Senate Democrats outline legislative priorities


By Marc Kovac

news@vindy.com

COLUMBUS

Democrats in the Ohio Senate want to increase the minimum wage, permanently expand Medicaid eligibility for needy residents and increase oversight of charter schools.

Minority leaders of the chamber outlined those priorities and others Wednesday during a midday session with Statehouse reporters in advance of committee meetings and bill introductions expected in coming weeks.

“We’re trying to help families; we’re trying to grow our communities, and we’re trying to increase opportunities for Ohioans to build a better future in the state,” said Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni of Boardman, D-33rd.

Many of the legislative initiatives have been offered in past general assemblies, without gaining support in the Republican-controlled chambers.

Schiavoni, who offered legislation last session to increase accountability for charter schools, said he’ll continue to pursue related law changes, including requiring charter schools to undergo annual audits and follow public-records laws required of traditional public schools.

Sen. Capri Cafaro of Hubbard, D-32nd, said she would introduce legislation to codify the state’s expansion of Medicaid eligibility, implemented last term via a vote of the Controlling Board that avoided a full vote of the Legislature. Gov. John Kasich, who supports Medicaid expansion, has said he will push the issue again in coming budget deliberations, though Republican lawmakers again are voicing their opposition.

“There is no certainty attached to … the current structure that basically has implemented Medicaid expansion in the state of Ohio, due to the nature of how it was rolled out,” Cafaro said. “It is certainly my belief and the shared belief [of the Senate Democratic caucus] that it is essential for us to create some level of certainty in the marketplace, both for the patients, the beneficiaries of Medicaid, as well as our providers, who are major employers in the state in the health-care industry.”

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