Gonzales to take on hunger, health care in 2013-14
In her first term in the Ohio House of Representatives, Anne Gonzales had more bills -- seven -- signed into law by Gov. John Kasich than any other freshman representative.
As she begins her second two-year term this month representing the Ohio House 19th District, the Westerville Republican shows no signs of slowing down, with five new bills in the works.
Three of those bills are related to food programs for school-age children and stem from a partnership with the Children's Hunger Alliance.
In Westerville, Gonzales said, the school district has had great success with a breakfast program for children in need, and for the past two summers, the Westerville Area Resource Ministry has fed lunch to hundreds of children through its Westerville Area Kids Lunch Club.
Those two programs have inspired Gonzales to work with the Children's Hunger Alliance to encourage and make it easier for other school districts to institute similar programs.
"I saw the success we have in Westerville," Gonzales said. "Kids learn better when they are fed. More communities need to be doing it."
One bill being worked on by Gonzales' office would allow school districts to rent out space at their facilities for summer lunch programs, something they aren't allowed by law to do now.
With a second bill, Gonzales is hoping to address food regulations for summer lunch programs.
Currently, she said, summer lunch programs are subject to the same health laws as restaurants, with such requirements as having refrigeration available. That's difficult, Gonzales said, from programs like WARM's, which operates at local parks and apartment complexes.
The third bill would require districts in academic emergency, which already are required to make an education plan for the state, to outline how they could implement a breakfast program.
The districts wouldn't be required to begin such a program, but the bill would have them at least exploring the possibility, Gonzales said.
"It's not a mandate, but it will get them thinking about it," Gonzales said.
Another prospective bill was inspired by an experience Gonzales had while campaigning last year. It would require hospital workers to wear name badges listing their credentials.
"That stemmed from three days that I spent at Riverside after being bit by a dog while going door to door," she said. "There were so many people into and out of my room."
The final bill Gonzales has in the hopper would allow doctors to receive payment by Medicaid when they diagnose patients through telecommunications, such as via Skype or conference call. The reimbursement already exists for Medicare, Gonzales said.
Other issues Gonzales said she knows she'll tackle this year include public utilities and health and aging, as she's been assigned to committees on both of those. She will serve as vice chairwoman of the Health and Aging Committee.
She'll also take an active role in the state budgeting process, as chairwoman of the House Finance Committee's Health and Human Services subcommittee. That subcommittee will examine any changes to Medicare, as well as how Ohio will address the federal Affordable Care Act, Gonzales said.
The House also is poised to work with the governor on changes to education designed to better prepare students for college, trade school or the workforce, Gonzales said.
That, Gonzales said, is closely tied to work being undertaken by the House on improving business in Ohio, where manufacturers say they are in need of more skilled workers.