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City of Columbus Unveils Comprehensive Paid Family Leave Policy

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On Wednesday, March 29, Columbus City Councilmember Elizabeth Brown along with the Chair of the Columbus Women’s Commission and First Lady Shannon Ginther unveiled the new City of Columbus Comprehensive Paid Family Leave Policy at the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, 111 Liberty Street in Columbus.

The Comprehensive Paid Family Leave benefit consists of two parts: parental leave that provides up to six weeks of leave for welcoming a new child, and a pilot caregiver leave program which grants up to four weeks of leave to care for a seriously ill family member. Both will be reimbursed at 70 percent of pay.

“Workplace policies in our country too often haven’t kept pace with the reality of what the modern family needs. But the facts are clear: what’s good for families is good for business is good for Columbus,” Councilmember Brown said.

“We are proud that this new benefit will cover our entire workforce – from a refuse driver making $19.79 per hour to an IT professional making six figures, whether you’re a new dad, a new mom, or caring for an aging parent,” Brown continued. 

Shannon Ginther, First Lady and Chair of the City of Columbus Women’s Commission, believes this benefit is vital to promote and sustain the health of women in the workplace.

“Women often struggle to find balance in the workplace, having to choose between work and maternity leave,” said Ginther. “Paid family leave gives mothers – and fathers – the opportunity to bond with their child in the first crucial days after birth or adoption. This leads to better health outcomes for the child and strength in the family.”

Paid family leave policies preserve income and increase health outcomes for women, families, and children.

According to Innovation Ohio, rates of infant mortality, immunization, and breastfeeding have all been seen to improve when women have access to paid leave during pregnancy and after childbirth. Statistics from AARP indicate 1.4 million Ohioans are caring for an aging loved one, and due to an increasingly older population, more and more American workers will assume this responsibility in the future. 

Currently, the City of Columbus offers unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act but does not offer a specific paid family leave benefit. In addition, birth mothers have access to short-term disability, but that benefit is not available to spouses or domestic partners, or to adoptive parents.

With the adoption of its policy, Columbus will be the first city in the Midwest and third city nationally to provide comprehensive paid family leave. In doing so, it joins the ranks of companies such as Deloitte and Choice Hotels who know the business benefits of supporting a leave policy made for the whole family. 

In 2015, Innovation Ohio issued a report on the state of paid family leave in Ohio. Since that time, the organization has been a leading voice on the issue. 

“In the absence of a national paid leave law, a growing number of municipalities, states, and businesses across the US have taken the lead to enact the commonsense, family-friendly policy for their workforce,” said Erin Ryan, policy analyst at Innovation Ohio and manager of the Women’s Public Policy Network. 

“Paid family leave policies ensure that working families are no longer forced to choose between their economic security and caring for a loved one,” she continued.

 The policy change also has economic benefits, said Brown.

“Studies have shown increased retention rates for employers who have paid family leave policies,” said Brown. “There is a proven link between reduced turnover and paid leave, which contributes to better workplace productivity and translates to real dollars saved in attraction and employee training.”

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Govt & Politics

OP-ED: Heartbeat Bill will likely affect 11yo Ohio rape victim

Caitlin Horwatt

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The passage of Ohio’s recent “heartbeat bill,” signed by Governor DeWine, marks a massive and distressing win in the conservative quest to outright ban abortion. All parties supporting the bill—from DeWine to legislators and lobbyists—are well aware that the action will be blocked by courts as they uphold Roe v. Wade, which protects the right to abortion until 24 weeks gestation. We should be frightened as we explore whether their big picture goal is to get Roe v. Wade overturned by the decidedly conservative Court.

By banning abortion after a heartbeat is detected, the law prohibits abortion as early as eight weeks, well before many women know they are pregnant. Add in the already mandatory twenty-four hour waiting period between first appointment and procedure, and the likelihood of legal abortion for even a pregnancy detected early seems slim. The law is an blatant attempt to ban women’s right to choose.

The Guttmacher Institute found that ​1 in 4 women​ has had an abortion before age 45. The Pew Research Center found that ​58% of Americans support legal abortion ​in all or most cases, with polarizing views against abortion coming mostly from Republican and religious Americans. These statistics fail to depict, though, how traumatic the impact can be for women forced to carry a child to term when she does not have the means or support to do so. The law is meant to protect the fetus at a term that is far earlier than the 22 to 24 weeks at which it is viable, all at the cost of the mother.

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The bill notably does not give exceptions for cases of rape and incest, only allowing exceptions for medical necessity to save the mother’s life. This means an ​11 year-old rape victim from Massillon​ will likely have to carry her rapist’s baby to term.

Heartbeat bills do not ban abortion; they ban legal abortion. I think of a sign I saw during the 2017 Women’s March: a metal coat hanger with the words “WE WON’T GO BACK” scrawled below. The passage of this recent law achingly raises questions of whether or not we will go back.

Women who now find themselves pregnant could have their lives forever changed. Even if they choose to surrender the baby after birth, the cost of a pregnancy is astronomical and healthcare is far from a certainty in this country. If the pregnancy was caused by rape, the potential for trauma only escalates. Women will have few places to turn, with the most vulnerable unable to seek safe healthcare and the potential high for maternal deaths as part of botched abortions.

The ACLU and other organizations are already moving to challenge the ban in court. I can’t shake the looming feeling that these challenges will only play into the hands of those anti-abortion supporters, and that we may be entering the most important fight of our generation in this fight for a woman’s right to choose.

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OP-ED: ‘Red flag’ is far cry from where Ohio gun law should be

Joanne Strasser

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Last weekend, a man entered a synagogue in Poway, California armed with a rifle. The Washington Post reports that prior to him entering the place of worship, the accused shooter wrote a 7-page letter about his hatred for Jewish people. He believed killing them would “glorify God.” Below is an op-ed from one Columbus mother who believes Ohio should be taking a stronger stance against guns following of the Poway tragedy.

Even in light of this past weekend’s synagogue shooting, DeWine is still unwilling to change Ohio’s gun laws. He is, however, advocating for Ohio to pass a red flag law, which would allow law enforcement to seize guns from individuals deemed a societal risk.

This isn’t the first time the red flag law was floated in the Ohio Legislature.  In the wake of last year’s Parkland High School shooting in Florida, former Gov. Kasich backed the proposed law, which ultimately failed to gain support.

Opposition to the legislation stems from Republican lawmakers’ belief that it infringes on the constitution rights to bear arms and proper due process of law. However, 14 other states have already implemented the red flag law.

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Moms Demand Action, a national gun control organization, notes that 42% of attackers exhibit warning signs before shootings occur. And although this legislation would only be a small step in the right direction, it could help save lives.

But ultimately, statistics don’t matter to politicians, who are dependent on dollars from the gun lobby.  And until our elected officials decide that Ohioans‘ safety comes first, any measure, regardless of how small and sensible, will fail. 

Ohio Republicans need to take a long hard look at their agenda and ask themselves if it truly serves our needs. Which is more important: our children feeling safe at school or campaign contributions? 

The red flag law is a common-sense measure, and while it’s a far cry from where Ohio gun restriction needs to be, it’s certainly a start.

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Govt & Politics

Daily double: New legislation calls for huge minimum wage hike

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If new legislation passes, Ohio’s minimum wage could nearly double in the next several years. Two Democratic senators are working to increase hourly pay from $8.55 to $15.

State Senators Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati) and Hearcel Craig (D-Columbus) introduced the legislation Wednesday, reports 10TV.

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The new legislation stipulates a $12 minimum per hour beginning in January 2020 and a $1 yearly increase until 2023 to keep up with inflation.

“We have an obligation to make life better for the people in our state and that includes providing living wages,” said Sen. Thomas, per 10TV. “This increase to the minimum wage will help workers and their families have a better life. And when people have more money, it also benefits the local economy from increased spending in the community.”

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