State Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire) today responded to the state inspector general’s latest report from an ongoing investigation into corrupt activity at the Department of Administrative Services (DAS).
“Today’s report confirms what many have known for quite some time: powerful public officials at the highest levels of state government have misused the system and taxpayer dollars to benefit political insiders and friends. This is just the latest report of wrongdoing in what is quickly becoming a pattern of corrupt activity,” said Cera. “Ultimately, reviewing this activity and making recommendations on changing the process is not enough. Nobody is above the law. The scope of the investigation should reflect this and hold individuals accountable.”
Cera, a State Controlling Board member tasked with oversight of state spending, sought additional information from Inspector General Meyer in June of this year, after news reports showed DAS was steering hundreds of millions of dollars in no-bid, taxpayer-funded state contracts to a few select IT firms for consulting services.
Cera, also the lead Democrat on the House’s state budget committee, supported an amendment to the state budget to force additional oversight on hundreds of millions of dollars in no-bid handouts at DAS. The amendment passed both the House and Senate before Gov. John Kasich vetoed the added taxpayer safeguard in the final budget version.
State lawmakers moved to pass a last-minute cash infusion for counties and local transit authorities today, on the heels of a new state auditor report showing worsening financial stability for local communities across the state.
State Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) today called on Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine to respect the 8th District of Ohio Court of Appeals’ recent decision declaring a 2016 state law outlawing local hiring standards, House Bill 180, unconstitutional.*
“Local hiring standards represent a commitment by cities to combat underemployment and reinvest in local communities. Workers benefit from public construction projects that often include jobs with apprenticeships – clear career paths and quality on-the-job training that pay dividends beyond the duration of a single project,” Sykes wrote in a letter to DeWine.
The City of Cleveland sued the state in 2016 after the Republican-passed bill directly conflicted with the city’s Fannie Lewis law, a local ordinance requiring public construction be completed with at least 20 percent local labor. Akron similarly uses local hiring standards on more than $1 billion in public works projects.
“Ohioans deserve a fair shot at good-paying local jobs because they have a stake in rebuilding the communities where they live and raise their families,” Sykes continued. “By putting money back in the hands of Ohio workers, local hiring ordinances like Cleveland’s Fannie Lewis Law are strengthening local businesses and giving workers the opportunity to get ahead. Without local hiring ordinances, investments would be more likely to flow to out of state companies and workers with no stake in the health and success of our regional economies.”
Sykes said she plans to introduce legislation in the new year that will strengthen Ohio communities’ ability to make decisions about local hiring standards.
House Democratic Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton) today announced changes to the caucus’ leadership team, following Democratic Whip Rep. Nickie J. Antonio’s (D-Lakewood) recently announced campaign for the Ohio Senate. Internal caucus rules require members seeking elected office outside the Ohio House to forgo any official leadership post or duties.
“I feel confident that our work as a caucus and leadership team during the last three years has better positioned us to influence the discussion at the Statehouse,” said Rep. Antonio. “I have been honored to be a part of that, and I look forward to continuing to serve my constituents and the caucus in every way possible.”
House Democrats nominated and elected state Rep. Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) to replace Antonio as Democratic whip. Sykes had been serving on leadership as assistant whip for the past year.
“As we head into the New Year, I am eager to continue our work of standing up for a strong middle class and pushing pro-family policies that let people plan for their future,” said Rep. Sykes.
State Rep. Brigid Kelly (D-Cincinnati) was elected as assistant whip to round out the four-person House Democratic leadership team.
“I am honored to play a bigger role in advancing our caucus’ pro-job and pro-worker priorities into 2018 and beyond,” said Kelly. “It’s a great feeling to be a part of a caucus and team who puts working families first.”
Kelly, a freshman lawmaker from the Cincinnati area, brings experience as a local elected official and representative for members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) to the caucus’ leadership team.
“After years of slow growth, drug addiction and limited opportunity, it is important to the people we represent that we head into 2018 with an intense focus and drive to get our state back on track,” said
State Representatives Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) and Bernadine Kennedy Kent (D-Columbus) recently filed the Ohio Health Security Act, House Bill 440, which will establish a single-payer health care plan in Ohio. Medical, dental, mental health, and vision services will be covered under the act and payments to healthcare providers for all eligible services will be made from a single fund, the Ohio Health Care Fund.
“We need to be guided by the facts,” according to Fedor, “Sixty-two percent of bankruptcies in the US are linked to healthcare costs and seventy-eight percent of those families had health insurance.”
Under the plan, every Ohioan may receive full health care coverage, regardless of income or employment status, and may freely choose their own health care providers for services such as outpatient services to prescription drugs, medical supplies and medical transportation without costly co-payments or deductibles. There will also be no exclusions for pre-existing conditions.
According to Kennedy Kent, the two representatives are “putting together a concrete plan to make care affordable and flexible to work for you and your family.” The new plan will offer flexibility and affordability.
“Taxpayers deserve a plan that gives them a real choice and the freedom to pick a plan that works for them,” said Kennedy Kent.
The new health care plan will be administered by the Ohio Health Care Agency, which will operate under the direction of the Ohio Health Care Board. The board will consist of two elected representatives from seven regions across the state and the director of the Ohio Health Care Agency. The board will:
- Negotiate or set prices for health care services provided.
- Establish standards to demonstrate proof of residency.
The Ohio Ethics Commission today confirmed in a letter* to state Reps. John Boccieri (D-Poland) and Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown) that Youngstown City Schools CEO Kris Mohip is bound by state ethics laws and must file an annual financial disclosure statement with the commission. The letter comes in response to the lawmakers’ inquiry as to whether Mohip must follow ethics laws after news reports found he steered business to a partner company of his former employer. Mohip ended his status as a paid consultant with the partner company the same day the Vindicator confronted him about the seemingly cozy relationship.
Correspondence with state officials revealed that the Youngstown CEO has 'Carte Blanche' authority to manage the district, however the lawmakers say running government like a business becomes complicated with respect to appropriate checks-and-balances.
“I am thankful the Ohio Ethics Commission answered our questions and provided clarity that – even with the privatization of our public schools – a school district CEO still must be fiscally, legally and ethically accountable to the school district and taxpayers,” said Boccieri.
The ethics commission declined to provide an advisory opinion on whether or not Mohip hypothetically broke the law, instead noting an official complaint needs to be made to determine whether to open a confidential investigation. Under Ohio law, anyone may confidentially bring a complaint before the Ohio Ethics Commission for review.
“Our community deserves a system that puts the needs and best interests of our children over the business interests of one person,” said Lepore-Hagan. “Ultimately, we want to ensure that the structure we have in place isn’t fatally flawed, putting our kids at an even greater disadvantage.”
Minority Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton) and state Rep. Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) yesterday announced their legislation that urges Congress to award Annie and John Glenn with a Congressional Gold Medal for their lifetime of public service unanimously passed the House Federalism and Interstate Relations Committee.
“John and Annie Glenn represent what is best about America. They inspired generations with hope, teaching us to reach beyond ourselves for something greater,” said Strahorn. “There is no duo that deserves this honor more than John and Annie Glenn.”
State Reps. Thomas West (D-Canton) and Dan Ramos (D-Lorain) today announced the introduction of House Concurrent Resolution (HCR) 18, which urges Congress, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and the president to uphold existing net neutrality rules. Net Neutrality is the principle that internet service providers (ISPs) must treat all data equally. Under net neutrality, no user, platform or website can be accessed faster or slower than another.
House Democrats today voted in opposition to House Bill (HB) 380, a Republican-sponsored bill to deny workers’ compensation benefits to undocumented workers who get injured or killed on the job. The House passed the bill on a largely party-line vote.