State Rep. John Boccieri (D-Poland) today applauded the incorporation of two amendments affecting the Mahoning Valley into the latest version of House Bill 49, the state budget bill.  The first amendment, offered by Boccieri, expands eligibility for the Ohio Federal Research Network (OFRN) to include all federal installations and local universities. 

“I am thrilled that the Legislature is recognizing the innovative contributions Youngstown State University, Kent State University and our federal installations are providing, and that connecting them to the state support from OFRN will only further advance Ohio,” said Boccieri. “I believe this will be a huge opportunity for our base and local universities.” 

The amendment language on OFRN clarifies that all state institutions of higher education, private nonprofit institutions of higher education and federal installations are eligible for funding. The previous version of the bill only explicitly listed Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, NASA Glenn Research Facility, OSU and a vague “Ohio’s research universities.” 

“I’m very pleased that coordination between YSU and our federal assets can now be recognized by the state of Ohio,” said state Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown). “Over the long-term, this will help contribute to a positive atmosphere for job growth in the Valley.” 

“I was very pleased to see additional money for the military installations in my district included in the version of the budget voted out of the House today,” said state Sen. Sean O’Brien (D-Bazetta). “YARS and Camp Ravenna are two of the biggest employers in my district and I will continue to do all I can to support our brave and selfless military members who serve there.” 

“I’m very happy to see these amendments included in the budget,” state Rep. Glen Holmes (D-McDonald) said. “While there are still many problems with the budget bill that must be addressed, it’s good to see our region’s educational and military institutions recognized for the vital and excellent services they provide to our community.”   

Valley lawmakers also voiced their approval today of an amendment removing controversial language expanding probate court authority over park districts. The previous version of HB 49 would have allowed judges to impose penalties on dissenting community members at park board meetings and issue orders preventing interference with the court’s order creating the park district. The latest version of HB 49 approved today removes all language that expands probate court authority entirely. 

“This amendment presented a danger to a citizen’s right to freely speak out against a governmental board,” said Boccieri. “It created a situation where the appointing authority was the “specialty court” for matters affecting the park board, which is a clear conflict of interest. It was only through public outcry that this language was removed.” 

“I’m glad to see that the First Amendment is alive and well in this state, despite recent attempts to kill it off,” added Lepore-Hagan. 

The full House is expected to vote on House Bill 49 tomorrow afternoon. 

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