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Labor’s Decline Hurts Ohio Towns

September 2, 2018

Friend–

Labor Day reminds us of the epic fight women and men waged – and continue to wage – to win higher pay, healthcare and retirement benefits, and safer working conditions for all American workers, whether part of a union or not.

Organized labor’s legacy includes:

Ending child labor The 8-hour workday and 40-hour work-week Paid overtime Healthcare for workers Unemployment insurance Guaranteed minimum wage Workers compensation on-the-job injuries Collective bargaining Fighting sex and racial discrimination in the workplace

Labor Day pays tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and success of America. However, most workers here in Ohio no longer share in that prosperity. In the 1950s, one in three American workers belonged to a labor union, while the middle class was growing and living conditions for most Americans was on the rise. Unions not only won higher wages and safer workplace conditions for their members, they also set patterns for non-union workers.

By the 1970s, when I started as a public school teacher, organized labor had already begun to decline. Constant assaults by right-wing politicians and well-heeled corporate interests sought to paint the labor movement as un-American and anti-capitalist, ignoring that gains in union households was a driver of middle class gains after World war II. Currently, union households represent between ten and fifteen percent of American families. As a result, overall worker pay has decreased – especially for non-union workers – and the middle class has continued to erode. This, more than any other factor, has decimated once-prosperous cities and towns across the Ohio heartland, making it more likely our sons and daughters will leave to find better opportunities elsewhere.

As middle class incomes have declined, the richest of the rich have grabbed an ever-increasing share of national wealth. From 1978 to 2014, corporate executive compensation increased by nearly 1,000 percent. And it’s not just private employers who put the squeeze on workers. As we headed into the Labor Day holiday, the Trump administration announced – and our congressman endorsed – reneging on an already-negotiated 2.1% cost of living raise for federal workers. This assault on workers who care for our vets, keep the skies safe for air travel, patrol our borders and inspect our food, not only makes us less safe, but furthers the decline of towns across Ohio.

We need a representative in Congress dedicated to America’s workers, not aligned against them. I am proud to have served my community as a public school teacher. I am equally proud to have served my fellow teachers as their union president. As your congresswoman, I will support policies that empower workers, build the middle class, and reinvigorate towns and cities across Ohio.

In honor of Senator McCain

August 26, 2018

Friend–
In light of Senator McCain’s passing, I’ve decided not to publish a Sunday Issue today. Instead, I invite you to honor a life well lived, in service to our country, and in honor of our most cherished democratic principles. I disagreed with John McCain often, but never did I doubt his commitment to putting service over self and country over politics. Janet Garrett Statement on the passing of Senator John McCain August 25, 2018 Senator John McCain’s death compels us to remember his remarkable life. He exemplified the American spirit – bravery, honesty and service to others. Senator McCain’s frankness in trying times was always refreshing, even when I disagreed with his point of view. I pray tonight for the McCain family, and for our country, that we see more men and women in public life with the decency of John McCain.
Looking forward,
Janet

Leadership is Required to Address Chronic Infrastructure Needs

August 19, 2018

Friend–

Last week Italy experienced the catastrophic collapse of a bridge, sending 40 vehicles plummeting onto the streets of Genoa and claiming 39 lives. Long before the collapse, experts warned the bridge was deteriorating.
Can’t happen here, you say? Let’s remember that it DID. In 2007 an eight-lane interstate highway bridge collapsed in Minneapolis during rush hour. Today, right here in Ohio, 6.9% of our bridges are rated “structurally deficient” by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). We’re talking about more than 1900 bridges statewide, including many we drive on everyday in the 4th Congressional District.
The problem is not unique to Ohio, and it’s not only roads and bridges. The ASCE gave the nation’s infrastructure an overall grade of D+ - including airports, the energy grid, dams, ports, transit systems, sewage and hazardous waste systems. Among dams alone, the report lists fifteen thousand with a high hazard potential, including 362 in Ohio.
The engineers’ report underscores that we’re at a crossroads. Deteriorating roads, bridges and other vital public assets have a huge impact on the nation’s economy and security. We need a first-class infrastructure system – to move people and goods efficiently; to deliver reliable, low cost power; and to protect public health and safety.
President Trump has promised to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure needs. I would gladly support him if wants to make good on that promise. The federal government must lead on this, and sadly, we can’t look to our congressman for leadership. The ASCE report stresses the problems they write about are solvable through strategic, sustained investment, but Washington needs to get its act together before it’s too late. The longer we wait, the higher the cost will be and the more likely we’ll experience a catastrophic event like the Genoa bridge collapse here in Central Ohio.
Looking forward,
Janet

Turning Back the Clock Turns Up the Heat

August 12, 2018

Friend–
Scientists have begun to speak about “hothouse earth.” They’re not using the phrase casually to describe the hot summer. Rather, international researchers just published a study warning that fossil fuel pollution risks pushing the earth into a lasting, dangerous “hothouse” state threatening habitability for humans in only a matter of decades. Fittingly, just two days after the study’s publication, the Trump Administration proposed rules to weaken auto fuel-efficiency and pollution standards set by President Obama.
Specifically, the Trump administration proposes to roll back a 2012 rule that requires automakers to nearly double the fuel economy of passenger vehicles by 2025. That rule was an important step to counter climate change by pushing auto manufacturers to accelerate the development of electric cars and more efficient engines and lighter bodies in their mass-market models. This latest effort to reverse major Obama accomplishments is so misguided, it is even opposed by many of the car manufacturers it regulates.
I asked my staff to take a hard look at the Administration's analysis, and it seems pretty clear that the fix was in from the start. Oil companies had a seat at the table, but apparently there was no room for climate scientists. Even so, the Trump administration concedes its proposed weaker standard would increase U.S. petroleum consumption by 500,000 barrels/day, resulting in what they call a “minimal” increase in global average temperatures.
This alone is news worthy. The administration has repeatedly questioned human influence on climate change and whether it’s even possible to measure the impact, yet they state with confidence that weakening automotive fuel economy standards would result in increased global temperatures.
We desperately need a Congress that will push back against wrong-headed administration policies. We need to do everything we can to reverse climate change, not exacerbate it. When I’m in Congress, you can count on me to be an advocate for science, health, and the welfare of the planet that God has entrusted to us.
Janet

Buyer Beware of Bare-Bones Insurance

August 5, 2018

Friend–
When you sign up for health insurance, you have certain expectations. After all, we generally understand health insurance to be a plan to cover the cost of our medical and surgical expenses. Health insurance can also be described as a contract between you and your insurance company to protect you from high medical care costs. In essence, insurance is protection against risk and financial loss.
So are you protected under an inexpensive plan that, for example, does NOT cover pre-existing conditions, sports injuries, and prescription drugs (among many other exclusions)? Assuming you’d read the fine print, would you feel protected if your plan limited payments for hospitalization to a small fraction of the daily hospital charges you were billed? Where would a health plan with those kinds of limitations leave a family whose child suffers severe head trauma in youth athletics, or a cancer patient with thousands of dollars in monthly drug costs?
Would it be good public policy for the government to invite companies to market these kinds of health plans? The Trump Administration seems to think so, because it released final rules this week that give companies that green light. Until now, such barebones health plans could only be sold to cover short-term insurance needs, for up to three months. But the Administration is lifting that three-month limit, allowing insurers to market these cheap, but very limited, plans as year-long coverage. The rationale: to give people greater choice. But the choice could bankrupt a family that didn’t read or understand the fine print on what’s NOT covered. It could cause a family financial havoc if the “wrong” illness strikes, or if an illness that’s “covered” strikes at the wrong time! (Yes, some plans don’t cover treatment during the first month of enrollment.)

You have to wonder whether these kinds of barebones plans are really “insurance.” They don’t really appear to protect people. In fact, the Trump administration actually acknowledges in its rulemaking that these kinds of plans are “not considered individual health insurance coverage,” and for that reason they don’t have to abide by otherwise applicable federal requirements that protect consumers.
This all might make you wonder what would be so bad about legislation that requires insurers to provide minimum essential coverage, including coverage of pre-existing conditions; that bars insurers from charging higher premiums to older Americans; and that subsidizes premiums for those with lower incomes? Yes, that would be the Affordable Care Act, so-called “Obamacare”! The one the Republican party has been so desperate to repeal and replace!
But remember candidate Donald Trump’s pledge – to replace Obamacare with “something terrific?” Here, it is, the Trump plan! “Terrific” for insurance companies, maybe, but not for most American families. Not “terrific” if you have a pre-existing condition. And not “terrific” if you get sick, given that these plans can limit or exclude coverage of hospitalization, emergency services, maternity care, prescription drugs, preventive care, and mental health and substance-use care. (Check it out at page 12 of this link) Looks pretty much like these plans don’t have to insure anything! That, of course, helps explain why some call them “junk insurance.”
Is the Administration’s new greenlight for marketing “junk insurance” terrific for the country? Hardly! The relatively cheap plans that insurers market under the new rule will undoubtedly be attractive to some people, particularly those who are young and healthy. But siphoning hundreds of thousands of relatively healthy individuals from the Obamacare insurance pool will increase others’ premium costs. As one advocate put it, the new rule is "one more blow of an ax to stable state marketplaces."

So what’s the best advice for individuals and families who’ll have these new “insurance” options? It’s either “let the buyer beware!” or “just don’t get sick!” We need better options for Ohio's low-income families – and that's exactly what I'll fight for when I'm in Congress.
Janet

100 Days

July 29, 2018

Friend —
Wow. We are only 100 days from Election Day. Instead of writing to you today about an issue that's been on my mind, I just want to sincerely thank you for being on my team. Together, we've knocked thousands of doors, made tens of thousands of phone calls, written thousands of postcards — and we've only just begun. I want you to know that I am going to put everything I have into these next 100 days to win this election for us. The momentum is on our side, and I know that we can do this. We've got 100 days to make history. Let's do it.
Looking forward,
Janet

Investing in America's Workforce

July 22, 2018

Friend —
Way too many Ohioans are experiencing a good-news/bad-news story. The good news: our economy is booming. The bad news: it’s not booming for the American worker. Sure, national economic statistics sound good. But who’s getting the benefits of this booming economy? Most workers just aren’t seeing their wages going up.
I see it all the time as I travel across our district. Breadwinners working two jobs, or longer hours, to make ends meet. Their expenses increasing as job-benefits shrink or disappear. Families struggling as rising costs of housing, healthcare, and childcare outpace their incomes.
Congress's "solution" to this problem was to give a huge tax cut to the top 1%, hoping that the benefits would trickle down to the rest of us. Most wage-earners aren’t noticing more money in their paychecks, and for many others, the change is so small it hasn’t made any real difference. Things aren’t likely to get any better in this Congress. They’re aiming to squeeze people even harder through deep cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and food supports. Rather than eliminating programs for partisan gain, we need to be working together to innovate and work as partners in combatting wage stagnation. Part of the effort should be a major federal investment in research and innovation, including here in Ohio, to develop new technologies and new industries, and with it new, better-paying jobs. Yes, I’m talking about federal spending — investing in our country and its workforce!
Some have worked hard for years to make the words “federal spending” seem toxic. But think about what federal spending has produced: the interstate highway system, the space program, the internet, and the Human Genome Project, to cite just a few examples of profoundly transformative initiatives.
If we want to see the United States develop the cutting-edge economy-powering breakthroughs of the 21st century, we’ll need to up our game and invest big time in science, just as we should in invest in our infrastructure.
Looking forward,
Janet

Rebuilding Our Crumbling Infrastructure

July 15, 2018

Friend —
I’ve spent a lot of time driving around Ohio’s 4th district, meeting voters and listening to their concerns. And when you drive around our 14 counties, it’s easy to see why our crumbling infrastructure is at the top of everyone’s mind. 17% of Ohio’s roads are in poor condition. 6.9% of our bridges are structurally deficient. 362 of our dams are potentially highly hazardous. And civil engineers have estimated that we need a $12.2 billion investment in our drinking water infrastructure over the next 20 years. Think this is just an Ohio problem? Think again. In 2017, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the entire country a “D+” for the state of our bridges, roads, dams, drinking water, ports, airports, railways and school buildings. And it doesn’t look like things are getting better any time soon. From reauthorizing President Obama’s $305 billion transportation funding law, to approving an additional $107 billion of highway spending, we need immediate action that Congress is refusing to take. This is just one more example of Congress failing to do their jobs. We can’t afford to let something as vital as infrastructure be pushed aside while our representatives fight with each other over who is right. We have got to shore up our infrastructure or face not only the dangerous decline of our roads and bridges, but also the collapse of vital sectors of our economy. Every attempt to find bipartisan solutions to pay for our infrastructure have been shouted down by extremists. The House Ways and Means Committee won’t even hold a hearing on funding President Trump’s infrastructure plan. And congressional leadership claims that they can’t make infrastructure a priority because there are "so many other things to do." Like what? What is more important than our water supply, the state of our children’s schools, and the roads and bridges we use every single day? I have been to every county in this district and let me tell you -- people are struggling. Crumbling roads and bridges affect all of us -- and it can cost Ohio drivers up to $2,180 per year. Who has money for that? And politicians in Washington aren’t doing a darn thing about it. I am simply fed up. We need to make funding large-scale modernization projects a priority -- now. But nothing can happen without money, and kicking this can down the road for another year isn’t helping the people who need it most. We have to fix our aging infrastructure and make bold, new investments that will make our economy competitive in the 21st century -- not just in big cities, but across the country. Once elected, I will be a strong voice for fixing our roads, protecting our hospitals and schools, and expanding opportunity to all Americans.
Looking forward,
Janet

The Consequences of Freedom Caucus Obstruction

July 8, 2018

Friend —
Every day, 14 people overdose on opioids in Ohio. That’s 12% of the daily opioid overdoses in the entire country. And the opioid death toll in Ohio is increasing at dramatic rates -- 33% between 2015 and 2016 alone. These deaths aren’t just statistics. They are real people who are suffering, both from their tragic addiction and from poor representation, failed legislation, and predatory drug companies. In Ohio, and across America, we need all the help we can get to fight this epidemic. In the face of this escalation, we need leaders working around the clock to stop the rising death and destruction. But Jim Jordan has proven to be completely indifferent to this crisis. In fact, his website fails to even mention opioids. Not only is Jim Jordan ignoring the opioid epidemic, he supports rolling back the very programs that are stemming the tide of death and despair. He voted for cuts to Medicaid that would make fighting addiction even more difficult. And in a town hall, he had the gall to say that he didn’t support accepting federal money to fight the opioid epidemic because it should be solved by “churches and schools and families and communities” -- as if they aren’t already working every day to solve this devastating problem. Who are Jim Jordan’s out-of-touch Washington priorities supposed to be helping? Not the families and communities being torn apart by opioids. Not the health centers struggling to keep up with the increased demand for services. Not the neighborhood support groups and churches that are already pushed to their limits. Instead, he’s helping the opioid manufacturers who have given him thousands of dollars from during his political career -- and his Freedom Caucus cronies who would rather watch American citizens die and communities be torn apart than come to the negotiating table for life-saving increases in funding. This epidemic won’t wait for Jim Jordan to waste another term. We need action now. When I’m in Congress, I will support funding the social programs that shore up local clinics on the front lines. I will support severe criminal charges for doctors caught running pill mills and fight for stronger national regulation of opioid prescriptions. I will make sure that drug manufacturers foot the bill for the epidemic of addiction that they helped cause. You see, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this crisis, and how to save lives and ultimately beat this thing. I’ve thought about prevention and treatment, about law enforcement’s role and how to mobilize community leaders. In fact, just this week I participated in a roundtable in Marion on the opioid epidemic. Doctors, addiction specialists, and community activists all gathered around to talk about what’s working, what needs to change, and how our elected officials can help. The consensus is clear: we can’t win by ignoring the problem. And we can’t win by refusing to work with anyone who doesn’t conform to our radical ideology. We win by coming together with people working on the ground and listening to experts. And we win by forgetting our partisan identities and remembering our shared humanity. I promise you that the people struggling with addiction in Ohio today aren’t worried about whether their doctor, their counselor, or their representative has an R or a D next to their name. They don’t care where their help comes from. They just need help -- the help that Jim Jordan and the Freedom Caucus have denied them for too long. When I represent Ohio’s 4th district, I promise, I’ll never forget the people who need help the most.
Looking forward,
Janet

Jim Jordan's Attacks on Working Americans

July 1, 2018

This week, the Supreme Court dealt a major blow to collective bargaining and workers’ rights, ruling that nonunion workers no longer have to pay fair-share fees in order to enjoy the protections that unions win for them. Now, anti-worker politicians like Jim Jordan will happily use this ruling to attack the security of working families. After all, it is Jim Jordan and his Freedom Caucus who have stymied legislation that would have actually helped workers over the last few years. And Jim Jordan consistently votes against the interests of real people across this country: according to the AFL-CIO, Jordan votes against the issues important to working families 96% of the time. As this administration continues its attacks on workers, we need to get rid of obstructionist, anti-worker politicians like Jim Jordan and elect people who will show up at the table and work for us. We need a representative in Congress who won’t spend all his time chasing conspiracy theories and refusing to compromise on his hard-line agenda. It’s clear that Jim Jordan is not that Representative. If last week’s rant against Rod Rosenstein is any indication, he’s too caught up in his DC politics – and not nearly focused enough on the reality his constituents live on a daily basis – to do what needs to be done. That’s why I’m running against Jim Jordan. As a former teacher and union leader, I understand the importance of collective bargaining and the strong negotiating skills that go into it – skills that Jim Jordan doesn’t have. Jim Jordan’s idea of compromise is when the Freedom Caucus negotiates with only slightly less extreme Republicans – and as we saw with the immigration bill debacle, they couldn’t even make that work. The thought of actually reaching across the aisle would never occur to them. The vast majority of Americans want people from both parties to at least attempt to find compromise with the other side. When you realize that Jim Jordan would sooner shut the whole government down than put in the work, it’s eye-opening. I know that negotiating can be messy. And I know it is ultimately critical to giving American citizens a voice in our ever-changing country. I will bring that same commitment to honest negotiation to my time in Congress. My motto is “You go to the table with what you want, but you leave with what you can live with.” Compromise is at the root of our great democracy, and Jim Jordan and his Freedom Caucus cronies have done nothing but drag that value through the dirt in favor of their own rigid adherence to ideology. As Representative, I will show up at the bargaining table and fight for all Americans – on healthcare, wages, infrastructure, and, yes, on your rights as a worker. I will do my darndest to make sure we walk away with a solution that works for all of us. And you won’t catch me making a buffoon out of myself on CNN.

Who broke our politics?

June 24, 2018

Friend,
As you are reading this, infants and toddlers at the border are detained in “tender age” shelters, our new euphemism for jail cells for immigrant children. These children have been ripped from their families – families struggling against insurmountable odds to find safety and a future for their kids. They came to our borders out of desperation to ask for asylum. And how did we respond? We took their children away. It is gut-wrenchingly, breathtakingly cruel. How did we get here, to a place where we resort to terror tactics and child internment camps? The answer is the Freedom Caucus. The Freedom Caucus has discovered a cheat code in our democracy. It turns out that if a group of our elected officials staunchly refuse to participate in the legislative process – if they instead choose to throw a prolonged temper tantrum when they don’t get what they want – they can grind our entire system to a halt.
The result is everything broken in our political system today. It’s gerrymandered districts where politicians get the choose their voters, instead of the other way around. It’s a deeply unpopular tax bill designed to cut taxes for the fabulously wealthy at the cost of our social safety net. But it’s more than just process. The true legacy of the Freedom Caucus is heard in the cries of babies at our borders. It is felt in the despair of everyday people who are terrified of losing their insurance, who are struggling to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. And it is seen in the immigration votes earlier this week, with Dreamers being denied the protections they’ve been promised because the Freedom Caucus is once again holding our national legislative process hostage. Too harsh? Think again. During a recent CNN interview, Jim Jordan made it clear that he was happy to use the plight of these babies and their families as a bargaining chip to push the Freedom Caucus’ extremist immigration agenda. Freedom Caucus members like Jordan have perfected an insidious bob and weave, paying lip service to a self-righteous and self-serving principle du jour, in this case, the rule of law, in order to hide their true extremist intentions. I call BS. I have watched Jim Jordan and his Freedom Caucus playbook up close for years now. That’s why I decided to take him on and run for Congress. My district is a mostly rural and working-class area of Ohio – precisely the type of area helped by the Affordable Care Act and in dire need of help to address our opioid crisis and stagnating wages. But the people in my district – and many more like it – aren’t getting what they need because of Freedom Caucus obstruction. For years, Jim Jordan and his Freedom Caucus cabal have specialized in cynically manufacturing fear of the very programs designed to help their constituents. The American people, including the residents of Ohio’s 4th District, are tired of the broken politics of Washington. We don’t understand why our elected representatives can’t work together to solve problems and help people. For us, compromise is not a dirty word – and respect and compassion are the values we teach our kids. We want to see more efforts like the one undertaken by a group of Republicans to find a compromise on immigration and help Dreamers, a position overwhelmingly supported by people of both parties. But the Freedom Caucus can’t stomach progress that doesn’t fit with their rigid worldview, so they are holding legislation pushed by their own Republican leadership hostage to their 40 votes. They’ve proven that it’s not just Democrats they don’t get along with – they can’t even compromise with members of their own party. Now Jim Jordan is said to be the hard-liners’ choice for Speaker. That would be another brutal blow to our democratic institutions – and to the people who rely on them. But we can stop them, starting with defeating Jim Jordan and Freedom Caucus members in November. Are these easy seats to win? No. But saving our country is worth the effort. And Conor Lamb’s victory in Pennsylvania showed us it is possible. Our grassroots base is mobilized and many Trump voters are questioning whether he delivered the change they thought they voted for. Right now, we have the best opportunity in a generation to defeat a core component of the group that has truly broken our political system. The question is whether we’ll seize that opportunity.
Looking forward,
Janet

Possible Trade War--Who is in Charge Here?

June 17, 2018

Friend,
Before we dive into this week's Sunday Issue, I want to take a moment to wish all the fathers out there a Happy Father's Day. Parenting is one of the hardest jobs we are called on to do, and so it is my deepest pleasure to congratulate all of the fathers out there. Your children are growing up to be the future of this country, so you have my greatest thanks for raising them well. Thank you for all that you do.

The Sunday Issue

Some people’s eyes glaze over when they hear the phrase “international trade.” I get that. But with international trade supporting more than one in five jobs in this country, from farms to factories, we’d better focus! Don’t get me wrong. Ohio needs more high-paying jobs, and we need national and state-level leadership to deliver them. But we won’t create jobs or expand our economy by blowing up the rules governing international trade. Yet that’s exactly what the White House has been doing for weeks now in moving ever closer to a deadly tariff war (the mere possibility is already straining the global economy).
The President’s decision to move ahead with ill-advised steel tariffs alone is causing a firestorm, both fracturing relationships with our closest allies, and risking punishing retaliatory tariffs that would hurt consumers, our workforce and our economy. Ironically, the President’s advisers have been divided among themselves, with key Cabinet voices urging against the use of the tariff weapon. Why didn’t Congress step in weeks ago to prevent the White House from jumping off this cliff? After all, the it's Congress that has the power “to regulate commerce with foreign nations.” Jim Jordan went on Bloomberg on Friday to discuss the tariff issue. Watch for yourself, but to me it seemed like Jordan's bottom line was "Gotta wait and see" and "Let's hope..." In short, here's a Republican Congressman, and a Republican Congress, that is unwilling to take any leadership even as he acknowledges that he's "concerned." He says he's for free trade—so what does he do about that? He says we need to give the President latitude to negotiate—but there's no negotiating going on with China. Instead, it's tit for tat imposition of tariffs and retaliatory measures. Congress’ inaction here is part of a deeper problem of their fear in challenging the president. Consider some other examples. The President pressures the Department of Justice to release sensitive investigative information that could compromise its law-enforcement responsibility. Republican congressional leaders just shrug their shoulders. The President issues executive orders that invite the Environmental Protection Agency to unravel the Clean Air Act. Congressional action? None! The President okays forcibly separating asylum seekers from their children. The world looks on in horror, but where’s the congressional pushback? Where are the hearings? Don’t you begin to wonder what happened to Congress’ role as a co-equal branch of government? Or to put it differently, who’s in charge here? Congress is supposed to be a check on the presidency. That’s at the heart of our Constitution. Have Congressmen forgotten their oath of office and their pledge to uphold the Constitution? Those of us who are deeply concerned about White House suggestions or hints that the President could fire the Special Counsel worry about the constitutional crisis that step could create. In a sense, though, we’re already experiencing a kind of constitutional crisis, since Congress consistently fails to exercise its responsibility and gives the President a completely free hand, even when our chief executive acts impulsively and recklessly. Let’s be clear. What’s happening today differs profoundly from the way our government has worked in the past, where Congress provided checks and balances even when one party held both houses of Congress and the presidency. What’s happening—or actually, what’s NOT happening—is because there’s something profoundly wrong with Republican Party Leadership. But don’t take my word for it. Consider what John Boehner, the former Speaker of the House, said last week: "There is no Republican Party. There’s a Trump Party. The Republican Party is kind of taking a nap somewhere.” Our Republican Congress has been napping too long, especially when it comes to carrying out any kind of oversight and independent check on questionable White House decision-making. Not only is Congress failing here, but, as I wrote recently, so is our Congressman, Jim Jordan. And as anyone who’s held a job knows, when you nap on the job, you should expect to get fired. And that takes us back to my earlier question: who’s in charge? I know that if I were your representative in Washington, I'd ensure that Congress is a co-equal branch of government. What’s so critical in our system of government is that you, the voters, are ultimately in charge. This November is your opportunity to take charge!
Looking forward,
Janet

ICE Raids in Sandusky and Castalia

June 10, 2018

Friend,
By now, I'm sure you have heard about the raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement on two Lawn and Garden centers in Sandusky and Castalia. Two hundred government agents accompanied by helicopters overhead descended, taking away 114 undocumented, hardworking parents and spouses without warning. Last week I joined others for a press conference at El Centro in Lorain to react to the incident. In my opinion, the strongest speech was given by Lorain Chief of Police Cel Rivera who stated that if we continue to terrorize these communities we will all become less safe. The people of these communities will not call police when they become victims of crimes and those crimes will spread. He also made the point that when ICE goes after law-abiding people, it is much easier for ICE to arrest hard-working immigrants trying to provide a living for their families than going after gang members and violent criminals. Picking the low hanging fruit... After everyone made their statements they called an immigrant family in hiding in Sandusky. The father had been taken at work by ICE that morning. The mother was terrified. She told us she and her husband had been living in Sandusky for 16 years and have three American born children. They were not running the air conditioning, lights or anything else to give the appearance that no one was in the home. She stated, 'We sweat and we work hard just to make a living.' She put the ten-year-old daughter on the phone. The daughter was crying and begging for help. Then she put the seven-year-old on and he was crying so hard his words were barely understandable. Folks, this reminded me of the story of Anne Frank. What has become of our country? I wanted to go to Sandusky and help protect those poor people. We cannot let this go on! It's not enough to just say, "What a shame." "Oh, how sad." All people of good conscience have got to take a stand against this shredding of American values! Dante wrote, "The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality". If you don't vote, register. If you are registered, make a plan for voting and taking four friends with you. Make SURE you are voting for people of good conscience. Yes, they are on the ballot. If you are writing letters to editors or representatives, get involved with any campaign to change the face of our congress. If you are afraid to talk to voters on the phone or in person, remember those hiding, terrified children and gather your strength. They need us. Now. I will ask, again, a question I have been asking all along: How bad does it have to get before you, personally, feel the need to stand up and say, "NO MORE"? To paraphrase the poem "First They Came For" written by Lutheran Pastor Martin Niemoller "First they came for the (undocumented immigrants) and I did nothing because I wasn't an (undocumented immigrant)"... Yes these people may be undocumented and yes we can’t continue to permit illegal immigration in this country, but these kinds of terror tactics in rounding up otherwise peaceful workers just highlights how desperately we need comprehensive immigration reform to have a fair and sensible system that will eliminate the occurrence for these kinds of incidents. I will continue to focus on this issue this week. I have published a guest column in the Norwalk Reflector. I encourage you to read it and share widely. Tomorrow in Norwalk, I will be rallying with community members and local leaders to show solidarity with the families affected by this tragedy and to demand that our leaders take up immigration reform in Congress. I hope to see some of you there. Click here to view the Facebook event information.
Looking forward,
Janet

Making College Work Better for Us

June 3, 2018

Friend,
This week the Ohio State University announced that it would cover full tuition for all Pell Grant eligible students, expanding its support of low-middle income students for students all across the state. Ohio State's regional campuses in Marion and Lima are included in this program, benefitting many students in our own communities. This is a big step forward for our students, and we ought to applaud Ohio State for taking the issue of college affordability seriously. University President Michael Drake stated, “Expanding our tuition-coverage program will help ensure even more Ohio families have the opportunity to advance their lives and communities through higher education." The fact of the matter is that in the modern economy it has become increasingly important that students obtain college degrees to better compete in the workforce and earn well-paying jobs. The United States has the best institutions of higher education in the world, yet many students go to college and come out saddled with student debt. In 2016, the average college graduate had more than $30,000 in loans. In Congress, I will work to increase federal student aid and to encourage legislation that will cap loan payments based on income. I will also be a strong advocate for tighter regulations against large student loan providers, who frequently do not inform students of all their options and do not put them on the best repayment plan. I believe that colleges and universities can play a role in helping to ease this crisis (evident in Ohio State's announcement this week). I will support legislation that gives colleges incentives to offer more financial aid so that even more schools follow Ohio State's lead. A number of states and localities have also begun “Promise programs”, which guarantee free community college for students that meet some kind of standard (often times high school GPA). These programs vary widely, and each meets important needs of their surrounding communities. Thus, the Association for Community College Trustees (ACCT) recommends that the federal government not attempt to standardize them offer exact national requirements, and instead support existing, successful programs with extra funding. With that being said, the goal should be not just to increase access, but also to increase college graduation rates. A study by the Brookings Institution shows that students are more likely to graduate with academic support, mentoring, and other core social services, and these are areas that have suffered significantly since post-2008 budget cuts. Thus, increasing funding for colleges should be aimed at improving academic support and resources for students, including counseling, mentoring, etc. Specifics of funding mechanisms can vary, but funding should be focused on this specific area that has seen a lot of cuts and has been proven to increase diploma attainment. I also understand that many students are better served to learn technical skills at high-quality vocational schools and continuing on to fill important roles in our economy. I will support legislation to bolster our nation’s technical and vocational schools as well. Overall, we have a lot of work to do to make our higher education system more accessible, affordable, and equitable so that the benefits of having the best institutions in the world benefit every segment of our society. When I am in Congress, I'll be working towards this goal.
Looking forward,
Janet

The Degradation of Workers' Rights

May 27, 2018

Friend,
This Monday, the Supreme Court dealt a blow to workers’ rights by ruling that workers cannot band together to challenge violations of federal labor laws. The ruling in Epic Systems Corporation v Lewis was a polarizing—and for many, devastating—decision, but it was widely anticipated, based on legal history and the current makeup of the Court. Justice Neil Gorsuch, writing for the majority, said, "The policy may be debatable, but the law is clear.” That’s the crux of this week’s Sunday Issue. Though the court system can often protect workers, it’s not their main role. Policymakers, on the other hand, have an obligation to protect American workers, the backbone of our economy. Through the last few decades, workers have become increasingly unequal in interactions with their employers; the Economic Policy Institute shows that the use of mandatory arbitration has risen to cover nearly 55 percent of private-sector nonunion workers today, or nearly 60 million Americans, up from only a quarter in the early 2000s. Today, we’ll talk about how workers can respond to this ruling, other significant upcoming cases on workers’ rights, and what Congress and state governments can do to protect them. Summary of the Epic Systems Case The legal background of the case involved three individual employees at different companies, who were required to waive their rights to join class-action suits as part of their contracts. These employees sued, citing the right to collective action. The court, in a 5-4 decision, ruled that these kind of contracts are legal, and the Federal Arbitration Act, which allows employers to resolves disputes individually through arbitration, trumps the National Labor Relations Act, which guarantees workers' right to collective actions. Though the precedent was clear, the decision was still polarizing. Justice Ginsburg even read her dissent from the bench, an unusual move, indicating how strongly she was opposed, calling it “egregiously wrong.” What this means in practice is that it will be much harder for works to participate in class-action lawsuits in the future. Likely, all employers that can will now use binding arbitration contracts, to prevent the high cost of class-actions. Additionally, studies have shown that arbitration overwhelmingly favors employers. Inevitably, without the ability of workers to use class-actions to bring pressure against employers, workers are more likely to suffer from underpaid wages, sexual or racial harassment, or violations to the Americans with Disabilities Act. Few workers will pursue these claims as individuals, especially those regarding wages. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, workers could band together to secure overtime that hadn’t been paid, or to receive the federal minimum wage. Individually, each of these claims might be only a few hundred dollars, which is far less than the legal fees it would take to secure them. Class-action lawsuits, though costly and time consuming to all involved, are crucial for low-income workers: they give employees “safety in numbers”, can protect against retaliation, and can help cover legal fees. Janus v AFSCME The other critical workers’ rights case on the docket this year is Janus v AFSCME, which I wrote about a few months ago when oral arguments were heard. Janus will settle the question of whether unions can legally charge “fair-share fees” for public sector workers who do not want to be union members, but who still benefit from collective bargaining. The Court is expected to rule in favor of Janus, which will undoubtedly ruin the bargaining power of unions. Not only will unions lose funding from fair-share fees, but membership is likely to decline, as some members may quit when they realize they can still gain the benefits of collective bargaining without paying. Together, the rulings in Epic Systems and Janus will likely severely reduce the power of workers in collective bargain and class-action lawsuits, to critical sources of worker power in employer relations. Next Steps for Congress An unusual part of the Epic Systems decision is that justices in both the majority and the dissent spoke about the distinction between the law and policy in their opinions. Writing for the majority, Justice Gorsuch said “the policy may be debatable, but the law is clear.” In her dissent, Justice Ginsburg said that it was up to Congress to correct the Court’s action. In this case, the change is a relatively clear one: Congress could change the National Labor Relations Act so that it does override the Federal Arbitration Act. Or, they could go a step farther and ban the use of mandatory arbitration agreements for certain issues, such as the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment Act, a bill proposed in the Senate last year by Senator Gillibrand (and co-sponsored by Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham), that would forbid arbitration for sexual harassment claims. There’s also a number of steps that state and local governments can take to protect workers. They could require government contractors to agree to not use individual arbitration clauses on workers, the same way contractors are required to not discriminate. State and local governments could also require that employers be more transparent about the presence of arbitration contracts, so at least new employees or applicants are aware of the limits on their rights when applying to jobs. Workers are already at a disadvantage when dealing with their employers, and this recent decision only exacerbates that difference. Arbitration overwhelmingly favors employers, and is more likely to be used by companies that employ low-wage, female, or minority workers. It is the responsibility of Congress to protect the underdog in America, the hard worker who is just trying to play by the rules and make a living. As a private citizen, I have always supported the rights of workers, and as an elected official I plan to do the same. It’s time for this Congress to start standing up for Americans.
Looking forward,
Janet

Why the Farm Bill Failed

May 20, 2018

Friend,
On Friday, one of the most important pieces of legislation in Congress, the Farm Bill, which is up for renewal every five years, failed as the far right wing of the Republican Party revolted. The extremist caucus opposed the bill not for anything that was actually in the bill, but instead because they demanded that a vote be scheduled on an extreme immigration bill. Jim Jordan led the decision to oppose the bill and stated after the bill failed, "We don’t think there should be a Farm Bill vote until we deal with immigration." I've written about the importance of the Farm Bill before. Funding these programs for rural America is incredibly important, and funding the bill should not be thrown around like a political football. In particular you would think that the representative of a district like OH-4, which is so reliant on agriculture, would treat this process with the utmost importance. Knowing Jim Jordan, it's not much of a surprise that this is not the case. Moreover, it's interesting that Jim Jordan has never made it a priority to become a member of the House Agriculture Committee. If he were on the committee, he could have helped shape farm policy and supported our local farm economy. But no, he’s not on that committee. Frankly, agriculture policy is not on Jim's priority list. But as we know, Jim sure did get energized about one aspect of the Farm Bill – the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, SNAP for short. Unfortunately, Jim’s interest wasn't in assuring that hungry kids got fed. No, he pushed for radical program changes to boot families off SNAP. Jim was able to rally Republican leadership to include his mean-spirited and misguided proposals. Despite all of that, when the Farm Bill came up for a vote this week, he and others in the so-called Freedom Caucus voted “NO” and the Farm Bill went down in defeat. It’s probably not the last chapter in the Farm Bill story, but it tells you something about Jordan. He and his caucus were willing to blow up the Farm Bill to win a totally unnecessary fight. It’s a fight they decided to pick. They said, we won’t support the Farm Bill unless the House leadership agrees to schedule a vote on a very tough immigration bill. What do hard-line get-tough-on-immigrants rules and a hugely-costly border wall have to do with soybeans or other Ohio crops? Very little. But Jim doesn’t care. He wants what he wants. He’s Mr. My-way-or-the-highway. Unfortunately, that’s not a very effective way to get things done. When I am in Congress, it won't be about me or my personal agenda. It will be about serving the people of OH-4 and representing their interests in our government. Looking forward,
Janet

The Opioid Hearing

May 13, 2018

Friend,
Throughout this campaign I have been calling upon Jim Jordan to hold a hearing on the opioid crisis. As chairman of the House Subcommittee on Healthcare, Benefits, and Administrative Rules this should be part of his job. On April 11, Jim finally did. At the request of the committee’s ranking member, Mr. Krishnamoorthi, Jim allowed the committee to bring in local experts who could help Congress understand more about this crisis. After Jim made a brief introduction, Mr. Krishnamoorthi discussed some of the many important components of creating a plan to deal with opioid addiction in Ohio, Illinois, and other midwestern states. The congressman from Illinois highlighted the importance of providing prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation to local communities that are fighting addiction on all fronts. Mr. Krishnamoorthi also discussed the importance of working with law enforcement, increasing access to naloxone, and looking at evidence based solutions that have worked in the past. In doing so, he showed an understanding of the complex needs that communities across America face when dealing with opioid addiction. And, he expressed a sincerity to try to solve the issue. This is the approach that we need from all of our representatives in Washington, but especially from those who represent Ohio. Unfortunately, Jim Jordan wasn’t nearly as prepared or invested in the hearing. Instead, before leaving halfway through the hearing, Jim pursued his own agenda when it was his turn ask questions. First, Jordan asked each panelist to name “the single, one thing you would do to deal with the problem.” This is a concerning question because we know that there is no silver bullet in ending the opioid epidemic. Furthermore, it almost appears as if Jim has missed the prior 50 minutes of testimony expressing the many needs that communities face when fighting addiction. But, I would like to give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe Jim thought that this was an opportunity for each panelist to put forward important points in a way that would be easy for people to understand. Maybe he wasn’t just looking for an easy fix, and he was actually looking for new approaches to finding a cure. Unfortunately, this wasn't the case. Even though Jim was asking basic questions, the panelists did a great job of putting forward important ideas. They discussed managing medication assisted treatment, supporting prevention among young people, expanding economic opportunities for struggling communities, utilizing the national health emergency designation, employing data to assist law enforcement, and improving access to substance abuse treatment resources for the underinsured. But Jim didn’t listen. Instead Jim decided to interrogate the panelists about his theory that Medicaid is to blame for the severity of the opioid epidemic. This is deeply frustrating. Our representative is using the opioid epidemic to go after medicaid by blaming the medicaid expansion for opioid addiction. He has decided that access to healthcare and insurance is the reason people are addicted to opioids. This is fundamentally wrong. Instead of focusing on solutions to addiction or ways to assist law enforcement, the congressman from Ohio’s fourth district has decided to focus on an unsubstantiated report, and to ignore science and common sense. The federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality reports that Medicaid is helping expand access to treatment for people across the country, especially in hard hit states like Ohio. It reports that “opioid-related hospitalizations were higher in expansion than non-expansion states as early as 2011, three years before Medicaid expansion took effect, and have been growing at roughly the same rate in expansion and non-expansion states since expansion took effect. Medicaid is part of the solution to the opioid crisis, not a cause.” Jim Jordan has cooked up another conspiracy theory, but this time it is about opioids. I am in disbelief. I just cannot understand how someone who represents our district could be so careless about where he gets his facts and what he spends his time on. I will continue to focus on the important points that were made by the four panelists at this hearing who are dedicated to ending the opioid epidemic (you can watch the whole hearing here). And when I replace Jim Jordan in Washington this year, you can be sure that I will make every effort to find real solutions to the opioid epidemic through genuine advocacy for the people I represent. Our representative in Congress should do nothing less.
Looking forward,
Janet

Funding the Farm Bill

May 6, 2018

Friend,
Here in the fourth district, farming is a part of who we are. Whether you run your own farm, pick up fresh local ingredients at a nearby farmers market, or work in the garden on weekends, chances are you're engaging with our agricultural sector in some way, shape, or form. That's why it's so crucial that we ensure robust support of the Farm Bill, the primary source of funding for an array of programs that are vital to the well-being of our community. This fall, the Farm Bill is up for reauthorization yet again, and the stakes have never been higher. As Congress begins fleshing out the next iteration of the Farm Bill, Jim Jordan and his cadre of Republicans are threatening to slash funding for programs that directly impact us here in Ohio. They’re doing this all under the guise of reining in spending, despite strong support of the recent tax bill that is actually increasing the federal deficit. This week, I want to you walk you through what the Farm Bill is, what’s at stake, and what I promise to advocate for when I’m your Congresswoman. WHAT IS IT The Farm Bill is a unique piece of legislation, which allows the federal government to fund a variety of programs that fall under the purview of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Created initially during the Great Depression to assist farmers grappling with the economic realities of the time, the Farm Bill is essentially an omnibus spending bill that is reallocated every five years or so. The programs funded by the farm bill are astoundingly broad and varied, including initiatives that encompass conversation efforts, rural development, international trade, agricultural research, nutritional assistance, food safety, commodities, and so much more. The reauthorization of the Farm Bill is already underway, and the House Agriculture Committee recently (and narrowly) passed a draft of the bill along party lines, which called for drastic cuts to a variety of important programs. WHAT’S AT STAKE Unfortunately, the draft passed by Republicans on the House Agriculture Committee calls for massive cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by making millions of individuals ineligible for the program. The harsh new work requirements proposed by Republicans would preclude a huge number of Americans who currently qualify for the program from receiving benefits, leaving them with few alternatives for putting food on the table for themselves and their families. I’ve spoken about the importance of SNAP in Ohio before, but its impact is worth reemphasizing. In total, 37,079 households in our district receive SNAP support. Of that total, 74.4% of those households are in the labor force. And while Republicans argue that the already stringent work requirements should be increased, a report by Policy Matters Ohio found that “Most households with a working age, able-bodied adult have at least one member who works while receiving SNAP.” The problem with SNAP is not that people aren't working — it's that the jobs they have just don't pay enough to put food on the table. The current draft of the Farm Bill is irresponsible. Not only does it threaten the livelihoods of millions of families through cuts to SNAP, but it dramatically reduces support for small farmers and vital initiatives that keep them going. Republicans have proposed zeroing out funding for a variety of critical "tiny buy might" programs meant to support small farmers, like the Rural Energy for America Program, the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program, and the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program. Despite the fact that these programs constitute a tiny fraction of the $800+ billion dollar Farm Bill, Republicans in Congress have decided to take aim at programs that help our rural and farming communities — and Jim Jordan is among them. What’s more, the proposed Farm Bill also cuts one of the largest conservation programs, the Conservation Stewardship Program. MY PROMISE I’ve done my research. I understand just how critical the Farm Bill is to the citizens of Ohio, and as your Congresswoman, I’ll fight back against politicians like Jim Jordan of who seem unconcerned with the tangible impact these programs have on our friends and family. The Federal government needs to spend smarter, and it’s Congress’ job to prioritize funding for programs that benefit hard-working Americans, rather than unilaterally cutting spending. Congress should be crafting legislation that benefits hardworking, everyday Americans. When I'm your Congresswoman, I intend to do just that.
Looking forward,
Janet

Protecting Our Planet and Our Economy

April 29, 2018

Friend,
Last Sunday was Earth Day, a day when the world acknowledges the importance of protecting our planet. Unfortunately, even on Earth Day we don't do nearly enough to focus on climate change. Climate change will be one of the most pressing issues we face as a global community in the coming years. But, while climate change is an international threat, it can also have severe consequences for us right here in the district. For this week’s Sunday Issue, I wanted to continue the momentum from last week and share some of my environmental priorities. Paris Accord Scientists agree that the planet is warming, and they agree that this warming is likely a result of human activity. Our scientists tell us that if we want to protect life as we know it we must take action. One of the main ways the international community attempted to do this was through the 2015 Paris Accord. Though imperfect, it was a step towards international accountability, and aimed for each country to cut carbon emissions by 2025. Last October, President Trump withdrew the United States from the agreement, saying it was “unfair” to American companies. This should devastate all of us — the United States is one of the largest contributors of carbon emissions, and to shirk this responsibility indicates a total lack of leadership and basic decency towards our fellow nations on an important international issue. Last week, Michael Bloomberg, former New York City Mayor, made headlines for offering to donate $4.5 million to the UN climate change Secretariat, meeting the United States’ obligation this year. Bloomberg is working with California Governor Jerry Brown as co-chairs of America’s Pledge, a group of states, cities, and companies that have pledged to uphold the Paris Agreement even without the federal government. Together, these states, cities, and companies make up more than half the American economy. The group has already made significant strides with mandatory renewable portfolio standards, city-wide pledges for electric vehicles, and efficient building and industrial energy programs. This is the kind of leadership we need: leadership at the local, state, and industry level that will uphold America’s promise when the White House will not. We can still make meaningful change to reduce emissions, bolster the clean energy sector, and build a sustainable economy. Solar Power and Clean Energy Jobs A UN report released earlier this month showed solar power attracted more investment than any other technology this past year. This indicates that the future of energy use is in renewables — and that’s where the economic gains will be as well. Currently, China is leading the world in solar investment. But the US can become a global clean energy leader if we invest in this innovative sector now. Clean energy jobs are some of the fastest growing in the country. Building up America's clean energy sector will be good for the planet, but also hugely beneficial to our economy. However, President Trump instituted tariffs on solar panels in January. Though aimed to protect workers, industry experts project that these tariffs will dampen demand for solar panel installation, as prices rise initially, and could result in job losses for 23,000 people. This tariff plan wasn't well thought through and will end up hurting American industries. We need to be building up the clean energy sector, not tearing it down. The good news is that Ohio has made progress in solar power, as Cincinnati, Columbus, and Cleveland have all made strides in solar energy consumption, showing once again how local communities can lead our nation in clean energy. There are a number of steps local government officials can take to continue to encourage solar development, including simplifying permitting and zoning practices and financing programs that encourage businesses to adopt solar energy. Through this kind of local leadership and ingenuity, we can continue to be strong advocates for clean energy policies even without leadership from Washington. Effects of Climate Change on Crops Climate change also poses severe threats to American agriculture, especially right here in Ohio. The EPA says that climate change will cause summers to become dangerously hot, reducing corn yields, since corn stops growing once the temperature rises above 86 degrees. These warmer temperatures threaten livestock through heat stress and contribute to higher pest rates. Changing rain patterns will also hurt Ohio’s farmers, as experts point to devastating floods in the winter months and more frequent short-term droughts in the hot summer months. Early spring floods can also wash away fertilizer and newly-planted seeds. These challenges have already started to affect Ohio farmers, and will continue to affect them in the future. Thus, it is critical to build partnerships between climate scientists and farmers, so that farmers have all the tools necessary to handle the coming challenges. Lake Erie In our very own Lake Erie, climate change poses a threat to water quality. Recently, we have seen an increase in algal blooms. Caused by warming water temperatures and pollutant runoff from increasingly large storms, these blooms create massive dead zones on Lake Erie, deeply disrupting fishing industries and tourism. In 2014, algal blooms poisoned drinking water for thousands of Toledoans. Without action on climate change, these issues will only continue to harm our beloved Great Lakes and our drinking water supply.

A Better Veterans Affairs

April 22, 2018

Surveys indicate that most of the 9 million veterans in the VA healthcare network are satisfied with the care they receive. But, the system is not without its problems – including aging facilities and inefficient practices. These problems came under a microscope in 2014 after scandal over unauthorized waiting lists and long-delayed care. As a result, these problems were the subject of both a major consultant study and a report by a congressional commission. I know that in the wake of this scandal, it is important to realize that our actions regarding the VA’s problems today will determine whether the nation meets its obligation to our veterans tomorrow. I also realize that there is real danger for our veterans in the approach our president is taking.
Background
Some context would be helpful here. Some years ago, a researcher described VA health care as providing “the best care anywhere.” Recently, many major hospitals in the country have caught up with the advances that Veterans Affairs pioneered, like the use of electronic medical records. Over time though, lack of sufficient investment in the VA’s infrastructure has compounded some of its challenges with providing care as efficiently as possible. In recent years, we’ve all heard stories about problems at individual VA hospitals, as well as accounts about inefficiency in the system at large. Some of the issues that VA hospital administrators must contend with are problems common to medicine generally, but underinvestment makes these problems worse. Hospitals and medical centers – whether VA or private - need to keep making improvements to assure that they’re providing high quality care and doing it efficiently. With many older hospitals and some very inefficient practices, the VA system still has work to do.
The Wrong Solutions
It was clear in 2014 that a solution was needed to fix the serious access problems many veterans were experiencing. In response, Congress passed legislation that allowed vets to get care in their community in situations where Veterans Affairs couldn’t provide timely care in its own facilities, or in cases where vets had to travel long distances to get to the nearest VA facility. This “solution” didn’t work very smoothly, but, now Veterans Affairs does rely much more on contracting for care than it had in the past. However, the fact that this program worked in certain situations doesn’t mean that it can provide our veterans with the best care universally. Unfortunately, those advising the president on veterans’ affairs are pushing an agenda that would have the agency continue to contract-out far more care and services. There are real dangers in that approach. It puts veterans’ care on a slippery slope that can easily go too far, and that would likely lead to closing VA facilities and privatizing veterans’ care completely. Unfortunately, those advising the President have a “vision” that’s much more about hostility to government than about providing the best service to our veterans. These critics really want to kill the VA health care system. Consider the parallel we’ve seen in Ohio, where instead of investing in new plants, new equipment or worker training, many manufacturers contracted-out work to overseas suppliers, and closed plants. These companies have abandoned their workers, and “rewarded” consumers with lower-quality products. I will work hard to stop the government from doing the same thing to our veterans.
What Veterans Groups Think
The president’s prescription for change is to require Veterans Affairs to offer veterans their choice of care in the private sector, even if an excellent VA clinic or hospital is close by. You might ask, what’s wrong with that? Plenty, according to membership organizations that actually represent and assist veterans, like the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), and Disabled American Veterans (DAV), who see this “choice” leading to VA health care becoming a giant insurer, paying bills rather than caring for veterans who often have complex, chronic health problems. The Legion, VFW, DAV, and other major veterans’ service organizations strongly oppose veterans affairs moving further in that direction. They know that is this happens, veterans would ultimately lose out on the essential care only the VA can provide. This care includes specialized services that are unique to the VA system. Without these services, veterans would be getting poorer quality care, and they’d end up with less choice rather than more. As the VFW’s Director of Legislative Affairs, Carlos Fuentes, pointed out in testifying before Congress last year, “The VA health care system delivers high quality care and has consistently outperformed private health care systems in independent assessments.” Among the VA systems’ important strengths is its integrated system of care. VA clinicians coordinate the care of their patients, using a common electronic medical record. As Fuentes testified, wide open choice brings fragmentation of care – independent doctors who don’t coordinate and communicate with one another, with a risk of poor outcomes as a result.
Why We Need Veteran-Specific Care
What’s lost if the VA were no longer providing care? People forget, or may not know, that Veterans Affairs has some unique capabilities that aren’t widely available elsewhere. For example, VA health care has special expertise in treating post-traumatic stress disorder and military sexual trauma that can’t easily be found in the private sector. Treatment for veterans experiencing this trauma is extremely important, especially among those who have served in war zones! The VA system is also quite unique in integrating mental health care and primary care services throughout its national system. In contrast, many parts of the country, including our district, are plagued by very limited access to mental health care services for those who need them. Furthermore, several years ago, Veterans Affairs launched an interdisciplinary approach to pain-management that has provided alternatives to reliance on opioids. We must ensure that our veterans have access to this treatment.
The Bottom Line
Am I arguing against ANY contracting? Definitely not! If a VA facility in Ohio can’t provide an eligible veteran with necessary specialized care, or if that facility can’t provide quality care, it makes sense to arrange for another conveniently located provider to administer treatment. But those pushing for more and more contracting, beyond these clearly beneficial cases, are ducking VA’s problems and are not posing real solutions. The good news is that there’s a clear path forward. Veterans Affairs, like other large health care systems, must streamline operations; eradicate inefficiencies; continue to foster high quality improvement; and, where prudent, make investments in modernizing facilities. Those are the kinds of reforms that an independent congressional commission, the Commission on Care, made in its report in June 2016. Unfortunately, the President is apparently unaware of the report, and certainly hasn’t read it. When these reforms can’t be made, contracting out makes sense, but when we can invest in a better stronger path forward, that should be our primary approach. I certainly will not minimize the Department of Veterans Affairs’ problems. But, I worry that we don’t hear a great deal about the strengths of the VA system. Yet these strengths are a key to the care that Veterans Affairs provides. Yes, we need to see more improvement in tackling VA problems, and I’m committed to pressing for greater efficiency and system reforms. But we ought to pay special attention to organizations like the American Legion, VFW, and DAV, when they warn against glib “solutions” that actually threaten to dismantle a system that serves our veterans well. So I join the leaders of veterans’ service organizations, and veterans across the country, in calling on the President to stop the push for privatization, and in asking him to work with us to strengthen and improve the VA health care system.

Getting Serious about the Opioid Epidemic

April 15, 2018

As the opioid epidemic continues to tear apart families across Ohio, I welcome the recent boost in federal funding to help counter the crisis. An additional $6 billion spread over the next two years will help, as will the allocation of of $150 million of that money in grant support for Ohio and other states that have disproportionately borne the brunt of the opioid epidemic. The efforts of representatives, like Marcy Kaptur, and Senator Sherrod Brown played a large role in securing this funding; however, I am sure that they too would recognize the reality that this first step is not nearly enough.
Recognizing Reality
Experts tell us that combatting a public health crisis of this magnitude will require tens of billions of dollars, far more than Republican leaders in Congress and state legislatures have been willing to support. But with so many people dying every day, we cannot treat this crisis as a side note in an oversized spending bill. The opioid epidemic has created a true emergency for Ohio, and neither state or local government is equipped to cope with the magnitude of the disaster alone. The situation is a lot like being hit by a major hurricane or similar natural disaster. However, while natural disasters are a one time occurrence, the opioid crisis continues to wreak havoc, and to claim more and more lives. Yet in the event of a natural disaster Congress is willing to allocate tens of billions of dollars to recovery efforts. Recovery efforts after Hurricane Katrina totaled over $115 billion, efforts after Sandy totaled over $50 billion, and just this past year Congress allocated an immediate $15 billion dollars to communities recovering from hurricane Harvey with a total support package of over $90 billion coming as part of the spending bill. In the same bill, the fight against the opioid epidemic received only $6 billion.
What’s Holding Us Back?
So, why is our Republican-led Congress unwilling to tackle this opioid crisis more forcefully, even as the death toll continues to mount? Why isn’t Congress’ response to the human tragedy of a drug epidemic at least as robust as to hurricane damage? The level of support following major hurricanes is totally appropriate, given the severity of the damage these major storms have caused, but what about the comparable havoc, devastation, and staggering loss of life wrought by the opioid epidemic? In doling out a fraction of the funding needed, our Republican-led Congress has failed to recognize that the federal government must address the opioid epidemic with the same degree of commitment as it has natural disasters. What about our own representative? Jim Jordan is a true outlier! He voted against federal support communities in Texas and Puerto Rico devastated by hurricanes this last year. And, unsurprisingly, even with a disaster on his doorstep, he not only did nothing to secure federal dollars to counter the opioid crisis, he actually voted “NO” on the recent funding bill that grants Ohio limited funds to combat the crisis. His stated belief that parents, churches and schools are the key to containing this epidemic is naïve. That kind of thinking wouldn’t answer the needs created by a deadly hurricane, and it’s no more helpful to Ohioans dealing with the death and destruction caused by opioids. As chairman of a key subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Jordan could have convened hearings and put an early spotlight on Ohio’s opioid crisis, and even today he could take leadership by pressing the Trump Administration to implement critical recommendations adopted by the President’s opioid commission. But Mr. Jordan is simply AWOL on this, and so many other issues! And, in addition to all this Jim had fought against necessary medicaid expansions that cover treatment for 4 in 10 non-elderly adults fighting opioid addiction. Jim Jordan’s hateful attitude towards government has blinded him to the needs of struggling communities both in Houston and Puerto Rico, as well as right here in the fourth district.
My Fight
That failure of representation is why I’m running to represent the fourth district in Congress. My highest priority would be to work with leaders like Sherrod Brown and Marcy Kaptur to substantially boost the level of funding allocated to fighting the opioid epidemic here in Ohio and across the nation. We must demand funding and implementation of the 56 proposals recommended by the President’s Opioid Commission that have been set aside since November. Some of these proposals don’t even require any additional money, including plans to simply enforce laws that are already on the books. The only thing holding these plans back is the Congressional will to act. Furthermore, these proposals could go a long way in targeting key measures to streamline federal funding towards addiction and recovery centers. These efforts are part of a larger call by experts to spend tens of billions of dollars on treatment in the coming year. We’ve seen how recovery efforts can be made following hurricanes. Now it is time to demand the same response for the most critical issue families in Ohio face today. Let’s be clear, a major commitment to federal funding is only one step. Not unlike the challenge of allocating funds to respond to the devastation caused by a major natural disaster, Ohio will need to develop a state-level plan to wage a successful war on opioids. This plan must provide for reinforcing critical systems – such as in the areas of prevention, treatment, drug courts, housing, protective services, and education -- systems that are currently overwhelmed by the crisis. It should involve continued medicaid expansions which can continue to cover the treatment of 4 of every 10 non-elderly adults with an opioid addiction. That planning should also provide for fostering establishment of new programs to support families who are now broken up as a result of addiction. All of these local efforts are key to a full recovery, but they are strengthened by federal support. What is all too evident, however, is that we will not defeat the opioid epidemic with the weak medicine Republican leadership is prescribing. We need new leadership in the House of Representatives to win this battle. We need a representative who will work with community leaders to bring funding back to the fourth district, not someone who votes against that funding. Make no mistake. This epidemic is deadly, and right now we are NOT winning. Our district needs a champion fighting for you and for your families. I’m running for Congress to be that champion for you. With your help, I will make curing the opioid epidemic a national priority.

President Trump's Dangerous Foreign Policy

April 8, 2018

Friend,
Foreign policy can sometimes feel like a faraway issue here in Ohio -- I get it. In all honesty, that’s probably a good thing. It means that your elected and appointed officials in Washington are doing their job, ensuring American security and global stability. Since the outset of the Trump administration, however, foreign policy decisions have felt far too close to home. Misinformed policy decisions and a state of constant flux have characterized the Trump Administration's foreign policy, making it a genuine threat to U.S. national security. His reckless actions could actually land us in the unthinkable: a nuclear war.
THE MAKINGS OF A WAR CABINET
In recent weeks, Trump’s foreign policy apparatus has been upended, with the most senior officials responsible for the creation of U.S. foreign policy sent packing in quick succession. In early March, President Trump announced via twitter that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would be replaced by CIA Director Mike Pompeo. Shortly thereafter, the President announced that former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton would replace H.R. McMaster as National Security Advisor, a position that doesn't require Senate confirmation. Director Pompeo, a hardliner who is ideologically aligned with Trump, has supported the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, defended the use of torture, promised to roll back the Iran Deal, and stated that the U.S. will make no concessions to North Korea. John Bolton poses an even greater threat because it’s more than just bureaucratic reorganization; it’s the elevation of an ideological warmonger with the institutional knowledge to make his dangerous ideas tangible policy. Bolton, best known for his criticism of the United Nations and unequivocal support of the invasion of Iraq, has called for an array of reckless foreign policy ideas, including the bombing of Iran and a military assault on North Korea. Trump is assembling a war cabinet, surrounding himself with foreign policy hawks who prefer the use of force to diplomacy, and the consequences could be catastrophic.
NORTH KOREA
So what does the arrival of these new players mean for America’s greatest foreign policy challenges? In North Korea, it doesn’t look promising. Talks between the U.S. and the North Korea are expected next month, but the arrival of Bolton and Pompeo makes a successful outcome virtually impossible. As recently as last month, John Bolton has dismissed the talks, instead discussing the possibility of launching a military strike on North Korea. It’s a radical course of action that most experts warn could result in hundreds of thousands of casualties -- South Korean civilians and American service members alike. Not only are Bolton’s alternatives extremely dangerous, but his presence alone may be enough to unravel the talks. Bolton has demanded total denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, similar to the strategy used in Libya in 2003 and 2011; it’s a demand the North Koreans and their Chinese allies are unlikely to agree to. Someone like Bolton, who was (and still is) a staunch advocate of the Iraq War and favors dismantling the Iranian nuclear agreement, is unlikely to be able or willing to provide North Korea with the assurances necessary for a substantial agreement between our two countries. Trump has created a lose-lose situation in North Korea. He’s legitimized the North Korean regime by immediately agreeing to talks, while virtually ensuring an unsuccessful outcome by surrounding himself with advisors advocating for untenable demands and military alternatives. We need experienced diplomats with the regional and technical expertise to craft a mutually acceptable deal, preferably one which would ease crushing economic sanctions in exchange for the cessation of missile testing and gradual denuclearization.
IRAN
First things first: continued commitment to the Iran Deal is critical for global stability and U.S. national security. On May 12th, President Trump will have to decide whether to renew America’s commitment to the Iran deal or withdraw from it altogether. Bolton is a vocal critic of the Iran deal, floating the possibility of military strikes as means of preventing further enrichment activities. Director Pompeo is an equally formidable opponent of the Iran Deal, who gained international attention for his aggressive anti-deal legislation during his time in Congress. If Trump heeds the advice of Pompeo and Bolton and withdraws from the Iran Deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Program of Action (JCPOA), the results could prove disastrous. The U.S. would alienate critical European allies like Germany and the United Kingdom, and Iran would be free to resume its nuclear enrichment activities and grow closer to obtaining a nuclear weapon -- without the threat of UN sanctions. To make matters worse, Iranian nuclear enrichment could unsettle the Middle East even further, possibly resulting in a regional arms race.
THE DISMANTLING OF THE STATE DEPARTMENT
Presidents from both sides of the aisle have made foreign policy blunders in the past. When they have, the State Department and its army of experienced Foreign Service Officers and civilian foreign policy professionals have been there to pick up the pieces. This time, that may not be the case. When Trump took office in early 2017, experienced diplomats with decades of institutional knowledge and substantive experience were forced out in droves and funding cuts of up to 31% were proposed, resulting in an understaffed and underfunded department at one of the most volatile moments in international politics. As of today, just three of the nine senior positions at the State Department are filled. Rex Tillerson was one of the most contentious Secretaries of State in history, due in part to his disdain for career diplomats and institutional tradition. Tillerson sequestered himself with a small, inexperienced policy team and made many decisions unilaterally, leaving a dismantled and disheartened State Department in his wake when he left last month. With Mike Pompeo poised to take the helm and few high-level career diplomats left in the agency, the potential for egregious policy making on complex issues with Iran, North Korea, Russia, and China is all but assured.
AMERICA’S ROLE IN THE WORLD
The inconsistency of the entire Trump Administration is at its most dangerous when it comes to foreign policy. For someone who campaigned on the promise of American isolationism, President Trump has been eager to surround himself with advisors like Bolton and Mike Pompeo who prefer military engagement to diplomacy – no matter the cost. Continued tensions with Iran and North Korea, a trade war with China, and Russian election interference make the need for responsible American engagement with the world more critical now than ever before. With stakes this high, it’s Congress’ responsibility to speak out against dangerous policies like these. Unsurprisingly, Jim Jordan has remained silent. As your Congresswoman, I’d fight to prevent nominees like Mike Pompeo and John Bolton from obtaining positions of power, advocate for robust funding of the State Department and USAID, and commit to leveraging the experience and expertise of our most dedicated civil servants to craft smart, detailed foreign policy. Crafting effective foreign policy is complicated, and that’s why we need to leverage the talent and expertise of these professionals in order to advance crucial tenets of American foreign policy like humanitarian aid, economic development, strong alliances, and increased levels of national security. By doing so, we can make smart choices that will keep Americans safe, without letting ideologies get us into unnecessary wars.

Protecting Americans' Data

April 1, 2018

Happy Easter, everyone! I hope you all get to spend today at peace with your families, as I will be. This past week, I've been paying particular attention to data privacy and wanted to share some thoughts with you in this week's Sunday Issue.
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As you've likely seen, a firm called Cambridge Analytica has been in the news for misusing Facebook user data and selling it to political campaigns without user knowledge. As the full story emerges, we have to understand how this is part of a larger conversation on new frontiers of national security, international meddling, and big data. Then we should contemplate about what our leaders should be doing to protect our privacy rights.
The Cambridge Analytica Scandal
Cambridge Analytica is a political consulting firm that helped run the Trump campaign’s digital team in 2016. In addition to regular consulting operations, like TV ads and polling, they also claim to have used “psychographic modeling” to target voters, a tool they developed using personality test data from Facebook. Cambridge Analytica received this personality information through a Facebook app created by Aleksander Kogan, a Russian-American academic. He said he would use the data for academic purposes, so Facebook allowed him to access it. Some 270,000 users agreed to share their information for this purpose. However, because they agreed to share friends’ data, Kogan ended up with access to nearly 50 million profiles, which he then sold to Cambridge Analytica. Facebook learned about the breach in 2015 and was assured the data had been deleted, though it wasn’t. Now, whistleblower Christopher Wylie claims that Cambridge’s tools swung the Brexit and 2016 election results. He also claims that all of this data was within easy reach of the Russians, since Kogan made many trips back to Russia during this time period. Though this all sounds very shady, it’s not clear yet which laws have been broken, or even that Cambridge Analytica is worth focusing on. This release of friends’ user data was well within Facebook’s rules for the time, and Cambridge Analytica doesn’t appear to have been any more effective than standard political consulting. The details are still trickling out on this, but it’s clearly time for a broader national conversation about big data, protecting American privacy, and the role of government in regulating it.
The Role of Regulation
Discovering which regulations work best will be experimental at first. But this is the age we live in, and it would be irresponsible of government not to adapt to the new challenges and realities of our digital age. As we speak, the EU is beginning to enforce the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which gives far broader protections for consumer privacy. And some Senators, including Mark Warner (D-VA), have begun to call for stronger regulations for Facebook and internet privacy laws. One way to beef up security that I support is to create much stronger penalties for businesses that have data breaches. This will incentivize companies to shore up their own data before it can be hacked, rather than have apologies leaked out months later. We should also require more transparency from companies about the data they keep. Facebook has begun to make some of these changes on their own, but Congress could mandate that all companies must show users what data they have and which third party groups have access to it. With this information, users could have greater flexibility with privacy settings. Companies should also have to notify users within a certain time window if there is a data breach and allow users to withdraw or update their privacy settings in the aftermath. Meanwhile, Jim Jordan hasn’t said a thing about Facebook or Cambridge Analytica since the news first came out. Jordan’s always claimed to be a champion of privacy, so where is he on protecting Americans’ personal data?
There’s progress to be made here—we just need strong, thoughtful leaders to make that change.
I'll be keeping an eye on any legislation that makes its way to the Hill - hopefully we will see some of our representatives start to get serious about protecting our data.
Looking forward,
Janet

Risky New Tariffs on China

March 25, 2018

The President’s Risky Trade Plan:
Last week, President Trump announced plans to impose punitive tariffs on a wide range of products manufactured or assembled in China. In doing so the president brashly dismissed concerns about the risk of provoking a trade war with China. While specifics won’t be published for 15 days, the White House plan envisions steep tariffs on up to 1300 different products that benefit from unfair Chinese trade policies. The targets will likely include computers, electronics, and communications equipment, but could reach a far broader array of consumer products. The President also directed the Treasury to impose restrictions on Chinese investment in U.S. companies. American business leaders, U.S. trading partners, editorial writers, and investors – who saw the DOW drop more than 1000 points since word of the President’s plan was released – were among those deeply critical of the tariff announcement. Many are calling it equivalent to dropping an economic nuke.
Right on the problem; wrong on solution:
We DO need to push back hard against Chinese cybertheft, forced transfer of valuable technology, and trade practices that violate international agreements. But, unilateral action centered on extensive, punitive tariffs is more likely to be dangerous than it is to be successful. Tariffs are effectively taxes on trade that will be passed on to consumer purchases. As a result, this tariff plan isn’t likely to hurt China as much as it will hurt American shoppers and exporters. Many worry that the president’s plan takes us down on a path to a trade war. Neither country would benefit from that; however, China has already hinted that it stands ready to impose targeted retaliatory tariffs. They specifically cited soybeans, our largest agricultural export. China could also make it even more difficult for U.S. businesses to enter chinese markets.
How this effects Ohio:
Trade experts and China-watchers warn that the President’s path invites retaliation. But it wouldn’t take an all-out China-U.S. trade war to cause pain here in Ohio. Take just one example: Soybeans! They’re a big crop in Ohio AND in this congressional district. Hundreds of thousands of acres of soybeans were harvested in our own 4th congressional district of Ohio last year. China has already signaled that soybean exports are in their bulls-eye. Here’s why: China is the No. 1 importer of U.S. soybeans and related products, with roughly 1 in 3 rows of beans grown on U.S. farms going to China, according to the American Soybean Association. But China isn’t dependent on us! It could buy soybeans from Brazil if it chooses to slap tariffs on the U.S. in retaliation for the president’s plan. China’s leaders are also aware that the leading soybean-producing states in the U.S. voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump in 2016. As a result, they’ll likely impose a tariff on this key crop to inflict pain on the president.
Let’s solve the problem, not create new ones:
China’s predatory trade practices DO hurt the U.S. economy, and DO pose a threat to our leadership in technology and our security. So we must take strong action! But we’re stronger when we work with the many other countries hurt by China’s trade violations and piracy. As a world leader, we must organize a group of nations to jointly pressure the Chinese to adhere to fair trade norms. Collectively, we should use and strengthen institutions like the World Trade Organization to back up our demands, and collectively adopt and enforce sanctions, which could include carefully targeted tariffs against China, if China fails to comply.
But the President isn’t listening. He’s surrounded himself with yes-men, and blindly ignores the danger. Our system of government, of course, has an institution to check a President bent on a reckless shoot-first-negotiate-later strategy: our Congress!
Congress ought to step in and push back against this sweeping, unilateral tariff plan, and against the President’s wrongheaded view that international trade is a zero-sum competition. This is a critical moment for Congress to insist on a comprehensive strategy to fight Chinese predatory practices. This should include encouraging the engagement of the international community, and both enforcing and strengthening the rules of world trade. Unfortunately, under current leadership, and with members like our own Jim Jordan, this Congress has been unwilling to stand up to this President. It’s time for change!

Rebuilding Ohio's Infrastructure

March 18, 2018

Ohio has an infrastructure crisis. Every year the average Ohioan spends an extra $475 driving on roads that are poorly maintained. We live near 362 dams across the state that are at “high hazard” level; however, only 72% of our state regulated dams have an emergency action plan. Nearly 2,000 bridges across the state are structurally deficient. It is unsafe and unsustainable to send our kids to schools that need over $600 million in repairs. It is dangerous to drive on roads and bridges that are not maintained. And it is terrifying to think that whole communities are living under the threat of hazardous dams or deteriorating drinking water infrastructure. We must make the investment to modernize this infrastructure. We cannot let crises like the drinking water crisis in Flint Michigan occur in Ohio. Rebuilding our infrastructure won’t be easy, but making this strategic investment is crucial for our future.
National Infrastructure Bank
In order to successfully fund large-scale modernization projects, I support the formation of a national infrastructure bank. A national infrastructure bank would be funded by the federal government, and would loan out money to agencies or local governments for the express purpose of funding expensive, far-reaching infrastructure projects. Like any bank, this national infrastructure bank would provide loans to communities that are ready to invest in infrastructure today and would be paid back over time. This is cost effective and ensures that communities have the opportunity to rebuild our infrastructure before it fails and becomes significantly more expensive to fix. Furthermore, a national infrastructure bank will be a strong signal to the private sector that the federal government is committed and open to private involvement in the delivery of infrastructure growth. This bank will also be able to provide technical assistance and expertise to states and other localities that don’t have the internal capacity to deal with large-scale infrastructure projects on their own.
New Investments
But fixing out current infrastructure is not enough; our government has a long way to go in providing 21st century resources to rural communities across Ohio. We must ensure that access to essential tools of the modern market, like high speed internet and efficient electrical grids, are included in our plan to modernize our state's infrastructure system. As your Congresswoman, I will work to ensure that your electric grid is up-to-date, and I will fight to invest in energy efficient solutions and grid hardening programs so that you can have more reliable access to electricity and lower energy bills. I also will support legislation that allocates funds to expanding high-speed internet access to every community in our district so that we all have the opportunity to keep up with the global economy. Along these lines I support current plans that provide financial support to companies that are working to bring high speed internet to 14,000 more homes in Ohio. This is a huge step in the right direction, and I will continue this fight until high speed connections are standard across this state.
Trump's Plan
President Trump has put forward an infrastructure plan promising a $1.5 trillion investment by 2028 -- however, this plan only includes $200 billion in federal funding. Under this plan local governments and private firms will bear well over 80% of the financial burden. At the same time, the president is undermining the safety of large infrastructure projects. His plan cuts the approval process for these projects down from between five and ten years down to only two. This will make it difficult for agencies to assess the environmental impacts of some projects, putting American communities and families at risk. Cutting corners on the bridges, hospitals, schools and roads we use everyday is not the way out of this crisis. With that being said, we need bipartisan support for investments of this scale. Considering that President Trump campaigned on rebuilding our nation's infrastructure, we should be able to find common ground. When in Congress, I will work across the aisle with Republicans to find that common ground and hold President Trump to the commitment he made.
The Bottom Line
We can fix our aging infrastructure and we can make bold, new investments that will make our economy competitive in the 21st century. In Congress I will be a voice for fixing Ohio's roads and bridges, protecting our hospitals and schools, and for expanding the promise of the 21st century economy, without cutting cutting corners and putting families at risk.

The Case for S.N.A.P.

March 11, 2018

Once rich with manufacturing jobs, Ohio has struggled to build a new economy with good-paying, full-time employment, and too many people are stuck with part-time low-wage work. While most agree this is a grave problem, some, like Rep Jim Jordan, can't connect the dots to understand that it leaves hundreds of thousands of Ohioans without enough to feed their families and pay the rent. Instead of pursuing policies to bring good jobs back to Ohio, Jim Jordan's making it even more difficult for families to get food assistance.
He's not alone in pursuing harsh policies that are out of sync with Americans' economic realities. The recently released Trump administration budget for 2019 would cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by more than $213 billion over the next ten years — nearly a 30 percent cut — by radically restructuring how benefits are delivered, cutting eligibility for at least 4 million people, and reducing benefits for many others. The unemployed, the elderly, and low-income working families with children would bear the brunt of these proposed cuts. SNAP is the nation’s most important anti-hunger program. Two-thirds of SNAP benefits go to families with children, and most of that goes to families with infants, toddlers, and preschool-age children. Over 80 percent of SNAP families with children have incomes below the poverty line. Eligibility is already strict, and SNAP is limited to the most extreme cases. To receive benefits, needy families and individuals must have net income at or below the poverty level, and those who aren't raising children are limited to three months of benefits in three years unless they work or train 20 hours per week. Families are expected to contribute 30% of their incomes to food purchases before SNAP, and undocumented immigrants are not eligible for SNAP benefits. The work requirements already embedded in law would get much, much tighter under so-called “reform” legislation Jim Jordan introduced last July ( H.R.2832). Let’s be clear: his bill would strip many poor families of access to basic food assistance by ratcheting up the law’s work requirements. Think about the irony of Jordan’s insisting on tough work requirements to qualify for help in feeding kids: A Congressman's salary is $174,000 for working three days a week in Washington! On average, an individual’s monthly SNAP benefit in 2017 was $125.79.

Jim Jordan Doesn't Understand Ohio
Jim Jordan wants to increase work requirements unreasonably for families already struggling to make ends meet. Parents with kids would have to work 80-100 hours/month, and those without kids who didn't meet the 20 hours/week requirement would have benefits cut to one month. Jordan also wants to increase state oversight in punishing families, since they will have to make sure 80 percent of all SNAP parents engage in specified work activities. In meeting those percentage targets, states could count families whose benefits it had cut for failing to meet the work requirement (meaning a state could get as much credit for terminating or reducing a family’s benefits as for placing a parent in a work activity). Jordan’s understanding of his constituents and their economic realities is at best naïve. Consider what he told a conservative news outlet last year: "What you find is, when work requirements are imposed, that people either go get the skillset they need or they're doing some volunteer work or they're doing some job training — they're helping themselves, bettering themselves. Or what typically happens is they'll just say, 'oh I'll just forego the program altogether and I'll just go get a job, or I'll get a second job.' " Here’s the reality: over 60% of households with children that receive SNAP benefits are participating in the workforce, and nearly 90% have someone in the workforce in the prior or subsequent year. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found work requirements for people with cash assistance are largely ineffective at reducing poverty or increasing long-term employment. In Ohio, as described in a recent report by Policy Matters Ohio, a non-profit policy research institute: “Most households with a working age, able-bodied adult have at least one member who works while receiving SNAP.... Not only do SNAP participants work, they work at our nation’s largest companies. SNAP helps put food on the table for the people who work at these companies and make below 130 percent of poverty, or $26,208 annually for a family of three.” The problem with SNAP is not that people aren't working — it's that the jobs they have just don't pay enough to put food on the table. 37,079 households in our district receive SNAP support, down from more than 55,000 in 2015. Of that total, 74.4% of those households are in the labor force. The same research institute found that of Ohio’s 13 most common occupations, eight have a median annual salary that would qualify a family of three for food assistance, given a SNAP eligibility threshold of less than 130 percent of the federal poverty line or $26,208 for a family of three annually. Policies aimed at restricting access to SNAP benefits are not only cruel and destined to fail to increase workforce participation, they fly in the face of research demonstrating the long-term benefits of access to SNAP in childhood. Studies have long shown that SNAP substantially diminishes food insecurity and lifts millions out of poverty. Importantly, new research shows that the program has had long-lasting education and health benefits for children, with substantial increases in high school graduation rates and reduced risk of obesity and other threats to good health. SNAP not only makes a huge difference in families’ economic well-being and health, it’s good for local economies — each dollar in federally funded SNAP benefits generates $1.79 in economic activity.
The Bottom Line
Jim Jordan and the Trump Administration are hawking misguided food-assistance policies, aimed more to cut federal budgets than to make any Americans' lives better. SNAP is a highly effective program that helps hard-working families feed their children, one of the most basic responsibilities of government. There’s no good reason to change its funding structure or eligibility — instead, the program, which is at risk of expiring later this year, should be reauthorized.

Reforming Criminal Justice

March 4, 2018

Friend,
America was founded on the core principle of justice. For the criminal justice system to work, justice needs to be available to everyone. Unfortunately, nowadays justice can be bought; wealthier people face lighter sentences for the same crimes and see lower rates of arrest. Even worse, the government is wasting billions of dollars on inefficient systems that fail to make our communities any safer. The “War on Drugs” has proved to be a failure; drug addiction rates have stayed relatively constant at 1.3% despite the government spending $800 billion dollars. It’s time to reform the system to actually prevent crime, improve our communities, and make the best use of the taxpayer’s money. We need to fight to ensure that the criminal justice system represents everyone equally, regardless of race or income.
Monetary Bail
The monetary bail system in the U.S. targets poor Americans. The harsh reality is that wealthy individuals are allowed to purchase their freedom, regardless of their danger to society, while middle and low income citizens remain in jail. Too often innocent Americans are removed from their jobs, families, and communities and forced to sit in jail to await their trial. This has devastating efforts for the individual; detention can cause them loss of wages and even their employment. A vicious cycle is then created: pretrial detention hurts the individual economically, which dampens their ability to get proper legal counsel, which increases the chance of receiving a harsher sentence. The monetary bail system is also expensive to the state. According to a study, roughly 450,000 people are detained before trial at a cost to U.S. taxpayers of more than $38 million per day. Most of these people are low risk, with many whose charges will eventually be dropped. It makes no sense to spend this much money on people who are not a risk to our communities. If elected, I will go to Congress and present a bill to establish a risk based pretrial system, to ensure that our already overcrowded jails are not filled with poor and innocent citizens.
Capital Punishment
Benjamin Franklin once that that “it is better 100 guilty persons should escape than that one innocent person should suffer”. On that regard, our founding father would be ashamed of our current death penalty policies. A study estimates that 1 in every 25 people are sentenced to death for crimes they did not commit. Ruben Cantu was 17 years old when he was charged with capital murder following a shooting death in an attempted robbery. He was executed in 1993, despite he consistent claims on innocence. Following the case, the key eyewitness said that Cantu was innocent and that he only identified him because of police pressure. The forewoman of the jury and even the prosecutor believe that they put an innocent man to death. Since 1989, there have been nine doubtful cases involving the death penalty in Texas alone. Even if we ignore the state-sanctioned murders of innocent Americans, the death penalty is not effective and a waste of money. Studies have shown that it does not work as a successful deterrence; states with the death penalty even have higher murder rates than states without it. If it is not working, why would we continue to pay an estimated 3 times more for a death penalty case? I would go to Congress and work on abolishing this outdated style of punishment These are just a couple of the initiatives I wanted to highlight in this week's Sunday Issue. The fact of the matter is that there is so much we can and should do to fix our broken criminal justice system. We need to start somewhere, and it is my hope that for these couple points, we can find common ground on both sides of the aisle to implement meaningful change for Ohio and the country.
Looking forward,
Janet

Passing a Responsible National Budget

February 25, 2018

Friend,
This month’s government shutdown ended quickly as Congress agreed on a two year budget. The bill was truly bipartisan: passing with both parties’ support, and losing some Congresspeople on the left and on the right. I first want to commend the legislators for this budget process, for making the kinds of compromise we don’t often see, and winning victories for CHIP, opioid treatment, and disaster relief. But though compromise is essential to functioning government, we shouldn’t forget the issues that were neglected during this fight, especially immigration, and that this new deal increases the deficit substantially. Though budget procedure can seem technical and boring, it’s essential to understanding how a lot of policy is made. I’d like to take a couple of minutes to walk through what’s happening now and highlight a few of my priorities. So grab a cup of coffee and settle in for this week’s Sunday Issue!
What’s Happening Now
On February 8th, Congress passed a budget deal that ended the government shutdown and would fund the government through the next two years. This budget deal is not the final, detailed budget, but rather a stopgap measure that will fund the government through March 23rd, and an agreement broadly of what’ll be in the completed budget. After all of the individual subcommittees complete their appropriations bills, the formal budget will come out next month. It will then be passed by both houses of Congress and signed by President Trump. The deal Congress reached is essentially a huge spending increase--one that raises spending caps for both military spending (traditionally a Republican priority) and domestic spending (a Democratic one). So far, the budget raises total spending caps by $300 billion, raising funding for domestic programs by $128 billion and defense spending by $160 billion. The deal puts money towards CHIP, disaster relief, the Veterans Administration, infrastructure, Community Health Centers, opioid and mental health treatment, and many other issues. Then on Monday, February 12th, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released its own budget proposal. The president’s budget request is mostly a formality--Congress writes and passes the final bill, and last year they mostly ignored the White House’s requests. It looks like they’re on track to do so this year as well, since the White House called for huge cuts, but the Congressional deal raised spending caps significantly. Still, the budget request is an important way to understand the administration's priorities going forward. President Trump’s budget closely resembles the one he put forth last year, but there are some important parts to focus on: President Trump’s bill features massive cuts (42.3%) to all non-defense discretionary spending, including a 33.7% cut to the EPA, 26.9% to the State Department, 22.5% to Medicaid through an “Obamacare replacement bill”, and a 27.4% cut to SNAP. It also makes the tax cut permanent (rather than expiring in 10 years), and increases spending for defense, border security, infrastructure, and veterans. Trump’s budget also doesn’t balance the deficit. His budget expects the economy will grow by 3% next year, up from its current 1.9%, because of the impact of the tax cuts; however, most economists think this number is a stretch. Because the economy already has close to full employment, it’s unlikely growth will accelerate this much. Without the growth the White House is planning for, the deficit gap will not close. It’s normal to have a deficit during a recession, when the government increases spending on safety nets and tax revenues slow down. But the administration is aiming to have a deficit of this size when the economy is not in recession, and while slashing domestic programs--and that’s just irresponsible.
My Priorities
As the federal government continues to navigate its way through this complicated process and specify a budget for the next two years, it’s important to ensure that some of our most pressing priorities are met. First, it’s crucial that we avoid another government shutdown. The American people deserve a Congress that’s willing to compromise in order to ensure that basic services are met. Second, we must remember that responsible defense spending is critical to a smart budget. National security must always remain a top priority, but exorbitant increases in military spending while simultaneously slashing funds for diplomacy and development initiatives through USAID and the State Department is both reckless and shortsighted. A true commitment to U.S. national security means working to build stronger relationships with our allies and working to improve the quality of life of people who inhabit all corners of the globe. American lives are safest when we fulfill global leadership potential and engage with the international community, preventing problems before they arise. Third, we must reform our immigration system, beginning with a solution for DACA recipients, who will lose protection beginning March 5th. Though the Senate has stopped talking about it for the time being, the immigration debate is far from over. Most immediately, we must find a fix for these innocent young people. And lastly, it’s critical that Congress reaffirms its commitment to the Farm Bill, which is due for reauthorization this year. The Farm Bill is responsible for a variety of different programs ranging from rural economic development, natural resource management, and nutrition assistance initiatives like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Ensuring adequate funding for the Farm Bill’s reauthorization this year will be critical to the physical and economic well-being of many Ohioans and millions of other Americans across the country. In Congress, I promise to continue the fight for smarter spending, championing programs and priorities that actually help everyday Americans, rather than blindly cutting essential programs. With your help this November, we can ensure that Ohioans have a responsible voice in next year’s budget process.
Looking forward,
Janet

Combatting Gun Violence

February 18, 2018

“We need to do something. We need to get out there and be politically active. Congress needs to get over their political bias with each other and work toward saving children’s lives...We’re children...You guys are the adults.” David Hogg Senior, Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS
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What happened in Parkland last week is nothing short of horrifying. Having been a teacher and a parent, something like this was always my worst fear. Seeing it play out in Florida has been very painful. My heart has broken over and over again as more details have come out about the shooting. As with any tragedy, my thoughts and prayers immediately went to the victims and their families. But knowing that this has happened time and time again, it was not long before my sadness and horror translated into anger and determination. You see, David (who's only 17) could not be more right. We're the adults - we need to be the ones to figure this out. We need to have those tough conversations. We need to be more politically active. And we need to get over our political biases. The fact of the matter is that we agree more than we disagree. Some politicians will have you believe that all Democrats want to take away your guns. It's just simply not true and plays into the politics of fear.
The United States has around 300 million guns. Gun manufacturers sold, on average, 73,972 guns PER DAY in 2016. Those who will have you believe that it's even possible to confiscate 300 million guns are foolish.
With that being said, we can be a country that embraces the right to bear arms, while also making it a safer country to live in. What's more is that Americans, gun owners included, agree on so many of these initiatives to make the country safer.
The fact that Congress hasn't taken any action even after the tragedies at Columbine, Sandy Hook, Orlando, and many others is shameful. We cannot justify the inaction to the families of the victims at Parkland and we won't be able to justify inaction to the families of the next tragedy. It's clear that we have to do something.
When I am in Congress, these will be the initiatives I will fearlessly back - because when innocent people in public places, and particularly our children, are not safe, Congress must make tough decisions about how we can do better (in the same way that long ago we decided that seat belts needed to be in cars). It's clear that unrestricted and unlimited weapons of war do not have legitimate place in our society. It's time that Congress put the safety of Americans over the interests of the gun lobby.
Looking Forward,
Janet
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Background Checks and Waiting Periods
This is our first bit of common sense. We need universal background checks and waiting periods. It's worth waiting a few days to ensure that whoever is buying a guy is not a criminal or does not have potential criminal intent. A new, widely-praised study found that waiting periods reduce gun homicides by 17% and suicides by 11%, meaning that close to 1000 lives could be saved every year in America if waiting periods were expanded to all states. Waiting periods are believed to allow for the “cooling down” of people and prevent deaths, without actually infringing on citizens’ rights to buy guns. Other studies have shown significant decreases in mortality in states where there are stronger background checks. We need mandatory background checks no matter where a gun is purchased, meaning that we need to close the gun show loophole. More than 90% of Americans support universal background checks, and 75% support a 30-day waiting period. Bump Stocks and High Capacity Magazines Bump stocks, which can be outfitted to semi-automatic weapons and allow them to fire at an almost fully-automatic capability, must be outlawed. Bump stocks were used in the tragic Las Vegas shooting in October 2017, and almost 80% of Americans support banning them. Some states have already moved to outlaw them. Furthermore, high capacity magazines are not necessary for home protection nor for hunting. In 1994, Congress banned magazines that held more than 10 bullets. This regulation expired in 2004. High capacity magazines make these weapons even more deadly than they already are, and should not be available on the open market.
Required Training for Assault Weapons
The massacres of just the last few years show us that we need to increase regulations on AR-15 style firearms. These weapons have been used time and time again to kill large numbers of people. Simply put, it should not be easier to buy an assault rifle than it is to buy a car. By requiring training and a background check, we can keep these weapons out of the hands of those who have no business handling a military style weapon, while also preserving access for those who are willing to go through a reasonable process to own them. Restricting Gun Sales from the Mentally Ill Last year, at the urging of the NRA, President Trump revoked a rule that required the Social Security Administration to report to the FBI records of people that were deemed mentally incapable of managing their financial affairs — about 75,000 people. Surely people who are not mentally stable enough to manage their own money should not have access to a gun. While this may not have prevented the Parkland shooting, we need to be getting smarter about how to practically keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill, not expanding access. Moreover, if we want to better respond to and prevent mass gun shootings, we have got to have better research on what preventative measures work. Part of the reason there isn't a bigger push to enact better gun safety is that federal research on this has been nearly nonexistent since 1996. Jay Dickey was a Republican Congressman from Arkansas and in the 90s led the effort to restrict federal studies on this. Before he passed Dickey had a change of heart and called to lift this ban on research, explaining, “We need to turn this over to science and take it away from politics." I couldn't agree more.
Improving National Background Check System
We must have better enforcement of the existing National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Mandated since 1998, the system is managed by the FBI and is used to determine if a prospective gun buyer is ineligible to purchase or has a criminal record. Prior offenses must be entered in it for it to be effective. Dylann Roof would not have been able to obtain a gun if his narcotics charge were entered in the system. Similarly, Devin Kelley wouldn’t have been able to buy a gun if his domestic violence charges had been entered in the database. There needs to be uniformity in how charges are entered into the database so that mistakes like this do not happen.
Getting Dark Money out of Politics
While it's strange that this needs to be included in a policy memo on combating gun violence, it's clear that dark money from the National Rifle Association (NRA) has prevented these common sense measures from happening. We need to enact comprehensive campaign finance reform so that organizations like the NRA are not able to buy seats in Congress and have undue influence over our politics. What is bad for the gun industry's bottom line cannot have more weight than what Americans agree needs to be legislated.
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These policy proposals can be viewed and shared on our website at this link: http://www.janetgarrett.com/gun-safety

Reforming Healthcare

February 11, 2018

Last week I told you about Rob Lockard’s story, just one of the far too many examples of Americans suffering because of the failures of our insurance market. These failures are disturbingly common in the healthcare market as well. Today I want to focus on our fight to reform Obamacare. Obamacare promised a future where every sick American could get the care that they need. Unfortunately, we have continued to move away from that goal over the last year. I believe in a future where every person in Ohio, and the United States, has reasonable insurance options. This future includes the option of choosing from successful Medicare plans (a viable public option) or plans provided by private insurers. Most importantly, my plan protects the great American tradition of freedom and opportunity. As your representative, I will be dedicated to ensuring that Americans have good healthcare options to choose from at reasonable prices, so that sick Ohioans cannot have their lives ruined by something out of their control.
The Situation in Ohio
In Ohio this year, 42 of the 88 counties in the state will have only one insurer, while an additional 20 counties will see their choices limited to two insurers. This trend is unacceptable. Declining healthcare options are contributing to an already problematic rise in insurance costs which forces Americans to pay more each year. In Ohio costs are expected to continue to rise by more than 10 times the rate of inflation this year. This is happening as the president continues to undermine efforts to reform the healthcare system. Undermining our healthcare market by sabotaging Obamacare hurts every American, but it especially hurts middle class Ohioans who obtain insurance through their employers. These hardworking Ohioans are increasingly being presented with rising costs and very few choices. To be clear, the Affordable Care Act is not responsible for the soaring price of Healthcare. Rates have actually increased less quickly in the last 5 years than they had in the 5 years before the ACA was passed. There needs to be a continued push to reform the healthcare market in the United States to slow down these increases even more. Congress has failed to replace Obamacare, so it's time to pass bipartisan legislation to make the law work.
Pharmaceutical Prices
On top of consistent increases in the cost of insurance, American’s face an onslaught of price increases from pharmaceutical companies. This increase in the cost of medicine is a driving factor for increases in the cost of insurance. When Pharmaceutical companies charge insurers more for drugs, insurers charge more to consumers. This has come in many forms, but the bottom line is consumers are paying more for the medicine that they need. Prescriptions for things like epipens that have saved countless lives have increased rapidly and this is unacceptable. By increasing access to pharmaceuticals through more market competition and by opening up access to medicare there will be pressure on pharmaceutical companies to lower the prices on lifesaving medication. There also must be reforms against changes in tax policy that eliminates tax deductions for medical expenses which will devastate low and middle income Americans who are already struggling to deal with serious healthcare challenges.
Expanding Medicare
One of the most promising reforms for Obamacare is an option that includes a Medicare buy-in. Increasing access to this popular program will be a huge step towards universal coverage. This would mean more people could take advantage of a successful government plan that decreases both healthcare and administrative costs for its users. On top of that, more than half of Americans on Medicare report receiving excellent care. This is significantly more than the 33% of Americans who report getting excellent care from their private insurers. Americans who pay into Medicare should be able to take advantage of the program’s benefits. This just makes sense. Why hide a plan that works?
Read Janet’s policy position on healthcare markets at our website, here.

Rob Lockard's Story

February 4, 2018

After serving our country as a member of the Air Force, Rob Lockard got a good job working hard to support his family. Up until three years ago he was a member of the middle class. Rob even had insurance with Lincoln National Life Insurance company in case anything ever happened to him. Today, Rob can’t afford to pay for his electric or heating bills, much less for furniture, car repairs, or doctor’s appointments. Rob and his family did nothing wrong, but like far too many Americans, Rob and they fell victim to an insurance market that is rigged against them.
Rob’s battle with cancer and with Lincoln National
Three years ago, Rob was diagnosed with cancer. Fortunately, during the first round of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy doctors were able to eradicate Rob’s tumor. Unfortunately, shortly after the treatment ended, Rob began to experience excruciating bone, shoulder, and neck pain. His condition deteriorated and eventually the Social Security Administration decided that Rob was disabled and unable to work. Though Rob intended to return to work, there was no way that he could continue as a saw operator. He was forced to stop working and start taking disability benefits in July of 2015.
As a part of the insurance plan that he had paid into through his employer for years, Rob was covered with disability benefits in the event of a disaster. However, when disaster struck, Rob discovered that his insurance company would instead do everything in their power to avoid paying coverage to Rob and his family. Lincoln National cut Rob’s benefits on June 5, 2017.
The Bigger Problem
After looking into Rob’s experience, we learned that Lincoln National’s decision to terminate benefits like this is not uncommon. Their decision follows a predatory tactic of eliminating benefits without providing independent medical evaluations for policyholders. Contrary to the Social Security Administration’s ruling, Lincoln National repeatedly claimed that Rob was not disabled. As a result, Rob could not afford to return to the doctor to receive official reports on his condition. In cases like Rob’s, insurance companies like Lincoln National know that it will be extremely difficult for their customers to challenge them in court. This is particularly true when these customers are struggling to pay their medical bills and keep up with rent, mortgages, or other expenses. Even more disturbingly, under legislation called ERISA, insurance companies are protected from lawsuits where policy holders allege misconduct on the part of the insurance company. This combination of incentives and flawed legislation makes cases like Rob’s far too common and far too difficult to rectify on a case by case basis.
ERISA
The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) was passed in 1974 and was intended to standardize health, retirement, and disability policies among private insurers. One of the primary failures of ERISA is that is affords insurance providers “discretionary” oversight. "Discretionary" oversight is usually reserved for government agencies, whose mission is to serve the public. Unfortunately, ERISA allows private for-profit companies “discretionary” status, making it incredibly difficult for normal people to challenge any violations of the contracts these insurance companies have with their clients. For people like Rob, this means that insurance companies are almost always forced to settle the claims against them for half of what they owe their policyholders. This means that policyholders never receive the payments that they were promised, and the settlement also almost always includes a non-disclosure clause that prevents Americans like Rob from discussing how they have been wronged. When it’s all said and done, companies get away with paying out half of what they owe to policy holders like Rob and ensuring his silence through nondisclosure agreements. Americans everywhere should be outraged.

Solutions
In Congress we would advocate for two major policy changes to protect the many people like Rob who have been wronged by companies like Lincoln National. Today, Lincoln National is one of the largest disability insurance providers in the country. It is more important now, than ever, to stop Lincoln National’s predatory policies. As such we propose:
1.) Increasing resources for state insurance commissioners to ensure that they investigate insurance providers and hold them accountable for predatory policies. In a few states, insurance commissioners have lead successful lawsuits, however, this problem needs national attention. This will help ensure that insurance providers are aware that they will be held accountable for violations of contract.
2.)We also propose reforming ERISA to take away “discretionary” status for insurance providers. As a result, companies would not be granted legal protections that should be reserved for public agencies. This would help policyholders keep insurance companies accountable.
As your congresswoman I will fight to protect the little guy - people like Rob Lockard. Unfortunately, until I am in Congress, there’s only so much that I can do. However, in this campaign I won’t be held back by partisanship. I will continue to fight for people like Rob Lockard to ensure that their representatives in Congress are actually willing to listen to them and to address their problems.
We have put together a GoFundMe to help Rob and his family pay their bills and make it through the winter as they fight against Lincoln Financial. Please help them by donating anything you can here: https://www.gofundme.com/help-the-lockard-family-stay-afloat

Promoting Fair Trade

January 28, 2018

Americans all across the country, including right here in Ohio, have begun to face the grim reality that the economic ladder leading to the middle class is broken. By understanding the complexities of international trade and using its economic power to our advantage, Janet will support policies meant to repair that ladder, paving the way for every Ohioan to achieve the American Dream.
International Trade: The Basics
International trade is complex, confusing, and difficult to pin down even for those who have dedicated their lives to studying it. If leveraged carefully, international trade deals can create jobs right here in Ohio. At the same time, bad trade deals and policy can discourage economic investment here at home. Smart negotiators recognize both of these realities, and Janet knows that a dynamic solution to the question of free trade will include many different components and considerations.
NAFTA
Janet pledges to help Congress engage in productive, not antagonistic, dialogue with our allies in Canada and Mexico, renegotiating outdated aspects of NAFTA by using empirical facts rather than conjecture to benefit all Americans – businesses, workers, and consumers alike.
Automation and Social Mobility
The Great Recession of 2007-08 crippled the American economy, resulting in a loss of almost 9 million jobs; a decade later we are still recovering. Additionally, over the last two decades increased technological advancement and automation have drastically altered the job market, leading to massive losses in working class manufacturing jobs, a reality known all too well here in Ohio.
By recognizing that automation, not international trade, poses the most imminent threat to American workers, Janet can begin to champion policy initiatives that address the root causes of economic deprivation, enacting change that will make life better for all hard-working Americans.
In 2016, the US CEA reported that 83% of current jobs paying less than $20 per hour could be automated. With this in mind, Congress should work to deregulate sectors of the economy that are growing. This allows American workers to take advantage of new professional opportunities like ridesharing services, while simultaneously working to slash senseless regulations that prevent American workers from pursuing alternate career paths. Janet supports pursuing these common-sense policies in tandem with updating our international trade agreements, resulting in a more comprehensive policy that is capable of providing short and long term solutions to the economic issues plaguing America today.
The only way to leverage the massive benefits that international trade offers, however, is to ensure that American workers have the skills to fill the jobs it creates. The federal government must help those disenfranchised by our economy to take advantage of these opportunities by providing new pathways for mobility and job training.
Next Steps
It’s important to include automation and social mobility in discussions of trade, because if trade is not the major cause of job loss in the United States, then protectionism is not a solution to our current economic issues. In fact, protectionism may even exacerbate issues of economic inequality. Apparel, for example, is produced at significantly lower costs abroad. Enacting protectionist trade policies to save the small fraction of jobs in the apparel industry (135,000 in 2017) would drastically increase clothing prices for American consumers, causing much more harm than good.
To ensure US consumers have access to affordable, high quality products without jeopardizing opportunities for American businesses to compete in the international market, Janet pledges to demand that all trading partners abide by the highest of standards. If countries, including China, continue to pursue unfair trade practices, Janet will hold them accountable by using the power of the US economy to protect American interests. The United States must enforce the trade agreements in which currency devaluation, environmental degradation, discriminatory pricing, market flooding, and the abuse of workers are not allowed. Janet will fight to prevent any rapid increases in imports that can harm communities that produce substitute goods, a surefire way of preserving the remaining manufacturing jobs supporting so many local families
When it comes down to it, Janet recognizes that global trade hasn’t lived up the expectations of millions of Americans. But she also recognizes the immense potential the United States has to leverage the power of international to better the lives of all Americans and improve America’s standing in the world.
Read Janet’s full policy position on trade, here.

Enhancing the American Education System

January 21st, 2018

A lifelong special education and kindergarten teacher, Janet knows that education is a critical ladder for social mobility. That’s why education reform will be one of her top priorities in Congress, as she focuses on expanding opportunity from pre-k to college and ensuring that teachers have the resources to help their students the best ways they can.
Early Childhood Education
By the time children enter kindergarten, there are already wide achievement gaps on reading and cognitive assessment by racial and socioeconomic lines. Janet supports universal preschool and early childhood education to help close this gap, so every student starts kindergarten on the same level--ready to learn, not further behind. In Congress, Janet will fight for funding to expand Head Start and other early childhood education programs across the country.
Standardized Testing
In the age of high-stakes standardized testing, Janet believes that there is too much time in classrooms spent teaching to the test, which ultimately takes away from students’ time to learn. Janet supports education reform that moves away from high-stakes testing, and looks at other metrics for student achievement and improvement. From her own classroom experience, Janet believes that teachers know their students better than anyone else can. Teachers should be empowered to have more autonomy in the classroom, to reflect their students’ individual needs and how they learn. Janet will push to allocate more funding to the classroom to give teachers the flexibility they need to teach their students how they know best.
Higher Education
Higher education is more important than ever to secure a good income and provide for one’s family. However, the cost of college is proving to be a barrier to many talented high school students, who will graduate college with an average of $30,000 in loans. Janet will work to increase federal student aid, and encourage legislation that will cap loan payments based on income. Janet will also push for tighter regulations on predatory student loans providers, many of which are being sued for unlawful practices.

Combatting the Opioid Epidemic

January 14, 2018

Every single day 14 Ohioans overdose on opioids, and this number is rising - Ohio’s opioid death toll saw a 33% increase between 2015 and 2016 alone. For too long, Rep. Jim Jordan has been willfully negligent of the problem, being averse to using any government funds to address the issue. Janet supports federal legislation that would combat the epidemic head on by providing funding to support community organizing, public education campaigns, treatment programs, and increased law enforcement and judicial programs designed to heal addicts and protect society.
Community Organizing
To beat a problem this large, we must all work together. One of Janet’s first step as representative would be to convene a committee of our district’s community leaders. This group would include school district officials, health care workers, judges, and members of law enforcement. This task force will allow for streamlined communication between all of those who are fighting the common enemy of opioid deaths. Janet will take input from this task force and utilize it to argue, on the floor of Congress, for action. It will ensure that our district is approaching this daunting task from all angles and finding a solution that works for everyone.
Prevention
Any solution to the opioid crisis must also focus on public education. For this reason, Janet supports the Attorney General’s plan to implement a K-12 drug prevention education program in all schools and run a statewide drug prevention media campaign. It is imperative to reach children, both in and out of school, while they are young to show them the dangers of abusing opioids. By setting the mindset early to avoid misuse of opioid drugs, we can save lives.
Treatment
Janet believes that our role does not stop with preventative measures. There needs to be steps taken to help those already affected by addiction. One way Janet would accomplish this is by making Naloxone readily available. Naloxone is the medicine used to save the lives of those who overdosed on opioids. All of our first responders should have Naloxone and be trained to administer it. Pharmacists should also have the discretion to give Naloxone to those who have been trained by drug therapy groups and are caregivers to those fighting addiction. Janet would also make strategic partnerships with clean syringe programs that already exist in Ohio. This would help reduce the rate of HIV - one that has been rising in recent years. Lastly, integrating back into society after an opioid addiction is difficult and can cause people to fall back into the deadly cycle of drug abuse. Janet supports a program to incentivize business owners to hire recovering addicts and give them a way to provide for themselves.
Law Enforcement
Any successful drug prevention program needs the help of law enforcement. Janet would work to connect local law enforcement to Ohio’s Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and strengthen their lines of communication. Through this, local law enforcement will be able to track illicit drugs with greater certainty and stop the influx of illegal opioids into our community. Janet also supports the construction of drug courts. These would be similar to criminal courts, but work to focus on reducing the chance of relapse in addiction and recidivism from crime. It would seek to funnel non-violent drug offenders into substance abuse programs as opposed to jail. These drug court have proved effect and even have saved costs ranging from $3,000 to $13,000 per client.