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Government & Politics

Portman Hopes to Sway McConnell on Miners' Pensions

Miners in Harrison County

 Ohio’s coal-mining region is considered key in this fall’s Senate election, and a battle over pensions for more than 100,000 miners may play a role. For Ohio Public Radio, WKSU’s M.L. Schultze reports.

The United Mine Workers estimates that the 70-year-old fund that provides lifetime health and pensions to union retirees could run out next year.

It’s been depleted by bankruptcies and layoffs in the coal industry. Ohio Sen. Rob Portman – who has the endorsement of the union -- is among the senators pushing to replenish the fund from one used to clean up abandoned mines.

Portman says Southeast Ohio’s already been devastated by mining’s collapse.

“On top of that now, a lot of these miners are in danger of losing everything in terms of their pensions. And so it’s time to step in and we have a way to do it in a way that we think is fiscally responsible.”

Portman expects the bill to be voted out of the Finance Committee next week.  But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who was opposed by the mine workers in his own re-election fight in Kentucky -- has been lukewarm to the plan, which has been called a union bailout. 

Efforts to slow fentanyl and carfentanil

Portman also is sponsoring a bill that he says should cut down on the import of synthetic opioids flowing through the U.S. mail. 

Portman says many shipments of the drugs like fentanyl and carfentanil are mailed from China and India.

Portman on the process

“What this would require is that if China Post wants to use U.S. mail, send it into the United States, they would have to have this advance information available, including where it’s coming from, where it’s going, what’s in it. And that’s not too much to ask.” :13


This kind of electronic filing already is required for packages shipped via FedEx and UPS.

Ohio communities including Akron and Cincinnati have seen hundreds of overdoses with heroin laced with carfentanil – an elephant tranquilizer.