Archive for May, 2012

Reps. Carney & Winburn Help to Guard Citizens from Identity Theft

State Reps. John Carney and Roland Winburn announced today that they will be introducing new comprehensive legislation to address the growing threat of online identity theft.  According to recent reports by the Columbus Dispatch there are a growing number of identity thefts due to breached information from computer hacking.

“Cyber fraud is a growing problem in our communities all across the state and around the nation.  Criminals continue to pursue new ways to take advantage of citizens at every turn, and doing so via the internet is becoming their method of choice,” said Rep. Carney.  “We must meet this problem head on and do all we can to protect people from these serious crimes which can jeopardize a person’s credit, income, and personal safety.  It is time we start standing up for the average citizen and do everything in our power to keep people from falling prey to online hackers and criminals.”

Technology has left consumers increasingly at risk for identity theft which is scarring the credit scores of thousands of Ohioans, many of whom are often completely unaware they have become victims until they are unable to obtain a car loan or mortgage. Children are also becoming greater targets of identity theft, many having hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt in their names and even mortgages by the time they are age 18.

“This legislation is desperately needed.  Too often we hear stories of individuals falling victim to cyber crimes without realizing it until it is far too late for them to recover their assets or regain their piece of mind.  The legislation we have proposed would hold businesses and institutions accountable by requiring them to notify individuals of any security breach of their online databases that could comprise the safety of an individual’s personal information.  Agencies, corporations, and businesses should have a moral and legal obligation to inform people when their private information is in danger,” said Rep. Winburn.

Reps. Carney and Winburn will introduce legislation that would specifically require state agencies, businesses, and institutions to report any breach in the security of a computerized database that includes personal information to the Ohio Attorney General if any Ohio resident’s personal information was, or is reasonably believed to have been, accessed and acquired by an unauthorized person.  It also requires that the report be filed no later than 40 days following the discovery of the breach in the security system. The Ohio Attorney General’s office would be required to create a public online searchable database which would disclose all cases regarding all state agencies, agencies of political subdivisions, and persons who have reported a breach of their security system containing individual’s personal information.



Rep. Cera Highlights Important Veterans’ Legislation in Honor of Memorial Day

State Representative Jack Cera (D-Bellaire) announced today the passage of two pieces of legislation in the Ohio House of Representatives that acknowledges our veterans. 

First, HB 459 declares Ohio as a “Purple Heart State”.   This proposal honors combat wounded veterans for their service and sacrifice in the line of duty.  The bill makes Ohio the first state to acknowledge our veterans in this way.

The Purple Heart is a military medal awarded by the President to those wounded or killed while serving their country during a designated conflict.  It cannot be earned by courage or by exceptional service or achievement. The Purple Heart represents either a combat death or a combat wound.  As with other military awards, subsequent awards of the Purple Heart are designated by the addition of one oak leaf cluster for each additional award.

“We have many individuals who are called to duty and who serve our country and all should be honored for their patriotism. Recipients of the Purple Heart receive such an honor by sacrifice…..the actual blood that was shed in defense of liberty,” said Rep. Cera. “It is fitting that we acknowledge such heroes by being the first state to declare that we are a “Purple Heart State.”

Representative Cera went on to say that the Ohio House passed House Concurrent Resolution 43. This resolution urges Congress to appropriate the necessary funds for the telemedical diagnosis and treatment of traumatic brain injury in military service members and veterans at US Department of Veterans Affairs medical facilities.

A traumatic brain injury can lead to the temporary or permanent impairment of the patient’s cognitive, behavioral, or physical functions.  The US has reported 233,000 members of the US military have suffered traumatic brain injuries since the year 2000 and many others may remain undiagnosed.

Sadly, many medical facilities in the Department of Veterans Affairs lack the resources to provide sufficient access to physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist to members in the military.  The installation of state of the art video teleconference systems in 200 Department of Veterans’ Affairs medical facilities will afford military service members and veterans with timely and cost-effective access to physical medicine and rehab specialists necessary in their recovery.

According to Representative Cera, the video teleconference equipment, medicine, and rehab specialists provided by The Operation Resurrection Program is necessary in diagnosing and treating traumatic brain injury in military members injured in the line of duty. 

“Ohio saw fit to encourage Congress to do all it can in allocating the necessary funds for the Operation Resurrection Program to help military personnel and their families address traumatic brain injuries. This is a necessary step in helping our soldiers recover,” said Rep. Cera.

Rep. Cera, is a co-sponsor of both proposals.


Public Universities May Offer Equal Voting Rights to Student Trustees

The Ohio House passed House Bill 377 (HB 377), sponsored by State Representatives Michael Stinziano and Mike Duffey, to allow public university and colleges’ boards of trustees to bestow equal voting rights on student trustees.

“Across Ohio, student trustees are making extremely valuable contributions to the work of university boards. Today’s bipartisan vote in support of HB 377 affirms our belief and confidence in the caliber of students attending our universities and colleges. I urge my colleagues in the Senate to support Ohio’s students and pass this bipartisan legislation,” said Rep. Stinziano.

“Whether you are a student, parent or taxpayer, we all benefit when public universities put students first,” said Rep. Duffey. “With voting rights, student trustees will be able to advocate for affordable tuition , an education that results in a job after graduation and the ability to earn a degree after four years, not six, with less debt and more opportunity.”

Currently, each of Ohio’s 14 public universities has two student trustees who have no voting power and are not included in quorum or entitled to attend executive sessions. HB 377 gives boards of trustees the authority to grant the student trustees on their board full voting rights. The bill requires boards of trustees to pass a resolution within 90 days of its effective date either affirming or denying voting rights to its student trustees. If the board of trustees affirms voting rights then student trustees will have the ability to vote on all matters before the board, can attend executive sessions, and can count towards quorum.  If a board decides not to grant voting powers to student trustees, future boards have the ability to pass a subsequent resolution overturning the previous resolution and grant student trustees full voting rights.

Ohio’s student trustees are appointed by the Governor, with the advice and consent of the Ohio Senate, from a group of five candidates selected pursuant to a procedure adopted by the university’s student governments and approved by the board of trustees. The term of office for student trustees is two years. Senate Bill 266, companion legislation to HB 377, is currently being considered in the Senate Education Committee.


Rep. Teresa Fedor Applauds Passage of Human Trafficking Victim Protection Bill

State Rep. Teresa Fedor released the following statement on the passage of Am. Sub. House Bill 262 by a unanimous vote in the House of Representatives.

“I am overwhelmed that this critical legislation has received such broad support.  We have a child sexual abuse crime wave in Ohio.  The passage of HB 262 today is a huge victory for victims of human trafficking.  This is a problem that deserves immediate attention by my colleagues in the Senate.  The time to take action is now, we must protect the victims of these heinous acts of human slavery and stop the individuals that are the benefactors of this underground criminal network.

“Am. Sub. H.B. 262 or the Safe Harbor Act, aims to help juvenile victims of human trafficking. This victim-centered legislation follows a three-prong approach of providing protection, prosecution, and prevention.  We’re protecting our minors by providing them with services instead of an arrest warrant.  We’re aiding in prosecution by creating greater penalties for human trafficking, and providing a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 10 years.  We’re preventing continued trafficking by increasing penalties against buyers of commercial sex.

“House Bill 262 not only creates a safe haven for the victims of human trafficking, but also goes after the offenders that profit and engage in this criminal activity.  We must ensure that strict laws are in place to deter and punish this type of crime. This bill would not have been possible without the support of key state decision makers and Governor Kasich.”

This important legislation will now move to the Senate for passage.


Leader Budish Praises the President as Unemployment Rate Continues to Drop

Ohio House Democratic Leader Armond Budish released the following statement praising President Obama for the continued drop in unemployment in Ohio. April’s unemployment numbers were released today showing Ohio’s unemployment rate dropped from 7.5 percent to 7.4 percent in April.

“Ohio’s continued drop in unemployment is proof that President Obama’ policies are working.  This is particularly impressive in light of the massive job losses resulting from Governor Kasich’s budget cuts and other attacks on middle class workers. If the Governor and his Republican cohorts in the legislature would put aside their extremist and divisive social agenda, and instead focus on job creation, we could be putting a lot more Ohioans back to work.”


Teacher Appreciation: by State Rep. Teresa Fedor

In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, consider all the ways that teachers have impacted your life.  It is hard to quantify how much or how well someone inspires a child, but the proof is all around us: the American public education system has helped propel the United States to its position as a world leader and will help it stay there.

We need to remember the importance of public education to society and the importance of society to public education.  We need to support our public schools, because all children deserve the benefit of a well-rounded, comprehensive education that creates life-long learners.

Some years ago, I taught in the Toledo Public School system.  The Revolutionary War period was always my favorite thing to teach, and one year I integrated every other subject into a year-long study of the Revolutionary War.  I am also a veteran, so to me it seemed natural to connect social studies and civics.  I remember that year so well because the kids were so engaged – they were so intent on reading, they forgot when it was time to go to gym.  I wanted to pass that love of American history and civic responsibility to my students, because my teachers instilled it in me – and that changed the course of my life.

After 12 years in the Toledo Public Schools, I moved on to elected office and served as a legislator to the citizens of Northwest Ohio.  I have been both a State Senator and a State Representative, and in my years in the legislature, I have noticed that respect for teachers has significantly eroded.  I was shocked last year to hear people criticize teachers as the bane of society, when everything teachers do props society up.  The reality of the obstacles teachers face every day just to do their jobs is sobering – and it is all happening with larger and larger classrooms and smaller and smaller budgets.

When teachers are negotiating to do our jobs, we are advocating for our children.  Politicians think we’re separate from the children we serve, advocating only for ourselves as teachers, but we are advocating for the children we are working to inspire.  As an adult, I can look back at the teachers from my youth – the women and men who shaped me intellectually – and know that they had my best interests in mind, they worked hard, and they only made it look easy.  This week, show your teacher you appreciate the effort!

Teacher Appreciation: by State Rep. Debbie Phillips

This week is national teacher appreciation week. Each of us can think of a teacher, or teachers, who made a difference in our lives. My children have both had excellent teachers, and we feel very fortunate to live in a community that has such a wealth of smart, caring educators. I hope we all take a moment to thank a teacher this week, and to proudly recognize educators who work every day to help nurture Ohio’s children and prepare them for the future.

Public education is the foundation of the middle class, and we must fight to protect and improve our schools. Having the best schools and teachers is vital to growing our economy and preparing young people in our community for the jobs of the future.

Local school districts across the state are facing difficult decisions, including laying off teachers and cutting programs. Supporting teachers in their work necessarily includes providing the tools and resources to prepare our children for a successful future. It would be wise for leaders to recognize and support their hard work.

We have a responsibility together to make sure schools are working for our children. Last year, the state budget made historically deep cuts to education. To understand the impact, House Democrats calculated the projected school-funding deficit for every school district in Ohio based on their five-year forecasts. The results are sobering. In fiscal year 2014, the combined school-funding deficit in Ohio is estimated to be $1.79 billion.

Every week newspapers around the state are reporting possible teacher cuts, the elimination of bus routes, building closures, and lots of new levy attempts. Rural, urban, and suburban schools are all struggling in the current climate, and we cannot turn our backs on the kids and communities of this state.

My colleagues in the Ohio House and I have proposed a modest plan to help our schools and communities during these difficult times. Our plan, the Kids and Communities First Fund, would make up to $400 million available this year to keep teachers in the classroom, and police and firefighters on the streets.

While this would not solve all the problems, it would provide some immediate relief to communities around the state without a local tax increase. Our fund would use surplus revenue, currently $350 million and growing, and a portion of the Rainy Day Fund. Sadly, when offered as a budget amendment, it was rejected along party lines without ever being seriously considered, but I will be introducing this proposal as a standalone bill in the near future.

Currently, the state of Ohio is functioning without a formula or a plan for funding schools. Governor Kasich’s budget repealed the formula, and replaced it with “bridge” funding. This has caused deep uncertainty for schools, and hearings on a new proposal are only now beginning. I trust that a good faith effort will be made to work together in a nonpartisan way to make real progress on a fair way of funding schools, so that children in Ohio have a good education, no matter where they live.

Students in our region should have access to a full curriculum, high level coursework, early childhood education, and other resources to enable them to develop their talents and find success in the world at large. Teachers are the key, and real appreciation will have to include making sure that teachers can do their life’s work—helping to nurture the inquisitive minds entrusted to their care. Teachers are called to service. Let’s do our part to show respect and appreciation for our teachers by taking seriously our responsibility to fund public education in Ohio.

This week, teacher appreciation week, I thank all the educators who work tirelessly for our children. I will continue working to ensure that our children have access to a high quality public education, throughout Ohio, and I hope you will too.

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