July 16, 2014
I extend my thanks to the many district residents who participated in my telephone town hall last week. I welcome the opportunity to hear your concerns and provide assistance wherever possible. At the conclusion of the tele-forum, several people left voice-mail messages asking why House Republicans continue to block an extension of federal unemployment benefits or an increase in the minimum wage. There are no easy answers.
In some cases, lobbyists for powerful corporate interests have unfortunately pressed some Republicans to oppose raising the federal minimum wage. Many credible economists do not believe that paying people a livable wage hurts the economy. I strongly support an increase. Many businesses have enjoyed strong profits in recent years, yet they are not sharing the wealth with the employees whose labor makes it possible. As for extending unemployment benefits, many GOP members of Congress wrongly believe jobless benefits discourage people from looking for work. Some do not represent high numbers of people seeking employment and consequently, they view the plight of the unemployed as ‘not their problem.’ Still others don’t seem to care about anything other than slashing domestic programs no matter how many people may suffer. Extending benefits is the moral and right thing to do when people fall on hard times through no fault of their own. Moreover, numerous studies have shown that those benefits effectively circulate throughout the economy, helping to lift whole communities. We also know Ohio has fallen behind the national average in job creation and still has not reached pre-Recession employment levels. There are not enough good paying jobs for all who seek them and in some cases, not all qualified applicants have had a fair shot at landing those jobs. I continue to encourage the Ohio Department of Transportation to work with the U.S. Department of Transportation and seek a waiver to improve the hiring women and minorities in major projects in Cuyahoga County. I support initiatives that give residents a fair opportunity to compete for available jobs while also supporting efforts to bring more jobs to Northeast Ohio. By the way, that is why I welcome the RNC’s decision to host the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland. A convention of that size and scope has enormous economic benefits to the host city and surrounding region. According to one study, the 2012 GOP convention pumped more than $200 million into the economies of Tampa and the State of Florida. The convention would also provide an opportunity for Republican delegates and national media to learn more about the hopes, strengths and challenges facing Northeast Ohio. Given the views of many Republicans on the minimum wage and unemployment benefits, they can use an education!
Before closing, I would also like to share with you that in the past week I co-sponsored the Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act of 2014, a response to the disappointing ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court in the Burwell v.Hobby Lobby case. In a 5-4 decision, the Court found that certain employers who claim to have a religious objection to contraceptives, do not have to offer health insurance coverage for their female employees’ birth control needs, whether or not those employees want such coverage. The bill I am co-sponsoring would explicitly prohibit for-profit employers that maintain a group health plan for their employees from using religious beliefs to deny employees coverage of contraception or any other vital health service required by federal law. Houses of worship and religious non-profits would be exempt from offering such coverage but all others would be required to comply. I firmly believe every woman is entitled to health care coverage that meets her needs and family planning decisions must be left to women themselves in consultation with their families and their own doctors. It is certainly not her bosses’ business. On a final note, it’s a pleasure to welcome home Lebron James. He never forgot his hometown of Akron and grateful residents know it. All of Northeast Ohio is thrilled to know the best basketball player in the world is one of our own and we’re delighted he has decided to bring his talents back to the Cavaliers. Have a good week everyone.