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State Rep. Robert F. Hagan (D-Youngstown) sent a letter Tuesday to Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Director Rick Hodges requesting the state’s preparedness plan for a potential Ebola infection in the state. The lawmaker stressed the importance of treatment, prevention and quarantine protocols to contain any potential patients.

“In light of this ongoing outbreak, I believe it is imperative that Ohio has adequate protocols in place to treat any cases in our state and to prevent transmission of potentially deadly diseases,” said Rep. Hagan. “It is important that the new leadership at ODH is able to communicate a comprehensive contagion management plan to health providers, lawmakers and taxpayers.”

The lawmaker’s letter follows the infection of over 8,000 individuals worldwide, mainly in Western Africa. To date in the United States, one patient has died from the Ebola virus in Dallas, TX.

A copy of Rep. Hagan’s letter can be seen below.

 
 
Ask Senate, House leaders to have state health department brief legislators, public
October 15, 2014

In response to today’s report that a healthcare worker who recently visited family in Ohio was diagnosed with Ebola upon returning to Texas, Democratic State Rep. Robert F. Hagan (D-Youngstown) and ranking House Health Committee member Rep. Nickie J. Antonio (D-Cleveland) called on House and Senate leaders to hold a joint health committee hearing on state protocol for managing Ebola infections.

The letter’s text is below:

Dear Speaker Batchelder and President Faber:

With the news breaking that a patient infected with the Ebola virus very recently visited the state of Ohio, we are calling upon the House and Senate leadership to convene a joint meeting of the health committees of both chambers. We feel it is imperative that the new leadership of the Ohio Department of Health brief the legislature and citizens on public health protocols with regard to Ebola in Ohio.

As the executive agency tasked with protecting public well-being, the Department of Health must maintain robust, comprehensive protocols in the event that Ohioans are exposed to a deadly virus. While it is important not to raise unnecessary alarm, we are troubled by the tone of this week’s conference call by state health officials in which they seemed more focused on downplaying the possibility of an Ebola outbreak in Ohio than on communicating protocols for preventing the spread of the disease in our state.

A joint committee hearing between the two chambers’ respective health committees should provide Director Hodges and his staff at the Department of Health with an appropriate venue in which to communicate to lawmakers, health providers, and the public on what active steps the department is taking to prepare for an Ebola outbreak.

Time is of the essence. We strongly urge the joint committee meeting be scheduled with all due haste.

 
 
Regional coalition looks to improve upon CAUV, lessen volatility of tax increases
October 9, 2014

State Rep. John Patterson (D-Jefferson) recently helped bring together Northeast Ohio farmers, The Ohio State University, county auditors, soil and water conservancy groups and County Farm Bureaus to address dramatic property tax increases on farmers from the state’s voluntary farm tax savings program, the Current Agriculture Use and Valuation (CAUV). The Ashtabula County lawmaker says he heard from concerned constituents that some were facing tax increases of over 300 percent on their farmland this year.

The first meeting at the OSU Agriculture Extension office in Jefferson, Ohio brought together over twenty stakeholders, representing nearly every form of agriculture in the region, including organic growers, dairy farmers, grain farmers, fisheries, and even woodlot entrepreneurs. The CAUV task force held its second meeting Monday in Ashtabula County.

The task force is currently taking a regional approach in addressing potential solutions to agricultural land value increases under the CAUV, but many hope the group can offer statewide recommendations that will help mitigate dramatic property tax increases on farmers in 41 counties across the state.

“It is my hope and intention that this task force will provide some very comprehensive thought to this program that has benefitted farmers since 1973,” said Rep. Patterson. “It is only through this collaborative discussion and research that we can present a plan that won’t result in a knee-jerk legislative reaction that could be very harmful for our current and future farmers of this county, region and state.”

Ohio’s CAUV was established 40 years ago in an effort to add predictability to farmers’ property tax bills while incorporating land valuation practices that were thought to be fairer, like a rolling average of crop prices, soil conditions and harvest volume.

Many farmers throughout the state use the CAUV, but in recent years, t

 
 
State can't trust Aramark to meet contract requirements, public expectations
October 8, 2014

House Democratic representatives today sent a letter to Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) Director Gary Mohr calling for the state to terminate its contract with the state’s privately-run prison food service staffing company, Aramark, marking at least the fifth time lawmakers have asked the state to take control of privatized food service operations.

“The irrefutable and troubling facts against Aramark reaffirms why there was such strong initial opposition, both in the legislature and the general public, to privatizing any part of our prison system,” said Rep. Matt Lundy (D-Elyria). “With the ninety-day notice requirement in the contract, I am calling on the administration to terminate its relationship with Aramark and start 2015 off on the right foot by having the state take full control of our prisons again.”

Over 100 Aramark employees have been banned from Ohio prisons since the first year of the privatization due to problems ranging from sexual abuse and drug smuggling to inappropriate relationships with inmates, according to a Dayton Daily News investigation. Aramark has also racked up state contract violations, including unsafe food conditions, staffing shortfalls and food shortages.

“Maybe they cut costs, but they cut corners to get there and that’s not what Ohioans deserve or expect,” said Rep. Robert F. Hagan (D-Youngstown) a member of the Correctional Institution Inspection Committee (CIIC). “It’s time for the state to take control of operations at our state prisons and ensure that there is security and accountability in the way our state does business.”

Aramark has been fined twice by the state for violating safety and security requirements at Ohio prisons, but the Kasich Administration has dodged previous calls for the termination of Aramark’s contract. Instead, the state will use some of the fines to hold additional training fo

 
 

Today, State Rep. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) highlighted recent findings that reveal a significant funding gap between Toledo City Schools (TCS) and area charter schools. These findings were compiled for the first time in a new website—KnowYourCharter.com. The site compares fiscal and performance information from public schools and traditional charter schools using detailed reports of state data.

“Ohio’s funding model has put our traditional public school students and teachers at a major disadvantage,” said Rep. Fedor. “And when charter schools siphon funds from public schools, our students have even fewer resources. It’s clear that our students are lacking equal access to educational opportunities. Ohio’s funding model and charter school accountability need to be addressed immediately—our students’ success depends on it.”

According to the data, on average, Toledo charter schools receive $8,770 per student while TCS students receive only $6,497. Even with the additional funding, most area charter schools continue to underperform, with more than half earning a “D” or “F” rating on the state’s report card.

In total, over $73 million in state aid was deducted from TCS last year and transferred to area charter schools.

“While these charter schools are underperforming, they are also spending twice the amount as TCS on administrative costs. It really calls into question where our state’s educational priorities lie,” added Rep. Fedor.

KnowYourCharter.com was created by the Ohio Education Association and progressive think tank Innovation Ohio in an effort to increase financial transparency and accountability. Data used on the website is taken directly from the Ohio Department of Education and compares academic performance among traditional public schools and charter schools.

 
 
Taxpayers, parents deserve answers when data doesn't match state action
October 3, 2014

State Rep. Robert F. Hagan (D-Youngstown) highlighted recent findings that show significant funding educational quality gaps between Youngstown City Schools (YCS) and area charter schools. These findings were compiled for the first time in a new website—KnowYourCharter.com. The site compares metrics from public schools and traditional charter schools using detailed state reports.

“As the state spends more and more taxpayer dollars on charter schools, it’s clear that the ‘experiment’ of funding charters is now routine and warrants further public and government scrutiny,” said Rep. Hagan. “This is a powerful accountability and transparency tool for parents and state’s education leaders.”  

During the 2012-2013 school year, over $22 million in local tax dollars were siphoned from city schools and redirected to charter schools. Thirteen of those nineteen charter schools graded by the state received a “D” or “F” on their state report card. YCS is rated a “D.”

At least six of the schools received over $10,000 in state funding per pupil. YCS’s state share per pupil is roughly $8,200.

“It is really startling to see how some of the worst performing schools are receiving more money from the state than our public schools. I think it’s clear from these numbers that we need to refocus back on improving our children’s public schools,” added Rep. Hagan.

KnowYourCharter.com was created by the Ohio Education Association and progressive think tank Innovation Ohio in an effort to increase financial transparency and accountability. Data used on the website is taken from the Ohio Department of Education and compares academic performance among traditional public schools and charter schools.

 
 
Bill would require IG to investigate alleged sexual harassment
October 2, 2014

State Reps. Nickie J. Antonio (D-Lakewood) and Nicholas J. Celebrezze (D-Parma) today introduced House Bill 628 to authorize the state’s Inspector General (IG) to investigate the Attorney General’s (AG) office for any wrongful acts or omissions following allegations of sexual harassment in the office. 

 
 
Passes resolution to celebrate Latino contributions to society
October 2, 2014
 
Rep. Fedor vows to remain steadfast in fight to end human trafficking
September 25, 2014

State Rep. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) today announced that the Polaris Project, a leading organization in the fight against human trafficking and modern-day slavery, released its 2014 state ratings on human trafficking laws.

Ohio received 9 out of 12 total points and now ranks in the uppermost tier with 39 other states. To qualify for this top ranking, a state must have enacted significant laws to combat human trafficking.

“Four years ago when the Polaris Project began rating states based on anti-trafficking laws, Ohio received only 4 out of 12 points,” said Rep. Fedor. “Our state has come a long way in improving efforts to eradicate human trafficking, but there is still much work to be done. I will not waver in the fight to strengthen Ohio’s anti-human trafficking laws, and I am appreciative of my colleagues who continue to support anti-trafficking initiatives.”

The Polaris Project recently released its 4th annual ranking of all 50 states and the District of Columbia based on ten categories of laws critical to a basic legal framework that combats human trafficking, including punishing johns and supporting survivors. The Polaris Project has helped contribute to the passage of over 100 anti-trafficking laws in states across the country.

For the past eight years, Rep. Fedor has been a leading advocate in the fight against human trafficking. Earlier this year, the General Assembly passed Rep. Fedor’s End Demand Act, a bill aimed at tackling the black market-driven demand for purchasing commercial sex with a minor. Two years prior, her bill to provide protections to victims of trafficking, the Safe Harbor Act, was also signed into law. 

 
 
Hopeful USDOJ can provide answers to family, public
September 24, 2014
OLBC Pres. Alicia Reece Backs US DOJ Decision to Investigate Crawford Shooting

Ohio State Representative and Ohio Legislative Black Caucus President Alicia Reece (D-Cincinnati) released the following statement in response to US Department of Justice’s decision to investigate the fatal shooting of 21-year-old John Crawford in a Dayton-area Walmart:

“Many African Americans are concerned about how this case was handled and the lack of transparency from the beginning. I applaud and fully support the US Justice Department’s decision to investigate the fatal shooting of 21-year-old John Crawford III.

“What has wrongly been described today as a ‘perfect storm of circumstances’ has actually been a  nightmare for the Crawford family and the citizens of Ohio.

 “I am hopeful the Justice Department can provide answers to Mr. Crawford’s family and the public.”