Rep. Clyde Shares Public Comments On SOS's Vote Counting Directive
Lawmaker encourages Ohio citizens to also review and comment on proposed directives
September 03, 2015
 
 

State Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) today issued the following statement about the Secretary of State finally complying with the law requiring a public comment period for proposed directives:


“Public comment on directives is required by state law and I am pleased to see the secretary of state is finally following that law. Input from the public can improve the effectiveness and accuracy of directives as well as the quality of service to voters. I encourage citizens and organizations that represent Ohio voters to review and submit comment on the proposed directives that are now posted. In addition, I encourage Secretary Husted to seek public comment on all existing permanent directives to ensure their validity.


“The comments I submitted focus on using common sense in vote-counting and following federal and Ohio laws. These laws require that ballots be counted unless it is impossible to determine a voter’s intent and that technical errors must not disqualify a ballot. I also warn of a potential Bush v. Gore problem because the proposed directive sets up unequal treatment of ballots among counties. The proposed directive will let some counties count ballots with four fields completed on the ballot envelope and let other counties reject ballots unless five fields are completed. That would be unconstitutional.”


Directives are issued by the secretary of state’s office and direct boards of elections on the detailed requirements of Ohio election law. ORC 3501.053 requires that all permanent directives be subject to public comment before adoption and that no directive shall become permanent or remain valid unless it is subjected to public comment.


Rep. Clyde’s memo with public comments on the Canvassing the Votes proposed directive follows.


 


75th House District


MEMORANDUM


 


TO:                  Secretary of State Jon Husted


                        Ms. Carrie Kuruc, Sr. Elections Counsel


FROM:            State Rep. Kathleen Clyde


DATE:            August 28, 2015


SUBJECT:      Feedback on Directive “Canvassing the Votes”




The following feedback springs from these general voting rights principles:



  • ORC 3505.28 clearly states that “no ballot shall be rejected for any technical error unless it is impossible to determine the voter's choice.”

  • Voting laws should be construed and administered in the way that most favors the voter and provides good customer service to the voter.

  • Doubt should be resolved in favor of the voter.

  • Immaterial paperwork errors should not cause a voter’s ballot to be thrown out or individual votes to go uncounted.


The objective of this feedback is to avoid future conflict and to save Ohio taxpayers the cost of needless litigation.


Specific feedback on the text of the directive:



  1. 1.      Detached stubs are a technical error that should not cause absentee ballots to be thrown out.


Page 1, Sec. 1.01 (a) – This section includes “Determining whether stubs are still attached.” as part of processing absentee ballots. This part of the directive should specify that the perforated stub will be considered still attached if it is taped or otherwise attached by the voter to the ballot or if it is included with the ballot in the absentee ballot return or identification envelope.


The law regarding the sealing of ballot envelopes is interpreted reasonably by the Secretary of State’s office by allowing election officials to seal the ballot envelope for the voter and even to place the ballot inside the identification envelope for the voter before sealing it. Similarly, the law on perforated stubs should be interpreted in the light most favorable to the voter and with common sense. This directive should reflect that clear instruction as it does for sealing envelopes.


What is especially confusing about ballots stubs is that in some circumstances stubs are required to be torn off of precinct-cast ballots, while they are required to stay attached to absentee ballots. For example, in Cuyahoga County precincts, the ballot stubs must be torn off. This contradiction surely contributes to the public’s confusion around ballot stubs.



  1. 2.      Uniform statewide rules are required for vote counting.


Page 2, Sec. 1.01 (b)(3.) – Total uniformity may not be appropriate at the vote-casting stage for drastically different counties with different needs. But uniformity is essential at the vote-counting stage where county differences do not matter. This section of the directive should instruct boards to use a single uniform statewide standard in counting absentee ballots. As currently written, there will be some counties allowing birth date to be omitted and others that require birth date to appear for a ballot to be counted. A single standard should require all ballots with the other four required fields completed to be counted. This will help the state avoid litigation over a classic Bush v. Gore problem: unequal treatment that affects counting votes.


 



  1. 3.      Count absentee ballots accepted by precinct election officials on Election Day.


Page 2, Sec. 1.01 (b) – Absentee ballots that are dropped off at polling locations should be counted either in the unofficial canvass or the official canvass. The law states that absentee ballots must be returned to the director of the board of elections. In effect, this means to staff of the board of elections working under the director. When an individual drops off her absentee ballot at the board of elections, she is not required to hand it directly to the director herself. She hands it to the election official on duty at the board. Similarly, voters must be permitted to deliver their ballot to the director of the board of elections through the board’s precinct election officials. There is no valid reason or requirement in the law to reject these ballots that have been delivered into the safe care of election officials to be delivered to the director. This should be made clear in the directive.



  1. 4.      Voters’ ballots and the votes on those ballots must be counted unless it is impossible to determine the voter’s intent.


Page 3, Sec. 1.01(c)(2.) and Page 10, Sec. 1.02(a)(2.) – Categories of ballots that may be remade should include double-bubble ballots, those where a voter both marks an oval for a candidate and also writes in the same candidate’s name. ORC 3505.28 clearly requires that “no ballot shall be rejected for any technical error unless it is impossible to determine the voter's choice.” The command of this statute to favor voters is not mentioned in the directive. Instead, only a limited grant of authority to remake ballots with defects is laid out in the directive. The directive should make clear the requirement that ballots with double-bubble votes must also be remade.


Double-bubble votes can appear on ballots cast absentee or in the precinct on Election Day. Some optical scanner counting machines may not give the voter adequate notice of a problem with a specific vote on the voter’s ballot. Because of this inadequate notice, all ballots should be checked for double-bubble votes. This was done in 2008 and over 12,000 double-bubble votes were counted as a result.



  1. 5.      Voters whose ballots are rejected should have their Voting History accurately recorded and be notified that their ballot was rejected.


Page 20, Sec. 1.04(e) – The directive instructs election officials to record that individuals voted when their ballots were actually rejected. Civilian, military and overseas voters whose absentee ballots don’t get postmarked or are missing a required completed field and are rejected are not notified of this rejection and will in fact be listed in the public record as having voted. Provisional voters whose ballots are rejected when they are not directed to the correct polling location will not know their ballot didn’t count and will be deceptively marked as having voted. Voters need to know the truth about how their ballots are being handled. The directive should require that voters whose ballots are rejected should be recorded using a field other than Voter History. For example, a new field could be used such as Vote Attempted or Vote Rejected to record the voter’s activity and allow the public record to reflect accurate information about who actually voted. Voters whose ballots are rejected should also be notified of that rejection by the boards of election. This will educate voters and improve vote-counting rates in Ohio.


This memo does not purport to fully and thoroughly analyze every section of the directive. Its only purpose is to provide some feedback on its major provisions.

 
 
  
 
Dem Lawmakers Suggest Ohio Energy Reforms In Report On State Study Committee Findings
Say energy efficiency benchmarks cut consumer costs, create jobs
September 03, 2015
 
 

COLUMBUS— State Reps. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire) and Michael Stinziano (D-Columbus) today issued a report and recommendations to fellow members of the Energy Mandate Study Committee (EMSC), urging the panel to include in its final report to the legislature the resumption of energy efficiency requirements balanced with investments in existing natural resources. In a letter to the ESMC chairmen, the legislators maintained that restoring Ohio’s energy benchmarks will diversify the state’s energy portfolio, cut energy costs for consumers, address public health concerns, and spur job growth in new and existing industries.


“A responsible energy plan balances our existing wealth of natural resources with investments in innovative advanced energy technologies,” said Cera. “We have seen the studies and heard the testimony, and it’s clear that without an ‘all of the above’ energy platform, Ohio will fall behind—to the detriment of consumers, workers and families.”


In their letter, the Democratic lawmakers challenged colleagues to reinstate energy policies that have already begun to reduce costs for consumers across Ohio. Data from the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) shows energy efficiency programs have saved consumers approximately $1 billion in recent years, with an additional $4 billion in savings projected over the next decade.


The Democratic duo said the committee should incentivize job growth, allow local communities to make zoning decisions regarding new windfarm developments, and study the economic and environmental impacts of reestablishing and bolstering advanced energy sources to support investments in clean coal, co-generation, and other alternative energy development.


“We know renewable technologies are already working to cut consumer costs and create jobs,” said Stinziano. “This balanced strategy will create jobs, put money back into the pockets of hardworking Ohioans and preserve the environment for future generations.”


After seven public hearings this year, the EMSC must deliver a report detailing the committee’s findings to the legislature by September 30. 


You can access the House Democratic report here: https://www.scribd.com/doc/278098425/Energy-Mandates-Study-Committee-OHDC-Report or on www.ohiohouse.gov/democrats

 
 
  
 
Rep. Clyde Introduces HB 309 To Count Votes With Missing Postmarks
Urges quick passage to ensure the integrity of Ohio's next election
September 01, 2015
 
 

State Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) announced today the introduction of House Bill 309, legislation to fix a problem in the law that requires voters’ absentee ballots to be thrown out if they arrive on time at boards of elections without a postmark.


“There are many ways that Ohio law trips up voters and requires their ballots to be thrown out over minor errors. This bill will begin to undo these unnecessary voting restrictions. HB 309 will ensure that we count the votes of all Ohioans who mail their ballot on time, even if the post office neglects to postmark the envelope. We need to resolve these errors in favor of the voter and count the vote,” said Clyde. “Election officials have explored options to get every ballot postmarked but there will always be pieces of mail that slip through without postmarks. Ohio’s voting laws should deal with such realities, not ignore them and punish voters.”


Rep. Clyde was contacted by election officials from around the state about the need for HB 309. In the 2015 primary election, 19 Portage County voters’ ballots were thrown out because of the problem. Local news coverage of that incident can be found here.


“Our job as election officials is to provide good service to the public, Ohio's voters. We are not serving the people well if the law requires us to throw out voters’ ballots just because the Post Office did not apply a postmark. This legislation would inject common sense into how we count votes in Ohio and ensure people are not disenfranchised for missing postmarks,” said Theresa Nielsen, Deputy Director of the Portage County Board of Elections. 


The Ohio secretary of state’s office does not report the number of absentee ballots that go uncounted due to missing postmarks. But the broader category of ballots that were rejected for not arriving on time included 6,096 ballots in November 2012 and 6,670 ballots in November 2014. Some portion of those are ballots that were rejected for missing postmarks.


“The secretary of state indicates that 70 elections have been decided by just one vote in the last two years. Throwing out even one ballot over a minor error like this harms the integrity of our elections and impacts the policies of our state,” said Clyde. “Quick passage of HB 309, a simple bill with a common sense fix to Ohio’s voting laws, would ensure that ballots with missing postmarks are counted starting with the next election on November 3rd.”

 
 
  
 
Fedor Calls For A Clean Investigation Into E-school's Alleged Attendance Fraud
Says ousted charter chief too tainted for fair review, joins chorus calling for public records
August 27, 2015
 
 

The state’s highest-ranking Democratic member of the House education panel, State Rep. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo), today called for a clean and independent investigation into allegations of attendance fraud at the Ohio Virtual Academy (OHVA).


In May of this year, Fedor and House Education Committee Chairman Bill Hayes (R-Harrison Township) forwarded documents from an anonymous whistleblower showing what appeared to be an attendance scrubbing scheme at OHVA, in which the online school received more state tax dollars by seemingly padding its rolls with chronically truant students.


“It is obvious that we hit a nerve and potentially upset OHVA’s gravy train when we took allegations of attendance fraud seriously and forwarded them to the proper authorities,” said Fedor. “It later became apparent that the man in charge of reviewing these complaints for the state was tainted and in-bed with the industry during the time of the supposed review. That is why we deserve a clean and independent investigation into these allegations, one that will finally provide real answers for parents, taxpayers and students.”


The same group that has a vested interest in OHVA – its sponsor, the Ohio Council of Community Schools – was permitted by the Ohio Department of Education’s then-charter chief, David Hansen, to conduct the “investigation,” with Hansen signing off on the findings. Republican State Auditor David Yost, who was requested by Fedor and Hayes to investigate, has yet to acknowledge whether he will look at the complaint.


“This is David versus Goliath in the fight for our children’s future. We have a one-billion dollar industry that hasn’t been playing by the same rules as other schools for years, and that has emboldened some bad actors. The gravy train is about to end, and they’re scared. All we have to do is follow the money,” Fedor added.


Fedor also today joined the growing chorus for the state’s education agency to release public records created from the charter school grade scrubbing scandal that brought about the resignation of Ohio’s top charter school official, David Hansen. The scandal also drew calls for State Superintendent Dick Ross to resign.


A copy of Fedor’s public records request is attached.


August 27, 2015



Dr. Richard A. Ross


Superintendent of Public Instruction


25 South Front Street


Columbus, Ohio 43215-4183



Dear Superintendent Ross:



I write today to formally request public documents under ORC 149.43 related to the scrubbing of charter school sponsor evaluation data.



This request includes any e-mails to and from Mr. David Hansen, former School Choice Director, regarding the process Hansen used when evaluating Ohio charter school sponsors.



Newspaper reports indicate that the Ohio Department of Education has already reviewed these relevant records, but have refused to fulfill similar public records requests from the media.



The Ohio public deserves to know whether Mr. Hansen acted alone in illegally altering omitting failing grades from poorly performing charter schools.



I look forward to your prompt response to this public records request.



Sincerely,
State Representative Teresa Fedor


District 45


CC: State Board of Education

 
 
  
 
Leader Strahorn Comments On State Hitting Minimum Benchmark For Minority Contracts
Says minority community still struggles with high poverty and unemployment rates
August 20, 2015
 
 

House Democratic Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton) today issued the statement below in response to the news that the state has purchased a record 19 percent of eligible goods and services through minority-owned businesses this year. Ohio’s Minority Business Enterprise program, established in 1980, requires state agencies to make some of their annual purchases for goods and services with certified minority-owned businesses.


“I am pleased that three decades after the Minority Business Enterprise program was established, Ohio is hitting the minimum benchmark of economic inclusion for minority communities.


“And while today’s news is an encouraging notch on the scale of progress, there is still much work to be done before our minority communities can feel they have equal access to economic opportunity in Ohio.


“Indeed, let us not forget that many African Americans and other minorities continue to struggle in the face of poverty and unemployment. The unfortunate reality remains that the African American unemployment rate is more than double that of their white counterparts, and almost one in every three minorities continue to live in poverty.


“These grim statistics underline the need to pursue public policies that focus on economic equality for all – not just a select few or a numerical threshold.”

 
 
  

Members of the Ohio House Democratic Caucus today mourned the loss of former U.S. Rep. Louis Stokes after it was announced that he passed away late Tuesday night.


First elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1968, Congressman Stokes was the first African American member of Congress from the state of Ohio. During his 15-term career at the Capitol, Congressman Stokes led the Select Committee on Assassinations that investigated the slayings of President John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., headed the Congressional Black Caucus, and was the first African American member on the powerful House Appropriations Committee.


Here is what House Democratic lawmakers are saying about the passing of former Congressman Stokes:


“I am so grateful for every conversation and every hug that we shared, and so grateful to have been so positively affected and encouraged by his amazing work, compassion, unconditional support and wisdom,” said Rep. Janine Boyd (D-Cleveland Heights). “I am praying for his loving family. Congressman Stokes will always be ‘Uncle Lou’ to me.”


“I am deeply saddened to mourn the loss of Congressman Stokes. The cherished memory of Congressman Stokes will always dwell within the legacy of his work. He was an exemplary standard and beacon of hope for black Democrats from Cleveland wishing to pursue public office. To his family, may God be with you during this difficult time, please know that you are in my prayers, and my thoughts are with you in this time of sorrow.  I join you in honoring his many great achievements, and celebrating his life,” said Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland).


“I first met Congressman Louis Stokes in 1992. As a Euclid resident, I was proud to have him represent me in the halls of Congress,” said Rep. Kent Smith (D-Euclid). “The final time I saw Congressman Stokes was on May 7, when I had the pleasure to present the congressman with a proclamation from the Ohio General Assembly commemorating his lifetime of public service. As I was reading a proclamation, I stopped and remarked, ‘this is a man who has buildings named after him.’ He was a giant of a man, and well deserving of a place in Cleveland history.”


“I am saddened by the loss of an admirable statesman and individual,” said Rep. Nickie J. Antonio (D-Lakewood). “Lou Stokes was an example of the best of us who serve in elected office.”


“I had the great privilege of knowing Congressman Stokes my entire life, and know that we could not have asked for a finer representative of Cleveland,” said Rep. Nick Celebrezze (D-Parma). “His commitment and service to not only our city and state, but to our entire nation will never be forgotten and will be greatly missed.”


“I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of former Congressman Louis Stokes. I consider myself blessed to have served alongside the Congressman this year as a founding member of the Governor’s Taskforce on Community-Police Relations,” said State Rep. and President of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus Alicia Reece (D-Cincinnati). “We have lost another door-busting, glass ceiling-breaking giant who succeeded against all odds. As he rests in heaven for a job well done, we must take action to build on his legacy and the blueprint he left behind for criminal justice and voting rights.”


“I join our community in mourning the passing of Congressman Louis Stokes this morning. My thoughts and prayers are with the Stokes family in this difficult time,” said Rep. Christie Kuhns (D-Cincinnati). “After making history as the first African-American elected to Congress from Ohio, Congressman Stokes went on to fight for the rights of all Americans. Congressman Stokes truly embodied the spirt of public service and will be remembered as a champion of his community and an example to us all.”


“Today the nation lost a champion of social justice. Congressman Stokes was a true public servant in every way and his legacy will last for generations. My deepest sympathy goes out to his family,” said Rep. Kevin Boyce (D-Columbus). 


“We have truly lost an icon. A prodigious trailblazer, Congressman Stokes’ enormous contributions to the cause of civil rights and human rights is unparalleled,” stated Rep. Hearcel Craig (D-Columbus). “His public policy legacy clearly reflects his deep concern and support of the disenfranchised, marginalized, and most vulnerable among us.”


“My sincere and deepest sympathy goes out to family and friends of the Honorable Louis Stokes. Without a doubt, we have truly lost a legend and a giant in his death. I hope that his legacy of service continues to live on through the individuals whose lives he touched over the course of his remarkable life,” said Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Akron).


“Congressman Stokes was a dedicated public servant whose commitment to justice and diligent acts as an elected official cannot be replaced,” said Rep. Greta Johnson (D-Akron). “His legacy in the state of Ohio, and the nation, will live on for generations.”


 “Congressman Stokes illustrates a courageous and exemplary public servant whose example we all should strive to follow. May his memory enlighten those who stray from what is right and what is easy, as his legacy will forever remain a staple in our country’s history. My thoughts and prayers are with the Stokes’ family during this difficult time,” said Rep. Stephen Slesnick (D-Canton).

 
 
  

Last Thursday, State Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) and the Ohio Department of Medicaid held a forum with community members and activists to discuss ways to reduce the state’s high infant mortality rate. Attendees included nonprofits, faith-based organizations, all local hospital systems, and all five managed care organizations. State lawmakers set aside $13 million in the recent state budget to address infant mortality in Ohio, including a number of hotspots in the Akron area.


“Curbing infant mortality needs to be a top priority in Ohio,” said Sykes “By bringing healthcare experts, community members, and faith leaders together, we are better able to understand and remove the barriers women and families face that lead to higher instances of infant mortality.”


State budget funding will go to areas in the state with disproportionately high rates of infant mortality. Akron zip codes 44320 and 44307 have some of the highest rates in the state and were chosen as the first areas to receive state funds. In addition to combatting infant mortality, the health initiatives receiving state funds are expected to help bring jobs to the Akron area as well.


“Ultimately, infant mortality is a community issue that requires community solutions,” added Sykes. “With infant mortality rates higher than the national average for over a decade and rates for black babies twice that for white babies, our approach needed to change. With the Department of Medicaid and community partners working hand-in-hand, we can begin to make major strides in our continued fight.” 


Ohio’s rate of 7.7 per 1,000 births remains far above the national average of 6.1. The infant mortality rate for African American babies is 14.0—more than twice the rate for white babies. Ohio currently ranks 47th in the nation in overall infant mortality, and last in African American infant mortality.


“As the ranking member of the Finance Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, I was involved in all of the deliberations on the budget for the Department of Medicaid,” Sykes said. “Infant mortality was an issue I advocated for repeatedly, so I was very glad we were able to set aside funding to address the issue – and not just to talk about it. I am also pleased that the community will be able to provide input on the best ways to address the problem.”


Funding for these initiatives will be appropriated in the fall, with the expectation that those hired will begin work by the end of the year. Details of the funding will be finalized in additional meetings later this summer. 

 
 
  
 
Lawmakers Examine Poverty And Workforce Development In Cleveland
Legislative panel hears testimony from community leaders on how to help struggling Ohioans
August 12, 2015
 
 

Today State Reps. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland) and Janine Boyd (D-Cleveland Heights) joined elected officials and community leaders at an Ohio House Community and Family Advancement Committee meeting in Cleveland. The committee met to discuss workforce development programs aimed at lifting struggling Ohioans out of poverty and into quality jobs. 


“The scourge of poverty in our communities still afflicts far too many,” said Rep. Howse. “By coming together to sit and talk as neighbors, community leaders and public servants, we recommit ourselves to lifting people out of poverty and supporting innovative programs that provide jobs and much needed hope to those here in Cleveland and around our state.”


Advocates from a number of area organizations, including the Cleveland Foundation, the Garden Valley Neighborhood House, GCRTA and Newbridge Cleveland were on hand to brief a crowd of concerned families and community members on efforts to eradicate poverty in Cleveland’s neighborhoods and in communities across Ohio.


“Holding committee meetings in cities across Ohio is not only an opportunity for committee members to see poverty in different communities, but it is a chance for us to refocus on our intended purpose, which is to discuss how we can eradicate poverty and empower Ohioans,” said Rep. Boyd. The Community and Family Advancement Committee has previously focused on legislation that limits women’s access to healthcare.


To highlight issues of poverty and joblessness in the state, the Community and Family Advancement Committee is holding a series of three hearings this summer in cities throughout Ohio.

 
 
  
 
Secret Youngstown Plan Meetings Likely Violated State Sunshine Laws, Say Lawmakers
Leaked minutes of body deliberating public business prompts renewed calls for state superintendent's resignation
August 12, 2015
 
 

State Reps. Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown) and State Rep. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) today called for the resignation of State Superintendent Richard Ross after leaked minutes of secret meetings showed the superintendent deliberately kept secret the plan to takeover the Youngstown City Schools. Ross’ intentions were first reported Tuesday by the Youngstown Vindicator.


“Education policy should not be crafted behind a veil of secrecy. The clandestine meetings by a group charged with creating the Youngstown Plan involved state officials discussing state education policy changes that directly led to new state law,” said Fedor. “The manner in which these meetings deliberately excluded participation from the public is deeply troubling and raises legitimate questions regarding whether Ohio sunshine laws were violated. Dr. Ross’s conflicting accounts of his involvement with the Youngstown takeover don’t pass the smell test.”


In mid-July, when asked about the secrecy surrounding the Youngstown takeover, Superintendent Ross told the state board of education, “As much as I would like to own these ideas, I think this was a thoughtful effort at the Youngstown level to deal with issues that I knew had been there that and the superintendent at that time knew had been there.” The capitol-based news service, Gongwer, said of Ross’ comments at the time, “Mr. Ross said he didn't detail the proposal, which he supports, because it wasn't something he had drafted. ‘If it had been my proposal, I would have done that,’ he said.”


Ohio law requires all public bodies to conduct official business in open meetings where the public may attend and observe. Leaked meeting minutes from the Youngstown City Schools Business Cabinet – which included State Superintendent Ross, then Youngstown Superintendent Connie Hawthorne, a representative from the governor’s office, and several top officials from the Ohio Department of Education – show that the cabinet met several times earlier this year behind closed doors and with no prior notice to the public. In fact, the leaked minutes recorded Ross both opening and closing the May 21 meeting by stressing the importance of keeping the takeover plan confidential.


“The Youngstown takeover was crafted behind closed doors, and the evidence shows Superintendent Ross was the one holding the door shut,” said Lepore-Hagan. “Parents and teachers deserve to have a seat at the table whenever drastic changes are made to our children’s education. Clearly, the superintendent can not be trusted to operate in a manner that respects the law and the communities he serves. I believe Superintendent Ross must resign immediately.” 


The Vindicator first reported the existence of the Youngstown City Schools Business Cabinet in an April editorial calling on the governor to become directly involved in picking the next Youngstown schools superintendent. The newspaper did not identify the group by its formal title, but noted that the governor had asked prominent city leaders to engage in reshaping the Youngstown City School District and confirmed that he asked Ross to play an active role in those efforts. 

 
 
  
 
Rep. Cera Named To Ohio 2020 Tax Policy Study Committee
Lawmaker will focus on modernizing severance tax, restoring cuts to local communities
August 11, 2015
 
 

State Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire) announced today that he has been selected to serve on the Ohio 2020 Tax Policy Study Committee, a panel created to review the state’s tax policies and develop a plan that reflects Ohio’s changing economy. The Bellaire lawmaker hopes the newly formed committee will study tax changes to reverse the recent state budget cuts that have devastated local communities and underfunded public education. Rep. Cera also serves as ranking member of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee.


“Ohio has seen a dramatic shift in taxes in recent years at the expense of working families, schools and communities,” said Cera. “Tax cuts for the wealthiest Ohioans need to stop. I hope I can work with this panel to make changes to the tax code that will grow the economy from the middle out.”


The Ohio 2020 Tax Policy Study Committee will also focus on modernizing the tax for oil and gas extraction.  The panel will examine the current severance tax rate and recommend changes aimed at benefitting communities in the shale region of the state while helping the oil and gas industry continue to expand. The deadline for the committee to report its findings on the severance tax is Oct. 1, 2015.


“I strongly believe that a portion of any new severance tax must go back into our local communities to improve infrastructure, fund essential services like police and fire and restore the cuts made to local governments,” said Cera. “We must consider the role of low market prices, future growth, infrastructure and other cost factors when examining changes to the state severance tax. Regulation through the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and a fair tax will ensure that companies that play by the rules can thrive here in Ohio.”


Rep. Cera currently represents Ohio’s 96th House District.

 
 
  
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Secret Youngstown Plan Meetings Likely Violated State Sunshine Laws, Say Lawmakers

 

State Reps. Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown) and State Rep. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) today called for the resignation of State Superintendent Richard Ross after leaked minutes of secret meetings showed the superintendent deliberately kept secret the plan to takeover the Youngstown City Schools. Ross’ intentions were first reported Tuesday by the Youngstown Vindicator. 



 
 

Cleveland-area Lawmakers Say Ohio Could "amp Up" Economic Growth Through Music Industry

 

State Reps. Kent Smith (D-Euclid) and Sarah LaTourette (R-Bainbridge) today announced a bi-partisan effort to create jobs and drive economic growth by making Ohio a destination for the recording industry. The Ohio Sound Recording Investor Tax Credit, also known as OhioSounds, will work to attract more of the almost $7 billion in annual music industry revenue to the state. 

“Ohio is the birthplace of legendary musicians, unforgettable songs and ‘Rock N’ Roll’,” said Rep. Smith. “OhioSounds honors our proud legacy and works to cultivate a winning model moving forward. Ohio can become a destination for musicians, producers and industry leaders who will create jobs and strengthen our local economies. The OhioSounds tax credit will solidify our commitment to Ohio’s musical heritage and create new music that will provide the soundtrack to our lives.”

“Much like the Ohio film tax credit, this legislation seeks to incentivize investment in Ohio and create jobs in a dynamic industry,” Representative LaTourette stated. “Northeast Ohio has seen quite an investment in response to the film tax credit, with major motion pictures filmed on the streets of Cleveland and throughout our region. Given our history as the birthplace of Rock n’ Roll, it just makes sense to extend that incentive to the music industry and embrace our heritage as musical innovators.”