Looking Back on the 133rd General Assembly
A Guest Column by State Senator Jay Hottinger
December 29, 2020
This year has undoubtedly been a challenging year for many, and as it draws to a close, it also marks the end of the 133rd General Assembly. As we look forward to a new year and the beginning of the 134th General Assembly, I would like to take this opportunity to reflect on some of my legislative successes from the past two years.
Many of my legislative accomplishments came during the budget process, where I was able to pass several measures to help families in need. Senate Bill 6, legislation I sponsored, was amended into the budget so that charitable host family programs can operate in Ohio. These programs help families in a crisis situation by allowing parents to request that their children be hosted by a fully screened host family for a specific, limited period of time. The host family provides a safe, temporary place for the children to stay and gives parents peace of mind so they can focus on getting back on their feet from situations such as incarceration, incapacitation, medical or mental health treatment, or military service.
Another amendment will greatly assist families of multi-system youth, children who have severe and multiple behavioral and developmental needs. Some families have been forced to make the heart-wrenching decision to give up custody of children in order for them to obtain treatment that the family cannot afford. The budget allocates a total of $18 million over the biennium to help families obtain needed services for their children and avoid being forced into custody relinquishment.
In Ohio there are approximately 200,000 children living with grandparents, most in low income families. I was able to help restore funding for the Kinship Care Program and the Kinship Navigator Program. This funding helps low income relatives care for children when the parents are unable or incapable of caring for their child, and it ensures children can live in a stable environment with caring relatives.
The two most important foundational issues needed for families and at-risk kids are stable housing and food security. I am very grateful my amendments for the Ohio Housing Trust Fund and Ohio Food Banks were included in the budget. An increase in recording fees will provide an estimated $3 million more a year to provide homeless programming, home improvements for low income seniors and vets, and develop more affordable rental housing. An additional $5 million a year was allocated to food banks, which have been crucial to many families this past year.
Another of my passions is helping provide programming for at-risk youth. For the Boys and Girls Clubs, budget funding was increased and I was able to secure additional funds for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Ohio. This funding will allow more youth to be served by community programs and reach their full potential in life.
Senate Bill 284, another piece of legislation that I sponsored, updated the National Association of Insurance Commissioners Credit for Reinsurance Model Law to help maintain state-based regulation of insurance and avoid federal preemption. While this may seem mundane to many, legislation like this helps keep insurance rates low in Ohio. This bill was recently signed by the Governor on December 21, 2020.
As we begin a new year, the focus of the new General Assembly will be the state operating budget and efforts to promote continued economic recovery. While there is much work ahead of us, I look forward to serving on behalf of the constituents of the 31st Senate District.