Archive for March, 2012

Rep. Antonio Gives Sponsor Testimony on Equal Housing Equal Employment Act

State Representative Nickie J. Antonio recently gave sponsor testimony on House Bill 335, the Equal Housing Equal Employment Act, in the House Commerce and Labor Committee. The EHEA is about fairness and equality. State law currently prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, gender, national origin, age, ancestry, military status and disability.  The bill merely expands existing Ohio Civil Rights Laws so that they apply to discriminatory practices on the basis of “sexual orientation” or “gender identity.”  In Ohio, people can lose their jobs or be denied housing, solely because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“I believe that every person deserves these fundamental protections in order to fully participate in our society free from fear, harassment and discrimination. We have the opportunity to make this a reality with HB 335. This is not a Democrat or Republican issue. This is an issue of fairness and equity and a bright future for the people of Ohio, all the people of Ohio,” said Rep. Antonio.


Ohio Summit on Women and HIV/AIDS Video Now Available Online

The Ohio Summit on Women and HIV/AIDS, led by State Representative Nickie J. Antonio (D-Lakewood) was held on March 15, 2012, and is now available to watch online via the Ohio Channel’s website. The summit was meant to build strategic connections to battle this critical women’s health issue. Rep. Antonio is proud to announce that the event was a great success.

HIV/AIDS is increasingly becoming a “women’s epidemic” in the United States. Some women, especially those living in poverty or at-risk situations, such as domestic violence or human trafficking, are more likely to face barriers in accessing HIV prevention, treatment and care. The Summit provided an opportunity to bring together professionals from women serving organizations around Ohio. Professionals who work in human services fields such as social work, health education, mental health and chemical dependency attended.

We had attendees from various organizations in Ohio and some from across the country. We also had 12 speakers present during the event.  There was an abundance of educational materials and business cards exchanged. We shared personal stories along with informational ways to spread awareness and how to work within human service fields. Since the summit, already new collaborations have been made.

House Dems Call on Legislative Leaders to Convene a Transparency Taskforce

State Reps. Ted Celeste (D- Grandview); Jay P. Goyal (D- Mansfield); Matt Lundy (D- Elyria); and Connie Pillich (D- Cincinnati) held a news conference to discuss the lack of transparency across government.  This comes after the release of a national report by the Center for Public Integrity in which Ohio received an overall grade of “D” for risk of corruption.

“We call on our legislative leaders today to take action and convene a special taskforce to review the current laws and enforcement practices and to take the necessary steps to correct problems, and ensure full accountability and transparency throughout government,” said Rep. Goyal.  “We have a responsibility to the people of Ohio and it is simply unacceptable for us to fail to ensure government is working for Ohioan’s best interest at all times, not for special interest or influences.”

The lawmakers sent a letter to legislative leaders today calling for them to convene a special bi-partisan taskforce to review the enforcement practices of current laws and consider new legislation to strengthen accountability and transparency across government.  The letter also calls for hearings on bills already introduced that address several of the areas covered in the report. A copy of the letter can be seen below.

There have been numerous concerns raised in recent weeks involving a lack of transparency and accountability inside and outside of government. Most recently state and federal law-enforcement officers have been called on to investigate potential quid pro quo dealings. 

“This Governor is determined to operate this state in the dark. We can never let that happen. If you have nothing to hide you should always want the process to be as open as possible,” said Rep. Lundy.  “As legislators we must take action to correct these problems immediately.”

Other instances include serious questions surrounding the state’s top independent watchdog, Inspector General Randy Meyer, and his ability to objectively investigate fraud and corruption.  These questions came to the forefront after Mr. Meyer participated in the most partisan of activities by headlining a GOP fundraiser.

“At a time when the people of Ohio feel Columbus and government are out of touch and unaccountable, the role of an independent Ohio Inspector General is more important than ever,” said Rep. Pillich. “It is simply unacceptable for Ohio to not address these ongoing issues of lack of transparency and possible corruption in our state government.”

“Ohio leads the nation in terms of political gerrymandering,” said Rep. Celeste.  “Last year’s attempt at redrawing statewide and Congressional boundaries was done in such a way to deliberately withhold information from the public about redistricting.  As elected officials who represent the best interests of our constituents, we should demand better from ourselves and from each other.”

Not surprisingly, Ohio received an “F” in the State Integrity Investigation for redistricting, legislative accountability, and lobbying disclosure.

A copy of the letter sent to legislative leaders can be seen below.

March 26, 2012

Dear Honorable Leaders of the Ohio General Assembly,

We write today with great concern over the recent ethics report from the State Integrity Investigation, in which Ohio received a “D” grade overall.  Among the various 14 categories in which Ohio was graded, we received only two grades higher than a “C-”. 

Specifically, Ohio received a “C-” for both public access to information and political financing; a “D-” for both executive and judicial accountability; and an “F” for redistricting, legislative accountability, and lobbying disclosure.

This situation is unacceptable, and needs to be dealt with.  Therefore, we are hereby calling upon the leaders of the Ohio General Assembly to create a bi-partisan taskforce to review the enforcement practices of current laws and consider new legislation to strengthen accountability and transparency.

Furthermore, each of us has already introduced legislation that would address many of the areas that received among the lowest of grades.  Thus far not one of these bills has received a single committee hearing.  Not only are these important bills not getting passed, but they are not even being considered and discussed.  Therefore, we are hereby calling on the following bills to be called up for committee hearings immediately upon the legislature’s return from spring recess: HBs 55, 113, 294, 413, 451 and HJR 5.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best Regards,

Jay P. Goyal
State Representative
District 73
Connie Pillich
State Representative
District 28

Ted Celeste
State Representative
District 24

Matt Lundy
State Representative
District 57

C: Speaker William Batchelder, Senate President Thomas Niehaus, Minority Leader Armond Budish, Minority Leader Eric Kearny

Women’s Caucus Calls for Focus on Policies to Support Women & Families

The Ohio House Democratic Women’s Caucus today held a press conference to discuss several pieces of legislation focused on advancing rights and opportunities in all aspects of women’s lives.

“Women are a majority of the population and can make a difference when we unite behind legislation that will improve lives of women and families,” said State Representative Nancy Garland (D-New Albany), Chair of the Women’s Caucus. “Women’s History Month is a great time to refocus our attention on common-sense policies designed to support, benefit and encourage the advancement of women here in Ohio.”

Several bills recently introduced by members of the Women’s Caucus help ensure all women have access to quality healthcare, including HB 419, the CARE Act; HB 281, the Prevention First Act; and HB 412, to establish health insurance exchanges in Ohio. All three bills were introduced by State Rep. Nickie J. Antonio (D-Lakewood).

“We must continue to support Ohio women’s right to access basic healthcare and accurate information regarding their healthcare decisions,” Rep. Antonio said. “These rights should not be legislated away nor used as a political football. Women’s lives hang in the balance.”

Members of Women’s Caucus have also introduced legislation to protect Ohio women and families from violations of their right to safety and security. HB 262, sponsored by State Rep. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo), aims to stop human sex trafficking in Ohio and to protect young women and girls from being forced into sexual slavery.

“Human trafficking victims are more likely to have HIV and other sexually transmitted infections and are more likely to suffer from mental illness,” Rep. Fedor said. “And the average trafficking victim wants to leave prostitution but can’t.”

A woman’s right to security also extends to security in her own home. State Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) is cosponsoring HB 103, a bill to protect victims of domestic violence by keeping their home addresses confidential. Additionally, State Rep. Denise Driehaus (D-Cincinnati) is cosponsoring HB 105, legislation to protect and support domestic violence victims by guaranteeing their rights to safety at home and at work.

“Survivors of domestic violence deserve to live safe from their abusers. I truly hope Ohio can join 37 other states by enacting this important Address Confidentiality Program legislation,” said Rep. Clyde.

“Victims’ advocates have said that stability in housing and employment are the largest hurdles in keeping their lives together, staying safe and protecting their children,” said Rep. Driehaus. “We need to empower victims so they know it’s okay to ask for help, it’s okay to ask for time off, it’s okay to ask for new locks, and it’s okay to leave when their safety or their children’s safety are at risk.”

In addition to discussing the many pieces of women-focused legislation, the members of the Women’s Caucus reinforced their commitment to creating good-paying, long-term jobs for Ohio’s women through job creation measures such as the Local Government Jobs Fund and the Small Business Working Capital Loan Program.

Women’s Caucus Chair Applauds Defeat of Blunt Amendment, Calls for an End to Extreme Attacks on Women’s Rights in Ohio

State Rep. Nancy Garland (D- New Albany), Chair of the Ohio House Democratic Women’s Caucus, released the following statement on yesterday’s defeat of the federal Blunt Amendment:

“I applaud the United States Senate for rejecting the ‘Blunt Amendment,’ which would have severely limited a women’s access to preventative healthcare and contraception. It is unfortunate, however, that Ohio House Republicans voted unanimously to urge passage of this very same measure just a few weeks ago.

“In passing HCR 35, House Republicans asserted their belief that employers should be allowed to deny women access to preventative healthcare and contraception for any proclaimed moral or religious reason.  That same day, House Bill 284 was voted out of committee with a provision that would change current law to prohibit physician assistants from inserting our removing IUDs, further limiting women’s access to contraception.

“These attacks on women must stop.  They only serve to move our nation backwards and undermine the great progress we have made on equal rights. The U.S. Senate made the right decision in shielding women’s rights from further attacks. It is time for Ohio to do the same.”

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