The following article was originally published in the Ohio Capital Journal and published on News5Cleveland.com under a content-sharing agreement.
Ohio senators who supported a bill extending the hours 14 and 15-year-olds can work during the school year say remedying the workforce shortage won’t come with increased risks to children.
“Nobody in this chamber would ever do anything to endanger our children here,” said state Sen. Jerry Cirino, R-Kirtland. “I hope we all would stipulate to that.”
The chamber passed Senate Bill 30 in a 25-7 party-line vote this week, moving the bill to the Ohio House for consideration next.
The bill would push back eligible hours for children aged 14 and 15 to work from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. during the school year. In current law, that age group can only work that late during summer months.
“This is less time that they will be spending on social media, like Tik Tok and others,” Cirino said.
The law does not change limits on hours children can work, which is capped at 3 hours per day, 18 hours per week.
The bill’s sponsor, Lancaster Republican state Sen. Tim Schaffer, said SB 30 would not only help children learn necessary skills to start their life as workers, but also take a small step in addressing staffing shortages in certain business groups around the state.
“When we have short-staffing situations, that flexibility (in hours) can be critical,” Schaffer said.
What Schaffer said isn’t a part of the bill is “acquiescing or encouraging some of the abusive things we’ve hear about today, that you see in some of the media coverage.”
“I’m seeing press out there about putting kids on farms and in factories and mines and things like that,” Schaffer told his fellow senators. “That’s ridiculous and we should all oppose that kind of thing, right?”
The bill received support from the Ohio Restaurant Association and the National Federation of Independent Business’s Ohio chapter, something Schaffer took as a point of pride for the bill.
But state Sen. Catherine Ingram, D-Cincinnati, reversed her previous support of the bill, which she helped vote out of the Senate Workforce & Higher Education Committee.
“I applaud trying to make sure that some of our businesses have their shifts covered,” Ingram said. “I don’t know if I want to have their shifts covered by 14 and 15-year-olds at 0 o’clock at night.”
Ingram told the committee she supported the idea of pushing back the time when she said kids “are probably hanging out, playing games,” but as the full Senate prepared to vote on the bill, she said more monitoring and dissecting of the intent of the bill was necessary.
“I think that it calls for more of a conversation about how we do that, how we eliminate the workforce shortage,” Ingram said. “How we do that on an ongoing basis.”
The bill passed the same day that the Senate also passed a resolution, with the same 25-7 majority, to urge Congress to change federal labor laws, the Fair Labor Standards Act, to match the state’s 9 p.m. year-round extension.
“This resolution and Senate Bill 30 reinforce the guardrails that currently protect children today,” Schaffer said.
The House will now assign the bills to committees for consideration in its chamber.