State Representative Marlene Anielski (R-Independence) attended Governor Kasich’s signing of House Bill 543, legislation geared toward training teachers and school staff members in youth suicide awareness and prevention.

Designated the “Jason Flatt Act, Ohio, in honor of Joseph Anielski,” House Bill 543 requires public schools, as well as community (charter) schools and science, technology, engineering and math schools to train teachers and staff in areas regarding suicide prevention.

“I want to applaud the Ohio House of Representatives, the Ohio Senate, and Governor Kasich for passing legislation that addresses a critically important issue that far too many families experience. The youth silent epidemic must be addressed in a proactive manner," Rep. Anielski said. “I am proud to have sponsored a bill that strives to help Ohio’s most precious gifts, our children.”

Under the bill, each school board and other school governing authority would be required to either adopt or adapt to the curriculum developed by the Ohio Department of Education or develop its own suicide awareness standards in consultation with public or private agencies or persons involved in youth suicide prevention programs.

In its 2011 Youth Risk Behavioral Report for Ohio, the Center for Disease Control reported that one in seven Ohio students said they had “seriously considered suicide” in the past 12 months. Slightly more than one in seven had actually “made a plan to commit suicide” in that time. Additionally, one in 11 Ohio students reported “attempting suicide one or more times in the past 12 months,” nearly 50 percent higher than the national average.

House Bill 543 passed unanimously from the House and Senate.

It’s hard to believe that the 129th Ohio General Assembly is coming to a close. These past two years were some of the most exciting and fulfilling that I can remember, and I can’t help but think about what an honor it has been to be one of a small number of Ohioans to have served as a state representative.

I was blessed to represent the people of Ashtabula County and northern Trumbull County at the Statehouse, but I am also grateful for the many interactions and relationships I have built with people back here in the district. I have known many of you my entire life, and all of you welcomed me at your community events, meetings, and on your front porches. Thank you all so much for speaking with me, voicing your opinions, and keeping me accountable to the constituents I have been serving.

I’m proud of what the Ohio House of Representatives has accomplished during the past two years, and I’m pleased to see that Ohio’s economy is now bouncing back. The House passed 180 bills since January 2011, and I’m grateful that so many of the bills I sponsored or co-sponsored made their way into law. These include restoring school calamity days, strengthening Ohio’s wine industry, and making changes to how Ohio distributes the Military Medal of Distinction to the families of our fallen service members.

I firmly believe that some of Ohio’s best laws on the books originated with constituents, and all of the legislation that I introduced was driven by the people like you that I was representing. That’s why I have always been eager to visit with and assist you in whatever way I could.

There are many people who helped make my time in office successful. First and foremost are the people of Ashtabula and northern Trumbull counties. I’m also grateful to my family and friends for all of their support, as well as Speaker William Batchelder, who was instrumental in getting some of my important legislation passed by the House.

Jeff Anthony, my legislative aide, deserves the highest of praise for assisting me, keeping the office moving, and responding back to constituents in a timely manner. Many people in the district have been able to meet and work directly with Jeff, and they—like me—have nothing but good things to say about him and his work.

As I leave the Ohio House of Representatives, I do so with a renewed sense of optimism. Through the efforts of the 129th General Assembly, our state is making great strides and Ohioans’ lives are improving. There is more to do, but I was able to serve alongside some of the most active and knowledgeable legislators out there, and because of them I know that Ohio will be in good shape for years to come.

It continues to be a passion of mine to have more young people involved in the important decisions affecting our state. I strive to be an example of that and will continue to have my own involvement and serve the public in any way I can. Thank you all, again, for the opportunity to serve, and I wish everyone the best of luck in the future.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. This will be my final column as your State Representative of the 88th House District. I have had eight wonderful years serving you and your family at the Statehouse, and now that I have reached my term limits, I must move on to other exciting opportunities.

I cannot stress enough how much of a privilege it has been to be a part of the Ohio House of Representatives since 2005. The experiences that I have had and the relationships that I have built will last me a lifetime, and I will always cherish them.

I could not have represented a better group of people than those in Adams, Brown, and Clermont counties. I did my best to represent the majority of your views, and I hope I did you proud. I’m humbled and grateful that you gave me this opportunity.

In January, Brown and Clermont counties will be represented by Doug Green, while Adams county will be represented by Terry Johnson. These are great men who I am honored to know, and I am confident they will do an awesome job for all of us here in southern Ohio.

Many people throughout the district got to know my legislative aide, Erica Wilson, over the years. She worked for me the entire eight years I was in office, and I cannot thank her enough for all she has done. Erica kept my office running smoothly while I was deployed in Iraq from 2007-2008. Most of my success is as a result of her hard work, and she has now moved on to work for Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. Thank you, Erica.

I also want to thank many others who supported me while in Columbus. That includes the good folks in my law office in West Union—Mary Jane Campbell, Bev Chaney, Rex Ross, Tanya Drinnon, and Rob Hoskins. I’m very grateful for their support over these past several years!

As I close this chapter of my life, I am looking forward to the next. It is my hope and desire to continue my public service in the near future, and I thank each and every one of you for your tremendous past support!

God bless you and your family, and Happy New Year!

State Representatives Cheryl Grossman (R-Grove City) and Lou Terhar (R-Cincinnati) today applauded Governor John Kasich’s decision to include coverage for autism spectrum disorders to state employee health insurance, health insurance sold in the private market, and health insurance sold through upcoming federally managed health insurance exchange. Reps. Grossman and Terhar jointly sponsored legislation in the House to include autism to insurance coverage provided under the Mental Health Parity Act of 2007.

Rep. Grossman released the following statement:

“I am grateful to Governor Kasich for having the courage to make the right decision to provide this important coverage for the thousands of children who fall within the autism spectrum throughout Ohio. It has been heart-wrenching to hear testimony from these families who want their child to have the same opportunities as other children to succeed and be self-sufficient. As a state, it is paramount that we provide every child with the tools and services to help them succeed. I am proud that Ohio has made this important decision for our children and our families.”

Rep. Terhar released the following statement:

“As a former president and CEO, and current owner of small businesses, I applaud Governor Kasich for his courage and foresight in adding care for those afflicted with autism to Ohio’s Essential Healthcare Benefit Plan. The governor has recognized the human cost to families, and the increasing financial burden to our educational system can only be alleviated by bold and decisive action now. It is to the governor’s great credit that he has stepped forward and taken this action swiftly and decisively. The people of Ohio have been well served by their governor and his ability to ensure the future prosperity of our state.”

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, autism affects 1 in 88 children. Forty-seven percent of children who receive treatment will assimilate into mainstream education without aid by the time they reach the first grade, compared with just 2 percent without treatment.

State Representative Jim Buchy (R-Greenville) yesterday attended Governor Kasich’s signing of Substitute House Bill 325, legislation that designates 38 memorial highways and authorizes the director of the Department of Transportation to erect markers along each highway to indicate its name.

According to the bill, a portion of State Route 47 near Ansonia in Darke County will be known as the “Pfc. Douglas E. Dickey Memorial Highway.” Private First Class Douglas Eugene Dickey was a U.S. Marine who served in Vietnam in 1966 and 1967. He posthumously received the Medal of Honor for heroism during Operation Beacon Hill 1 while serving with Company C, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, 9th Marine Amphibious Brigade, 3rd Marine Division.

Born in Greenville in 1946, Pfc. Dickey was mortally wounded in March 1967 while in combat in Beacon Hill 1. He has received the Medal of Honor, the Purple Heart with two Gold Stars, the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal with one Bronze Star, and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.

“It has been an honor to work with local veterans and the Dickey family while navigating the legislative process to have this memorial highway named for Darke County’s only Medal of Honor recipient since the Civil War,” Buchy said. “Douglas Dickey’s sacrifice and bravery in service to protect freedom has been justly commemorated today.”

Members of the Douglas E. Dickey family joined Representative Buchy at the bill signing. Sub. House Bill 325 received unanimous support in both the House and Senate.

It has been a pleasure to represent the 43rd District in the Ohio House of Representatives during this exciting time in our state. The 129th General Assembly has been very busy over the last two years, focusing especially on bringing jobs to the people of Ohio and bolstering our state’s economy. While there is still much work to be done, we have made some great progress. Ohio is the leading job creator in the Midwest, and our unemployment rate is a full percentage point below the national average.

I recognize, however, that there is still a lot of work to be done, and the 130th General Assembly will be committed to continuing the climb toward a thriving economy by remaining business-friendly, encouraging investments, bringing in more job opportunities, further reducing the unemployment rate, and striving to revive the manufacturing industry through workforce development. The new General Assembly will also focus on the pressing issues of education, tax reform, and healthcare, seeking the results that are best for the people of Ohio.

As your representative, my job is to be the link between the district and the Ohio House of Representatives. I want to take your concerns to Columbus and address the issues through legislative action, as well as keep you informed about what we are working on at the state level. I believe the most important factor in this process is communication.

The best way for me to represent the people of the district is to hear from my constituents about the issues that matter most to them, so please reach out to me with any questions, concerns or suggestions you may have. Good public policy starts with the people, so I encourage you to be a part of the legislative process by sharing your thoughts and ideas with me so that I can effectively be your voice in Columbus.

Christmastime helps us reflect and focus on what we truly value in life… so many good things, such as peace, joy, goodwill, giving—and forgiveness. It is the time each year when we are reminded of the greatest story ever told, the birth of Christ and the remarkable path He took over the course of His short life. His purpose—His mission—was to lead the world to the goodness and safety of salvation. When Jesus Christ walked the earth, there was great evil in the heart of man. Today, that evil persists, and if anything it is even worse, as there are now so many more people, so many more places for evil to find a willing home.

If we are not careful, we can be overwhelmed by all of the tragedy in the world. There is an overabundance of sickness, poverty, crime, hatred—and killing. Our various media do not help us much.

Even in the best of times they choose to trumpet the bad at the expense of the good. Apparently, it sells better. And more and more we find that good people say less and less about their religion. Where we might benefit by lifting up the goodness of God’s word and His love for us all, we find instead that good people decide to remain silent, professing the merits of keeping religion “private.” Often, they are concerned that discussion of religion might somehow offend, or that there will be ridicule for any who dares to openly proclaim religious belief and a Godly love for fellow man.

America allows for freedom of worship. All religions are welcome here. We even permit people to have no religion. America allows for the free exchange of ideas, through conversation and through a free press.

Few nations in history have allowed these things and none to the extent that America does. We should not underestimate the value of our constitutional rights, which I believe were divinely inspired. We must be careful not to allow these rights to wither and fall away.

Now more than ever we need the courage to exercise our right to speak freely of what is good, what we should do as a good society, how we should embrace the teachings of God. In these unsettled times of great evil and anxiety, the story of the birth of Jesus Christ and the amazing things He did before his crucifixion is worth telling. Now, more than ever, those of us who are Christians and celebrate Christmas should take the lessons of Christ’s life and apply them to all that we do. Christmas is about the birth of our Savior, pure and simple. His life was dedicated to showing us the ways of God. By simply walking as a man, Jesus demonstrated how we should behave toward each other and how we should conduct ourselves in all that we do.

In the great story of Christmas, there is goodness and light. There is peace and joy, goodwill and giving—and there is forgiveness. Who couldn’t use a little more of each of these things today?

Merry Christmas—and a happy holiday season to all. God bless!

As the holidays draw near and we share special time with friends and loved ones, we remember those who are not with us to join in the season’s traditions.

Many Ohio families are grieving those who gave their lives this past year in defense of freedom while serving our country. A small comfort may come in the form of honor and recognition.

Each year, the Ohio legislature joins together to award the Ohio Military Medal of Distinction to the families of the fallen. The medal ceremony, which this year took place November 15th in the Statehouse, honors those brave men and women who lost their lives in the line of duty. Members from both the Senate and House of Representatives were in attendance for this important observance.

There were 28 Ohio soldiers awarded posthumously for their sacrifices with a starred medal that displays the Great Seal of the State of Ohio. During the joint session, the families sadly, but proudly, made their way towards the Statehouse floor and collected the medal commemorating the courage and gallantry of their loved ones.

Remarks in recognition were given by Speaker of the House William Batchelder, Senate President Tom Niehaus and Lt. Governor Mary Taylor. Towards the end of the ceremony bagpipes played a solemn “Amazing Grace.”

As vice chair of the Veterans Affairs Committee, and Representative of the 96th House District , I feel privileged to be a part of this ceremony honoring our local heroes. America is blessed to have men and women who leave their families and homes to fight for our freedom everyday. As their loved ones mourn, we pray for their peace and comfort, especially during a time of year when we gather together and so many memories are fresh in our minds.

The holidays often remind us of family and loved ones who have been killed in the line of duty, and I encourage you to take a moment this Christmas season to remember and pray for the families of those who have died valiantly for our liberty.

State Representative Rex Damschroder (R-Fremont), along with Tiffin Mayor Aaron Montz and members of the Tiffin Area Chamber of Commerce, honored Kuebler Shoes in Tiffin this afternoon on the occasion of its 180th anniversary in business. Representative Damschroder presented the business with a commendation from the Ohio House of Representatives celebrating the milestone.

“Kuebler Shoes is believed to be the longest continuously running retail store in the state of Ohio,” Damschroder said. “It was great to honor their remarkable achievement today.”

Damschroder also stressed the importance of small businesses in the community.

“As we enter the final week of the Christmas shopping season, it is important to remember our local businesses here in our backyard and support them.”

On November 15th, I had the privilege of attending a ceremony at the Statehouse that honored men and women from all over Ohio who lost their lives fighting for our country during 2011. Since 2009, the Ohio Military Medal of Distinction has been given to the families that have had to endure the tragedy of a loved one killed in the line of duty. The members of the legislature conduct this event each year.

It is truly remarkable to think about individuals willingly putting their lives into harm’s way so that their fellow countrymen can continue to live in peace and freedom. Although our debts to them can never fully be returned, it is important that we do all we can to make sure their memories live on and their sacrifices are never forgotten.

So often, when we hear the word “sacrifice,” we tend to think only about them giving their lives for their country, which is undoubtedly the highest price a person can pay. But the men and women recognized on the House floor last month had made many sacrifices even before that. Many of them left behind families—husbands, wives, sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters.

It is hard to imagine how anyone could handle parting with the people who share with us so many of our most memorable moments. But when one considers that they are fighting so that those people they hold most dear may have peaceful and prosperous futures, perhaps it is not at all hard to understand why they do it. The members in all branches of our military are cut from a different cloth, and they represent all that is good about our country—courage, service and an unwavering belief in freedom.

Several members of the Ohio House of Representatives, from both sides of the aisle, have served their country in uniform. During my time serving in the House, I have heard them describe some of their military experiences. Their first-hand accounts have helped me to better understand all that our military men and women endure, both during their service and after returning home.

Unfortunately, as the Military Medal of Distinction ceremony reminds us, many do not return home alive. As we prepare to celebrate a time of year that brings joy to so many of us, be sure to pray for all of our military service members and their families.

State Representative Cheryl Grossman (R-Grove City) has announced that the Ohio House of Representatives today concurred with the Senate changes to House Bill 279, legislation that will expand the class of persons who may be designated as a power of attorney for the purpose of providing care and obtaining custody of a child, and enhance Ohio’s policies regarding kinship caregivers.

In order to reform Ohio law to meet federal requirements, H.B. 279 requires that when a public children services agency or a private child placing agency receives temporary custody of a child resulting from a complaint filed in juvenile court, the agency must exercise due diligence in notifying all adult grandparents and other adult relatives within 30 days of the child’s removal from the custody of the child’s parents. This legislation goes to great lengths to encourage agencies to place children with family members and to place sibling groups together when appropriate.

Once children have been properly placed in the care of a guardian/family member, House Bill 279 makes provisions for maintaining placements that are in the best interest of the child. This is achieved by eliminating both the automatic termination of power of attorney and the automatic termination of caretaker authorization affidavits.

“Ultimately, the highest priority must be the welfare of children,” said Rep. Grossman. “I am proud to have sponsored this important bill that will support Ohio’s children.”

H.B. 279 continues to shore up Ohio’s current child custody laws by allowing a putative father of a minor to put his name on the Department of Job and Family Services’ putative father registry at any time. This legislation also specifies the types of agencies that may request search of a putative father registry and makes clear that the right of a mother or agency to make a request in not limited to situations of adoption.

Finally, this legislation requires the Department of Job and Family Services to develop recommendations for implementation of a subsidized relative guardianship program in accordance with federal law.

House Bill 279 will now be sent to Governor Kasich for his signature.

The Ohio House of Representatives today passed House Bill 303, which modifies laws administered by the Ohio Board of Nursing, including laws governing board procedures and the professionals the board regulates: nurses, dialysis technicians, dialysis technician interns, medication aides, and certified health workers.

House Bill 303 strives to address various regulatory issues and requirements for licensees and certificate holders, as well as provide greater clarity about the requirements to those who are regulated by the board. It also helps ensure that licensees and certified holders meet the necessary regulations to practice in Ohio, while maintaining an efficient and effective system for licensing or certifying applicants to enter or remain in the workforce.

“The changes that are included in House Bill 303 reflect the latest advances in medicine and uphold the Ohio Board of Nursing’s mission to promote public safety,” said State Representative Kirk Schuring (R-Canton), who sponsored House Bill 303. “The revisions included in this legislation ensure that the regulatory system pertaining to Ohio’s nurses is efficient and effective, and that Ohio’s patients are receiving the highest quality of care.”

Among other provisions, House Bill 303:

• Extends the length of time that the board has to take action on the approval of an education program to coincide with the completion of the survey, which will give the board more time to do the appropriate due diligence necessary to process the program’s certification
• Allows the board to reconsider or approve a program while under provisional status prior to the end of the status period, which will allow board action before the end of the provisional status rather than having to wait until it expires
• Establishes a licensing process for pediatric respite care programs similar to the Department’s existing licensure process for hospice care programs A.K.A. “Sarah’s Law”
• Expands the list of persons who receive qualified immunity from civil liability for providing health care services on a volunteer basis
• Modifies licensure requirements for methadone treatment programs to specify that treatment cannot be maintained within a 500-foot radius of a public or private school, licensed day-care center, or other child-serving agency

House Bill 303 passed by a vote of 76-16 and will now be sent to the Governor’s office.

State Representative Marlene Anielski (R-Independence) recently announced that the Ohio House of Representatives passed House Bill 347, a cost-saving measure that gives statutory non-chartered villages the option to reduce their current number of council members from six members to five. It also includes a provision that provides flexibility to create concurrent, rather than staggered terms for the councils’ elected members.

Sponsored by Representative Anielski, the bill authorizes the legislative authority to reduce its membership by a vote of the legislative authority or by petition. Currently, these authorities are composed of six members with staggered terms who have no ability to alter the composition if needed.

Additionally, H.B. 347 outlines the types of sporting events eligible for state grants based on projected sales tax increases and streamlines the process of receiving a grant by permitting local organizing committees to apply for grants on behalf of the county or municipal corporation.

"The bill simply offers flexibility with another option for local governments to save money," Representative Anielski said. “It is one more tool that villages can utilize amidst tight budgeting periods, and I’m pleased that it passed in both chambers unanimously. In addition, opportunities are now given for national and international competitions to come to Ohio."

House Bill 347 passed in both the House and the Senate and is now headed to the Governor’s office for his signature to become law.

State Representatives Jerry Stebelton (R-Lancaster) and Jim Butler (R-Oakwood) have announced the Ohio House’s concurrence on Substitute House Bill 555, which creates a new academic performance rating system for public schools and creates a new evaluation process for community school sponsors.

Specifically, Sub. House Bill 555 establishes a new school report card system that includes six components:

• Student achievement (which includes performance index and performance indicators similar to what exists on the current report card)
• Student progress (which includes additional measures to the existing value-added composite measure)
• Gap closing (which measures progress toward reducing achievement gaps by 50% over the next six years)
• Graduation rate (which will be a separate component rather than combining it with other indicators)
• K-3 literary progress (which will allow proper monitoring of the reading intervention provisions in Senate Bill 316)
• Preparedness for success (which measures to what extent high school graduates are prepared for success after high school)

Performance components on the report card will be graded using an A-to-F grading system beginning with the current school year, but no overall grades will be assigned to schools or districts for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years. All six components and an overall composite grade will be assigned beginning with the 2014-15 school year.

Additionally, Sub. House Bill 555 creates an alternative report card for dropout recovery schools that includes every student every year, and is more comprehensive than the report card for traditional high schools. When fully implemented during the 2014-15 school year, this provision will eliminate the current exemption from closure for poor performance.

The legislation also moves away from ranking community school sponsors based solely on school performance and creates a comprehensive evaluation and rating system designed to dramatically raise expectations for community school performance.

Sub. House Bill 555 will now be sent to Governor Kasich for his signature.

The Ohio House of Representatives today passed Substitute Senate Bill 160, legislation that amends Ohio law pertaining to release of prisoners and victims’ rights.

Among other provisions, Sub. S.B. 160, also known as “Roberta’s Law”:

• Requires that any judicial release hearing be held not less than 30 days or more than 60 days after the date on which the motion is filed
• Generally requires a prosecuting attorney who receives notice that a court has scheduled a judicial release hearing with respect to a first, second or third degree felony offense of violence to notify the victim or the victim’s representative of the hearing regardless of whether they requested notification
• Specifies that the notice is not to be given if the victim or victim’s representative “opts out” of the mandatory notice and provides for notice of the opportunity to opt out of future notices
• Requires that an institutional summary report with respect to the offender be provided to the prosecuting attorney or a law enforcement agency upon request
• Requires the court to notify the prosecuting attorney of any judicial release
• Requires the prosecuting attorney to provide notice of any judicial release to the victim or victim’s representative
• Prescribes the manner of providing the notices and of keeping records with respect to the notices

A House amendment clarifies that judges have discretion to impose prison time for fourth and fifth degree sex offenders—even if those offenses were not an “offense of violence”—and includes additional factors that give the court discretion to sentence non-violent fourth and fifth degree sex offenders to a prison term.

Sub. S.B. 160 will be sent back to the Senate for concurrence.