Monday, December 11, 2017

Foster Care Bill Passes Nearly Unanimously through House

The House Tuesday passed legislation to increase the age before a foster child ages out of the system, as well as providing new protections to guardianship, although some Democrats complained of the process that brought the bill to the floor.

Rep. Dorothy Pelanda (R-Marysville) said HB50 would provide protections for two of Ohio’s most vulnerable populations. It includes provisions that allow those in foster care to continue getting assistance from the state until they are 21 as long as the youths in the system meet work and education requirements. She noted the hurdles that many in foster care face when they reach the age of 18, including higher incidence of homelessness, incarceration, and not finishing high school or getting a GED. 

Rep. Cheryl Grossman (R-Grove City), the other primary sponsor of the bill, said that those that age out of the foster system often only have themselves to rely on when they turn 18. One of the obstacles she identified for those 18-year-olds is “the unrealistic expectation that they will be able to succeed on their own” at that age.

Getting ahead of future debate over the process the bill went through, Pelanda said the bill went through a number of changes, many of them necessary “to get the bill in proper working order for its vote today.” None of them changed the core of the bill to provide protections and education to help those in guardianships, she said, adding that those affected by the bill did not call her office to complain that the bill was heard in the Rules and Reference Committee.

But some Democrats complained that two substantive amendments taken up in the rules committee should have been handled in the Family and Community Advancement Committee or on the floor. Those amendments removed the appropriation from the bill as well as the ward’s bill of rights.

Rep. Kevin Boyce (D-Columbus) said he has never seen such substantive amendments be adopted in the rules committee. He said committee hearings provide an opportunity to hear from proponents and opponents and give legislators the chance to make an informed decision. He said going outside of rules adopted by the institution “promotes chaos.”

Rep. Ron Amstutz (R-Wooster) said that the process and the rules are just fine, and the rules provide the ability to amend a bill the entire time it is considered in committee and on the floor.

“To do our jobs requires us to exercise the art of the possible. That’s how we get work done. The fact that this bill went through three committees should speak to the health of our process,” he said, adding that the outcome would have still been the same had the bill have been sent back to other committees or amended on the floor. “I don’t know what there is to complain about except something that is close to nothing.”

Rep. Janine Boyd (D-Cleveland) said that a process that does not include an appropriation is an empty promise.

An amendment was added to the bill removing the word “appropriation" from the title.

The two votes against the bill came from Reps. Ron Hood (R-Ashland) and John Becker (R-Cincinnati). Hood asked about sending funds to the fostered individual, saying he is concerned about what the money will be spent on, adding “could this be used as beer money?” Pelanda said there is no other person to make the payment to, adding if it is possible to pay directly to a school or housing unit, that will be done, but otherwise the fostered child will be responsible for the money. She noted that the fostered children are being treated as adults.

Other bills on the floor passed with near-unanimous or unanimous votes as well. They included HB207 (Henne-McColley) to allow a state fund employer to have a workers’ compensation claim that is likely to be subrogated by a third party paid from the surplus fund account in the state insurance fund rather than charged to the employer’s experience; SB10 (LaRose-Burke) to establish a process for identifying individuals who are medical assistance recipients that may be eligible to receive federal military-related health care benefits; HB197 (Rezabek) to prohibit the over-the-counter sale of dextromethorphan to a person under the age of 18; HB200 (Hagan) to permit epinephrine autoinjectors to be stored and accessed for use in emergencies; and HB260 (Blessing) to designate the first week of December as “Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Week.”

After session, House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger (R-Clarksville) said he is looking to announce a task force that will look at medical marijuana. He said Rep. Kirk Schuring (R-Canton), who is heading up the House’s efforts on medical marijuana, has already begun meeting with health professionals on the issue. When asked if he wanted to get ahead of any potential legalization ballot issues in 2016, Rosenberger encouraged those groups to come meet with the Legislature.

He also said he has not spoken with Senate President Keith Faber (R-Celina) about which bill will be the vehicle to defund Planned Parenthood, and could not give a timeframe for when that issue will come to the floor again. 
Story originally published in The Hannah Report on December 1, 2015.  Copyright 2015 Hannah News Service, Inc.


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