Late-night Flurry Of Statehouse Activity To Affect Mahoning Valley Families
Boccieri opposes poll tax bill, applauds funding for YSU program and higher lead contamination standards

In a marathon legislative session late Wednesday, the General Assembly cleared over 40 bills just before midnight. From new lead contamination standards and money for Youngstown State University to rules restricting polling hours, Poland lawmaker John Boccieri says many of the bills will have a direct effect on Mahoning Valley residents. 

Bills the legislature sent to the governor’s desk Wednesday include: 

-Senate Bill (SB) 296, legislation that creates new restrictions on the process for an emergency extension of poll hours on Election Day. 

-House Bill (HB) 512, legislation to tighten lead contamination standards.

-HB 391, financial literacy legislation that contained a provision allocating $500,000 to the Ohio Youth Entrepreneur Program at Youngstown State University (YSU). 

Boccieri adamantly opposed SB 296, sponsored by Sen. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati), because it would require citizens to post a cash bond in an Ohio court to extend polling hours in the event of voting equipment failure, extreme weather delays or other circumstances beyond voters’ control. The price tag for access to the polls could run in the tens-of-thousands of dollars, with a small exception for citizens who can prove they are indigent and too poor to pay the new fee. 

“I believe this measure will eventually be struck down by the courts as unconstitutional,” Boccieri said. “Let’s be clear about what this really is – a poll tax. We want to make it easier for people to vote, not harder. Requiring citizens to post a bond to exercise their most basic right in our democracy when the unexpected occurs or an emergency strikes is fundamentally wrong and un-American.” 

The legislation was fast-tracked through the legislature despite Secretary of State Jon Husted publicly saying he does not believe a bond is necessary to keep voting booths open on Election Day.  

Boccieri did support HB 512, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s bill to tighten lead contamination standards, which gained final approval by the Senate. Still, the lawmaker expressed reservations that the two-day public notification window is too short a time requirement for local water systems to meet. However, after meeting with Gov. Kasich Wednesday afternoon he is optimistic discussions to improve the provision will take place in the near future. 

“In conversations with the governor yesterday, there was general consensus that we can make this notification timeline work,” Boccieri added. 

The Poland lawmaker also voted in favor of House Bill 391, which will fund the SmartOhio Financial Literacy Pilot Program and allocate $500,000 to the Ohio Youth Entrepreneur Program at YSU.

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