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Too Many Awareness Days? Lawmakers Discuss Importance of ‘Naming Bills’

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While the Ohio House and Senate tackle pressing issues like health care and education, lawmakers are also spending time raising awareness about various issues through legislation known as “naming bills.” As Statehouse correspondent Andy Chow reports, there’s one legislator who’s tired of playing the name game.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 4:37 pm

Did you know May is designated as Ohio’s official “Better Hearing and Speech Month,” or that Labor Day kicks off “Ohio Coal Miners Week” and July 9 is known as “Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness Day?”

These are all designations made official by Ohio lawmakers through pieces of legislation known as “naming bills.”

During the 129th General Assembly, which ran from 2011 to 2012, legislators introduced more than 50 naming bills.

One year into the 130th General Assembly and lawmakers have already introduced more than 35 naming bills.

This means the House and Senate are used to hearing something like this from the clerks.

Dustin Russell and Vincent Keeran: “To enact sections of the revised code to designate November as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Awareness Month. To designate October as Dyslexia Awareness Month. To designate the last day of February as Rare Disease Day. To designate March as Multiple System Atrophy Awareness Month. The month of September as Craniofacial Acceptance Month. The month of April as Eastern European Month. September 23 as Hereditary Hemochromatosis Awareness Day.”

There’s one legislator who believes the amount of naming bills is getting out of hand.

“It really came to a point where I thought it was getting rather silly," said Republican State Rep. Matt Lynch of Geauga County.

At one point last session he started to notice the naming bills piling up and decided that he would no longer support these pieces of legislation.

“I began to vote against these to emphasize that it really was taking a great deal of time and really wasting money because of the time it takes and taking away from the attention of important legislative work," he said.

These measures are not solely tied to one party, both Democrats and Republicans are known to introduce these bills. Lynch has his own idea of why there might be so many naming bills popping up.

“Members love to do things that they think reflect well on them and so they bring these bills forward, and no one generally has the nerve to say, ‘Why are we bothering?’” he said.

The lawmaker says he does make exceptions for naming bills that would help boost an industry. There are other bills that honor fallen soldiers and deceased public figures by naming a portion of a highway after them. Lynch supports these measures as well.

What Lynch does not vote for are bills that only recognize specific, sparse groups which seem to only help a very small portion of the state.

But Democratic Sen. Shirley Smith of Cleveland argues that because these diseases aren’t familiar in the public eye is exactly why they want to create recognition.

“When you talk about cancer, when you talk about kidney disease, when you talk about those types of things, they’re prominent in our daily lives," Smith said. "But when you talk about craniofacial disease, most people have never heard of it. So if you don’t educate people about it, you don’t raise the awareness.”

Smith sponsored a bill to make Oct. 13 Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day, which Governor John Kasich signed into law last year. The senator says these naming bills don’t actually take up much time or cost a lot of money -- and Smith believes the outcome is worth it.

“When you talk about a disease that effects the entire body, and we can do research and development on medicine that can help prevent or eliminate that disease, I think it’s just wonderful to bring that kind of attention to it, that magnitude to it, so we can raise money for it to get rid of that disease," she said.

This week alone the full House and Senate are scheduled to vote on several measures including a bill to make the second Tuesday of April “Ohio Internship and Co-Op Appreciation Day,” and another bill to make the first Friday of May “Prescription Drug Abuse Awareness and Education Day.”

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