “A drinker’s going to drink,” Rusnak said. Calls to the local Ohio State Highway Patrol posts were referred to spokeswoman Lt. Anne Ralston in Columbus. She said troopers who pull a driver off the road they think is impaired weigh several factors before seeking a test for their blood-alcohol content. She stressed that the proposal by the NTSB is just a recommendation and did not say either way if the patrol supports or disapproves of the proposal. Ralston said she remembers when the state limit was 0.10 before it was lowered, and the message to drivers is the same now as it was then: To make sure they think before they decide to drink and drive a vehicle. John Lavanty, owner of Nicolinni’s Ristorante in Austintown said he does not think the proposal would affect his business that much because it does not have a bar that stays open all night. But he did add he could see it cutting into alcohol sales at places that have a large bar business. Michael Pasquale, owner of the Boulevard Tavern on Southern Boulevard in Youngstown, said such a change probably would not hurt his business much because he does not sell hard liquor and most of his business is food. He did say he could see businesses that cater to younger customers taking a hit, however. “They’ll take it on the chin,” Pasquale said. Kennedy of Royal Oaks said he thinks the proposal is nothing more than someone in the federal government having too much free time on their hands. “It’s just more legislation,” Kennedy said. “It’s somebody’s job as a lawmaker to make up more laws.” U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Marietta, said in an email he thinks drunken driving is a serious problem, but individual states should study the NTSB recommendation to see if it is best for their individual state. “Drunk driving is a very serious issue, and determining the threshold at which point responsible behavior becomes impaired is both important and difficult,” Johnson said. State Rep. Sean O’Brien, D-Brookfield, is an attorney and former Trumbull County Prosecutor in Eastern and Central District courts. He said he does not think lowering the threshold would be a good idea because it would lead to more litigation. He said lawyers would be handling more OVI cases and it would clog up the court system. O’Brien said since he has been an attorney the limit has been lowered from 1.5 to 1.0 to 0.08 and he wondered low it could go. “To keep lowering it you might as well be saying there’s no drinking and driving at all,” O’Brien said. O’Brien said the measure is one he would probably oppose at this time given all he knows if it ever came to the floor for a vote.

Youngstown Vindicator. 5/30/13

With medical marijuana bill’s progress blunted, advocates look to 2014 ballot issue

 Medical marijuana advocates will likely need to turn to voters next year as legislation to legalize the practice appears to be stalling in committee, sponsor Rep. Bob Hagan (D-Youngstown) said Wednesday. Rep. Hagan, speaking with other cannabis advocates at a Statehouse news conference, said medical marijuana is polling very well among voters and is needed by people suffering from diseases or chronic pain. Under Rep. Hagan’s bill (HB 153), Ohioans with debilitating conditions such as cancer or glaucoma would be able to possess up to 200 grams of usable marijuana and 12 mature cannabis plants if they get written certification from a doctor and register with the Ohio Department of Health. Following testimony before the House Health & Aging Committee (see separate story), Rep. Hagan said he doesn’t believe any further hearings on his legislation will be scheduled. “If that’s the case, then it’s obvious that the only process left is the citizen’s initiative. And the people now have to speak up,” he said. Rep. Hagan was a secondary sponsor of similar medical marijuana legislation last session, but the bill (House Bill 214) died in committee. The legislator noted 19 other states and the District of Columbia already allow medical marijuana in some manner. He said it’s time for Ohio to “stop punishing people who are sick and in pain.” “Story after story echoes the fact that medical marijuana can truly help those afflicted with chronic pain and improve the quality of life,” he said. Rep. Hagan said the bill has safeguards to ensure that only those in need of medical marijuana would get access to it. Cannabis advocates have also been pushing a separate constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana. Unlike Rep. Hagan’s proposal, the system would be overseen by a new regulatory commission instead of the Department of Health. The ballot initiative has already been certified by the Attorney General, and the Ballot Board has approved the proposed language of the referendum question. Backers of the Ohio Cannabis Rights Amendment said they’re optimistic that during the next 13 months, they can get the 385,000 petition signatures needed to put their proposal on the 2014 ballot. A referendum drive in 2012 only yielded about 5,000 signatures, leaders with the Ohio Rights Group said. But this time, they said, they’re better prepared, have more time to organize, and aren’t competing with a presidential election for voters’ attention. Ohio Rights Group leaders referred to a 2009 University of Cincinnati poll showing 73% of state residents support the use of marijuana to treat pain and suffering. Mary Jane Borden, co-founder of the organization, estimated a successful referendum effort would require about $3 million to $5 million. Columbus resident Angelica Warren, 24, described how she had a brain tumor the size of an apple. After surgery and two years of chemotherapy, she said, she became lethargic and found it extremely difficult to eat, sleep, or get out of bed. “I had friends who convinced me to smoke some marijuana,” she said, “and within minutes I was laughing along with them and ate food, which I was able to keep down. “It was the first time I saw my mother cry.”

Gongwer News Service. 5/29/13

The U.S. legacy on Vieques

 

“The navy was up to full scale operations, that included NATO participants, for many years. The concern for exposing the residents to the toxic plume generated as a result of the prevailing trade winds was never taken into consideration and are still not taken into consideration as open detonation continues to this day for disposals operations when there are technological alternatives.”

– James Barton, a munitions expert and co-author of a report on the ecological, radiological, and toxicological effects of naval bombardment on Vieques

 

On the Puerto Rican island of Vieques, residents cite cancer, birth defects and diseases as the lasting legacy of decades of US weapons use there. But 10 years after the bombings stopped, the US refuses to acknowledge a link. For more than 60 years, the idyllic Caribbean island was used as a practice ground for US Navy weapons, turning more than half of it into a no-go zone. The island of 10,000 struggled for decades to get its land back. On May 1, 2003, the US government ended bombing on Vieques. Bunkers that once held thousands of bombs were shuttered, and land used by the military was converted into nature reserves. But a decade after this major victory, Vieques remains an island in trouble. Islanders suffer significantly higher rates of cancer and other illnesses than the rest of Puerto Rico, something they attribute to the decades of weapons use. But a report released in March by the US Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), the federal agency in charge of investigating toxic substances, said it found no such link. “The people of Vieques are very sick, not because they were born sick, but because their community was sickened as a result of many factors, and one of the most important is the contamination they was subjected to for more than 60 years. These people have a higher rate of cancer, of hypertension, of kidney failure,” Carmen Ortiz-Roque, an epidemiologist and obstetrician, told Al Jazeera. For more than 60 years, the Navy was bombing us with many poisons, napalm, agent orange, depleted uranium and many other things, some of which we may never know definitively. Norma Torres Sanes, a civil disobedient in the fight against foreign military presence in Vieques “The women of child bearing age in Vieques are drastically more contaminated than the rest of the women in Puerto Rico …. 27 percent of the women in Vieques we studied had sufficient mercury to cause neurological damage in their unborn baby,” she added. Vieques has a 30 percent higher rate of cancer than the rest of Puerto Rico, and nearly four times the rate of hypertension. “Here there is every type of cancer – bone cancer, tumors. Skin cancer. Everything.  We have had friends who are diagnosed and two or three months later, they die. These are very aggressive cancers,” said Carmen Valencia, of the Vieques Women’s Alliance. Vieques has only a basic health care with a birthing clinic and an emergency room. There are no chemotherapy facilities, and the sick must travel hours by ferry or plane for treatment. Seafood, which is an important part of the diet – making up roughly 40 percent of the food eaten on the island, is also at risk. “We have bomb remnants and contaminants in the coral, and it’s clear that that type of contamination passes onto the crustaceans, to the fish, to the bigger fish that we ultimately eat. Those heavy metals in high concentrations can cause damage and cancer in people,” Elda Guadalupe, an environmental scientist, explained. But the ATSDR said it could find no relationship between mercury in fish and military operations on Vieques. So, will the US government accept any responsibility? And what solutions can the islanders implement to tackle this health situation? Inside Story Americas travelled to Vieques to produce a special report on the ongoing environmental issues and health crisis there. Together with presenter Shihab Rattansi, we discuss the crisis with guests: Katherine McCaffrey, a professor of anthropology at Montclair University, who has also written a book on the military presence in Vieques; James Barton a munitions expert and co-author of a report on the ecological, radiological, and toxicological effects of naval bombardment on Vieques. Representatives from the ATSDR declined to appear on the show. The US Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry issued this statement to Inside Story Americas: “For more than a decade, ATSDR has been concerned for the health of Vieques residents and involved in evaluation of potential health hazards related to the Navy’s past military activities on the Island of Vieques. ATSDR appreciates that the people of Vieques still have questions about the effects of environmental contamination from military operations on the island and their health. To respond to these concerns, ATSDR evaluated its previous findings at Vieques. ATSDR carefully and critically reviewed these data, including studies conducted by persons outside of ATSDR.” “Based on available data, there is no indication that past military activities have caused exposure to high levels of contamination. ATSDR looked at information about contaminants in air, water, soil, plants, and marine seafood; medical tests to measure the amount of chemicals in residents’ bodies; and reports about health conditions, new cancer cases, and deaths. Even though we looked specifically for a link, our review of these data could not find a link between military activities and human exposure.” “ATSDR recommends that public health officials look into ways to develop more reliable population-based statistics for conditions like asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other chronic diseases on Vieques using an existing health survey such as the Behavioral Risk Factors Surveillance System. ATSDR will provide laboratory and other technical support if a biomonitoring investigation is conducted.” “ATSDR considers our evaluation complete at this time. However, if public health issues arise or additional studies are conducted, we could evaluate addition data and information.” The US Navy issued this statement to Inside Story Americas about Vieques: “The US Navy has been working with the Puerto Rico Environmental Quality Board, the US Environmental Protection Agency, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service to clean the former Navy range which covers approximately 15,000 acres, and much of this area contains few or no munitions. To date more than 2,500 acres have been cleared which accounts for approximately 17 million pounds of scrap metal removed and more than 38,000 munitions items destroyed.” “The Navy requested the assistance of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), an agency of the US Department of Health and Human Services, to investigate the alleged contamination in Vieques. After studying the four pathways (Groundwater, Soil, Fish/Crabs, and Air) that would most likely result in exposure to contaminants, ATSDR released a number of Public Health Assessments (PHAs) in the summer and fall of 2003 and concluded there were no health risks to the residents of the island.” “In 2009, ATSDR again investigated whether there were any health hazards associated with the Navy’s use of Vieques. In December 2011, ATSDR released its summary report for public comment and, in March 2013, reaffirmed its findings that there is no scientific evidence of any health hazards associated with the Navy’s use of Vieques.”

Inside Story Americas in Al Jazeera. 5/14/13

Mexican members of international sex trafficking ring indicted in U.S.

Arturo Rojas-Coyotl, Odilon Martinez-Rojas and Severiano Martinez-Rojas, all of Tenancingo in the state of Tlaxcala, Mexico, have been indicted on charges of sex trafficking and alien harboring, announced the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia. A fourth man, Daniel Garcia-Tepal, also of Tlaxcala, Mexico, is charged with encouraging and inducing aliens to enter and reside in the United States unlawfully. According to U.S. Attorney Yates, the charges, and other information presented in court: Rojas-Coyotl and his uncles Odilon Martinez-Rojas and Severiano Martinez-Rojas used force, fraud, and coercion to compel three women to engage in prostitution in Atlanta and Norcross, Georgia, at various times between 2006 and 2008. Daniel Garcia-Tepal and Arturo Rojas-Coyotl are also charged with encouraging and inducing a fourth woman to unlawfully enter and remain in the United States between 2010 and 2013. Special Agents of the FBI and ICE Homeland Security Investigations arrested Arturuo Rojas-Coyotl, Odilon Martinez-Rojas, and Daniel Garcia-Tepal in a highly coordinated law enforcement sweep on Tuesday. Severiano Martinez-Rojas remains a fugitive and is believed to be in Mexico. The FBI will coordinate with its legal attaché in Mexico City to affect his arrest and subsequent extradition back to the U.S. Four search warrants were also executed today in Atlanta and Norcross, Georgia, in conjunction with the arrests. Rojas-Coyotl, 26; Martinez-Rojas, 41; Martinez-Rojas, 48; and Garcia-Tepal, 28, are scheduled for arraignment Tuesday. Each sex trafficking charge carries a maximum sentence of life in prison while each alien harboring charge has a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, with all counts carrying a fine of up to $250,000 each. In determining the actual sentence, the court will consider the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which are not binding but provide appropriate sentencing ranges for most offenders. This case is being investigated by special agents of the FBI and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations. Interagency cooperation in international sex trafficking operations is imperative and vital to the success of the prosecution. Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan Coppedge and Trial Attorney Benjamin Hawk of the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit are prosecuting the case. Anyone with information related to sex trafficking should call the Atlanta FBI hotline at 404-679-9000 or the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-3737-888. Members of the public are reminded that the indictment contains only allegations. A defendant is presumed innocent of the charges, and it will be the government’s burden to prove a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.

Latin America Herald Tribune. 5/22/13

Human trafficking is ‘a disgrace for our societies’, says Pope Francis

Human trafficking is “a despicable activity, a disgrace for our societies, which describe themselves as civilised”, Pope Francis has said. Refugees, displaced and state-less people are particularly vulnerable to “the plague of human trafficking, which increasingly involves children subjected to the worst forms of exploitation and even recruitment into armed conflicts,” the Pope said on May 24. With many victims of trafficking forced into prostitution, Pope Francis said that “exploiters and clients at every level must make a serious examination of conscience before themselves and before God.” “In a world that talks so much about rights, how many times are human rights trampled,” he asked. “In a world that talks so much about rights, the only thing that seems to have them is money. Dear brothers and sisters, we live in a world where money rules. We live in a world, in a culture, where money worship reigns.” Pope Francis made his comments during a meeting with members of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travellers, who were holding their plenary assembly at the Vatican. Their main focus was on the rights and needs of refugees and forcibly displaced people. The Pope urged government leaders, legislators and the international community to find “effective initiatives and new approaches for safeguarding their dignity, improving their quality of life and for facing the challenges emerging from modern forms of persecution, oppression and slavery.” He also urged Catholics to take seriously their obligation to see migrants and refugees as their brothers and sisters and “give voice to those not able to make their cries of pain and oppression heard”. Christians must be sensitive and respond to refugees and forcibly displaced people and their experiences of “violence, abuse, being far from their family’s affection, traumatic events, fleeing their homes and being in refugee camps uncertain about their futures”. At the same time, he said, Christians must learn to appreciate “the light of hope” shining through the eyes and lives of refugees and displaced people. “It is a hope that is expressed in their expectations for the future, their willingness to make friendships, their desire to participate in the society that welcomes them, including through learning the language, entering the job market and sending their children to school.” Pope Francis, whose four grandparents were born in Italy and immigrated to Argentina, said: “I admire the courage of those who hope to gradually resume a normal life in the expectation that joy and love will once again brighten their existence. All of us can and must nourish their hope.”

Catholic Herald Online. 5/27/13

Latino Communities

Opinion: Ariel Castro is the least of the problems facing Cleveland’s Latino community

 

Cleveland’s Latino community should stop worrying about Ariel Castro. It has bigger problems. The escape by Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight from Castro’s house on the near West Side had placed a spotlight on the city’s Latino community, in which Castro lived. The attention to Castro and his family roots in the community – his relatives were among the first Puerto Rican families to settle in the city after World War II – has become a cause of concern for some Latino leaders and residents. They worry his crimes reflect badly on his family’s legacy and Latinos, especially Puerto Ricans. Victor Perez, Cleveland’s Puerto Rico-born city prosecutor, inserted this very point into the first major press conference about the kidnapping and rape charges filed against Castro. “I want everyone to know that the acts of the defendant in this criminal case are not a reflection of the rest of the Puerto Rican community here or in Puerto Rico,” he started. The statement was heartfelt but seemed out of place given the horror of what he was describing. Castro should not be a cause for embarrassment to a community. The stain he leaves on the community pales compared with stain of failed Latino leadership, devastating poverty and lousy educational achievement that are sad hallmarks of Cleveland’s Latino community. Everybody should be embarrassed by these social crimes. The community has political champions, such as attorney Jose Feliciano, who have spent decades helping Latinos. But the problems outpace his and others’ efforts. The most noticeable political gap is at Cleveland City Council. Two Latinos made it there but didn’t last long. Nelson Cintron Jr. was the first, elected in 1997, and served two terms. He was scrappy but unfocused, and his personal dramas eclipsed his work. He was defeated by a fellow Latino, Joseph Santiago, whose one term was marked by complaints about his poor constituent services and close relationship with nightclubs that residents opposed. The lack of representation only gets notice when council redraws its ward maps, as it did earlier this year. But what good is fighting for a ward full of Latinos if the community can’t field a decent candidate to harness that voice? The city’s near West Side, which holds the largest concentration of Latinos — who account for about 10 percent of the city’s population — is also without the resident firebrand to push its agenda. Gina DeJesus’ father, Felix, who kept his missing daughter on everyone’s mind, is arguably the best known resident that fits the bill. Maybe he should run for council. He certainly understands how to deal with the city bureaucracy. The Hispanic population needs a credible representative, to help raise the standard of living. Poverty in the Latino community is among the worst in the city. And that’s saying a lot. Median annual household income is below $15,000, according to U.S. Census data. The most astounding problem is the lack of education among Latinos. About seven out 10 fail to graduate from high school. The Cleveland schools’ overall rate is about 65 percent. Victor Ruiz, executive director of Esperanza, which is devoted to helping Latino kids graduate, said there is plenty of community awareness about the issues and signs of improvement. Like Esperanza, many groups are focused on trying to engage Latinos. The Young Latino Network tries to link the professional-minded with the city’s movers-and-shakers. Social service organizations, such as the Spanish American Committee, have ebbed and flowed within the community. Plans for a Hispanic Village development project have been around for 20 years and may see a revival soon. The civic-minded Hispanic Roundtable holds a convention every three years to engage the community and set priorities. The latest such meeting, Convencion Hispana, is this October. What’s always been missing from these groups has been urgency. The negative attention generated by Castro should provide that urgency. The fastest and best way to erase the memory of Castro is for the community to get moving and succeed.

Cleveland Plain Dealer. 5/18/13

Response: Columnist’s ‘smear’ outrages Hispanics

 

We write this in response to the column of Mark Naymik’s column, which initially appeared on May 17 on his Facebook page with this introduction, “Ariel Castro’s stain on Cleveland won’t be as bad as the one left by failed Latino leadership . . .,” and which reappeared on the front page of the Metro Section on Sunday. We write to rebut the inaccurate underlying assumptions, simplistic assertions and careless analysis in the column about the Hispanic community of Cleveland. The core premise of the column is that the Hispanic leadership is responsible for the social problems facing the Hispanic community, among them “devastating poverty and lousy educational achievement” — problems faced by many communities in the United States and the entire city itself. This patronizing premise, which would not be asserted against any other group in our city, is offensive. In an effort to villainize the whole of the Hispanic leadership, Naymik skims over the pressing problems of poverty, the simple reality of prejudice and an educational system that is historically inadequate. To be sure, these challenges are faced day in and day out, year in and year out, and decade in and decade out by the civic and social agencies in the Hispanic community. Their work is summarily dismissed as ineffective by Naymik without his even knowing their missions, their challenges and their accomplishments. We challenge Naymik to analyze the work and meet the leadership of the Hispanic Roundtable, the Hispanic Alliance, the Hispanic Contractors Association, Esperanza, the Young Latino Network, LATINA Inc., the Spanish American Committee, El Barrio and Nueva Luz (Urban Resource Center), to name some of the organizations doing outstanding work for the Hispanic community. To state, “What’s always been missing from these groups has been urgency,” on nothing more than a cursory look, is beyond inaccurate and unfair. It is irresponsible. Another premise of this article is that the Hispanic community, and particularly some in its leadership, is not allowed to be embarrassed by this tragic event, even if it is horrendous to the victims, underscores stereotypes and makes the work of our agencies more difficult. Naymik’s fundamental lack of understanding of and due diligence into the community result in his failure to grasp why the Hispanic community has struggled deeply with this tragic event. What makes this article especially unpalatable is how the media — including, if not particularly, The Plain Dealer — have undercovered our issues, challenges and accomplishments and then smeared the whole of their leadership under a rationale of being “provocative.” We would think the standards of journalism would require more. We have had our challenges in electing a Hispanic City Council person, to be sure. Yet, to simplistically suggest that one member of council can attend to the complex question of raising the standard of living of a community with our challenges evidences a profound lack of understanding and judgment. Next time, do some real due diligence. Joining in supporting these views are Hispanic Alliance Executive Director Juan Molina Crespo, Esperanza Executive Director Victor Ruiz, Young Latino Network President Jose C. Feliciano Jr., LATINA Inc. President and Director Patty Quinonez, Spanish American Committee Executive Director Romonita Vargas, El Barrio Director Ingrid Angel, Nueva Luz Executive Director the Rev. Max Rodas and Hispanic Contractors Association Chairman Gus Hoyas.

Jose Feliciano in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. 5/24/13

Education and Workforce Development

New teacher evaluation system set to begin

Some school districts, next school year, will begin implementing Ohio’s new teacher evaluation system that will be based equally on teacher performance and student growth measures. Other districts are slated to start using the new, more extensive assessments during the 2014-15 school year. The evaluations, mandated under state law, are part of a nationwide effort to maintain federal funding and improve classroom instruction. In Ohio, the change also is designed to prepare students and teachers for new academic content standards that will be implemented in 2014-15 and to create uniformity across the state. Some educators have voiced concern about various elements of the evaluations — from the accuracy of value-added student growth data, the limited time principals have to conduct classroom observations and that evaluations would be used to determine whether to promote, retain or remove a teacher. Some area districts, including Dayton Public, Beavercreek, Northmont, Mad River, New Lebanon, Tipp City and Xenia, participated in pilot programs to help set up the framework for the state’s teacher evaluation model, the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES). The model would be implemented next school year by districts that received federal Race to the Top funding, while those districts with School Improvement Grant dollars would implement it over the next three years, Ohio Department of Education spokesman John Charlton said. Debbie Baker, Northmont’s assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction and technology, said this year’s pilot program at the high school and an elementary school went well. “We learned that it takes a lot of time to complete the teacher performance side of the evaluation,” she said, estimating the teacher performance component could take anywhere from 10-15 hours of principal time to complete. Lori Ward, superintendent of Dayton Public Schools where the OTES was piloted in seven SIG schools this year, said it gave them a better understanding of the resources required for all of the district’s schools to go through the evaluation process next school year. “It’s an intensive amount of time required to do it right,” Ward said. “I’m going to be particulary interested in my staff’s viewpoints on the time, especially in buildings that don’t have assistant principals.” Six prek-8 schools don’t have assistant principals. Northmont’s Baker is concerned about the student performance part of the evaluation because “50 percent of some teachers’ evaluations will be based on a test that a student takes one day out of the year,” she said. “Value-added procedures are coming under attack from all over the country but we are still going to attach 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation to that data.” Value-added scores chart whether districts have exceeded, met or not met expected growth on fourth-through eighth-grade math and reading tests as compared to the previous year. Melodie Larsen, a fifth-grade teacher at E.J. Brown PreK-8 School in Dayton Public, was among several area teachers evaluated under the new system this year. Larsen has been teaching in the district for 26 years. She spent 25 of those years teaching kindergartners before she was assigned to a fifth-grade class. She received a good evaluation showing she is proficient, but she hoped it would have been better in some areas. “I felt like she at least seemed to understand the idea wasn’t to be punitive, it was to try to build teaching skills,” she said. Larsen’s biggest concern is that basing 50 percent of the teacher evaluation on student growth measures gives an “unfair advantage to teachers in high performing districts over low performing districts.” State Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering, has proposed reducing the percentage of the value-added data component from 50 percent of the teachers’ rating to 35 percent. The remaining 15 percent would be made up by teacher-developed assessments to periodic assessments, said David Romick, president of the Dayton Education Association, the teachers’ union representing about 1,130 Dayton Public teachers. Romick thinks OTES is a fair system though he seems some pitfalls in administrators being so pressed for time and so much emphasis put on student growth measures. He said value-added measures can have a 30 percent margin of error so he supports Lehner’s effort to reduce the percentage and add locally created assessments. “I think anytime you leave how you’re going to measure teachers and student growth up to the local district — to the extent that you can — you’re better off because that district knows its population and knows how to best serve that clientele,” he said.

Dayton Daily News. 5/28/13

Bipartisan bill would adopt health education standards for Ohio schools

The chairman of the House Health Committee said Friday he will jointly sponsor bipartisan legislation to create health education standards for Ohio schools. Rep. Lynn Watchmann (R-Napoleon) joins Rep. Vernon Sykes (D-Akron) in sponsoring the measure that would require the State Board of Education to adopt the National Health Education Standards as the guidelines for what should be taught in school health classes. The measure is expected to be dropped in the next couple weeks, Rep. Sykes office said. The national standards are “infused with evidence-based practices that establish, promote and support health-enhancing behaviors for students in all grade levels-from pre-kindergarten through grade 12,” the lawmakers said in their cosponsor request. “More specifically, the NHES are written expectations for what students should know and be able to do by grades 2, 5, 8, and 12 to promote personal, family, and community health.” The sponsors also said the standards do not prescribe any specific topics, issues or content for classrooms, allowing local districts to determine what will be taught. A Legislative Service Commission analysis also concluded it would not change the current teaching of “sexuality education.” “I would not classify it as a mandate as far as any additional work (for schools),” Rep. Wachtmann said. The Republican said when he was approached about the bill he was not aware of what was going on in Ohio health classrooms and thought it afforded him a chance to learn what was being done and see if it could be improved. “There are still terrible epidemics with mental diseases among young people, all kinds of other things going on…. I think we owe it to them to see if a better curriculum or a different curriculum put in their schools – and maybe some schools already follow this national guideline – to see if we can improve it,” he said. Unlike the subjects of math, English/language arts, science and social studies, Ohio has no set standards for health education, something advocates see as a shortcoming. Judy Jagger-Mescher recently told the House Finance Healthier Ohio Working Group that Ohio and Iowa are the only states that have not adopted such standards for their schools, but even Iowa has guidelines in place. “Ohio needs a healthier population which, in turn, will lead to more productive, engaged workforce,” she said in testimony. “But even though programs aiming to keep employees healthy are generally less expensive than the reactive (and) costly, sometimes temporary health care options, I believe there is a better solution to the wellness in the workplace and community issue.” Ms. Jagger-Mescher referenced the 2012 Gallup Healthways Well-Being Index in which Ohio ranks 44th among states for overall wellness covering areas such as life evaluation, emotional and physical health, healthy behaviors, work environment and basic access to health care. She advocated for the Sykes-Wachtmann legislation, saying adoption of the national standards would be cost-free as opposed to paying to develop criteria locally. The National Health Education Standards include skills such as accessing valid health resources, communicating in healthy ways, using consistently healthy decision-making skills, setting positive health goals and advocating for health and wellness among families, friends and communities, she said. House Finance Chairman Rep. Ron Amstutz (R-Wooster) who convened the Healthier Ohio Working Group said he just learned about the bill last week.  “It seemed like it’d be good for the committee to look into that since it handles another aspect of trying to reach out to the younger generation and help them be successful as they’re coming into adulthood,” he said. “It’s very, very short and not a mandate…on any of the local boards.” However, Rep. Barbara Sears (R-Sylvania), who also sits on the working group, raised concerns over what she called a “one size fits all” proposal. “I certainly think by exposing kids and families to lifestyles and healthier diets they’ll be drawn to it if it’s available to them,” she said, adding such a focus could become a “pointless waste of time and energy” if Ohioans who cannot access such tools are subject to the standards. Rep. Watchmann said the bill is likely to move through the House Education Committee and expects it will get some hearings before the General Assembly recesses at the end of June.

Gongwer News Service. 5/24/13

In raising scores, 1 2 3 is easier than A B C

David Javsicas, a popular seventh-grade reading teacher known for urging students to act out dialogue in the books they read in class, sometimes feels wistful for the days when he taught math. A quiz, he recalls, could quickly determine which concepts students had not yet learned. Then, “you teach the kids how to do it, and within a week or two you can usually fix it,” he said. Helping students to puzzle through different narrative perspectives or subtext or character motivation, though, can be much more challenging. “It could take months to see if what I’m teaching is effective,” he said. Educators, policy makers and business leaders often fret about the state of math education, particularly in comparison with other countries. But reading comprehension may be a larger stumbling block. Here at Troy Prep Middle School, a charter school near Albany that caters mostly to low-income students, teachers are finding it easier to help students hit academic targets in math than in reading, an experience repeated in schools across the country. Students entering the fifth grade here are often several years behind in both subjects, but last year, 100 percent of seventh graders scored at a level of proficient or advanced on state standardized math tests. In reading, by contrast, just over half of the seventh graders met comparable standards. The results are similar across the 31 other schools in the Uncommon Schools network, which enrolls low-income students in Boston, New York City, Rochester and Newark. After attending an Uncommon school for two years, said Brett Peiser, the network’s chief executive, 86 percent of students score at a proficient or advanced level in math, while only about two thirds reach those levels in reading over the same period. “Math is very close-ended,” Mr. Peiser said. Reading difficulties, he said, tend to be more complicated to resolve. “Is it a vocabulary issue? A background knowledge issue? A sentence length issue? How dense is the text?” Mr. Peiser said, rattling off a string of potential reading roadblocks. “It’s a three-dimensional problem that you have to attack. And it just takes time.” Uncommon’s experience is not so uncommon. Other charter networks and school districts similarly wrestle to bring struggling readers up to speed while having more success in math. In a Mathematica Policy Research study of schools run by KIPP, one of the country’s best-known charter operators, researchers found that on average, students who had been enrolled in KIPP middle schools for three years had test scores that indicated they were about 11 months — or the equivalent of more than a full grade level — ahead of the national average in math. In reading, KIPP’s advantage over the national average was smaller, about eight months. Among large public urban districts, which typically have large concentrations of poor students, six raised eighth-grade math scores on the federal tests known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress from 2009 to 2011. Only one — in Charlotte, N.C. — was able to do so in reading. Studies have repeatedly found that “teachers have bigger impacts on math test scores than on English test scores,” said Jonah Rockoff, an economist at Columbia Business School. He was a co-author of a study that showed that teachers who helped students raise standardized test scores had a lasting effect on those students’ future incomes, as well as other lifelong outcomes. Teachers and administrators who work with children from low-income families say one reason teachers struggle to help these students improve reading comprehension is that deficits start at such a young age: in the 1980s, the psychologists Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley found that by the time they are 4 years old, children from poor families have heard 32 million fewer words than children with professional parents. By contrast, children learn math predominantly in school. “Your mother or father doesn’t come up and tuck you in at night and read you equations,” said Geoffrey Borman, a professor at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin. “But parents do read kids bedtime stories, and kids do engage in discussions around literacy, and kids are exposed to literacy in all walks of life outside of school.” Reading also requires background knowledge of cultural, historical and social references. Math is a more universal language of equations and rules. “Math is really culturally neutral in so many ways,” said Scott Shirey, executive director of KIPP Delta Public Schools in Arkansas. “For a child who’s had a vast array of experiences around the world, the Pythagorean theorem is just as difficult or daunting as it would be to a child who has led a relatively insular life.” Education experts also say reading development simply requires that students spend so much more time practicing. And while reading has been the subject of fierce pedagogical battles, “the ideological divisions are not as great on the math side as they are on the literacy side,” said Linda Chen, deputy chief academic officer in the Boston Public Schools. In 2011, 29 percent of eighth graders eligible for free lunch in Boston scored at proficient or advanced levels on federal math exams, compared with just 17 percent in reading. At Troy Prep, which is housed in a renovated warehouse, teachers work closely with students to help them overcome difficulties in both math and reading, breaking classes into small groups. But the relative challenges of teaching both subjects were evident on a recent morning. During a fifth-grade reading class, students read aloud from “Bridge to Terabithia,” by Katherine Paterson. Naomi Frame, the teacher, guided the students in a close reading of a few paragraphs. But when she asked them to select which of two descriptions fit Terabithia, the magic kingdom created by the two main characters, the class stumbled to draw inferences from the text. Later, in math class, the same students had less difficulty following Bridget McElduff as she taught a lesson on adding fractions with different denominators. At the beginning of the class, Ms. McElduff rapidly called out equations involving two fractions, and the students eagerly called back the answers. Because the students were familiar with the basic principles — finding the greatest common factor, then reducing — they quickly caught on when she asked them to add three fractions.  New curriculum standards known as the Common Core that have been adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia could raise the bar in math. “As math has become more about talking, arguing and writing, it’s beginning to require these kinds of cultural resources that depend on something besides school,” said Deborah L. Ball, dean of the school of education at the University of Michigan. Teachers and administrators within the Uncommon network are confident that they will eventually crack the nut in reading. One solution: get the students earlier. Paul Powell, principal of Troy Prep, said the school, which added kindergarten two years ago and first grade last fall, would add second-, third- and fourth-grade classes over the next three years. Over time, teachers hope to develop the same results in reading that they have produced in math. Already, students at high school campuses in the Uncommon network in Brooklyn and Newark post average scores on SAT reading tests that exceed some national averages.  “I don’t think there is very much research out there to say that when you can take a student who is impoverished and dramatically behind, that you can fix it in three years,” said Mr. Javsicas, the seventh-grade reading teacher, who also coordinates special education at Troy Prep. “But I do think the signs seem fairly positive that if we can take kids from kindergarten and take them through 12th grade, I think we can get there.”

New York Times. 5/30/13

Politics and Government

Effort to fix the national debt spreads to Ohio

A nationwide effort to pressure the federal government to stop deficit spending has taken root in Ohio, where CEOs and city council members are enlisting in the cause. “The time to act is now,” Eaton Corp. CEO Alexander Cutler told Cleveland’s City Club at a Friday luncheon, where he said that spending cuts will be tough in the short term, but make the U.S. stronger in the future. “The person to act is you. The power comes from all of us.” Cutler is among more than 100 CEOs who have joined “Fix the Debt,” a group launched last July by Erskine Bowles, who served as White House Chief of Staff under President Bill Clinton, and former Wyoming GOP Sen. Alan Simpson. The pair headed a presidential deficit reduction commission that recommended a mix of spending cuts and tax increases that legislators never adopted. Former Ohio Gov. and GOP U.S. Sen. George Voinovich is co-chair of the group’s Ohio effort along with Akron Mayor Donald Plusquellic, a Democrat. Other members of its steering committee include Cuyahoga County Council member Dave Greenspan, Bay Village Mayor Deborah Sutherland, and Mentor Councilman Ray Kirchner. In Ohio, members of the group have discussed the issue with several of the state’s U.S. Senators and Congressmen, and Voinovich has written several newspaper opinion pieces that urge Congress to reduce the national debt. On Friday, Cutler told the City Club that deficit spending threatens the nation’s competitiveness, and “fiscal prudence” is needed to create jobs and ensure growth. “This is fundamental to the health of our country,” Cutler told the group. Voinovich said he and Cutler have sent letters to 140 businesses in the state that urge them and their employees to join the effort to find a real fix for the nation’s fiscal problems. The group’s members are also attempting to persuade their legislators to solve the problem. “We really want to create an environment out there where members of Congress understand that doing nothing or kicking the can down the road is not an option,” Voinovich said in an interview. Voinovich said he tried to reach a debt reduction deal when he served in Washington, but his colleagues preferred temporary Band-Aids that didn’t require tough tradeoffs that might erode their political support. He said his group is working with current members of Congress to find a bipartisan solution. Last month, Bowles and Simpson released a new spending proposal that would reduce the deficit by $2.5 trillion over the next decade. It calls for restoring 70 percent of sequestration’s 2013 budget cuts, reforms to tax policy and federal health spending, and limiting defense and non-defense spending growth to inflation levels through 2025. In their preamble to the plan, the pair stress their suggestions are not the ideal, perfect or only way to diminish the government’s indebtedness. “It is an effort to show both sides that a deal is possible; a deal where neither side compromises their principles but instead relies on principled compromise,” they said. “Such a deal would invigorate our economy and demonstrate to the public that Washington can solve problems, and leave a better future for our grandchildren.” Fix The Debt vice president Jon Romano says more than 350,000 Americans have signed the group’s online petition to reduce deficit spending. He said CEO involvement in the cause boosts awareness of the effort among their employees and in their communities. “For them it is about economic certainty,” said Romano. “It is better for business, and better for consumers.” He said Fix The Debt has raised $40 million from corporations, foundations and individuals to spend when an opportunity arises to push for a compromise that provides a “meaningful fix” to the nation’s debt problems instead of “lurching from crisis to crisis and reaching small ball deals at the eleventh hour.” Cutler likened doing what’s needed to the scene in the film “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” in which the outlaw pair jump off a cliff and survive. “If we come together around this issue and jump off this cliff we will survive,” said Cutler. “In fact, not to do so is sitting on a volcano. And that is not a very secure position.”

Cleveland Plain Dealer. 5/24/13

GOP sees ‘Obamacare’ debacle as key to 2014

If Republicans were writing a movie script for next year’s congressional elections, the working title might be 2014: Apocalypse of Obamacare. The rollout of President Barack Obama’s health-care law turns into such a disaster that enraged voters rebuke him by rewarding the GOP with undisputed control of Congress. But there’s a risk for Republicans if they’re wrong and the Affordable Care Act works reasonably well, particularly in states that have embraced it. Republicans might be seen as obstinately standing in the way of progress. The law already has been a political prop in two election seasons, but next year will be different. Voters will have a real program to judge, working or dysfunctional. Will affordable health care finally be a reality for millions of uninsured working people? Or will premiums skyrocket as the heavy hand of government upends already fragile insurance markets for small businesses and individuals? “The end of this movie has not been written,” said Robert Blendon, a Harvard professor who tracks public opinion on health care. He said next year’s movie actually will be a documentary: what happens in states that fully put the law in place and those that resist — “a message of reality.” One of the most prominent doomsayers is Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who predicts “Obamacare” probably will be the biggest issue of 2014 and “an albatross around the neck of every Democrat who voted for it.” House Speaker John Boehner, R-West Chester, also has been a relentless critic. “This thing can’t possibly work,” said McConnell. “It will be a huge disaster in 2014.” Counting on that, House Republicans are busy framing an election narrative, voting to repeal the health law and trying to link it to the scandal over the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of tea party groups. It could help excite the conservative base. But Democratic pollster Celinda Lake doubts reality will follow the GOP script. Next year, “we won’t have to worry about the mythology laid out by the right wing about Obamacare: death panels and dramatic cuts to Medicare,” she said. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said uninsured people in her state will have over 200 coverage options to choose from. “We have been hearing the fear, but in states like mine, people are seeing the reality,” she said. In just about five months, people without access to coverage through their jobs can start shopping for subsidized private insurance in new state markets. The actual benefits begin Jan. 1. But because of continuing opposition to the law from many Republican governors and state legislators, the federal government will be running the insurance markets in more than half the states. Another major element of the law, the expansion of Medicaid to serve more low-income people, also has run into problems. With many legislative sessions over or winding down, it looks like fewer than half the states may accept the expansion. That means millions of low-income people are likely to remain uninsured, at least initially. Other early indicators of how well the health-care rollout might fare are mixed. In a dozen or so states that have started releasing details of their new insurance markets, there’s robust insurer interest in participating, according to the market research firm Avalere Health. That’s a good signal for competition. There still are concerns about a spike in premiums for people who already buy their own coverage, particularly the young and healthy. That could happen for several reasons. The health-care law forbids insurers to deny coverage to sick people, and it limits what older adults can be charged. Also, the plans that will be offered next year are more comprehensive than many bare-bones policies currently available to individuals. Another big source of angst is the Obama administration. The Health and Human Services Department will be running the program in half the country while trying to fight off attempts by congressional Republicans to starve it financially. Unusual for a social program, the administration is largely operating behind a veil of secrecy. Will Obama’s underlings turn out to be the Keystone Kops of health care? Frustration that he and his constituents couldn’t get basic information from the administration led one of the authors of the law, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., to warn recently that he sees “a huge train wreck coming down.” Republicans loved it. Lost in the uproar was the fact that Baucus was referring to potential problems with implementation. He stills thinks the health-care law itself is a good thing. The administration official running the rollout, Gary Cohen, told Congress that he didn’t agree with the senator’s statement. “We are very much on schedule,” Cohen said. Republican pollster Bill McInturff, who has made polling on health care his specialty, said he’s skeptical of what he hears from the administration as well as from his own party. “Life experience said to me there is not going to be some simple, clear narrative that is sitting here today,” McInturff said.

Associated Press. 5/28/13

Ohio Senate pulls back curtain on its version of state budget

Senate lawmakers on Tuesday unveiled their revamped version of Ohio’s two-year budget, resurrecting Gov. John Kasich’s $1.4 billion tax cut for small-business owners. But — like the versions the House and Kasich rolled out earlier this year — everything is subject to change. Senators reintroduced the 50 percent tax cut for small-business owners Kasich proposed in February when he unveiled his “Jobs Budget 2.0.” They tossed the House proposal for a permanent 7 percent income tax cut for all Ohioans. Aside from the business tax cut, the Senate’s version of House Bill 59 keeps off the table much of what the House scrapped from the Republican governor’s proposal. Both chambers are under GOP leadership. Senate President Keith Faber said favoring a tax cut for small-business owners over a cut for all Ohioans is a means to job creation. “While we all support a 7 percent across-the-board income tax cut, we just did a 4.5 percent across-the-board income tax cut,” said Faber, a Celina Republican. “While I’m sure it helped at the margins, the reality is we want to do something that’s targeted to those 95 percent who are creators of the jobs. “We believe the small-business tax cut will directly grow jobs in the immediate future.” The 50 percent small-business tax cut would apply to the first $750,000 in yearly income claimed on personal tax filings, so a business owner earning $750,000 would only be taxed on the first $375,000. Democratic Sen. Michael Skindell said the break given to small business owners won’t spur job creation. “The revenue generated from that doesn’t really get a lot of small businesses to hire people,” said Skindell of Lakewood. “The statement that this will create jobs is somewhat false.” Kasich’s version of the budget called for sweeping tax reform, which included a 20 percent phased-in income tax cut, a broadening of the sales-tax base and a reduction in the sales tax from 5.5 percent to 5 percent. The governor also wanted to hike severance taxes to draw more money from large oil and gas drillers. “We continue to look at tax reform beyond what we’re doing as a small-business tax cut,” Faber said. “The severance tax produced by the governor is not likely to be in this budget.” Medicaid expansion and the state’s school funding formula are not included in this latest iteration of the budget to give lawmakers more time to iron out those issues, Faber said. “We continue to work on” Medicaid, Faber said. “We’ve had great work groups going on a bipartisan basis… and they’re making good progress. A lot of great ideas are coming forward.” Faber said his members are looking at “significant increases” in school funding, but that the issue is still in flux. The Senate’s version of the budget bill scuttled a controversial House measure that would have required Ohio’s public universities to charge in-state tuition rates if they issue students an official letter or utility bill as a form of voter ID. Democrats blasted the measure as an attempt to prevent students from voting in their campus precincts. The Senate held on to a House amendment that would strip funding from Planned Parenthood by changing the current system of divvying the state’s family planning funds. A Planned Parenthood official said the group will continue to testify against the legislation this week during Senate committees. Skindell said he will continue battling alongside. “We are continuing the fight to ensure women’s health care is tended to,” Skindell said. “We will have another round of amendments to seek the removal of that.” The Senate will likely tweak Tuesday’s substitute to HB 59 before sending the legislation to a floor vote by June 6. The bill then will move to a conference committee, where lawmakers from both chambers will finalize work on the budget before seeking Kasich’s signature. The governor must sign the $63 billion proposal by June 30. “The House started with a pretty good product in what the governor proposed. The House made it better,” Faber said. “We took a pretty good product that came out of the House. We’re going to make it even better.”

Cleveland Plain Dealer. 5/28/13

Armond Budish likely to launch campaign for Cuyahoga County executive at Thursday event

Watch for Armond Budish to take his long-expected leap into the race for Cuyahoga County executive this week.  The Democratic state representative from Beachwood has advised reporters of a “major announcement” he plans to make at 10 a.m. Thursday at the new Ernst & Young building in Cleveland’s Flats East Bank development. There is little question that Budish will officially launch his campaign. Last week he stepped down from his post as House minority leader, a move caucus officials are expected to make if they plan to run for a new office. And Democratic insiders had previously told The Plain Dealer that Budish was preparing for a May 30 announcement. Budish is regarded as a Democratic front-runner because of his fundraising abilities. But he’s never appeared on a ballot beyond his East Side base. The executive’s seat will be open on next year’s ballot because Ed FitzGerald is seeking the Democratic nomination to face Ohio Gov. John Kasich. So far FitzGerald is the only announced Democrat in the race for governor. One other Democrat has declared his candidacy: ex-Sheriff Bob Reid. Other Democrats considering bids include County Council President C. Ellen Connally, State Sen. Shirley Smith and Eric Wobser, head of the Ohio City Inc. development agency. Republicans, a statistical underdog in Cuyahoga County, are hoping to field a high-caliber candidate of their own. Those mentioned include State Sen. Tom Patton and County Councilman Jack Schron.

Cleveland Plain Dealer. 5/29/13

Tea party re-energized by IRS scandal

Tea party activists may be incensed over the improper targeting of conservative groups by the Internal Revenue Service, but those on hand Wednesday for a “national town hall” about the issue also see a silver lining to the controversy. Many at the nearly full conference hall said that the IRS’ actions have sparked more activity and interest in conservative movements. “We’ve already achieved some of our goals of this meeting,” said George Brunemann, one of the event’s organizers who helped found the Cincinnati Tea Party, served as president of that organization last year and who emceed the event. Waving to the nearly full room, Brunemann said that the IRS situation has “created a new groundswell of interest.” Greg Fettig, the midwest regional coordinator of the national conservative group FreedomWorks said that the tea party movement has seen a 14 percent jump in approval in a recent Rassmussen poll over the last two weeks. The IRS office and division at the center of the controversy was based in the agency’s offices in downtown Cincinnati. The event featured speakers from several local, state, and national tea party organizations, as well as several elected officials. Those included Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, R-Terrace Park, who was one of the first in Congress to question the IRS over potential targeting. In addition, Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Westwood, and Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Columbia Tusculum, also spoke. Portman said that the IRS scandal is tied directly into politics and the 2012 election. “This is clearly putting politics over the public interest,” Portman said, also referring to the ongoing scandal involving Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and possible inappropriate requests for political donations. As for the IRS, “either they are not telling the truth or they are incompetent. They misled the American people, period. “The tea party was right … the government has overstepped its bounds,” Portman said. “There are 12 deadly sins at the IRS, and one is not to directly violate the constitutional rights or you are immediately terminated. We haven’t seen that happen yet.” Chabot said that while the IRS controversy was indeed “outrageous,” he said the investigation into what happened in the Libyan consulate in Benghazi was the biggest scandal facing the White House. “People died … and time after time the administration lied to the American public,” Chabot said. “But the IRS is a big deal, too. This could have a chilling effect on anyone people getting involved for fear of being scrutinized by their own government.” One local activist said he was re-energized by the scandal, saying that the “government was trampling people’s First Amendment right to free political speech.” “They are targeting people with the IRS and are now targeting news organizations with the justice department,” said Tim McDonald, a retired Cincinnati firefighter who lives in Whitewater Township and is that community’s fiscal officer. Wearing a “Got Tea?” t-shirt, McDonald said he was going to redouble his efforts for conservative efforts and to reform the IRS. “This targeting was political,” McDonald said. “I don’t think anyone in this room would mind this if they had done it fairly. But they didn’t.”

Cincinnati Enquirer. 5/30/13

Ohio lawmakers move to block JobsOhio from state audit

Republicans in the Ohio House of Representatives voted Wednesday to shield nearly all of JobsOhio’s financial records from review by Ohio Auditor Dave Yost. Under the bill, Yost would not be allowed to review the majority of the state’s private economic development arm’s funding — an estimated $100 million annually or more — generated from profits on sales from the state’s liquor monopoly. Yost, a Republican, would be consulted in selecting a private firm that would audit JobsOhio each year. The bill passed the House, 61-34. Language limiting Yost’s auditing authority was inserted Wednesday morning as an amendment to an otherwise uncontroversial bill meant to reduce the cost of state audits for local governments. The amended bill will now go back to the Ohio Senate, which unanimously approved the measure withoud the JobsOhio amendment last week. Gov. John Kasich, also a Republican, had pushed for the change since earlier in the year, when he and Yost in an intraparty squabble butted heads about the state auditor’s ability to review JobsOhio’s records. JobsOhio is a private nonprofit Kasich and the state legislature created in 2011 to replace the government agency that had promoted economic development in the state. Yost eventually issued a subpoena, with which JobsOhio officials reluctantly complied. JobsOhio returned $8.4 million in state funds it received to help it gets operations off the ground. Spokespeople for Kasich and JobsOhio issued similar statements following Wednesday’s vote, saying the amendment would bring needed clarity to concerns raised by private economic development groups. “It not only helps JobsOhio know how to move forward but it’s also critically important for the job creators who use economic development incentives to grow and expand in Ohio,” said JobsOhio spokeswoman Laura Jones. “The additional accountability for JobsOhio is welcome also and provides additional assurances as it continues its important work to help create jobs so Ohio can keep getting back on track,” said Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols. Yost did not return a message seeking comment. A spokeswoman said Yost first saw the amendment Wednesday morning, and would need to review it before weighing in. However, Yost addressed a rumored amendment in a March letter to legislators in which he argued he and future state auditors should be able to audit JobsOhio, which is run by a board of Kasich appointees and funded through state liquor proceeds. “While there have been no indications of misdealing, the potential for self-dealing or other mischief exists sometime in the future. This office’s audit will help protect against the real possibility of human failings,” Yost said in the letter. Democrats blasted Wednesday’s JobsOhio amendment, saying Republicans railroaded it through without public input from Yost, and unsuccessfully pushed to revert the bill back to its original form. State Rep. Matt Lundy, D-Elyria, said the JobsOhio amendment reduced the public’s ability to evaluate if JobsOhio is working effectively. Last week, Lundy and other House Democrats introduced a bill that would make JobsOhio subject to state audits, as well as state ethics and public records laws. “If you have nothing to hide, why are you afraid of the public’s right to know how public dollars are being spent by JobsOhio?” Lundy said. State Rep. Ron Maag, R-Lebanon, who introduced the JobsOhio amendment, said the change would help preserve transparency while clarifying that JobsOhio and other private companies that receive public money aren’t as a result totally open to government auditors. “This amendment reconfirms the Ohio legislature’s intent that JobsOhio be private and transparent,” Maag said. Chambers of commerce in Cleveland and Dayton supported the JobsOhio amendment. “(The amendment) makes sure the state doesn’t overstep its boundaries and start auditing private funds of private companies, because that’s not their role,” said Chris Kershner, a lobbyist for the Dayton chamber.

Dayton Daily News. 5/29/13

Energy and the Environment

Ohio officials target rivers to stem algae blooms

Ohio environmental officials are focusing on six major streams as they try to cut pollutants that help toxic algae thrive in the state’s lakes and other waterways. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has for years worked to cut manure and fertilizer runoff from Ohio farms and discharge from sewage treatment plants that contribute to poisonous blooms of blue-green algae in Lake Erie and Grand Lake St. Marys in western Ohio. The state EPA will focus on the Scioto, Great Miami, Maumee, Sandusky, Cuyahoga and Wabash rivers in an effort to curtail runoff that pollutes not only Ohio lakes but the Gulf of Mexico, too, the Columbus Dispatch reported today. Toxic algae grow thick in water polluted with phosphorus and nitrogen from sewage, manure and fertilizers. They produce liver and nerve toxins that can sicken people and have killed pets and wildlife. Dead and decomposing algae rob water of oxygen, creating “dead zones” where nothing can live. The blooms kill fish populations, stink up beaches and put a dent in the lakes’ lucrative sport-fishing and tourism industries. Ohio EPA officials have so far followed the federal framework, which encourages working to improve specific streams. Brian Hall, assistant chief of surface water for the Ohio EPA, said the agency will measure pollution in each stream and take steps to reduce it. The Scioto River in central Ohio and the Wabash River in Great Miami in southwestern Ohio are associated with runoff that contributes to a vast “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico every summer. A 2007 U.S. Geological Survey analysis put Ohio among nine states that supply 75 percent of the nitrogen and phosphorus to the Gulf via the Mississippi River. Toxic algae advisories went up last week at Grand Lake St. Marys, Ohio’s largest inland lake, warning visitors to stay out of the water. The ODNR said recent test results showed toxin levels higher than the recommended threshold. State officials said recently they are concerned that the wet Ohio spring will again bring toxic algae problems back to Lake Erie. Heavy rain this year in northwestern Ohio has nearly doubled the average amount of phosphorus that washes off farm fields each spring and flows down the Maumee River to the lake.

Associated Press. 5/28/13

‘Part of the community’: Latinos rebuild after Oklahoma tornado

 

Mynor Sanchez, a resident of Moore, Okla., lives a few blocks away and three houses down from major destruction. He is volunteering Friday in the neighborhood with his church, Templo El Alabanza, trying to do any tasks with which residents need help. Mynor Sanchez, a resident of Moore, Okla., lives a few blocks away and three houses down from major destruction. He is volunteering Friday in the neighborhood with his church, Templo El Alabanza, trying to do any tasks with which residents need help. Pastor Chano Najera calls out T-shirt sizes in Spanglish to volunteers waiting for their uniforms. It’s easy to spot Najera in this crowd – just look for the cowboy hat. He preaches in Spanish at Templo De Alabanza in Oklahoma City. On this morning, though, he’s wrangling a group of young Latino volunteers as they wheel cases of water bottles onto trucks headed for Moore, Okla., where an EF-5 tornado ripped through neighborhoods last week, but spared Najera’s home. Najera was born in Mexico and has lived in Oklahoma for more than three decades – long enough to know which tornado tips are especially worth preaching: “Go buy a safe box!” he says. “Keep the most important papers and documents and whatever they have in the safe box.” Then, he says, find a space under the floor board of your home and “bury it.” Protecting birth certificates, passports and other personal documents is especially important for immigrants. Najera also tries to encourage community involvement among Latinos who may feel they don’t belong. “What we try to tell them is: ‘No, no, no. You need to be part of it. Don’t exclude yourself from the process. We are part of the community,’ ” he says. Once the dozens of volunteers from Najera’s disaster relief team arrived in Moore, one group set to work raking storm debris from a front yard. Eli Sanchez and his family of four live in this neighborhood. The foundation for their brick home moved during the storm and left cracked walls inside. The tornado was even less forgiving to his parents, whose home in Moore was leveled. Sanchez says the one thing his father – an immigrant from Guatemala – hoped to recover was his American citizenship certificate. “He was proud of that, because he framed it and he put it on the bookshelf for everybody to see,” Sanchez says. Sanchez’s wife, Maria, says she understood her father-in-law’s wish, because she just became a U.S. citizen herself. “I came here illegally, but I was 2. I was 2 years old,” she says. Maria Sanchez was born in Mexico, and she says she hasn’t forgotten the barriers facing undocumented immigrants. “The first thing is the mentality – the mentality of fear,” she says. “You know, I’m scared to go ask for help.” It’s an all-too-familiar kind of anxiety for people like Amelia, an undocumented immigrant from central Mexico. NPR isn’t using her last name. “It’s stressful,” Amelia says in Spanish. Amelia cleans offices to support her and her 8-year-old daughter. They lived in a trailer home in Moore that was in the path of last week’s tornado. When the storm came through town, Amelia rushed to pick her daughter up from Plaza Towers Elementary School. They then took cover under a bridge. Amelia says it’s a miracle they survived, but they still lost nearly everything. “I was desperate,” Amelia says, “But also afraid to ask for help.” But she knew she had no choice but to take the risk. It took her three days to build up her courage. Then she got in her car, talked to church volunteers and went to a public health clinic for counseling. She even approached an official and asked how the government could help rebuild her life. She says she can’t imagine having done any of this before the tornado. But now Amelia says: “I no longer feel alone. And I no longer feel afraid of anyone.”

Code Switch. 5/26/13

Justice and Civil Rights

Ohio lawmakers propose gay rights bills

After years of trying to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation, a bipartisan group of state lawmakers is mustering another attempt. The package is nearly identical to previous efforts and would add a number of anti-discrimination protections, including housing, wages, certain government contracts and mental-health services. A set of bills — one in the House and one in the Senate — are sponsored by two Republicans and two Democrats. Supporters point to signs that attitudes are shifting. Surveys funded by a coalition of gay-rights organizations, including Equality Ohio, show that 79 percent of Ohioans support such a measure. At least four similar bills have died in the past. The last major attempt, in 2009, came close: The bill passed the Democratic-controlled House but died in the Republican-controlled Senate. The 2010 election brought a wave of fresh Republicans to Columbus. And at the start of his term, Gov. John Kasich renewed an executive order to protect gay state workers but removed language about gender identity. “Largely, I think there’s a younger generation of Republicans that may be more open to this,” said Sen. Frank LaRose, R-Copley, who was elected in 2010 and is co-sponsoring the Senate bill. There’s also been growing support on the national level, including from U.S. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, who made headlines in March when he announced his support for gay marriage. “I think more and more, it’s not a partisan issue,” said state Rep. Nickie Antonio, D-Lakewood, who is co-sponsoring the House bill with Rep. Ross McGregor, R-Springfield. “We have fair-minded people on both sides of the aisle — I know we do.” Eighty of the top 98 employers listed on the JobsOhio website include sexual orientation in their anti-discrimination policies. Religious-based employers such as Catholic Health Partners — the fourth-largest employer in the state with more than 31,000 workers — would not have to comply under a religious exemption. The same measure was included last time but wasn’t enough to sway skeptical Republicans. In a statement, a Catholic Health Partners spokesman said the company does not discriminate based on sexual orientation. A Columbus ordinance outlaws discrimination based on sexual orientation. It came into play in March when a gay Catholic-school gym teacher, Carla Hale, was fired for violating morals clauses in both her contract and the teachers-union contract. The city Community Relations Commission is expected to decide whether the Roman Catholic Diocese of Columbus violated the ordinance in dealing with Hale. Small-business advocates are wary of possible side effects. Any time lawmakers expand the discrimination umbrella, owners are vulnerable to costly lawsuits and court cases, said Chris Ferruso, legislative director for National Federation of Independent Business/Ohio. “It creates a new avenue for employers to be sued,” Ferruso said. He said the federation has reviewed the bill but has not officially sided either way.

Columbus Dispatch. 5/29/13

 

D.    TRACKED LEGISLATION

 

 

Bill Status Report 2013-2014
130th General Assembly

 

 

HJR 5

RIGHT TO WORK (Roegner, K.) Proposing to enact Section 22 of Article I of the Constitution of the State of Ohio to prohibit employees from being forced to participate in a labor organization as a condition of employment.

Committee Hearing in House (5/14/2013–Canceled)

 

HJR 6

MARIJUANA (Hagan, R.) Proposing to enact Section 12 of Article XV of the Constitution of the State of Ohio to legalize the production, use, and sale of marijuana under specified conditions and to provide for the regulation and taxation of marijuana.

Referred in House (5/7/2013; State & Local Government)

 

SJR 1

REDISTRICTING (Sawyer, T.) To revise the redistricting process for General Assembly and Congressional districts.

Referred in Senate (2/13/2013; State Government Oversight & Reform)

 

SJR 2

SCHOOL FUNDING (Sawyer, T.) To require and fund a high quality education for each student enrolled in a public school.

Referred in Senate (2/13/2013; Finance)

 

HB 1

WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT (Derickson, T.) To require a local workforce investment area to use OhioMeansJobs as the local workforce investment area’s job placement system, to rename county one-stop systems, and to make other changes to Ohio’s Workforce Development Law.

Referred in Senate (4/9/2013; Workforce & Economic Development)

 

HB 2

UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION (Derickson, T.) To require an unemployment compensation claimant to register with OhioMeansJobs to be eligible for unemployment compensation benefits and to require a claimant to contact a local one-stop office beginning with the eighth week of filing for unemployment compensation benefits.

Referred in Senate (4/9/2013; Workforce & Economic Development)

 

HB 3
(Enacted)

INSURANCE NAVIGATORS (Sears, B.) To specify licensing and continuing education requirements for insurance agents involved in selling, soliciting, or negotiating sickness and accident insurance through a health benefit exchange and to make changes to copayments, cost sharing, and deductibles for health insuring corporations.

Signed by the Governor (4/30/2013; Signed: April 30, 2013)

 

HB 5

MUNICIPAL TAX COLLECTIONS (Grossman, C.) To revise the laws governing income taxes imposed by municipal corporations.

Committee Hearing in House (5/8/2013; CONTINUED)

 

HB 8

SCHOOL SAFETY (Roegner, K.) To revise the school safety laws.

Committee Hearing in House (6/5/2013)

 

HB 10

FISCAL CONTINUING EDUCATION (Hagan, C.) To establish education programs and continuing education requirements for the fiscal officers of townships and municipal corporations, to establish procedures for removing those fiscal officers, county treasurers, and county auditors from office, and to create fiscal accountability requirements for public schools, counties, municipal corporations, and townships.

Committee Hearing in House (5/14/2013; SCHEDULED BUT NOT HEARD (Sponsor request))

 

HB 13

VOTING LAWS (Reece, A.) To require a provisional ballot to be remade and counted for the offices, questions, and issues for which the provisional voter was eligible to vote, if the election official assisting that provisional voter failed to direct the provisional voter to the correct precinct, and to revise the portion of the provisional ballot affirmation required to be completed by the election official.

Introduced and Referred in House (1/30/2013; Policy & Legislative Oversight)

 

HB 15

ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATIONS (Hill, B.) To exempt under certain circumstances a parent or a person acting in loco parentis from the prohibition of the interception of wire, oral, or electronic communications.

Committee Hearing in House (2/6/2013; CONTINUED)

 

HB 17

LOCAL GOVERNMENT FUND (Cera, J) To require that, for fiscal year 2014 and each fiscal year thereafter, the Local Government Fund must receive the same proportion of state tax revenue that the Fund received in fiscal year 2005.

Introduced and Referred in House (1/30/2013; Finance & Appropriations)

 

HB 18

SCHOOL METAL DETECTORS (Patmon, B.) With respect to metal detectors in public schools.

Introduced and Referred in House (1/30/2013; Education)

 

HB 21

VOTING (Stebelton, G.) To establish a process to permit an elector who is confined to a health care facility under isolation to vote with the assistance of bipartisan board of elections employees, and to permit the elector’s facsimile signature, provided by the hospital, to be used for signature verification purposes.

Committee Hearing in House (2/26/2013; CONTINUED)

 

HB 22

MILITARY TRANSFERS (Pillich, C.) To permit persons who quit work to accompany the person’s spouse on a military transfer to be eligible for unemployment compensation benefits.

Committee Hearing in House (2/13/2013; CONTINUED)

 

HB 31

FIREARMS (Patmon, B.) To prohibit any person from storing or leaving a firearm in the person’s residence unless the firearm is secured in safe storage or rendered inoperable by a tamper-resistant lock or other safety device if the person knows or reasonably should know that a minor is able to gain access to the firearm and to provide criminal penalties if a minor gains unauthorized access to a firearm not so stored or rendered inoperable.

Committee Hearing in House (4/30/2013; CONTINUED)

 

HB 32

SCHOOL YEAR (Hayes, B., Patmon, B.) To establish a minimum school year for school districts, STEM schools, and chartered nonpublic schools based on hours, rather than days, of instruction.

Committee Hearing in House (5/8/2013; CONTINUED)

 

HB 34
(Enacted)

BWC BUDGET (Hackett, B.) To allow the Administrator of Workers’ Compensation to pay for specified medical benefits during an earlier time frame, to make changes to the Health Partnership Program, to eliminate the $15,000 Medical-Only Program, to make other changes to the Workers’ Compensation Law, and to make appropriations for the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation for the biennium beginning July 1, 2013, and ending June 30, 2015; and to provide authorization and conditions for the operation of the Bureau’s programs.

Signed by the Governor (3/26/2013; Signed: March 26, 2013)

 

HB 35

TRANSPORTATION BUDGET (McGregor, R.) To make appropriations for programs related to transportation and public safety for the biennium beginning July 1, 2013, and ending June 30, 2015, and to provide authorization and conditions for the operation of those programs.

Committee Hearing in Senate (3/14/2013–Canceled)

 

HB 39

HOUSE QUESTION TIMES (Foley, M.) To require the Governor to participate in House Question Times.

Committee Hearing in House (3/12/2013; CONTINUED)

 

HB 40

STATE FUNDS (Foley, M.) To require the Treasurer of State to investigate whether state treasury funds, custodial funds, or funds of state institutions of higher education were lost as a result of fraudulent manipulations to the LIBOR and to declare an emergency.

Referred in House (2/13/2013; Policy & Legislative Oversight)

 

HB 41

OIL GAS DRILLING (Hagan, R.) To authorize a political subdivision to enact and enforce health and safety standards for oil and gas drilling and exploration.

Referred in House (2/13/2013; Agriculture & Natural Resources)

 

HB 42

OIL GAS PERMITS (Hagan, R.) To revise the requirements concerning an oil and gas permit application, an oil and gas well completion record, designation of trade secret protection for chemicals used to drill or stimulate an oil and gas well, and disclosure of chemical information to a health care professional or emergency responder, to require an owner to report all chemicals brought to a well site, and to make other changes in the Oil and Gas Law.

Referred in House (2/13/2013; Agriculture & Natural Resources)

 

HB 48

POLITICAL CONTRIBUTIONS (Milkovich, Z.) To change the age at which an individual may make a political contribution, to reduce the amount of political contributions that may be made by a contributor, and to similarly reduce the amount of contributions that political entities may accept.

Referred in House (2/13/2013; Policy & Legislative Oversight)

 

HB 50

CUSTODIAL INTERROGATIONS (Heard, T., McGregor, R.) To protect the rights of children before and during custodial interrogations

Committee Hearing in House (2/20/2013; CONTINUED)

 

HB 51
(Enacted)

TRANSPORTATION BUDGET (McGregor, R.) To make appropriations for programs related to transportation and public safety for the biennium beginning July 1, 2013, and ending June 30, 2015, and to provide authorization and conditions for the operation of those programs.

Signed by the Governor (4/1/2013; Signed: April 1, 2013)

 

HB 56

TIF EXEMPTIONS (Gerberry, R.) To allow a board of township trustees to reduce the percentage or term of a property tax exemption granted to a business under a tax increment financing agreement if the business fails to create the number of new jobs the business agreed to create in the agreement.

Committee Hearing in House (3/12/2013; CONTINUED)

 

HB 59

BUDGET BILL (Amstutz, R.) To make operating appropriations for the biennium beginning July 1, 2013, and ending June 30, 2015; to provide authorization and conditions for the operation of state programs.

Committee Hearing in Senate (5/31/2013)

 

HB 62

DRIVERS LICENSES (Dovilla, M.) To provide that a person who holds a current, valid driver’s license from another state be required to only pass vision screening in order to be issued a driver’s license and to amend the version of section 4507.05 of the Revised Code that is scheduled to take effect January 1, 2017, to continue the provisions of this act on or after that effective date.

Referred in House (2/20/2013; Transportation, Public Safety & Homeland Security)

 

HB 63

OIL GAS DRILLING (Cera, J, O’Brien, S.) To establish a nonrefundable commercial activity tax credit for companies involved in horizontal well drilling or related oil and gas production services that hire Ohio residents or dislocated workers who have enrolled in or completed a federally registered apprenticeship program.

Referred in House (2/20/2013; Ways & Means)

 

HB 68

SPEED LIMIT INCREASE (Maag, R.) To increase the speed limit on interstate freeways outside urbanized areas from 65 to 70 miles per hour for all vehicles.

Introduced and Referred in House (2/20/2013; Transportation, Public Safety & Homeland Security)

 

HB 69

TRAFFIC CAMERAS (Maag, R.) To prohibit the use of traffic law photo-monitoring devices by municipal corporations, counties, townships and the State Highway Patrol to detect signal light and speed limit violations.

Committee Hearing in House (4/23/2013; CONTINUED)

 

HB 78

VOTER REGISTRATION (Stinziano, M.) To require the Secretary of State to create an online voter registration system and to permit data sharing in order to maintain the statewide voter registration database.

Committee Hearing in House (5/7/2013; CONTINUED)

 

HB 82

CIVIL RIGHTS LAW (Hayes, B., Blair, T.) To exempt religious corporations, associations, educational institutions, or societies from the definition of “employer” for the purpose of Ohio’s Civil Rights law.

Committee Hearing in House (3/6/2013; CONTINUED)

 

HB 91

HEALTH CARE (Young, R., Thompson, A.) To enact the Health Care Freedom Act.

Committee Hearing in House (4/24/2013; CONTINUED)

 

HB 92

SYRINGE EXCHANGE (Antonio, N., Sears, B.) To authorize the establishment of syringe exchange programs.

Committee Hearing in House (4/24/2013; SCHEDULED BUT NOT HEARD)

 

HB 93

OIL GAS LAWS (Hagan, R.) To increase criminal penalties for violations of the Oil and Gas Law relating to improper disposal, transport, and management of brine, to establish a criminal penalty for a negligent violation of certain provisions of the Solid, Hazardous, and Infectious Wastes Law, and to require the revocation of a violator’s permits and registration certificate and denial of future permit and registration certificate applications under the Oil and Gas Law.

Referred in House (3/6/2013; Agriculture & Natural Resources)

 

HB 99

FIREARM SEIZURES (Retherford, W.) To prohibit any agency and its employees and agents from seizing or authorizing the seizure of any firearm from any person lawfully in possession or control of the firearm except when a law enforcement officer reasonably believes the immediate seizure of the firearm is necessary for the safety of the officer or another person or to preserve the firearm as evidence, to prohibit the establishment of a firearm registry, and to prohibit law enforcement officers and international agents from enforcing a firearms registration requirement or firearm ban.

Committee Hearing in House (4/30/2013; CONTINUED)

 

HB 100

JOBSOHIO AUDITS (Carney, J.) To allow the Auditor of State to conduct full audits of JobsOhio and to require all nonprofit economic development corporations that receive public funds to make annual disclosures related to both their public and private funds.

Introduced and Referred in House (3/13/2013; State & Local Government)

 

HB 111

STUDENT TRUSTEES (Duffey, M., Stinziano, M.) To grant student members of the boards of trustees of state universities and the Northeast Ohio Medical University voting power and the authority to attend executive sessions.

Committee Hearing in House (5/8/2013; CONTINUED)

 

HB 114

DRIVER LICENSES (Lynch, M.) To specify the persons who are not citizens of the United States that are eligible to receive an Ohio driver’s license or motorcycle operator’s license or endorsement.

Committee Hearing in House (5/21/2013; CONTINUED)

 

HB 151

RIGHT TO WORK (Roegner, K.) To prohibit any requirement that employees of private employers join or pay dues to any employee organization and to establish civil and criminal penalties against employers who violate that prohibition.

Committee Hearing in House (5/14/2013–Canceled)

 

HB 153

MEDICAL MARIJUANA (Hagan, R.) Regarding the medical use of cannabis.

Committee Hearing in House (5/29/2013; CONTINUED)

 

HB 154

EDUCATION FUNDING (Gerberry, R.) To require that a portion of lottery profits be distributed annually on a per pupil basis to public and chartered nonpublic schools.

Referred in House (5/8/2013; Finance & Appropriations)

 

HB 155

IMMIGRANT DRIVER LICENSES (Ramos, D., Reece, A.) To allow a person who has been approved for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to obtain a temporary instruction permit, driver’s license, or motorcycle operator’s license or endorsement and to amend the versions of sections 4507.05 and 4507.06 of the Revised Code that are scheduled to take effect January 1, 2017, to continue the provisions of this act on and after that effective date.

Referred in House (5/8/2013; Transportation, Public Safety & Homeland Security)

 

SB 1

WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT (Beagle, B., Balderson, T.) To create the OhioMeansJobs Workforce Development Revolving Loan Fund, to create the OhioMeansJobs Workforce Development Revolving Loan Program, to allocate a portion of casino license fees to finance the loan program, and to make an appropriation.

Committee Hearing in House (5/14/2013–Canceled)

 

SB 2

WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT (Lehner, P., Beagle, B.) To require a local workforce investment area to use OhioMeansJobs as the local workforce investment area’s job placement system, to rename county one-stop systems, and to make other changes to Ohio’s Workforce Development Law.

Referred in House (4/10/2013; Manufacturing & Workforce Development)

 

SB 3

RULEMAKING (LaRose, F.) To reform rule-making and rule-review procedures and regulatory processes.

Committee Hearing in Senate (3/5/2013; CONTINUED)

 

SB 5

CALL LOCATIONS (Brown, E., Manning, G.) To require wireless service providers to provide call location information to law enforcement officers or agencies in certain emergency situations.

Committee Hearing in House (6/4/2013)

 

SB 6

FINANCIAL CONTINUING EDUCATION (Schaffer, T.) To establish education programs and continuing education requirements for the fiscal officers of townships and municipal corporations, to establish procedures for removing those fiscal officers, county treasurers, and county auditors from office, and to create fiscal accountability requirements for public schools, counties, municipal corporations, and townships.

Committee Hearing in Senate (4/10/2013; CONTINUED)

 

SB 9

HEALTH INSURANCE AGENTS (Bacon, K.) To specify licensing and continuing education requirements for insurance agents involved in selling, soliciting, or negotiating sickness and accident insurance through a health benefit exchange and to make changes to copayments, cost sharing, and deductibles for health insuring corporations.

Delivered to the Governor (5/29/2013)

 

SB 10
(Enacted)

ELECTION LAWS (Coley, B.) To revise the law regarding polling places and voting machines.

Signed by the Governor (3/26/2013; Signed: March 26, 2013)

 

SB 11

SUMMER FOOD SERVICE (Brown, E.) To require school districts to allow alternative summer meal sponsors to use school facilities to provide food service for summer intervention services under certain conditions, to allow the distribution and consumption of meals on a school bus, and to create a healthy food license for child day-care centers and school child programs.

Committee Hearing in Senate (3/6/2013; CONTINUED)

 

SB 12

OIL GAS EMPLOYEES (Cafaro, C.) To require three-year employment of oil and gas training program graduates who are Ohio residents, and to make appropriations to support oil and gas training programs, including employee training grants to oil or gas well owners.

Committee Hearing in Senate (2/26/2013; CONTINUED)

 

SB 14

UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION (Kearney, E.) To authorize programs and tax credits to encourage the hiring of unemployed individuals, to make changes to the Unemployment Compensation Law, to authorize grants and tax credits for the rehabilitation of distressed areas and the expansion of broadband connections to rural areas, to create a revolving loan fund and a bonding program for small businesses, to make changes to the Minority Business Bonding Program, to levy taxes, and to make an appropriation.

Referred in Senate (2/13/2013; Finance)

 

SB 15

EDUCATION FUNDING (Sawyer, T.) To prescribe a system and timeline for the General Assembly to deliberate and determine the components and cost of a high quality public primary and secondary education, to make property tax law changes to fund a high quality public primary and secondary education, and to provide that the provisions of this act take effect only after being approved by the electors.

Referred in Senate (2/13/2013; Finance)

 

SB 17

OIL GAS PERMITS (Skindell, M.) To revise the requirements concerning an oil and gas permit application, an oil and gas well completion record, designation of trade secret protection for chemicals used to drill or stimulate an oil and gas well, and disclosure of chemical information to a health care professional or emergency responder, to require an owner to report all chemicals brought to a well site, and to make other changes in the Oil and Gas Law.

Referred in Senate (2/13/2013; Energy & Natural Resources)

 

SB 18

ASSAULT WEAPONS (Smith, S.) To prohibit a person from knowingly acquiring, possessing, carrying, or using an assault weapon and to require the Attorney General to prepare for the establishment of a firearm and ammunition transactions database.

Referred in Senate (2/13/2013; Criminal Justice)

 

SB 20

ELECTIONS LAW (Turner, N.) To revise the Election Law.

Referred in Senate (2/13/2013; State Government Oversight & Reform)

 

SB 21

THIRD GRADE READING (Lehner, P.) To revise the requirements for reading teachers under the Third-Grade Reading Guarantee

Delivered to the Governor (5/29/2013)

 

SB 26
(Enacted)

YOUTH HEAD INJURIES (Schaffer, T.) To correct a cross reference with regard to concussions and head injuries in athletic activities organized by youth sports organizations and to declare an emergency.

Signed by the Governor (5/28/2013; Signed: May 28, 2013)

 

SB 34

RENEWABLE ENERGY (Jordan, K.) To repeal the requirement that electric distribution utilities and electric services companies provide 25% of their retail power supplies from advanced and renewable energy resources by 2025.

Referred in Senate (2/13/2013; Public Utilities)

 

SB 36

FIREARMS (Jordan, K.) To prohibit any agency and its employees and agents from seizing or authorizing the seizure of any firearm from any person lawfully in possession or control of the firearm except when a law enforcement officer reasonably believes the immediate seizure of the firearm is necessary for the safety of the officer or another person or to preserve the firearm as evidence, to prohibit the establishment of a firearm registry, and to prohibit law enforcement officers and international agents from enforcing a firearms registration requirement or firearm ban.

Re-referred in Senate (2/27/2013; Criminal Justice)

 

SB 39

HPV VACCINES (Brown, E., Schiavoni, J.) To require insurance providers to cover human papillomavirus screenings and vaccines.

Committee Hearing in Senate (2/27/2013; CONTINUED)

 

SB 42

SCHOOL SAFETY (Manning, G.) To authorize school districts to levy a property tax exclusively for school safety and security purposes.

Committee Hearing in House (6/5/2013)

 

SB 44

SEX PREDATORS (Bacon, K.) To authorize the civil commitment of certain sexually violent predators and to provide for the GPS monitoring of sexually violent predators who are released from prison.

Referred in Senate (2/20/2013; Criminal Justice)

 

SB 47
(Enacted)

ELECTION LAWS (Seitz, B.) To revise the Election Law.

Signed by the Governor (3/22/2013; Signed: March 22, 2013)

 

SB 53

BMV TRANSACTIONS (Kearney, E.) To require the Registrar of Motor Vehicles and all deputy registrars to accept credit and debit cards for transactions of more than ten dollars.

Committee Hearing in Senate (4/16/2013; CONTINUED)

 

SB 57

EMERGENCY RESPONDERS (Manning, G.) To establish a pilot project in Lorain County from August 1, 2013, to July 31, 2014, pursuant to which qualified emergency responders in that County may obtain and administer naloxone to revive a person suffering from an apparent opioid-related overdose.

Referred in House (5/21/2013; Transportation, Public Safety & Homeland Security)

 

SB 58

ENERGY EFFICIENCY (Seitz, B.) To review and possibly modify the energy efficiency, peak demand reduction, and alternative energy resource provisions established by Ohio law governing competitive retail electric service.

Referred in Senate (3/5/2013; Public Utilities)

 

SB 60

PUBLIC RECORDS (Uecker, J.) To eliminate the journalist access exception from the general prohibition on the release of confidential records relative to the issuance, renewal, suspension, or revocation of a concealed handgun license.

Referred in Senate (3/6/2013; Criminal Justice)

 

SB 62

DRIVER LICENSES (Kearney, E., Tavares, C.) To allow a person who has been approved for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to obtain a temporary instruction permit, driver’s license, or motorcycle operator’s license or endorsement and to amend the versions of sections 4507.05 and 4507.06 of the Revised Code that are scheduled to take effect January 1, 2017, to continue the provisions of this act on and after that effective date.

Referred in Senate (3/6/2013; State Government Oversight & Reform)

 

SB 70

CREDIT HISTORY DISCRIMINATION (Tavares, C.) To specify that discrimination by an employer against any person because of the person’s credit history is an unlawful discriminatory practice under the Ohio Civil Rights Law.

Referred in Senate (3/13/2013; Commerce & Labor)

 

SB 86

COUNTY INVESTMENTS (Jordan, K.) To require the Treasurer of State and each county investing authority to invest at least 5% of the state’s total average investment portfolio of interim funds and in each county’s total average investment portfolio of inactive moneys, respectively, in precious metals by June 30th of each year.

Referred in Senate (3/20/2013; Finance)

 

SB 87

LAKE ERIE DRILLING (Skindell, M.) To ban the taking or removal of oil or natural gas from and under the bed of Lake Erie.

Referred in Senate (4/9/2013; Energy & Natural Resources)

 

SB 88

HEALTH EXCHANGE (Skindell, M.) To establish the Ohio Health Benefit Exchange Agency and to establish the Ohio Health Benefit Exchange Program consisting of an exchange for individual coverage and a Small Business Health Options Program.

Committee Hearing in Senate (4/10/2013; CONTINUED)

 

SB 90

BICYCLE HELMETS (Skindell, M.) To require bicycle operators and passengers under 18 years of age to wear protective helmets when the bicycle is operated on a roadway and to establish the Bicycle Safety Fund to be used by the Department of Public Safety to assist low-income families in the purchase of bicycle helmets.

Committee Hearing in Senate (4/10/2013; CONTINUED)

 

SB 92

PAY EQUITY (Turner, N., Tavares, C.) To enact the “Fair and Acceptable Income Required (FAIR) Act” and to revise the enforcement of the prohibitions against discrimination in the payment of wages.

Referred in Senate (4/9/2013; Commerce & Labor)

 

SB 110

VOTER REGISTRATION (Turner, N.) To permit sixteen and seventeen year olds to preregister to vote and to revise the law concerning compensated voter registration.

Referred in Senate (4/17/2013; State Government Oversight & Reform)

 

SB 117

MEDICAID (Smith, S.) To permit the Medicaid program to cover the eligibility expansion group authorized by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and to make an appropriation.

Referred in Senate (5/8/2013; Finance)

 

SB 119

MINIMUM WAGE (Tavares, C.) To require that domestic workers be paid the minimum wage, as provided in Section 34a of Article II, Ohio Constitution, to require that domestic workers be paid overtime wages, to make certain conduct directed toward a domestic worker an unlawful discriminatory practice, and to require a weekly day of rest for domestic workers.

Referred in Senate (5/8/2013; Commerce & Labor)

 

SB 121

FIREARM SPECIFICATIONS (Hughes, J., LaRose, F.) To amend sections and enact sections of the Revised Code to double the mandatory prison term for an offender who is convicted of a firearm specification and previously has been convicted of a firearm specification; to similarly double the period of authorized or mandatory commitment to the Department of Youth Services of a delinquent child who is guilty of a firearm specification and previously has been adjudicated a delinquent child for committing an act that would constitute a violation of a firearm specification if committed by an adult; to prohibit violent career criminals from knowingly acquiring, having, carrying, or using any firearm or dangerous ordnance; and to require a mandatory prison term for a violent career criminal convicted of committing a violent felony offense while armed with a firearm.

Referred in Senate (5/8/2013; Criminal Justice)

 

HR 19

TRAFFICKING VICTIMS (Fedor, T.) To request the Congress of the United States to authorize appropriations for the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 for fiscal year 2013 and later fiscal years.

Passed in House (3/6/2013; 94-0)

 

SR 90

IMMIGRATION (Tavares, C.) To urge the Congress of the United States to enact comprehensive immigration reform.

Referred in Senate (4/24/2013; Civil Justice)

 

HCR 9

KEYSTONE PIPELINE (Adams, J.) To urge the United States Department of State to approve the presidential permit application allowing the construction and operation of the TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline between the United States and Canada.

Referred in Senate (4/9/2013; Public Utilities)

 

HCR 13

SCHOOL HARASSMENT (Antonio, N.) To declare the third Friday in April the National Day of Silence in Ohio to bring attention to anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender name-calling, bulling and harassment in schools.

Introduced and Referred in House (4/17/2013; Education)

 

 

Nolan Stevens, J.D.
Public Policy Officer
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Ohio Latino Affairs Commission
Riffe Center – 18th Floor
77 South High Street
Columbus, OH  43215
tel ~ 614-466-8333
fax ~ 614-995-0896
email ~nolan.stevens@ochla.state.oh.us
web ~ http://ochla.ohio.gov

 

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