Blog Posts For The Week Of February 20, 2015 Through February 26, 2015

Release: Senator Schiavoni Introduces Legislation to Protect Students
By Gongwer Staff
Posted: February, 26 2015 2:06 PM

Bills would invest in bullying prevention and school safety

Columbus—Today, Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) introduced two bills aimed at protecting students in Ohio’s public schools. Senate Bill 92 would appropriate additional funding for school safety projects and Senate Bill 93 would create the Bullying Prevention Grant Program.

“Protecting our students and creating a safe place for them to learn is the foundation for success in our schools,” said Senator Schiavoni.

SB 92* would appropriate an additional $34 million dollars in both fiscal years 2016 and 2017 to be used for school safety projects such as upgrading security equipment, and hiring additional security officers. Funding distribution would be based on a district’s enrollment, with four tiers ranging from $25,000 for small districts, to $100,000 for large districts.

To maintain accountability, school districts would be required to submit an application to the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) on how they will use the funds to increase school safety. An ODE approval process will then consider and approve applications that meet predetermined criteria. Applications would be non-competitive, so any approved district safety project would receive funding.

“This legislation gives school districts the flexibility to address their most pressing safety concerns,” said Senator Schiavoni. “They could purchase security cameras and door locks or hire an additional school resource officer or guidance counselor depending on their particular needs.”

The Bullying Prevention Grant Program would offer one time funding to school districts based on the size of their student population. The funding is to be used specifically at middle schools and school districts would have the flexibility to decide what type of programming would have the best impact on their student population. The State Board of Education would be tasked with overseeing program implementation and the application process.

“Middle school students are particularly vulnerable to bullying,” said Senator Schiavoni. “That’s why this program focuses on the age group where intervention, education and awareness can help prevent future problems.”

Both of these bills were previously introduced in the 130th General Assembly

Release: Reps. Clyde and Curtin introduce congressional redistricting reform
By Gongwer Staff
Posted: February, 26 2015 11:29 AM

Proposal mostly mirrors recent bipartisan plan to reform statehouse districts

COLUMBUS – State Representatives Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) and Mike Curtin (D-Marble Cliff) today introduced a congressional redistricting reform proposal to put before voters.

In 2011, Congressional district boundaries were passed with almost no input from the public. The original GOP district plan split more than 200 Ohio counties, cities and townships. After an attempted citizens’ referendum of that unfair map, a second plan was passed but with only the mildest of improvements. The plan predictably has resulted in Ohio’s congressional delegation breaking 75 percent Republican and 25 percent Democratic, even though vote totals for candidates from the two parties appear much more competitive across the state.

Last year, HJR12, a plan to reform state legislative redistricting passed both chambers with large bipartisan majorities and will go before the voters this fall. The proposal introduced today by Reps. Clyde and Curtin closely aligns with HJR12 with small modifications to the population requirements as required by federal law and to the geographic criteria to accommodate larger congressional districts. The new proposal includes strong incentives for bipartisan agreement, strict limits on the splitting of communities, and prohibits drawing districts primarily to favor a political party.

“Our current congressional redistricting process disenfranchises Ohio citizens,” said Rep. Clyde. “We live under a plan that packs Democrats and African Americans into 4 of our 16 districts. In this 50-50 state, we have a 75-25 split in our congressional delegation. The way we draw congressional districts today allows state lawmakers to break apart communities and dilute the power of millions of Ohioans’ votes. Meaningful reform is needed to give our constituents better representation and greater transparency and accountability from their government. Our proposal will add fairness and common sense to the district-drawing process.”

“In my years as an observer of state government, I have seen dysfunction in Ohio and Washington grow to an all-time high, and it is a direct result of partisan gerrymandering,” said Rep. Curtin. “Lawmakers have stopped responding to the will of a majority of people because they only have to be accountable to a small faction of one party. The time for reform could never be greater, and doing it sooner rather than later is critically important. I am hopeful that we can take the legislature’s bipartisan agreement to reform state line-drawing one step further and give the voters the chance to approve congressional redistricting reform as well.”

When HJR12 passed the General Assembly, GOP lawmakers said the congressional reform process must be put on hold until the Supreme Court issues a decision in the case Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. Although many experts believe the holding in that case will not apply in Ohio, today’s plan includes a clause addressing that concern. In the event that the Supreme Court rules that this Ohio proposal is unworkable, the clause would allow the state legislature to draw the congressional map, as we do under current law, but the geographic and fairness criteria from the new proposal would still be required.

Release: Blue Creek Wind Farm Pays Another $2.7M to Van Wert and Paulding Schools and Community
By Gongwer Staff
Posted: February, 24 2015 9:33 AM

Second year of annual payments benefits counties, towns, and schools

VAN WERT, Ohio – Iberdrola Renewables, the owner and operator of the Blue Creek Wind Farm, along with State Senator Cliff Hite and State Representative Tony Burkley, today presented checks at multiple ceremonies to local officials in both Van Wert and Paulding counties to commemorate the second annual PILOT payments the Blue Creek Wind Farm will make to the community.

Van Wert County, with 115 turbines, will receive more than $2,070,000, an amount that will make the wind farm the largest single taxpayer in the county. Paulding County will receive $666,000, based on the 37 turbines located in the county that each pay $18,000 per year. Since the payments will be made in two equal installments this year, the checks presented today were for half those amounts.

“Today’s payments highlight the importance of wind energy to northwestern Ohio. Harnessing the natural resources available in our area has attracted good jobs, produced local economic benefits, and given us energy security. This wind farm is further proof that Ohioans benefit when we work to attract new investment in our rural communities,” said State Senator Cliff Hite (R-Findlay).

The wind farm is spread across two counties, six townships – Tully, Union, and Hoaglin in

Van Wert County and Benton, Blue Creek and Latty in Paulding County – and four school

districts. The PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) funds presentations took place today at three locations: the Paulding County Courthouse, and two Van Wert County schools – Lincolnview and Crestview – which have enhanced their educational capabilities thanks to the wind farm funding.

“Today’s presentation demonstrates that new energy investment in northwest Ohio continues to benefit local farmers and families, and will do so for years to come,” said State Representative Tony Burkley (R-Payne). “This wind farm has already made a positive and long-lasting impact on these communities by creating jobs that can’t be exported, investing in local education, and spreading the benefits around.”

The approximately $600 million wind farm was the largest single private investment in Ohio in

2011 and achieved commercial operation in June, 2012. Even before the plant became

operational, building Blue Creek created more than 500 construction jobs, $25 million in local

spending, and put more than 30 Ohio companies to work. Blue Creek [video,

photos, fact sheet] is the largest wind farm in Ohio and Iberdrola Renewables’ largest in the

U.S. The total output is 304 megawatts (MW) and it generates enough electricity to power 76,000 average Ohio homes each year.

The Blue Creek Wind Farm also makes approximately $2 million in annual lease payments to local landowners. Of 28,000 leased acres of corn, soybean and wheat fields, Blue Creek occupies less than 200 acres.

Iberdrola Renewables, LLC is the U.S. renewable energy division of parent company IBERDROLA, S.A., an energy pioneer with the largest renewable asset base of any company in the world. Iberdrola Renewables, LLC is headquartered in Portland, Ore., and has more than $10 billion of operating assets totaling more than 5,800 MW of wind and solar generation.

Release: Union beats Aramark price on food service bid
By Gongwer Staff
Posted: February, 24 2015 9:31 AM

Westerville – Today the union representing the majority of Ohio prison employees presented a proposal to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction to take back prison food service that includes a lower per meal cost than current prison food service vendor, Aramark.

The proposal by the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association comes in at $1.216 per meal. Aramark’s cost is $1.275. The bid will save $2.9 million a year over the Aramark cost.

“Our proposal proves, when there’s a level playing field, public sector employees are every bit as competitive as those in the private sector,” said OCSEA President Christopher Mabe. “Now, DR&C just needs to do the right thing and bring food service back under state control.”

Not only is OCSEA’s per meal cost lower than Aramark’s price, their proposal also includes such provisions as beefed-up security and sanitation training for 338 Correctional Food Service Coordinators. In addition, OCSEA’s proposal will bring back 41 Food Service Managers whose primary responsibility is sanitation. The bid will also keep the use of four regional monitors, which were instituted with the private vendor, because the union says it is serious about cleaning up the institutions.

Numerous security and sanitation violations including maggots in food, inappropriate relationships, increased contraband and staff and food shortages highlighted the inadequacy of Aramark’s staff training. When the contract began, Aramark employees received a scant eight hours of training. After numerous reports of security and sanitation violations, DR&C required the vendor to increase its training to 32 hours, but at the agency’s expense.

OCSEA’s proposal would bring back an even higher level of training and require food service workers to receive the same five-week training as Correctional Officers. Additionally, instead of only managers receiving ServSafe certification, as is Aramark’s practice, the union’s proposal will certify all food service workers.

Also under OCSEA’s bid, dozens of Lieutenants and Captains who were re-allocated to prison kitchens to monitor food service will go back to providing needed security in other areas of the prisons.

“With well-trained staff who are compensated fairly, we believe many of the security and sanitation problems we’ve experienced in prison food service will be minimized,” said Mabe.

This is the second time the union has sought to bring food service under state operation. “We’ve been through this once already and believe this time, we’ve accounted for everything,” Mabe said.

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