A new, bipartisan effort to end Ohio’s Marriage Penalty – extra income taxes on married couples who file jointly in Ohio – will get attention from the House Ways and Means Committee tomorrow, Tuesday, Sept. 19 at 9:00 a.m. in Room 121 of the Statehouse.


Because Ohio is the only state in the Midwest to require married couples to file state tax returns mirroring their federal filing status, married couples in Ohio pay at least an extra $159 per year according to the Ohio Department of Taxation. State Reps. David Leland (D-Columbus) and John Becker (R-Union Township) are hoping to change that by allowing married people in the Buckeye State to choose the state filing status that suits them best.

 
 
  

In the wake of President Trump’s recent decision to phase out Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an Ohio state lawmaker is asking Gov. John Kasich to make good on his call for immigrants to come to Ohio.


In a letter to Kasich today*, state Rep. Bernadine Kennedy Kent (D-Columbus) said immigrants with American-born children are being kicked out of the Buckeye State while the governor pleads with the nation to reject Trump’s divisiveness on national TV.


“I applaud you for separating yourself from President Donald Trump in front of a national TV audience, but taxpayers in Ohio need more than words,” Kent wrote in the letter. “The people we represent, and the people you called to come here, deserve a leader who will work hard with the legislature, or independently through executive order, to ensure that honest, caring people who are fighting for the American Dream have a safe place – a sanctuary – to call home in Ohio.”


The freshman is asking Kasich to issue an executive order in Ohio, “barring police and state resources from being used to enforce unstable federal immigration policy.”  

 

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Clyde Part Of Bipartisan Group Of Lawmakers Against Gerrymandering
Representative files amicus brief with legislators from across the country
September 06, 2017
 
 

State Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) recently shared her experiences as a state lawmaker in a severely gerrymandered state in a bipartisan amicus brief filed in the U.S. Supreme Court.


The Wisconsin case, Gill v. Whitford, has implications for Ohio’s state legislative districts, which suffer similar constitutional defects. Plaintiffs in the case allege extreme partisan gerrymandering deprived them of their First Amendment right of association and the Equal Protection of the laws guaranteed to them by the 14th Amendment.


“When the minority party is locked out of the legislative process, so are their constituents,” said Rep. Clyde. “We cannot effectively serve the people of Ohio when half of Ohioans’ concerns and preferences are ignored. I have seen the quality of work at the Statehouse go downhill in my four terms here because of the gerrymandered map that was drawn in a ‘bunker’ and approved by a short-sighted majority in 2011. We need to turn this dysfunctionality around and that is why I joined state lawmakers from Ohio and across the country to share my experiences in the brief."


In the brief, Rep. Clyde and former Rep. Mike Curtin discussed the effects of gerrymandering on the atmosphere and functionality of the House of Representatives. They are quoted throughout the brief.


A bipartisan collection of 65 current and former state legislators, 26 Republicans and 39 Democrats, from eight states signed onto the brief. Other Ohio signatories include House Minority Whip Nickie J. Antonio (Democrat), former State Rep. Joan W. Lawrence of Ohio (Republican), former State Sen. Priscilla D. Mead (Republican), State Sen. Joe Schiavoni (Democrat), Columbus City Councilman and former State Rep. Michael Stinziano (Democrat), House Minority Leader Fred Strahorn (Democrat) and House Assistant Minority Whip Emilia Strong Sykes (Democrat).


The brief can be viewed here.


 

 
 
  
 
Labor Day: American History In The Making
A special Labor Day message from The Ohio House Democratic Caucus
September 04, 2017
 
 
Working men and women protesting the vote of Senate Bill 5

Each Labor Day, Americans celebrate the spirit, ingenuity and immeasurable contributions of our country’s working men and women. From the 40-hour work week to fair wages and safer working conditions, people joining together to speak out with one voice built the largest middle class the world has ever seen. Thanks to the hard work of labor unions and workers’ rights pioneers, millions of Ohioans go to work each day knowing they have a voice and that they will be paid for the work they do.


In Ohio, many elected officials are supporting a bill to roll back a person’s right to speak up together with colleagues who are concerned about dangerous working conditions and employers denying their pay. But Ohio House Dems believe in the middle class, and we believe in America’s enduring values and constitutional guarantees of free speech and the right to assemble.


In times like these, we need to unify and cherish these ideals that made America the strongest nation in the world. Yet, Right to Work is Wrong because it tramples our American beliefs in favor of a new world order where global corporations continue rigging the rules against workers to put the profits of the rich and powerful, elite few over the good of families and the good of our nation.


The Ohio House Democratic Caucus believes the legislature should focus on attracting better jobs, improving wages, expanding healthcare, putting our schools and children first. We remain hopeful that, even in the face of legislation that would tear us apart, Republicans and Democrats can still come together to create good-paying jobs and secure a future where working people and families don’t just reach economic stability, but economic prosperity too.


America’s success story is that of our thriving middle class. By uniting under our common American principles, we can continue to grow our middle class, planting seeds of opportunity and watching the fruits of our labor force come to fruition. This Labor Day, House Dems express gratitude to American workers, and look to advance their efforts so every hardworking person always has a chance at the American Dream.


 


 

 
 
  

Akron state lawmakers, Reps. Emilia Strong Sykes and Tavia Galonski, today issued the following joint statement in response to former Akron Police Chief James Nice’s use of racial slurs while in office:


“While our nation seems to be approaching a critical intersection of hateful and divisive dialogue, Nice’s language plays to this ugliness, distorting who we are as a community. We condemn Nice’s behavior in the strongest terms possible. We also urge our neighbors and constituents to look beyond one man’s failings in order to champion the good and righteous within our community. We are more than one person’s bad decisions. We are more than one man or woman’s judgement. We are Akron.”

 
 
  
 
Kennedy Kent Helps Victim Of Violent Crime Pursue Justice
Columbus Police Department admits to "dropping the ball" in alleged attempted murder case
August 21, 2017
 
 

State Rep. Bernadine Kennedy Kent (D-Columbus) is helping an Ohio woman finally achieve justice, 12 years after she was attacked and almost shot to death by her ex-boyfriend.


“I am shocked, because no one should be able to a shoot or try to kill someone and then not be held accountable in any shape, form or fashion,” said Kennedy Kent. “Any victim of a violent crime should be able to expect the justice system to fulfill its mission, but in this case that clearly did not happen.”


In 2005, Ms. Diona Clark’s estranged ex-boyfriend allegedly shot her in the chest and the wrist before turning the gun on himself. After falling into a coma for a month from the self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head, police never followed up with criminal charges.


In a recent meeting organized by Rep. Kennedy Kent that included Columbus Police Department Deputy Chief Richard Bash and Columbus Public Safety Deputy Director Kate Pishotti, Deputy Chief Bash apologized to Clark for the CPD “dropping the ball” before telling her that her “case was closed” because the statute of limitations for felonious assault had passed.


However, Rep. Kennedy Kent, having examined both the police files and reviewed Ohio law, pointed out that a kidnapping charge may be brought against Ms. Clark’s assailant, who allegedly physically restrained her from escaping the apartment where the shooting incident took place.


Clark, whose case has been re-opened since the July meeting, is currently awaiting word from the prosecutor’s office whether they will proceed with kidnapping charges against her attacker.


Clark has also used her experience to advocate on behalf of modernizing Ohio’s domestic violence laws. Earlier this year she testified at the Statehouse in support of House Bill 1, legislation to allow victims of dating violence to obtain civil protective orders against their attacker. Currently, Ohio and Georgia are the only two states that do not cover victims of dating violence under intimate partner violence laws. 

 
 
  

Controlling Board member state Rep. Nicholas J. Celebrezze (D-Parma) today raised concerns over a $265,000 no-bid contract between Ohio Secretary of State John Husted and Columbus-based Pierce Communications, Inc.’s for work on Husted’s upcoming “voter education effort.” Husted’s unbid quarter of a million dollar contract comes amid growing public concern and new legal restrictions on taxpayer-funded self-promotion of politicians in Ohio, after it was discovered Treasurer Josh Mandel spent almost $2 million in tax dollars on self-promotional ads with no oversight.


“Ensuring voters have information is fundamental in maintaining a robust American democracy. That’s why it’s equally important that elected officials don’t abuse the public trust by using public service announcements as self-promotional stepping stones to higher office,” said Celebrezze. “Taxpayers shouldn’t have to worry about Columbus politicians using their money to advance personal political ambitions.”


Husted, a candidate for governor, will pay Pierce, a GOP campaign-consulting firm, for production costs and media-buys on television and radio for a “voter education effort” leading up to the 2017 election. Husted gave the GOP firm an unbid contract, with Controlling Board approval, worth half a million dollars last year to promote the 2016 election. The television ads at the time prominently displayed Husted’s name throughout the entirety of the ad while Secretary Husted promoted his own efforts with an oft-repeated slogan.


“While it’s important everyone take part in the electoral process, I really believe Secretary Husted should keep his name and image out of the ads to avoid even the appearance that this campaign will benefit his run for governor,” Celebrezze added.


Husted has come under scrutiny before for state-funded self-promotion efforts when he created an art competition for Election Day voting signs that prominently displayed his name inside polling locations. Though electioneering laws in Ohio prohibit materials identifying candidates for office within 100 feet of a polling location, Husted ordered counties to keep the posters displayed while he sought reelection in 2014.

 
 
  

State Reps. Adam C. Miller (D-Columbus) and Bernadine Kennedy Kent (D-Columbus) recently introduced new legislation titled the School Safety Drill bill to help improve emergency response readiness in school districts across the state.


“With a new academic year upon us, school safety is on the minds of parents and remains a hot-button issue in every state, but especially here in Ohio,” said Kennedy Kent, a former high school principal and longtime teacher. “When students, teachers and staff finally get together after summer break, I believe it is important to review emergency procedures as soon as possible to ease stress and ensure everyone in the facility is on the same page.”


The purpose of this legislation is to help school districts refine and test their emergency procedural plans by requiring a full-fledged rehearsal at the beginning of each school year. Through rehearsal and participation, districts may see a clearer picture of potential gaps in current plans.


For this reason, the bill includes additional provisions to provide funding to help districts improve emergency plans, in hopes of encouraging local communities and regional emergency management agencies to collaborate with schools during the emergency planning process, and to include school districts in all county and emergency regional response exercises.


“The School Safety Drill bill will directly improve communication between school districts and first responders by involving all qualified parties in the emergency procedure rehearsal,” said Miller, a former school board member, teacher and a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Reserve JAG Corps with military service in Afghanistan. “The Rehearsal of Concept (ROC) drill used in the military is a proven best practice in helping identify gaps in emergency response planning. I believe school districts need a similar tool to help ensure our students are safe.”


The legislation was introduced yesterday and awaits a committee appointment for further deliberation.

 
 
  

House Democratic Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton) issued the following statement in response to the state auditor’s request that management companies, charter school sponsors and vendors reimburse the state when a charter school itself is overpaid for services that were never rendered, as was the case with a $60 million finding against the failing online charter school, ECOT:


“The state auditor is right to pursue overpayments to any and all parties that wrongly receive tax dollars for services that weren’t provided. The General Assembly should be inspired by the auditor’s appetite for following the money, and elected officials at all levels should look closely at how they may have personally benefitted from the free flow of taxpayer dollars to charter school operators and then to campaign accounts.” 

 
 
  
 
West Responds To U.S. Department Of Justice Backing Ohio Voter Purge
West says every registered voter has the right to vote, should not be purged
August 09, 2017
 
 

State Rep. Thomas E. West (D-Canton) expressed outrage regarding the U.S. Department of Justice’s decision to support Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted’s voter purge. Department attorneys filed an amicus brief on Monday reversing the Department’s previous position by arguing that Husted was legally permitted to unregister voters who have not voted for six or more years.


“I am outraged that the Trump administration has chosen to attack the most fundamental right of every citizen living in a democracy,” said West. “Nobody should be punished so dramatically for choosing not to vote in a given year. Jon Husted and Donald Trump do not have the right to strip Americans of our rights just because we do not vote as often as we can.”


This decision from the Department of Justice comes in the wake of President Trump’s creation of a voter fraud commission, which recently received nationwide pushback in its efforts to collect the private information of every registered voter in the country. According to the ACLU of Ohio, the Trump administration’s decision to support voter purge measures undoes decades of efforts from the Department of Justice to prevent similar efforts.


“This is not a partisan issue. Both Democratic and Republican presidents have fought for decades to protect the right of every citizen to vote,” said West. “It really is sad to see the Trump administration support Jon Husted’s movement to disenfranchise millions of voters across our country. Unfortunately, this is quickly becoming part of a pattern of voter suppression from this White House.”


The Supreme Court will make a decision on the case this summer.

 
 
  
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Lawmakers Push Solution To Stabilize 31 Fiscally Distressed Communities Hit Hard By Kasich's Budget Cuts

 

State Reps. Kent Smith (D-Euclid) and Kristin Boggs (D-Columbus) today announced a new plan to assist struggling communities hit hardest by Governor Kasich’s budget cuts and tax shifting policies over the past several years. Since taking office, Gov. Kasich cut over $1.7 billion in local community funding. Over 70 cities have lost at least $1 million each year due to Kasich’s budgeting and tax decisions, and 12 small cities have lost at least $2 million each, per year.



 
 

Reps. Howse, Clyde Introduce The Ohio Equal Pay Act

 

State Reps. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) and Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland) today announced the introduction of House Bill 330, the Ohio Equal Pay Act. The legislation aims to address the persistent problem of unequal pay between women and men. 



 
 

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.”