On Tuesday, State Rep. Tom Letson (D-Warren) criticized the Ohio House’s final concurrence on House Bill 5, legislation which makes drastic changes to the state’s municipal tax code. The legislation was approved despite broad opposition from local governments around the state.
“Our state has needed help to simplify the municipal tax code for decades and despite our long hours of deliberation on this legislation, HB 5 is not that change,” said Rep. Letson, ranking House Ways & Means Committee member. “This bill further deepens cuts to our local communities by depleting revenue our already-struggling local governments need. And, HB 5 erodes local control by requiring all municipalities adopt the same tax code, leaving no room for local governments to take into consideration the needs of their individual communities.”
It is estimated that HB 5 will cost local governments up to $82 million annually according to a report from think tank Innovation Ohio.
Since Governor Kasich took office, Local Government Funds have been cut by over $1 billion, forcing local governments to drastically cut services or raise local taxes. Coupled with these cuts, the elimination of the state’s estate tax and other reimbursement cuts, local governments could see nearly half-a billion dollar reduction in revenue annually.
The bill now head to Gov. Kasich’s office for his anticipated signature.
“We are moving in a proactive approach. We must restore confidence in the justice system. Too many of our citizens—not only in Ohio, but throughout this country—have lost or are losing faith in the system. So today’s step, with an action-oriented task force, will allow us hear the voices and bring all the stakeholders to the table. But, it will also produce a corrective action plan that will restore faith, restore confidence and build relationships to bring our state together to be a leader and a model that other states can follow.” —Ohio Legislative Black Caucus President and State Rep. Alicia Reece (D-Cincinnati)
Today, State Rep. Sandra Williams (D-Cleveland) together with Governor Kasich and other elected officials announced the creation of the Ohio Task Force on Community and Police Relations. The task force will be charged with making policy recommendations that seek to build trust between Ohio communities and law enforcement. Rep. Williams issued this statement following today’s announcement:
“Securing a community’s trust is critical to ensuring the success and effectiveness of local law enforcement. This taskforce will help to foster an environment of mutual respect, allowing officers to build stronger bonds in the neighborhoods they patrol. This translates into increased cooperation from community members in investigations and crime prevention activities.
“I understand that the topic of race relations can be difficult to address, and I commend those who have taken part in working to improve mutual understanding between law enforcement and the African American community. An open dialog helps cities take steps to change long-standing beliefs and heal from experiences and actions that have shaped the current conditions in race relations.
“Admitting there is a problem is the first step to addressing any issue. The creation of this taskforce is an imperative step in the right direction, and I am committed to devising constructive strategies that keep our communities safe.”
State Representative and Ohio Legislative Black Caucus President Alicia Reece (D-Cincinnati) issued the following statement today in response to the U.S. Department of Justice’s civil rights investigation into the Cleveland Police Department:
“The Justice Department’s findings come at a critical time as so many citizens of our state and nation search for answers for these tragic shootings. It is no secret that recent tragedies involving Mike Brown, John Crawford III and Tamir Rice have strained relations between our local communities and law enforcement. While today’s announcement cannot bring back the lives lost, I believe it has taken us a step in the right direction for meaningful conversations surrounding race and our justice system. I hope and pray that we can continue to work toward a greater understanding in our state and nation.”
The Justice Department finding says that Cleveland Police have a pattern of using excessive force and that a court enforceable order will require monitoring of the department to ensure necessary reforms.
Rep. Reece is introducing “John Crawford’s Law” following the deadly police-led shooting of John Crawford III who was holding a BB gun he found on a shelf in a Beavercreek Walmart this summer. The legislation would require toy guns to be easily identified as such by having prominent fluorescent markings or finishes. Reece announced her legislation after Cleveland Police recently shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was also playing with a toy gun when police responded to a 911 call.
During her time as city councilwoman, Rep. Reece also played a role in brokering Cincinnati’s 2002 police-community relations collaborative agreement following the city’s 2001 riots sparked by the police shooting of 19-year-old Timothy Thomas.
Members of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus (OLBC) reelected State Rep. Alicia Reece (D-Cincinnati) to her second term as caucus president Tuesday evening.
“I want to thank the members for re-electing me to a second term,” said Rep. Reece. “We will build on the 47-year legacy and the work we started last General Assembly— fighting for a voting rights constitutional amendment, funding for early childhood education, increasing Minority Business Enterprise funding, reducing infant mortality, fighting to reduce unemployment of African Americans by creating jobs, opposing so-called “Stand Your Ground” legislation, sentencing reforms and health disparities. OLBC will focus on issues affecting the 1.4 million African Americans in our state, and we will be on the front lines as we deal with race relations heightened by the tragedies of John Crawford III and Tamir Rice here in Ohio.
Other caucus leadership positions will include:
-First Vice President, Sen. Edna Brown (D-Toledo).
-Second Vice President, Representative-elect Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland).
-Third Vice President, Representative-elect Hearcel Craig (D-Columbus).
-Treasurer, Senator-elect Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati).
-Secretary, Representative-elect Janine Boyd (D-Cleveland).
-Parliamentarian, Representative-elect Christie Bryant Kuhns (D-Cincinnati).
-Sergeant-at-Arms, Rep. Michael Ashford (D-Toledo).
It is hard to believe that November is coming to an end, and we are only a short time away from a new year.
The days have grown cooler, the nights longer, and beautiful shades of red, orange and yellow that once decorated trees throughout our state are now being replaced by glistening snow-covered branches. Autumn truly is a beautiful time of year, and this month presents the perfect opportunity to count our blessings.
This Thanksgiving, we have much for which we are thankful. Most importantly, we are surrounded by loving families who support our passion for serving others as state legislators, and we have wonderful constituents who we feel fortunate to call neighbors and friends.
So many of you have offered sensible ideas and suggestions for making our community a better place to live, work and raise a family. You are what makes this job enjoyable, and what drives us to do better each day.
Perhaps those that deserve the special recognition this Thanksgiving are the brave men and women of our armed forces who fight to preserve the liberties that we so often take for granted.
Whether it’s a simple “thank you” or placing flowers on the grave of a veteran, sometimes it’s the small gestures that go a long way.
If you know any veterans who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan in the past decade, please encourage them to apply for the Veterans Bonus Program at veteransbonus.ohio.gov.
Military men and women have done so much for our country. They deserve this small token of appreciation.
This Thanksgiving we wish the very best for you and yours.
The Ohio House Democratic Caucus
In response to the fatal shootings of John Crawford III in a Dayton-area Walmart this summer and a 12 year-old-boy in Cleveland on Saturday, Ohio State Representative and President of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus Alicia Reece (D-Cincinnati) today announced she will soon introduce legislation to require all BB guns, air rifles and airsoft guns sold in Ohio to be brightly colored or have prominent florescent strips.
“The shooting of John Crawford III devastated many people in our community and left us looking for answers,” said Rep. Reece. “This bill is but one small step in addressing this tragedy and helping to prevent future deadly confrontations with someone who clearly presents little to no immediate threat or danger. With Saturday’s deadly shooting of a 12-year-old in Cleveland, it is becoming crystal clear that we need this law in Ohio.”
Saturday’s shooting took the life of a 12-year-old Cleveland boy when officers responded to a report of a juvenile with what was assumed to be a toy gun by the 911 caller. Officers instructed the boy to raise his hands, but he allegedly reached for the gun which was later identified as an airsoft, BB-gun type pistol.
On August 5, 2014, 22-year-old John Crawford III was shot and killed by law enforcement officers following reports that he was carrying a gun in a Walmart store. It was later discovered that Crawford was actually holding an air rifle for sale at the store.
“I fully support Ms. Reece in her efforts to pass legislation that would make imitation and actual firearms more easily distinguishable,” said John Crawford, Jr. “This legislation is necessary to make sure that a tragedy like the one that took my son John Crawford III’s life never happens again.”
Following the shooting of John Crawford III, Rep. Reece urged Attorney General Mike DeWine to release surveillance video of the incident to help restore the confidence of the African-American community in law enforcement. She also backed the U.S. Department of Justice’s decision to further investigate the fatal shooting in hopes that their findings would bring greater transparency to the tragedy.
The bill was modeled after California Senate Bill 199, which was introduced by Senator Kevin de Leon in response to the fatal shooting of two teenagers by law enforcement officers who confused their toy guns for real guns.
State Reps. Mike Foley (D-Cleveland) and Dan Ramos (D-Lorain) Friday discussed the suppression of a green jobs report that showed Ohio had significantly more jobs tied to renewable energy than the number estimated during the debate to freeze renewable energy standards.
Commissioned in March of 2012 and completed in February 2013, the report found that there were over 31,000 green jobs in Ohio, far more than the estimated 25,000 that was reported during the debate on Ohio’s renewable energy freeze, Senate Bill 310.
“Downplaying the number of green energy jobs in Ohio was a disingenuous move by the GOP,” said Rep. Foley. “Because the legislature ultimately weakened Ohio’s energy standards, the future of our strong green energy sector—and the jobs it provides—is unclear. Catering to the wishes of big energy lobbyists should never have taken precedence over the best interests of our constituents.”
The jobs report went unpublished for nearly 16 months until after Governor Kasich signed Senate Bill 310 into law in June 2014—a move that prevented Ohioans’ full access to the critical information during the legislation’s contentious debate.
“It is our duty as legislators to craft legislation based on the best, most accurate information available,” said Rep. Ramos. “With the additional information revealed in this report, we know that the green energy sector plays an even larger role in our state economy than previously thought. Our energy efficiency standards must be restored so that green jobs are secured and so Ohio can regain its position as a leader in energy sustainability and attract the jobs that come with it.”
Some 30 states have adopted renewable energy plans. Ohio is the first state to step away from their standards. The lawmakers say they will soon introduce legislation to increase Ohio’s renewable energy benchmarks and to require that all taxpayer-funded reports commissioned by the government are published online.
New state jobs numbers today show Ohio’s unemployment rate ticked down over the last month, though the state only added 1,000 jobs in October. Ohio is some 110,000 jobs short of pre-recession job levels, not accounting for population growth over the same period. State Rep. and Democratic Leader-elect Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton) issued the following statement in response to the report:
“It is good to see the unemployment rate tick down, but our state only added 1,000 jobs last month. It is clear we have not even scratched the surface of a full recovery in Ohio. We are still 110,000 jobs behind 2007 employment, and with population growth, the significance of our job deficit is even more staggering.
“We have to make sure we are not just looking at the number of jobs, but also the quality of jobs. We must remain committed to investing in the industries of the future and the education of workers for those jobs. Ohioans need quality jobs that help families plan for the future, send their kids to college and improve their quality of life. In the next General Assembly, this will be our focus.”
State Reps. Connie Pillich (D- Montgomery) and Matt Lundy (D-Elyria) Thursday announced they will soon introduce the Ohio Military Lending Act, legislation to crack down on predatory lending targeting U.S. military members and their families.
“The Ohio Military Lending Act gives us the opportunity to implement a common-sense solution to the complex problem of predatory lending targeting military families,” said Rep. Pillich. “During lame duck, we should be seeking out policy that gives us the chance to implement meaningful reforms in our state. Instead, it seems we’ve squandered some of our precious time debating extreme policies that wouldn’t even pass Constitutional muster.”
Pillich noted that today the House Health & Aging Committee voted to pass the controversial, so-called “Heartbeat Bill” while her legislation to connect Ohio veterans to the Department of Veterans Services through income-tax returns, House Bill 166, has yet to receive a single hearing.
The Ohio Military Lending Act aims to reduce predatory lending practices targeting service members, close loopholes often exploited by pay-day lenders and expand protections provided to service members and their families.
The bill would extend the current 28 percent cap on the annual percentage rate of interest charged for credit products to credit cards, which are now exempt under the federal Military Lending Act. The legislation requires lenders to use sound lending practices, including verifying borrowers’ ability to repay the loan, sharply limiting repeat loans, setting an upper limit on indebtedness and prohibiting requiring post-dated checks as a condition of extending credit. Creditors would also be prohibited from requiring service members to submit to arbitration or to waive their rights under the services members’ Civil Relief Act.
“Pay-day lending is a vicious cycle that traps many consumers and, more frequently, military service members in Ohio,” said Rep. Lundy. “While education is key, it is also important that the State of Ohio take steps to prevent lending that preys on military members and their families at its source.”
According to a US Department of Defense survey, nearly 35 percent of service members use cash advance, pay-day lending products compared to 30 percent of the general population. To discourage these high-risk, deceptive transactions, creditors would also be required to provide military borrowers with additional disclosures, including a statement that the service member should seek out options other than high-cost credit.
The Ohio Military Lending Act now awaits formal introduction and committee assignment for further consideration.