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Ohio Senate Democrats tackle guns, education in plan

COLUMBUS — Members of the Ohio Senate Democratic Caucus previewed their legislative agenda for the coming year Tuesday, unveiling measures that would curb gun violence and increase access to education for veterans.

“Senate Democrats are ready to get to work to help the citizens of Ohio,” said Senate Democratic leader Eric Kearney, D-9th. “Our top priority is creating jobs to accelerate Ohio’s economic growth.”

Sen. Lou Gentile, D-30th, explained his plans to introduce the Veteran’s Opportunity Bill, which would require two- and four-year higher education institutions in Ohio to give credit to veterans for skills learned during their time of service. In addition, the bill would “strongly encourage” universities to become more veteran friendly.

The Board of Trustees for each school would devise the details, such as how many credit hours would be given, for their respective schools. Gentile said the bill would ease veterans’ transition from military to civilian life and would help make Ohio a leader in veteran’s affairs.

Sen. Edna Brown, D-11th, explained her plans for a bill to combat child hunger in Ohio by allowing public schools with 50 percent or more students who qualify for meal assistance to be meal centers during the summer months when classes are not in session.

The bill would be permissive, not mandatory, and would not cost the state any money in its current form, Brown said.

Sen. Charleta Tavares, D-15th, outlined her proposal to create a Family Stability Commission, which would research best practices in preserving families and the best conditions for children in Ohio, especially those in impoverished families.

Tavares said offering marriage counseling and reducing impulsive marriages are examples of what the commission could to do promote stronger, healthier families.

“You can almost guarantee that when a child is in a single-parent family, they will be in poverty,” Tavares said. “A child needs both parents.”

In its current form, Tavares said she does not know if the commission will require any state funds.

Kearney also briefly discussed the possibility of legislation aimed to curb gun violence in the state. He was unable to provide details but said Sen. Shirley Smith, D-21st, will have talks with the Ohio gun-rights advocates while preparing the legislation.

Smith was not at the meeting, but Kearney said he is optimistic the Democratic caucus will be able to make headway in the controversial issue.

Sen. Tom Sawyer, D-28th, discussed the “unconstitutional school funding system” in Ohio and the caucus’ plans to reduce the public education system’s reliance on local property taxes.

In closing, Kearney said he looks forward to working with the Senate Republicans in bi-partisan efforts. He and the other Democrats will need to as well, because they are outnumbered by the GOP 23 to 10.

— Ryan Clark is a fellow in Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism Statehouse News Bureau.

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