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Kasich signs Driehaus-Blessing effort that allows open container districts in certain cities
April 30, 2015

Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed House Bill 47 today, which was introduced by Reps. Denise Driehaus and Lou Blessing III.  The law will allow certain cities to create Outdoor Refreshment Districts, where the public can enjoy an alcoholic beverage outside, within a specified area of an Ohio community.

"This law will help create economic opportunity for our communities while growing local Ohio businesses. These districts will become destination spots which will create excitement and provide a critical mass of customers for the restaurants, bars and shops in the district and nearby,”  Driehaus said. 

The new law will allow cities with a population of over 35,000 to apply for Outdoor Refreshment District areas within their cities. Specifically, it will allow cities with a population between 35,000 and 50,000 to create one Outdoor Refreshment District, while cities with over 50,000 will have the opportunity to create two. After two years, cities with populations of less than 35,000 will be permitted to create a district if they meet certain requirements.

Community-Police Relations Task Force presents recommendations to reform justice system
April 29, 2015

Ohio Legislative Black Caucus President (OLBC) and State Rep. Alicia Reece (D-Cincinnati) released the following statement after joining Gov. John Kasich and her colleagues on the state’s 24-member Community-Police Relations Task Force today to present their recommendations on strengthening Ohio’s justice system:

“I am proud of our recommendations we put forth and believe they are the first step in restoring faith and trust in our justice system. I am also pleased that the governor used our work in Cincinnati as a model for a collaborative approach in implementing these recommendations at a statewide level.

“We need to hold this effort and public officials in our state accountable to ensure that the first step we took today is not the last, but the beginning of real and lasting reform. I am hopeful the legislature takes our findings seriously as well and works with us on justice reform bills to give our work the permanence and funding needed to make our communities open for people of all backgrounds to lead happy and productive lives free from fear.

“In addition to reforms in our justice system, we must also take seriously the need for economic reforms that level the playing field for all people—regardless of race—to have a fair shot at prosperity in our state. I look forward to seeing a report on our progress before summer begins.”

While serving as city councilwoman, Rep. Reece played an integral role in brokering Cincinnati’s 2002 police-community relations collaborative agreement following the city’s 2001 race riots sparked by the police shooting of 19-year-old Timothy Thomas. 

Says legislation would also make it easier to access treatment, services
April 28, 2015

State Rep. Greta Johnson (D-Akron) today applauded the House Judiciary panel’s passage of House Bill 123, the lawmaker’s bipartisan bill to eliminate some costly pre-sentence investigation reports (PSI) in an effort to clean up Ohio’s judicial system.

“This legislation benefits taxpayers and connects offenders with immediate access to the treatment and services they so desperately need,” said Rep. Johnson. “We have a real shot at saving hundreds of dollars per case in administrative costs while increasing community safety and overall efficiency of the judicial system. I am pleased that the Ohio Supreme Court and the House of Representatives recognize this as an unnecessary burden on local communities and their dwindling funds.”

Lawmaker congratulates university on their leadership
April 28, 2015

At a ribbon-cutting and dedication ceremony this afternoon, State Rep. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) and several leaders of the community celebrated the opening of a Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute within the College of Social Justice and Human Service at the University of Toledo.

“I’m honored to be part of the formal dedication of the University of Toledo’s Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute,” said Rep. Fedor. “UT’s Human Trafficking Institute will build on the landmark research and prestigious work of UT Professor Dr. Celia Williamson, and it will have a profound impact, not just locally, but worldwide. As the only one of its kind, the work of this institute will go a long way toward rescuing and restoring victims, as well as aiding in the prosecution of the criminals.”


Democratic members say budget isn't a responsible plan for the future, doesn't work for middle-class Ohioans
April 23, 2015

Wednesday, State Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) and Ohio House Democratic Caucus members stood in opposition to the state’s two-year budget proposal, House Bill 64. Democratic legislators said the bill failed to lay out a real plan for the future of the state and instead advanced partisan attacks on working Ohioans and policies that rig the tax system to help the richest one-percent and special interests.

Democrats offered several alternative proposals* that would have put more money in the pockets of middle class Ohioans, stopped attacks on working Ohioans, ensured equal pay for women, reduced the state’s sales tax and maintained access to healthcare for pregnant working mothers and women needing cancer treatment. The Democratic proposals were shot down along party lines.

“I am very disappointed that the Ohio House has decided against working families by passing this budget,” said Rep. Sykes. “I'm especially disappointed that an amendment I offered that would reduce Ohio's abysmal infant mortality rate was tabled. People say, ‘Show me your budget and I'll show you your priorities.’ The Ohio House showed us that working families, pregnant women, babies and an educated work force are not our priorities."

Says policies should build opportunity for middle-class Ohioans, not attack working Ohioans
April 22, 2015

Today, State Rep. and highest ranking Democrat on the state budget panel Denise Driehaus (D-Cincinnati) stood in opposition to the state’s two-year, $131.6 billion budget proposal, House Bill 64. Democratic members said a bill of that magnitude should have been a strategic and targeted blueprint to grow the state’s economy for the future, but instead became a vehicle for tax cuts that favor the richest one-percent and last-minute attacks on working Ohioans.

“This budget doesn’t work to provide a real plan for the future of Ohio,” said Driehaus. “Not only does this budget fail to lay out a plan for growing and strengthening our middle class and Ohio’s economy for the future, it attacks working and middle class Ohioans.”


State Rep. Kent Smith (D-Euclid) today announced a proposal to promote music industry growth in Ohio. The proposed Ohio Sound Recording Investor Tax Credit, or "OhioSounds," would provide incentives for music production, studio construction and recording within the state. Smith submitted the proposal for consideration in the state budget.

“OhioSounds would solidify the state’s commitment to our musical legacy and help encourage further creative endeavors from Ohio musicians while driving economic growth in a competitive industry and making Ohio a destination for musicians and producers,” said Rep. Smith. “This will not only inspire the next generation of The Black Keys or Bootsy Collins, but will provide a substantial economic return for communities across the state.”

Current data lists music industry revenues at nearly $7 billion annually. Rep. Smith wants to see some of that investment come to Ohio.

Rep. Smith’s proposal would provide tax credits for 25 percent of the related sound recording production costs for music projects created in Ohio. It would also refund 25 percent of music studio construction and recording infrastructure costs. To qualify for OhioSounds, production costs must exceed $5,000 per project, with a maximum incentive set at $50,000. If OhioSounds becomes law, the total amount of initial incentives would be capped at $3 million.

“We have the ability to attract talent not only from Ohio, but across the globe to create music, pioneer new technologies and contribute to our local economies. It’s a win-win,” said Smith. “We have the opportunity for people to be exposed to and fall in love with more Ohio talent. I think its a solid gold opportunity— maybe even platinum.”


Provision included after bi-partisan efforts
April 14, 2015

Mahoning Valley lawmakers applauded today’s announcement that the latest version of the state budget includes a provision that may help keep the doors open and the lights on at the Youngstown Developmental Center. 

The latest version of the budget bill would establish a 13-member closure review commission anytime the Governor orders the closure of a state developmental center—a provision that closely mirrors a bi-partisan amendment submitted by Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan and Rep. Michael Henne (R-Clayton), whose district includes the Montgomery Developmental Center. 

“Since the decision was made to close the Youngstown Developmental Center, the response has been clear and unequivocal: the workers, residents and their families, and indeed the entire community want and need this facility to remain open,” said Rep. Lepore-Hagan. “The YDC provides a tremendous service for the most vulnerable population. I am thrilled that we were able to work in a bi-partisan fashion to work toward a review commission.” 

Under the new budget language, the review commission would consider at least 10 specified criteria and factors before making a recommendation, and the Governor could not close a facility without the commission’s recommendation.

“I am pleased the proposal for a review commission has been included in the latest amendments to the state budget,” said Leader Joe Schiavoni. "The residents, their families and the employees of the Youngstown Developmental Center deserve a fair and open process in deciding the future of the facility. While this looks promising for the future of the Developmental Center, the legislation still has a long way to go and I will be working hard to make sure it stays in the budget.”

Senate Democratic Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) and Sen. Capri S. Cafaro (D-Hubbard) introduced a Senate bill that would establish a procedure similar to

Resolution would recognize April 14 as "Equal Pay Day"
April 14, 2015

State Rep. Teresa Fedor today offered a resolution recognizing April 14th as Equal Pay Day in Ohio.  This date points out the inequality that exists in Ohio’s workforce and symbolizes how long, on average, a woman must work into a new year to match her male counterpart’s previous year’s earnings.  

National Action Network hosts annual national convention
April 7, 2015

State Rep. and Ohio Legislative Black Caucus President Alicia Reece (D-Cincinnati) will attend the National Action Network (NAN) convention in New York today where she will join other elected officials and civil rights activists for four days of panel discussions, workshops and events.

“I am proud to work with so many dedicated individuals through the National Action Network to bring together civil rights leaders in the pursuit of a new era of equal opportunity for all,” said Rep. Reece. “Whether it’s equal opportunity at the ballot box or in the justice system, the board room or the classroom, we are building a movement that recognizes our nation has much work remaining to build a more perfect union.”

National Action Network Founder and President Rev. Al Sharpton will kick off the annual convention with a ribbon cutting on Wednesday followed by a 2016 Presidential Election panel that morning. Panels and workshops will continue in the following days, addressing topics like, women in business, police brutality, crime, homophobia housing and healthcare.

Samaria Rice, mother of slain Ohio youth Tamir Rice, will speak on a victim-centered panel on justice and police, while other panels will include people like, presidential advisor Robert Gibbs, Dr. Ben Carson, actor Anthony Anderson, former RNC Chair Michael Steele, Senator Bernie Sanders and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

Reece will present a “Woman of Power” award to a featured guest during Wednesday’s “When Women Win, We All Win” luncheon.

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