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Lawmaker looks to strengthen Ohio families by bringing together state experts
January 3, 2019

The National Council of State Legislatures (NCSL) today named state Rep. Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) to its inaugural Maternal and Child Health Fellowship program. Sykes joins 24 other lawmakers and health policy experts from across the country who will work together to improve public policy and practices related to better maternal and child health outcomes.

 
 

The Ohio House met today in a rare session to override a number of vetoes by Republican Gov. John Kasich. Democrats largely backed a proposal to extend benefits to spouses and children of public safety personnel killed in the line of duty, but fought back as GOP lawmakers pushed to override vetoes on measures to restrict abortion access and loosen gun safety laws.

 
 

State Reps. John Patterson (D-Jefferson) and Steven Arndt (R-Port Clinton) today announced the Gov. John Kasich’s signing of House Bill (HB) 454, their bipartisan legislation that would require townships to offer compensation to owners of certain unused cemetery lots or rights before they are reclaimed. Under previous law, townships have the right to resell unused cemetery lots that were sold after 1986, though not those sold before that date, leaving many vacant lots unavailable to families wishing to be buried close to loved ones.

“Families of lost loved ones deserve peace of mind and the opportunity to plan for their family member’s final wishes and burial arrangements,” said Patterson. “Our new law will provide more families with that peace of mind while creating a stronger process for families and local communities to better manage their respective needs. Nothing is more important than honoring the final wishes of a person or grieving family, and by working together in the legislature, we were able to do just that.”

 
 
Legislature approves House Bill 411 to increases access to justice
December 18, 2018

State Rep. Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) today announced the legislature’s Dec. 13 approval of House Bill (HB) 411, her bipartisan legislation to streamline access to justice for victims of wrongful imprisonment in Ohio.

“Protecting the rights and freedom of our citizens is my top priority, and when those rights are violated we have a responsibility to take action,” said Sykes. “Thanks to this bipartisan effort, Ohioans who have been wrongfully imprisoned will soon have a better path forward to reclaim their lives and receive the justice they deserve.”

 
 
Legislation would ensure full rehabilitation, keep more Ohioans safe
December 14, 2018

State Rep. Kristin Boggs (D-Columbus) today announced the House passage of part of the Reagan Tokes Act, Senate Bill  (SB) 201, which will provide indefinite sentencing for felony-one and two-level offenders. The bill is named for Reagan Tokes, a student at The Ohio State University who was brutally kidnapped, raped and killed after leaving work at a Columbus restaurant in 2017. 

“This legislation is the first step to make Ohio safer by ensuring that the most violent offenders who have demonstrated while in prison that they continue to pose a danger to society, are not automatically released back into our neighborhoods,” said Boggs.

 
 

State Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire) early this morning responded to the passage of Senate Bill 268, a bill increasing penalties for theft in public office. The Bellaire lawmaker supported the bill, but noted the lack of state laws that protect state employees who come forward to report wrongdoing and corruption to authorities.

 

“Corruption has no place in government. Over the last year, we’ve seen pay-to-play schemes, FBI investigations and the misuse of taxpayer money to line the pockets of political friends. Ohio taxpayers deserve better,” said Cera. “We need to hold elected officials accountable. That’s why I support this bill, but I also support protections for those who expose wrongdoing and corruption in state offices.”

 

In the last year, employees vocalized problems with the Department of Administrative Service’s rigged, no-bid IT contract scheme that saw tens of millions in misspent taxpayer dollars handed out with little to no oversight. DAS officials even investigated an employee who tried to blow the whistle on the alleged schemes.

 

Today, the state inspector general released a report on the incidents showing a much deeper pattern of taxpayer abuse.

 
 

In the late hours of lame duck session, the Ohio House of Representatives voted 82-3 to pass House Bill (HB) 461, legislation introduced by state Reps. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) and Tavia Galonski (D-Akron) to bring Ohio law into compliance with federal law in cases involving the human trafficking of minors aged 16 and 17 years old.

“Our children deserve to be rescued, not arrested,” said Fedor. “I’m grateful for the overwhelming support from both Republicans and Democrats to pass this critical piece of legislation that seeks to protect all of Ohio’s children.”

 
 

State Reps. John Rogers (D-Mentor-on-the-Lake) and Nathan Manning (R-North Ridgeville) today announced the concurrent passage of House Bill 497, which prohibits the nonconsensual dissemination of private sexual images, often referred to as “revenge porn,” by setting penalties to punish those who distribute sexually explicit images with the intent to harass the victim.

 
 
Black Caucus Members Call for Study on African-American Ohioans

State Senators Charleta B. Tavares (D-Columbus), Sandra Williams (D-Cleveland) and Vernon Sykes (D-Akron), together with state Representatives Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland) and Emilia Sykes (D-Akron), today urged the legislature to study the progress and challenges of African Americans in Ohio.

“2019 marks 400 years of African Americans in America,” said Senator Tavares. “We faced a brutal beginning and have had challenges along the way. We have built America and her companies, historic buildings and economies, but we have not yet seen justice and equality for all. Our story in America, and more specifically in Ohio, needs to be researched to determine where we have made progress and the challenges we have to overcome in order to advance.” 

The lawmakers’ bill would create a committee to review the contributions and achievements of the Black community in Ohio. The group will also look at issues such as housing, transportation, health, education, employment, environment and businesses development and offer recommendations for addressing persistent challenges.

“Without an honest conversation about the issues and challenges African Americans disproportionately face in our state, all Ohioans risk falling further behind,” said Rep. Howse, who also serves as the president of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus (OLBC). “We won’t grow our economy or create more opportunity if a significant population of Ohioans are left to fend for themselves. Ohio succeeds when African Americans succee

 
 
Galonski applauds alternative pathways, sets sights on permanent solution
December 6, 2018

State Rep. Tavia Galonski (D-Akron) today announced the Ohio House will tonight pass Senate changes to House Bill 491, which extend alternative pathways to graduation for 2019 and 2020 Ohio high school seniors.

“Though I share the frustration of students and families who have been looking for a graduation solution from the Statehouse for almost a year, I am happy we will ultimately extend alternative graduation pathways through 2020,” said Galonski. “We have a lot of work left to do to ensure stability and consistency in Ohio’s ever-changing graduation requirements, so students can plan for their future and have an equal opportunity to succeed.”

The Akron lawmaker, who serves on the House Education Committee, introduced her own legislation, House Bill 630, to extend alternative pathways. The bill gained the attention of concerned students and parents, but was only given one hearing by majority Republicans. Galonski’s bill would have given career and college-ready Ohio high school seniors the opportunity to graduate in 2019 and 2020, similar to the language ultimately included in HB 491.

“I am committed to working toward fair requirements that recognize individual student success and performance instead of putting too much weight on standardized testing alone to determine graduation,” added Galonski. “We can’t afford to hold career and college-ready students back just because education standards in Columbus are broken.”

According to the Ohio Department of Education, some 50,000 students were at risk of not graduating in 2019 due to an overreliance on standardized testing – an approach that has been roundly criticized by lawmakers of both political parties.