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Ohio Senate passes a bill to allow children to work longer hours during the school year

A young girl learns to make coffee in a coffee shop
Big Pixel Photo
A young girl learns to make coffee in a coffee shop

Many Ohio businesses say they are having trouble finding employees, especially low-skilled labor. The Ohio Senate has passed a bill its sponsors say will help the situation by allowing 14- and 15-year-olds work longer on school nights.

Currently those kids must quit working at 7 pm on school nights and 9 pm from June 1 to September 1. This bill would allow kids, with their parent’s permission, to work until 9 om any time of the year. The Senate also passed a resolution asking Congress to take similar action on a national basis.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster) said the bill is a win-win for businesses. But he says it will also allow young employees to learn good habits to last a lifetime.

“Learning how to show up on time, learning how to follow direction and execute commands, execute missions and things like that,” Schaffer said.

Sen. Jerry Cirino (R-Kirtland) said the bill will help kids in other ways too.

“It will allow them the opportunity to earn some extra dollars. And here’s a bonus that we maybe haven’t thought about – this is less time that they will be spending on social media, like TikTok and others.”

But Sen. Catherine Ingram (D-Cincinnati) voted against the bill because she is afraid the situation could be abused.

“We don’t have any guardrails in there. We don’t have any mention whatsoever in this bill nor in that resolution as to how we continue to monitor,” Ingram said.

Ingram said she thinks this could lead to a slippery slope. Sen. Kent Smith (D-Euclid) said he thinks lawmakers are going down the wrong road by focusing on 14- and 15-year-olds instead of three-, four and- five year olds. He said a survey from the Center for American Progress showed many women cannot work because they lack available child care.

“Twenty percent of stay-at-home mothers would enter the workforce if they had child care assistance. That’s where we need to be targeting our workforce shortages,” Smith said.

And Smith noted many people who retired during the height of the COVID pandemic are not likely to re-enter the workforce.

But Sen. Terry Johnson (R-McDermott) said government has made it difficult for kids to work. He spoke about how his father and grandfather were bailing hay as young kids. And Johnson said he worked at a local golf course before entering high school and for years thereafter.

“It taught me an independence that I would not have otherwise had if I had not been able to go out and do things,” Johnson said.

The bill passed the Senate on party lines with Republicans voting for it, Democrats voting against it. The proposal now goes to the House, where Republicans also have a supermajority.

Contact Jo Ingles at jingles@statehousenews.org.