State Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) today announced her new plan to close secret money loopholes, increase transparency and strengthen the ban on foreign money in Ohio elections with new legislation, the Ohio Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections Act, or DISCLOSE ACT.


“Too often, wealthy individuals, corporations and other entities can keep their influence secret by using innocuous-sounding companies and organizations while the names of the real players are hidden from the public. This lack of transparency is corrupting our democratic system by putting some politicians in the pockets of secretive special interests,” said Rep. Clyde. “That’s why I’m sponsoring the Ohio DISCLOSE Act to strengthen disclosure requirements and ban foreign money from campaigns in Ohio.”


Rep. Clyde’s bill would do the following:



  • Close secret money loopholes by requiring 501(c)(4)s and LLCs to report their political contributors.

  • Increase transparency by requiring meaningful disclosure in campaign finance reports that reveals the real sources of funds.

  • Prohibit political spending by foreign individuals and domestic corporations with foreign owners and decisions makers.


Clyde’s legislation has received the endorsement of End Citizens United, a grassroots group dedicated to ending secret money in politics and fixing the rigged political system by promoting campaign finance reform champions.


"The secret money flooding our elections every cycle is a grave danger to the health of our democracy and a government that works for the people,” said Tiffany Muller, president of End Citizens United. “Ohioans deserve full transparency and disclosure of election spending, and we must no longer permit special interests to hide in the shadows. End Citizens United fully supports Rep. Clyde's proposal to ban secret money and foreign contributions in Ohio elections."


Rep. Clyde’s proposal has also been endorsed by Common Cause Ohio, a grassroots non-profit organization dedicated to open, honest, and accountable government.


"Ohioans should be able to 'follow the money.' Bringing full transparency to Ohio's elections will allow voters to consider the source of information and make more informed decisions. Common Cause Ohio is proud to support Rep. Clyde's proposal to bring sunshine to Ohio elections and ban secret money," said Catherine Turcer, executive director of Common Cause Ohio.

 
 
  

Following former Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger's abrupt resignation amid questions of possible FBI inquiries into matters he may have been involved with, two House lawmakers are saying the House and taxpayers deserve more answers, and soon. 


State Reps. David Leland and Kristin Boggs are asking two outside parties to indepently investigate the nature and extent of potential corruption at the Ohio House to ensure lawmakers can continue the People's work without getting caught up in pay-to-play lawmaking.


"Allegations of corruption targeted at the Ohio Speaker have never before resulted in a Speaker’s resignation. This is the first time in Ohio’s history that the Speaker of the Ohio House has resigned in such disgrace, and his resignation leads us to believe that illicit forces have been corrupting, and may continue to corrupt, the work of the Statehouse," the lawmakers wrote in their letter.


Click the link to read the whole letter to the Franklin County Prosectuor. The same letter was sent to the Joint Legislative Ethics Commission.


 

 

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Ohio Legislative Black Caucus Hosts Annual Day Of Action
Launches legislative agenda
April 18, 2018
 
 

The Ohio Legislative Black Caucus (OLBC) today is holding their annual Day of Action. This year’s theme “Reclaiming our Government” focuses on four areas in which citizens can be empowered to take control of their communities and address disparities through engaging with the legislature.*


OLBC President and state Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland) has ramped up the group’s focus on rooting out disparities within Ohio’s black community during her second year as president.


“Our Day of Action is focused on getting an understanding of the barriers that have led to systematic disengagement within our government,” said Howse. “We want to offer pathways for how African Americans in Ohio can increase advocacy on pressing issues that matter to our community.”


According to the Ohio Poverty Report released in February of 2018, the areas that had the highest poverty rates were counties with metropolitan areas, where a bulk of the black population resides. Counties with poverty rates higher than the state average of 15.4 percent include Allen (Lima), Clark (Springfield), Cuyahoga (Cleveland-Elyria), Franklin (Columbus), Hamilton (Cincinnati), Lucas (Toledo), Mahoning (Youngstown), Montgomery (Dayton), Richland (Mansfield) and Trumbull (Warren).


In 2016, while Ohio’s graduation rates rose to a little over 83 percent, only about 67 percent of black high school students graduate, ranking Ohio forty-fifth in the nation for black graduation according to the National Center for Education Statistics.


The OLBC is hopeful that this year’s Day of Action will create even more opportunities for collaboration to engage and advance communities around Ohio. In its 2018 legislative agenda, the OLBC takes aim at education, criminal justice, voting rights, and health and family care.

 
 
  
 
On Tax Day, House Dems Push Tax Reform That Puts Families First
Say package offers solutions that allow working families to get ahead
April 17, 2018
 
 

Marking National Tax Day, House Democratic lawmakers today detailed a state tax reform package they say will make life better for families in the Buckeye State. After seven years of Republican tax policies benefitting the wealthiest one-percent, Democratic lawmakers say the tax responsibility has been unfairly shifted to middle-class and working families.


“For too long we’ve seen tax schemes worked up to benefit the wealthy at the expense of hardworking Ohioans,” said Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire). “Our plan works to fix this by offering real, commonsense solutions that allow working families to get ahead.”


Proposals include House Bill 333, a bill to end Ohio’s marriage penalty, as well as a plan to expand Ohio’s tax credit for families who adopt. Democrats also outlined a blueprint to stop forcing families to pay for state inaction on the state’s worst-in-the-nation opioid epidemic.


“Ending Ohio’s marriage penalty and expanding tax credits for families looking to adopt are commonsense ways to support hardworking families,” said Rep. Rich Brown (D-Canal Winchester). “Also, by creating a tax credit to help our families that struggle with addiction, we help Ohioans get back on their feet to support their families and strengthen our communities.”


In addition, Democrats are looking at new legislation to reduce the cost of essential everyday products by eliminating certain items from the state sales tax, including feminine hygiene products, diapers, over-the-counter medicine, child safety seats and other goods.


“Republicans have continued to nickel and dime hardworking people by shifting taxes from the wealthy to middle-class and working people, especially women and young parents,” said Rep. Janine Boyd (D-Cleveland). “By eliminating certain essential products from the state sales tax, we increase consumer purchasing power and make it easier for families to afford life’s necessities.”


Since 2011, state lawmakers have continually shifted taxes from the wealthiest one-percent to middle and working class Ohioans, most notably through more expensive property taxes, a one-billion-dollar per-year sales tax hike, a sales tax expansion and more local tax levies to fund schools and communities who have shouldered over $3 billion in state budget cuts, collectively.


“Shifting taxes away from the wealthy and onto the backs of middle-class and working Ohioans was supposed to create jobs and strengthen our economy—neither of which happened,” said Rep. John Rogers (D-Mentor-on-the-Lake). “Our economy is barely moving and families are feeling the squeeze. Family First tax reform puts money back into the hands of those that need it—working families—so they can focus on what really matters.”


Rogers also introduced bipartisan legislation, House Bill 186, to allow families to deduct up to $2000 per year from state income taxes for qualifying higher education expenses like tuition, fees, books and supplies. Ohio ranks first in the nation in the total burden of student loan debt.  


An outline of the lawmakers’ proposals is attached.

 
 
  

Ohio House Assistant Democratic Whip Brigid Kelly (D-Cincinnati) today responded to former Republican House Speaker cliff Rosenberger’s expedited resignation from the Ohio House amid an FBI investigation into events in which he may have been involved. Rosenberger initially announced he would resign May 1, but late Thursday announced he was resigning immediately.


Kelly says the about face amid outside political-party pressure raises new questions about the legislature’s work and the breadth and depth of the federal investigation. Kelly issued the following statement:


“It is no secret that the people’s work in the state legislature has become overshadowed by suspicions of corruption and violations of the public trust since former Speaker Rosenberger announced he could be part of an FBI investigation. We are hopeful his expedited resignation helps us all get back to work on behalf of the taxpayers sooner, but the truth is, it also creates new questions about how the outside influence of political party pressure during an election year may be dictating the terms, conditions and deadlines of the people’s work in the legislature.


“The former speaker was right – allegations of public corruption and breach of the public’s trust is bigger than one person. That is why, even though one person has resigned, we are concerned that the impact and scope of this investigation remains unclear.” 

 
 
  
 
Lawmakers Concerned School Rating Overhaul Leaves Youngstown Schools Behind
Say House Bill 591 unfairly targets certain districts
April 13, 2018
 
 

State Reps. John Boccieri (D-Poland) and Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown) today expressed concern about House Bill (HB) 591, a Republican-led effort to once again overhaul the state’s school report card system. The bill would leave current triggers in place for schools that are under or near academic distress—a move the lawmakers say unfairly targets districts in academic distress like Youngstown, Lorain and at least 22 other districts across the state.


“I’m concerned once again the Legislature is changing the rules by which educators measure success, and these changes every few years create confusion and chaos in districts already fighting for survival,” Rep Boccieri said. “We see it from Columbus with changes to the funding formula creating chaos for districts trying to pay for a quality education, now we see it once again with shifting standards.”


The bill sponsor, state Rep. Mike Duffey (R-Worthington), recently commented on the provisions within HB 591 that keep the controversial triggers in place:


"I did not want to change accountability triggers in current Ohio law…If I say that we want to extend safe harbor and said districts wouldn't be sanctioned this year, or community schools wouldn't be shut down, very quickly this situation would turn into 'Is this a bill to protect ECOT?' or 'Is this a bill to lower accountability standards?'


“The way I'm dealing with that issue is that I'm actually letting [the legislature] decide. I think that letter grades are suspect and should not exist and that many sanctions assigned to school districts across the state are invalid—that applies to community and public schools. The decision about how [legislators are] going to map the accountability system to a new report card system is a decision that [we as legislators have] to make."


Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan said, “I support stronger accountability of for-profit charter schools, they need to be on the same standards as traditional public schools. I’m concerned that standards change for everyone else except schools in academic distress under the old reporting system.”


HB 591 would repeal the state’s letter-grade school report card and replace it with a series of seven separate performance measures. The bill would also modify existing report cards for career-technical schools and eliminate several annual reports and non-graded measures. The plan would also maintain the existing report card system for the purposes of implementing controversial accountability triggers, like the administration of academic distress commissions and school restructuring. This exception affects 24 districts across the state, including Youngstown City Schools.


Committee members from Toledo and Dayton brought up bipartisan concerns about the academic distress commission that took control of Youngstown City Schools and Lorain. They noted there are 22 districts heading toward similar situations citing unfairness with leaving struggling districts under an older model.


Rep. Duffey said he himself did not believe that such "school takeovers" are effective in the long-term, saying that districts generally end up in their original state when business interest dies down in the community. 


“Republican lawmakers in the majority are now saying they don’t believe long-term takeovers by the state are effective and we need to know what course of action the community must take when they turn it back over to local control,” Rep. Lepore-Hagan added.


HB 591 is currently awaiting committee assignment where it will receive its initial hearings.

 
 
  

Assistant House Democratic Leader Nick Celebrezze (D-Parma) today issued the following statement in response to House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger’s (R-Clarksville) Tuesday announcement that he will resign effective May 1:


“This is a deeply troubling situation that restricts the ability of this institution to focus on issues and laws that improve people’s lives. While I personally like Cliff Rosenberger, the citizens of Ohio deserve to know the truth behind these allegations as the public trust of the taxpayers should be of utmost importance.”


“The one-party rule that has dominated our state for decades has led to unchecked power that has damaged not only this institution, but our state. Ohioans deserve better and that is why I agree that Cliff should step down immediately.”


“When public officials appear to act in their own interest instead of public interest, it shakes the entire confidence of the taxpayers. It is my sincerest hope that the nature of these allegations is made public soon, so that the House can refocus on the job at hand and move our state forward.”

 
 
  

Ohio House Democratic Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton) today issued the following statement in response to House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger’s (R-Clarksville) Tuesday announcement that he will resign effective May 1:


“I genuinely like and have considered Cliff Rosenberger a friend throughout my tenure as Leader. I am disappointed to see the Speaker of the House embroiled in an FBI investigation. Currently, it is a cloud of unanswered questions and allegations but it will have a significant impact on our institution.


“I understand that even the perception of wrongdoing can compromise the ability of our institution to conduct the business of the people. This deeply saddening and unfortunate situation impedes our ability to effectively discuss and pass laws that make people’s lives better.


“It stands as a reminder of the dangers of prolonged one-party rules that can put the public interest in competition with private interest. It shakes the confidence in our ability to do good and damages the trust of taxpayers.”


 


 

 
 
  

State Rep. David Leland (D-Columbus) today issued the following statement in response to Tuesday’s announcement that House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger (R-Clarksville) will resign effective May 1:


“This is a stain on our democracy that interferes with the people’s business and reduces public confidence in our legislative process. This unfortunate incident is a reminder of what happens when one political party controls every level of state government.


“Though this is the tip of the iceberg in fully understanding the extent and level of political corruption, it should serve as a sobering reminder for some that nobody is above the law. We need checks and balances, and new leadership to restore integrity and trust in state government.”

 
 
  

House Minority Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton) and state Rep. Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) today announced the unanimous House passage of  legislation that urges Congress to award Annie and John Glenn with a Congressional Gold Medal for their lifetime of public service.


“Growing up, I remember thinking of John Glenn as a true American hero, and I know I am not alone. We are immensely proud to call John and Annie Glenn one of our own,” said Strahorn. “We are thankful to have received support from the House to recognize these two amazing Ohioans in hopes that their legacy will be memorialized with all of the exceptional recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor.”


John Glenn graduated from the Naval Aviation Cadet Program and joined the Marine Corps in 1943. During that same year, John married his lifelong friend and high school sweetheart, Annie Castor.


“John and Annie’s continued dedication to their country and improving the world around them will never be forgotten. They touched many lives and taught us that one person can indeed change the world,” said Antonio. “We hope Congress will take the next step in honoring them with this prestigious military decoration for their service to our country through their generosity, intelligence and persistence.”


John Glenn led 59 missions with the Marine Fighter Squadron 155 during WWII, and led 63 missions with the Marine Fighter Squadron 311 during the Korean War. He was later selected by NASA as one of the Mercury Seven test pilots and became the first American to orbit the Earth in 1962 while flying the Friendship 7. John Glenn later decided to run for public office and was elected to the US Senate in 1974, where he served for 24 years. John passed away on Dec. 8, 2016.


Annie Glenn completed her undergraduate career at Muskingum College with a Bachelor of Science after studying music and education. Born with a severe speech disorder, Annie Glenn completed an intensive speech therapy program in 1973 and dedicated her life to helping others with communications disorders. In 1983 she received the first national award of the American Speech and Hearing Association for serving as an inspiration for those with communicative disorders.


The bill now moves to the Senate for further consideration.

 
 
  
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Leader Strahorn Responds To Continued Statehouse Dysfunction

 

State Rep. Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton) issued the following statement in response to today’s session cancellation notice from House Republicans hours before the House was scheduled to vote on a new Republican speaker:



 
 

Celebrezze Responds To Continued Statehouse Dysfunction

 

Ohio House Democratic Assistant Leader Nicholas J. Celebrezze (D-Parma) issued the following statement in response to today’s session cancellation notice from House Republicans hours before the House was scheduled to vote on a new Republican speaker:



 
 

Ramos Proposes Tuition Coverage For Ohio College Students

 

As Ohio college students don their caps and gowns this month, many will leave school with mountains of debt for four-year degrees. In fact, Ohio families and students face the highest burden of student loan debt in the nation, with the Buckeye State ranking 45th nationally for college affordability. With college out of reach for too many families and students, state Rep. Dan Ramos (D-Lorain) today introduced legislation to cover 90 percent of the cost for students to attend public college in Ohio. The Ohio Lets Everyone Achieve Right Now (LEARN) tax credit would make Ohio the first state to make college truly affordable for all students.



 
 

Lawmakers Ask DeWine For Special Prosecutor To Investigate ECOT Audit Findings

 

State Reps. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) and Tavia Galonski (D-Akron) today sent a letter asking Attorney General Mike DeWine to appoint special state prosecutor to  determine the extent of criminal activities of the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) publicized by Auditor Dave Yost in a stalled audit released today. The lawmakers are also asking that a special prosecutor determine whether state negligence contributed to additional taxpayer fraud, and whether or not state officials are liable for any additional fraud that developed as a result of their negligence or malfeasance.