Powell holds town hall


By Sam Wildow

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TROY — State Rep. Jena Powell (R-Arcanum) held a town hall this week in the courtyard at the Troy-Hayner Cultural Center, talking about her experiences in the Ohio General Assembly drafting legislation, as well as conflicts with Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine during the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of her focuses in the Ohio Legislature is on helping small businesses as she is a business owner, having previously owned an advertising company, as well as a billboard company.

“Ohio is one of the most regulated states (in the U.S.) for small businesses,” Powell said. One of the first pieces of legislation Powell worked on corrected clerical errors in the tax code.

Powell, who is in her second term, also talked about pushing back against DeWine regarding business shutdowns, mask mandates, and vaccination incentive programs during the COVID-19 pandemic, saying “the unemployment system was overloaded horribly” during the shutdown and the shutdowns also depleted families’ own emergencies funds.

“He’s not willing to work with the legislature,” Powell said about DeWine. She said, “no one is denying that COVID is real,” but their differences were over the precautions being implemented, as well as over the data being presented.

Powell also voiced her opposition to the state’s recent Ohio Vax-a-Million lottery to get more Ohioans vaccinated against COVID-19.

“I’m all about if you would like to take a vaccine, then you have the ability to do so, you work with your private healthcare provider,” Powell said. “You can do that. You have the ability to do that. But no one should be bribing or forcing an individual to take the COVID-19 shot or any vaccine. This isn’t anti-vax or pro-vax, it’s pro-freedom.”

Powell explained how DeWine used federal money in order to fund it.

“I’m okay with letting people know there’s a vaccine. That’s fine with me. People have the ability to know the information,” Powell said. “I’m not okay with them being bribed.”

Powell said she started legislation to stop the vaccine lottery, but also to ensure “that no other money, both state and federal, could be used on such a frivolous program in the future.” Powell is the primary sponsor of the “Taxpayer Protection Against Frivolous Vaccine Lottery Act,” which was referred to the House Finance Committee.

Powell cited studies that found vaccine lotteries did not appear to make significant impacts on vaccination rates.

Powell also talked about H.B. 248, the “Vaccine Choice and Anti-Discrimination Act.”

“In essence, it’s making sure that both private and public workers cannot be discriminated against if they choose to not take a vaccine,” Powell said. “I’ve done a lot of work on that piece of legislation. Unfortunately, it is stalled a little bit in the Health Committee, and just like Congress, we’re on August recess right now, so the bill has not been moving, but we will be starting up again in September, and hopefully moving that bill through the legislature.”

Powell said she suspects Ohio will see some bills move through the legislature due to DeWine being expected to campaign soon for re-election. His current term ends on Jan. 9, 2023.

In addition to discussing the COVID-19 pandemic, Powell also talked about the state budget, supporting school choice vouchers, and H.B. 61, the “Save Women’s Sports Act.”

Powell said she supported the state budget due to it providing “nearly $2 billion in tax relief.” It includes a three percent cut to the income tax across the board, as well as reduces the number of tax brackets from five to four and eliminates the income tax for anyone making less than $25,000 per year. Powell talked about wanting to eliminate the state income tax altogether, such as through increasing sales tax and cutting spending.

In regard to school choice, she stated she supported having vouchers for children to support those who go to different schools other than public school, such as private, charter, or online schools.

Powell also discussed the “Save Women’s Sports Act,” which states it would “require schools, state institutions of higher education, and private colleges to designate separate single-sex teams and sports for each sex.” Powell is one of the primary sponsors of the bill, along with State Representative Reggis Stoltzfus of the 50th district.

The bill states the participant’s sex is based upon only the following: “the participant’s internal and external reproductive anatomy;” “the participant’s normal endogenously produced levels of testosterone;” and “an analysis of the participant’s genetic makeup.”

Currently, the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s (OHSAA) transgender policy states a “transgender female who is taking medically prescribed hormone treatment related to gender transition may participate on a boys’ team at any time.” Before she can participate on a girls’ team, though, she must either “have completed a minimum of one year of hormone treatment related to gender transition” or “demonstrate to the executive director’s office by way of sound medical evidence that she does not possess physical (bone structure, muscle mass, testosterone, hormonal, etc.) or physiological advantages over genetic females of the same age group.”

OHSAA’s transgender policy for transgender males is similar, but a transgender male athlete must submit medical evidence that his “testosterone treatment does not exceed the muscle mass that is typical of an adolescent genetic boy.” The policy also states “his hormone levels are (to be) monitored by a licensed physician every three to six months.”

Powell explained how they attached the “Save Women’s Sports Act” as an amendment to Senate Bill 187, which was a bill to “allow intercollegiate athletes to earn compensation for names,” also referred to as the “Name Image Likeness” bill. The House passed the amended bill.

Powell said DeWine could have asked the Senate to concur on the piece of legislation. Powell said DeWine “back stabbed women in the state of Ohio,” instead. DeWine signed an executive order, instead, allowing student athletes to make money off of their name, image, and likeness. Powell stated male athletes are more likely to benefit from this order than female athletes.

“It was really frustrating to see, but we’re in the first six months of a two-year General Assembly, so my message to the governor is this fight is not done, I’m just beginning, and I’m going to do everything I can to protect millions of women in our state,” Powell said.

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