BY: SUSAN TEBBEN – Ohio Capital Journal

A bill to allow children to work later hours was passed through an Ohio Senate committee Thursday with bipartisan support.

Senate Bill 30, which passed the committee after three hearings and with no testimony against the bill, would allow a 14 or 15-year-old to work until 9 p.m. year round. Current law prohibits the later hours during the school year.

An amendment made to the bill during a recent hearing in the Senate Workforce & Higher Education Committee requires a “minor work hour notification form” to be signed by a parent or legal guardian.

State Sen. Catherine Ingram, D-Cincinnati, proposed the amendment as a way to make sure parents are away of the changes and activities of their children.

“I think it’s a good thing (to extend the hours), kids are probably hanging out, playing games until 9 o’clock,” Ingram said. “But I don’t want us to take advantage of the fact that these are 14, 15-year-olds.”

State Sen. Bill Reineke, R-Tiffin, did not object to the amendment, but said parental guidance isn’t always a good thing when it comes to children working.

“I am concerned about that, in the long term, those kids who really want to do something with their lives, want to get a job, can still do it, even if they can’t get their parents to cooperate with them,” Reineke said.

A Dairy Queen franchisee, Michael Todd, testified in support of the bill this week, saying many of the applications he receives are from the age group targeted by SB 30. He called the bill a “rare win-win-win.”

“By giving Ohio’s 14 and 15-year-olds the choice to work until 9 p.m. during the school year, you give Ohio’s businesses a larger pool to provide jobs,” Todd said.

The teens would still be required to obtain a work permit from the superintendent of their school district or the chief administrative officer for a nonpublic or community school they attend.

The permit must include commitment from the employer to employ the child during hours as prescribed by law and to allow the minor to attend school. It must also include proof of the minor’s age and a certificate from a health care provider verifying the child’s fitness to work.

The bill passed the committee, along with a joint concurrent resolution asking the federal government to change the Fair Labor Standards Act with regard to child labor.

Currently, the federal law bars 14 and 15-year-olds from working past 7 p.m., except during summer months, between June 1 and Labor Day.

SCR 2 urges Congress to change that rule, allowing anyone under the age of 16 to work from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. during the school year., matching SB 30’s language.

The resolution argued the need for the change based on job losses from the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing staffing shortages. Ohio, the resolution states, lost nearly about 900,000 jobs as of April 2020 and still has 105,000 jobs to recover.

It states teenage workers “are becoming a larger portion of the United States workforce” and expanding their hours could help business owners “more quickly return to regular operations.”

SCR 2 also passed with bipartisan support. Both SB 30 and SCR 2 now move to the full Senate for approval.

Susan Tebben is an award-winning journalist with a decade of experience covering Ohio news, including courts and crime, Appalachian social issues, government, education, diversity and culture. She has worked for The Newark Advocate, The Glasgow (KY) Daily Times, The Athens Messenger, and WOUB Public Media. She has also had work featured on National Public Radio.

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