Ohio House Bill 394

Writing for the Columbus Dispatch on 1-11-16, Catherine Candisky reported on Representative Barbara Sears’ Ohio House Bill 394 (Unemployment benefits changes would ‘dismantle’ anti-poverty program, advocates say). This stealth bill is plodding along the legislative track on its way to being signed into law by presidential wannabe John Kasich. “At a news conference on Monday in Columbus, Advocates for Ohio’s Future, a coalition of nearly 500 health- and human-services groups, said Sears’ bill goes further than any other state to limit benefits to the unemployed.” Currently the proposed bill is in committee, the house insurance committee (previous stomping ground of Newark’s Jay Hottinger who now is in the Senate). This combination of practically non existent press coverage, “grass roots” (conservative base) sponsorship, and radical sweeping change (from those ostensibly opposed to change) may have Ohioans waking up one morning not recognizing the state they live in. AP headlines like yesterday’s “Kansas’ uncertain state finances weighs on some lawmakers”(by Jim Suhr and John Hanna 1-16-16) and a plethora recently from the incredible tragedy in Flint Michigan (state fiscal austerity ahead of public health considerations) indicate determining that problems have been eliminated or don’t exist by legislative fiat simply doesn’t work. The outcomes can be severe. Candisky quotes Sears as saying “it’s just too late to start over.” (is it?), though she is entertaining amendments for those deemed exceptional. “The bill, she said, seeks to shore up Ohio’s unemployment-compensation fund by severely limiting benefits to workers who lose a job. According to an analysis by the independent Legislative Service Commission, H.B. 394 would reduce taxes paid by employers into Ohio’s unemployment compensation fund by $313 million on average each year through 2025. During that same time, benefits to workers would be reduced by an average of $475 million annually.” “In addition, the bill would: Reduce benefits to 12 weeks in times of low unemployment, tying Ohio with North Carolina for lowest in the country. Eliminate added benefits for workers with dependents. Mandate that employees work during at least three quarters in the year to qualify for benefits, a requirement in no other state. Disqualify from benefits any worker who violates their employer handbook, a requirement in no other state. Reduce benefits for senior workers based on the amount of Social Security they receive.” Last Sunday (1-10-16) The Newark Advocate ran Licking County Commissioner Tim Bubb’s “A look back and ahead for Licking County”. In true “year in review “ fashion, the accomplishments and successes of the Licking County Chamber of Commerce administered public/private partnership, Grow Licking County, were touted. Following SCOTUS Citizen United ruling precedent (that corporations are persons), the commissioner, and Grow Licking County board member, cited corporate entity after corporate entity responsible for the greatness of Licking County Ohio in the past and upcoming year. Not a single living human being was named in the entire column! Analysis finds no change in the county’s poverty within that period, nor any mention of it by Commissioner Bubb. At the end of her article Candisky reports “Sears said the trend toward part-time workers suggests Ohio’s tax climate is not competitive or attractive to businesses.” Do tell.

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