February 2020 newsletter

Driver’s License Bill Keeps Moving

On January 21, the Senate Local Government, Public Safety, and Veterans Affairs Committee had its second hearing for HB285, the driver’s license reinstatement fee waiver and reduction program. Megan O’Dell, along with many other partners, testified in support of the bill. HB285 is one of our “5 must-pass bills.”

CMS Announces New Program for Medicaid Block Grants

Last week, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued guidance that creates a road map for states to implement ‘block granting’ in their Medicaid programs for the expansion population. The block granting initiative is titled the ‘Healthy Adult Opportunity’ program. Block granting is a term used to describe policies that allow states to cap the amount of Medicaid dollars they receive, which would in turn cap the state’s contribution. Currently, states have an open-ended commitment to pay for health care services for all who are eligible. Block granting would allow the states to limit coverage and access standards.

Congress imposed block grants on the cash assistance welfare program in 1996 and renamed it Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF). Block grants in TANF led to a significant overall decline in aid to low-income families.

This policy is likely to face legal challenges that will delay any eventual implementation in states that choose to pursue the policy.   

Ohio’s Minimum Wage

While Ohio’s minimum wage increased to $8.70 per hour on Jan. 1, 2020, an annual increase approved by voters in 2006, it is still far below a living wage. Some lawmakers and some advocacy groups want to change this.

Two minimum wage bills are pending in the General Assembly. HB34 and SB90 both propose to phase in an increase in the minimum wage to $15 per hour. HB34 was scheduled for its first hearing this month.

Knowing that voters are more likely to approve a hike in the minimum wage than the legislature, a coalition of community and union leaders called Ohioans for Raising the Wage, is proposing a ballot initiative to increase the minimum wage to $13 per hour by 2025. Last week Attorney General Yost certified the petition. It now needs to be approved by the Ohio ballot board which certifies the language voters will see. After approval from Ohio’s ballot board, Ohioans for Raising the Wage can begin collecting signatures to add its proposed amendment to the November general election ballot. The group must gather 442,958 valid signatures of registered Ohio voters by July 1.

According to a report by Policy Matters Ohio, an increase in the minimum wage to $13 per hour will help 1.4 million working Ohioans, giving them, on average, an additional $1,876 in their pockets each year for full-time work.  

Public Charge Rule Cleared

Last week, the United States Supreme Court issued a ruling that will allow the Department of Homeland Security to begin enforcing the Administration’s ‘public charge’ rule that was issued in August. The final rule re-interpreted a long-standing immigration statute that states the United States may deny granting permanent residency to any immigrant who is likely to become a ‘public charge.’ That statute had historically been interpreted very narrowly to apply mainly to persons who would require institutional levels of care. The final rule expands that definition to apply to anyone who would receive most forms of public assistance for more than 12 months in a 36-month window. The rule applies to a wide range of services, from SNAP benefits to affordable housing. The rule is widely predicted to have a chilling effect on immigrant communities who, regardless of immigration status, will fear deportation if they accept public assistance of any kind.

The rule is temporary until a lawsuit challenging the rule works its way through the appeals process.  

Mark Your Calendar

OPLC is hosting its 2nd young professionals happy hour at Strongwater on February 11th from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm. We will be highlighting our five must-pass bills and will have easy advocacy activities to support those bills. Strongwater is located at 401 W Town St, Columbus, OH 43215.