State Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown) today urged the House Government Accountability and Oversight Committee to consider House Bill 73, which establishes the State Facilities Closure Review Commission to review proposed closures of state developmental centers, including those in Youngstown and Montgomery County already set for closure.


The governor vetoed Lepore-Hagan’s bipartisan provision in the recently passed state budget that would have stayed the closures upon the review of a 13-member commission.


In a letter addressed to the chair of the House Government Accountability and Oversight Committee, Rep. Lepore-Hagan wrote, “At minimum, there should be a robust and transparent review of all facts before the state decides to take action. House Bill 73 would ensure that such a review takes place, and it would provide the opportunity for residents, families, employees and the surrounding communities to have their voices heard.”


Text of the letter can be seen below:


Dear Chairman Brown,


I am writing this letter to urge the Government Accountability and Oversight Committee to take up House Bill 73, which would establish a State Facilities Closure Review Commission to review proposed closures of the state’s developmental centers in Youngstown and Montgomery County.


With Governor Kasich vetoing this bipartisan provision in the legislature’s version of the state budget, it is now even more important that we—as a separate and equal branch of government—take this opportunity to stand up for the stability and happiness of developmentally disabled Ohioans and the workers who care for them.


With roughly 40,000 developmentally disabled Ohioans remaining on a waitlist for services, it seems now is not the time to be closing the state’s developmental centers in Youngstown and Montgomery County.


At minimum, there should be a robust and transparent review of all facts before the state decides to take action. House Bill 73 would ensure that such a review takes place, and it would provide the opportunity for residents, families, employees and the surrounding communities to have their voices heard.


I believe this bill is now our only chance at having an honest discussion about the possibility of our most vulnerable citizens being displaced from the community they call home. I was pleased it received the bipartisan support from the House and Senate needed to be included as an amendment to the state budget, and I hope this is an indication of this chamber’s willingness to move stand-alone legislation.


Thank you for consideration.


Sincerely,


Representative Michele Lepore-Hagan


House District 58


 


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This year marks the 239th anniversary of our country’s independence from Great Britain. Families across the state will mark the occasion by starting up the grill, attending a parade, and joining together to gaze at the beautiful displays of fireworks that light up the sky in an array of hues.


Setting off community fireworks around Ohio shows great pride and gives a sense of camaraderie. We are fortunate to live in a country that, while not perfect, strives to achieve equality and provide opportunity for all.


This holiday allows us to be thankful our forefathers stood on the principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Because of their guidance, the “American Dream” is more than a dream – it has become a reality for many.


There is no doubt, however, that there is still much work to be done. The truth is, inequalities continue to exist in our society, and unless we challenge these injustices, they will continue to permeate our neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, and government.


One area that demands our attention is the fundamental freedom to vote for candidates and issues of your choice. Over the past four years, laws have been enacted that reduce early voting hours, eliminate same-day registration, limit absentee voting access, and more.* This makes it harder to vote for all Ohioans, and disproportionately harm certain groups of voters such as women, minorities, and low-income voters. 


A new voting rights lawsuit, Ohio Organizing Collaborative v. Husted, is challenging the changes to Ohio’s voting laws made by Senate Bills 200, 205, 216, and 238. The plaintiffs are voters, poll workers, and organizers who work with groups most affected by the voting law changes. Our legislators will be watching this court case closely and look forward to the judicial resolution of these issues.


A simple principle that guides American democracy is that the right to vote is a fundamental freedom. As we recognize our great nation’s birthday this month let us take time to reflect on this principle and commit to working toward equal access to the ballot box for all Ohio voters.


*Senate Bills 200, 205, 216, and 238; 130th Ohio General Assembly

 
 
  
 
House Dems Decry Failure To Reform Charter Schools Before Next School Year
Criticize historic budget funding levels without accountability, transparency reforms
July 02, 2015
 
 

Members of the Ohio House Democratic Caucus today expressed deep disappointment with the legislature’s failure to act on charter school reform before breaking for summer recess. In the state’s two year budget signed by Gov. Kasich on Tuesday, charter schools receive an historic amount of tax dollars, some $1 billion, with no transparency and accountability reforms tied to the funding. 


Many Ohio charter schools have come under fire in recent years for attendance rigging, potentially illegal leasing practices, bribery and conspiracy. Nationally, Ohio has become known as the “Wild, Wild West” of charter schools in addition to being ranked 49th in the nation for quality and accountability by charter proponents, behind Nevada. 


In a review of over 4,200 state audits last year, the Akron Beacon Journal found that “no sector – not local governments, school districts, court systems, public universities or hospitals – misspends tax dollars like charter schools in Ohio.” The audits revealed $27.3 million at minimum was improperly spent by charter schools since 2001. Even the Fordham Institute, a pro-charter think-tank and Ohio charter school sponsor, believes Ohio “needs a top-to-bottom overhaul of its charter school sector.” 


Yet the state budget was stripped of charter school reforms, shifted more taxpayer funds to privately operated charter schools, and even dedicated additional dollars – $25 per student – for facility costs of online charter schools, even though online schools lack traditional brick-and-mortar buildings. 


Wednesday evening, during an almost-four hour break in session, the House could have passed House Bill 2, a charter accountability and transparency reform measure that initially passed the House before being strengthened by the Senate and voted out with unanimous, bipartisan support. By failing to take any action on charter school reform before the summer recess, the Republican-controlled legislature has effectively stalled long-overdue reform efforts until after the beginning of next school year. 


Here is what House Democratic lawmakers are saying about the state’s failure to adequately regulate the scandal-ridden charter school system in Ohio: 


“As the national spotlight remains on Ohio for its failing charter schools, I am very disappointed that we are missing an opportunity to develop stronger rules for schools that are funded by tax dollars, but privately run. These rules deal with management, conflict of interest, and financial reporting – all of which are critical for creating public trust in how these schools operate,” said Rep. Christie Kuhns (D-Cincinnati).   


“Every school in Ohio, whether public or private, should have to play by the same set of rules and be held to the same high standards,” said Rep. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo). “The Republican-led legislature has allowed the “Wild, Wild West” era of charter schools to continue for too long. We need real reform now.”


“Our children can not afford to lose out on a quality education because the legislature refuses to hold charter schools accountable,” said Rep. John Patterson (D-Jefferson). “The same set of standards should apply to both private and public schools in order to ensure that students are being properly educated and prepared to succeed in the 21st century.”  


“Private, for-profit charter schools are failing children and fleecing taxpayers,” said Rep. Janine Boyd (D-Cleveland Heights). “True charter school reform is long overdue. We need to inject a healthy dose of accountability and transparency into the state’s charter school system.”  


“Governor Kasich and his cronies have shown their true colors once again. Despite cutting funds to good public schools, and giving big increases to charter schools, they still failed to pass common sense reforms,” said Rep. Debbie Phillips (D-Albany). “Charter schools in Ohio lack basic oversight on the use of tax dollars, and Kasich's failed leadership will cost kids and taxpayers dearly.”

 
 
  

State Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) released the following statement in response to the passage of House Bill 238, which will allow the state to sell the North Central Correctional Institution and Turtle Creek Center.


“I oppose the sale of the North Central Correctional Institution and the Turtle Creek Center because privatizing state prisons is the wrong direction for Ohio.


“The state recently sold the Lake Erie Correctional Institution, and the results have been disastrous. Since this sale 18 months ago, there have been 248 security complaints, compared to 157 such complaints in the eleven years prior.  Also, after the sale, the facility immediately added 300 more beds, and has suffered serious overcrowding problems and hazardous conditions for inmates and workers.   


“Private prison management companies have bad track records in Ohio. For example, Corrections Corporation of America was fined $500,000 by the state because of a 300 percent increase in prisoner-on-staff assaults and a 187.5 percent increase in prisoner-on-prisoner assaults. The financial records for these private companies are not transparent, and we still aren’t sure if money is being saved or how these many problems are being addressed.


“These last-minute additions to House Bill 238 have not been vetted.  The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections did not provide testimony to the legislative committees hearing this proposal.  A lot of questions and concerns remain, and the governor should veto this rush authorization of sale.”

 
 
  
 
House Dems: Local Hiring Ban Axes Local Control, Sends Ohio Jobs Out Of State
Legislation will give out-of-state contractors edge on public works projects
June 30, 2015
 
 

Democratic lawmakers today expressed disappointment in the passage of House Bill 180, legislation that prohibits cities and other municipalities from setting minimum standards for hiring local residents for public works projects. The minimum residency standards, currently in place in cities and municipalities around the state, let qualified workers earn the opportunity to find rewarding employment in their own communities.  


Some Ohio communities use local hiring quotas on publicly financed projects as a way to strengthen local workforce participation and, in turn, strengthen local economies. For example, the City of Akron – in the early stages of a $1.4 billion sewer system upgrade project – currently has a local hiring target of 30 percent, with that goal increasing to 50 percent by 2018. 


Urban areas typically have higher unemployment rates than the national average, making the decision to hire local even more impactful for improving the job market in Ohio’s urban areas. Local hiring on public works projects offers a pathway to toward full workforce inclusion for all members of a community, including minority and at-risk populations.

The cities of Cleveland, Akron, Youngstown, Lima, Dayton, and Columbus, among others, all testified in opposition to the bill.

Here is what Democratic lawmakers are saying about House Bill 180:

“This bill is taxation without participation. Removing local hiring standards allows for more out-of-state contractors to come over from Kentucky and Indiana and take away jobs from workers in Ohio,” said Rep. Alicia Reece (D-Cincinnati). “I admit, I’m representing a special interest when it comes to this issue: the people of Ohio. We need to respect local control and empower local workers.”

“Facing a $1.4 billion unfunded mandate by the federal government to fix the sewer system, the City of Akron found a creative way to put its people back to work. The City of Akron instituted local hiring requirements so that people who are footing the bill for this project can reap the economic benefits,” said Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Akron). “People want an opportunity to access the economic benefits from construction and other projects that are happening in their neighborhoods. There is no reason why local people should be excluded from job opportunities right in their own backyards.” 


“We should be focusing on improving Ohio’s economy, not limiting the opportunities for our talented workforce,” said Rep. Greta Johnson (D-Akron). “This is a direct attack on Ohio’s workers and local communities’ ability to make their own hiring decisions.” 


“HB 180 is a direct attack on communities within House District 11 and across Ohio that are working to provide inclusive job opportunities to their residents,” said Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland). “This legislation undermines the progress that has been made to provide pathways to careers that pay a livable wage and further widens the gap between the haves and have-nots.” 


“Local hiring standards are the bootstraps with which people can help pull themselves out of poverty,” said Rep. Janine Boyd (D-Cleveland Height). “Making hiring decisions locally strengthens our local economy and regional workforce. House Bill 180 handcuffs local decision-making and sends Ohio jobs out of state.”   


“House Bill 180 is an anti-Ohio jobs bill and that is why I voted no.  House Bill 180 limits the opportunity of residents of the 8th House District to get work from the $331 million Opportunity Corridor project,” said Rep. Kent Smith (D-Euclid). “What this bill does do is create jobs for out-of-state workers on Ohio public works jobsites.  They will get a paycheck here and spend it somewhere else.  This bill hurts Ohio’s middle class and working families.” 


“At a time when our state economy is still sluggish, it is wrong to give out of state workers employment opportunities over similarly qualified Ohio residents,” said Rep. John Patterson (D-Jefferson). “It’s simple: local workers employed in local jobs stimulate the local economy.” 


“It continuously amazes me that those very individuals that decry federal involvement and oversight with respect to the State of Ohio’s operations and activities, continue to wrap their hands around the necks of local governments,” said Rep. John Rogers (D-Mentor-on-the-Lake). 


“I am voting no on House Bill 180 because it handcuffs local decision-making and sends good-paying Ohio jobs out of state,” said Rep. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo)


“HB 180 is a misguided measure that bans our communities from making decisions that put local Ohioans to work on public projects,” said Rep. Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown). “Local hiring quotas represent a commitment by cities to combat unemployment and poverty by investing in their residents. Not only do these projects benefit the individual worker and their families, but also community as a whole as the workers reinvest their wages in the local economy. Ohioans deserve a fair shot at good-paying local jobs, not policies that benefit out-of-state contractors at the expense of Ohio families.” 

 
 
  

State Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) today applauded the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. The ruling leaves no doubt that Ohio could take a similar approach and assign the drawing of congressional districts to a new redistricting commission like the one slated for November’s ballot to reform state district drawing. Clyde issued the following statement in response to the ruling:


“Today's decision by the U.S. Supreme Court gives me hope that Ohio can reform the way we draw not only state legislative districts but congressional districts as well. Ohio voters deserve fair representation in the statehouse and in Washington.


“While my resolution, HJR 2, did not receive the consideration needed to be ready to put before voters this fall, I will continue to work to advance the cause of redistricting reform. We must eliminate gerrymandering in the Ohio statehouse and our U.S. Congress. Until these districts are redrawn, Ohioans will not enjoy their full democratic right to fair representation.”

 
 
  
 
O'Brien Tours CAR Technologies In Support Of Alternative Fuels
Columbus-area educational visit coincides with recently introduced legislation
June 29, 2015
 
 
Rep. Sean O'Brien tours alternative fuels facility

State Representative Sean J. O’Brien (D-Bazetta) traveled this week to Columbus-area “industrial-scale, commercial testing, modeling, and engineering partner,” CAR Technologies, in an effort to learn more about, and draw attention to, the use of alternative fuels in Ohio. The tour follows the recent introduction of House Bill 176, bi-partisan legislation from Rep. O’Brien and Rep. Dave Hall (R-Millersburg) that would provide tax breaks and other financial incentives for people to purchase vehicles which run on compressed natural gas (CNG) and other alternative fuels, or to convert their fleets or personal vehicles to do so. 


“When it comes to the use of alternative fuels, and especially CNG, it’s really a win-win-win for Ohio,” said O’Brien. “All the way from production to consumption, the use of alternative fuels carries with it tremendous benefits, including the creation of domestic jobs in the shale industry, greater energy independence and national security, and the fostering of a much cleaner environment.  On top of all that, it’s significantly safer than traditional fossil fuels and is also less expensive, allowing people to save money on fuel costs.” 


In addition to touring the CAR Tech facility, Rep. O’Brien’s also visited several other related sites and companies in the vicinity.  


“I’m hoping to learn as much as I can about as many different kinds of alternative fuel and locomotion technologies as possible,” noted O’Brien.  “Knowledge is power, and I hope to pass along what I pick up to my constituents and anyone interested in the exciting future of alternative fuels in Ohio – a future that includes HB 176.”


While HB 176 garnered unanimous support in the House Ways and Means Committee, the Bazetta lawmaker hopes that the tour, in addition to being educational in nature, will help solidify the bill’s already overwhelming support in the lower chamber and ensure its passage through the House of Representatives at some point in the very near future

 
 
  
 
 
 

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry.


“The ruling is a victory for our nation and for Ohio,” said Rep. Kevin L. Boyce (D-Columbus). “This is an historic moment and a giant progressive step in our journey toward equality and tolerance.”


The 5-4 decision overturns a 6th Circuit Court case brought by Ohio native Jim Obergefell and invalidates bans on same-sex marriage across the country, including the one in Ohio. 

 
 
  
 
Rep. Craig Announces Funding For Veterans With TBI
Amendment to the budget bill assists employment initiative for wounded veterans
June 26, 2015
 
 

Today’s vote on the state’s new two-year state budget included an amendment offered by State Rep. Hearcel Craig (D-Columbus), which funds the Resurrecting Lives Foundation, an organization that assists military veterans suffering from traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) recover and find employment. State funds will be used to support the foundation’s Employment Initiative and Community TBI Education Program.


“Our servicemen and women give of themselves everyday to safeguard our values and protect our citizens. Providing for our wounded heroes upon their return is one of our highest priorities,” said Rep. Craig. “The unemployment rate for military veterans is significantly higher than that of non-service members here in Ohio. Organizations like the Resurrecting Lives Foundation help bridge that gap by offering training and assistance to veterans and connecting them with employers as they transition to life at home.”


Rep. Craig is a United States Military Veteran and has worked with other service men and women by leading the city’s Veterans Affairs Committee and creating the Better Municipal Care for Veteran’s Home Fund. 

 
 
  
 
Rep. Driehaus Issues Statement On Historic Supreme Court Ruling
Marriage equality declared fundamental right
June 26, 2015
 
 

On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry. The historic 5-4 decision overturns a 6th Circuit Court case brought by Ohio native Jim Obergefell and invalidates bans on same-sex marriage across the country, including the one in Ohio. Rep. Denise Driehaus (D-Cincinnati) issued this statement following the court’s historic ruling:


“After decades of struggle, the Supreme Court today affirmed what many of us already knew: that LGBT people should have the right to marry the person they love. I commend the many people who have worked over the years to make this day possible, including Cincinnati's own Jim Obergefell.


“In Cincinnati, in Ohio, and in this country, there have been an army of people who have made this day possible with their tireless advocacy. Many of them did not live to see this day, including Jim's late husband, John Arthur, but this is their victory, too. We owe a great debt of gratitude to the brave men and women who took up this fight long before it was popular or mainstream.


“I hope that Cincinnati and Ohio can continue to be at the forefront of the fight for justice. I am proud to have stood alongside the LGBT Community throughout this struggle and hope to continue working with them to make Ohio a more inclusive, welcoming place for everyone.


“Today and this weekend, I hope we can all celebrate this amazing success. And in the days, months, and years to come, I hope we will continue to fight for a more equitable and just society for all.”

 
 
  
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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.”