Lehner Announces Enactment of Anti-Bullying Legislation

February 3, 2012

COLUMBUS – State Senator Peggy Lehner (R – Kettering) today applauded the enactment of House Bill 116, a measure to curb the growing and dangerous problem of bullying in Ohio’s schools.

Sponsored by Representative John Barnes (D – Cleveland), the bill received strong bipartisan support from Republicans and Democrats in both legislative chambers. As Chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, Senator Lehner played a key role in crafting the final version of the bill and seeing its passage in the upper chamber.

Also known as the “Jessica Logan Act” in memory of a young woman who recently took her own life after being the target of devastating acts of bullying, the legislation calls on school districts to strengthen anti-bullying policies by defining “electronic acts” of harassment and extending them to the realm of “cyberbullying.” Annual reviews and in-service staff training will also be conducted to ensure that school personnel are kept up to speed regarding the newest technologies associated with bullying. Additionally, parents will be notified of changes to school policies and will be encouraged to work along with the schools in enforcing its provisions.

“Parents and educators alike play a valuable role in seeing that this sort of behavior among our children is not tolerated,” Lehner said. “I would like to thank my colleagues from both sides of the aisle for recognizing the importance and urgency of this legislation.”

House Bill 116 was signed into law this afternoon by Governor John Kasich.

Containing the Problem of E-Waste

January 24, 2012

Much like the rest of the world, Ohio has benefited from a number of extraordinary advances in technology. These changes have allowed us to become more productive, and in many ways, have afforded us greater ease in our daily lives. Unfortunately, there has been a growing downside associated with this rapid technological change as millions of obsolete electronic devices, known as electronic waste, has been piling up in households and communities throughout America.

Recent estimates show that 17.3 million tons of computer-related waste has accumulated over the past 30 years. Not only has this E-waste accounted for mountains of old, out-dated electronic equipment, but it is beginning to pose a grave threat to the quality of our land, air, and water.

Many of these devices often contain substantial amounts of toxic materials like lead and mercury, and it has become clear that something must be done in order to address this situation.

Fortunately, through recycling, not only is it possible to abate much of the threat posed by outdated electronics, but we can reclaim and reuse most of the raw materials. On average, 98-percent of a computer is recyclable. From the plastic or aluminum casing to the internal metal circuitry, we can recycle nearly every component contained in these products.

That is why I recently introduced legislation to tackle this relatively new, yet growing, problem. I was approached by Dell Computer to work on this legislation. Dell has been a leader in promoting company responsibility for recycling their products and they have been joined by many other manufactures in this effort. I think it is really admirable that the industry itself is taking the lead in this initiative.

Senate Bill 253 provides the public with a convenient, free and market driven means to responsibly dispose of unwanted electronic equipment. If enacted, the measure would require any manufacturer who sells computer equipment in Ohio to create a free take-back program to recycle e-waste. There are also provisions in place to ensure that consumers are provided with information on how to properly dispose of the out-dated equipment that is currently being stored in attics and basements across the state. Consumers can be assured that all products will be safely recycled and any toxic materials appropriately handled.

Thus far, 25 other states have considered similar legislation and I believe that this bill proposes best possible fit for Ohio in that it balances environmental and business concerns while remaining exceptionally consumer-friendly. The time has come to deal with Ohio’s e-waste problem and I ask that you join me in voicing your support on this legislation.

Lehner Announces New Funding for Patient Centered Care

January 18, 2012

COLUMBUS – State Senator Peggy Lehner (R – Kettering) today took part in announcing that $1 million in Ohio Medicaid funding will be made available for the implementation of Ohio’s Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) model of care. As a member of the Ohio House, Lehner sponsored House Bill 198 which established the PCMH Education Pilot Project.

The legislation and its pilot project provided the framework to better coordinate the care and services provided at 44 primary care practices throughout Ohio. The new funding resource offers the plan an added boost as it will expand the pilot project by adding six additional practices.

“These forty-four practices will be the classrooms for providers to learn how to become PCMH practitioners,” Lehner said. “While serving in the House, I was convinced that the Patient Centered Medical Home model was the future of medicine and that the proper funding would follow.”

Joining Senator Lehner at the announcement was Greg Moody, Director of the Office of Health Transformation; Angela Cornelius Dawson, Executive Director of the Ohio Commission on Minority Health and a member of the Ohio Patient-Centered Primary Care Collaborative; Dr.
Paul Grundy of the IBM Health Care Transformation and President of the national Patient-Centered Primary Care Collaborative; and Dr. Randy Wexler of OSU Family Medicine at CarePoint.

This afternoon’s press conference was held in the Ladies’ Gallery of the Ohio Statehouse.

Lehner Takes on E-Recycling Issue Before Senate Bill

January 10, 2012

COLUMBUS –State Senator Peggy Lehner (R – Kettering) today offered sponsor testimony on Senate Bill 253, which would establish a consumer-friendly and efficient method for the recycling and reuse of electronic equipment. The bill is being heard before the Senate Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources Committee.

Under the proposed plan, manufacturers will be required to establish take-back programs in order to conduct business in Ohio. The purpose of such programs will be to assist in the effective and responsible recycling or disposal of electronic products.

The past three decades saw a significant increase in both the sale of electronic products and the amount of waste produced by such products. Recent statistics indicate that as of 2009, 72% of computer-related products are either no longer in use or ready to be recycled. When translated into pounds, that percentage is responsible for 17.3 million tons of waste.

“Passage of this bill would be a big win for both consumers and our environment,” Lehner said. “Ohio consumers will incur absolutely no cost in the creation of these take-back programs, and we will finally have a responsible manner for disposing of e-waste.” Thus far, 25 states have already enacted laws dealing with E-recycling.

A Focus on Ohio’s Children

December 12, 2011

For well over a century, members of the General Assembly have taken great pride in maintaining the legislature as a place for respectful and constructive debate. It is an unfortunate truth, however, that this healthy dialogue sometimes leads to partisan gridlock and ideological polarization. But, despite the differing stances we often hold, there remains a wealth of topics that unite lawmakers from both sides of the aisle.

Three fellow legislators and I recently closed the political ocean to take action on an issue that seemingly all of our state’s residents hold dear – Ohio’s children. Last week, alongside Rep. Ted Celeste (D-Grandview Heights), Sen. Nina Turner (D-Cleveland), and Rep. Dave Hall (R-Millersburg), I took part in announcing the legislature’s firstever Children’s Caucus. In doing so, we have taken a bold step in creating a bipartisan panel to tackle challenges facing a truly nonpartisan cause.

The Children’s Caucus plans to identify innovative, effective ways to help the 2.7 million children who live in Ohio. The four of us will work closely with a variety of experts and stakeholders to lead an ongoing dialogue centered on improving the lives of our youngest residents. In turning this work into sound policy proposals, we hope to produce measurable outcomes that will assist in guiding these children into the future.

Recent times have given way to an increasingly complex world and younger generations find themselves facing no real shortage of challenges. Areas such as education, child health and care, juvenile justice, poverty, and economic security will all be placed at the forefront of our work. An informed and comprehensive approach to dealing with these issues is essential in ensuring that all of Ohio’s children are provided with a pathway to prosper in the years ahead.

The aspirations and dreams of children often define a society. No matter the political party or economic circumstance, there is no acceptable excuse for neglecting the wellbeing of our young. Through the charge of the Children’s Caucus, a steady eye will now be focused on what is truly important. By investing our ideas and resources into the lives of the young, it will unequivocally be demonstrated that Ohio is dedicated to working on behalf of its youth.

Political ‘Odd Couple’ to Chair New Bipartisan Children’s Caucus

Posted in the Dayton Daily News
December 13, 2011
William Hershey, Reporter

COLUMBUS — Maybe there is some common ground at the Statehouse in this season of good will, glad tidings and hopes of big bucks’ Christmas shopping to wake up the economy.

Sen. Peggy Lehner and state Rep. Ted Celeste think so, even if they make a political odd couple.

They’re odd because they’re not fighting with each other.

That’s all the rage around Columbus.

Lehner, from Kettering, is a Republican. Celeste, from suburban Columbus, is a Democrat.

Last week they were named to jointly chair the legislature’s new bipartisan Children’s Caucus.

There are other issue-oriented caucuses at the Statehouse and Lehner acknowledges that it’s hard to measure whether they get much done. “I don’t see a lot come out of it,” she said.

This could be different, she and Celeste said.

Even Republican Gov. John Kasich seems interested. After a luncheon to launch the caucus, six representatives from Kasich’s administration approached her about helping, said Lehner.

“We are aware of the group and are very interested in hearing what they have to say,” Rob Nichols, Kasich’s spokesman, said in an email.

Gayle Channing Tenenbaum, who’s been advocating for children at the Statehouse for 30 years, said there’s a reason for everyone’s interest, beyond the natural desire to help kids.

The welfare of Ohio’s 2.7 million children is directly related to the economy, said Tenenbaum, director of policy and governmental affairs for the Public Children Services Association of Ohio.

To learn, kids must be healthy. If they don’t learn, they can’t work. And if they don’t work, they’ll be a drain, not a boost, to the economy.

“Children in poverty come to school so far behind they never catch up,” said Lehner.

“We can predict how many are going to drop out of high school…. All of that can be remediated by good early childhood programs.”

The time is beyond right. Take your pick of data assembled by groundWork, a Cleveland-based campaign to make high quality early care and education available to all Ohio children, from birth through 6.

• In 2009, there were about 570,000 Ohio children living below the federal poverty line, an increase of 75,000 from two years earlier.

• Ohio was ranked 36th out of 50 states for the “potential for children to lead healthy lives” in a report released by the Commonwealth Fund in 2011.

• In 2010, about 20 percent — 24,000 — of Ohio’s entering kindergartners tested significantly below target school readiness levels according to a state education department assessment.

Tenenbaum has known Celeste, brother of former Gov. Richard F. Celeste, since 1970. She met Lehner after the Kettering lawmaker won election to the House in 2008. Although Lehner had served on Kettering City Council, she was best known as a staunch pro-life opponent of abortion and had been president of Ohio Right to Life.

Tenenbaum, who like Celeste supports abortion, said Lehner’s advocacy starts before a child is born and continues through high school, college and beyond.

Lehner is her “go-to-person” on children’s issues in the Senate, said Tenenbaum

She admired Lehner’s tenacity in getting an amendment removed from a bill earlier this year that Tenenbaum said would have stigmatized a child put into foster care.

If the child had been in trouble, the amendment would have required making neighborhood notifications similar to those made when sexual predators move in, said Lehner.

“She fought like a tiger over her cub to get that language removed,” said Tenenbaum.

Education Reform in Ohio Examined

On August 11, I was asked to represent Ohio at a competition held in Washington, DC by the Thomas Fordham Foundation to determine which of five states (Florida, Indiana, Wisconsin, Illinois and Ohio) had enacted the most significant education reforms in 2011. Each state was given six minutes to present their case followed by questions from a panel. Below are excerpts from my presentation.

Ohio is certainly not a newcomer to education reform…. We have been out in front of school choice for some time with over 350 charter schools and one of the nation’s largest voucher programs. At the same time Ohio provides clear evidence that school choice alone does not equate to any significant improvement in school quality. While there has been considerable attention in Ohio to the creation and governance of charter schools, it is becoming increasing clear that until quality becomes the driving factor throughout our system that we run the risk of merely making change for change’s sake.

Current reform efforts in Ohio are being redirected to focus on quality. Regardless of the “setting”, student learning must be our primary focus. Underperforming schools and/or teachers will not be tolerated. The achievement gap must be bridged but not at the expense of further watering down curriculum or lowering expectations. College remediation rates of 50% or higher are simply unacceptable. All children must become proficient in reading and basic math before they ever leave the 3rd grade.

Our first crack at addressing some of these issues was reflected in the biennial budget process just completed in June. Ohio’s biennial budget is not merely a financial document but is also the primary policy document for the Governor. Gov. Kasich is a very reformed minded leader and even while facing an $8 billion deficit, was not hesitant about including numerous education reforms in the budget. While traditionally the budget is the first order of business in a new GA, Ohio’s collective bargaining reform bill SB 5, was dropped weeks ahead of the budget. While SB 5 went far beyond education reform, the bill did away with the use of “last in, first out” policies to determine teacher layoffs and replaced seniority pay with a performance driven evaluation and performance system.

Enacting education reform via the legislative process is not easy. Reforms can be easily sabotaged by political posturing. For example it is really interesting how the Democrats in Illinois unanimously supported legislation very similar to what they unanimously opposed in Ohio.

Substantial reform also requires a level of knowledge about an issue that is unrealistic to expect in a diverse legislative body. Once a bill leaves a sponsors hand it will be worked and reworked at numerous stages of the legislative process which makes careful reform work very difficult to accomplish. As the chairman of the Senate education committee and a member of the Finance committee I was asked to be the point person for education issues in the budget process. I made a concerted effort to reach out to members of the education community to get valuable input on some of the more technical issues. We also brought some of the leading figures in education reform to Ohio to provide expert testimony on key provisions in the bill.

The process of education reform in Ohio is still very much a work in progress. We certainly did not get everything done in the budget that needs to get done. A referendum on SB 5 looms this fall however some of the more critical pieces of education reform such as developing a teacher evaluation system and ending LIFO were substantially included in the budget. While opportunities for new charter schools to open were created we also took steps to assure that failing schools of any kind would be closed and chronically underperforming sponsors would be unable to open additional schools. The availability of vouchers were greatly expanded but an effort to hold voucher schools more accountable was deleted and will be the subject for future legislation. A new Special Needs scholarship program modeled after Florida’s successful McKay Scholarship has been instituted, allowing up to 13,000 students with special needs to attend schools that can better provide for them. A framework and timeline for teacher evaluation was put in place and teachers are starting to come to the table to help flesh out the details. Ohio has been a strong supporter of the Common Core Standards and the budget provides resources to the Dept of Ed to implement the standards. Teach for America will soon be coming to Ohio for the first time.

Faced with some significant challenges the amount of education reform that has taken place in Ohio over the past six months is truly remarkable however we view it as only the beginning. Efforts are underway to create a more unified education system that better links early childhood, K-12 and post secondary education. Creating quality will be the driving factor behind school choice including in the new realm of technology based innovation. The stars are definitely well aligned for some truly innovative reforms in Ohio and while we may not win today I can assure you we will be hard to beat in the months ahead.

Lehner Annouces “Ohio Viable Infants Protection Act” Approved by Senate

April 6, 2011

COLUMBUS — State Senator Peggy Lehner (R- Kettering) announced today that the Ohio Senate voted to approve Senate Bill 72, legislation that would prohibit abortions once the viability of the child has been confirmed. “Abortions can currently be performed in Ohio up to the moment of birth, but many doctors agree that a child can live outside the womb after just 22-24 weeks,” Lehner said. “This bill will prevent late-term abortions – which are done when the child has a good chance of surviving and is old enough to feel pain – and help better protect our youngest and most vulnerable citizens.”

Under Senate Bill 72, if a pregnant woman seeking an abortion is at 20 weeks gestation or older, the doctor must test the child to see if he or she is viable. If the determination is made that the child is viable, an abortion cannot be performed except in the case of a medical emergency, in which case the abortion must be performed where there is a neonatal care facility and done using the method that is most likely to permit the child to survive. In addition, another doctor must be present to care for the child.

The bill also requires doctors to report on circumstances that still allow an abortion to take place, and holds physicians accountable for failing to determine viability prior to performing later-term abortions. Lehner noted that 39 other states have enacted a form of legislation limiting post-viability abortions.

Senate Bill 72 now moves to the Ohio House for further consideration.

Legislative Update

The much anticipated state budget was released in bits and pieces over the past ten days but as of this moment the “Red Book” has yet to be released.  The Red Book is the narrative for the budget that really lays out the Governors priorities and explains how the hundreds of line items in the budget relate to each other.  As predicted, this is a budget full of deep cuts and sweeping reforms.  Without the Red book, a lot of analysis of the budget is really just a guessing game so it probably would be best to hold off detailed comments until next month.

One thing we do know for sure is that our school districts are going to see some deep cuts.  This was inevitable given that two years ago Governor Strickland used one time federal stimulus dollars to mask significant cuts in GRF funding for schools while simultaneously imposing millions of dollars worth of new mandates on the districts.   As Chairman of the Senate Education Committee and a member of the Finance Committee I know that this spring will be filled with some very tough choices.  It is critical to the future of Ohio that we have a high quality education system. There is no reason why Ohio’s school can’t be among the finest in the nation.  To make that happen however, especially in light of serious budget constraints, we must focus on those things that we know really make a difference in the classroom.

There is ample evidence that the number one factor in student performance (over which we have any control) is the quality of the teacher in the classroom.  We cannot control the home the student comes from but we can control the environment the child steps into when he or she arrives at school.   A highly motivated, well trained and effective teacher can make all the difference in the life of a child.  A quality teacher far outweighs class size, length of the day, condition of the building or any other factor in producing growth in learning. 

One of the most important aspects of Senate Bill 5, the collective bargaining legislation, is that it replaces a contract based solely on seniority with one which requires that teachers be judged first and foremost by their effectiveness in the classroom.  Continuing contracts will be contingent on performance and only secondarily on seniority.  A teacher who is performing well in the classroom will have job protection, an ineffective teacher will not.   How effectiveness is measured is something we need the teaching profession to tell us but under Senate Bill 5 a district must develop those tools. 

I know this change in focus is very scary to teachers but it is absolutely critical to the quality of education in our state.  Dr. Eric Hanushek, a widely respected Stanford economist recently testified at a combined meeting of the Ohio House and Senate Education committee that if we were to purge the 5% of least effective teachers in our nation’s schools the total economic impact to the nation overtime would be $100 TRILLION dollars.  (To better understand how he arrived at this incredible conclusion I refer you to the book Schoolhouses, Courthouses and Statehouses).

Senate Bill 5 is only one step that we will be taking in the legislature this year to assure that every child in Ohio has access to a quality education.  For some students it may mean a voucher to a non-public school, for others it may mean attending a Charter school.  For the vast majority of students however, most of whom will attend a traditional public school, it means an emphasis on a quality teacher in every classroom.

Lehner Talks Money Woes

Peggy Lehner speaks to the crowd at the Christian Life Center in Vandalia.

Appeared in the Kettering-Oakwood Time on March 10, 2011 by staff writer Phil Collins

Life is full of scary numbers. For instance, the numbers 40 to 60 tend to be associated with depression, at least for those who have experienced the dreaded midlife crisis. Another example is Revelation 13:18, which identifies 666 as the number of the beast.

While Ohio might not be experiencing a midlife crisis or the apocalypse, the state has a scary number of its own… $8 billion. That daunting figure represents Ohio’s looming deficit and it was the chief focus of a presentation by Senator Peggy Lehner (R-Kettering) at Christian Life Center in Vandalia last Friday.

Lehner made little effort to soften the blow of her message, characterizing Ohio’s budget dilemma as a “horrendous problem.” According to the Senator, the magnitude of the state deficit easily overwhelms the average citizen.

“People don’t understand just how big $8 billion is,” Lehner said. “The entire budget’s approximately $50 billion. So, when you don’t have eight out of 50, you’re in a pretty darn deep hole.”

Amid the upheaval of the current economic downturn, there have been intimations of a new age of austerity. The most pervasive symptom of such an age is the implementation of painful budget cuts. Yet, according to Lehner, even the deepest of cuts will not adequately reduce the deficit.

“I’ve been told that you can fire every single state employee, shut down every prison in the state of Ohio and send all of the prisoners home, and you would only hit $4 billion,” Lehner said. “That gives you some idea of just how big this is.”

Lehner stated that Governor John Kasich’s forthcoming budget remains shrouded in uncertainty. Yet, it is sure to usher in substantial changes. The nebulous nature of those changes aside, Lehner contended that overhauling the system will be absolutely crucial.

“No one knows what this governor’s budget is going to look like,” Lehner said. “He has promised us that it is going to be full of major, major reforms. We can’t cut our way out of $8 billion. We can’t tax our way out of $8 billion. The only way that we’re going to really be able to change the game is if we change how the game’s played, which means we have to have major reforms across the board at every level of government. That’s what you’re seeing right now is a whole series of major, major game changers.”

Enumerating the major game changers, Lehner began with an examination of a piece of legislation dubbed “Jobs Ohio.” These legislation is designed to reform the Department of Development. According to the Senator, several parties have voiced their discontent with this particular department of the state bureaucracy.

“This has been a department that people have complained about,” Lehner said. “They found it slow. They found it non-responsive. They kept businesses that should have come to Ohio ending up in other states.”

In support of this contention, Lehner cited the now-infamous departure of National Cash Register on June 2, 2009. After operating in Dayton for 125-years, NCR abruptly announced plans to relocate to Georgia. One of the early researchers for NCR was Charles Kettering, who eventually went on to found Dayton Engineering Laboratories (DELCO). In a sense, the loss of NCR also represented the loss of Ohio’s innovative spirit.

“NCR (National Cash Register) is probably the best example because the Department of Development in Georgia did everything possible did everything possible to make their state attractive to the company,” Lehner said. “Not so much here in Ohio. So, a lot of people thought that this was a department that had to be reformed.”

According to Lehner, the reforms that Kasich has planned for the Department of Development are broad and sweeping.

“This governor isn’t nibbling at the edges,” Lehner said. “He has taken a top-to-bottom look at the Department of Development.”

Lehner stated that, in addition to the overhaul of the Department of Development, there are extensive plans for regulatory reforms. Lehner argued that such reforms will be necessary in order to make Ohio more attractive to businesses.

“We have to get rid of the tens of thousands of rules and regulations that make doing business in Ohio tough,” Lehner said.

Pension reform was yet another initiative mentioned by Lehner. The Senator contended that all five of Ohio’s public pension plans are not fiscally sound and are in need of revision.

“In order to do that, the age at which one can retire and be fully invested in the pension plan has to be moved up,” Lehner said. “For a fireman, it’s 48 right now. It’s probably going to go to 52… Teachers are going to have to work until they’re 60. Right now, it’s 58. Those changes are going to have to be made to pension plans. Some people are not going to be happy, but we’re looking at $8 billion and there’s tough choices that have to be made.”

Lehner segued into Senate Bill Four, which deals with performance audits. According to Lehner, such audits are designed to streamline government departments and foster efficiency.

“This one is particularly critical because it says that every single department of government, from the top down, has to look at what they’re doing and how they’re doing it,” Lehner said. “We knew that there’s a return. For every dollar spent on a performance audit, it’s anticipated that we’ll get $24 back in savings. That’s pretty substantial. So, every department is going to have to review how it’s doing things and why it’s doing them.”

Then, Lehner entered the fray that surrounds Senate Bill Five, which broaches the touchy subject of collective bargaining rights. Of course, this issue prompted heated furor in Wisconsin, where progressive political activism is a long-standing tradition. While that tradition is not quite as pronounced in Ohio, there were still voices of protest.

“Senate Bill Five has been very difficult,” Lehner said. “I’m not used to having 5,000 or 6,000 people outside my office screaming day in and day out. That’s tough. That’s very tough to endure.”

Given the passionate views surrounding this issue, Lehner prefaced her examination of Senate Bill Five with a disclaimer.

Lehner said, “We value our teachers. We value our policemen. We value our firemen. We value the people that built our streets and protect our streets and repair our streets. We value the nurses in our hospitals. These are all very, very important people to keep our government functioning. They provide services that are important.”

With this disclaimer out of the way, Lehner launched into a well-oiled assault on the excesses of collective bargaining agreements, which she contends have led to a fiscally unsustainable state of affairs.

“However, over the years, various collective bargaining agreements have piled program upon program, benefit upon benefit, to the point that, frankly, they are bankrupting many of our cities, schools, and counties,” Lehner said. “We simply cannot afford the level of benefits that are being paid out.”

Lehner argued that Senate Bill Five does not abolish collective bargaining rights. The Senator stated that union employees can still negotiate wages, hours, and terms and conditions of employment. Yet, the bill still presents certain restrictions to collective bargaining, particularly negotiations concerning healthcare policies and plans.

“In this day and age where the cost of healthcare has just gone rampant, we cannot afford to have each other little bargaining unit set their own healthcare policies and plans and bargain for those,” Lehner said. “We’ve got to get to the point where we have much larger pools of healthcare participants.”

Lehner said that the pressures of exorbitant healthcare cost would not be mitigated by the Obama Administration’s healthcare reform of 2010.

“From everything that we’re starting to see, there’s nothing about Obama’s healthcare that’s going to reduce the cost of healthcare to the individual,” Lehner said. “In fact, everyone actually expects it to go up. So, I don’t think that’s going to be the solution to the problem.”