Before state lawmakers head into conference committee to hammer out the final details of the state biennial budget, House Democratic leaders today questioned whether the legislation adequately addresses the state’s current fiscal crisis that has left Ohio families struggling to make ends meet and communities underwater.


“The Ohio GOP’s misguided tax policy has not created the economic stability, better-paying jobs or real growth that was promised. While the rest of the nation is recovering from the Great Recession, Ohio has been held back,” said House Democratic Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton). “After six years of being wrong – wrong about a tax policy that favors the wealthy over the middle class, wrong about state revenue numbers for 10 out of 11 months, wrong even about how much needs to be cut to balance the budget – I have no doubt that the same failed approach based on ideology instead of facts will only do more harm to working Ohio families and send our economy deeper into a tailspin.”


Ohio’s job growth has trailed the national average for 54 consecutive months, Ohio families bring home thousands of dollars less than the average household in America, and close to 30 percent of Ohio jobs are low wage, paying less than poverty wages.


“The budget isn’t real until it’s a fact-based plan that sets priorities and delivers results. This budget is just more of the same that has been holding Ohio back,” said Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire). “The fact is: when we hit bottom, you don’t keep digging. Passing a fake budget built on empty promises will only push Ohio into a recession.”


The current version of the state budget bill, House Bill 49, restricts access to healthcare for hundreds of thousands of vulnerable Ohioans, takes more money away from local communities and maintains a tax loophole for lobbyists and lawyers that leaves the state with $1 billion less to address serious challenges like the statewide opioid epidemic. 


“The question we have to ask is how bad does it have to get before we change course? The statewide opioid crisis is claiming so many lives every day that we literally don’t have a place to put all the bodies,” said Minority Whip Nickie J. Antonio (D-Lakewood). “Republicans sticking their heads in the sand and denying there’s a fundamental problem won’t turn our economy around or create new, better-paying jobs. We will be back here in the fall when the state and taxpayers are faced with even bigger problems.”


Conference committee is expected to meet Monday before the final report on the budget is considered by the full legislature early next week. The Republican-controlled legislature and Gov. Kasich must approve a balanced budget by June 30 to avoid government shutdown.  

 
 
  

State Rep. David Leland (D-Columbus) will offer testimony during Education and Career Readiness Committee TODAY, Tuesday, June 20 at 3:00 p.m. in the Statehouse on House Bill (HB) 220, legislation to shine a light on how charter schools spend taxpayer dollars. The Columbus lawmaker’s testimony follows the Columbus Dispatch’s recent editorial reporting of nearly $200 million tax dollars that ECOT, the state’s largest online charter school, spent on management fees to companies owned by its founder.


“Just as Ohio parents want to know that their children are receiving the highest quality possible education in school, Ohio taxpayers deserve to know how their hard-earned dollars are being used,” said Leland. “Our Constitutional mandate to create a “thorough” and “efficient” public school system demands nothing less.”


WHO:              State Rep. David Leland (D-Columbus)


WHAT:            Education and Career Readiness Committee


Sponsor testimony for HB 220


WHEN:            TODAY, Tuesday, June 20 at 3:00 p.m.


WHERE:          Ohio Statehouse, Room 121


 

 
 
  
 
Fiscal Uncertainty Intensifies As State Budget Shortfall Deepens
Ohio loses $67 million in planned revenue for May 2017
June 06, 2017
 
 

As Statehouse Republicans struggle to cut $800 million to balance Ohio’s next two-year budget, preliminary revenue estimates for this May show the state faces greater fiscal uncertainty than initially anticipated. Lawmakers will now have to contend with an additional $67 million less in spending for the current fiscal year. House Democratic Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton) and the lead Democrat on the House’s state budget panel, Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire), issued the following joint statement in response:


“The TV weatherman is right more than Ohio Republicans have been about Ohio’s financial future. Meanwhile, with every month that passes, taxpayers have a front row seat to see how years of deep cuts to schools and communities, tax shifting and tax giveaways for millionaires and billionaires are pushing our economy further out of balance and charting a collision course of uncertainty and failure.”

 
 
  

Often in our day-to-day lives, we may forget the sacrifices made by our greatest public servants – the brave and selfless men and women in the Armed Services. 


We owe them a tremendous debt. The freedoms we enjoy are not free, and the price tag is often grim. We know that we can never repay that debt. We can only acknowledge it, and say, “thank you.” 


The celebration of Memorial Day reminds us of this debt we owe to our veterans and current military members, whose selflessness, sacrifice and courage helps keep our nation safe. 


Memorial Day originated after the American Civil War to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers who lost their lives. Originally known as Decoration Day, it was custom to decorate a soldier’s grave with flowers. 


In his 1868 proclamation to set aside this day, General John A. Logan instructed there to be thoughts to “cherish tenderly the memories of our heroic dead who made their breast a barricade between our country and its foes.” 


Memorial Day was finally recognized as a national holiday in 1971, when Congress passed the National Holiday Act. 


Since its inception, Memorial Day has evolved into a celebration to pay tribute to all who have fought and defended our country in the various wars throughout the years, including the ongoing military efforts that our brave men and women find themselves in today in the Middle East. 


Let us use this time to remember the true meaning of Memorial Day, and honor those who gave our state and nation so much, including many valiant Ohio sons and daughters

 
 
  
 
Seventh Annual Women's Lobby Day Empowers Women To Engage State Lawmakers
Discussion and advocacy focuses on gender equality, opportunity in Ohio
May 24, 2017
 
 

State Rep. and Ohio Democratic Women’s Caucus Chair Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo), State Rep. and Vice Chair Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown) and members of the House Democratic Women’s Caucus today gathered with about 200 women representing nearly 30 counties from across the state to discuss and lobby for policy solutions to challenges Ohio women and families face.


“Women’s active participation in the political process is vital to ensure equal representation, especially after men dominated the polls up and down the ballot during the last election,” said OHDWC Chair Teresa Fedor. “When women in Ohio don’t have the same level of access to opportunity and prosperity, our entire state pays the price. By empowering women to engage with their elected officials and advocate for policies that advance gender equality in our state, we can help boost the quality of life for all Ohio families.”


The seventh annual event, entitled “Empowering Women, Empowering Ohio” featured guest speakers, a lobbying seminar, policy briefings from women legislators and an informal debriefing discussion with participants and advocates. Lawmakers advocated for ne Ohio laws on equal pay, paid family leave, workplace discrimination, access to comprehensive healthcare, infant mortality, and preventing sexual violence and domestic violence.


“Now, more than ever, Women’s Lobby Day is critically important because it gives us the opportunity to both resist the rollback of programs, policies and laws that protect and empower women and persist in the pursuit of initiatives that will enable women across the globe to reach their full potential,” said OHDWC Vice Chair Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown). “Today, our voices will be heard in the halls of power and the messages we deliver will echo long after this important event ends.”


According to the Status of Women in the States report, released by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, Ohio ranks 27th in access to healthcare, 30th in poverty and opportunity measures, and 39th in health and well-being. Ohio doesn’t receive a grade higher than C in any category defined by the report.


“The fight for women’s equality in this nation is often a fight for fairness and equal access to the law,” said House Minority Whip and past OHDWC Chair Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood). “However, women are also put in dangerous situations where they must fight for their lives. During this General Assembly, I plan to re-introduce legislation that offers fairness by closing dangerous gaps in Ohio law that make it easy for convicted domestic abusers to obtain guns. No woman should have to live in fear for her life because of a loophole in the law.”


Several women lawmakers took the opportunity to address participants about legislation they have introduced that would positively affect women and working families in Ohio. Rep. Brigid Kelly (D-Cincinnati) highlighted House Bill 61, legislation she introduced to eliminate the sales tax on feminine hygiene products, including pads and tampons.


“Feminine care products are medical necessities that Ohio women need to fully participate in school, work and in their community,” said Rep. Kelly.


Additionally, Rep. Kelly highlighted the need to include more women in conversations concerning wages and the workforce.


“We need more women at the table in every aspect of state government, but we especially need female voices when preparing for our state’s economic future,” said Rep. Kelly. “An increasing number of families now have women serving as the primary breadwinner, and nearly one-third of working women in Ohio have low-wage jobs. If we truly want to implement policies that will lift Ohioans out of poverty, we must be serious about advancing policies like raising the minimum wage, paid family leave and equal pay. We can do much more to ensure economic prosperity for the people of our state if priorities like those discussed at Women’s Lobby Day are passed into law.”


The mission of the Ohio House Democratic Women's Caucus is to develop and pass policies and legislation that improve the lives of Ohio women and their families; to identify and support emerging women leaders by serving as mentors; to educate and empower women and increase women's involvement in public life and in the Ohio General Assembly.


Here are what other Democratic lawmakers are saying about Women’s Lobby Day:


“From unequal pay to access to healthcare, there are a wide range of issues that women in Ohio face every day,”said Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland). “I am delighted to join my colleagues to discuss important policies that would close the wage gap, eliminate hospital transfer agreements for healthcare clinics and keep discrimination out of the workplace and public housing.”


“We must highlight the importance of bringing more women to the table. When more of us get involved in our communities and help other women find their voices to advocate for what they believe in, we will not only create stronger neighborhoods, but we will help today’s children grow into tomorrow’s leaders,” said Rep. Bernadine Kennedy Kent (D-Columbus). “I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to reduce Ohio’s increased violence and poverty rates to ensure women receive equal justice, equal social status and equal economic benefits.”

 

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State Rep. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) today issued the following statement in response to a state ruling against ECOT, the state’s biggest, failing online charter school, for what amounts to embezzling some $60 million in taxpayer dollars by falsely inflating student attendance:


“ECOT and other charter schools have been fleecing taxpayers for years while GOP lawmakers turned a blind eye speaking at graduation ceremonies and building their campaign coffers on the broken promises to families, taxpayers – and most importantly – our children.


“With sixty-million dollars essentially being stolen from taxpayers, today’s ruling draws into question the massive amounts of cash GOP lawmakers have accepted from ECOT over the years. I am calling on GOP lawmakers to tally up and return all ECOT campaign donations in a check written to the state from their campaign.


“If we refuse to fully hold Ohio’s failed charter school experiment accountable through tougher laws and standards, lawmakers should at minimum hold themselves accountable for being complicit in the theft of tax dollars from our taxpayers. That starts with doing the right thing, and returning campaign donations to the state.”


 


 

 
 
  
 
Bipartisan Music Recording Tax Credit Gets Attention From House Committee
N.E. Ohio lawmakers say "OhioSounds" tax incentive would attract recording industry projects, create jobs
May 10, 2017
 
 

State Reps. Kent Smith (D-Euclid) and Sarah LaTourette (R-Chesterland) gave sponsor testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee Tuesday on 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.  


“While other states, like Georgia which just signed their program into law on May 8, are also pushing for recording studio incentives, I believe Ohio should get ahead of the curve in attracting new music recording projects as well as growing our existing studios and musical talent,” said Rep. Smith. “OhioSounds builds upon our proud music history and works to cultivate our state’s musical legacy moving forward.” 


The proposed tax credit will grant a 25-percent tax credit for sound recording production projects in the state. The incentive program will also return 25-percent of music studio construction and recording infrastructure costs to qualifying participants. To qualify, sound production costs must exceed $10,000 per project, with a maximum tax credit of $75,000 per project and a total annual tax credit cap of $1 million for the program. 


“I am pleased to be joint-sponsoring, for the second time with Representative Kent Smith, the Ohio Sound Recording Investor Tax Credit. House Bill 162 has the potential for a huge economic impact to the state and we look forward to any additional hearings that may take place on the bill,” Representative LaTourette stated. 


Smith and LaTourette’s proposal models a similar tax incentive program in Louisiana, which allows current residents to access credits for music production within the state without an upper cap limit. The Ohio program differs in that the credit is not limited to Ohio residents. However, with an upper limit of $75,000, the lawmakers believe the credit is sustainable.  

 
 
  
 
Clyde Testifies On TRUMP Act Before House Committee
Urges committee to hold further hearings to engage the public on issue
May 09, 2017
 
 

State Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) testified today on House Bill 93, the Tax Returns Uniformly Made Public (TRUMP) Act in its first hearing in the Ohio House Federalism and Interstate Relations Committee. The TRUMP Act would require presidential and vice presidential candidates to release their five most recent years of tax returns to qualify for the Ohio ballot.


“I am encouraged that the TRUMP Act is moving forward,” said Rep. Clyde. “I urge the committee to continue to hold hearings on this important legislation so that the American people know those vying for our highest offices are honest, accountable and acting in the best interest of our nation.”


Rep. Clyde’s full testimony is below:


Chairwoman Roegner, Vice Chairman Lipps, Ranking Member Leland and members of the House Federalism and Interstate Relations Committee, thank you for inviting me to testify on behalf of House Bill 93, the Tax Returns Uniformly Made Public or TRUMP Act.


Every major party presidential nominee since 1980 has disclosed their tax returns until this past election, when our current president broke 40 years of precedent and refused to disclose his taxes. Without full disclosure of the president’s tax returns, we don’t know who he owes money to. We don’t know who has leverage over him. The TRUMP Act would be the surest way to protect the American public from presidential conflicts of interest and to answer questions about possible foreign influence and entanglement. This bill would bring transparency back to our elections and make the president accountable to his bosses – the American people.


The TRUMP Act would require presidential and vice-presidential candidates to disclose their most recent five years of tax returns in order to qualify for the Ohio ballot. Under the TRUMP Act, candidates would have until 90 days prior to the election to file their returns with the Ohio Secretary of State, who would then have 7 days to disclose those records to the public. Refusal or failure to disclose returns would prohibit candidates from appearing on the Ohio ballot and disqualify them from receiving votes from Ohio’s electors.


A presidential and vice-presidential candidate’s tax returns would reveal:


-How much income he made


-If he gave to charity and how much


-Any deductions he took


-How much he paid in taxes


-Whether he has foreign bank accounts


-His businesses’ profits and losses


-Whether he paid taxes to foreign governments


-How much he would benefit from his own proposed changes to the tax code


The TRUMP Act is modeled after similar tax return disclosure proposals that have been introduced in at least 26 states to date, including three where the law has already passed both the House and Senate.


This is not a partisan issue, as both Democrats and Republicans have supported versions of the TRUMP Act across the country. And both Democratic and Republican candidates for president have released their tax returns. Even Governor Kasich released his returns when he ran for president even though he did not release them when he ran for governor. Nearly two-thirds of Americans believe presidential candidates should disclose their tax returns.


This president and his family have business interests in many other countries, including Russia. We know he is not fully walled off from his business. His children give him updates about the Trump Organization and he can withdraw money from it whenever he wants. This is not normal. We as Americans should have confidence that our leaders are acting to benefit the American people and not their own personal and business interests. It is a privilege to serve the public and that privilege comes with the duty to be transparent and free of conflicts. The TRUMP Act is a necessary first step in that direction.


Madam Chair, thank you for allowing me to testify on this important legislation. I urge you to consider having additional hearings so that we may hear from and engage with the public on these issues. I would be happy to answer any questions from you and the committee.

 
 
  
 
Clyde To Make Case For Taking Up TRUMP Act
Kent lawmaker to testify in Statehouse committee on Tax Returns Uniformly Made Public legislation
May 09, 2017
 
 

State Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) will testify on House Bill 93, the Tax Returns Uniformly Made Public (TRUMP) Act in its first hearing in the Ohio House Federalism and Interstate Relations Committee, TODAY, Tuesday, May 2 at 4:00 p.m. in Statehouse room 115.  


The TRUMP Act would require presidential and vice presidential candidates to release their five most recent years of tax returns to qualify for the Ohio ballot.


WHO:               State Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent)


WHAT:            Testimony on the TRUMP Act


WHEN:            TODAY, Tuesday, May 9 at 4:00 p.m.


WHERE:        House Federalism and Interstate Relations Committee


Ohio Statehouse room 115

 
 
  

State Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire), the lead Democratic member on the House budget committee, voted “no” on the House version of the state budget Tuesday, expressing concern the budget was unbalanced and fiscally irresponsible.


“The state has responsibility to balance the budget and pay its bills, just like the families and people in our community,” said Cera. “Not only is that responsibility important to the economic stability of the working people and families of our state, but it’s required under our constitution. This isn’t Washington.”


In mid-April, Gov. Kasich and GOP legislative leaders announced they would need to cut close to $1 billion from the state budget, House Bill 49, to maintain a stable, balanced budget for 2018 and 2019. Still, Tuesday’s final House version of the state budget fell hundreds of millions of dollars short of being a balanced budget bill by that measure.   


Following Tuesday’s House passage of an unbalanced two-year state budget bill, the Kasich Administration Wednesday released the latest tax revenues for the current fiscal year, showing Ohio’s stumbling economy resulted in a nearly $160 million shortfall for April 2017 alone. Ohio’s fiscal shortfall during the course of one year now climbs to negative $1.057 billion under GOP leadership.


“The problem is, over the last six years, Ohioans were promised tax giveaways for the wealthy paid for by tax hikes on the rest of us would grow our economy and create jobs – but this tax shifting promise just hasn’t come true,” Cera said. “That’s the reasons we’re up against a wall today, people still can’t get ahead. They’re not getting raises. They’re paying more than their fair share in taxes, and life is getting more expensive.”


Ohio’s job growth has trailed the national average for 51 consecutive months, Ohio families bring home thousands of dollars less than the average household in America, and close to 30 percent of Ohio jobs are low wage, paying less than poverty wages.


During the House floor debate Tuesday, Cera lead the push for a bipartisan oversight commission, The Budget Management and Stabilization Commission, to investigate the cause of Ohio’s missing money and to ensure the state budget is structurally balanced and stable. Ohio put a similar commission in place during the global financial crisis of 2009.


Cera also pushed other lawmakers to change Ohio’s outdated severance tax laws, to ensure Eastern Ohio communities recoup their fair share of tax revenue that is generated in their own backyard. The state currently keeps all severance tax dollars from oil and gas exploration, and has used it in the past to pay for income tax giveaways that mostly benefitted millionaires and billionaires.


“If it’s a choice between politicians in Columbus doing the right thing with money, or local communities making those decisions, I think most people would rather see that money and those decisions coming back home,” Cera added.


Cera argued that returning the local tax dollars back to the community could be used to put people back to work with good-paying jobs rebuilding local infrastructure. The Bellaire lawmaker garnered some bipartisan support for a proposal to bring those dollars home, but it was ultimately shot down by Republicans.


The House version of the state budget passed Tuesday with 12 Republicans joining Democrats to vote no and four Democrats joining Republicans to pass the bill 58 to 37.

 
 
  
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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.”