Columbus—Today, State Senator Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights) issued the following statement regarding National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, which is observed every year on October 15.
 
“It is important to recognize the unbearable loss so many parents experience across the country and to provide support to those who have lost a child due to miscarriage, stillbirth, SIDS and other causes,” said Senator Yuko. “Within our Senate family we have recently lost one of our own. No one should have to experience the pain that comes with losing a baby.”
 
A candlelight vigil to honor babies who died during pregnancy, childbirth and infancy will be held at the Fairport Harbor Lakefront Park on Sunday, October 15 at 6:45 pm. For more information about the event, please visit: http://www.october15th.com/activities-walks/#O.

 
 
  

Columbus—Today, State Senator Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) has introduced legislation to address the illegal dumping of brine to protect the environment. Senate Bill 217 will make revisions to the Ohio Oil and Gas Law to increase penalties and revoke permits for the improper disposal of brine.

Brine is a by-product of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which is the process of pumping a mix of sand, chemicals and water underground to shatter shale rocks and release trapped gas and oil. There have been numerous reports of illegal dumping of this toxic waste material into private and public waterways. One of the best-known cases happened in Senator Schiavoni’s home district, where tens of thousands of gallons of brine were dumped into the Mahoning River.

“The improper disposal of brine is a threat to clean water and it must be stopped,” said Senator Schiavoni. “As a legislature, we must do more to protect our state’s natural resources and the health of our communities.”

The bill will not hinder oil and gas exploration throughout eastern and northeastern Ohio, but it will make clear that intentional incidents of improper disposal will not be tolerated and will have serious consequences.  

The legislation is a reintroduction of Senate Bill 120 from the 131st General Assembly.

 
 
  

Columbus – Today, Senator Michael J. Skindell (D-Lakewood) introduced Senate Bill 215 to create the Ohio Rx Plan and help many Ohioans obtain the medications they need. The Ohio Rx Plan would benefit seniors, the disabled, veterans and Bronze Plan enrollees under the Affordable Health Care Act.
 
“Many Ohioans are struggling to pay out-of-pocket costs for insurance premiums, deductibles and co-pays to acquire needed medications,” Senator Skindell said. “Passage of this legislation will result in Ohio joining a number of states providing prescription drug assistance to seniors and others who need help obtaining their medications.”
 
According to research by the National Conference of State Legislatures, in 2016 more than a dozen states offered State Pharmaceutical Assistance Program (SPAPs) that "wrap-around" or add to the Part D benefits, including drugs bought by Medicare patients during the so-called "donut hole" spending category (http://www.ncsl.org/research/health/medicare-prescription-drug-tools.aspx).  
 
In 2016, 1,030,738 Ohioans were enrolled in a Medicare Stand Alone Prescription Drug Plan (Part D) and 661,324 were enrolled in a Medicare Advantage Plan (Part C) with prescription drug coverage, according to Healthpocket, a consumer health information company. Using data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, HealthPocket also found that:
 

  • The average monthly premium for a Medicare prescription drug plan in Ohio in 2017 is $54.11, or 1.67% higher than the national average of $53.22. The lowest available Medicare Part D monthly premium in Ohio in 2017 is $14.60.
  • The maximum possible annual drug deductible in any 2017 Medicare drug plan across the US is $400, but in Ohio the average annual drug deductible for Medicare Part D plans is $209.25. Forty-five percent of Medicare Part D insurance plans in Ohio have a $0 annual drug deductible.

 
 (https://www.healthpocket.com/medicare/ohio-medicare-part-d/2017#.WdJ_UNFrzDc).
 
The funding for the Ohio Rx Plan would come from any savings incurred from the passage of any legislation which would mandate that a state agency not pay for prescription drugs more than the price paid by the US Department of Veterans Affairs.

An initiated statute requiring the state and several related entities to pay no more for prescription drugs than what is paid by the US Department of Veterans Affairs will be before Ohio’s voters in the November 7 General Election as State Issue 2. An analysis from backers of State Issue 2 concluded that passage of the matter would result in up to $536 million per year in prescription drug prices savings.
 
“As a member of the Ohio legislature, I have worked to ensure affordable, quality health care to all Ohioans,” said Senator Skindell. “Creating the Ohio Rx Plan helps us reach that goal.”

 
 
  

Columbus– Today, Senator Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati) announced that he will soon introduce legislation to ban the sale and possession of bump-fire stocks in Ohio. The legislation would make the sale or possession for personal use of such devices a fourth-degree felony in the state.

“The pain is still fresh in our hearts and minds for those killed or injured in the recent massacre in Las Vegas and it is irresponsible to not take immediate action to ban these attachments in our state,” said Senator Thomas, a former officer with the Cincinnati Police Department.

Bump-fire stocks are devices that can be attached to semi-automatic rifles to enable them to fire in rapid succession. Often called “bump stocks”, they are currently not banned under federal law and are relatively cheap, costing as little as $50.

According to CNN, the gunman in the Las Vegas mass shooting had 12 bump stocks in his hotel room. It has been estimated that this allowed him to shoot 90 gunshots every ten seconds.

“There is no conceivable reason why an individual needs to use a bump stock,” said Senator Thomas. “It is not necessary for the defense of one’s home or for the purpose of hunting. It is an extremely lethal device and serves no valuable purpose.”

Senator Thomas has sent his colleagues in the Senate a co-sponsor request and plans on introducing the legislation later this month. 

 
 
  

Columbus – Today, Senator Edna Brown (D-Toledo) testified on Senate Bill 150 before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Titled the “Domestic Violence Survivors Protection Act,” the bill prohibits individuals who have been convicted of domestic violence, or assault of a family member, or who are subject to a domestic-violence restraining order from owning firearms. Twenty-six states have already enacted similar legislation.

 “Roughly 4.5 million American women have been threatened with a gun by an intimate partner,” said Senator Brown. “We must ask ourselves: how much further does a person really have to go to pull the trigger if they’ve already drawn a weapon on someone?”

 Existing federal legislation, known as the Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban, prohibits individuals convicted of domestic violence from possessing firearms; however, it is difficult to enforce at the state level because federal law does not outline a procedure for surrendering firearms.

 “Senate Bill 150 provides a clear-cut process for turning in weapons and encourages compliance with existing federal legislation,” said Senator Brown. “Because states must develop their own procedures for surrendering firearms, convicted domestic abusers have been able to get away with keeping their guns, though unlawful.”

 October marks National Domestic Violence Awareness Month in Ohio. Every year, 5.3 million women in the United States suffer from incidents of domestic violence. Overall, one in two American women killed with guns are killed by a romantic partner or family member.

 Senator Brown introduced Senate Bill 150 in honor of Amanda Mangas, the northwest Ohio native who was shot and killed by her boyfriend, James Ramey, this past March.

 
 
  

COLUMBUS—Today, Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights) condemned the deadly shooting in Las Vegas.

“Last night’s mass shooting in Las Vegas was shocking and disheartening,” said Senator Yuko. “My wife, Pam, and I love Las Vegas, and have spent a great deal of time there. I’m heartbroken that such a horrific act of violence occurred. We offer our prayers to the victims and their families, and greatly appreciate the first responders who bravely risked their lives. Now we must take action to address the epidemic of gun violence in this country.” 

 
 
  

COLUMBUS – Today, Senator Sean J. O’Brien (D-Bazetta) announced his joint sponsorship with Senator Kevin Bacon (R-Minerva Park) of the “Reagan Tokes Act.” The act, which is named after a slain Ohio State University student, aims to improve the rehabilitation of criminal offenders through the use of indefinite sentences and to reform the current GPS monitoring procedures for recently released offenders.

The act is comprised of two Senate companion bills, which are being introduced today. Companion legislation is being introduced concurrently in the Ohio House, sponsored by Representatives Kristin Boggs (D-Columbus) and Jim Hughes (R-Upper Arlington).

“The murder of Reagan Tokes is a tragedy that could have been prevented if we had the proper procedures in place,” Sen. O’Brien said. “As a former assistant Trumbull County prosecutor, I place great importance on ensuring that offenders do not offend again once they are released, so I am pleased to join Sen. Bacon in sponsoring these important pieces of legislation.”

Ms. Tokes was abducted, assaulted and murdered in Columbus on February 8, 2017. The alleged perpetrator had recently been released on parole from prison and was supposedly being monitored via a GPS-equipped ankle bracelet. Questions were raised as to whether he was sufficiently rehabilitated to re-enter society when it was revealed that while serving his previous six-year sentence for armed robbery and rape, he had committed over 50 behavioral infractions and had been transferred to five different institutions.

“What our House and Senate companion bills do is two-fold,” said O’Brien. “First, they add indefinite sentences to first-, second-, and third-degree felonies, incentivizing good behavior in prison and decreasing the chances that violent criminals are released before their total rehabilitation. Second, our bills reform GPS monitoring procedures and post-release controls to ensure that, once released, the actions and movements of offenders are monitored more closely. This would greatly decrease the chances that a heinous crime like the one committed against Reagan Tokes would happen again.”

 
 
  

Columbus—Today, Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights) announced that Senator Vernon Sykes (D-Akron) will serve on the working group that has been formed by Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) and House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger (R-Clarksville) to review the process of congressional redistricting.
 
“Senator Sykes has more experience on redistricting than almost anyone in the General Assembly,” said Senator Yuko. “He has led on this issue through joint sponsorship of the legislation and successful ballot campaign to change how our state’s legislative districts are drawn. I am pleased to have someone with his experience represent the Senate Democratic Caucus on the panel.”
 
“Bringing an end to gerrymandered districts has long been a passion of mine,” said Senator Sykes. “I was proud to lead the fight to reform our state legislative redistricting process, and I look forward to helping reform how our congressional districts are drawn. I hope that we can work in a bi-partisan manner to come up with a process that ensures fair congressional districts regardless of which party is in power.”
 
Senator Sykes will serve with fellow working group members Representative Kirk Schuring (R-Canton), Senator Matt Huffman (R-Lima), and the representative from the House Democratic Caucus, who is expected to be named soon.

 
 
  

Columbus – Today, Senator Edna Brown (D-Toledo) provided sponsor testimony on Senate Bill 94 in the Senate Judiciary Committee. SB 94 abolishes the death penalty and replaces it with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

“Mounting evidence indicates that innocent people have been sentenced to death,” said Senator Brown. “Too many people executed in the United States have been found to be innocent and exonerated. The probability of wrongfully killing someone is too great to ignore.”

In addition to the unacceptably high rate of false convictions in capital cases, death penalty cases are vastly more expensive compared to cases in which it is not sought. According to Ohioans to Stop Executions, capital punishment costs three times more than imposing life sentences. Much of the cost stems from extensive legal fees, continuous appeals and more expensive housing for death-row inmates who stay in higher-security facilities.

A 2014 report by the Dayton Daily News noted that Ohio spends approximately $17 million annually on the death penalty.

“Polls indicate that the majority of Americans support life in prison over death sentences,” said Senator Brown. “Continued use of capital punishment is enormously expensive while doing nothing to deter crime. Ohioans should not be held accountable for funding a practice that many agree is unfair and unnecessary.”

Ohio resumed executions in July after a three-year delay, which was due to a shortage of lethal-injection drugs.

 
 
  

NASHVILLE – Today, State Senator Sean O’Brien (D-Bazetta) discussed infrastructure and the importance of the prevailing wage at the 19th annual National Alliance for Fair Contracting (NAFC) Conference in Nashville, TN.

“We must make sure that the men and women who build and maintain our infrastructure are compensated fairly and adequately for the important work they do,” Senator O’Brien said on a panel with other legislative representatives from around the country. “At a time when we see crumbling bridges and roads filled with potholes across Ohio, it is vital to have discussions about how to effectively address infrastructure problems while, at the same time, protecting the rights of our workers.”

The NAFC, the organizer of the two-day conference, is a labor-management organization composed of contractors, labor organizations and compliance groups committed to leveling the playing field in public construction. Their annual conference provides a national forum for like-minded groups and draws attendance from contractors, labor unions, fair contracting organizations and attorneys, as well as federal, state, and local government officials from across the country. 

“The NAFC is on the front line of the fight for strong prevailing wage laws, and I’m happy to have their support as I work on behalf of workers in the construction industry back home in Ohio,” said Senator O’Brien. “Research has consistently shown that protecting our workers’ right to earn the prevailing wage and enjoy benefits such as adequate healthcare leads to higher job satisfaction, which in turn leads to construction projects of better quality that are delivered on time. Defending workers’ rights also has little effect on the amount taxpayers pay for infrastructure projects throughout the state. For these reasons, the protection of workers’ rights in Ohio is essential.”

Senator O’Brien is currently working on legislation that would track more closely so-called Road Use Maintenance Agreements (RUMAs) to ensure that roads and highways used by construction vehicles are maintained and repaired during and after the completion of an infrastructure project. He also continues to work closely with his colleagues in the Senate Democratic Caucus and in northeastern Ohio to ensure that the rights of Ohio’s workers, including their right to the prevailing wage, continue to be protected and expanded.

 
 
  
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Senator Yuko Introduces Legislation To Prohibit Child Marriages Under The Age Of 16

 

Columbus – Today, Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights) introduced legislation to update Ohio’s antiquated child marriage law. 



 
 

Senate Democrats Lauch Statewide Tour Of Ohio Schools

 

COLUMBUS - Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) and members of the Senate Democratic Caucus have launched a series of trips around the state to gather opinions from parents and educators on ways to improve education in Ohio.



 
 

Senator Tavares To Introduce Eyewitness Protection Act

 

Columbus—Next week, Assistant Senate Democratic Leader Charleta B. Tavares (D-Columbus) will introduce legislation aimed at protecting citizens who record law enforcement and civilian involved incidents. The Eyewitness Protection Act will give a person the right to lawfully record any incident involving law enforcement or the public and to maintain custody and control of that recording and the device used to record the incident. 



 
 

Senator Thomas Testifies To Reinstate Pete Rose To Major League Baseball

 

Columbus—Today, State Senator Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati) testified before members of the State and Local Government Committee on Senate Concurrent Resolution 4 to urge Commissioner Robert Manfred to reinstate Pete Rose to Major League Baseball. The resolution also encourages the Baseball Writers' Association to consider Pete Rose for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.