A leading organization in the fight against human trafficking, Shared Hope International, today released its 2014 “Protected Innocence Challenge” state ratings on human trafficking laws. Ohio improved slightly under the new rankings, up some 5 points from 2013, but still received a “C” or 78 out of 100.
“Despite receiving a “C” letter grade, I am pleased to see Ohio has made significant improvements in several areas that are critical to protecting children from sex trafficking,” said State Rep. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo). “I will continue to advocate for stronger anti-trafficking laws until Ohio is the standard-bearer for fighting this serious violation of human rights.”
With the passage of Rep. Fedor’s “End Demand Act” Ohio saw gains in the areas of Criminalization of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking; Criminal Provisions for Traffickers; and Protective Provisions for Child Victims.
Rep. Teresa Fedor’s “End Demand Act” is largely focused on tackling the black market-driven demand for purchasing commercial sex by:
-Increasing penalties from a misdemeanor to a felony for purchasing sex from a minor.
-Requiring offenders to register as tier two sex offenders.
-Prohibiting the advertisement of massage services that promise sexual activity.
-Terminating parental rights for those found trafficking their children.
The bill was signed into law in June of this year.
State Reps. Nickie J. Antonio (D-Lakewood) and Nicholas J. Celebrezze (D-Parma) sent a letter today to Ohio House Speaker Bill Batchelder asking him to consider legislation, House Bill 628, that would authorize the state’s Inspector General (IG) to investigate the Attorney General’s (AG) office for any wrongful acts or omissions following continued allegations of harassment in the office.
State Reps. Michael Sheehy (D-Oregon) and John Patterson (D-Jefferson) today urged the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to continue working to establish state standards for safe levels of microcystin in Ohio’s public water systems, a step that would be required with the passage of the Lake Erie lawmakers’ legislation—House Bill 625.
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.
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.
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
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.