Leader Sykes Issues Statement Following A Day Of GOP Secrecy, Social Media Attacks And Subsequent Reinstatement Of Work From Home Policy
As COVID-19 spikes in Ohio, Dems accuse GOP of putting lives in danger with outright lies and cover-ups
July 09, 2020
 
 

COLUMBUS— House Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) issued a statement following a memorandum from Speaker of the House Larry Householder (R-Glenford) that the entire House of Representatives would be once again put under Work From Home status beginning tomorrow after a suspected COVID-19 outbreak among Republican staff was brought to light by Democratic representatives and staff and in response to public outage of the Republicans' handling of this issue.


On Tuesday, the Democratic caucus learned that a Republican House aide had tested positive for COVID-19 and a number of Republican House staff had been sent home to self-quarantine and test for the coronavirus. The Minority Caucus received no formal notification or additional details from Speaker Householder. The Chief Administrative Officer for the House has been tasked by the Speaker with contact tracing under the supervision of Majority staff, not the local Health Department nor in collaboration with the Minority caucus.  


“We were only informed of this situation because a Democratic staffer was misidentified. The lack of transparency in this process is appalling.


For months, House Republicans have waged war against Dr. Amy Acton, public health officials, science, and commonsense all while hiding behind their keyboards from the safety of their own home. As Ohioans are impacted exponentially, Speaker Householder is in hiding, attacking public servants on Twitter, advising his staff in the Riffe to withhold vital information, and spreading lies about what is actually transpiring in the organization that he is responsible for leading while passing blame to anyone but himself.


The Speaker of the House has an obligation during this pandemic to provide accurate information to members and staff. People deserve to know what risks are associated with reporting to work each day and contact tracing should never be a partisan process. Our constituents need us to be healthy in order to work for them.”


In recent months, House Democrats have made numerous repeated, formal and informal requests to the Speaker to protect the health and safety of all House of Representatives staff. In a letter dated March 11, Leader Sykes called on Speaker Householder to implement the House Telework Policy as outlined in the House Administrative Reference Guide. Householder ordered the staff to Work From Home (WFH) beginning March 16.


On April 27, upon hearing the Speaker’s plans to call the staff back to the Riffe, Democratic House leadership asked the Speaker to allow staff to continue WFH, stating that it was “too soon and is likely to endanger their health and well-being.” The request was ignored and WFH ended with a limited return to the Riffe on May 4 – one of the first workplaces in the state to return following Stay at Home orders. A full return to the Riffe was ordered by the Speaker June 1.        


On May 13, Leader Sykes penned a strongly-worded letter to Speaker Householder, expressing the Minority caucus’ disappointment with a memorandum his Office had issued detailing his unilateral decision to loosen safety protocols during House session that endangered the lives of members and staff. 


“Wearing a mask, whether on the House floor or at a local shop or restaurant it best practice. Limiting large gatherings is best practice. These best health practices not only protect ourselves, but more importantly protect others. We owe it to everyday Ohioans to take this virus seriously by listening to the science, adhering to best health practices and putting people first. Refusing to do so is irresponsible, dangerous and beneath our moral obligation as elected officials,” Leader Sykes said in the letter.


On May 19, Assistant Minority Leader Boggs filed a formal workplace safety complaint with the Columbus Health Department and notified the Speaker of her actions. In the letter, she also detailed a list of best practices the Democratic caucus would like to see implemented immediately.


“We remain concerned with the example we are setting for our fellow Ohioans. In fact, when I spoke to the Columbus Health Department, they told me several of the employers who are being reported as violating the recommendations have pointed to the Ohio House of Representatives as their touchstone. We must do better, Mr. Speaker. People are looking to us to lead,” Rep. Boggs wrote.


EDITOR'S NOTE: A copy of the memo from Speaker Householder to all House staff reinstating WFH policy is also attached

 

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Dem Lawmakers Introduce Two Police Reform Bills
Bills would create a cadet program to provide more training for peace officers
June 30, 2020
 
 

COLUMBUS – State Representatives Joe Miller (D-Amherst), Thomas West (D-Canton) and Terrence Upchurch (D-Cleveland) have introduced two related bills that would tackle key issues surrounding police departments in Ohio. The legislation would ultimately allow the chief of police of a municipal corporation to conduct training schools for prospective law enforcement officers. The goal is to create a new unclassified position called “cadets” within the police department, allow for exceptional appointment of candidates with ideal qualifications and resolve any issues regarding lateral transfers within statutory cities.  


For many statutory cities, including Lorain, one of the main problems police departments face is a lack of diversity and retention within the department. A cadet program would allow for police departments to recruit high school students who have lived in and are representative of the community in which they will eventually swear an oath to protect and serve. Additionally, by permitting exceptional appointments for these cadets, cities would be able to retain the cadet officers that they have invested resources, time, and training. The Cincinnati Police Department has already implemented a similar cadet program within their own city.  


“This legislation identifies statutory cities who are often placed at a disadvantage when it comes to transfers within police departments. We have an opportunity to close gaps and inequities, and make minor changes that will have major impacts. We want to increase diversity within police departments and help make them more representative of the community they serve,” said Rep. Miller. “Currently, the average amount of training that departments are required to go through in the State is around 4o hours per year. However, Chief McCann of the Lorain Police Department has required his department to undergo 90 hours per year. This legislation would help provide and retain better trained officers who are from the communities they will protect, and also create better ties between our schools and our peace officers.”


“Allowing statutory cities like Canton and Lorain to retain more of the officers they’ve trained is critical to building a police force that is trusted by and that works for the community,” said Rep. West. “Cadet programs will also provide additional training to ensure that prospective officers are prepared to serve and protect each and every resident of our communities.”


“There is a need for diversity in police departments and for communities to be served by representatives of their community— this legislation addresses that need. Police departments have an oath to protect the community,” added Rep. Upchurch.  “We believe this is an opportunity to create better relationships between police departments and communities, especially in communities where there is an underrepresentation of minorities serving in police departments.”


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House Dems Announce Ohio Promise Virtual Town Hall Tour
Digital events to give voice to everyday Ohioans amid unprecedented crises facing state
June 30, 2020
 
 

House Democrats, led by Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron), today announced the kickoff to the Ohio Promise Virtual Town Hall Tour, a series of virtual town halls this summer where local lawmakers will discuss statewide issues like COVID-19, jobs and the economy, racial justice and police reforms.


“This virtual town hall tour may look different, but its importance remains the same. The conversations we have will continue to inform our work to find solutions to the issues that matter most to our communities—from a resurgent pandemic and economic uncertainty to racial justice and a real plan for a safe, accessible election this November,” said Leader Sykes. “Democrats are here to listen, and I hope every Ohioan takes the opportunity to join us on this tour. At the end of the day our job as lawmakers is to work for you, and that’s more important now than ever.”


The Ohio Promise Virtual Town Hall Tour is a follow-up to the more than 25 in-person events Democratic lawmakers held in the summer of 2019. The digital events will allow constituents to hear from lawmakers, ask questions and offer input on ways to address the issues facing their communities.


Democrats say the uncertainty felt by many in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, economic recession and civil unrest makes now the right time to get out and listen to what everyday Ohioans have to say.


Each town hall event will be free and open to the public, with member availability for media following each event.


The tour kicks off tonight, Tuesday, June 30 at 6:30 p.m. with a Facebook live event hosted by Rep. Phil Robinson (D-Solon).


For the latest information on the Ohio Promise Virtual Town Hall Tour, dates and more, visit http://ohiohousedemocrats.org/ohio-promise-tour-2020/.  


Current dates for the Ohio Promise Virtual Town Hall Tour include:



  • Tuesday, June 30 at 6:30 p.m. hosted by Rep. Phil Robinson (D-Solon);

  • Tuesday, July 7 at 6 p.m. hosted by Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron);

  • Thursday, July 9 at 7 p.m. hosted by Rep. Mary Lightbody (D-Westerville);

  • Friday, July 10 at 7 p.m. hosted by Cincinnati-area Democratic Reps. Catherine Ingram (D-Cincinnati), Brigid Kelly (D-Cincinnati), Jessica Miranda (D-Forest Park), Rep. Sedrick Denson (D-Cincinnati);

  • Tuesday, July 14 at 11:30 a.m. hosted by Reps. David Leland (D-Columbus), Mary Lightbody (D-Westerville), Beth Liston (D-Dublin) and Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington)

  • Wednesday, July 15 at 6:30 p.m. hosted by Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland);

  • Thursday, July 16 at 7 p.m. hosted by Rep. Joe Miller (D-Amherst);

  • Monday, July 20 at 6:30 p.m. hosted by Rep. Robinson (D-Solon);

  • Monday, July 20 at 5 p.m. hosted by Rep. Thomas West (D-Canton);

  • Monday, July 20 at 5:30 p.m. with Toledo-area Reps. Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo), Rep. Michael Sheehy (D-Oregon) and Lisa Sobecki (D-Toledo);

  • Tuesday, July 21 at 6:30 p.m. hosted by Rep. Kent Smith (D-Euclid);

  • Wednesday, July 22 at noon hosted by Reps. Richard Brown (D-Canal Winchester), Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington), Erica Crawley (D-Columbus) and Mary Lightbody (D-Westerville);

  • Wednesday, July 22 at 6 p.m. hosted by Rep. Tavia Galonski (D-Akron);

  • Wednesday, July 29 at 6 p.m. hosted by Rep. Galonski (D-Akron);

  • Thursday, July 30 at 6:30 p.m. hosted by Reps. Jeff Crossman (D-Parma) and Bride Rose Sweeney (D-Cleveland);

  • Wednesday, August 5 at 6 p.m. hosted by Reps. Galonski (D-Akron) and Sobecki (D-Toledo);

  • Wednesday, August 12 at 6 p.m. hosted by Columbus-area Reps. Kristin Boggs (D-Columbus), Erica Crawley (D-Columbus), David Leland (D-Columbus) and Beth Liston (D-Dublin);

  • Thursday, August 13 at 7 p.m. hosted by Rep. Juanita Brent (D-Cleveland);

  • Wednesday, August 19 at 6 p.m. hosted by Reps. Galonski (D-Akron) and Crossman (D-Parma);

  • Sunday, August 23 at 6:30 p.m. hosted by Rep. Robinson (D-Solon);

  • Monday, September 7 at 6:30 p.m. hosted by Rep. Robinson (D-Solon).

 
 
  

House Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) issued a statement following today’s U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling to strike down a Louisiana law that would have restricted abortion rights in the state, a defeat for conservative lawmakers across the country who have spent years attacking women’s reproductive rights.


“Conservatives baited the Supreme Court to take on abortion rights and lost. This decision is a major victory for reproductive rights, but we know this isn’t the end. Lawmakers across the country, including here in Ohio, continue to pass extreme legislation to chip away at women’s fundamental rights. House Democrats stand against these brazen attacks on women and our constitution, and we will continue to work together to ensure reproductive healthcare is accessible and affordable for all Ohioans.”

 
 
  
 
Reps. Lepore-Hagan, Galonski File Legislation To Ban Police Chokeholds
Say ban would increase accountability of law enforcement and save lives
June 26, 2020
 
 

State Reps. Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown) and Tavia Galonski (D-Akron) today filed legislation that will criminalize the harmful use of chokeholds by police officers or peace officers in Ohio.


“Chokeholds can cause serious injury or even death. The NYPD ban on chokeholds didn’t prevent the death of Eric Garner. We cannot leave this up to cities and individual departments any more. The state must act,” said Lepore-Hagan. “We need greater law enforcement accountability in Ohio.”


Modeled after the Eric Garner Anti-Chokehold Act, which passed the New York State Assembly in June 2020 with bipartisan support, this legislation bans any law enforcement officer from knowingly causing serious physical harm by using pressure to the throat or neck, or by blocking the nose or mouth. A violation makes the law enforcement officer guilty of strangulation, and subject to a felony of the third degree.


“A chokehold is a maneuver which has shown time and time again to have lethal consequences. All too often it has become a death sentence for citizens who have not even received due process of law,” said Galonski. “Law enforcement professionals are able to restrain a suspect without using potentially lethal means. That is how we ensure proper service, protection, and due process of law.”


A recent NPR review of bans on neck restraints in some of the nation's largest police departments found them largely ineffective and subject to lax enforcement.


Filed today with 22 joint sponsors, all from the Ohio House Democratic Caucus, the legislation will receive an official bill number during the next nonvoting legislative session.

 
 
  
 
Dems Urge House To Return To Session, Say Too Much Left Undone Amid Unprecedented Crises
Announce virtual town hall tour to hear from Ohioans as GOP skips town
June 24, 2020
 
 

Democratic Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) today joined Dem lawmakers to urge House Republican leaders to call the chamber back into session to address several critical issues facing the state, including health and the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic, systemic racism and police brutality, questions surrounding the November election, and looming state budget shortfalls.


“At a time when Ohio needs leaders most, Republicans decided to skip town for a summer break. We’re facing unprecedented health and economic crises, massive unemployment, a budget shortfall, and unanswered calls for racial justice. A lot of these ideas, especially for police reform—they’re not new. We need to get to work to get them passed,” said Leader Sykes. “We’re urging Republican leaders to call us back into session so we can do the job taxpayers sent us here to do. These crises aren’t taking a recess and neither should we.”


The House is not expected to return to session for the remainder of the summer.


Democrats highlighted several coronavirus-related bills they say need immediate attention, including efforts to halt evictions and prohibit utility shutoffs. As July 1 quickly approaches, many Ohioans are worried about their ability to pay rent and utilities, and face eviction or utility shutoffs if the legislature does not act.   


“If missing a shift at work to go to the doctor means you will be evicted, or have your utilities shut off – people wait until they absolutely have to to seek care, and that can have devastating effects on health,” said Rep. Beth Liston (D-Dublin). “We need to be at the Statehouse fast-tracking commonsense legislation to allow Ohioans to get back on their feet and have the protections they need to get through this unprecedented crisis.”


House Democrats have introduced several bills to protect Ohio workers’ health and financial security since the onset of the pandemic:



  • HB 571 (Boggs) – Allows for workers compensation coverage for COVID-19 for first responders;

  • HB 573 (Sobecki, Boggs) – Allows for workers compensation coverage for COVID-19 for individuals required to work outside of the home;

  • HB 593 (Boyd, Boggs) – Provides paid leave to quarantined workers;

  • HB 605 (Kelly, Patton) – Allows for workers compensation coverage for COVID-19 for grocery store and food processing workers;

  • HB 633 (Boggs) – Allows for workers compensation coverage for COVID-19 for workers in nursing homes, residential care facilities and health care facilities;


Democratic lawmakers were also able to secure a significant bipartisan win for Ohio’s workers when Gov. Mike DeWine implemented key provisions of the Worker Protection Act, sponsored by Reps. Leland and Sobecki, in an executive order last week. The new order dictates that unemployed Ohioans who are over 65 or considered “high risk” will remain eligible for unemployment even if asked to return to work by their employer.


“This is a bipartisan win for Ohio’s workers,” said Rep. David Leland (D-Columbus). “Protecting vulnerable Ohioans isn’t a partisan issue – it’s just the right thing to do. No one should have to choose between their life and their livelihood.”


Additionally, Democrats discussed the need for immediate action on police reforms, racial justice and promoting priorities they say would build up Black families, including passage of a resolution to declare racism as a public health crisis and a number of police reform bills the caucus plans to introduce in the coming days.


Democrats are currently drafting legislation that would incorporate the Eight Can’t Wait use-of-force campaign proposals into Ohio law, and several other measures, including:



  • Prohibiting law enforcement from targeting people based on race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, gender identity or sexual orientation;

  • Prohibiting the use of quotas (arrests, stops, citations) by law enforcement;

  • Requiring all officer-involved shootings and other officer misconduct be independently investigated;

  • Requiring the AG to create a database tracking all officer-involved shootings and other excessive uses of force;

  • Requiring the AG to create a database tracking officers who have been fired or who have resigned rather than being fired;

  • Requiring visible and easily traceable police identification;

  • Prohibiting the use of tear gas;

  • Creating Crisis Intervention Teams to respond to mental health situations;

  • Banning chokeholds;

  • Requiring mental health training;

  • And requiring more conditions on juvenile interrogations.


“Racism is a public health crisis, and until we acknowledge the systemic racism present in our state and nation, we will never be able to engage in real, meaningful change,” said Ohio Legislative Black Caucus President Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland). “Racism doesn’t take a recess, and neither should the Ohio House. From our resolution declaring racism a public health crisis, to working on police reform and keeping our constituents safe from the ongoing pandemic, there is a lot of work to tackle this summer to ensure that everyone, regardless of their race, can achieve the Ohio Promise.”


Other unfinished business highlighted by House Democrats includes a plan for the November election following the chaos and confusion of the primary earlier this year. Dems introduced  HB 687, which would expand online registration, make it easier for Ohioans to vote by mail, and protect safe, accessible in-person voting opportunities amid the coronavirus pandemic.


“HB 680 doesn’t do enough to ensure a safe, accessible election, and with balloting set to begin in a few short months, we need to act now,” Rep. Terrence Upchurch (D-Cleveland) said. “We’re faced with unprecedented crises. The last thing we should do is take a summer recess. I’m urging my colleagues across the aisle to join our call to get to work on these pressing needs for all Ohioans.”


Democrats Wednesday also announced the Ohio Promise Virtual Town Hall Tour, a follow-up to more than 25 in-person events Democratic lawmakers held in the summer of 2019. The digital events will allow constituents to hear from lawmakers, ask questions and offer input on ways to address the issues facing their communities.


“The issues facing Ohioans are big, there’s no doubt about it,” Leader Sykes said. “And while we’re urging the Speaker and Republican leadership to call us back to the Statehouse, we still want to hear directly from our constituents so that we can bring their concerns with us to inform our work on these critical issues.”   

 
 
  
 
Rep. Howse Announces Bill To Improve Prenatal And Maternal Health Outcomes Signed Into Law
Democratic priority bill helps address racial disparities in infant mortality rates
June 22, 2020
 
 

COLUMBUS—Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland) today announced that House Bill (HB) 11, her bill to improve prenatal and maternal health outcomes, was signed into law by Gov. Mike DeWine on Friday. 


“House Bill 11 demonstrates our commitment to fixing a broken healthcare system which has been proven to cause disparities in Black maternal health outcomes,” said Rep. Howse, co-founder of the Ohio Black Maternal Health Caucus. “Enacting this bill is a milestone, but there is still more work to be done. We will continue to fight for our mothers, babies and future generations to be healthy and thrive in the state of Ohio!”


HB 11 will require the Ohio Department of Health to establish a grant program for the provision of group-based prenatal health care services to pregnant Medicaid recipients residing in areas of the state with high preterm birth rates. 


Additionally, the bill will require Medicaid coverage of tobacco cessation medications and services.


According to a report by the Ohio Department of Health in 2018, Black infants die in Ohio at more than two-and-a-half times the rate of white infants. HB 11 becomes law as Ohio House Democratic lawmakers continue to call for meaningful action to address racial health disparities, including the passage of HCR 31 to declare racism a public health crisis.  

 
 
  

COLUMBUSState Rep. Lisa Sobecki (D-Toledo) today signed onto a concurrent resolution urging Congress to designate June 19th a paid federal holiday. This date is to be known as Juneteenth Independence day in recognition of June 19, 1865, when news of the end of slavery reached the southwestern states two months after the end of the American Civil War.  


“The time for our country to recognize Juneteenth as a Federal holiday is now,” said Rep. Sobecki. “While our country continues to struggle with system racism, officially recognizing Juneteenth is an important step to take.”


This resolution comes on the heels of civil unrest across the nation in support of racial equity and justice for African American communities. Federal acknowledgement of this notable date is one way to ensure minority communities can annually commemorate their history.

 
 
  
 
Gov. DeWine Implements Key Provisions Of The Worker Protection Act
"This is a bipartisan win for Ohio's workers."
June 19, 2020
 
 

COLUMBUS— Yesterday, Governor DeWine announced the signing of executive order 2020-24D, which provided protections for unemployed Ohioans who are over 65 or considered “high risk” and asked to return to work by their prior employer. Where previously they would have been disqualified from receiving benefits for refusing an offer of suitable work, now these Ohioans will remain eligible for unemployment.


State Reps. David Leland (D-Columbus) and Lisa Sobecki (D-Toledo) introduced the Worker Protection Act, HB 672, in late May to similarly protect at-risk workers from being forced to choose between going back to work in unsafe environments or losing their unemployment benefits. The bill had 35 Democratic co-sponsors.


“This is a bipartisan win for Ohio’s workers,” said Rep. Leland. “Protecting vulnerable Ohioans isn’t a partisan issue – it’s just the right thing to do. No one should have to choose between their life and their livelihood.”


Under the new order, you could continue to receive benefits if you meet one of the following:



  • You have a medical professional’s recommendation that you not return to work because you fall into a category that is considered “high risk” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention;

  • You are 65 years or older;

  • You have evidence of a health or safety violation by your employer, such as not practicing social distancing, wearing protective equipment or taking proper cleaning precautions. This evidence could be a finding from your local health department or photographs;

  • You have been told to quarantine by a doctor or local health official for a set period of time because of exposure to COVID-19;

  • You have to stay home to take care of a relative diagnosed with COVID-19.


“We were happy that Governor DeWine took into consideration some of the concerns important to Ohioans we addressed in HB 672, and we look forward to continuing to work with the Governor to address future concerns during this pandemic,” said Rep. Sobecki.

Other states, including North Carolina, Colorado, and Texas, have specified that individuals at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19 will not be forced to choose between returning to a work environment where they could be exposed and losing access to their unemployment benefits.

In early May, the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services (ODJFS) created a web portal for employers to report employees who did not return to work so that ODJFS could determine whether to deny any future unemployment claims they filed.


 

 
 
  

COLUMBUS — State Rep. Juanita Brent (D-Cleveland) today introduced a concurrent resolution urging Congress to designate June 19th a paid federal holiday. This date is to be known as Juneteenth Independence day in recognition of June 19, 1865 when news of the end of slavery reached the southwestern states two months after the end of the American Civil War.  


“This country was built off of the free labor of enslaved African Americans from the construction of the White House, to bridges and roads. As we prepare to observe Juneteenth this year, it is vital that people can properly celebrate America’s history,” Rep. Brent said. “This holiday has long been recognized by 45 states and the District of Columbia. It is time for the nation to collectively observe the significance of the emancipation of our enslaved ancestors.”


This resolution comes on the heels of civil unrest across the nation in support of racial equity and justice for African American communities. Federal acknowledgement of this notable date is one way to ensure minority communities can annually commemorate their history.


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Featured Posts

House Dems Announce Ohio Promise Virtual Town Hall Tour

 

House Democrats, led by Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron), today announced the kickoff to the Ohio Promise Virtual Town Hall Tour, a series of virtual town halls this summer where local lawmakers will discuss statewide issues like COVID-19, jobs and the economy, racial justice and police reforms. 



 
 

Leader Sykes Statement On Supreme Court Decision To Uphold Abortion Rights

 

House Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) issued a statement following today’s U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling to strike down a Louisiana law that would have restricted abortion rights in the state, a defeat for conservative lawmakers across the country who have spent years attacking women’s reproductive rights. 



 
 

Reps. Lepore-Hagan, Galonski File Legislation To Ban Police Chokeholds

 

State Reps. Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown) and Tavia Galonski (D-Akron) today filed legislation that will criminalize the harmful use of chokeholds by police officers or peace officers in Ohio.

 



 
 

Dems Urge House To Return To Session, Say Too Much Left Undone Amid Unprecedented Crises

 

Democratic Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) today joined Dem lawmakers to urge House Republican leaders to call the chamber back into session to address several critical issues facing the state, including health and the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic, systemic racism and police brutality, questions surrounding the November election, and looming state budget shortfalls.