Rep. Matt Lundy: Aramark's DRC Contract Should Be Terminated
Quarterly report indicates state prisons' private food service provider fails to meet contract requirements
April 22, 2014
 
 

On Monday, State Rep. Matt Lundy (D-Elyria) called for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) to terminate its contract with the state’s privately-run prison food service staffing company, Aramark Correctional Services. On Friday, the DRC released a quarterly report indicating that the company did not provide adequate staffing nor meet sanitary regulations and dietary needs. DRC issued a $142,000 fine to Aramark for the specified failures and indicated that the company could lose its state contract for “persistent defaults.”


“DRC’s report reaffirms to many why there was such strong initial opposition, both in the legislature and the general public, to privatizing any part of our publicly-run prison system,” said Rep. Lundy. “Instead of giving Aramark another chance to fail and further wasting our taxpayers’ money, DRC should terminate Aramark’s contract effective immediately.”


Privatization of DRC’s food services was approved during the 2013 state biennial budget process. Rep. Lundy submitted an amendment to the budget process that would have prohibited the privatization of food services at DRC and the Department of Youth Services. Ultimately, the amendment was tabled with little consideration.


“There are big concerns about Aramark’s activity in institutions throughout the state and the nation, but it is especially alarming to see what’s occurring at Grafton Correctional Institution and Lorain Correctional Institution,” Rep. Lundy added. “This utter lack of accountability and professionalism could have been prevented. Sadly, the report shows what many were afraid of—corporate interests and the bottom line are being prioritized above the state and public’s interests.”


The report indicates that facilities, including Grafton Correctional Institution and Lorain Correctional Institution, have been suffering from under staffing and “unstable” food services. The report notes that Grafton Correctional Institution was fined for having no food safety certification. The report also highlights that dozens of Aramark employees have engaged in relationships with inmates, including documented sexual relationships. 192 Aramark employees have been terminated with 76 banned from institutions statewide.


According to data from DRC, there has been a spike in contraband since Aramark took over food services, including a case where an Aramark employee smuggled heroin into the Lorain Correctional Institution.  

 
 
  
 
Democratic Lawmakers Respond To CSRAB Review Of Statehouse Use Policy
Efforts bring about second look at prohibiting same-sex couples from renting the People's House
April 11, 2014
 
 

State Reps. Stephen Slesnick (D- Canton), Nickie J. Antonio (D-Lakewood) and Michael Stinziano (D-Columbus) released the following joint statement today in response to the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board’s vote to review its terms of use for special events at the Ohio Statehouse:


“We are pleased that the governing body of the Statehouse will review the current policy that excludes people without an Ohio marriage license from using the grounds for a reception or ceremony. We are hopeful that they find that all Ohioans should have equal access to the ‘People’s House.’ Non-criminal legal circumstances shouldn’t dictate who is allowed to rent space at our taxpayer-funded capitol.”


A review of neighboring states reveals no similar standards for use of capitol facilities.

 
 
  
 
Years Of Questioning, Multiple Earthquakes Finally Provoke State Response
New permit terms vindicate Rep. Hagan's tireless push for stronger regulation of oil and gas industry, renew skepticism of political targeting
April 11, 2014
 
 

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio– After one month of denying any link existed between recent earthquakes in Poland Township and nearby fracking activity – and over two years after the first round of major earthquakes hit the Mahoning Valley – officials at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources finally acknowledged today that the state’s current permitting procedures for fracking are exceedingly lax.


Today, ODNR officials announced tougher permit conditions after finally admitting that the recent seismic events in Poland Township show a probable connection to fracking activity near a previously unknown microfault.


“We clearly have a situation where Kasich administration officials ignored repeated calls for greater safeguards against seismic activity caused by the fracking process,” said Rep. Hagan. “Instead of responding to my calls for action, ODNR and the Kasich Administration unfairly targeted me as an enemy of fracking, and even developed a plan to discredit my concerns. If they truly worked in a bipartisan, democratic way to address public health and safety concerns, our state wouldn’t be so slow to recognize these obvious shortfalls.”


An August 2013 memo from Ohio’s Department of Natural Resources was released that shows the regulatory agency working closely with big oil and gas companies and Gov. Kasich to identify, stifle and suppress groups and elected officials concerned with drilling in state parks. The document targets Democratic legislators and environmental watch groups as part of a strategy to marginalize public concern and advance oil and gas interests.


Over the past two general assemblies, Rep. Hagan has introduced nearly a dozen bills aimed at strengthening Ohio’s fracking regulations. Rep. Hagan’s legislation has been largely ignored by the Republican-dominated state legislature.


Rep. Hagan has accumulated a lengthy record of correspondence—some of which remains unanswered—related to fracking hazards and regulations between his office and the state agencies charged with oversight of the fracking process.  

 
 
  
 
Rep Antonio: MBR Should Fix Budget Mistakes, Not Prioritize Politics
Community, transparency measures tabled in favor of political gamesmanship
April 10, 2014
 
 

State Rep. Nickie J. Antonio (D-Lakewood) today on Wednesday in opposition to part of the state’s mid-biennium review, House Bill 483. Noting that the original intent of the MBR is to fix mistakes in last year’s state budget, Democrats offered several amendments that highlighted community needs and reversed previous harmful legislation.


“I am proud to have offered an amendment during committee to remove the egregious extortion language in the MBR regarding a blatant attack on voters' rights and the rights of local governments and specifically Cuyahoga County,” said Rep. Antonio.


Democrats also pushed to remove what they call the “Kasich-Adelson Amendment” that dismantles campaign finance rules that restrict pay-to-play donations for state contracts. Under the GOP’s “Kasich/Adelson Amendment,” foreign and non-foreign corporations could legally dump unlimited money into political campaigns supporting the same officials who directed resources to the company.


In essence, Republican officials who decide what companies get taxpayer grants and incentives through JobsOhio would now have the ability to be rewarded by those companies with few restrictions. Ultimately, the Democratic amendment was tabled on party lines.


Faced with the potential for greater pay-to-play donations in politics, Democrats renewed their call for transparency and accountability at JobsOhio through a series of amendments that would:


-Disclose corporate donations coming in to JobsOhio.
-Report financial assistance to businesses and corporate donations online.
-Require a public audit of JobsOhio.
-Create an independent inspector general and whistleblower protections for employees.


Those amendments were also tabled on party lines.


House Democrats offered multiple amendments throughout the MBR process to highlight community needs and fix mistakes in last year’s state budget. Among the amendments was a proposal to reverse the $1 billion in cuts to local communities and create a “Snowy Day Fund” to help with winter weather-related repairs.


Other Democratic amendments offered would have:


-Called off Gov. Kasich’s unsafe restrictions on food access by restoring the SNAP waiver to individuals in all 88 Ohio counties
-Invested $20 million in early childhood education


All Democratic amendments were “tabled” by GOP members of the committee, so the proposals did not even receive formal consideration or debate.

 
 
  
 
Rep Ramos: MBR Should Fix Budget Mistakes, Not Prioritize Politics
Community, transparency measures tabled in favor of political gamesmanship
April 10, 2014
 
 

State Rep. Ramos (D-Lorain) on Wednesday voted in opposition to part of the state’s mid-biennium review, House Bill 483. Democrats highlighted that, although the original intent of the MBR should have been to fix mistakes in last year’s state budget, the bill had turned into a thinly-veiled attempt by the GOP to abolish state protections against pay-to-play in state government. 


Democrats pushed to remove language that dismantles campaign finance rules that restrict pay-to-play donations for state contracts. Under the GOP’s proposal, foreign and non-foreign corporations could legally dump unlimited money into political campaigns supporting the same officials who directed resources to the company.


“The budget is supposed to be a moral document. Unfortunately, there is nothing moral about what passed today,” said Rep. Ramos. “What the House Republicans passed was legislation that further empowers corporate political contributions, blatantly ignores hungry Ohioans desperate to find not only work, but their next meal and continues historic local government cuts that have crippled our communities.”


In essence, Republican officials who decide what companies get taxpayer grants and incentives through JobsOhio would now have the ability to be rewarded by those companies with few restrictions. Ultimately, the Democratic amendment was tabled on party lines.


Faced with the potential for greater pay-to-play donations in politics, Democrats renewed their call for transparency and accountability at JobsOhio through a series of amendments that would:


-Disclose corporate donations coming in to JobsOhio.
-Report financial assistance to businesses and corporate donations online.
-Require a public audit of JobsOhio.
-Create an independent inspector general and whistleblower protections for employees.


Those amendments were also tabled on party lines.


House Democrats also offered multiple amendments to highlight community needs and fix mistakes in last year’s state budget. Among the amendments that were offered were the following:


-To call off Gov. Kasich’s unsafe restrictions on food access by restoring the SNAP waiver to individuals in all 88 Ohio counties and restore necessary nutrition assistance for more than 26,000 Ohioans.
-Invest $20 million in early childhood education, in part to make corrections to address the shortfalls created when the General Assembly and Governor underfunded the recently-passed Third Grade Guarantee.


Rep Ramos continued, “It is time we empower people to do better. This bill could have been a vehicle to enact sweeping reform to make families safer in their homes, educate the young, feed the hungry and reinvest swelling state surpluses in our people and the state to get Ohioans back to work. Until we accept our responsibility as legislators to serve all Ohioans, not just those with the deepest pockets, Ohio cannot and will not recover.”


All Democratic amendments were “tabled” by GOP members of the committee, so the proposals did not even receive formal consideration or debate.

 
 
  

Today, State Rep. Kevin Boyce (D-Columbus) and Ohio House Democratic Caucus members stood in opposition to the state’s mid-biennium review, House Bill 483. Democrats offered several amendments that highlighted community needs and reversed previous harmful legislation, such as the recent decision by Gov. Kasich to extend Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to some counties and not others.  


“I am sorely dissatisfied with the outcome of today’s vote and the lack of consideration for a number of commonsense amendments. The MBR was an opportunity for us as policymakers to make right the missteps taken during the previous budget cycle. My constituency would greatly benefit from the restoration of SNAP waiver benefits and monies towards their Local Government Fund. Our focus must be on the outcome of our actions and how they will affect our constituencies, not political gains or appeasement,” said Rep. Boyce.


The SNAP Program is a federally funded program that requires able bodied working adults to meet part-time work requirements each week in order to receive benefits. However, when a state’s job climate does not yield the jobs necessary for individuals, the Federal government makes available a waiver to ensure the continuity of benefits. To date, the waiver is available to 16 of Ohio’s 88 counties. 

 
 
  

State Representative Jack Cera (D-Bellaire), a member of the House Finance and Appropriations Committee assigned the task of vetting the state’s mid-biennium review proposals, was deeply disappointed with actions of the majority party during Tuesday’s hearing. In recent years, the budget review process has traditionally been a time to fix mistakes of the previous budget.  However, this year, it was not the case.    


Cera said Democrats offered several amendments in good faith on Tuesday hoping the majority party would jump at the chance to dip into the state’s $2 billion dollar surplus to help struggling communities across the state. One of the amendments would have restored 3.68 percent to the local government funds (LGF). Cera said many townships, villages and cities in eastern Ohio are still feeling the impact of the Governor’s initial cut to the LGF line item three years ago. “Approval of this amendment would mean a big difference to police and fire departments who have felt the impact of budget cuts first-hand.”


Another amendment would have appropriated $150 million for repairs to local infrastructure projects that were severely impacted by the harsh winter weather. These dollars would help local governments defray the high costs of road repair, such as potholes, caused by the cold weather and snow. Cera noted that his office receives complaints on the crumbling roadways almost daily. “When you hear that there is heavy damage being done to vehicles which includes blown out tires and broken wheels and axles, it’s frustrating. I know my local governments want to fix those roadways; they travel them on a daily basis too. Unfortunately, their coffers are empty.”


Another disappointment felt by Democrats on the Finance Committee included the rejected restoration of 2.22 percent to the library fund. Rep. Cera noted that libraries play an integral part in the lives of many individuals in his district. “Our libraries provide vital services to many individuals including youth reading programs and adult career enhancement classes on resume building and job searching. They also offer internet access needed by many families who find they must file for unemployment online.”


Rep. Cera feels strongly that the administration needs to remember the needs of all local communities. “Democrats are asking our Governor to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. Make our communities safe, fix our roads, these are things that can truly make a difference.”

 
 
  
 
Democratic Lawmakers Remember SB 5, Remain Vigilant Of Policies That Hurt Working Ohioans
Three year anniversary of Gov. Kasich signing SB5 into law sees new challenges
March 31, 2014
 
 

Ohio House Democratic lawmakers reflected on the GOP-led passage of Senate Bill 5 today, marking the three year anniversary of Gov. Kasich signing the bill into law. The law ended the rights of Ohio employees-- educators, firefighters, police officers, prison guards, school employees, healthcare professionals and others—to collectively bargain for fair wages and safe work conditions. Ultimately, SB 5 was overwhelmingly overturned by a citizen-led repeal.


 “Today we reflect on the unsafe, unfair law that was SB 5 with the understanding that the same spirit remains evident in Ohio GOP policies that hurt middle class and working Ohioans to benefit a privileged few,” said Democratic Leader Tracy Maxwell Heard (D-Columbus). “Whether it is their economic policies that favor the rich, a tax shift from the wealthy to the struggling middle class or historic budget cuts to our local communities and schools— there is still much work to be done to rebuild a strong middle class in Ohio.”


 Senate Bill 5 was widely panned as a politically driven attack, using the GOP’s stranglehold of state government to push through the assault on workers’ rights even in the face of vast public opposition. During the bill’s consideration, mounting public scrutiny of GOP motivations behind SB5 resulted in large Statehouse protests and impromptu closures of the Statehouse to the public—leading Democratic lawmakers to threaten legal action to reopen the Statehouse.


 “Senate Bill 5 was one of the most organized attacks on working and middle class Ohioans in our state’s history. Another GOP assault on middle class families is looming with Republican authored, so-called ‘Right to Work’ restrictions pending in the Ohio House,” said Assistant Minority Leader Debbie Phillips (D-Albany). “After the introduction of SB5, Governor Kasich was asked time and time again about his intent to sign the bill and remained evasive, vague and misleading. And then he signed the bill. Now, on the issue of the current so-called ‘Right to Work’ restrictions, he is again evasive and vague. We will not forget. We will remain vigilant and fight to protect working and middle class Ohioans from attacks on their rights and pocketbooks.”


 Research has shown that so-called “Right to work” restrictions strip workers of their rights and actually bring down wages and living standards in states where they are enacted. Aside from employees’ voices being collectively weakened,  states with so-called “Right to Work” restrictions on the books have lower wages across the board and higher workplace safety violations, including higher numbers of workplace fatalities when compared to states without such legislation.


 The Ohio House currently has two bills pending that would bring so-called “Right to Work” restrictions to Ohio.


 A collection of quotes from other Democratic lawmakers can be found below:


 


House Democratic Whip Michael Ashford (Toledo): “Three years ago, Gov. John Kasich signed into law one of the most dangerous and unfair attacks on the rights of workers—SB 5. The Governor believed that he could successfully break the backs of middle class Ohioan’s by stripping away collective barging, but through the efforts of concerned citizens, volunteers and employees a successful repeal eliminated this unsafe law.”


House Democratic Assistant Whip Dan Ramos (Lorain): “Three years ago, Gov. Kasich signed SB5, one of the least fair and most dangerous bills to working people our state has seen in decades. Together, we fought back and stood up to those who would take away the right to collectively bargain for safe working conditions and fair pay.”


Former Democratic Leader, State Rep. Armond Budish (Beachwood): “Three years ago I helped lead the effort to protect the rights of workers to come together to bargain collectively, and the public overwhelmingly responded by repealing Senate Bill 5. But the attacks on workers’ rights are not yet over, and we must remain vigilant in order to preserve our middle class here in Ohio.”


State Rep. Robert F. Hagan (Youngstown): “Senate Bill 5 was a wake up call for working families all across the state -- a message loud and clear that the Republican Party would like nothing more than to muzzle the voice of the worker.


“The attack on workers rights backfired, but somehow they didn't learn their lesson. The so-called ‘Right to Work’ restrictions in the legislature are borne from the same spirit of SB5.”


Rep. Kathleen Clyde (Kent): “Today marks the third anniversary of the passage of Senate Bill 5, one of the most blatant attacks on middle class families and workers in Ohio’s history. The fact that we are living in a state where public employees have collective bargaining rights today is a testament to the hundreds of thousands of Ohioans who marched, rallied and ultimately struck down SB 5 when it was put before the people for a vote.”


“Attacks on workers have not gone away, but what is clear is that Ohioans want their government to strengthen the middle class, not tear it apart with hyper-partisan policies that hurt workers.”


State Rep. Matt Lundy (Lorain): “SB 5 will long be remembered as the largest and meanest attack in decades on Ohio's working families. I couldn't believe the governor would try to paint our teachers, fire fighters and police officers as villains. They're our hometown heroes who deserve to be treated with respect. I was proud to stand with our working families, as together we defeated SB 5.


“Throughout our state's history, Ohioans have made clear that workers and their families should be treated fairly and with respect. Voters sent a very clear message when SB 5 was repealed. Sadly, there are those in Columbus who refuse to listen. SB 5 was just one battle in what appears to be an ongoing war on the rights of workers in Ohio.”

 
 
  
 
Reps. Foley, Hagan Look To Minimum Wage Increase For Stronger Economy, Stronger Families
Bill would give hardworking Ohioans a much deserved raise
March 27, 2014
 
 
State Reps. Mike Foley and Robert F. Hagan

State Reps. Mike Foley (D-Cleveland) and Robert F. Hagan (D-Youngstown) introduced legislation—House Bill 502 –today to increase Ohio’s minimum wage to $10.10 per hour from the current rate of $7.95 per hour. Workers who rely on tips to supplement income would see their wages rise from $3.98 to $5.05 per hour under the proposal.


The Democratic lawmakers say the increase will create a stronger Ohio by putting more money into the pockets of minimum wage workers while providing struggling families with an opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty.


“CEO pay has been increasing 127 times faster than employee pay over the last 30 years, and that disparity ultimately hurts our economy,” said Rep. Foley. “Ohio families just can’t get by on such paltry wages anymore. They are increasingly forced to rely on public assistance because they struggle to make ends meet even working two and three jobs.”


It is estimated that the proposed increase in Ohio wages would inject an additional $2.1 billion into the state’s economy and create close to 6,000 new jobs.


“Low-wage workers are older and more educated today than thirty years ago, and our state’s policies have yet to reflect this reality,” said Rep. Hagan. “This is money that will go directly back into our economy, not in some offshore account or overseas investment. Instead of being pushed into public assistance lines, Ohioans who play by the rules deserve a shot at making it in an economy that rewards hard work.”


Reports show that increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would have positive outcomes for Ohioans from all different backgrounds; of those who would be affected:



  • 56% are women;

  • 86% are over the age of 20;

  • 60% live in households that make less than $50,000 a year. 50% live in households  that make less than $40,000 a year;

  • 23% of Ohio’s children have at least one parent who would be affected by the increase.


The Ohio Constitution currently sets the minimum wage for non-tipped and tipped workers. The Constitution ties the minimum wage to the cost of living and allows for annual adjustment to the minimum wage each year. House Bill 502 would increase the minimum wage while still allowing for annual adjustments based on the cost of living.


 

 
 
  
 
Rep. Celebrezze, Ohio House Vote For Capital Appropriations Bill
Bill includes $62M in funding for Cuyahoga projects, cannot make up for state cuts
March 26, 2014
 
 

State Rep. Nicholas J. Celebrezze (D-Parma) and the Ohio House today voted for the passage of the state’s capital appropriations bill, House Bill 497. Capital appropriations are only used for infrastructure improvements and, unlike the over $1 billion cut from local communities in recent years, the funds cannot be used for community programming, operating expenses or local personnel.


“I am extremely grateful and proud for the support today of the capital appropriations bill and the improvements that this will bring to our region,” said Rep. Celebrezze. “With this bill's passage, programs and facilities like the Providence House, the Ukrainian Museum, University Hospital and Tri-C will all receive needed influxes of capital. Additionally, our region’s cultural centers that are enjoyed by so many of our district's residents like Playhouse Square and the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame will also benefit from much needed updates. While this is only a drop in the bucket to help with the constant state cuts that local municipalities and programs have been encountering, I am confident that the Senate will approve these appropriations to the benefit of our district and region.”


Included in the bill was $675 million allocated for primary and secondary facilities, $454.5 million for higher education, with the remainder for public works and other agencies.


House Bill 497 now goes to the Senate for consideration.

 
 
  
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