Safe Haven Law Has Potential To Save Ohio Newborns
A Guest Column by State Senator Troy Balderson
July 29, 2015
 
 

In 2001, state lawmakers passed legislation to allow the parent of a child 30 days old or younger to leave their child with a peace officer, hospital employee, or emergency medical service worker without the threat of prosecution, all while allowing the option for anonymity if they prefer. This law, known as Ohio’s Safe Haven Law, is designed to prevent infants from being abandoned and potentially left to die if they are not found.

Ohio is one of many states with Safe Haven laws on the books. Many Ohioans are unfamiliar with this law, but its practicality has the potential to save babies’ lives who are otherwise in danger of abandonment by birth mothers and fathers who find themselves in difficult circumstances and are unable to take on the challenges of parenthood. Instead of penalizing birth parents who can’t care for an infant, the Safe Haven law gives them an incentive to protect their child by placing him or her in good hands.

Following the passage of Ohio’s Safe Haven law, between 10 and 13 babies per year were left with peace officers or hospital personnel. Beginning in 2005, this number declined to 3. Since then there has only been one year when the reported number exceeded 5 babies. These numbers demonstrate that the Safe Haven law is making a difference in the lives of birth parents

I believe that even one life saved makes this law worthwhile public policy for the State of Ohio. It is vital that we raise awareness in our communities about Ohio’s Safe Haven laws. I am reminded of this following new developments in a case involving a newborn who was found dead on a university campus. One can’t help but wonder that these tragedies could have been prevented if there were more awareness about existing laws. Ohio’s Safe Haven law provides the option of leaving a baby in a safe place without the deterrence of potential prosecution.

As a father and a legislator, I have and will continue to support legislation to promote adoption and improve Ohio’s infant mortality crisis. It is our obligation to raise awareness about potentially life-saving laws in Ohio. In doing so, we can help prevent tragic situations where newborns are neglected and abandoned, and continue to foster a culture of life in Ohio. Please help raise awareness by joining the conversation on social media, and informing friends and family that Ohio has Safe Haven laws designed to save babies’ lives.

For more information on Ohio’s Safe Haven laws, please visit http://jfs.ohio.gov/safehavens/index.stm.

 
 
  
 
Upcoming Sales Tax Holiday Aims To Help Back-to-School Shoppers
Guest Column by State Senator Scott Oelslager
July 29, 2015
 
 

As the summer winds down and preparations for the next school year begin, I am pleased to provide a friendly reminder about a little-known holiday to save families on expenses associated with the back-to-school season. Ohio’s one-time sales tax holiday starts Friday, August 7 and runs through Sunday, August 9. Consumers and vendors will both benefit from this tax break on essential items.

All shoes and clothing priced less than $75 will be exempt from the sales tax during this time period. Also, school supplies and instructional materials priced at $20 or less will be exempt from the sales tax.

August is a hectic time of year and your shopping list is likely full of the necessities. It is our hope that the timing of this sales tax holiday will be helpful for parents, families and educators. As you are building your shopping budget and searching for all the best deals, this added measure of a freedom from the sales tax is sure to provide some financial relief. 

We want all our students to have what they need to be successful and reach their fullest potential. This sales tax holiday supports this goal and is a step in the right direction.  

I was proud to support and co-sponsor a bill to create the sales tax holiday when it passed in 2013. Senate Bill 243, sponsored by Senator Kevin Bacon (R-Minerva), helps Ohio families keep more of their hard earned money and invest in the children’s back-to-school priorities. For a complete list of eligible items, you can visit the Ohio Department of Taxation website atwww.tax.ohio.gov/sales_and_use/salestaxholiday/holidayfaq.aspx.

 
 
  
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Legislation co-sponsored by State Senator Larry Obhof (R-Medina) establishes a “back-to-school” sales tax holiday that will take place from August 7-9, 2015.

Senate Bill 243, which was passed by the legislature late last year, creates a pilot program for August 7-9. On those days, purchases of clothing, school supplies and instructional materials are exempt from state and county sales and use taxes. Specifically, Ohio consumers will enjoy an exemption from paying sales taxes on clothing and footwear up to $75 per item, and certain school supplies and instructional materials will be exempt up to $20 per item.

For a complete list of eligible items, please visit www.tax.ohio.gov/sales_and_use/salestaxholiday/holidayfaq.aspx.

"The end of the summer can be a challenging time for families, as parents prepare for their children to begin the new school year," said Obhof. "By allowing tax-free back-to-school shopping, this new law will help families stretch their dollar a little further.”

Senate Bill 243 was introduced in 2013 and signed into law in December 2014. Ohio joins 18 other states, and will become the first state in the Midwest to have a sales tax holiday.

 
 
  
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State Senators Frank LaRose (R-Copley) and Tom Sawyer (D-Akron) today introduced Senate Joint Resolution 2, legislation designed to infuse greater balance and transparency into the redistricting process by giving a bipartisan commission the authority to draw congressional district lines.

"Our goal is to establish a redistricting process that works for Ohioans, not politicians," said LaRose. "I'm proud of the plan we developed last year to achieve a more balanced way of drawing state legislative lines, and there is no good reason not to extend its provisions to federal districts as well."

The Senators are proposing a bipartisan plan that mirrors legislation passed by the Senate last year with nearly unanimous support to change the way state legislative lines are drawn. Like HJR 12, which will be Issue 1 on the November ballot, SJR 2 proposes the creation of a seven-member Redistricting Commission composed of the governor, auditor, secretary of state and four leaders from the legislature representing the majority and minority from each chamber. If the voters approve Issue 1 this November, the same commission will be responsible for drawing both state and congressional legislative districts. 

In lieu of the current winner-takes-all system, the Commission would draw a federal legislative map that would require the vote of four members, including two from the minority party. If a bipartisan map is passed, the congressional districts would be in effect for 10 years until the next census.  If the vote is not bipartisan, an impasse provision allows the map to go into effect for four years, at the end of which time the Commission would reconvene, potentially with new members, to redraw and pass a new map that would go into effect for the remaining six years. Maps drawn under the impasse procedure would be subjected to more stringent standards, with the aim of constraining possible partisan excesses. This resolution, ultimately, puts safeguards in place to ensure the drawing of logical, compact districts.

"The work of redistricting is historically contentious and hyperpartisan, but it does not need to be," said LaRose. "This legislation embodies the spirit of civility and compromise that voters want to see in their elected officials."

SJR 2 will soon be referred to a Senate committee for further consideration.

 
 
  
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State Senator Shannon Jones (R–Springboro) today joined other state officials in announcing the selection of the Five Rivers Community Health Center to pilot the Centering Pregnancy model of care. The Dayton health center is one of four federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) across Ohio chosen to participate in the Centering Pregnancy program, an initiative geared toward reducing Ohio's infant mortality rate.

“Montgomery County loses 7.6 babies per 1,000 live births and that rate skyrockets to 12.4 among black babies," said Jones. "This is simply unacceptable."
 
The pilot program was initially proposed in Senate Bill 279, a bipartisan bill jointly introduced by Senator Jones with Senator Tavares (D-Columbus) during the 130th General Assembly. SB 279 was originally introduced as a part of a package of interventions to tackle the state's abysmal infant mortality rate following the legislators' statewide infant mortality hearings in the summer of 2013.

"We were impressed with what we learned about centering pregnancy initiatives in both Dayton and Cleveland," said Jones. "We knew the state should lean-in to jump start more programs because the outcomes were so promising." 

The initiative will create a prenatal group health care pilot program using the Centering Pregnancy model of care that will operate for two years at the Five Rivers Community Health Center. These groups provide a dynamic atmosphere for learning and sharing that enables women to normalize the experience of pregnancy and create a solid social support network.

The Five Rivers Community Health Center will share $900,000 in funding from Ohio Health Transformations with three other federal qualified health centers that will pilot this program. 

Jones said, “It is my hope that this initiative will provide the Dayton region with the resources it needs to significantly reduce the number of babies who die before their first birthday.”

 
 
  
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State Senator Larry Obhof (R-Medina) announced that today Governor John Kasich signed into law House Bill 6, which advances the state’s efforts to deliver justice for victims of sexual violence. 

House Bill 6 extends the statute of limitations for initiating prosecution in a case of rape or sexual battery from 20 to 25 years. The bill also extends the statute of limitations where a suspect is implicated by DNA evidence. Senator Obhof co-sponsored the bill. 

"This legislation ensures that prosecutors have the ability to seek justice for victims when a DNA match is found," said Obhof.

Under House Bill 6, once a DNA match is determined, prosecutors will have the opportunity to seek an indictment for a period of five years, even if that period extends beyond the state’s new 25-year statute of limitations. Ohio now joins more than two dozen other states that include a DNA exemption in their statute of limitations for such crimes. 
 
In 2011, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and the Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) began working with local law enforcement agencies to get rid of the state’s backlog in testing rape kits.  Since that time, 186 different law enforcement agencies from across the state have submitted more than 10,000 kits for testing.  Of the 7,814 kits already tested as part of this initiative, BCI has found 2,887 matches to profiles in the state’s Combined DNA Index System.
 
House Bill 6 received support from Attorney General Mike DeWine and advocacy groups who provide services to the victims of sexual abuse. The new law went into effect immediately upon Governor Kasich’s signature.

 
 
  
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State Senator Larry Obhof (R-Medina) recently announced that the Mansfield North End Community Improvement Collaborative (NECIC) will receive a state grant to support Mansfield City Schools students in grades 6 through 12 to provide them with meaningful adult mentoring and peer-to-peer mentoring opportunities.

"These programs will provide an environment for students to develop life and career skills that will empower them and equip them for success," said Obhof. “I’m glad the legislature was able to provide funding for such an important purpose.”

The Ohio Department of Education announced yesterday that NECIC will receive nearly $75,000 in state support for area businesses, faith-based groups and nonprofits to provide mentorship opportunities for students at Mansfield City Schools. The Community Connectors program is intended to help give more Ohio students access to role models who can help motivate and inspire them, as well as help them develop skills that lead to success in school and the workplace.

Program partners include Big Brothers Big Sisters, North Central State College, Ohio State - Mansfield Campus, Life Vineyard Church, Mansfield City Schools and Directions Credit Union. The grant will allow these organizations to provide comprehensive one-on-one mentorship opportunities through after-school and weekend activities for students.

Governor Kasich first proposed the program's creation in his 2014 State of the State address. Funding for the program was provided in the recently enacted state budget.

 
 
  
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State Senator John Eklund (R-Munson Township) along with other state and local officials will join the family and friends of Lance Corporal Daniel G. Zegarac on Friday to honor the fallen soldier's sacrifice during a special ceremony at the Kirtland City Hall Veterans Memorial.

Senator Eklund and former State Senator Nina Turner (D-Cleveland) jointly sponsored Senate Bill 371 last December to designate State Route 306 within Kirtland city limits as the "U.S.M.C. LCpl. Daniel G. Zegarac Memorial Highway" to remember the sacrifice of Zegarac and all Lake County Vietnam veterans who served. 

Zegarac graduated from Kirtland High School in June 1966 before leaving for Marine Corps training at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. LCpl. Zegarac's troop deployed for Vietnam on January 11, 1967. Just three months later, at age 19, he died while fighting in Vietnam's Quang Nam Province. 

WHAT: Road dedication and sign unveiling for the 
"U.S.M.C. LCpl. Daniel G. Zegarac Memorial Highway"

WHO: Family and friends of LCpl. Daniel Zegarac, State Senators John Eklund and Kenny Yuko, and other state and local officials.

WHERE: Kirtland City Hall Veterans Memorial, 9301 Chillicothe Road, Kirtland, OH 44094.

WHEN: Friday, July 17, 2015 at 10 a.m. 

 
 
  
 
A Bold Independence Day
A Column by State Senator Frank LaRose
July 04, 2015
 
 

Throughout human history, nations have been formed based on ethnic identity, religion and tribe. The United States of America stands unique, because our nation was founded on an idea. Our founders believed in the simple yet revolutionary idea that all people are created equal and free by virtue of being human, that our rights come from the Creator instead of any government or king. For many that equality for all was not realized immediately but required ongoing struggle. A constant work in progress, each generation of Americans strives to perfect our great union.

This weekend we celebrate the birth of our nation. We recall that time in 1776 when these brave visionaries boldly signed a Declaration of Independence which articulated a vision for a new American nation based on the revolutionary idea of human freedom and self-determination.

In the midst of fireworks, parades and celebrations, it can be easy to overlook the incredible danger and risk that the signers of the Declaration of Independence faced. A modest, untrained army of farmers and merchants representing a loose union of colonies challenged the most powerful empire on earth, and few would have placed bets in favor of the colonists. Their victory may seem like a foregone conclusion through the lens of history, but the signers realized that defeat was both possible and certainly fatal. They chose to sign anyway, and the world witnessed the birth of a different kind of nation.
 
The universal principles that the Revolutionary Army fought to defend have profoundly shaped America’s unique history. Where founding principles have been misapplied due to politics and self-interest, as in the case of slavery and denial of female suffrage, Americans have shed their sweat and blood to correct these wrongs and extend the scope of freedom inside and beyond its borders. Our foreign policy is guided not only by national interest but by a conviction that all people on earth are entitled to freedom and self-government. As a U.S. Army veteran, I have a deep appreciation for how hard-fought and rare this freedom is throughout the world.
 
Nearly 250 years after our founders declared that “these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states,” our nation faces a new set of challenges. From tackling the national debt at home to countering violent extremism abroad, the policy issues we face are daunting and complex. We have inherited problems from previous generations, to be sure, but we have also inherited a legacy of boldness. The same boldness that inspired colonial settlers to sacrifice and fight for their freedom was evident in the Americans who stormed the beaches of Normandy, who marched for civil rights, who ran to the aid of others at the World Trade Center towers. It may look different for every generation, but it is unmistakably American.
 
Today we all share the responsibility for acting boldly to defend the freedom and well-being of our fellow citizens, often without accolades or fanfare. From the police officer who stands in the line of fire to the teacher who strives to enrich young minds and mold responsible citizens, or the military family who proudly supports their mom or dad serving abroad and prays daily for their safe return, we all have a part to play. As a state lawmaker, boldness may look like negotiating a tough compromise in order to meet the needs of my constituents. It may look like voting my conscience in the face of political pressure. We carry on the legacy of our nation's founders imperfectly, but we carry it proudly. 

As we celebrate this Independence Day, let us be reminded of the extraordinary boldness that propelled our founders to victory and inspires us to serve the country that we love. Let us be bold, for it is our inheritance and responsibility. 

 
 
  

COLUMBUS– State Senator Frank LaRose (R-Copley) today announced the Senate's passage of legislation to improve the reporting and evaluation of incidents of student violence against educators and educational staff.

"The dedicated professionals who devote their lives to educating our students should be able to do their jobs without the fear of violence," said LaRose. "Ohio's leaders deserve our support and protection." 

Senate Bill 168 would require school districts to report violent student behavior resulting in disciplinary action in the Education Management Information System (EMIS), the statewide data system for primary and secondary education institutions in Ohio. For a two-year period, schools would be required to report violent incidents to the Ohio Department of Education (ODE), including information about the individual to whom the violent behavior was directed. 

"The purpose of this legislation is to increase awareness about the problem of student violence against educators and take the first step toward developing an effective response," said LaRose. "I first became aware of the severity of the problem when a group of teachers in my district who had suffered physical assault at the hands of students shared their experiences with me."

F.I.V.E.S. (Facing Incidents of Violence against Educators & Staff) is a coalition of educators and staff whose purpose is to increase awareness about violence against educators and encourage policymakers to develop solutions.


Pamela Hinton, a former assistant principal who was herself a victim of a brutal attack by several students, founded F.I.V.E.S. and testified on behalf of the legislation, saying, "Senate Bill 168 encourages our school communities to work together to increase awareness, create solutions, and make a positive difference in addressing student violence against educators and staff." 

If enacted, Senate Bill 168 would require ODE to prepare a report based on the information collected in EMIS related to student violent incidents for the first two years after the bill goes into effect. ODE will then report to the President and Minority Leader of the Senate, Speaker and Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, and chairpersons of the Senate and House education committees on the pervasiveness of student violence in order to inform future action on addressing the problem of student violence. 

"Throughout the process of developing this legislation, I worked closely with the Department of Education to ensure that these new requirements will not create an additional burden for school districts," added LaRose.

Changes to the EMIS system would sunset two years after the release of ODE's report, allowing the legislature to decide whether or not to make the new reporting procedure a permanent feature of EMIS. 

Senate Bill 168 passed with extensive bipartisan support and will now go to the Ohio House of Representatives for further consideration.

 
 
  
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Featured Posts

Safe Haven Law Has Potential To Save Ohio Newborns

 

"Ohio is one of many states with Safe Haven laws on the books. Many Ohioans are unfamiliar with this law, but its practicality has the potential to save babies’ lives who are otherwise in danger of abandonment by birth mothers and fathers who find themselves in difficult circumstances and are unable to take on the challenges of parenthood. Instead of penalizing birth parents who can’t care for an infant, the Safe Haven law gives them an incentive to protect their child by placing him or her in good hands."



 
 

Upcoming Sales Tax Holiday Aims To Help Back-to-School Shoppers

 

August is a hectic time of year and your shopping list is likely full of the necessities. It is our hope that the timing of this sales tax holiday will be helpful for parents, families and educators. As you are building your shopping budget and searching for all the best deals, this added measure of a freedom from the sales tax is sure to provide some financial relief. 



 
 

Obhof Encourages Families To Take Advantage Of New Tax Holiday For Back-to-School Shopping

 
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"The end of the summer can be a challenging time for families, as parents prepare for their children to begin the new school year," said Obhof.  "By allowing tax-free back-to-school shopping, this new law will help families stretch their dollar a little further.”  



 
 

LaRose And Sawyer Introduce Congressional Redistricting Reform Proposal

 
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"Our goal is to establish a redistricting process that works for Ohioans, not politicians," said LaRose. "I'm proud of the plan we developed last year to achieve a more balanced way of drawing state legislative lines, and there is no good reason not to extend its provisions to federal districts as well."