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by Gongwer Staff

2018 Ohio Election App Tutorial

Posted: March 23, 2018 12:10 PM

Users of the iPhone and iPad can download the iOS version from the App Store at https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/2018-ohio-elections/id1309280784?mt=8.

Users of Android devices can download the app from Google Play at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.gongwer.oh2018&hl=en.

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How The Gongwer Elections App Can Help You

Posted: March 23, 2018 8:24 AM

Gongwer News Service’s 2018 Ohio Elections app puts our one-of-a-kind candidate database to work for you in an easy-to-access portable format.

Here’s how the app can help Gongwer subscribers.

Q: What’s unique about the app?

A: With the app, the wealth of information in Gongwer’s elections database is at users’ fingertips. As candidates, campaigns and dynamics change, users may receive push messages alerting them to new content.

The app’s native format means ideal functionality for your device, whether you use iOS or Android.

Q: Does the information in the app stay current?

A: Yes. We are constantly updating the information in the app, whether that involves new candidates, new biographical information the candidates submit, a change in the nature of a race that warrants revised analysis, and much more.

Q: How can I find details on a candidate?

A: With hundreds of candidates filed for state and federal offices, the app includes an enhanced search feature, helping you find your candidate quickly. Or, find your candidate by selecting their district number and race.

Users of the iPhone and iPad can download the iOS version from the App Store at https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/2018-ohio-elections/id1309280784?mt=8.

Users of Android devices can download the app from Google Play at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.gongwer.oh2018&hl=en.

The app is available for download for $4.99.

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2018 Ohio Elections App Available

Posted: March 21, 2018 5:14 PM

A new app that provides details on Ohio’s 2018 elections is now available.

The app from Gongwer News Service provides easy-to-use information and analysis of this year’s elections, as well as enhanced functionality.

The app, which is available for download on devices using iOS and Android, offers exclusive analysis of races for the Ohio General Assembly, the state’s U.S. House seats, the governor’s race, U.S. Senate race and all other statewide contests.

The app gives users on-the-go access to detailed candidate biographical information, with options to review primary races and, eventually, general election campaigns once those races take shape.

Users can also see which U.S. House, Ohio Senate and Ohio House races are expected to be the most competitive and the seats where one party has a slight or strong edge via the Analysis feature.

For most candidates, users will see links to the candidate’s social media accounts, district maps, campaign websites and ways to contact the candidate, as well as biographical information. If that candidate has run for state or federal office from 2004 onward, the app also displays his or her performance in those elections.

Users also can use the Key Races function to identify only on the primaries and general election matchups that are considered competitive.

New in the 2018 app is an improved push notification feature. Gongwer will periodically alert users when new information has been uploaded to the app.

As the campaign season progresses, and as race dynamics change, analyses will be updated.

Users of the iPhone and iPad can download the iOS version from the App Store at https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/2018-ohio-elections/id1309280784?mt=8

Users of Android devices can download the app from Google Play at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.gongwer.oh2018&hl=en

The app is available to download for $4.99.

Organizations interested in purchasing advertising space on the app can find information on that opportunity at this location.

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Gongwer Unveils 2018 Elections App

Posted: March 20, 2018 9:43 AM

Gongwer News Service today announced the availability of the 2018 Ohio Elections app that provides easy-to-use information and analysis of this year’s elections, as well as enhanced functionality.

The app, which is available for download on devices using iOS and Android, offers exclusive analysis of races for the Ohio General Assembly, the state’s U.S. House seats, the governor’s race, U.S. Senate race and all other statewide contests.

The app gives users on-the-go access to detailed candidate biographical information, with options to review primary races and, eventually, general election campaigns once those races take shape.

Users can also see which U.S. House, Ohio Senate and Ohio House races are expected to be the most competitive and the seats where one party has a slight or strong edge via the Analysis feature.

For most candidates, users will see links to the candidate’s social media accounts, district maps, campaign websites and ways to contact the candidate, as well as biographical information. If that candidate has run for state or federal office from 2004 onward, the app also displays his or her performance in those elections.

Users also can use the Key Races function to identify only on the primaries and general election matchups that are considered competitive.

New in the 2018 app is an improved push notification feature. Gongwer will periodically alert users when new information has been uploaded to the app.

As the campaign season progresses, and as race dynamics change, analyses will be updated.

Users of the iPhone and iPad can download the iOS version from the App Store at https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/2018-ohio-elections/id1309280784?mt=8

Users of Android devices can download the app from Google Play at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.gongwer.oh2018&hl=en

The app is available to download for $4.99.

Organizations interested in purchasing advertising space on the app can find information on that opportunity at this location.

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Associations, Organizations, Others: Advertise On The 2018 Gongwer Election App

Posted: March 13, 2018 6:28 PM

Attention Associations, Organizations and Others: Get Your Logo, Platform & Information In Front of Candidates.

Advertise on the Gongwer 2018 Ohio Election App, and you’ll be seen early and often by key Ohio candidates and those with a keen interest in the state’s election process and results.

The Gongwer 2018 Ohio Election App is a third-generation app that is available for purchase by all users through the iTunes Store and Google Play.

The app is available for review and download at these locations:

iTunes Store: IOS version

Google Play: Android version

New this year on the app:

  • An enhanced push messaging system that will drive users to the app more often;
  • An improved candidate search feature, making it easier to find contact and biographical information, and;
  • More frequently updated race analyses and district leanings.

Your ad will rotate evenly with ads from all other advertisers, giving you prime exposure on the state’s premier mobile source for campaign matchups, district leanings, candidate biographies and expert race analysis.

All ads will also link to the advertiser’s preferred website.

Information about ad rates, sizes, dimensions and terms will be distributed on request.

For additional questions, or to secure an ad space on the 2018 Gongwer Ohio Election App, contact Scott Miller at smiller@gongwer-oh.com or 614.221.1992.

Gongwer has sole discretion in determining whether advertisements will be accepted.

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Proposed Bill to Ban Sanctuary Cities is Unconstitutional, Says ACLU of Ohio

Posted: February 8, 2017 10:04 AM

Cleveland—Yesterday, Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel and state Representative Candice Keller (R-Middletown) announced their support for a bill that would outlaw cities from declaring themselves as “sanctuary cities,” and would prohibit cities from limiting cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities. This bill has not yet been introduced to the Ohio General Assembly.

“Immigration enforcement is a federal issue, not a local or state one, and federal law does not require cities to help with immigration enforcement,” said Mike Brickner, Senior Policy Director at the ACLU of Ohio. “This bill would attempt to punish localities and city officials for not violating constitutional rights. This is extremely counterproductive and makes our communities less safe by pitting law enforcement against immigrant communities.

This proposed legislation comes in response to both Columbus and Cincinnati taking steps to identify as sanctuaries. Additional cities and municipalities may adopt and defend policies that will keep immigrant communities safe.

“This bill is extreme. It would dole out civil and criminal penalties to local officials, but also make our communities less safe. Local law enforcement should be building relationships with immigrant communities, yet this would discourage victims of crime or concerned community members from coming forward and working with police. ,” Brickner said.

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Auditor Yost, legislators announce legislation to curb fraud in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

Posted: February 8, 2017 10:00 AM

Columbus – In an effort to curb fraud in Ohio’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Auditor of State Dave Yost, Rep. Tim Schaffer and Sen. Matt Huffman announced new legislation to require photos of many recipients on the state’s SNAP Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards.

Last June, an audit of Ohio’s $2.5 billion SNAP program, commonly known as the food stamp program, found system weaknesses that allow for benefits of a deceased person to be claimed, excessive account balances, questionable out-of-state transactions and other instances of potential fraud.

“The problems we found in that audit were very concerning, not only to me but to Ohio lawmakers as well,” said Auditor Yost, who was joined at the announcement by Senate President Larry Obhof. “Clearly, it suggested there is fraud occurring in this program. The error rate for the food stamp program in Ohio is almost 5 percent – which is too high. Today we are taking steps to address the issue with new legislation.”

During a news conference held today in the Ohio Statehouse, Yost said the bills Schaffer (R-Lancaster) and Huffman (R-Lima) plan to introduce will include:

           Photo identification: On the front of each EBT card, a color photograph of at least one member of the household to whom the card is issued;

           Telephone number and website: On the back of the card, a telephone number and website where suspected fraud can be reported;

           Exemptions: The new requirements will not apply to adult household members who are age 60 or older; are blind; have a disability; are a victim of domestic violence, have religious objections to being photographed or if the household does not include any adult members.

“I’m looking forward to working with Auditor Yost to address inefficiencies in the SNAP program while also ensuring that benefits are getting to those who need them,” Rep. Schaffer said, whose legislation was introduced today. “No one will lose their benefits under this legislation, and it will help ensure that their benefits are not being abused by others through fraud or theft.”

Said Sen. Huffman: “It is a reprehensible act to steal money and goods from the poorest of the poor. I look forward to working with the Auditor and Representative Schaffer to create a common sense, simple solution to protect the benefits of Ohio’s neediest families.”

The legislation is an outgrowth of Auditor Yost’s testimony before the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture, during which he suggested adding photographs of recipients to their cards would help deter fraud.

“The time to tighten this program is now,” Auditor Yost said. “We have enough evidence proving that taking action is overdue. I am grateful for Rep. Schaffer and Sen. Huffman’s interest and action in strengthening Ohio’s SNAP program so we can ensure that available resources are going to those who need them most.”

SNAP is a federal program created to help low-income families and individuals purchase food for an adequate diet. Recipients receive about $1.39 per person per meal in food benefits. During fiscal year 2016, Ohio averaged 1.6 million SNAP participants per month out of 11.5 million residents. (See Attachment A, B) In Ohio, SNAP is administered by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS).

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Gongwer Election App Price Reduced

Posted: November 1, 2016 10:56 AM

Gongwer News Service has reduced the price of its 2016 Ohio Elections app significantly as Election Day approaches.

Now for just $2.99, those with iOS and Android devices can download the app to keep on top of races for the Statehouse, Congress and more.

The app contains biographical information on almost every state and federal candidate, and allows users to receive push notifications on election updates.

Don't miss out on the only native app available on Ohio elections this year.

Users of the iPhone and iPad can download the iOS version from the App Store: http://appstore.com/2016OhioElections

Users of Android devices can download the app from Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.gongwer.oh2016

Quality. Speed. Portability. The vital information you need on the 2016 elections in Ohio.

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The New Website: Improved Schedules Page

Posted: October 6, 2016 1:26 PM

As part of the rollout of the redesigned Gongwer News Service website, Gongwer will highlight new features so that subscribers can get the most out of their subscription.

One of the enhancements is to the Schedules page, which contains the day's legislative committee hearings, meetings of state boards/agencies/commissions and other events like fundraisers.

There are now easy-to-use tabs at the top of the page - Day Planner, Committee Schedule, Agency Calendar and Event Planner - enabling users to easily switch from one schedule to another. The old page had difficult to find links.

So if a user wants to see all upcoming committee or agency meetings or other events, the user just needs to click on the relevant tab.

The committee schedule page also improves the layout with a larger point size on the committees and large blue blocks with the bill numbers to make them easy to find.

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The New Website: Improved Navigation

Posted: October 5, 2016 11:10 AM

As part of the rollout of the redesigned Gongwer News Service website, Gongwer will highlight new features so that subscribers can get the most out of their subscription.

One of the significant enhancements to the site is that the navigation bar remains in view even as users scroll down the website, allowing users to avoid the hassle of returning to the top of the page to reach other key features of the website.

Additionally, the site now includes a button with three horizontal lines in the upper right corner that includes many other features of the site once located solely in the footer or in specific parts of the site, again allowing users to have easy access to all features at all times.

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Gongwer Launches Redesigned, Responsive Website

Posted: September 30, 2016 3:10 PM

Gongwer News Service today launched its fifth-generation website – a responsively-designed platform that significantly enhances the subscriber experience.

The new site improves the display and functionality of all the company’s online services while preserving the general web structure that has been available over the last several years.

The site is designed to better accommodate subscribers using mobile devices in an app-like environment, and sets the stage for the rollout of a number of other advanced services in the near future.

Among other things, the new site:

--improves the display of the Ohio Report and access to the extensive Gongwer news archive;

--simplifies the presentation of a variety of Gongwer bill tracking services;

--streamlines legislative status reports and custom committee schedules;

--implements a more evident green tracking tag after bill numbers, committees and activities;

--activates linked phone numbers to more easily contact lawmakers via mobile devices, and;

--enhances the layout of legislative activities and archives.

On many pages across the site, visitors will be able to expand or compress the information that is displayed to suit their personal preferences.

Subscribers can also look to a new menu option – depicted by three horizontal lines in the upper right corner – for a number of features that have been relocated.

To access the site in an app-like setting, visit the Gongwer website and save it to the device’s home screen.

Subscribers interested in printing articles from the report simply need to use their browser’s print function, which will automatically produce a printer-friendly version for printing as opposed to having to click a link to launch a printer-friendly version.

As with all extensive web rollouts, fine tuning and additional changes will be made in the coming days. Please feel free to submit comments on the new site and offer suggestions for additional enhancements.

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Gongwer Unveils Upgraded 2016 Election App

Posted: February 24, 2016 5:07 PM

Gongwer News Service today announced the availability of a new mobile app that provides easy-to-use information and analysis of the 2016 election.

The app, available for iOS and Android devices, includes several new and updated features from the first edition that debuted in the 2014 election cycle.

The app will offer exclusive Gongwer analysis of all races in the Ohio General Assembly, the state’s U.S. House seats, the U.S. Senate campaign and the presidential race.

The app gives users on-the-go access to detailed candidate biographical information, with options to review primary races and then general election campaigns once those races take shape.

Users can also see which U.S. House, Ohio Senate and Ohio House races are expected to be the most competitive and the seats where districts lean toward one party or another.

On each candidate’s page, users will see links to the candidate’s social media accounts, district maps, campaign websites, and biographical information. If that candidate has run for state or federal office from 2004 onward, the app also displays his or her performance in those elections.

Users also can use the Key Races function to focus only on the primaries and general election match-ups that are highly competitive or of significant interest.

New in the 2016 app is a push messaging feature that will be used to alert users when candidate information and biographies have been updated. The push system will also be used to distribute periodic news items.

Also new this year is a search function that allows users to more easily find candidates. The app also provides overall analysis of the race for control of the Ohio House and Ohio Senate.

The app’s content is updated regularly, and additional candidates, information and analyses will be added before and after the Dec. 16 filing deadline.

Candidates displaying on the app prior to the filing deadline appear based on news reports, announcements and other sources.

iPhone and iPad users can download the iOS version from the App Store: http://appstore.com/2016OhioElections

Android device users can download the app from Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.gongwer.oh2016

The app is available for just $6.99 – 30% less than the cost of the 2014 app.

Quality. Speed. Portability. The vital information you need on the 2016 elections in Ohio.

Download the Gongwer 2016 Ohio Elections app today.

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Gongwer Election App Demonstration Available

Posted: February 24, 2016 1:35 PM

A demonstration showing many of the features of the new Gongwer 2016 Election App is now available and can be viewed online.

The app, which is available for IOS and Android, is being regularly updated as election dynamics change.

It is available for from the iTunes store and at Google Play.

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Gongwer Candidate Lists & Election Resources Updated

Posted: December 17, 2015 1:22 PM

Gongwer News Service is pleased to announce that its list of candidates for the 132nd Ohio General Assembly is nearly complete.

With the exception of a few counties that have yet to confirm candidates & mailing addresses, information on all available candidates for the Ohio House, Ohio Senate & U.S. House and statewide offices is available in the elections section of the Gongwer website.

Updates to the lists will be made as they become available.

Those interested in additional campaign and election information can also download the Gongwer 2016 Election App for IOS from the iTunes store and for Android at Google Play.

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Column: Thank you, Ohio

Posted: October 30, 2015 10:35 AM

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, Congressman John Boehner (R-West Chester) released the following column:

 

“Today, my heart is full with gratitude to my family, my constituents and my colleagues for giving me the opportunity to serve Ohioans in the 8th District for 25 years. I leave the people’s House as the same person I’ve always been— just a regular guy humbled by the chance to do a big job.

“This all started as a chase for the American Dream in a small house with a big family in Reading, Ohio. That was where I got my first job throwing newspapers, mopped floors at my father’s bar and learned that Ohioans aren’t afraid to work.

“I never thought about it as coming up the easy way or the hard way. To me, it was just the Cincinnati way.

“Our city was named after the great Roman general, Cincinnatus – a farmer who answered the call of his nation to lead, then surrendered his power and returned to his plow. But for me, it wasn’t a farm. It was a small business. And it wasn’t so much a calling as it was a mission: to strive for a smaller, less costly, and more accountable government.

“That often meant helping constituents and local officials cut through gridlock and navigate the bureaucratic maze in Washington to get things done. In Hamilton, for instance, I brought together the Army Corps of Engineers and local officials to get the Meldahl Lock and Dam power plant off the ground. In Butler County, I worked with officials at all levels to keep the veterans highway and Union Centre projects on track. With the Ohio delegation, I made sure that Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the Springfield Air National Guard Base had the resources they needed to support our men and women in uniform.

“It also meant listening to the tens of thousands of constituents my office helped through casework, letters, phone calls, my open door program, and of course, my annual Farm Forum. The stories of Ohioans frustrated with the growing scope of government and their desire to secure a better future for our children drove real change in Washington.

“For the first time in nearly 20 years, we made real entitlement reforms, saving trillions over the long term. We protected 99 percent of Americans from tax increases. Today, we are on track to save taxpayers $2.1 trillion over the next 10 years, which is the most significant spending reductions in modern history. And, we did it all with no earmarks.

“I am proud of what we accomplished. None of this would have been possible without the support of my family and the hard work of my staff, which has been first-rate from start to finish. Together, we did the right things for the right reasons and good things happened.

“It has been an honor. Thank you and God bless this great country.”

Note: On October 29th 2015, Congressman John Boehner delivered his farewell address in the Hall of the House. Watch it here. He was first elected to Congress in 1990. He will resign as the Representative of Ohio’s 8th District at the end of this month.

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Release: State Rep. Dan Ramos now longest serving Latino state officeholder in Ohio history

Posted: October 6, 2015 6:12 PM

Hits new record with over 4 years of elected service

COLUMBUS— State Rep. and Ohio Latino Affairs Commission board member Dan Ramos (D-Lorain) this year began serving his third term as a state representative in Ohio, making him the longest serving Latino state officeholder in Ohio history, records indicate. Ramos is also the first person of Puerto Rican descent to serve in the Ohio House.

“My heritage is something that is not only important to me and my family, but to so many communities throughout our state,” said Rep. Ramos. “I was somewhat surprised to find that the bar was so low, but I feel honored and encouraged by the opportunity to better reflect the increasing diversity of our state.”

Ramos now surpasses the record held by the late Honorable John Garcia, a Republican state representative who served citizens of the greater Toledo area for two terms. Garcia was the first person of Latino heritage to serve in the Ohio House.

“Rep. Ramos knows the issues affecting our community, and is actively involved at all levels to improve the standing of Latinos in Ohio,” said Latino Affairs Commission Executive Director Lilleana Cavanaugh. “He is an excellent role model for Latino youth and we wish him continued success.”

The Honorable Keila Cosme briefly served as the first state judge of Latino ancestry for about one year after being appointed by Gov. Ted Strickland to fill the remainder of the late Honorable William Skow’s term with the Ohio Sixth District Court of Appeals. Judge Stephen A. Yarbrough defeated Cosme in the 2010 election.

Concerning the record for longest serving local elected official with Latino ancestry, Ramos said those records are much more difficult to discern. Oddly enough, Ramos suspects that record may be held by his father, Raul Ramos, who served 16 years on the Lorain City School Board.

According to the 2013 American Community Survey by the U.S. Census Bureau, Ohio’s Hispanic population has grown by 76 percent since 2000. The Hispanic population in Ohio ranks 23rd in the nation, and currently there are 166,000 Hispanic eligible voters in Ohio – the 19th largest Hispanic eligible voter population nationally.

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Release: O’Brien, Ryan headed to Cuba for trade mission

Posted: October 6, 2015 1:44 PM

Delegation to research Cuban economy, bolster Ohio-Cuban trade relationship

COLUMBUS— State Rep. Sean O’Brien (D–Bazetta) and U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan (D- OH 13) will travel to Cuba this month to meet with Cuban officials and study ways to strengthen Ohio’s economic ties with the island nation. Joining O’Brien and Ryan on the research mission will be Atty. Luis M. Alcalde of Kegler, Brown, Hill & Ritter and Vista Trade Group, and several northeastern Ohio business leaders.

“This research mission allows us to develop mutually beneficial relationships that will grow our economy,” said O’Brien. “Ohio can provide the infrastructure, agriculture and technology development that Cuba needs, while our state can benefit from Cuba’s proficiency in healthcare. This trip will build a strong foundation for Ohio enterprise within Cuba and open doors of opportunity for trade both under current regulations and once the trade embargo is fully lifted.”

In addition to economic and legal research, the Ohio delegation will explore the Mariel Special Development Zone to explore Cuba’s state-run economy and foreign investment law. The mission group will also research Cuba’s private sector economy and meet with U.S. Embassy officials in Havana.

“This mission trip is nothing short of historic,” O’Brien noted. “In entering into economic and legal discussions, we are positioning Ohio far ahead of the national curve. As talks continue and relations begin to normalize, Ohio will be in a tremendous position to build upon an important economic relationship with an emerging actor in the global economy.”

This mission marks the first time in at least 55 years that a group of Ohioans will discuss trade with Cuban officials, and is one of the first trips of its kind in the country to be undertaken since the recent “thaw” in U.S.-Cuba relations.

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Release: Tavares, Howse Attend DC Women’s Conference

Posted: October 6, 2015 1:17 PM

Tavares Attends "Women at the Tables of Power" Conference

Advocates with state and national legislators on issues facing the United States

Columbus—State Sen. Charleta B. Tavares attended a national conference, "Women at the Tables of Power," sponsored by the Women Legislators' Lobby (WiLL) of Women's Action for New Directions (WAND), this week in Washington, DC. There, she joined women legislative leaders to learn more about how to change national priorities, build a better future for all, and move closer to gender equality. The conference brought together women state legislators and activists for policy briefings, networking, and strategizing on national budget priorities that can create good jobs, enhance education opportunities, and revitalize the U.S. economy.

"A gathering of women leaders from across the nation like this was timely at a crucial moment of national change,” stated Senator Tavares. “We all strive to move beyond political posturing to work for the people of this country by investing in the economy, creating good jobs, and protecting vital programs on which our communities rely."

Senator Tavares was joined by State Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland) and other activists from Ohio to hear from national and international policy experts and the U.S. State Department about national security and the importance of women having seats at the tables of power. Senator Tavares and other state leaders also gave voice to the priorities that can improve our nation.

"It's our mission to empower women to act politically,” said WAND Executive Director Susan Shaer. “At this convening, women legislators and community leaders hone their skills, learn from high level briefings, and increase their talents for their crucial roles from town hall meetings to international negotiating tables."

"Women at the Tables of Power" took place October 4-6 on Capitol Hill.

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About The Congressman Who Broke The Boehner News

Posted: September 25, 2015 3:05 PM

At 9:26 eastern time today, those in Ohio, and the entire nation, at least those on Twitter, started wondering some version of the same question.

Who is Bill Huizenga, and how does he know that U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-West Chester) is resigning the speakership and from Congress altogether?

The answer is that he is a third-term Republican member of the U.S. House from a district in west Michigan along the Lake Michigan shoreline.

It was at 9:26 a.m. that Mr. Huizenga hit “tweet” on a post that said, “Speaker Boehner just announced in Conference that he will resign as Speaker and from Congress at the end of October.”

Four minutes later, The New York Times tweeted its article on the Boehner resignation and the story was off and running.

In an interview with Gongwer News Service, Mr. Huizenga said he was actually shocked that he was the first to break the news.

“We live in a social media world,” he said. “I figured there was probably simultaneous press releases being sent from the speaker’s office.”

Within 30 minutes, Twitter had exploded about the news. Mr. Huizenga said his office was “inundated” with phone calls after his tweet.

“I felt it was clearly newsworthy and timely. I felt it was important to get that word out,” Mr. Huizenga said. “It wasn’t like he was saying this was a secret … it was something that clearly he would’ve not made the announcement to us if he wasn’t serious.”

If it disappoints any Ohioans that a Michigander broke the story, take heart. One, Mr. Huizenga did not attend the University of Michigan, graduating from Calvin College near Grand Rapids. Two, Mr. Huizenga on his way to Congress did something Ohioans would appreciate – defeat a Wolverine.

In the 2010 Republican primary, Mr. Huizenga’s main competition was Jay Riemersma, whom longtime Ohio State fans will recall played tight end for the University of Michigan in the 1990s.

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Column: Carter M. Stewart, U.S. Attorney, Southern District of Ohio

Posted: September 10, 2015 9:02 AM

After I had knee surgery last month, I was prescribed the same pain killers that are subject to abuse and illegal drug sales. I took one the first night, but knowing the potential danger associated with taking too many opioids, I left the rest unused. I have heard of and seen too many situations where people started taking pain medication after an injury, became addicted, and then turned to heroin once the pill addiction became too expensive. I plan to take the rest of my prescription to the DEA’s drug take-back on September 26.

The drug prescription take-back, now in its tenth year, is a successful effort to loosen the grip that opiates have on our communities. Since 2010, Ohioans have disposed of more than 185,000 pounds of unwanted and unused prescription drugs in this initiative.

We’ve prosecuted, and continue to prosecute, those responsible for major pill mills in our area. Doctors who once saw more than 20 customers per day – charging them upwards of $200 in cash for each visit to feed their addiction to prescription pills – are now facing or serving up to 20 years in prison. One physician is serving four life sentences for illegally distributing pain pills that resulted in the deaths of users. Pain clinic operators are also commonly ordered by the court to forfeit the millions of dollars they profited from their victims.

While we have succeeded in shutting down a number of pill mills, we have not solved the problem of addiction. Once their pill supply is cut off, opioid addicts often turn to heroin, which is cheaper, easier to find, and gives a more potent high faster. Media reports quote studies stating that 80 percent of heroin users started with pain pills. As a result, the number of heroin-related overdoses is rising to staggering levels.

In Hamilton County, for example, there have been more than 695 fatal overdoses since 2012. Overdose deaths resulting from a combination of heroin laced with fentanyl, a synthetic opiate used in anesthesia to prevent pain after surgery and other procedures, drastically increased, from four in 2013 to 46 in 2014. Fentanyl-only overdoses increased from seven deaths in 2013 to 92 deaths in 2014.

Ohioans set a record for heroin overdose deaths in 2012 at 1,914, only to top that record at 2,110 in 2013, according to coroners’ reports. Overdoses have been the leading cause of accidental death in Ohio since 2007. The trend continues in 2015.

At the federal level, we’re pursuing the most prominent dealers and sentencing them to prison terms anywhere from 10 years to life. In Dayton we’re engaged in a newly formed Heroin Involved Death Investigation Team, which is an initiative focused on holding heroin and fentanyl suppliers accountable for contributing to individuals’ deaths. Our law enforcement partners are investigating overdoses as homicides, and we are willing to prosecute accordingly.

But we know that we can’t just arrest and prosecute our way out of a heroin epidemic and that it’s imperative that partners like boards of health, hospitals, addiction services and other public health agencies help those addicted individuals who need access to services. A new holistic and collaborative effort in Hamilton County is aimed at doing just that. Its goals include a multi-pronged approach with greater affordable treatment options and increased public education to deter abuse at the front end. In Columbus, a drug death review committee lead by the county coroner and including medical, service and law enforcement personnel is working to get a complete picture of those who overdosed.

Opiate addiction knows no boundaries in terms of neighborhood, ethnicity, income level or religion. People from all walks of life are losing their lives to this addiction. Families across Ohio are being torn apart in their efforts to cope with loved ones who have fallen victim. This isn’t just a law enforcement issue, it’s a public health crisis, and we need to address it as one.

My criminal chief might have put it best when he recently said we all need to look in the mirror, and then we need to look behind it. Please use pain medication extremely carefully, and safely dispose of any unused painkillers. You could be saving a life.

For a list of take-back events near you, visit www.dea.gov.

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Lou Stokes: An Unyielding Force for Justice: Statement from Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur

Posted: August 19, 2015 2:17 PM

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (OH-9) issued the following statement today after receiving news that former Congressman Louis Stokes of Cleveland passed away late Tuesday night.

"Our hearts are heavy but immensely grateful for the path-breaking life and legendary generous service of Congressman Louis Stokes. As the first African American Member of Congress elected to serve from Ohio, he wrote fresh history for America every day of his life. Rising from the public housing projects of Cleveland, he and his brother Carl became revered as they built a more inclusive and representative America. What courage and passion that required.

 

His enlightened leadership moved America ‎forward socially, economically, and legally. In Congress, his gentlemanly demeanor and sharp intellect allowed him to chair, again as the first African American, the Appropriations subcommittee on Veterans, Housing and Urban Development, and Independent Agencies. He also chaired the House Select Committee on Assassinations and served on the House Select Committee to Investigate Covert Arms Transactions with Iran. His agile legal mind was evident in the investigations he conducted.

‎The people of Cleveland and Ohio have been blessed through his life and hold abiding gratitude for his extraordinary life and generous spirit. As Dean of the Ohio delegation, I served with Congressman Stokes for a quarter century. I hold lasting memories of his deep love for his wife and family, his indefatigable and inspired ‎efforts to gain respect and equal justice in the law for all our citizens, his perseverance in building America's communities forward, his dedication to meeting our nation's obligations to veterans, to advance space science, and to catapult Cleveland's health and human services to the top rung of national assets.

I shall sorely miss his dogged determination, easy smile, keen and measured counsel, and persevering nature. What a gifted leader has lived among us. May the angels carry him to a deserved peaceful rest close to the heart of God.‎"

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House Dems pay tribute to late Congressman Louis Stokes

Posted: August 19, 2015 2:16 PM

COLUMBUS— Members of the Ohio House Democratic Caucus today mourned the loss of former U.S. Rep. Louis Stokes after it was announced that he passed away late Tuesday night.

First elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1968, Congressman Stokes was the first African American member of Congress from the state of Ohio. During his 15-term career at the Capitol, Congressman Stokes led the Select Committee on Assassinations that investigated the slayings of President John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., headed the Congressional Black Caucus, and was the first African American member on the powerful House Appropriations Committee.

Here is what House Democratic lawmakers are saying about the passing of former Congressman Stokes:

“I am so grateful for every conversation and every hug that we shared, and so grateful to have been so positively affected and encouraged by his amazing work, compassion, unconditional support and wisdom,” said Rep. Janine Boyd (D-Cleveland Heights). “I am praying for his loving family. Congressman Stokes will always be ‘Uncle Lou’ to me.”

“I am deeply saddened to mourn the loss of Congressman Stokes. The cherished memory of Congressman Stokes will always dwell within the legacy of his work. He was an exemplary standard and beacon of hope for black Democrats from Cleveland wishing to pursue public office. To his family, may God be with you during this difficult time, please know that you are in my prayers, and my thoughts are with you in this time of sorrow. I join you in honoring his many great achievements, and celebrating his life,” said Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland).

“I first met Congressman Louis Stokes in 1992. As a Euclid resident, I was proud to have him represent me in the halls of Congress,” said Rep. Kent Smith (D-Euclid). “The final time I saw Congressman Stokes was on May 7, when I had the pleasure to present the congressman with a proclamation from the Ohio General Assembly commemorating his lifetime of public service. As I was reading a proclamation, I stopped and remarked, ‘this is a man who has buildings named after him.’ He was a giant of a man, and well deserving of a place in Cleveland history.”

“I am saddened by the loss of an admirable statesman and individual,” said Rep. Nickie J. Antonio (D-Lakewood). “Lou Stokes was an example of the best of us who serve in elected office.”

“I had the great privilege of knowing Congressman Stokes my entire life, and know that we could not have asked for a finer representative of Cleveland,” said Rep. Nick Celebrezze (D-Parma). “His commitment and service to not only our city and state, but to our entire nation will never be forgotten and will be greatly missed.”

“I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of former Congressman Louis Stokes. I consider myself blessed to have served alongside the Congressman this year as a founding member of the Governor’s Taskforce on Community-Police Relations,” said State Rep. and President of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus Alicia Reece (D-Cincinnati). “We have lost another door-busting, glass ceiling-breaking giant who succeeded against all odds. As he rests in heaven for a job well done, we must take action to build on his legacy and the blueprint he left behind for criminal justice and voting rights.”

 

“I join our community in mourning the passing of Congressman Louis Stokes this morning. My thoughts and prayers are with the Stokes family in this difficult time,” said Rep. Christie Kuhns (D-Cincinnati). “After making history as the first African-American elected to Congress from Ohio, Congressman Stokes went on to fight for the rights of all Americans. Congressman Stokes truly embodied the spirt of public service and will be remembered as a champion of his community and an example to us all.”

“Today the nation lost a champion of social justice. Congressman Stokes was a true public servant in every way and his legacy will last for generations. My deepest sympathy goes out to his family,” said Rep. Kevin Boyce (D-Columbus).

“We have truly lost an icon. A prodigious trailblazer, Congressman Stokes’ enormous contributions to the cause of civil rights and human rights is unparalleled,” stated Rep. Hearcel Craig (D-Columbus). “His public policy legacy clearly reflects his deep concern and support of the disenfranchised, marginalized, and most vulnerable among us.”

“My sincere and deepest sympathy goes out to family and friends of the Honorable Louis Stokes. Without a doubt, we have truly lost a legend and a giant in his death. I hope that his legacy of service continues to live on through the individuals whose lives he touched over the course of his remarkable life,” said Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Akron).

“Congressman Stokes was a dedicated public servant whose commitment to justice and diligent acts as an elected official cannot be replaced,” said Rep. Greta Johnson (D-Akron). “His legacy in the state of Ohio, and the nation, will live on for generations.”

 “Congressman Stokes illustrates a courageous and exemplary public servant whose example we all should strive to follow. May his memory enlighten those who stray from what is right and what is easy, as his legacy will forever remain a staple in our country’s history. My thoughts and prayers are with the Stokes’ family during this difficult time,” said Rep. Stephen Slesnick (D-Canton).

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Column: Ohio Equity & Adequacy Coalition Director William Phillis

Posted: July 6, 2015 9:30 AM

An initiative petition for a law or a constitutional amendment will be necessary to hold the charter industry accountable or phase it out

High hopes were dashed by the refusal of House leadership to schedule HB 2* for a vote on June 30th. Democrats and Republicans, charter proponents and charter opponents were in support of HB 2* as amended by the Senate. Had the bill been scheduled it would most likely have passed; hence House leadership kept it off the House floor.

This lack of House action on HB 2* demonstrates the absolute legislative control the for-profit sector of the charter school industry has on charter policy in Ohio. It matters not that the industry is laced with fraud, corruption and education malpractice. It matters not that Ohio is the butt of jokes regarding its deregulated, injudicious charter policy. Maybe Senate leadership permitted the Senate amendments with a nod from the House that the bill as amended would not pass in House. Who knows?

When will Ohio taxpayers rise up to demand accountability of their legislators and the Governor? Until state officials are held accountable, charters will extract a billion dollars annually from school districts. Much of this money flows to for-profit management companies which is used for campaign contributions, cozy business arrangements, marketing and of course, PROFITS. When one thinks Statehouse turpitude can't get worse, it does. Citizens must rectify this matter by by-passing the legislature and Governor with an initiative petition.

William Phillis

Ohio E & A

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Column: After four decades, it’s time to pay it forward on overtime

Posted: June 30, 2015 10:44 AM

BY TIM BURGA

Federal law that governs overtime, enacted in 1938, sets an income threshold below which salaried workers are guaranteed overtime pay. Although that threshold initially was adjusted for inflation every few years, it has not kept pace with inflation since 1975.

This failure to update the overtime salary threshold properly has left too many workers without pay protections, and they and their families have suffered for it. The current salary threshold is $23,660 a year. Workers who earn a salary even slightly above that figure are often denied overtime pay, despite any extra time they put in on the job.

This is wrong, and workers are long overdue for an adjustment — a big one. These workers include salaried employees such as secretaries, low-level managers, social workers, bookkeepers, dispatchers, and sales and marketing assistants.

The U.S. Department of Labor is expected to announce a new proposal soon on the overtime threshold. Our country and our economy will benefit from this move, especially if President Obama recognizes it as a real opportunity to stem the growing gulf between rich and poor Americans.

A family of four people who live on an annual salary of $23,660 is living in poverty. That should not be the case, especially for someone who works overtime hours.

Income inequality in this nation has grown to epidemic proportions. Wages have dropped or stagnated for most Americans, while the wealthiest among us are doing better than ever before. The social and economic ramifications of this inequality contribute to some of the most nagging problems we face as a nation.

If the overtime salary threshold were properly adjusted for inflation, it would be set at $51,168 a year. More than 6.1 million workers would be below the threshold at this level, and thus automatically protected by overtime law. Setting the adjustment any lower would unnecessarily exclude millions of these workers from getting the overtime protections they need to get ahead.

This is a quick way we can begin to address inequalities and get about the business of addressing the problems and challenges before us. Big problems such as income inequality demand big solutions.

It has been 40 years since workers have gotten the adjustment they deserve. On this chance to move the dial, let’s pay it forward.

Tim Burga is president of the Ohio AFL-CIO

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Release: Schools and taxpayers want real dollars, not theory: Senators tell school lobbyists they’ve lost touch with reality

Posted: June 17, 2015 4:19 PM

In a late afternoon meeting Tuesday, Senators Chris Widener and Cliff Hite told lobbyists for local school groups they’ve lost touch with reality.

“We’re using the current law formula as a basis for funding kids, not theories,” said Widener.

The senators chastised the lobbyists for misrepresentation of the Senate school funding proposal.

"What do school districts and taxpayers want? They want real dollars from the state, not theoretical double speak,” said Hite.

Lobbyists for school boards, superintendents, and treasurers in Columbus say Ohio's schools will receive $830 million less in basic aid under the Senate's school funding plan than the House plan. However, this number is based on theory, not reality. The Ohio Legislative Service Commission that prepares the budget estimates for the General Assembly said in a statement, “Districts wouldn’t actually receive the $830 million under the House plan.”

While only 10% of Ohio's school districts are funded by the actual formula proposed by the House and favored by the lobbyists, the Senate's school funding formula puts over 60% of schools on a sustainable funding formula – and others, in both plans, are subject to caps and guarantees.

The lobbyists are talking about the $830 million difference, which is based on a theoretical calculation, not based on a district’s final funding amount. But the lobbyists said they are in favor of the House plan anyway to prove a theoretical point.

The fact is the Senate budget plan includes $277 million more in basic aid than in 2015 and a total of $935 million in total funding over the next 2 years. That brings the total proposed funds for K-12 schools to $8.3 billion per year in the second year of the Senate budget plan.

“It’s ironic that lobbyists who represent those local school officials, who are sworn to manage local school budgets, want to theorize and say they are for a formula that doesn’t actually send dollars to educate kids,” said Hite.

The fact is that the school lobbyists told the Senate in recent hearings that the current funding formula, which is the basis of the Senate plan was “the light at the end of the tunnel” for our public schools.

“Taxpayers want real dollars, not fiction or theory from lobbyists who work for our local schools,” said Widener.

Taking facts and figures out of context and away from the real dollars we propose to send our local schools, does our kids a disservice.

We look forward to working with our colleagues in the House and Senate in the coming weeks to achieve a fiscally sound school funding formula that puts Ohio students first and theory a distant second.

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Column: Marco Rubio: The Commander-in-Chief We Need

Posted: May 13, 2015 1:50 PM

By Josh Mandel

As a Marine Corps veteran who served two tours in Anbar Province, Iraq, I have seen the great challenges and great rewards of advancing American security interests around the world, and I remain immensely proud of what men and women in uniform have achieved and continue to achieve. Yet today I join many other Ohioans and Americans who are deeply troubled by the direction of our nation’s foreign policy, as more of the world slips into chaos and global threats to American security grow unchecked. I believe that all of us who wish for stability, safety and prosperity in the 21st century should support Marco Rubio for president in 2016.

I originally got to know Marco through hours of windshield time criss-crossing Ohio, discussing family, football and foreign policy. I was impressed by his strategic and decisive approach to the complicated foreign policy challenges we face as well as his sound judgment and clear vision on how to protect America and advance American values. As a United States Senator serving on the Committee on Foreign Relations and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Marco has been a strong and thoughtful leader on the foreign policy and national security challenges facing our nation.

From the rise of ISIS, to the negotiation debacle with Iran, to the disastrous concessions to Cuba, Marco Rubio has been vocal and active when others have been timid and unsure. He possesses a clarity in his message and a confidence in his convictions that is not just needed in America, but in the world.

Marco has proven that he will lead when popular and, more importantly, when not. He will never neglect our allies such as Israel, and will never ignore our enemies such as radical Islam. He will protect our nation and advocate our core principles of freedom, justice and human rights. He will advance our interests wherever they need advancing – which, in our globalized world, may often be far from our shores.

He has shown that he understands the human costs of defending America’s interests, recognizing those brave warriors who’ve paid the ultimate sacrifice so we may live free. Just as importantly, he also understands the costs incurred when America fails to defend those interests, costs that can be devastating for both our people and the values that we hold dear.

As Treasurer of Ohio, I am as confident in Marco’s fiscal policies as I am in his foreign policies. Though, as he sometimes says, “In the 21st century, foreign policy is domestic policy.” I believe he is right. In the 21st century, there are hardly such things as remote problems. The economic interests and physical safety of families in my home state of Ohio are often tied to the security of cities, villages and countries a world away.

We cannot afford to elect another president who fails to realize this. America needs strength in the White House. America needs Marco Rubio as its Commander-in-Chief and I proudly endorse his candidacy for president.

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Release: School Leaders Headed To The Ohio Senate To Help Lawmakers Understand The Dire Consequences Of Eliminating Tangible Personal Property Tax Funding

Posted: May 13, 2015 11:01 AM

With millions of dollars of annual funding at stake, school leaders from around the state are headed to Capitol Square May 13 to communicate to Ohio Senators the need to retain permanent TPP funding for school districts as mandated in current law.

TPP Advocacy Day will provide a way for lawmakers to learn more about the dire consequences facing so many Ohio school districts if current state budget proposals calling for the elimination of TPP funding advance this legislative session.

At stake for these school districts are gaping budget holes, according to Tim Pickana, president of the Coalition for Fiscal Fairness in Ohio and school treasurer in Solon, one of the state’s highly impacted TPP districts.

“The governor’s budget plan sets in motion a complete and devastating TPP funding phase out,” Pickana explained. “The House-amended version of the bill, while attempting to mute the first two years of the phase out, is not a solution. It maintains the total phase out of TPP replacement revenues to schools and leaves districts poised at the edge of a fiscal cliff in just 24 months when this state budget cycle ends and they would be at year three of a complete TPP funding phase out without any replacement revenue. Plus, the House earmarked primarily Medicaid funds to supply the backfill dollars for the temporary ‘hold harmless’ it created, seemingly putting them at risk to the Governor’s veto pen.”

State legislators knew a permanent fix was needed for highly reliant TPP districts when the original tax reform package was passed in 2005, eliminating the TPP tax and replacing it with the broader-based Commercial Activity Tax, Pickana noted. Subsequently, the General Assembly renewed that commitment to a permanent solution for replacing TPP revenue four years ago during the 2011 budget process when they approved TPP reductions to all schools to help plug the state’s budget gap and then codified permanent reimbursement to the remaining districts.

“This is where current law now stands – with TPP funding continuing to highly impacted Ohio school districts in perpetuity,” Pickana explained, noting that the CAT currently generates $1.6 billion for the state’s General Revenue Fund, or more than $1 billion more than is needed to continue the TPP funding to schools.

“The commitment to continuing TPP replacement has been clear,” he said. “School districts agreed in 2005 that the TPP tax placed Ohio businesses at a competitive disadvantage and supported eliminating the TPP tax only with the understanding and commitment from the administration, legislative leaders and state business community at the time that school districts and local communities would not have to shoulder the entire responsibility for recouping the lost local TPP revenues from that tax policy change.”

The highly impacted school districts are located throughout Ohio and vary significantly in size and demographics. What they have in common is that their communities support business, which is why they received the locally levied Tangible Personal Property taxes originally.

“That is why our districts are working so hard to preserve this critical funding and help lawmakers understand the consequences of its elimination,” said Pickana, who like school superintendents, treasurers and elected board members from highly impacted districts are testifying before the Senate Finance Education Subcommittee Wednesday.

“Eliminating the TPP funding to highly impacted school districts will cause a further significant shift in the tax burden in our communities onto our residential and commercial property taxpayers or our districts will be forced to implement staggering cuts to our educational programs for students,” he added. “Neither option is good for taxpayers, businesses or the students in our districts we serve. Schools do not have the option of budgeting and forecasting through a rose-colored two-year lens. We take our fiscal responsibility to our communities and taxpayers seriously, so we will continue to talk to anyone who will listen at the Statehouse about what a legislative decision to change current law and eradicate TPP funding will mean for students, families and businesses back home in our local districts.”

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Release: Ohio’s Waste And Recycling Industry Has $6.7 Billion Annual Impact On State’s Economy

Posted: May 13, 2015 11:00 AM

National Waste & Recycling Association’s Ohio Chapter Releases Newly Available Information On The Industry’s Economic Impact Statewide

COLUMBUS, OH, May 13 2015 – At its Annual Meeting today, the Ohio Chapter of the National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA) released statewide economic impact data on the waste and recycling industry for the first time. Ohio NWRA members are meeting with legislators and regulators in conjunction with their annual chapter meeting to discuss the positive impact of the waste and recycling industry in the Buckeye State. In Ohio, nearly $6.7 billion in direct, indirect and payroll-induced economic activity is generated by the industry, according to newly released NWRA state economic impact analysis.

NWRA members are significant contributors to state economies nationwide, providing high quality careers and well-paying jobs while providing services that are essential to waste removal, recycling and environmental protection. In Ohio, the private waste and recycling industry employs 14,000 people, has a total annual payroll in excess of $638 million, generates annual revenue of $3.1 billion, and the average annual compensation for industry employees is $45,867. The annual economic impact to Ohio’s economy, generated by the waste and recycling industry is $6.7 billion. When the activity of the waste and recycling industry with other industries is calculated, overall impact to the state economy of the waste and recycling industry in Ohio is over $6.6 billion annually.

“The waste and recycling industry directly impacts all Ohio businesses and residents,” said Kathy Trent, chairman of the Ohio Chapter of the NWRA, and director of government affairs for Waste Management, Inc. “Our industry contributes to our state economy in many ways: through high- paying jobs, the combined payroll of our membership, and also through the broader impact we have doing business with other industries in the state.”

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Letter To Gov. Kasich On CAUV Issues

Posted: May 6, 2015 1:57 PM

Dear Mr. Kasich:

Subject: Fix CAUV Taxation Problems.

This is my first letter to you. Two dozen farmers contributed to this letter during the last 6 months. This is our request:

1. Remind ODTE to follow Ohio constitution in all respects. They must delete all presumptively illegal minimums and replace it with an actual value for woodlands ie: our proposed CAUV $50/acre (instead of the current minimum of $230/acre). Recently we have heard the Auditors in Ashtabula and Geauga are proposing a woodlands tax rate of $1-2/acre (instead of my $6.31/acre). We and our auditors know that if the current woodlands taxation is continued, huge reductions in woodlands will also continue and then we will need costly new water treatment and water purification facilities. Please do the math and give us relief now soon enough to matter for our enviroment, our retirement and our children.

2.Ohio Constitution states schools are to be funded by the most reliable and equitable sources via income tax.......not property real estate tax and least of all by farm and woodlands CAUV taxes. It looks like you chose to ignore the Ohio Constitution, the Ohio Supreme Court School Funding Decisions and every farm advocate when you ordered/supported/allowed raising rural farmland property tax (by a huge 300-600%) since 2010 to enable a small cut in income tax.

3. For months we heard you, Governor Kasich wanted to distance himself from any controversial (CAUV) issues which could undermine his Presidential campaign. You ordered our elected Ohio Senators and Representatives to follow your lead on CAUV and so they have had to ignore their constituents. Then in April, Gov Kasich danced on the graves of farmers when you bragged the (billions) increase in CAUV made up for the State funding cuts in rural poor districts. Then at the same time the CAUV increases enabled no funding cuts to city schools and a small cut in State income tax.

 4. When farmers got their new high tax bills, several legislators, farm unions and several organizations representing many counties asked ODTE for relief. ODTE decided the press release showing a 54% reduction in CAUV (increase) for woodlands on Miami Silt Loam soil sounded great and would reduce opposition......however the vast majority of Ohio Woodlands are on much poorer soils which would move the 54% down to less than 10% savings on our 2017 tax bills. Any relief is locked out until 2017 so everything supposedly agreed to by ODT/Gov/OFBF is just maybe a hope. Sadly we have seen the Gov Kasich control OFBF leadership so they have been forced to suppress member commentary and put on a token CAUV Appeal show which failed to achieve the goals of their constituents.

5. ODTE claimed OFA and also an extensive well documented survey by OFA board member David Coldwell were not considered. OFBF said they had not done a survey and rely on OFA and ODNR to run Forestry surveys. And yet OFBF's anecdotal info from a couple of undocumented random phone calls was used to come up with the incorrect new very low clearing cost of $1000 instead of $2300-$3500 found in OFA surveys. ODTE obviously has refused to incorporate the best numbers here.

6. The Ashtabula CAUV Task Force (Chaired by SR99 John Patterson) sent ODTE solutions for the CAUV program on 11/24/14, refinements on 2/10/15 and follow-up questions on 3/18/15. We also reviewed solutions with House Ways and Means Committee. ODTE has ignored these solutions which ODTE could by reversal of their own administrative changes...completely repeal the 2014 CAUV tax increase. We ask you to investigate ODTE and then you answer our follow-up questions of 3/18/15. I asked SR99 John Patterson to please forward his cover letter and those 3/18/15 follow-up questions to your office.

7. SB#1 and HB#61 were quickly passed but when woodland owners asked to amend the bill to provide tax benefits....we heard Gov Kasich ordered no amendments to keep the bill clean for early passage. So you please express your support for a separate clean bill for woodlands tax benefits now.

If you are able to reverse the CAUV destruction, order ODT to follow Ohio constitution, then you will have proven yourself at the state level. Then you could begin to look for a promotion to be our national leader. But if you refuse to fix these items, then it is our wish that your political career will soon be over.

Several of my fellow farmers have written you about CAUV. None have received a personal letter in response. Some did get a form letter with outdated 2013 attachments about the history of CAUV before the current tax increase. You know I am looking for a more hands on response directly from you. Please send me your email if you would like a PDF file.

Tell your appointee Joe Testa to humble himself, act on our 9 recommendations and answer to you so you can answer to us.. the farmers. We want to hear from you and how you will support the farmers on CAUV.....now!

Sincerely,

Fred Pierce-Ruhland, Landowner Member Ashtabula CAUV Task Force.

4352 Fox Road

Kingsville, Ohio 44048

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Release: Water Quality and Nutrient Stewardship a Great Success through Partnership Effort

Posted: May 6, 2015 1:54 PM

Throughout the past three years, Ohio’s 88 local soil and water conservation districts (SWCDs), in partnership with the Ohio Soybean Council (OSC) and the soybean checkoff, have been promoting the “4R Tomorrow” program that is focused on nutrient stewardship, water management, and backyard conservation measures to protect water quality in local communities and waterways across Ohio. As part of the program, SWCDs across the state have been, and continue, to reach out to farmers, homeowners, business owners and other community stakeholders to help them understand how implementing stewardship practices in their daily lives can positively impact Ohio’s natural resources

Here’s a glimpse of some of the results of the outreach activities Ohio’s SWCDs have been able to achieve to date as a result of this program: 40+ staff completed the 4RApproach to Soil and Water Quality Training Course provided by the American Society of Agronomy in an effort to better promote and teach the 4R nutrient stewardship principles; staff and supervisors have worked closely with local farmers, teachers and local leaders to improve water quality focus and implement conservation measures that benefit the local constituencies; nearly 200 workshops have been conducted through farmer breakfasts, or other special events; more than 100,000 4R Tomorrow Nutrient Stewardship brochures and fact sheets have been distributed; educational information on the 4R Program has been produced in 45,000 newsletters; information has been shared during 88 county fairs over the past three-year period; the 4R Tomorrow Program has been the major highlight during the Farm Science Review throughout the past three years, which has experienced 120,000+ guests each year; and, SWCDs have shared the program in a diverse array of local community events throughout the state to promote the 4R message.

“Each individual plays a role in our water quality efforts,” said Kris Swartz, Wood SWCD Supervisor and President of the Ohio Federation of Soil and Water Conservation Districts. “Nutrient stewardship and water quality is a huge issue in Ohio and it is our focus to ensure the SWCDs, who are known to be the “conservation boots on the ground”, are getting the message shared with as many as we can possibly reach. And, this cannot be done without great partnerships like the one we have with the Ohio Soybean Council,” continued Swartz.

“OSC is pleased of the success the 4RTomorrow program is having throughout Ohio,” stated Patrick Knauff, OSC Chairman and soybean farmer from Shelby County. “Our organization has invested soybean checkoff funds for this program – as well as for much needed water quality research, and projects designed to support animal agriculture, economic development, infrastructure, and sustainability measures for generations to come. This program is one of many outreach efforts OSC supports because we know that together we can make a difference,” he continued.

To learn more about the 4R Tomorrow program and how you can join the 4R Tomorrow effort, go to www.4RTomorrow.org or contact your county soil and water conservation district. Remember, everyone plays a part in improving and protecting Ohio’s natural resources.

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Release: Cleveland lawmaker wants “OhioSounds” Incentive To Spur Economic Growth In Music Industry

Posted: April 17, 2015 12:33 PM

COLUMBUS— 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.”

Smith’s proposal models a similar tax incentive program in Louisiana, which allows current residents to access credits for music production within the state without an upper cap limit. The Ohio program differs in that the credit is not limited to Ohio residents. However, with an upper limit of $50,000, Smith believes the credit is sustainable.

"Ohio’s history for musical talent and creativity has deep roots,” said Rep. Smith. “This proposal will help seed Buckeye creativity and spur innovation across the state. I am excited to announce this during Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Week."

Rep. Smith says music industry growth could have a big impact in the Buckeye State and points to Richard Florida, an American urban studies theorist, who discusses the growth potential—technologically and economically—for the music industry in the coming years.

In his 2005 best seller The Rise of the Creative Class, Florida writes, “Music is now being recognized as a fruit-fly industry – as an early indicator of new technologies, new business models and the economy in general. Music is a highly competitive business – a hyper competitive market in miniature.”

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Sen. Frank LaRose Column: Keeping Government Accountable: How RuleWatchOhio.gov is Generating National Attention

Posted: April 17, 2015 12:31 PM

Much like death and taxes, the presence of government rules and regulations can seem like a permanent fixture in our lives. Rules and regulations govern the cars we drive, the water we drink, and the air we breathe. Whether we are teachers or engineers, barbers or physical therapists, we operate within a legal framework that is constantly changing.

Some of these rules are necessary to make government work efficiently and effectively for everyone. Other rules create layers of red tape that needlessly slow the engine of economic growth in Ohio. Small businesses focused on their bottom line are less likely to expand and create jobs if they have to divert resources toward meeting burdensome requirements.

Fortunately, you can now directly influence the rules and regulations that impact your life here in Ohio. In 2012 I was serving as the chairman of JCARR, Ohio's rule oversight committee, when I had the idea of crowd-sourcing the task of constraining the growth of government regulations. The concept was simple: hard-working Ohioans know better than bureaucrats how regulations impact their businesses, so we should listen to them. From that simple idea RuleWatchOhio.gov was born. This easy to use website was created quickly and inexpensively due to the excellent work of the JCARR staff and Ohio's Legislative Information Systems team.

RuleWatch Ohio is a website launched recently that has already gained national recognition for the transparency it infuses into the administrative rulemaking process. This month, the National Conference of State Legislatures ranked the site as 3rd on their list of the country’s “Top 15 Website Ideas Worth Stealing.”

 

RuleWatch Ohio allows the public to track all of Ohio’s 15,000 rules from more than 110 state agencies and boards. After registering your email on http://www.RuleWatchOhio.gov, you can choose to track any number of Ohio’s individual rules and receive an email update when there is any activity on the rule. You can also choose to track rules that specifically relate to issues that affect your life, from Medicaid and public pension benefits to law enforcement and K-12 education. There is no limit to the number of rules you track, and you can opt out of the service at any time.

If you have a specific comment or concern about a rule, you can contact the state agency that is proposing the rule or the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR). JCARR is a legislative committee that ensures that state agencies do not make rules that exceed their legal authority. As a member and past chairman of this committee, I have experienced firsthand the value of public input to help us decide whether or not to recommend that a rule be invalidated.

The website we created was immediately embraced by citizens and industry groups throughout the state, earning acclaim as a user-friendly tool that increases transparency and public engagement. Because of its success, I drafted Senate Bill 3 last year to make RuleWatchOhio.gov a permanent part of state law. This bipartisan piece of legislation was signed into law last year by Governor Kasich.

In Ohio, our first priority is putting folks back to work. To do that, we must vigilantly monitor the burden that government places on businesses that create jobs. Our goal is to promote a sleeker, smarter government that protects Ohioans with an adequate regulatory system without stifling innovation and growth. This balance is not always easy to find, but we cannot succeed without your input. By registering with RuleWatchOhio.go and voicing your opinions about the rules that affect your lives, you equip your elected officials to work more effectively on your behalf.

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Column: Why are Gaming Revenues so far below what was Promised?

Posted: March 31, 2015 12:56 PM

A Guest Column by State Sen. Bill Coley (R-Liberty Township)

Back in 2009, the developers proposing to build casinos in four Ohio cities promised Ohio voters over $500 million per year for schools and local governments. The first casinos opened in May of 2012. However, annual casino tax revenue peaked at $272 million and has been falling since 2013.

A number of us are asking, why is casino tax revenue about half of what was promised?

The dangers of problem gambling are well known. Ohio has done its part to limit the number of gambling locations in the state. Ohio has a population of almost 12 million residents and has 4 casinos and 7 racetrack ‘racinos’. With over 1 million residents per facility, Ohio has more residents per facility than all but 5 other states. The number of residents per slot machine and table game is also high. Therefore, any claim that there is too much competition is without merit.

After the voters approved the constitutional amendment permitting casinos, the casino developers decided to build casinos that were much smaller than originally planned. It was widely reported in 2011, that instead of building facilities that included large dining and entertainment venues with 18,960 seats at slot machines and gambling tables, the facilities would be much smaller and would only include about 11,500 such seats.

The casino developers assured us that the reduction in the size of the facilities would not have a negative impact on the promised tax revenues. However, the percentage reduction in gaming seats (about 40 percent) is very similar to the percentage shortfall in promised tax revenue (about 46 percent).

What can the Ohio legislature do to get the casino operators to live up to their promises? Well, one thing that can be done is to restrict the amount of “Promotional Gaming Credit”.

Many of you have seen the solicitations from the casinos and racinos that offer $10 and $20 in free play. As long as regulators approve, gaming establishments are permitted to send such promotions and are allowed to deduct such “Promotional Gaming Credit” from their gaming revenue. Thus they pay less in taxes. Well, this month, the total amount gaming establishments have deducted from their revenues surpassed $500,000,000.00. That is about $165 million that did not go to Ohio’s schools and local governments in just the short time that we have had gaming in Ohio.

There is no requirement that Ohio allow a deduction for Promotional Gaming Credit. Most states do not permit such a deduction. Michigan does not permit such a deduction. Indiana has strict limits on such a deduction. If passed, the proposed legislation will prevent casino developers who have failed to live up to their promises from receiving deductions for Promotional Gaming Credit.

We’ve done a lot to improve Ohio’s economy over the last few years. However, our schools and local governments have been counting on the gaming revenues that they were promised. It’s time that the principles set forth in the proposed legislation are enacted into law.

As always, I would greatly appreciate it if you would contact me if you have any questions or concerns regarding any state-related matter. You can reach my office at (614) 466-8072 or write me, State Senator Bill Coley, at 1 Capitol Square, 1st Floor, Columbus, OH 43215.

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Column: Ohio Department of Agriculture Director David T. Daniels

Posted: March 24, 2015 9:07 AM

When you have forward-thinking producers along with good soil and climate, a good location and infrastructure, sound regulations, along with research and education, good things are bound to happen. This balance has led to Ohio’s wildly successful food and agriculture industry, which directly and indirectly touches everyone.

Ohio is made up of many different sized farms and there is room for all of them here in our state. From one operator to several family members on up to large ag businesses they have built an industry that provides billions in economic activity and thousands of jobs, not to mention quality food and agricultural products. For all of the benefits this industry has provided us, this success starts with small farmers and businesses right down the road from you in your local communities.

There is unprecedented demand from consumers for locally grown produce and meat and I am ecstatic to see that demand driving so many new faces into the industry. Bush Valley Farm in Adamsville is one such operation.

Bush Valley Farm is one visit out of many I will be making during my annual Ohio Agriculture Week trek across the state. Bush Valley Farm has recently been inducted into the Ohio Proud and Homegrown by Heroes programs, which help strengthen agriculture’s presence in the state by identifying fresh, Ohio-grown products grown by those who have or are still serving in the military.

This farm is owned by a husband and wife team, who provide quality, farm-raised meat that can be custom ordered to any specification, and is part of a growing movement for local communities to start business relationships with their local farmers.

Bush Valley Farm is just one operation that is representative of nearly any of Ohio’s agricultural farms. Ohio agriculture is made up of hundreds and thousands of families just like this, working hard, providing good agricultural products. You can buy produce, fruit, eggs, meat, maple syrup, Christmas trees or any number of agricultural products at local farms.

Ohio has 75,000 farms in the state and nearly 14 million acres of farmland. And we need every one of them to help meet domestic and global food demands. Did you know that today, the average person in the United States eats 22 pounds of tomatoes each year, mostly in the form of ketchup and tomato sauce? To help meet that demand, U.S. farmers produce 12 million tons of tomatoes, with 153,000 tons coming from Ohio producers. Did you also know that the U.S. also produces 66 billion eggs a year? Well, most people have no idea that 7.9 billion of those come from Ohio farms!

And as the population grows, so will those numbers. Americans eat about 30 pounds of lettuce every year. That’s about five times more than what we ate in the early 1900s. That’s okay because agriculture is keeping up. Today’s farmers produce 262 percent more food with 2 percent fewer inputs (labor, seeds, feed, fertilizer, etc.), compared with 1950.

This year, in honor of Ohio Agriculture Week, March 23-27, I will be traveling across the state to visit many of the agribusinesses and farm families that, by just doing their jobs, have helped make a significant contribution to Ohio and its citizens.

This year, I encourage all of you to seek out and start doing business with your local area farmers. You’re bound to get a high-quality product and it will support a local family, your community and our state. Ohio’s strong food and agriculture industry starts with the farmers making their living right down the road from you.

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Column: State Representative Jeff Rezabek

Posted: March 23, 2015 4:01 PM

Keeping Our Addicted Ohioans Alive and On a Path to Treatment

Ohio has seen its unintentional drug poisonings rise by 366 percent from 2000 to 2012. Prescription drug overdoses are now the number one cause of accidental death in our state, surpassing car accidents. In 2012 alone, Ohio saw 686 of its citizens die as a result of heroin-related overdoses. When I took office this January, I knew that this would have to be a priority to address while I serve you in the Ohio House.

During previous General Assemblies, my colleague Representative Robert Sprague (R-Findlay) and others worked very hard on this issue. However, it is clear much more work needed to be done. Our first step in addressing the opiate epidemic this General Assembly was with House Bill 4, a bill that Representative Sprague and I sponsored.

House Bill 4 gives Ohioans greater access to naloxone, an overdose antidote that can counter the effects of an opioid overdose. This bill will relax restrictions on who can dispense this medication, allowing friends and family of the addicted, treatment center professionals and those in the medical field to purchase and distribute it more freely.

The destructive effects of opiate addiction take too many lives in our community and across the state. By keeping our addicted Ohioans alive, there is a much greater chance that we can introduce them to treatment and recovery. If they lose the battle with addiction, and their lives, then no more can be done to help them.

HB 4* passed in the Ohio House with broad, bipartisan support. Obviously, this is an issue that crosses party lines. Representative Sprague and I, along with my other colleagues in the House, know the great importance of this legislation. The bill now resides in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, where it will be evaluated further. I hope to see its quick passage so that we may begin the process of saving more lives in this state.

As with all state government related issues, I hope you will not hesitate to contact my office about this legislation. Addiction is a very personal issue, and we would love to hear your input.

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Release: Senator Schiavoni Introduces Legislation to Protect Students

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

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Release: Reps. Clyde and Curtin introduce congressional redistricting reform

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.

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Release: Blue Creek Wind Farm Pays Another $2.7M to Van Wert and Paulding Schools and Community

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. www.iberdrolarenewables.us

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Release: Union beats Aramark price on food service bid

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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Release: Senators Schiavoni and Cafaro Announce Legislation to Establish State Facilities Closure Review Commission

Posted: February 18, 2015 3:26 PM

Bipartisan bill responds to recently announced closings in Youngstown and Dayton Area

Columbus—Today, Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) and Senator Capri S. Cafaro (D-Hubbard) introduced legislation to establish a State Facilities Closure Review Commission. The goal of SB 62* is to provide a more open process that gives all stakeholders the opportunity to provide input before a final decision is made. The bill’s introduction follows the Kasich’s administration’s recent decision to close the Youngstown Developmental Center and the Montgomery Developmental Center in Huber Heights. The legislation is co-sponsored by Senator Peggy Lehner (R-Kettering).

“The closure announcement has been extremely upsetting for families with loved ones in the Youngstown Development Center, many of whom have been in the facility for a long period of time,” said Senator Schiavoni. “The closure would be very disruptive for the residents of the facility and for the employees who care for them. A Review Commission would prohibit unilateral decision making no matter who the Governor is.”

Senate Bill 62 would create a 13-member commission consisting of legislators and representatives of state agencies (including OBM), labor unions and members of the public. The legislation is modeled after similar legislation introduced in the 125th Ohio General Assembly (HB100).

“My heart breaks for all the families who are concerned about the closure of the Youngstown Developmental Center,” said Senator Cafaro. “I believe the creation of a panel ensures fairness and accountability when determining the necessity for the closure of such a facility. I will do everything I can to ensure the bill passes and creates the panel in an expedited manner. It is my sincere hope once the bill is enacted that the Commission would see the wisdom in keeping the doors open at YDC, preserving the peace of mind and quality care for all involved.”

The legislation would establish a process that begins with the Governor submitting a request for closure to the Commission. The Commission would have 30 days to consider the request before approving or rejecting it or making an alternative proposal. The Commission would evaluate the request based on the following criteria and other factors it deems appropriate:

(1) Whether there is a need to reduce the number of facilities;

(2) The availability of alternate facilities;

(3) The cost effectiveness of the facilities;

(4) The geographic factors associated with each facility and its proximity to other similar facilities;

(5) The opportunities and barriers to transition employees to other appropriate employment;

(6) The utilization and maximization of resources;

(7) Continuity of the staff and ability to serve the facility population;

(8) Continuing costs following closure of the facility;

(9) The impact of the closure on the local economy;

(10) Alternatives and opportunities for consolidation with other facilities and collaboration with other agencies or political subdivisions.

State Representative Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown) has introduced companion legislation (HB 73) in the House of Representatives.

“The decision to close a state facility involves more than just dollars and cents – it involves people,” said Rep. Lepore-Hagan. “Shuttering the doors of Youngstown Developmental Center affects the workers, families, residents and indeed the entire community. A review commission, as established in this bill, ensures that those impacted get the opportunity to have their voices heard.”

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Column: William Phillis, Ohio E & A Coalition

Posted: February 13, 2015 9:17 AM

The Governor's budget proposal for public education is not premised on a rational process.

The district-by-district spreadsheet, which provides a moment of truth for the state education budget proposal, should be a colossal embarrassment to the state administration and the Ohio Department of Education.

During the budget rollout before the House Finance Committee, administration officials made a valiant effort to sell the proposal; and attempted to convince committee members that they should disregard the spreadsheet and buy into the policy premises.

In response to the criticism of the proposal by local school officials, the Governor said, "We need more superintendents who are educators, and less superintendents who are politicians." But during the February 10 House Finance Committee hearing, legislators on both sides of the aisle pushed back on the proposed school funding plan.

Lacking in most of these discussions is the education needs of students. The proposed formula is not premised on a rational process. The administration merely redefined the districts' local capacity and proposed a meager new level of funding. This guaranteed failure.

The Ohio Supreme Court said, "...the time has come to fix the system. Let there be no misunderstanding, Ohio's school funding system must undergo a complete systematic overhaul." (DeRolph v State, 78 Ohio St. 3rd, March 24, 1997). That Court order has not been fulfilled.

The process for developing a constitutional funding system is:

           Identify the components of a public education that must be available to all students

           Determine the cost of the components

           Fund the components

The legislature should go back to the drawing board on this education budget proposal. The state must assume a greater share of the school funding investment. The budget proposal does the opposite.

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Release: Treasurer Mandel and Rep. Dovilla Announce New Online Checkbook Legislative Effort

Posted: February 11, 2015 8:48 AM

COLUMBUS - Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel and State Representative Mike Dovilla (R-Berea) announced today the reintroduction of legislation requiring the Ohio Treasurer's office to publish and maintain an online database of state spending.

Last year, Treasurer Mandel launched OhioCheckbook.com, putting all state spending online for the first time in Ohio history. OhioCheckbook.com includes more than $408 billion worth of spending over the past seven fiscal years, displaying approximately 112 million transactions and approximately 3.9 billion pieces of spending information.

House Bill 46 would require the Ohio Treasurer to continue to host and publish this fully searchable state agency expenditures database online. This legislation also places in statute a requirement that the Treasurer's office host fully searchable databases that display salaries of state employees and local school district education employees.

 

HB 46* is a reintroduced version of last year's HB 175, which also sought to codify the transparency database and ensure that future treasurers maintain the website and keep this valuable spending information online and up-to-date.

OhioCheckbook.com has received an overwhelmingly positive reception from Ohio taxpayers, good government groups and news organizations throughout the state since its launch. The website sets a new national transparency standard and gives Ohioans unprecedented access to follow how their money is being spent.

 

"OhioCheckbook.com opens the state's checkbook for the first time in Ohio history and empowers citizens to hold politicians and bureaucrats accountable," said Treasurer Mandel. "Launching OhioCheckbook.com was an important first step, but we must enshrine transparency in state law to ensure that future generations of Ohioans continue to have access to this information. Ohioans have a right to know how their hard earned money is being spent."

"I commend Treasurer Mandel for launching OhioCheckbook.com, an easily accessible, searchable database of state expenditures for our taxpayers to hold state government accountable for spending," said Rep. Dovilla. "This new website is arguably the best of its kind in the Nation. HB 46* will codify this database and ensure that future treasurers, regardless of political affiliation or commitment to transparency, maintain this important tool that already is providing more accountable government to our state's residents."

During the 130th General Assembly, the Ohio House of Representatives passed Rep. Dovilla's bill with overwhelming bipartisan support, 86-8, on June 4, 2014. Unfortunately, the clock ran out on the lame-duck session and the Ohio Senate adjourned before bringing the bill to a vote.

HB 46* has been referred to the House State Government Committee and a full list of HB 46* co-sponsors can be found below. A list of third party supporters may also be found below.

OhioCheckbook.com is part of Treasurer Mandel's Treasurer's Transparency Project. For more information on the Project please visit www.OhioTreasurer.gov/Transparency. Ohio's online checkbook can be found at OhioCheckbook.com.

 

SUPPORT FOR OHIOCHECKBOOK.COM & HB 46*:

"Kudos to Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel for unveiling the best website I've seen to easily slice-and-dice how government spends money. OhioCheckbook.com is a great tool for journalists and anyone who supports open government in Ohio. Treasurer Mandel has done a service to all of Ohio with this website, and it's very important to put into statute that it continues to be maintained into the future."

- Dennis Hetzel, President of the Ohio Newspaper Association and the Ohio Coalition for Open Government

"Access to state spending online encourages the public to ask questions and government officials to be thrifty. Ongoing access to this information is important because it reinforces government accountability to taxpayers."

- Catherine Turcer, Common Cause Ohio

"Efforts like the Ohio Checkbook are critical for the future of transparency in Ohio. In the long-run, the only way Ohio taxpayers are going to be able to hold government accountable for how it spends their money is to see exactly what the government is doing. This lies at the heart of what The Buckeye Institute has long pushed for with our own public salary databases."

- Greg Lawson, The Buckeye Institute

"The Ohio Society of CPAs has long supported increased transparency throughout government. Treasurer Mandel's online checkbook helps open the books for taxpayers across Ohio and is a step in the right direction when it comes to increasing government transparency."

- Scott Wiley, President and CEO of the Ohio Society of CPAs

"As an organization that advocates for open government, the Sunlight Foundation finds that when governments put valuable public information online, citizens have greater access to it and can more effectively use it to ensure that government is working in their best interests. By requiring that the state make government expenditure data available online in easily searchable, sortable, and downloadable formats, the expenditure database described in HBXXX represents an important demonstration of state's interest in being transparent and accountable to its citizens. We very much hope that the legislature will decide to pass this bill."

- Emily Shaw, Sunlight Foundation

LIST OF HB 46* CO-SPONSORS:

Rep. Louis Blessing (District-29; Colerain Township)

Rep. Terry Boose (District-57; Norwalk)

Rep. Tim Brown (District-3; Bowling Green)

Rep. Timothy Derickson (District-53; Hanover Township)

Rep. Mike Duffey (District-21; Worthington)

Rep. Cheryl Grossman (District-23; Grove City)

Rep. Bob Hackett (District-74; London)

Rep. Steve Hambley (District-69; Brunswick)

Rep. Terry Johnson (District-90; McDermott)

Rep. Ron Maag (District-62; Lebanon)

Rep. Rick Perales (District 73; Beavercreek)

Rep. Jeff Rezabek (District-43; Clayton)

Rep. Kristina Roegner (District-37; Hudson)

Rep. Mark Romanchuk (District-2; Ontario)

Rep. Tim Schaffer (District-77; Lancaster)

Rep. Gary Scherer (District-92; Circleville)

Rep. Andrew Thompson (District-95; Marietta)

Rep. Nino Vitale (District-85; Urbana)

Rep. Paul Zeltwanger (District-54; Mason)

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Column: David Quolke, President, Cleveland Teachers Union

Posted: February 11, 2015 8:42 AM

Beginning on February 17 many Ohio students will sit down for the first time and take high stakes math and reading exams known as PARCC Assessments. These assessments are designed by the PARCC Consortia and replace the former high stakes OAA and OGT and will be given to students in grades 3-9. These assessments will be a mix of paper and pencil (traditional method of testing) and in an online format (untested) and will be given over the course of several separate sittings in the form of a Performance Based Assessment (PBA) and an End of the Year (EOY) Assessment. These assessments are scheduled to take 10 hours (maybe a little more or a little less depending on grade level). That is double the amount of time than the formerly used OAA or OGT.

Several states like New York and Kentucky that have already administered the PARCC tests had dramatic drops in scores. In NY, only 31% of students "passed" the test the first year it was implemented. Last week the Washington Post reported that in 2010, PARCC had 22 states that were utilizing or going to utilize the PARCC as their state-wide assessment. Today there are less than a dozen states that are committed to use the PARCC exam this year. Why all of these defections? I would have to assume that it comes down to a few basic things:

           The PARCC has not been proven to be a reliable or valid measure of what it is testing.

           Accommodations for special education and English as a Second Language learners still appear spotty.

           The technology needed has not been proven to be ready for this exam.

           Scores plummet everywhere it is administered.

           Students are not universally prepared to take an online reading or math exam.

           It is an exorbitant amount of time testing for students.

When students spend this much time taking assessments, time for instruction and learning is replaced with time for taking tests and preparing for tests. This replacement of learning time is an overwhelming concern for educators and teachers unions across the state.

School Boards and the Ohio Legislature should stand up for the teachers and students and put a PAUSE ON PARCC for high stakes decisions. It should be prohibited for PARCC results to be used to make high stakes decisions that impact teachers and students such as graduation, retention, promotion, compensation, position for lay-off, or formal evaluation. A responsible school board and a responsible legislature will see the implications of using this unfair and unproven data and slam the brakes on using the stakes.

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Release: Stinziano Introduces Online Voter Registration Bill

Posted: February 11, 2015 8:37 AM

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohioans would be able to register to vote and update their voter registration information online under a bill introduced by state Rep. Michael Stinziano.

“We currently pay our bills online, manage our bank accounts online, and even file our tax returns online, yet we don’t let citizens register to vote online,” said Stinziano, a Columbus Democrat and the former Director of the Franklin County Board of Election.

House Bill 41 would require Ohio’s Secretary of State to create an online voter registration system that would allow qualified Ohio citizens to be able to register to vote or to change their voter registration information online.

“Giving Ohioans a more convenient way to register to vote and update their registration information will significantly reduce the number of citizens who by law currently cast provisional ballots, thereby reducing a significant burden on our election officials, saving taxpayer dollars, and improving the integrity of elections in Ohio,” Stinziano said.

"This will boost convenience for voters and will help election boards by cutting back on data entry costs and errors," said Stinziano, "I encourage my colleagues to support this common-sense bill."

Under the proposal, Ohio would join 25 other states offering some form of online voter registration or that have passed enabling legislation that is soon to be implemented.

Stinziano’s proposal would provide for an online process of voter registration through the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office. The proposal would also allow registered voters to update their addresses if they move. The process would include crosschecking supplied information with data from the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles, ensuring that the voter registration system is safe, secure and efficient.

The Secretary of State’s office has created an online change of address system; however, provision for it does not exist explicitly in state law.

Stinziano is the only member of the Ohio General Assembly who is an Elections Registration Administrator certified by the National Association of Election Officials. He was named the 2011 Democratic Legislator of the Year by the bi-partisan Ohio Association of Election Officials

Stinziano introduced similar legislation in the last session of the Legislature that ended in December.

House Bill 41 will be assigned to a House Committee for further review.

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Release: Eklund Sponsors College Savings Bill

Posted: February 6, 2015 3:33 PM

COLUMBUS—Two senators are leading a new effort to make a college education more affordable in Ohio, with Senate Bill 6 introduced Monday. Senator John Eklund (R-Munson Township) along with Senator Shannon Jones (R-Springboro) sponsored the Ohio College Savings Act, which would increase the maximum tax deduction for families investing in college 529 savings plans to $10,000 per student. Current law allows a $2,000 annual deduction, one of the lowest amounts in the nation.

Eklund stated the bill would help families save for college while ultimately helping the state's economy. "If Ohio was just at the national average in college attainment we would increase personal incomes and purchasing power for Ohio families," Eklund said. "This bill is not a fiscal burden on Ohio's budget. Instead, this effort would be a major educational and financial benefit for Ohio families and Ohio's future."

To date, 11 Republican senators and one Democrat have joined as co-sponsors of the bill, including two members of Senate GOP leadership.

“Michigan, Indiana and Pennsylvania have already increased their allowed tax deductions for college savings plans to help defray the rising cost of education, and it’s time Ohio does the same for our students so we can remain competitive with those around us,” stated Senator Jones.

The bill has already received support from the higher education community, including Bruce Johnson, President of the Inter-University Council of Ohio. “This incentive attacks head on what is, arguably, one of the biggest issue facing students contemplating college today—borrowing to pay for their college education and going into debt as a result,” Johnson said.

C. Todd Jones, President of the Association of Independent Colleges & Universities of Ohio agreed. “Savings are a critical part of financing a college education, and AICUO fully supports increasing the 529 limits to encourage families to save,” Mr. Jones said.

The bill also creates the Joint Committee on Ohio College Affordability, which would make recommendations as to additional ways Ohio can improve college opportunities with the goal of greater degree completion and reduced student debt.

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Release: Senator Yuko Introduces Legislation to Raise Minimum Wage & Improve Workers' Rights in Ohio

Posted: February 6, 2015 9:52 AM

COLUMBUS—This week, State Senator Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights) introduced “The Ohio Worker’s Rights Act”, Senate Bill 25, to raise Ohio’s minimum wage, expand overtime protection and prevent employee misclassification. The bill is a multi-pronged approach to improving worker’s rights in Ohio and a priority for the Ohio Senate Democratic Caucus for the 131st General Assembly.

 

“Ohio workers have suffered from stagnant wages and this legislation would give them relief,” said Senator Yuko. “It is time for the General Assembly to take action and empower workers whose paychecks, benefits, and well-being have been eroding for decades.”

 

Provisions in Senate Bill 25 would increase Ohio’s minimum wage and overtime compensation to inflation adjusted levels based on the 1975 update of the Fair Labor Standards Act. They would also do the following:

 

Raise the Minimum Wage—Helping the Working Poor

 

Increase Ohio’s minimum wage from $8.05 to $10.10 an hour, adjusting to changes in inflation each year.

           Of those who would be affected by the increase—56% are women, 86% are over 20 years old and 82% work more than 20 hours weekly. (Source: Policy Matters Ohio)

           The additional wages would stimulate Ohio’s economy generating over $977 million. (Source: Policy Matters Ohio)

           An estimated 88,580 Ohio’s would no longer need food stamps, saving $153.9 million in Ohio. (Source: Policy Matters Ohio)

 

Expand Overtime Compensation—Helping the Middle Class to Build Strong Families

 

Increase the threshold for overtime compensation for salaried employees from $23,000 to $50,000 in first year, then to $69,000 in following years.

           In 2015, only workers earning an annual income of under $23,660 qualify for mandatory overtime, or around $455 a week-- only $2 a week above the poverty level for a family of four. (Source: Economic Policy Institute)

 

Employment Reclassification—Create A Better Playing Field for Collaboration & Clarity

 

           Replace the definition of “employee” in the Minimum Fair Wage Standards Law and the Industrial Commission and Bureau of Workers’ Compensation Law.

           Adds the definition of “employee” created under the bill to the Bimonthly Pay Law, the Prevailing Wage Law, the Unemployment Compensation Law, and the Income Tax Law.

           Prohibits any person from requiring or requesting an individual to enter into an agreement or sign a document that does not accurately reflect the Individual’s relationship with an employer.

           Prohibits an employer from retaliating against an individual who seeks employment protection and creates criminal and civil penalties for individuals who violate proposed employment provisions.

 

“Raising the minimum wage boosts consumer spending, generating higher sales revenue for local businesses and promoting economic growth,” said Yuko. “Likewise, working to provide adequate compensation for overtime hours worked and giving clear guidance to workers and employers on their status sends a signal that we care about the future of our citizens.”

 

Senate Bill 25 is co-sponsored by all members of the Ohio Senate Democratic Caucus and has been assigned to the Senate Transportation, Commerce & Labor for future hearings.

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Release: Rep. Rogers introduces bipartisan bill to legalize medical cannabis oil for epilepsy patients

Posted: February 6, 2015 9:51 AM

COLUMBUS- State Reps. John Rogers (D- Mentor-on-the-Lake) and Wes Retherford (R-Hamilton) on Tuesday introduced House Bill 33, legislation to legalize medical cannabis oil to treat patients with severe forms of epilepsy.

 

“This bill is simply about helping people,” said Rep. Rogers. “Thousands of individuals in our state, many of whom are young children, suffer from debilitating seizures caused by epilepsy. The amount of pain and hardship they and their families endure is deeply unsettling. This medication has been shown to significantly reduce the occurrence and length of seizures which leads to a greatly improved quality of life. This is not about legalizing marijuana; this is about making medication available in Ohio to treat those who need it most.”

 

The bill would allow seizure patients access to cannabidiol (CBD), medical cannabis oil, and grant them eligibility to participate in clinical trials conducted by specified medical institutions. This specific strain which would be made legal through House Bill 33 is extremely low in THC, the component that produces a high. Currently this form of medication is legal in Colorado, California, Florida, Washington and several other states.

 

The medication would be available to physicians to prescribe at several hospitals throughout the state including Case Medical Center, Cleveland Children’s Hospital, Rainbow Babies, Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, University of Cincinnati Medical Center and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

 

Rep. Rogers has been actively involved in forming policy that generates awareness and increases research and development for severe forms of epilepsy after meeting a young girl from his district with Dravet syndrome, a devastating form of the disease. Last General Assembly, Rep. Rogers’ legislation to establish Dravet Syndrome Awareness Day on October 16 was signed into law.

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Release: Co-Sponsor Request On Education Funding

Posted: February 6, 2015 9:49 AM

TO: All House Members

FROM: State Representative Mike Curtin

DATE: February 4, 2015

RE: Co-Sponsor Request

I soon plan to introduce legislation to earmark the entire net proceeds of Ohio's personal income tax for K-12 education.

Using language identical to the Ohio Constitution's language that earmarks all net lottery profits for K-12 education, the bill will "require that the entire net proceeds of the state personal income tax be used solely for the support of elementary, secondary, vocational, and special education programs as determined in appropriations made by the General Assembly."

 

Our state government's highest constitutional obligation, in effect since 1851, is to "make such provisions, by taxation, or otherwise, as, with the income arising from the school trust fund, will secure a thorough and efficient system of common schools throughout the state."

 

The maintenance of Ohio's personal income tax is essential to the state's ability to meet this constitutional obligation. Attempts to eliminate the state personal income tax inevitably will put continually increasing pressure Ohio's school districts to seek higher and higher local real-estate taxes. Attempts to eliminate the state personal income tax inevitably will destabilize Ohio's currently balanced tax system -- one that does not rely too heavily on any one of the major tax sources -- property, sales and income taxes.

 

Ohio's personal income tax has been in effect since 1972. Please see the attached memorandum from the Legislative Service Commission which shows, year-by-year, total state funding for primary and secondary education, and total receipts from the state personal income tax. You will see that, at present, there is rough equivalency between how much Ohio collects from its personal income tax, and how much it allocates for primary and secondary education. This is an equivalency that is very much worth preserving.

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Release: Private Pipeline Companies May Not Immediately Seize Ohioans' Properties

Posted: January 6, 2015 1:42 PM

Rampant Eminent Domain Abuse Continues Throughout Rural Ohio; However, Ohioans Have Legal Defenses

Columbus, OH - The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law today moved to counter the aggressive legal actions taken by Texas Eastern Transmission, a private Texas pipeline corporation, against Ohioans Roger and Lana Barack of Belmont County, alongside hundreds of other Ohio landowners.

 

The Barack family's opposition takes aim at abusive eminent domain practices frequently used by private out-of-state corporations to seize Ohioans property by force, and without legitimate compensation.

More specifically, the 1851 Center's opposition asserts the following:

--Recent federal court decisions reaffirm and revitalize the principle that Congress may not delegate its power, including the power to seize property, to purely private companies: taking of Ohioans property without sufficient government oversight is unconstitutional.

--Government agencies must provide Ohio landowners with notice of any hearings that may result in government permission allowing the seizing of their properties. In this case, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ("FERC") failed to notify Ohioans of the proceedings affecting their properties.

--Federal approval of a pipeline route does not mean that private pipeline companies may immediately seize Ohioans private property: the Ohio Constitution prevents "quick takings" other than in the case of roads and emergencies. Even with federal approval, pipeline companies must abide by the Ohio Constitution.

"While we fully support energy development in eastern Ohio, that development does not preclude Ohioans' property rights - - through an unholy alliance of government and big business, both state and federal statutes claim to authorize private pipeline companies to take Ohioans property. However, Ohioans should know that even in the case of federally-approved pipelines, they maintain important constitutional rights protecting their property: in many cases, private pipeline companies altogether lack the eminent domain authority they claim to have; and even where such authority may be legitimate, these companies may not immediately seize Ohioan's properties," explained Maurice Thompson, Executive Director of the 1851 Center.

"Simply asserting the proper defenses can force pipeline companies to choose a pipeline route that goes around objecting landowners properties, or for enterprising Ohioans, raise offers for their land by hundreds of thousands of dollars."

Section 19, Article I of the Ohio Constitution protects property rights above and beyond the federal baseline protections, forbidding takings that are not for legitimate "public use," and forbidding immediate takings, other than in limited circumstances.

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Column: Ohio Department of Agriculture Director David T. Daniels

Posted: January 6, 2015 1:40 PM

SUPPORTING AGRICULTURE IN OHIO WILL REMAIN A TOP PRIORITY

The past four years have certainly been a time of change and progress for Ohio’s agriculture industry. Tax cuts, research, new investments and priorities, and strong leadership have helped our state’s farmers and food producers grow even stronger.

One of the most monumental transformations for the agriculture industry in decades has been Governor Kasich’s tax reform. The 2011 elimination of the “death tax” means farmers and their families are no longer under a long-term financial burden just to do their jobs. Additional tax cuts for small businesses are helping farmers by cutting taxes in half for the first $250,000 of business income. These tax breaks are putting money back in the pockets of those who provide us with our most basic necessities.

In 2011, we also enacted the nation’s first comprehensive livestock care standards after months of reviewing scientific information and holding numerous public meetings. The result is a regulatory structure that has become a national model for balancing farmers’ production needs with consumers’ demand that farm animals be cared for responsibly. The standards protect farmers who are doing a good job and allows them to continue to produce safe, wholesome and abundant food.

In 2012, Ohio became the first state to be granted approval in the new federal program that allows certain state-inspected small businesses to sell their meat products across state lines. For small and specialty meat processors this is a long overdue opportunity to expand customer base and get Ohio products into new markets without burdensome and expensive changes to facilities.

The Ohio Department of Agriculture began recognizing bicentennial farm families in 2013 as a way to honor these incredible small businesses and recognize farm families who have made a commitment to keeping their businesses in Ohio. These families have been living and farming on the same property for at least 200 years, making them some of the oldest continuously operating businesses in the state. We now have identified 73 bicentennial farms in 34 counties, not to mention the more than 1,000 century farms also registered all across the state.

Just this past year, Ohio Department of Agriculture scientists made a scientific breakthrough that is helping pork producers all across the nation in the fight against the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus. Genetic sequencing of a new strain of this virus, performed by staff at the department’s Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, may lead to a marketable vaccine for swine in the near future.

Over the last four years, we’ve been working together to feed a growing population while making vast strides in the efforts to improve water quality in the state. We’ve made much progress in this area, including fertilizer certification training and the promotion of nutrient stewardship practices, research on best management practices, watershed monitoring, and septic system cleanup, but there is still more to do. In the next four years, we will continue to prioritize research and training to equip farmers with the best, most effective and most efficient tools available.

As we usher in a new year, Ohio’s farmers and food processors have much for which to be thankful, as do the 11.5 million Ohioans who benefit from the products they produce and the jobs they provide.

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Release: ODP Chairman Chris Redfern Farewell Statement

Posted: January 6, 2015 1:39 PM

Dear friends,

Over the last nine years, I have had the honor of leading one of the great political organizations not just of our state, but our country. The Ohio Democratic Party remains one of the strongest state parties in the nation, respected by our colleagues and feared by political adversaries. And we owe it all to the support of people like you.

When I became chairman in December 2005, the ODP had fewer than 10 employees, and we hadn't won a statewide election in years. But with hard work, generous donors, and the best political team anywhere, we won and won again. Although the results of the 2014 cycle were disappointing, our Party has grown and thrived. Our infrastructure is stronger and our commitment to winning in 2016 unswayed.

As I leave the chairmanship of the Ohio Democratic Party, I am filled with a great deal of gratitude and respect for those who have made this effort over these many years so rewarding for so many. The staff of the Ohio Democratic Party often times does not get the thanks they truly deserve. In politics, success has many parents but defeat is an orphan. It is the nature of this business, but that does not mean it is right. Our success these past years is due in large part to the great people I worked with.

We elected the president twice with 50% of the vote and elected a senator twice. We won four new congressional seats and gained a majority of GOP drawn seats in the State House. That is something that has never been achieved by ODP, ever. At the same time, our friend Governor Strickland was swept to victory in 2006 and Senate Bill 5 was repealed with record turnout. Thank you for helping make history!

Beginning January 1st, my friend and colleague David Pepper will begin his term as chairman of our party. He will be assisted by our Vice Chairwoman Rhine McLin and close advisers including Senator Nina Turner. I know that with your support, David will be a great chair.

As for me, if you are ever in my neighborhood, stop by. A glass of wine will be waiting for you.

-Chris Redfern

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Release: Hagan Criticizes Plan to Undo School Arts, Health Standards

Posted: November 10, 2014 4:45 PM

Board could vote to overturn 45 year-old standard for faculty ratios in arts, health fields

COLUMBUS— State Rep. Robert F. Hagan (D-Youngstown) today sent a letter to state school board members, urging them to reconsider a plan to overturn state standards for school faculty ratios in art education, music education, physical education, guidance counseling, library sciences and physical and mental health.

The text of the letter is below:

Dear President Terhar,

It has come to my attention that the school board plans on voting to eliminate state standards that require school districts to maintain staffing ratios for elementary art education, music education, physical education, school counselors, librarians, school nurses and social workers.

These standards have been around in one form or another for over 45 years, and for good cause. Aside from a wealth of academic literature that suggests education in the arts supports the development and critical thinking ability of students, the presence of healthcare professionals, social workers and guidance counselors in our schools has become a fundamental part of meeting students’ and families’ educational needs in the 21st century.

Increasingly, districts have recognized the importance of social, emotional and physical well-being to a child’s ability to learn and excel in the classroom. Instead of making it easier for cash strapped schools—which many are after weathering state cuts to education over the last four years—to walk away from standards that invest in children in a holistic way, the state board has a responsibility to help districts meet these new challenges head-on.

As students and families are more reliant upon services at the local level, it would be counterproductive to move in a direction that undoes commonsense standards in the name of political philosophy.

The political philosophy behind local control is laudable, but unattainable unless the state, and indeed the board, are willing to finally work through the ultimate unfunded mandate in Ohio—public education for our children.

Please accept this letter as written testimony for your November 11 meeting.

Sincerely,

State Rep. Robert F. Hagan, Ohio House District 58

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Release: Stinziano To Introduce Legislation Cutting Taxes For Ohio Artists

Posted: October 23, 2014 9:58 AM

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Rep. Michael Stinziano (D-Columbus) will soon introduce legislation providing artists with an income tax deduction for any income derived from the sale of their works within designated “arts and entertainment” districts. The legislation will aim to reduce the tax burden on Ohio’s creative artists who qualify as a “resident artist.”

Stinziano’s legislation defines a “resident artist” as an individual who owns or rents residential property in the state, conducts business within any arts and entertainment district, and derives income from a sale or performance within those districts. The proposal would broadly define musical compositions, plays, paintings, sculptures, photographs, dances, and traditional or fine crafts as a “work.”

Currently, Ohio offers a sales and use tax exemption for some artistic purposes, such as property sales for use in non-profit presentations of music, dramatics, the arts and related fields.

“By reducing the tax burden on artist entrepreneurs, Ohio will attract and retain a creative and vibrant artist community,” Rep. Stinziano said. “My legislation will cultivate creative and cultural enrichment, making Ohio more attractive and more competitive with other states that have larger metropolitan areas. We need to retain more college graduates, attract young professionals and families, and support local artists that call Ohio home, and we need to strengthen Ohio's cultural education opportunities."

Rep. Stinziano was appointed to serve on the Ohio Arts Council Board by Ohio House Speaker William G. Batchelder in June.

“Representing Columbus’ Short North Arts District, Franklinton, Bexley, German Village, Grandview, and the University Community, the Columbus College of Art and Design, and several other creativity incubators gives me a unique opportunity to champion legislation benefitting artists, galleries, and art institutions,” Stinziano said. “By serving on the Ohio Arts Council Board and with this new legislation, I will continue to support artistic experiences that enrich Ohio’s communities and bring new economic opportunities to artists throughout Ohio.”

If adopted, Ohio will join Maryland and Rhode Island in similar efforts to create an incentive for statewide artistic creativity.

The Ohio Arts Council is a state agency that funds and supports quality arts experiences to strengthen Ohio communities culturally, educationally and economically.

Following introduction, the bill will be assigned to a House committee for further review.

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Release: Ohio’s chemical manufacturing industry holds science education conference

Posted: October 23, 2014 9:57 AM

COLUMBUS - Oct. 22, 2014: Nearly 60 science teachers from across Ohio are gathering for a two and a half day conference in Columbus aimed at bringing hand-on experiments and tools back to the classroom.

The Ohio Chemistry Technology Council (OCTC) Foundation, in partnership with the Ohio EPA, is holding the 22nd Annual Teachers, Industry & Environment (TIE) Conference on Oct. 22-24 free of charge for third through eighth grade science teachers through sponsorships from OCTC member companies.

“Science education is constantly evolving and leading educators realize that students are more enthusiastic about science when it is presented in a way that is interesting and encourages hands-on student involvement,” said Jenn Klein, President of OCTC. “The TIE Conference provides teachers with tools they can use in the classroom to help capture the imagination of students at a young age, helping to build better prepared students for success in this technology-driven global economy.”

The conference features dramatic experiments that teachers can easily duplicate in the classroom by scientists from the chemical manufacturing industry, universities, NASA, the Carnegie Science Center and the Ohio EPA.

Attendees receive a behind the scenes look at Ashland Specialty Ingredients, a high-technology facility, in Columbus and will attend a luncheon with members of OCTC’s Board of Directors, where they will discuss what the chemical manufacturing industry is doing to further education outreach in their respective communities.

Established in 1993, the TIE Conference provides firsthand experience of basic science principals and real world environmental challenges through professional lectures and hands-on demonstrations designed for classroom adaptation. The conference is aligned with Ohio’s state teaching standards for STEM curriculums.

Participating teachers are also eligible for graduate credits from Ashland University.

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Release: Complete Cabin Renovations Announced at Hocking Hills State Park

Posted: October 23, 2014 9:55 AM

LOGAN, OH - Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Director James Zehringer today announced several capital improvement projects at Hocking Hills State Park.

“Hocking Hills continues to receive international acclaim and is certainly one of Ohio’s greatest natural treasures,” said Zehringer. “These improvements allow us to enhance the experience of our guests as we showcase this beautiful park and introduce more visitors to the great things Ohio has to offer.”

Upcoming improvements at Hocking Hills State Park will include:

           Completely renovating all 40 of the state park’s cabins

           Replacing the dining lodge roof

           Doing exterior renovations to the dining lodge

           Renovating the outdoor pool at the dining lodge

           Adding more full service hookup campsites

           Installing new playground equipment in the campground area

           Upgrading the restroom at the welcome center at Old Man’s Cave

           Making improvements to the restroom at Ash Cave

           Increasing trail signage throughout the park, including safety signage and confidence markers

           Installing brand new interpretive signage for the first time at an Ohio State Park

           Larger campsites at the horse camp

The Ohio State Parks capital improvement projects, and others like them around the state, are made possible through the support of Governor John Kasich, Senate President Keith Faber and the Ohio General Assembly. Ohio State Parks received an unprecedented $88.5 million for capital improvements to strengthen the infrastructure and modernize facilities in the most recent capital budget.

To assist in identifying key projects, ODNR launched a website to allow people to submit their ideas for improvements within the Ohio State Parks system. By visiting www.parks.ohiodnr.gov/improvements, people can fill out a survey to suggest improvements at their favorite state park. To date, the department has received more than 6,100 completed surveys. Ohioans are encouraged to continue to fill out these surveys and share their feedback as they visit Ohio’s 74 state parks this fall.

Ohio is proud to be one of only seven states in the nation where admission to state parks is free.

ODNR ensures a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all. Visit the ODNR website at www.ohiodnr.gov.

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Release: The Ohio Education Association launches iPhone and Android applications for advocacy and membership engagement

Posted: September 23, 2014 2:46 PM

Columbus, Ohio - The Ohio Education Association (OEA) today officially launched the mobile applications for its members and the public to stay up-to-date on the latest news, events and advocacy campaigns affecting educators and students in Ohio. Purple Forge, a leader in providing mobile applications for associations and advocacy organizations across North America, developed the application with the OEA.

The Ohio Education Association (OEA) today announced the release of its iPhone and Android applications. The applications were developed to engage OEA members, the public and policy makers on the most popular mobile app platforms in today’s marketplace. The app includes a tool that will allow members to find meetings or offices anywhere in the state. It also contains an innovative advocacy module that allows members to contact and petition their elected representatives on critical issues.

An innovative postcard feature allows members to create postcards that can be shared via social media to spread a message in support of education across the state. The applications also include access to the association’s social media feeds, videos and other useful information for members.

The mobile apps were also equipped to allow the OEA to send push notifications to their members and the public with their latest news and updates. Push notifications are a useful way of getting up-to-date information on-the-fly. Public service announcements, calls to action and media updates are a few of the possible uses of the push notification feature.

 

“With this app, we are giving our members state-of-the art tools to help us advocate for our students and advance the goals of the OEA,” said Becky Higgins, OEA President. “These mobile apps will allow us to react swiftly to engage our members for the betterment of education in the state of Ohio.”

The OEA’s mobile applications are developed and maintained by Purple Forge. Purple Forge is the world’s leading provider of mobile applications to associations and advocacy organizations, and have deployed apps for other state affiliates of the NEA, including Missouri, New Mexico, and New Hampshire, and has also deployed the mobile application for the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation in Canada.

"The OEA has put advocacy and member empowerment at the forefront of its campaign for better education," shared John Craig, VP Sales and Marketing of Purple Forge. "Having the right mobile tools at their disposal will allow OEA members to quickly align their resources to meet that challenge.”

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Release: AICUO Celebrates Ohio Legislators with Friend of Independent Higher Education Award

Posted: September 23, 2014 2:45 PM

COLUMBUS – The Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Ohio (AICUO) will honor champions of the Ohio private college sector with the creation of the Friend of Independent Higher Education Award. “This award recognizes those who have supported our sector by going above and beyond to meet the needs of our students and member institutions,” explains AICUO President C. Todd Jones. “Their commitment to independent higher education helps preserve the academic excellence and economic impact of our institutions.”

The inaugural recipients of the award are Senator Randy Gardner (Bowling Green) and Representative Dave Hall (Millersburg), whose work on the College Credit Plus Program ensured that Ohio independent colleges remained a viable option for high school students in the revised program.

The award for Sen. Gardner will be given at the AICUO Annual meeting on September 24, and the award for Rep. Hall will be presented to him at an event on the Ashland university campus on September 30.

AICUO is the public relations, research and government liaison organization for 50 independent, nonprofit institutions of higher education in Ohio. Members include four-year undergraduate, graduate and professional schools accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools and authorized by the Ohio Board of Regents.

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Gongwer Introduces New Legislative Category Tracking Feature

Posted: September 18, 2014 10:47 AM

Gongwer News Service today announces a new feature that allows subscribers to track and receive alerts on legislation that falls into general categories.

Under the new system, users can identify the categories in which they are interested.

When new legislation is introduced that matches a tracked category, it will be automatically added to subscribers’ bill tracking profiles, and email alerts on subsequent legislative activity will follow.

If a new bill is not one a subscriber wants to track, it can easily be removed from tracking by clicking the “Stop Tracking” link on Gongwer’s Bill Tracking page.

Categories can be tracked from Gongwer’s Bill Tracking page, the Legislation page, or from a page that displays all categories.

These new functions are available to subscribers at no additional cost.

Besides tracking by category, Gongwer’s bill tracking services allow subscribers to track legislation by bill number, keyword, Revised Code section and sponsor. Earlier this summer, Gongwer also introduced a new committee-based alert & tracking service.

For more information about Gongwer’s bill tracking and alert system, please see the Gongwer Bill Tracking Guide.

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Release: A Matter of Balance now available in all 88 Ohio counties

Posted: September 17, 2014 9:34 AM

Community-based workshops help older adults prevent falls

Columbus, Ohio – A Matter of Balance, the award-winning program that helps older adults reduce their risk of falls, is now available in all 88 Ohio counties, just one year after the STEADY U Ohio initiative made statewide expansion a priority. At the time of the launch of STEADY U in September, 2013, “A Matter of Balance” was available in half the state. Over the past year, the Ohio Department of Aging and the Ohio Older Adult Falls Prevention Coalition have worked to secure community partners and grow the program’s infrastructure.

“We know that most older adults would prefer to continue living independently in their own communities for as long as possible, but falls are a major threat to that independence,” said Bonnie K. Burman, director of the Ohio Department of Aging. “A Matter of Balance works because it is both evidence-based and community-based. Those who complete the program report feeling more in control over factors that can cause them to fall.”

An older Ohioan falls every two minutes on average, resulting in an injury every five minutes, six emergency department visits and one hospitalization each hour, and three deaths each day. The number of fatal falls among older Ohioans increased more than 165 percent from 2000 to 2012. But falls are not a normal part of aging, and most falls can be prevented.

“One of the biggest risk factors for falls is a fear of falling. When you get past that fear and take control of your life again, your risk of falling goes down immediately,” added Director Burman.

A Matter of Balance focuses on practical coping strategies to reduce fear of falling and to diminish the risk of falling. The curriculum includes lectures, group discussions, mutual problem solving, role-play activities, exercise training, assertiveness training, and home assignments. Participants practice exercises to improve strength, coordination and balance, as well as learn how to conduct a home safety evaluation and get up and down safely.

Classes are led by coaches who are recruited and trained by master trainers. Earlier this year, the Ohio Department of Aging partnered with MaineHealth’s Partnership for Healthy Aging to coordinate a master trainer train-the-trainer session to help expand the program into unserved and underserved areas.

Learn more about “A Matter of Balance” at www.steadyu.ohio.gov.

About STEADY U Ohio – Falls are an epidemic among our elders and are the number one cause of injuries leading to ER visits, hospital stays and deaths in Ohioans age 65-plus. STEADY U Ohio is a comprehensive falls prevention initiative led by Governor John Kasich and the Ohio Department of Aging, and supported by Ohio government and state business partners to strengthen existing falls prevention activities, identify opportunities for new initiatives and coordinate a statewide educational campaign to bring falls prevention to the forefront of planning for individuals, families, health care providers, business and community leaders and all Ohioans. Visit www.steadyu.ohio.gov.

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Sen. Frank LaRose Column: Ohio’s Formula for Agricultural Property Tax: The Complexity of CAUV

Posted: September 16, 2014 2:34 PM

As the warmth of summer slowly fades into the crisp fall harvest season, Ohio’s farmers are firing up their combines for what they hope will be a good crop. Recently, I have been contacted by individuals from the agricultural community regarding their property taxes. The complex formula used by the Ohio Department of Taxation is known as the Current Agricultural Use Value (CAUV). This is a multifaceted issue, but whether you are a farmer or a member of the community, it is important to understand how these values are calculated.

In 1973, the CAUV was enacted by Ohio voters through an amendment to the Ohio Constitution. This permitted qualifying agricultural land to be taxed at a value based on the farmland's current use rather than at its highest potential use. As a result, values are set well below true market values.

CAUV is determined by a combined analysis of cropping patterns, crop prices, crop yields, non-land production expenses, and interest rates. Every three years, the formula is updated as the new information is arrived at, and the new formula affects farmers in counties during the reappraisal year.

Since 2005, values have increased. The formula includes crop prices from the most recent seven years, eliminates the high and low prices, and averages the remaining five years to produce a stable income flow. As seen by this formula, increased crop prices and historic low interest rates have driven up land values. Today, agricultural land in Ohio has a much higher value than it did three to six years ago.

Despite the increase in CAUV values over the last few years, the program was created to ensure that only agricultural factors were being used to evaluate farmland. According to the Ohio Farm Bureau, CAUV property was on average only 38 percent of market value for property taxation in 2013. Additionally, without CAUV, recent land sales would be a factor in determining the value of the farmland. Ohio has one of the best CAUV formulas in the nation, and it continues to work as intended for Ohio farmers.

The Ohio Department of Taxation’s webpage is a good resource for additional information. You may find an explanation and other statistics at http://www.tax.ohio.gov/real_property/cauv.aspx.

While I believe CAUV is good and in the best interest of Ohio farmers, I recognize the concern I have heard from several of my constituents. Please do not hesitate to contact my office with any concerns or suggestions.

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Release: New Ohio Roadmap Published Mileposts to future jobs and prosperity

Posted: August 28, 2014 8:42 AM

Columbus (August 27, 2014) … The Ohio Academy of Science today unveiled a new Ohio roadmap, but the roads don’t lead to big cities or the hinterlands. Instead, the map’s mileposts chart a course to future jobs and prosperity. Prepared for the Believe In Ohio program, the map is a brainstorming tool to help high school students develop STEM commercialization and business plans in a new $2 million, state-wide student competition.

Supported by The Ohio General Assembly and The Ohio Board of Regents, Believe In Ohio is a free new program from The Ohio Academy of Science and Entrepreneurial Engagement Ohio that helps Ohio high school students prepare for the future and encourages them to become the innovators and entrepreneurs Ohio will need to create jobs and prosperity in the future.

Believe In Ohio helps students develop their critical thinking skills and offers them an opportunity to compete for nearly $2 million in cash awards and college scholarships. Competitions will be held in local schools, multi-county regions and at the state level. Believe In Ohio will open students’ eyes to what they will experience in the future and how to prepare for it, inspire students’ interests in STEM where many of the best jobs and careers of the future will be, plant seeds of entrepreneurship to give them the tools to create their own future and provide a competition for cash awards and Ohio college scholarships.

Ohio’s high school science, technology and business teachers also will benefit from Believe In Ohio through grants, professional development and more. They also can be recognized as accomplished teachers under Ohio’s new teacher evaluation system.

Brainstorming mileposts that students must reach include statement of a problem, proposed solution, underlying STEM concepts, target customers and intended users, competitors, value proposition or competitive advantage, revenue streams and operating costs. Written reports for competition require an elevator speech and an executive summary.

STEM commercialization plans must contain a scientific or engineering proof of concept while a STEM business plan also must provide a business or financial proof of concept with a projected three year budget.

Entitled Believe In Ohio–A STEM Bridge to Ohio’s Innovation Economy of the Future, the Believe in Ohio program was developed by The Ohio Academy of Science and Entrepreneurial Engagement Ohio with support from NorTech, The Ohio General Assembly and The Ohio Board of Regents.

Further information on Believe In Ohio is available at www.BelieveinOhio.org

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Op-Ed: Pickaway County Commissioner Brian S. Stewart

Posted: August 27, 2014 4:28 PM

It is becoming harder and harder to remember the days before cell phones.

Today, cell phones are virtually everywhere. Unsurprisingly, this has also led to a major changes in the way Americans use the 911 system. Today, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) estimates that as much as 70% of the calls to 911 originate from a cell phone, and this number is only going upwards. Unfortunately, the FCC also warns that 911 calls made from a cell phone often lack sufficient location accuracy. Stated more simply, it is often too difficult for first responders to locate 911 callers when they make their calls from a cell phone.

With this in mind, the FCC has enacted a rule requiring wireless providers to modernize location accuracy standards for wireless emergency calls, making it easier for first responders to locate the location of 911 callers.

This proposed rule-which has the support of emergency responders across the country-will update the location accuracy standards for wireless 911 calls over a reasonable two-year time period. The FCC estimates that implementing the proposed rule would save as many as 10,000 lives per year.

The cell phone carriers are putting up a fight to delay these improved standards, citing the cost of compliance. However, public safety is a price worth paying, and it is already being borne by local governments and their taxpayers across Ohio. In Pickaway County, for example, we have spent nearly two years planning to implement other federal and state mandates in the area of 911, specifically "Next Gen 911." Soon, our Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) will be required to accept text messages smartphone video, and to be able to communicate by text with callers in real-time. "Next Gen 911" standards will improve public safety, but they also come with a price.

Therefore, our taxpayers will be footing the bill for many expensive improvements. Cell phone carriers should bear their portion of the costs as well.

Simply put, residents calling 911 need help as quickly as possible, and the FCC's rule sets a reasonable standard to make this a reality. There should be no more delay from cell phone carriers in making these crucial improvements to public safety.

Brian S. Stewart serves as a Pickaway County Commissioner.

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Release: STRS Ohio Reports +16.8% Total Fund Return for Fiscal Year 2014

Posted: August 15, 2014 3:03 PM

During the August meeting of the State Teachers Retirement Board, Investment Department staff reported that STRS Ohio’s total fund return for the year ending June 30, 2014, was +16.8%, and the market value of assets at fiscal year end was $74.8 billion. The strong return exceeded the fund’s assumed actuarial return of 7.75% and followed a +13.7% return in fiscal year 2013.

The Retirement Board’s investment consultant, Callan Associates, noted that STRS Ohio’s fiscal year 2014 returns ranked above the median of the Callan Public Fund Sponsor database, but an overweight to liquidity reserves detracted from returns. Following two years of solid market returns, STRS Ohio’s 2015 Investment Plan calls for only moderate growth in the capital markets in fiscal year 2015.

STRS Ohio’s assumed actuarial rate of return     +7.75%

Total fund return (five years)      +13.6%

Total fund return (10 years)        +8.0%

Total fund return (20 years)        +8.3%

Total fund return (30 years)        +9.6%

Fiscal 2014 Operating Expenses Total $4.5 Million Under Budget

Final figures for fiscal year 2014 show that STRS Ohio’s operating expenditures were approximately $4.5 million less than budgeted for the year. Less than expected expenditures for salaries, performance-based incentive payments and professional and technical services accounted for much of the savings. Each month, STRS Ohio posts approved administrative expenses on its website.

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Release: Start the School Year Off Right; Get Up-to-Date on Your Vaccines

Posted: August 14, 2014 3:49 PM

National Immunization Awareness Month reminds us about the importance of vaccinations

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Back-to-school season is just days away for some students, and that means parents are out getting supplies, new clothes and back packs. It’s also the perfect time to make sure your kids are up to date on their vaccines.

Unvaccinated children are at increased risk for contracting vaccine-preventable diseases like measles, mumps and whooping cough. They also may spread such diseases which are serious or potentially life-threatening for high-risk individuals such as infants who are too young to be fully vaccinated and others who have weakened immune systems due to other health conditions.

Ohio has had 377 confirmed cases of measles this year, the largest outbreak in the U.S. since 1994. Ohio’s mumps outbreak stands at 473 cases.

To emphasize the importance of immunizations for everyone, and to make sure that children in particular are protected with all of the vaccines they need, the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) is joining the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in recognizing August as National Immunization Awareness Month.

“Getting children all of the vaccines recommended by CDC’s immunization schedule is one of the most important things parents can do to protect their children’s health and that of classmates and the community,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Mary DiOrio. “If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to check with your doctor to find out what vaccines your child needs, and when.”

Most schools require children to be current on vaccinations before enrolling to protect the health of all students.

Children who are 4 to 6 years old are due for boosters of four vaccines: DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis), chickenpox, MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) and polio.

Youths who are preteens and teen-agers need Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis), MenACWY (meningococcal conjugate vaccine) and HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccines. In addition, yearly flu vaccines are recommended for all children 6 months and older.

Parents can find out more about the recommended immunization schedule at:

http://www.odh.ohio.gov/odhprograms/dis/immunization/imunchsc.aspx

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Release: Kasich Orders Flags Flown At Half-Staff In Honor Of Former State Senator Merle Kearns

Posted: August 14, 2014 3:46 PM

COLUMBUS – Today Governor John R. Kasich ordered that all flags in Clark County and at the Ohio Statehouse be flown at half-staff from sunrise until sunset on August 15, 2014 in honor of former State Senator Merle Kearns. His order reads:

“In honor of the life and service of Ohio State Representative and State Senator Merle Kearns, I hereby proclaim, by the authority vested in me as Governor of the State of Ohio by the Ohio Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, that the flags of the United States of America and the State of Ohio shall be flown at half-staff upon all public buildings and grounds throughout Clark County and at the Ohio Statehouse from sunrise to sunset on August 15, 2014.”

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Column: Start the School Year Off Right; Get Up-to-Date on Your Vaccines

Posted: August 13, 2014 8:50 AM

National Immunization Awareness Month reminds us about the importance of vaccinations

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Back-to-school season is just days away for some students, and that means parents are out getting supplies, new clothes and back packs. It’s also the perfect time to make sure your kids are up to date on their vaccines.

Unvaccinated children are at increased risk for contracting vaccine-preventable diseases like measles, mumps and whooping cough. They also may spread such diseases which are serious or potentially life-threatening for high-risk individuals such as infants who are too young to be fully vaccinated and others who have weakened immune systems due to other health conditions.

Ohio has had 377 confirmed cases of measles this year, the largest outbreak in the U.S. since 1994. Ohio’s mumps outbreak stands at 473 cases.

To emphasize the importance of immunizations for everyone, and to make sure that children in particular are protected with all of the vaccines they need, the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) is joining the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in recognizing August as National Immunization Awareness Month.

“Getting children all of the vaccines recommended by CDC’s immunization schedule is one of the most important things parents can do to protect their children’s health and that of classmates and the community,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Mary DiOrio. “If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to check with your doctor to find out what vaccines your child needs, and when.”

Most schools require children to be current on vaccinations before enrolling to protect the health of all students.

Children who are 4 to 6 years old are due for boosters of four vaccines: DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis), chickenpox, MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) and polio.

Youths who are preteens and teen-agers need Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis), MenACWY (meningococcal conjugate vaccine) and HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccines. In addition, yearly flu vaccines are recommended for all children 6 months and older.

Parents can find out more about the recommended immunization schedule at:

http://www.odh.ohio.gov/odhprograms/dis/immunization/imunchsc.aspx

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Release: Kearney Introduces Resolution to Encourage the Cleveland Indians to Retire Nickname and Mascot

Posted: August 6, 2014 4:41 PM

Columbus – Today, State Senator Eric H. Kearney introduced SCR 42* in the Ohio Senate to encourage the Cleveland professional baseball franchise, the Cleveland Indians, to adopt a new nickname and new mascot free of racial insensitivity.

“Over the years we’ve seen a number of sports teams, colleges, universities and organizations including Miami University of Ohio change their nickname due to the concerns of Native Americans and the perpetuation of stereotypes,” said Senator Kearney. “The continuing use of the Indians nickname and a stereotypical Native American caricature, such as Chief Wahoo, is an affront to Native Americans.”

Earlier this year, a Cleveland Plain Dealer editorial called for the Indians to retire their Chief Wahoo mascot. Most recently in April, the Plain Dealer reported that City Councilman Zach Reed called for the city to ban the display of the mascot,Chief Wahoo, on public property stating that the mascot is the “red equivalent of the racist, turn-of-the-century “Sambo” caricature.”

“Cleveland’s professional baseball franchise is a great organization with a rich history” said Kearney. “By changing its name and mascot, the organization will be making a symbolic decision that would show that much has changed since 1915 when the name was adopted. I encourage the team not to pass on a legacy that carries racist undertones to future generations of fans.”

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), in 2005, the organization called for the immediate retirement of all American Indian mascots, symbols, images and personalities by schools, colleges, universities, athletic teams and organizations. The APA supports its position based on research that shows the “harmful effects of racial stereotyping and inaccurate racial portrayals, including the particularly harmful effects of American Indian sports mascots on the social identity development and self-esteem of American Indian Young people.”

In addition to sponsoring the resolution, Senator Kearney has sent a letter to the team’s owner Lawrence Dolan urging him to make the change.

Senator Kearney represents Ohio’s 9th district, which includes parts of Cincinnati, St. Bernard, Elmwood Place, Norwood, Golf Manor, Hollydale, Columbia Township, Silverton and Springfield Township.

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Release: Senator Schiavoni Renews Call for Stronger Penalties to Stop Illegal Dumping

Posted: August 6, 2014 4:40 PM

Reacts to sentencing of local D&L Energy owner

Columbus – Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) issued the following statement in response to the sentencing of D&L Energy owner Ben Lupo who was given 28 months in Federal prison and fined $25,000. According to evidence revealed in court, Mr. Lupo instructed his employees to illegally dump over 20,000 gallons of drilling waste and brine water into a sewer that fed directly into the Mahoning River.

 

“What we need are more severe penalties for the bad actors in this industry. This is not the first time illegal dumping has occurred in the state, and those who violate this law are often repeat offenders. I introduced Senate Bill 46 last year to increase the penalties for these crimes, to ensure further accountability at the state level, and to deter future offenders. While I encourage the continued exploration of oil & gas in the Mahoning Valley and throughout the state we must have strong laws in place to preserve the environment and protect the public.”

 

Several provisions of Senator Schiavoni’s Senate Bill 46 were rolled into the environmental portion of the mid-biennium review budget, House Bill 490, which is still pending in the Ohio House. Senator Schiavoni looks forward to working with Chairman Dave Hall (R-Millersburg) of the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee to pass the legislation this fall.

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Release: State Senator Jim Hughes Named Legislator of the Year

Posted: August 6, 2014 4:39 PM

Columbus – On Tuesday, July 29th during the 80th FOP State Conference, State Senator Jim Hughes was named Legislator of the Year. The Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio recognized Sen. Hughes for his unwavering support for the men and women of the FOP. That support has included his vote against Senate Bill (SB) 5 during the 129th General Assembly. SB 5* would have all but eliminated police officers ability to collectively bargain for such things as safety equipment. Officer safety has always been a primary focus of Sen. Hughes. He is a co-sponsor, and an active supporter, of SB 252* and SB 288*. SB 252* requires the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation to cover the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder for police officers, and SB 288* creates a modest death benefit for the families of part-time and volunteer police officers killed in the line of duty. His strong law enforcement record is demonstrated in his votes against bills that reduced sentencing requirements and his introduction of bills such as SB 121* that would give repeat offenders who use a firearm longer prison sentences.

Sen. Hughes has been actively involved in FOP Capital City Lodge 9’s charitable and community projects. He often gives direct support to members of the FOP donating time and personal funds to officers in distress. “Sen. Hughes sets the standard by which the FOP holds legislators” said Ohio FOP President Jay McDonald.

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Release: NFIB/Ohio Announces Additional Endorsements for the November General Election

Posted: July 25, 2014 2:42 PM

COLUMBUS, July 25, 2014 – The political action committee of the National Federation of Independent Business/Ohio, the state’s leading small business association, today announced additional endorsements of the following candidates for election to the Ohio legislature this November:

           Gayle Manning (North Ridgeville) for Ohio’s 13th Senate District

           Bob Peterson (Sabina) for Ohio’s 17th Senate District

           Kris Jordan (Ostrander) for Ohio’s 19th Senate District

           Jay Hottinger (Newark) for Ohio’s 31st Senate District

           Ron Amstutz (Wooster) for Ohio’s 1st House District

           Mark Romanchuk (Ontario) for Ohio’s 2nd District

           Tim Brown (Bowling Green) for Ohio’s 3rd House District

           Bob Cupp (Lima) for Ohio’s 4th House District

           Tim Ginter (Salem) for Ohio’s 5th House District

           Marlene Anielski (Walton Hills) for Ohio’s 6th House District

           Mike Dovilla (Berea) for Ohio’s 7th House District

           Nan Baker (Westlake) for Ohio’s 16th House District

           Michael Stinziano (Columbus) for Ohio’s 18th House District

           Anne Gonzales (Westerville) for Ohio’s 19th House District

           Mike Duffey (Worthington) for Ohio’s 21st House District

           Cheryl Grossman (Grove City) for Ohio’s 23rd House District

           Jonathan Dever (Cincinnati) for Ohio’s 28th House District

           Louis Blessing III (Cincinnati) for Ohio’s 29th House District

           Louis Terhar (Cincinnati) for Ohio’s 30th House District

           Tony DeVitis (Green) for Ohio’s 36th House District

           Kristina Roegner (Hudson) for Ohio’s 37th House District

           Marilyn Slaby (Copley) for Ohio’s 38th House District

           Mike Henne (Clayton) for Ohio’s 40th House District

           Jim Butler (Oakwood) for Ohio’s 41st House District

           Jeffery Rezabek (Clayton) for Ohio’s 43rd House District

           Stephen Slesnick (Canton) for Ohio’s 49th House District

           Christina Hagan (Alliance) for Ohio’s 50th House District

           Tim Derickson (Oxford) for Ohio’s 53rd House District

           Paul Zeltwanger (Mason) for Ohio’s 54th House District

           Nathan Manning (North Ridgeville) for Ohio’s 55th House District

           Terry Boose (Norwalk) for Ohio’s 57th House District

           George Phillips (Willoughby) for Ohio’s 60th House District

           Ron Young (Leroy Township) for Ohio’s 61st House District

           John Becker (Cincinnati) for Ohio’s 65th House District

           Doug Green (Mount Orab) for Ohio’s 66th House District

           Andy Brenner (Powell) for Ohio’s 67th House District

           Steve Hambley (Brunswick) for Ohio’s 69th House District

           Scott Ryan (Newark) for Ohio’s 71st House District

           Bill Hayes (Pataskala) for Ohio’s 72nd House District

           Rick Perales (Beavercreek) for Ohio’s 73rd House District

           Bob Hackett (London) for Ohio’s 74th House District

           Sarah LaTourette (Bainbridge Township) for Ohio’s 76th House District

           Ron Hood (Ashville) for Ohio’s 78th House District

           Stephen Huffman (Tipp City) for Ohio’s 80th House District

           Jim Buchy (Greenville) for Ohio’s 84th House District

           Nino Vitale (Urbana) for Ohio’s 85th House District

           Jeff McClain (Upper Sandusky) for Ohio’s 87th House District

           Bill Reineke, Jr. (Tiffin) for Ohio’s 88th House District

           Terry Johnson (McDermott) for Ohio’s 90th House District

           Andy Thompson (Marietta) for Ohio’s 95th House District

           Ron Ferguson (Wintersville) for Ohio’s 96th House District

           Brian Hill (Zanesville) for Ohio’s 97th House District

           Al Landis (Dover) for Ohio’s 98th House District

“Small businesses are the traditional job creators in our state and nation. The more than 25,000 NFIB members across Ohio participate in a member driven process to identify those candidates who believe in the free enterprise system and support our members ability to own, operate and grow their businesses,” said Vice President/Executive Director of NFIB/Ohio Roger R. Geiger.

“Our members continue to engage in the electoral process because they recognize just how important the policy decisions made by legislators in the Ohio statehouse are to the future of our state. We’re excited about the slate of additional candidates we’re endorsing throughout Ohio. Through their answers to our candidate questionnaire and interviews with our members, we know they have an understanding of what it will take to maintain and continue our state’s economic comeback through business growth and job creation.”

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Release: Ohio Statehouse to mark World War I centennial

Posted: July 25, 2014 2:41 PM

(COLUMBUS, OH)—The Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board (CSRAB) will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I with an exhibit of American recruitment posters from the Great War titled “America Mobilizes for War.” The exhibit will run Monday, July 28, through Friday, August 29, 2014 in the Rotunda of the Ohio Statehouse.

CSRAB— in coordination with the “The United States World War One Centennial Commission” and the commission’s Ohio working group—developed the exhibit to highlight the United States’ involvement in the Great War and to commemorate the war that changed the trajectory of the 20th century and ultimately led to further global conflict 21 years later.

 

“The Ohio Statehouse is committed to the goal of the commission to educate citizens on the causes and outcomes of World War I. I must say, the current confrontations in Eastern Europe and the Middle East have roots in the First World War; today’s world was forged by the hammer of the Great War,” said William Carleton, CSRAB executive director.

World War I started when Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia July 28, 1914, setting in motion a series of events that would ultimately engulf the world in war.

 

The Central Powers consisted of the German Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the beginning of the war. The Ottoman Empire joined the Central Powers later in 1914. In 1915, the Kingdom of Bulgaria joined the alliance.

The Entente or Allied Powers were comprised of the French Republic, the British Empire and the Russian Empire prior to 1917. In 1917 the Allied Powers expanded to include the Unites States of America, Italy and Japan. More information on the centennial celebration and “The United States World War One Centennial Commission” can be found at http://worldwar-1centennial.org/.

Visit the Ohio Statehouse to commemorate the start of the World War I centennial and explore the posters that helped mobilize the United States for war in April of 1917. For more information about the Ohio Statehouse, please, visit www.ohiostatehouse.org.

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Letter: Concept Schools Responds To Charter Allegations

Posted: July 22, 2014 3:15 PM

As educators, we believe that nothing is more fundamental to our students’ futures than the education they receive today. That means providing high-quality, college prep curriculum, but it also means ensuring safe, secure and professional learning environments for students and faculty. This commitment to serving our students and families to the best of our ability is just as strong now as it was when we, as an organization, established our first school in 1999.

Since then, we have worked hard – hand-in-hand with teachers, parents and community leaders – to ensure our students are prepared for the brightest futures, and along the way to earn the trust and confidence of our parents, local leaders and most of all – our students. And when troubling claims are made about our schools, as they recently were made by former employees, we take them very seriously.

To be clear: these claims do not represent or reflect the high standards we hold for our organization. We have already begun to conduct an internal review, and will also take a close look at our processes and operations. We are in close communication with local and state officials, and we have every intention of cooperating fully with any external review.

Recognizing the trust that is placed in us and the responsibilities we have as educators, our focus and commitment remains where it belongs: on our students. We look forward to these issues being resolved and working with local officials to ensure our students are getting the kind of educational experience they deserve.

Salim Ucan

Vice President

Concept Schools

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Release: FitzGerald Statement on U.S. Justice Department Joining Ohio Voting Rights Case

Posted: July 15, 2014 4:55 PM

COLUMBUS - Democratic gubernatorial nominee and Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald released the following statement on today's announcement that the U.S. Justice Department will join the legal case to restore cuts to early voting hours in Ohio. 

"I'm pleased that the U.S. Department of Justice will be joining the fight to protect voter rights in Ohio. Under Governor Kasich, access to the polls has significantly decreased for hardworking Ohioans across the state. Voting is a fundamental right and, as Governor, I'll do everything in my power to protect it."

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Release: Attorney General DeWine Issues Statement on Asian Carp Ruling

Posted: July 15, 2014 4:54 PM

(COLUMBUS, Ohio)—Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine issued the following statement on the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit to affirm the dismissal of a case brought by the Attorneys General of Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania to require the federal government to develop a permanent hydrologic separation to prevent Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes.

“We are disappointed in this ruling, as we continue to believe that the threat from Asian carp is imminent and severe and hydrologic separation is the only way to truly protect the Great Lakes from this and other invasive species,” Attorney General DeWine said. “We will continue to urge the federal government to take immediate action to prevent Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes.

“It’s important to remember that this is about more than just this fish. It’s about protecting our economy and our most valuable natural resource — the Great Lakes — from irreversible change.”

Since 2010, the Attorneys General of Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania have been litigating to seek judicial action requiring immediate relief in federal court. The states have been seeking a court order requiring the federal government to develop a permanent hydrologic separation at the conjunction of the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River basins that occurs at the Chicago Area Waterway System.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has identified the Chicago Area Water System as the most direct pathway for the spread of Asian carp into the Great Lakes, and evidence of the presence of carp has been detected on several occasions within a few miles of Lake Michigan.

As a United States Senator, DeWine introduced both the National Aquatic Invasive Species Act and the Asian Carp Prevention and Control Act to address invasive species attacking Lake Erie and the other Great Lakes.

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Release: Ohio Grain Organizations Statement about NOAA’s 2014 Seasonal Forecast of Harmful Algal Blooms for Lake Erie

Posted: July 11, 2014 10:32 AM

From Tadd Nicholson, executive director of the Ohio Corn & Wheat Growers Association and Kirk Merritt, executive director of the Ohio Soybean Council:

While many factors and sources affect water quality, Ohio corn, soybean and wheat farmers are doing their part to maintain and improve the health of Ohio’s waterways.

As a result, more than $1 million is being invested by Ohio’s agricultural organizations – including the Ohio Soybean Council, Ohio Small Grains Marketing Program and the Ohio Corn Marketing Program – to conduct on-farm, edge-of-field testing in partnership with The Ohio State University, OSU Extension and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service.

The research, already in progress, is monitoring surface runoff and sub-surface drainage from the edges of fields. How phosphorus moves from fields to waterways has never before been explored in such detail in Ohio.

The results will be used to identify and rank farming practices that are most effective in keeping nutrients on the field and out of waterways, helping farmers to reduce runoff and improve Ohio’s waterways.

Technology and advanced farm equipment are also helping farmers accurately apply the right source of fertilizer at the right time, in the right place and with the right amount – thus producing more with less. This is known as 4R stewardship.

Our organizations will continue to support education and research that will help Ohio farmers to keep nutrients on the land. Ohio’s corn, wheat and soybean farmers are dedicated to continuously improving their practices to reduce the impact that farming may have on our waterways.

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Release: OCSEA to DR&C: Pull plug on Aramark

Posted: July 11, 2014 10:30 AM

Westerville – Today, OCSEA is again calling for the Ohio Dept. of Rehabilitation and Correction to sever its ties with the private food contractor, Aramark, after yet another prison reported a maggot infestation. As of today, three prisons have found maggots in prison food and the union is receiving information daily about other infractions, including more maggots.

The Ohio Reformatory for Women and Trumbull Correctional Institution were the first prisons to report an issue with maggots contaminating food. Three separate incidents have been reported at ORW in beans, meat and in the food line, dating back to January of this year. TCI shut down a food line at the end of last week due to a maggot infestation, and now, Noble Correctional Institution is reporting maggots have gotten into inmate food.

“When is enough, enough?” said OCSEA President Christopher Mabe. “These are not isolated incidents. Aramark has a pattern of not only poor food quality, but food shortages, low staffing levels and security breaches. It’s well past time to pull the plug on the Aramark contract,” said Mabe.

DR&C has said it will have every prison food operation inspected by a health department, but union leaders say that’s like putting a Band-aid on a head wound. “It’s not just the maggots in food or Aramark not following proper sanitation procedures in the kitchen. This has become an issue about the safety and security of the entire prison,” said Mabe. “No health inspector will be concerned about the problems created by short staffing, food quantity or increased contraband,” said Mabe. “But we are.”

Additionally, the Aramark failures are pointing to a larger problem when governments turn over tax dollars to for-profit companies. Aramark is notorious for skimping on meals, overcharging for commissary food and serving food of poor quality, all in the name of making a profit for their shareholders. But those actions have consequences. Ohio inmates have conducted sit-downs, lashed out at staff, protested and demonstrated in ways that create a dangerous environment for everyone.

In addition, Aramark workers are low paid and not properly trained. “That means they don’t remain long on the job, take little pride in their work and won’t stick their neck out when a dangerous situation arises,” said OCSEA Corrections Assembly President Jim Adkins. “They don’t learn proper procedures and aren’t mentored adequately to do a good job, all because those things cost the private provider more money.”

“Now add a maggot infestation to the issues of high staff turnover, poor training and poor food quality. That can be a deadly combination,” said Mabe.

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Column: The result of transferring public power to private entities: Tribalism

Posted: July 10, 2014 9:05 AM

Tribalism is defined as the organization, culture or beliefs of a tribe. Tribe is defined as any of various systems of social organization comprising several local villages, bands, districts, linages or other groups sharing a common ancestry, language, culture or name.

E pluribus unum, once our nation's motto, still printed on our currency, translated in English, means out of many one, or one from many. The idea came from the original 13 colonies in the process of becoming one nation. But it equally applies to the folks coming from all over the world being assimilated into the American culture, yet being free to retain their individual uniqueness.

The public common school system has enabled the most diverse citizenry in the world to become "one nation under God, indivisible,..." The political, social and economic ethos in the United States will dramatically change as the public common school system is diminished by the privatization movement.

Shifting the public control of public education to private entities, over time, will completely change the American culture to a combative tribal body politic-exactly what is characteristic of Iraq and other nations experiencing intense internal conflict. Public money for public education simply must be controlled by elected members of the public, accountable to the public; otherwise, private interests funded by the public will rip the social order apart.

William Phillis

Ohio E & A

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Release: Latest Fireworks Injury Data & Forecast for Fireworks Season Released

Posted: June 27, 2014 10:00 AM

Health and Safety Leaders Join to Educate Ohioans About the Dangers of Backyard Fireworks

COLUMBUS, OH (June 26, 2014) – The Ohio Affiliate of Prevent Blindness, Ohio Department of Commerce’s Division of State Fire Marshal, Child Injury Prevention Alliance, and the Ohio Eye Care Coalition joined forces at the Ohio Statehouse today to educate Ohioans about the dangers of backyard fireworks.

Ohioans are being urged NOT to use backyard fireworks because of the high fire danger from extremely dry conditions, the risk of personal injury – specifically to young children – and the potential penalty for breaking Ohio’s fireworks law.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Fireworks Annual Report released today, in 2013 11,400 people were treated in emergency departments for firework-related injuries – a 31 percent increase over the previous year and the highest number of injuries reported in the last 16 years! An estimated 7,400 fireworks-related injuries, or 65 percent of people treated, occurred during the one-month period surrounding the Fourth of July Holiday.

“Prevent Blindness supports a total BAN on backyard fireworks, including sparklers, which are widely available at grocery and department stores,” said Sherry Williams, President & CEO of The Ohio Affiliate of Prevent Blindness. “Last year, 2,300 serious injuries occurred due to the use of sparklers and for children under 5 years old they were responsible for nearly 79 percent of the injuries. A sparkler burns up to 2000 degrees Fahrenheit…hot enough to most metals!” added Williams.

Injuries to children under the age of 15 accounted for 40 percent of the estimated firework-related injuries. More than half of the estimated fireworks-related injuries occurred to children and young adults under 20 years old . The parts of the body most often injured were hands and fingers (an estimated 36 percent); head, face, and ears (an estimated 22 percent); yes (an estimated 16 percent) and legs (an estimated 14 percent).

“Our studies show that parental supervision is not enough to prevent consumer fireworks injuries to children – in fact, children who are simply bystanders and not even handling the fireworks are often injured, said Gary A. Smith, MD, DrPH, president of the Child Injury Prevention Alliance, and a pediatric emergency medicine physician at Nationwide Children’s Hospital-Columbus.

The words that I hear when parents bring their child crying in pain to the emergency department after a firework injury are always the same: ‘Doctor, I can’t believe that this happened to my child. I was standing right there, but it happened so fast that I could not do anything in time to stop it from happening’. These are good parents who simply believed the myth that these products could be used safely. Do not make that mistake with your family.”

There are three types of fireworks in Ohio, all of which are hazardous: Trick and novelty items such as sparklers and snakes that can be legally sold and used by anyone; exhibitor fireworks which require a license to sell, purchase and use; and consumer class fireworks such as bottle rockets and roman candles, which require a license to sell. Consumer fireworks can be purchased by anyone over the age of 18, but must be removed from the state within a certain time frame and cannot be legally discharged in Ohio.

“The Division of State Fire Marshal encourages all Ohioans to attend public fireworks displays. These displays are hosted by local municipalities and licensed exhibitors,” said Chief Deputy Fire Marshal Jeffrey Leaming. “Besides being safer and legal, professional fireworks displays are better than any exhibit that could be produced with consumer fireworks.”

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Release: Ohio State Racing Commission Monthly Meeting

Posted: June 26, 2014 4:19 PM

COLUMBUS – The state’s thoroughbred and harness horsemen gained Ohio State Racing Commission approval to spend a portion of their Video Lottery Terminal (VLT) proceeds to augment stakes programs and purses at a meeting held earlier today.

Each commission-endorsed transfer of funds must now go before the Ohio Controlling Board. This is expected to happen in August.

The Ohio Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association sought to move $1,364,327 from the purse pool at Thistledown to benefit the Ohio Thoroughbred Race Fund (OTRF). The money will support purses and be used for breeders’ awards. Only Ohio-bred or Ohio-foaled thoroughbreds are eligible to participate in the program.

Three members of the OTRF Board will meet in the near future to consider expenditure options. There are no budget shortfalls to address. Chairman Robert K. Schmitz suggested the consideration of an increase in purses for the Best of Ohio series of races. Each purse is currently $150,000.

The harness contribution, offered by the Ohio Harness Horsemen’s Association (OHHA), will increase purses for Ohio State Fair Stakes by $240,000, Ohio Breeders’ Championship purses by the same amount, and the Little Brown Jug purse by $150,000.

There are eight different state fair races and eight breeders’ championships for Ohio-bred 2- and 3-year-olds. Purses for each of the 16 races will go up by $30,000. The Little Brown Jug purse, the state’s highest, is estimated at $600,000 in 2014.

The total amount—$630,000—will be taken from purse pools at Scioto Downs ($377,067), Miami Valley Gaming and Racing ($141,126) and Northfield Park ($111,807).

Statewide, thoroughbred and harness racing purses at commercial racetracks will amount to approximately $23.7 million for the first half of 2014. Last year’s purse total after six months was $15.1 million.

While the following did not require commission approval, Miami Valley General Manager Jim Simms and OHHA President Steve McCoy announced they have signed an agreement on the amount of revenue horsemen will receive from VLT proceeds at the racetrack.

However, McCoy and track president Tom Aldrich both said a similar agreement has not been reached for Northfield Park. According to each, negotiations will continue.

“This is unacceptable,” said Schmitz. He reminded the parties the commission has the authority to set the percentages by administrative rule.

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Release: AT&T Sustainability Initiatives Reach Communities Across Ohio

Posted: June 26, 2014 4:17 PM

AT&T Launches 2013 Sustainability Report; Encourages People to Engage with Company Work through Interactive Sustainability Website

COLUMBUS, Ohio (June 26, 2014) — Environmental and social sustainability takes many forms at AT&T. The company invites interested parties to learn more about the company’s community activities by engaging in its newly redesigned interactive website, People | Planet | Possibilities.

The site shares information through videos, social media and blogs. To complement these frequent updates, AT&T today released a condensed summary of key topics and accomplishments, including:

           Reached the halfway mark toward the goal of deploying 15,000 alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs) by 2018. AT&T has now deployed 8,230 alternative-fuel vehicles and reduced unleaded gasoline use by 4.6 million gallons in 2013.

           Contributed 5.3 million volunteer hours by employees and retirees.

           Increased veteran hiring by nearly five times, compared to 2012.

           Reached 95 percent of postpaid AT&T branded devices being rated as 3 or above out of a potential rating of 5, using the Eco-Rating system.

           Received more than 4 million pledges to never text while driving through the It Can Wait campaign.

           Invested $21.2 billion in IP (Internet Protocol) – enabled networks.

In Ohio alone, the following was accomplished:

           Invested in 352 energy efficiency projects in Ohio in 2013 resulting in annualized savings of 12,505,633 kilowatt hours and the equivalent of removing 1,805 cars from the road annually.

           237 alternative fuel vehicles operated in Ohio as of June, 2014.

           More than $10.1 million contributed by AT&T and its employees from 2009-2013 through giving programs in Ohio.

           More than $720,000 invested in education in Ohio through AT&T Aspire.

           15,059 hours of mentoring provided by our employees to students in Ohio through Aspire Mentoring Academy.

           More than 6,500 AT&T employees working in Ohio as of March, 2014.

           81 company-owned retail locations, plus many other authorized dealerships and national retail stores.

           More than $205 million generated in local and state taxes by AT&T operations in Ohio in 2012.

           More than $1.6 billion invested by AT&T in its best-in-class wired and wireless networks in Ohio from 2011-2013.

           737 upgrades made in 2013 including new cell sites, addition of wireless and wired network capacity and new broadband network connections.

           Provided more than 62,000 new customer locations with access to U-verse® Internet and video services in 2013.

           4,682 business locations received powerful fiber-optic connections in 2013.

Please visit http://ohio.att.com/ to learn more about AT&T’s impact in the Buckeye State.

“Our 2013 update shows how our employees, customers and like-minded organizations are addressing some of society’s biggest challenges,” said Charlene Lake, Chief Sustainability Officer and Senior Vice President, AT&T Public Affairs. “We invite others to join us on our sustainability journey by engaging on our People I Planet I Possibilities website.”

“AT&T remains committed to investing in education, the environment, and driving economic development in the communities we serve throughout the Buckeye State, so we are pleased to share the 2013 Sustainability report with Ohioans,” said Adam Grzybicki, AT&T Ohio president.

The site invites consumers to comment, sign up for regular updates and follow key leaders from the AT&T sustainability team on Twitter. The hashtag #ATTimpact posts updates as well. Some of the highlights from 2013 include supplier engagement, energy and water efficiency and AT&T’s education initiative, Aspire.

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Release: CCA Faith-Based Program Graduates First Group of Ohio Inmates

Posted: June 25, 2014 4:00 PM

Conneaut, OH – Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) is pleased to announce the first faith-based program graduation at its Lake Erie Correctional Institution (LaECI). Inmate family members, community leaders and LaECI staff joined 35 inmates at a graduation ceremony yesterday.

Steve Sargent, director of the Ashtabula-based Samaritan House, addressed the assembled guests and inmates at the ceremony.

“I want these men to understand the significance of what they have just accomplished,” Sargent said. “The program they have just finished is designed to motivate them to be change-agents. They can inspire others, do volunteer work and help change the world around them. They have that power and authority, even in here.“

LaECI’s faith-based program is a nine-month rehabilitative course focusing on personal responsibility, respect for others, healthy living and community service. The program uses CCA’s lauded faith-based curriculum and was developed in cooperation with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections. The voluntary program is available to all inmates.

“Our faith-based program helps inmates find peace within themselves through self-examination and service to others,” LaECI faith-based program coordinator Gregory Brown said. “The program begins the process of preparing inmates to lead productive and healthy lives upon their release from prison.”

“Our staff has worked hard to develop and implement this important rehabilitative program,” LaECI Warden Brigham Sloan said. “We have strong analytical evidence showing faith-based programing reduces the stress brought on by prison life and helps inmates develop a sense of normalcy. I am committed to providing our faith-based program staff with the resources and support necessary to ensure this program’s continued success.”

A new group of 85 inmates will enter the faith-based program on Monday, June 30.

 More information on CCA’s faith-based programs is available at http://cca.com/inmate-services/inmate-reentry-preparation/faith-based-programs.

In addition to the faith-based program, LaECI offers a variety of academic and vocational courses in adult basic education, building maintenance, electronics and computer assisted drafting. The facility also offers psychology, business problem solving and business management courses through a partnership with Ashland University. The courses are specifically designed for inmates.

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Column: US Sen. Rob Portman: With Businesses Fleeing America, Congress Must Act

Posted: June 25, 2014 10:18 AM

American businesses are heading for the exits to escape the U.S. tax code. Medical device company Medtronic announced recently that it planned to acquire the Ireland-based firm Covidien and relocate headquarters in Dublin, making it the biggest company yet to leave our shores for a more favorable tax climate. It's just the latest example, and the flight will continue until the U.S. reforms its outdated, uncompetitive tax code.

The basic U.S. corporate tax rate is 39%, the highest on the planet. The average rate among other major industrialized countries is 25%. Worse, the U.S. tax rate applies not only to income earned within U.S. borders, but also to profits American companies make overseas.

That is in large part why more than 20 major American companies have reincorporated elsewhere in the past two years. In 2012, for example, Eaton, a manufacturing company from my home state of Ohio, merged with Cooper Industries, a much smaller Irish company. The new company established its headquarters in Dublin, substantially reducing its tax liability in the process. Businesses are willing to pay to put a few miles between them and the IRS: U.S. companies in 2013 paid upward of 55% more than their target's market price for deals that allowed them to move overseas, according to a May report in this newspaper. Domestic mergers, on the other hand, usually only yield a 20% premium.

Forcing U.S. companies to stay here is no solution. Congress has tried that before, and several of my colleagues have again proposed ratcheting up existing IRS rules that penalize certain cross-border mergers. That piecemeal approach will only hurt American employers and workers who, as a result, will be even less competitive in a global economy built on free movement of capital and labor.

The president and Congress should instead overhaul the tax system, as other countries around the world have already done. To attract investment, Canada in 2012 lowered its federal corporate tax rate to 15%, the last cut of a seven-point decline that began in 2006. In fact, every single one of our major foreign competitors has reduced its corporate tax rate in the past 20 years.

Here's what the U.S. can do to catch up: First, cut the corporate tax rate to 25%, bringing America in line with the OECD average. That would undoubtedly spur job creation. It would also bolster revenues, as the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation showed in its February analysis of Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp's tax-reform proposal.

Second, simplify the tax code, which is rife with special preferences, and use the money saved from closing those loopholes to finance the 10 percentage point rate reduction.

Third, create a more competitive international tax regime. Roughly 80% of the world's purchasing power and 95% of its consumers are beyond U.S. borders, and American companies must be able to compete for these customers. As such, the U.S. should adopt a territorial-type tax system that taxes active business income only where it's earned. In addition, we should implement clear, enforceable rules to prevent sheltering income in low-tax countries.

Congress should act immediately to end the flight of U.S. businesses by overhauling the corporate tax code. That would go a long way in making America a magnet for investment again.

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Release: Local Leaders Gather to Push for Equal Pay

Posted: June 24, 2014 2:14 PM

"Testimony Tuesday" calls for action to address wage inequality

CLEVELAND—State Senator Nina Turner (D-Cleveland) joined legislators, ministers, and labor leaders at an event today at the Cleveland Public Library to highlight the need to address wage disparities in Ohio. The event, dubbed Testimony Tuesday, was designed as an opportunity for community leaders and activists to advocate for issues that GOP leaders in Columbus refuse to tackle.

“This is 2014—it’s past time we make sure all Ohioans are treated fairly in the workplace,” said Senator Turner. “It is unconscionable that in this day and age a woman would have to work one year, four months, and eight days to earn what her male counterpart would in a single year. Working to uplift our citizens out of poverty and help them provide for their family is good public policy, and Columbus needs to wake up and take action on behalf of struggling Ohioans.”

State Representative Mike Foley (D-Cleveland) addressed how raising the state’s minimum wage would benefit all Ohioans:

“Rising income inequality is having a detrimental impact on Ohio’s economy,” Rep. Foley said. “If we increase the minimum wage we would give hardworking Ohioans a long over-due raise, while generating roughly a billion dollars in economic activity to help stimulate Ohio’s economy.”

In addition to raising the minimum wage, speakers reiterated the need to address the wage gap between men and women through legislative action.

“With so many single-parent households headed by women, it is critical that women have equal pay for equal work,” said Harriet Applegate, Executive Secretary at the North Shore AFL-CIO. “This shouldn’t even be a question—mothers must make a decent wage to raise their children to be successful and productive members of society.”

According to the National Committee on Pay Equity, women's earnings were 76.5 percent of men's in 2012, compared to 77.0 percent in 2011, according to Census data released in 2013 based on the median earnings of all full-time, year-round workers. In 2012 men's earnings were $49,398 and women's were $37,791, a difference of $11,607.

This was the fourth Testimony Tuesday event, and more are expected to follow in the coming months.

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Release: KidsOhio.org Examination Shows Students in High Poverty Schools Beat the Odds

Posted: June 24, 2014 9:31 AM

COLUMBUS, OH--(Marketwired - Jun 23, 2014) - Only 11 percent of Ohio's high-poverty high schools earned all As and Bs on the state's 2013 academic report card. But before accepting that result as the inevitable impact of family income, consider three Columbus City Schools' high schools that consistently succeed, says KidsOhio.org.

In a report titled, "Three Columbus City Schools Earn All As and Bs on State Report Card," KidsOhio.org detailed successes achieved at Columbus Alternative High School, Eastmoor Academy and Centennial High School. All have poverty rates ranging from 55 percent to nearly 70 percent, but economically disadvantaged students at these schools are consistently beating the odds on the state's 10th grade math and reading tests. Additionally, in all three schools, students of color are the majority.

KidsOhio.org interviewed principals at all three schools to understand why these schools are achieving high marks. The principals most often cited these factors:

•A clear goal of preparing all students for college

•Long-serving teachers and principals

•Expectations that parents will be engaged in their students' education

•Positive peer pressure among students to achieve academically

•Parental choice to enroll students in these schools

•Strong relationships among students, teachers and principals

"Each of these schools has a history of long-serving principals and teachers," said Columbus City Schools Superintendent Dr. Dan Good. "That is why the district reduced the number of principal transfers this year in order to help more principals build long-term relationships with teachers, parents, students and the community."

In fact, stability among the teaching staff and school principals was mentioned as one of the most important factors. For example, Centennial High School has had the same principal for 13 years, a rarity in urban schools. Teachers told KidsOhio.org that this has made it easier for them to make a long-term commitment.

But the KidsOhio.org examination shows that school success is not based on a "cookie-cutter" approach.

"These three schools are unique in their own way, but each school does an excellent job of preparing students for college and adult responsibilities," said Alesia Gillison, the district's director of high schools and middle schools.

For example, Columbus Alternative High School (CAHS), formed in 1978 as a college preparatory high school, emphasizes academic excellence, internships and the arts, leading to an overall record of excellence. The Washington Post named CAHS the fourth-most challenging high school in Ohio earlier this year.

Eastmoor Academy's principal told KidsOhio.org that positive peer pressure among the school's students has been a game changer for those who attend, recalling a debate he recently witnessed among athletes as to who was the best student.

"Many schools across Ohio face challenges that are similar to those faced by students and educators at these high schools," said KidsOhio.org President Mark Real. "All three demonstrate that poverty can be counterbalanced in schools where principals are strong and consistent, parents are engaged, teachers expect hard work and students work to meet those expectations."

The report and all its findings can be downloaded at KidsOhio.org.

About KidsOhio.org

KidsOhio.org was created in 2002 in response to community, education and business leaders who wanted an effective, data-driven, nonpartisan organization focused on improving public education in Ohio. The organization is funded by the private sector and does not accept any government monies or contracts. KidsOhio.org's mission is to improve the education of Ohio's nearly three million children, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

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Gongwer Unveils Groundbreaking App For 2014 Elections

Posted: June 24, 2014 8:42 AM

Gongwer News Service today announces a new smartphone and tablet app that provides easy-to-use information and analysis on this year’s elections.

The app, which is available for iOS and Android devices, offers exclusive analysis of all Ohio General Assembly seats, the state’s U.S. House seats, the governor’s race and all other statewide contests.

The app gives users on-the-go access to detailed candidate biographical information, with options to review primary results and the general election campaigns.

Users can also see which legislative and congressional campaigns are expected to be the most competitive and the seats where one party has a statistical edge over the other. The app’s district leanings are based on voting indices used in the most recent reapportionment and redistricting process.

On each candidate’s page, users will have access to a wealth of information, including biographical data, social media accounts, campaign websites and more. If that candidate has run for state or federal office from 2004 onward, the app also displays his or her performance in those elections.

Users also can use an innovative Key Races function to focus on races that many consider the most competitive.

The comprehensive app offers users portability and fresh information and analysis not available from any other source.

As the campaign season progresses and as dynamics change, Gongwer will update its analysis of the races. More information about candidates will also become available as it is submitted.

Users of the iPhone and iPad can download the iOS version from the App Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/2014-ohio-elections/id884083714?mt=8&ign-mpt=uo%3D4.

Users of Android devices can download the app from Google Play: http://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.gongwer.oh.

The app is available for just $9.99.

Quality. Speed. Portability. The vital information you need on the 2014 elections in Ohio.

Download and begin using the Gongwer 2014 Ohio Elections App today.

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Release: Health Policy Institute Releases Prevention Basics Report.

Posted: June 20, 2014 2:15 PM

The Health Policy Institute of Ohio has released its latest publication: Ohio Prevention Basics (pdf, 28 pages).

The latest in HPIO's popular series of “Policy Basics” publications, the brief provides an overview of prevention in Ohio. Among the topics covered include the value of prevention, how we pay for prevention and Ohio’s prevention infrastruction and workforce. The publication also provides examples of the many types of prevention, including clinical preventive services, community-based programs and population-based policy strategies.

A two-page executive summary also is available.

This publication will be a useful reference for prevention professionals and an introduction to prevention for policymakers.

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Release: Ohio Nurses Association CEO Elected Treasurer of the American Nurses Association

Posted: June 20, 2014 2:11 PM

SILVER SPRINGS, Maryland – ONA is proud to announce the election of its CEO, Gingy Harshey-Meade, MSN, RN, CAE, NEA-BC, to ANA’s Board of Directors as Treasurer.

Harshey-Meade has served as the ONA CEO for 14 years. One of her biggest accomplishments during that time is positively transforming the association’s financial outlook, making her a perfect fit for the ANA Treasurer seat.

“It was tough when I first arrived at ONA. There were times I was left wondering how we could even make payroll. Through lots of hard work and sacrifices, ONA is now a viable, financially responsible organization. I’ve learned a lot from ONA, which is why I wanted to run for ANA Treasurer,” states Harshey-Meade.

Gingy’s term for Treasurer lasts through the end of 2015. She has previously served at ANA in a variety of capacities, including: secretary of the constituent assembly (2006-2010); member of the Committee on Planning and Budget (2006-2010); member of the Dues Task Force (2006-2010); Ohio delegate (2001-2012); and New Jersey delegate (1999-2006).

Harshey-Meade holds a MSN in Nursing Administration from Setan Hall University, a CPM in Public Administration from Rutgers, The State University of NJ, and her BSN from Seton Hall University. Gingy is also the CEO of the Indiana State Nurses Association, serving in this dual role since January 2013.

The Ohio Nurses Association is a professional membership association and a constituent of the American Nurses Association.

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Release: Employer Group Launches Ad Campaign

Posted: June 20, 2014 2:10 PM

Employers Appeal to Governor in Ads Highlighting Human Face of BWC Overcharges

COLUMBUS, OH -- Pay Us Back Ohio BWC, the non-profit group representing the 260,000 employers in the massive $860 million class action lawsuit against the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation, continued its public appeal to Governor Kasich to intervene and order the BWC to pay to Ohio businesses the hundreds of millions of dollars they were overcharged with a broadcast and cable ad campaign to run until the end of the month.

The ad which began running in Columbus features Ron Forman, a Columbus area businessman who saw his BWC premiums rise from $10,000 per year to over $100,000 per year forcing him to file personal and business bankruptcy. In the ad, Forman shares the emotional story of gathering his family in the kitchen to tell them how things were going to change in their lives because of the BWC .

“Ron’s story has been repeated tens of thousands of times across our state because of the BWC’s rigged system of setting premiums.” Said Pay Us Back Ohio BWC president and lead plaintiff Earl Stein.

“It's time for the BWC to listen to us and see how its system has not only derailed and destroyed businesses, but also families.” added Stein.

The ad buy follows on the heels of a statewide tour to bring public attention to the BWC’s massive system of overcharging businesses and the need for the Governor to step in to assist the over 260,000 businesses harmed by the overcharges. The group's tour kicked off just weeks after Ohio's Eighth Appellate District Court (Cuyahoga County) released a scathing, unanimous 105-page decision upholding the 2013 trial court decision finding the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation had illegally overcharged over 260,000 Ohio employers $860 million (San Allen, Inc., et al. vs Stephen Buehrer, Administrator, Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation). In its opinion, the Appellate Court determined that the Bureau engaged in an illegal and improper "cabal" of bureaucrats and lobbyists "who rigged workers' compensation insurance premium rates" for over fifteen years.

The tour has traveled to Columbus, Cincinnati, Dayton, Toledo and Cleveland highlighting the local impact the BWC’s actions have had on communities across Ohio.

LINK: :30 spot: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kpnfVD2jX80

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Release: U.S. Term Limits Asks Ohio Candidates to Pledge Support for Term Limits

Posted: June 18, 2014 2:59 PM

Palm Beach, FL--U.S. Term Limits, the nation’s oldest and most successful term limits advocacy organization, has sent a pledge to every candidate for the Ohio General Assembly, asking for a signed commitment to “take no action that would aid or abet the abolition or lengthening of term limits to which elected officials in Ohio are subject.”

The pledge also went to all incumbents who are term-limited after this year.

“I can’t find any evidence that the people of Ohio want legislators’ upping their own term limits from eight to twelve years in one seat,” said USTL President Philip Blumel. “This is something the politicians have cooked up just for themselves.”

Blumel is referring to efforts by the Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission to weaken term limits. Its team of elected politicians and their appointees has recently discussed ways to dilute or abolish the current law.

Public opinion backs up Blumel’s pro-term limits sentiment. In a May poll conducted by the University of Akron, 70 percent of Ohio voters said term limits should be kept at eight years. Only 13 percent said they should be lengthened to 12 years.

“Any attempt to adjust the current limits will rightly be viewed as disregard for the people’s choice,” Blumel writes in the letter accompanying the pledge.

U.S. Term Limits has provided postage and an easy way for respondents to mail back their pledges. Once the results are collected, Blumel will share them with the people of Ohio.

“Citizens put legislative term limits on Ohio’s ballot in 1992, and passed them into law with more than 68 percent of the vote,” notes Blumel. “Since then, support for the law has only increased. Voters will be very interested in knowing which legislators stand with them, and which stand for their own ambitions.”

Pledge: http://termlimits.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Ohio-Pledge.pdf

Pledge Letter: http://termlimits.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Ohio-Letter2.pdf

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Release: Ohio Statehouse to increase daily parking rates Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Posted: June 18, 2014 2:55 PM

Effective Tuesday, July 1, 2014 the daily parking rate in the Ohio Statehouse Parking Garage will increase $1. The new daily parking rates are listed below. The $1 increase can be avoided: if a customer pays his or her daily parking fee at one of the five “Pay-on-Foot” pay stations, located on the Green Level of the garage, the $1 rate increase is waived.

This rate increase is for daily parking only; the monthly parking rate is unchanged.

Again, for those patrons that use the Pay-on-Foot pay station, the $1 rate increase will be waived. There is no procedural change to the automatic payment system in the Ohio Statehouse Garage—the purpose of this communique is to notify the public of the daily parking rate increase.

Link to “Pay-on-Foot” pay station map: http://www.ohiostatehouse.org/about/general-information/parking/statehouse-access

Statehouse Parking Garage

1 Capital Square

Columbus, Ohio 43215-4210

614-728-2557

Garage Clearance 6’6”

Rates Effective July 1, 2014

Daily Rates*

6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday

Hours   Rate

0-1/2     $2.00

1/2 - 1   $3.00

1-2        $5.00

2-3        $6.00

3-5        $7.00

5-6        $8.00

6-7        $9.00

7-8        $10.00

8-9        $11.00

9-10      $12.00

10-11    $13.00

11-12    $14.00

           

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News Release: Organization Names 20 As Regional STEM Advocates

Posted: June 18, 2014 2:52 PM

The Ohio Academy of Science today announced the employment of 20 educators as Regional STEM Education Advocates. Advocates will fan out over Ohio to work with local schools to implement Believe in Ohio, a program that prepares high school students for the future through regional STEM education forums, online courses, assignment of mentors, awards and scholarships.

Acting as education extension agents, advocates will (1) recruit and mentor teachers and students, (2) work with and assess teachers who participate in Believe in Ohio’s graduate credit professional development programs, (4) help recruit, coordinate and orient real-world student mentors, (5) represent and promote the Believe in Ohio program at The Ohio Academy Science's 16 District Science days, (6) serve as instructors of record for one or more blended learning, virtual “Introduction to the Innovation Economy of Ohio" online classes for students who wish to participate other than through their own school, (7) manage regional STEM Commercialization and Business Plan competitions and judging in March 2015, (8) assist with the State competition in April 2015, and (9) share information on all Academy programs.

Advocates hail from Ada, Ashtabula, Aurora, Bowling Green, Canfield, Centerburg, Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton, Galena, Marietta, Mayfield Heights, Medina, Nashport, Sheffield Lake, Smithville, Toledo, Troy and Wilmington.

Believe in Ohio (www.BelieveinOhio.org )─A STEM Bridge to Ohio’s Innovation Economy of the Future─was developed by The Ohio Academy of Science and Entrepreneurial Engagement Ohio with support from NorTech, The Ohio General Assembly and The Ohio Board of Regents.

“Believe in Ohio is not an alternative or substitute for local, district and State science days,” said Dr. Lynn E. Elfner, co-director of Believe in Ohio with Mr. John Klipfell, Executive Director of Entrepreneurial Engagement Ohio.

Elfner explained that Believe in Ohio is Science Day Plus. The “plus” being the application of science and engineering projects toward a product or service that has commercial or business value.

Ohio’s high school students will compete for nearly $2 million in awards and scholarships in the upcoming school year from a STEM commercialization and entrepreneurship plan competition through Believe in Ohio. Students may be matched with a real world mentor and potentially receive high school and/or college credit.

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Guest Column: For Ohio Farmers, The Good News About Taxes Just Got Better

Posted: June 17, 2014 1:08 PM

By David T. Daniels

Director, Ohio Department of Agriculture

It’s not too often you can read the words “good news” and “taxes” in the very same sentence, particularly when your business is farming. But Ohio farmers did indeed receive some good news about taxes over the past year. And now – brace yourself – because that news is getting even better.

First, let me recap some good tax news from the recent tax-filing season. When Ohio farmers settled up their 2013 taxes, they shared in the largest tax cut of any state in the nation, a welcome financial boost to our state’s $105 billion food and agriculture industry.

In 2013, personal income tax rates for all Ohioans were cut 8.5 percent. Even better, small businesses – including most farmers – were able to claim an additional 50 percent tax deduction on top of those lower rates. This exclusion was available on up to $250,000, meaning the deduction is capped at $125,000 for each farmer or business owner who reports business income on their personal income tax return. If there are multiple owners, each is eligible to claim the deduction.

Now here’s where the latest good news comes into play. In legislation just passed by the Ohio General Assembly and signed by Gov. Kasich, these tax cuts get even better for 2014. First, the next step in a series of phased-in tax cuts is being fast-tracked in order to take effect now. This lets Ohio taxpayers enjoy the full 10 percent state income tax reduction this year instead of waiting until 2015, when the final phase had been planned to kick in.

Plus, for the 2014 tax year only, the small business tax cut I mentioned above is being expanded as an extra incentive for small business owners and farmers who qualify. For this year’s state income taxes, the 50 percent gross-income exclusion expands to 75 percent. Good news, indeed!

And there’s more. In addition to the tax cuts, Ohio gave a billion dollars in workers’ compensation rebates back to private and public customers. The rebates were made possible thanks to strong investments and sound fiscal management. Agribusinesses are using this rebate to invest in new equipment and upgrade safety features and infrastructure.

You’ll also recall the good news from last year when Ohio’s estate tax – better known as the “death tax” – was eliminated. Farm owners, in particular, appreciated that reform knowing they could pass on their farm to their children without also handing them the burden of an onerous tax bill.

These tax cuts, reforms and incentives are part of the governor’s commitment to being a leader in job creation and economic growth. The key is giving our farmers and other small business owners the ability to invest their capital in innovation and new positions – not in higher taxes. And, it’s working. Ohio’s private sector has made a remarkable turnaround in the past few years – going from the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs to adding more than 250,000 jobs since 2011.

Gov. Kasich understands that it is our job in state government to remove unnecessary barriers to industry and to personal success, particularly one so important to our well-being and quality of life. These tax cuts and rebates will put more money into the hands of Ohioans who can reinvest those dollars into our families, our farms and our businesses.

For Ohio farmers, this good news about taxes means you will have more to invest to make your business more efficient and productive. For the rest of us, we get to enjoy the benefits of an abundant, wholesome and, most importantly, affordable food supply.

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Press Release: Tavares Plans to Introduce Legislation to End Pay Day Lending Loopholes

Posted: June 13, 2014 2:50 PM

Columbus – Today, Assistant Democratic Leader Charleta B. Tavares (D - Columbus) expressed her concern over the recent Ohio Supreme Court ruling in favor of Pay Day Lending operators who continue to side step the legislative intent of the Ohio General Assembly to protect consumers from egregious loan practices with the Short-Term Loan Act.

On June 11, the Supreme Court overturned an appellate decision prohibiting lenders from manipulating a loophole in the lending law that allows them to continue unfair lending practices. Since the passage of the 2008 restrictive legislation, many of the companies are now operating under the Mortgage Loan Act, which has no sanctions on unscrupulous practices such as excessive loan interest rates and unreasonable payback periods. Tavares plans to introduce legislation addressing the lack of regulation within the Mortgage Loan Act to prevent lenders from using the law to circumvent limitations.

“The intent of the members of the Legislature was to protect consumers from predatory and unreasonable loan practices," stated Senator Tavares. "Allowing payday operators to find a way around our intent and continue to take advantage of and hurt those who are economically challenged in our community is unethical and immoral. We cannot let them slip through the loophole or find a way to continue these practices.”

The Supreme Court was clear in its ruling that the General Assembly failed to properly address an industry with substantial economic ramifications. This legislative breakdown has resulted in continued inequity and injustice for low-income individuals and families in a state with the fourth largest use of payday lending in the nation. The General Assembly will be working with the Coalition for Responsible Lending as well as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to protect Ohio residents.

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Release: GOPC Releases Guidebook for Redeveloping Commercial Vacant Properties

Posted: May 6, 2014 11:50 AM

Greater Ohio Policy Center releases its latest publication, Redeveloping Commercial Vacant Properties in Legacy Cities: A Guidebook to Linking Property Reuse and Economic Revitalization, which is the first of its kind to offer a comprehensive set of tools and strategies for redeveloping commercial vacant properties and business districts in legacy cities.

Designed as a “How To” manual for local leaders, the guidebook identifies practices and policies that leverage the link between available commercial properties and needed economic re-growth strategies in legacy cities. Greater Ohio Policy Center developed the guidebook in partnership with the German Marshall Fund of the United States and with support from the Center for Community Progress.

 

The tools and strategies provided can be used by local leaders and practitioners no matter where they are in the process of commercial property redevelopment, from data gathering and planning to real estate acquisition and redevelopment, and from tenant attraction and support to business district management.

The guidebook includes the following tools:

           Guidance on planning & partnering for commercial revitalization

           Methods for analyzing the market

           Advice on matching market types & strategies for commercial revitalization

           Legal tools for reclaiming commercial vacant properties

           Funding sources for overcoming financial gaps

           Menu of property reuse options

           Ways to attract & retain business tenants

           Methods and models for managing a commercial district

           Strategies for building markets in legacy cities

While the tools, strategies, and policy recommendations within the guidebook are particularly relevant for legacy cities and their communities, they are also applicable to all cities and regions that seek to reuse commercial vacant properties with the purpose of enhancing community stability and economic development.

Click here for more information and to download the guidebook.

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Release: AmeriCorps College Completion Coaches Program Receives National Recognition

Posted: May 6, 2014 11:48 AM

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The 2014 edition of “Transforming Communities Through Service” publication has listed the AmeriCorps College Completion Coaches Initiative, a strategic partnership between the Ohio Association of Community Colleges, AmeriCorps and ServeOhio, as an innovative program.

The AmeriCorps Completion Coaches Initiative, which in the 2013-2014 academic year has placed 25 “Coaches” who help support first-time students at 11 community colleges throughout Ohio to earn a certificate or degree, is among 32 “innovative” programs in 21 states highlighted in the publication.

“We are extremely proud that the important work that Completion Coaches are doing to help first-time, first generation college students be successful is getting the national recognition it deserves,” said Karen Rafinski, interim president of the OACC. “This is about helping students.”

The coaches serve cohorts of about 200 students. The coaches assist them with a whole host of issues including intensive advising to help the students be successful.

The program is supported by a $329,000 grant from AmeriCorps. Participating coaches receive a modest living allowance and a $5,500 education award to assist with paying for education at the successful completion of an 11-month service term.

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Release: OSU Marching Band to Attend Ohio House Session

Posted: May 5, 2014 5:01 PM

Rep. Grossman to Honor Prestigious Band and Other Music Educators

COLUMBUS—State Representative Cheryl Grossman (R-Grove City) is pleased to announce that The Ohio State University Marching Band will be in attendance of the Ohio House session on Wednesday, May 7th. Rep. Grossman will be honoring the band with a resolution recognizing its contributions to the state of Ohio.

The OSU Marching Band has had a remarkable history, which was capped off by an even more remarkable 2013 season. According to Director Jon Waters, the band has accomplished the following during the 2013 season:

           The students in the band have cumulatively given over 5,000 hours in community service in central Ohio and throughout the state;

           Received more than 40 million hits on YouTube on the halftime shows;

           Featured on more than 1,000 media outlets globally;

           Seen by a global audience of more than 6 billion people;

           Featured in an Apple iPad commercial which aired globally on January 12, 2014;

           Traveled to more Ohio State football games than any time in its history.

In addition to this resolution, Rep. Grossman will also present two other resolutions in order to honor two exceptional music educators in Ohio. The first resolution will be presented to George Edge, who received the 2014 Music Educator of the Year Award from the Ohio Music Education Association (OMEA). He is in his 27th year as the Director of Bands at Grove City High School and has taken his bands to numerous championships and tournaments. Mr. Edge received his Master of Arts degree in Music Education from The Ohio State University.

The second resolution will be presented to Jim Swearingen, who received the 2014 Distinguished Service Award from the OMEA. He is a music education professor at Capital University, where he has taught since 1987, and he has written over 550 published musical works. Mr. Swearingen also received his Master of Arts degree in Music Education from The Ohio State University.

The Ohio House is expected to vote on legislation which will designate “Hang on Sloopy” as the official rock song of Ohio during session on Wednesday. The song was first performed by The Ohio State University Marching Band in 1965 and has since remained a popular staple in the band’s repertoire.

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Release: Ohio Poll Warns of Consequences for Congress If They Fail to Protect State's Federal Transportation Funding Source

Posted: April 23, 2014 3:56 PM

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) Sixty-one percent of likely Ohio primary voters would have a less favorable view of their representative and senators in the U.S. Congress if they do not take action this year to protect the state's 2015 federal highway, public transportation and bridge funding, a new poll has found. And that funding is in jeopardy.

 

The federal Highway Trust Fund (HTF) that, on average, provides 58 percent of the money the Ohio Department of Transportation invests in road, bridge and public transportation capital improvement projects each year, is nearly insolvent. The money crunch is so bad the U.S. Department of Transportation says it will be forced to slow down reimbursements to the state for work already done, beginning early this summer. If the Congress does not act to fix the trust fund cash problem before October 1, there will be no federal funds available for any new road, bridge or public transportation improvements in the state next year until a fix is passed.

 

The poll, conducted by Purple Insights, shows nearly nine in 10 voters think transportation is essential to their daily activities and the state's economy. Over half (59 percent) say it is "very important" to both. Told how dependent the state's road and public transit construction program is on federal funding, 60 percent of likely Republican primary voters and 81 percent of likely Democrat voters say it is "very important" that Congress makes sure the support continues for highways, bridges and public transportation.

 

"The design, construction and maintenance of Ohio's highway infrastructure employs 109,000 Ohioans. An additional 2.7 million full-time jobs in key Ohio industries such as tourism, retail sales, agriculture and manufacturing are dependent on the state's transportation infrastructure network. We cannot stand idly by and permit our national legislators to allow federal transportation funds to the states to dry up. Such an action as that adversely impacts every citizen of this state," stated Chris Runyan, President of the Ohio Contractors Association.

 

"Ohio's 61 transit systems combined to carry over 100 million trips last year. As our economy continues to recover, Congress needs to take the necessary steps to ensure that funding remains in place to provide for trips to work, school, and services within our community," said James Gee, general manager of the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority.

 

The research was conducted by Purple Insights Polling firm and commissioned by the Washington, D.C.-based American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) and the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). Purple Insights used the methodology of automated telephone interviews for respondents on landline phones and online interviews of voters who predominantly or exclusively use cell phones. The sample size was 500 registered voters in the state. It has a margin of error +/-4.4 percent.

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Treasurer Josh Mandel Column: Welders Make $150,000? Bring Back Shop Class

Posted: April 23, 2014 3:55 PM

Taking pride in learning to make and build things can begin in high school. Plenty of jobs await.

In American high schools, it is becoming increasingly hard to defend the vanishing of shop class from the curriculum. The trend began in the 1970s, when it became conventional wisdom that a four-year college degree was essential. As Forbes magazine reported in 2012, 90% of shop classes have been eliminated for the Los Angeles unified school district's 660,000 students. Yet a 2012 Bureau of Labor Statistics study shows that 48% of all college graduates are working in jobs that don't require a four-year degree.

Too many young people have four-year liberal-arts degrees, are thousands of dollars in debt and find themselves serving coffee at Starbucks SBUX +0.47% or working part-time at the mall. Many of them would have been better off with a two-year skilled-trade or technical education that provides the skills to secure a well-paying job.

A good trade to consider: welding. I recently visited Pioneer Pipe in the Utica and Marcellus shale area of Ohio and learned that last year the company paid 60 of its welders more than $150,000 and two of its welders over $200,000. The owner, Dave Archer, said he has had to turn down orders because he can't find enough skilled welders.

According to the 2011 Skills Gap Survey by the Manufacturing Institute, about 600,000 manufacturing jobs are unfilled nationally because employers can't find qualified workers. To help produce a new generation of welders, pipe-fitters, electricians, carpenters, machinists and other skilled tradesmen, high schools should introduce students to the pleasure and pride they can take in making and building things in shop class.

American employers are so yearning to motivate young people to work in manufacturing and the skilled trades that many are willing to pay to train and recruit future laborers. CEO Karen Wright of Ariel Corp. in Mount Vernon, Ohio, recently announced that the manufacturer of gas compressors is donating $1 million to the Knox County Career Center to update the center's computer-integrated manufacturing equipment, so students can train on the same machines used in Ariel's operations.

In rural Minster, Ohio, near the Indiana border, electrician and entrepreneur Jack Buschur is creating the Auglaize & Mercer County Business Education Alliance, which will use private-sector dollars to fund a skilled-trade ambassador to walk the halls of local high schools with the mission of recruiting teenagers into these fields. This ambassador will also work to persuade school guidance counselors and administrators to change their tune that college is the only route to prosperity, and to encourage them to inform their students about the many opportunities in skilled trades.

At Humtown Products in Columbiana, Ohio, near the Pennsylvania border, CEO Mark Lamoncha is coordinating tours for local high-school guidance counselors to visit his company so that they can learn about job opportunities in advanced manufacturing and 3-D printing. Rather than having students seeing posters only for Ohio State, Pitt, Harvard and Yale in their high-school hallways, he wants to convince the schools' guidance counselors to also post signs for the Choffin Career & Technical Center in Youngstown and the New Castle School of Trades in Pulaski, Pa.

The Ohio School Board Association recently heard a similar message—from the actor John Ratzenberger, whom you might remember as Cliff Clavin, the mailman from the 1980s sitcom "Cheers." Mr. Ratzenberger these days is devoting considerable charitable time and dollars toward raising the profile of America's skilled laborers as role models for young people.

He began this effort in 2004 with a TV show called "Made in America," focusing attention on the rewarding labor of blue-collar workers making everything from Steinway pianos and Wonder Bread to Caterpillar CAT -0.18% equipment and Chris Craft yachts. Now he's crisscrossing the country urging schools to invest in vocational education. On "Cheers," Cliff Clavin never appeared to be overly industrious, but in promoting the restoration of shop class in U.S. high schools, Mr. Ratzenberger is working hard to put young Americans in good jobs. Educators could learn a thing or two from him.

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Release: Planned Parenthood Announces First Round Of Endorsed Legislative Candidates

Posted: April 9, 2014 9:44 AM

Columbus, Ohio—Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio today announced its first round of 2014 endorsements for legislative candidates in Ohio.

“Each of the candidates receiving our endorsement has displayed a commitment to protecting reproductive rights and health care for all women and families in Ohio,” said Stephanie Kight, PPAO president and CEO. “We know that these women and men will work to reverse the damage of laws signed by Governor Kasich as part of his anti-women’s health agenda and make Ohio safer for women’s health.

“Early voting in Ohio is already open for the May 6 primary. We strongly encourage Ohio women and the men who love us to support candidates who make our health a priority over politics.”

The endorsed legislative candidates join the previously announced statewide candidates who committed to standing up and speaking out for women and families.

The PPAO endorsement committee selected candidates based on their responses to a candidate questionnaire. PPAO will add to its list of endorsed candidates as it receives additional questionnaires meeting the criteria. A complete and updated list is available at ppao.org.

Endorsed Candidates for the Ohio Senate:

SD 13 Marcus Madison

SD 21 Sandra Williams

SD 25 Kenny Yuko

SD 29 Connie Rubin

SD 33 Joe Schiavoni

Endorsed Candidates for the Ohio House of Representatives:

HD 6 Anthony Fossaceca

HD 10 Eugene Miller

HD 12 Jill Miller Zimon

HD 13 Nickie Antonio*

HD 15 Nick Celebreeze*

HD 16 Todd LeVeck

HD 18 Michael Stinziano*

HD 20 Heather Bishoff*

HD 22 David Leland

HD 23 Rick Redfern

HD 25 Kevin Boyce*

HD 27 Joe Otis

HD 28 Micah Kamrass

HD 32 Christie Bryant

HD 38 Tim Crawford

HD 46 Michael Sheehy*

HD 50 Deb Cain

HD 52 Cathina Hourani

HD 54 Rick Smith

HD 57 Matt Lark

HD 58 Michele Lepore-Hagan

HD 62 Charlene Schneider, Ph.D.

HD 65 Charlie Carlier

HD 67 David Hogan

HD 75 Kathleen Clyde*

HD 76 Joseph Lanese

HD 87 Jeff Lehart

HD 89 Chris Redfern*

*indicates incumbent elected official

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Release: Ohio Energy Brokers and Consultants Form Association

Posted: April 4, 2014 2:44 PM

PUCO Hosts Group’s First Meeting

Columbus – Ohio energy aggregators, brokers and consultants have announced the formation of Energy Professionals of Ohio. The new trade association will educate policy makers and the public on the benefits of a robust and competitive energy market. The group will also promote the common business interests of licensed energy brokers and consultants in Ohio.

“The energy marketplace works best when there is an expected and established level of expertise and responsibility in transacting energy contracts,” EPO Chairman and Scioto Energy Managing Partner Greg Bechert said. “Our self-regulating and standards-setting organization will establish a minimum expected level of expertise and responsibility in transacting energy contracts.”

EPO will provide its members with a forum for addressing business interactions within the industry. It will also address member concerns in a manner that keeps transactions fair, transparent and equitable for all parties.

The new group opened its first meeting on March 25 with a presentation to Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Chairman Todd A. Snitchler. Topics discussed included the current state of the industry and issues facing Ohio’s energy marketplace.

“We thank Chairman Snitchler for welcoming our group’s formation with a meaningful discussion about the issues facing energy professionals and our customers,” Bechert said.

The EPO board of directors includes Bechert, Huck Hayes of Alternative Energy Source, Perry Oman of Muirfield Energy, and Chris Greulich of North Shore Energy.

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Release: NFIB/Ohio SAFE Trust Releases May 6 Primary Endorsements for the Ohio Legislature

Posted: April 3, 2014 1:32 PM

COLUMBUS, April 3, 2014 – The NFIB/Ohio Save American's Free Trust (SAFE Trust Ohio), the political action committee of the National Federation of Independent Business/Ohio, today announced its endorsement of the following candidates for the Ohio Legislature in the May 6, 2014 Ohio primary election:

Endorsed by the NFIB/Ohio SAFE Trust:

Ohio House of Representatives

Rep. Stephanie Kunze – HD 24 Rep. Peter Stautberg – HD 27

Rep. Barbara Sears – HD 47* Rep. Wes Retherford – HD 51

Rep. Margaret Conditt – HD 52 Rep. Ron Maag – HD 62

Rep. Margaret Ann Ruhl – HD 68 Rep. Dave Hall – HD 70

Nick Skeriotis (R) – HD 75* Sen. Tim Schaffer (R) – HD 77

Kyle Koehler (R) – HD 79* Rob McColley (R) –HD 81

Rep. Tony Burkley – HD 82* Rep. Dorothy Pelanda – HD 86

Rep. Cliff Rosenberger – HD 91 Rep. Gary Scherer – HD 92*

Ohio Senate

Sen. Cliff Hite – SD 1* Sen. Kevin Bacon – SD 3

Sen. Bill Beagle – SD 5* Sen. Shannon Jones – SD 7*

Sen. Frank LaRose – SD 27

*Denotes NFIB member

“These candidates have been approved through NFIB/Ohio’s member-driven process that thoroughly reviews candidates’ records, stated positions and understanding of small-business issues before an endorsement is issued,” said Roger Geiger, Vice President and Executive Director of NFIB/Ohio. “NFIB/Ohio is supporting these candidates so they can provide the leadership necessary to keep Ohio’s job-creating machine, small businesses, running.”

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Release: Ohio Democratic Party Announces Hiring of Field and Political Directors Sisneros and Devezin to lead strategic grassroots program in 2014

Posted: April 3, 2014 11:11 AM

COLUMBUS, OHIO – Today, the Ohio Democratic Party announced the additions of a Field Director, Steve Sisneros, and a political director, Nelson Devezin, who will lead the Ohio Democratic Party’s renowned grassroots organizing efforts in Ohio.

“Steve and Nelson are veterans in Democratic politics with experience on campaigns at every level. Together, they're in a strong position to lead the Ohio Democratic Party’s renowned grassroots outreach program, and we’re all excited to have them join our team,” said Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern.

Field Director Steve Sisneros joins the ODP after serving as the Deputy National Regional Director at Organizing for Action—overseeing 9 states, including Ohio. Prior to his time at OFA, Steve was the Nevada Deputy Field Director for President Obama’s successful reelection campaign. In 2010, Sisneros worked for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s reelection campaign, and worked at the Nevada State Legislature for two biennial legislative sessions, adding to his extensive knowledge of state government. Steve’s experience on presidential, senatorial, state legislative, and issue advocacy campaigns puts him in a strong position to lead the Ohio Democratic Party’s strategic field program in 2014.

“The Ohio Democratic Party is known for its strategic 88 county, voter-to-voter strategy,” said Field Director Steve Sisneros. “Their grassroots organizing is among the best in the nation, and it’s something I will strive to build upon to ensure our success in November.”

Nelson Devezin, a Shaker Heights, Ohio native, brings an extensive political background to the Ohio Democratic Party team. Nelson served as Regional Field Director for President Obama’s campaign, and has experience with many progressive organizations, including Planned Parenthood’s Affordable Care Act program in Cleveland, and leading the successful Cleveland Public Library levy renewal campaign. Devezin also brings national experience, having worked on races in Milwaukee and Florida. The Ohio Democratic Party welcomes back Nelson, who served as an ODP field organizer in 2010.

“As an Ohio native, I’ve seen first-hand what Governor Kasich’s policies have done to our communities,” Devezin said. “I look forward to working with my fellow Ohioans all across the state this year to elect Ed FitzGerald and the rest of the Democratic ticket.”

Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern said, “Steve and Nelson are veterans in Democratic politics with experience on campaigns at every level. Together, they're in a strong position to lead the Ohio Democratic Party’s renowned grassroots outreach program, and we’re all excited to have them join our team.”

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Sen. Sherrod Brown Column: National Service: Strengthening Ohio’s Communities

Posted: March 31, 2014 11:36 AM

Five years ago this month – during the height of the economic downturn – Democrats and Republicans came together to invest in a bedrock of the American spirit: serving others.

Five years later and Ohioans have truly exemplified what it means to serve. 10,000 Ohioans work to improve their local communities by serving at one of our state's 1500 national service locations, made possible by the Corporation for National and Community Service.

The CNCS invests in communities throughout the United States by training volunteers, awarding grants, and implementing service programs. For Americans that are struggling financially, the aid of national service programs can provide them with much needed support during trying times. This year, CNCS will commit nearly $30 million to support Ohio communities.

The work of the national service members is the result of a public-private partnership between CNCS and corporate donors who provide 40% of the overall program budget. This funding helps to implement important programs such as job training for veterans, financial literacy education, and distribution of donations after a natural disaster.

The two core member service programs of the CNCS are AmeriCorps and Senior Corps. These programs provide opportunities for Americans of all ages to serve those that are in need. Volunteers serve in one of six focus areas: disaster services, economic opportunity, education, environmental stewardship, healthy futures, and veterans and military families. More than 1,500 individuals serve in Ohio through AmeriCorps, while more than 9,300 seniors utilize their golden years to help others through Senior Corps.

National service members are supported in their work through federal benefits. Members of AmeriCorps receive a living allowance, health coverage, childcare if eligible, as well as a variety of other benefits. Upon completion of a full-time 10-12 month program, they are eligible for the Segal Education Award, currently valued at $5645. This award can be used to repay qualified student loans and to pay for educational training and higher education at qualified institutions.

Senior Corps offers members supplemental insurance while on duty and some Senior Corp programs offer meals while on duty and/or stipends.

Last year, I visited John Jay High School in Cleveland where I saw firsthand how national service is helping to expand education opportunity in Ohio. I sat in on a weekly program, led by an AmeriCorps VISTA member who helped more than twenty 11th graders apply and prepare for college. Many of those students were the first in their family to attend college and AmeriCorp provided them with much needed guidance to navigate the process.

AmeriCorps VISTA also partners with the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) to provide low-income children with free, healthy meals and snacks. In Ohio, over 800,000 children receive free or reduced lunches during the school year, but in the summer months many of them go hungry. Due to the increased number of AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers in 2012, summer feeding sites like the E.L Hardy Center in Columbus were able to dramatically increase the number of children they served. This would not have been possible without the volunteered work of national service members.

I believe in service because we all have a duty to help improve our communities and uplift our fellow Americans. And as a member of the National Service Congressional Caucus, I have worked to expand national service and to raise awareness about the work that our national service members do.

If you are interested in strengthening communities in your country by participating in community service, visit http://www.nationalservice.gov/programs to learn more about the national service opportunities available to you.

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News Release: Tech Advocacy Group Release Web Video On Internet Usage

Posted: March 27, 2014 1:20 PM

TECHNOLOGY FOR OHIO’S TOMORROW RELEASES NEW VIDEO ENTITLED “LIVE, WORK, PLAY”

Video explores the history of our internet usage… and the future.

Technology for Ohio’s Tomorrow released a new web video today focused on explaining how the broadband of the future will support our ever increasing demand for data. This video is just another means by with Technology for Ohio’s Tomorrow is carrying out its mission to educate the public and policymakers on how important Broadband infrastructure is to our daily lives.

“We want to remind the viewer how far we've come in Internet usage,” explained Executive Director Nathan Slonaker. “We want people to know all these new devises don’t run on magic; there’s an infrastructure that must be invested in and maintained to make every device we use work.”

“Live, Work, Play”, covers some of the same material as Technology for Ohio’s Tomorrow earlier publication: the “Broadband Cheat Sheet” guide. That guide explained the transition from dial-up to broadband Internet access, how broadband technology affects different aspects of our daily lives, and the ongoing investment in broadband networks to keep pace with increasing demand.

The video can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/mjm2a7q or on TOT’s website www.Tech4Ohio.org

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News Release: Democratic Lawmakers Push Minimum Wage Change

Posted: March 27, 2014 1:16 PM

Reps. Foley, Hagan Look to Minimum Wage Increase for Stronger Economy, Stronger Families

Bill would give hardworking Ohioans a much deserved raise.

COLUMBUS- State Reps. Mike Foley (D-Cleveland) and Robert F. Hagan (D-Youngstown) introduced legislation—House Bill 502 –today to increase Ohio’s minimum wage to $10.10 per hour from the current rate of $7.95 per hour. Workers who rely on tips to supplement income would see their wages rise from $3.98 to $5.05 per hour under the proposal.

The Democratic lawmakers say the increase will create a stronger Ohio by putting more money into the pockets of minimum wage workers while providing struggling families with an opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty.

“CEO pay has been increasing 127 times faster than employee pay over the last 30 years, and that disparity ultimately hurts our economy,” said Rep. Foley. “Ohio families just can’t get by on such paltry wages anymore. They are increasingly forced to rely on public assistance because they struggle to make ends meet even working two and three jobs.”

It is estimated that the proposed increase in Ohio wages would inject an additional $2.1 billion into the state’s economy and create close to 6,000 new jobs.

“Low-wage workers are older and more educated today than thirty years ago, and our state’s policies have yet to reflect this reality,” said Rep. Hagan. “This is money that will go directly back into our economy, not in some offshore account or overseas investment. Instead of being pushed into public assistance lines, Ohioans who play by the rules deserve a shot at making it in an economy that rewards hard work.”

Reports show that increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would have positive outcomes for Ohioans from all different backgrounds; of those who would be affected:

           56% are women;

           86% are over the age of 20;

           60% live in households that make less than $50,000 a year. 50% live in households that make less than $40,000 a year;

           23% of Ohio’s children have at least one parent who would be affected by the increase.

The Ohio Constitution currently sets the minimum wage for non-tipped and tipped workers. The Constitution ties the minimum wage to the cost of living and allows for annual adjustment to the minimum wage each year. House Bill 502 would increase the minimum wage while still allowing for annual adjustments based on the cost of living.

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Ohio E&A Coalition Column: Governance in charter land is the problem

Posted: March 21, 2014 8:34 AM

For several months an urban board of education in Ohio has been in the spotlight of the media, general public and state officials, particularly the State Auditor, regarding the manipulation of student data. Employees of the district, and since the buck stops at the board office, the Board of Education, are being held accountable by law for their actions and/or their failure to act. Laws are in place to make public school districts transparent and accountable. Such is appropriate and necessary. But the rest of the story is important.

This urban district loses about one-fourth of its students and one-half of its state funds to charter school operations that are largely governed and operated out of public view. Why? Because state officials have enacted laws and regulations that shield charter school governance, transparency and accountability from public scrutiny.

Who has read an account in any newspaper of the proceedings at any charter school governing board meeting? Any charter school sponsor governing board meeting? Any management company governing board meeting? Charter schools drain $114,516,016.84 from the current budget of this urban school district but who in the charter school convoluted management chain is held accountable for the expenditures of the funds that were initially assigned to the district? If this urban district Board of Education hid the expenditures of $115 million (the same amount being drained off for charter schools) from public view, the media and state officials would leap on the Board like a hen on a June bug.

Ohio laws and regulations shade the charter school industry from the spotlight of the media, public and state officials. Who knows what data manipulation is occurring in charter land?

Some of the blatant misuse of funds and financial fraud in charter schools has been uncovered and made public. But there is no public disclosure regarding profits being accumulated by for-profit management companies or how much is spent on advertising.

Are there any internal auditors in the charter school industry to check the validity of student data?

The governance of the charter school industry must be made as public as the governance of the public common school system. The unaccountable, non-transparent, privately-operated, publicly funded charter school industry must be stripped of its private governance status. Laws providing for the governance of charter schools, their sponsors, boards of education and management companies must be consistent with those applicable to school districts and their boards of education

Stay tuned...more specifics in the flaws in the Ohio charter school laws and how to correct these egregious charter school policies will follow.

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Column: Secretary Husted on Voting Options

Posted: March 12, 2014 10:49 AM

Voting Is Easy in Ohio

To all Ohio voters: There has been a lot of discussion about recent changes in the voting laws. Some of that discussion has informed and some of it has misled. As the chief elections official in our state I want you to have the facts about how easy it is to vote in Ohio. Please use it to guide your many choices in casting a ballot in General Election this November.

Option 1 – Vote by Mail

Around Labor Day, my office will be sending all registered voters an application to vote by mail. Complete it, return it in the envelope provided and your ballot will be mailed to you starting 28 days before the election. Then, when it is most convenient for you and from the comfort of your own home, you can fill out your ballot.

Many will choose to mail it back in the security envelope provided, never having to leave home to vote. Still others will choose to drop it off at the board of elections – either way your ballot will be counted as part of the official tally on Election Day.

Option 2 – Vote Early In Person

Beginning on October 7, 2014, and over the course of four weeks, you can go to your local board of elections during regular business hours to cast your ballot in person. To accommodate voters who cannot go during the week, your board of elections will also be open for voting from 8 am to 4 pm on the two Saturdays before the Election. This bipartisan voting schedule was recommended by local Republican and Democratic elections officials and will be the same in each of the 88 Ohio counties, ensuring all voters have equal access to the polls no matter where they live.

Option 3 – Election Day

And let’s not forget Election Day itself, when polls close to your home will be open from 6:30 am until 7:30 pm.

With absentee voting starting 28 days before the election, Ohio remains above the national average for access to voting. Many of our surrounding states, including Michigan, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and New York don’t even provide an early voting option. In addition, with the exception of states that vote exclusively by mail, Ohio has been the only state to send absentee ballot applications to all voters ahead of the election. These steps meant that Ohioans did not experience long lines at the polls that other states did in 2012 when approximately one in three Ohio voters chose to vote prior to Election Day. In fact, independent studies said the wait time in Ohio was 11 minutes.

Ohio is the most important swing state in the nation and as Secretary of State, I will continue to work to build the best system of elections in the nation where it will continue to be easy to vote and hard to cheat.

For additional information on voting in 2014, I encourage you to visit www.MyOhioVote.com.

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Release: Sen. Widener Urges Agencies To Buy Ohio

Posted: March 12, 2014 9:37 AM

COLUMBUS– State Senator Chris Widener (R–Springfield) spoke with employees of numerous state agencies attending the Ohio Fiscal Academy on Monday about the importance of state agencies purchasing Ohio goods and services.

Students with the Ohio Fiscal Academy attended the Ohio Controlling Board meeting as part of their training to increase the fiscal literacy of Ohio’s government employees. The Academy is a certification program for fiscal officers, fiscal specialists, budget analysts, and others working in state government.

“Preference for purchasing from Ohio businesses must be a top priority for our state agencies to keep people employed in this state,” said Widener.

Widener emphasized the importance for agencies to provide information about the companies they contact for purchase requests, such as the number of Ohioans that the company employs. Some companies may not be based in Ohio, but have a strong presence, such as vehicle and equipment dealers. Providing this type of information to the Controlling Board is not currently required by law.

Widener is concerned with state agencies using out-of-state companies instead of Ohio competitors. He advised agencies to contact companies and to provide the board with their reasons for choosing not to pursue the state contracts.

Senator Widener recently introduced legislation (S.B. 228) that would require state agencies to provide information about the number of Ohioans employed by potential vendors to the Controlling Board when making requests.

S.B. 228 passed the Senate in November and is now waiting for a third hearing in the State and Local Government Committee in the House of Representatives.

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Gov. Kasich Signs Executive Orders On Food Bank Funding, Psychology Rules

Posted: January 22, 2014 3:36 PM

COLUMBUS – Today Governor John R. Kasich signed executive order 2014-01K authorizing the Governor’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives to expend up to $2,329,895 to assist the Ohio Association of Foodbanks to increase the amount of food for at-risk children and families during the summer months. Additional funds under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program will be used to support programs and organizations that promote the mission of the Governor’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives and fulfill one of the four purposes of the TANF program.

COLUMBUS – Today Governor John R. Kasich signed executive order 2014-02K authorizing emergency rule filings by the State Board of Psychology. This action permits the immediate adoption of rules pertaining to procedures and requirements for applying for a certificate to practice as a Certified Ohio Behavior Analyst.

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Statement From Ohio Secretary Of State Jon Husted

Posted: January 22, 2014 3:33 PM

COLUMBUS – Today the Presidential Commission on Elections Administration, established by President Obama’s Executive Order 13639, released its bipartisan recommendations on how to improve the voting experience across the nation. In regards to the recommendations, available here, all of the following may be attributed to Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted:

“This commission of Republicans and Democrats recommended for the nation what we already do in Ohio.

“Ohioans should be proud of the fact that our elections system already meets and exceeds recommendations in the report.

“Ohio is above the national average for absentee and early voting opportunities, we’ve been deemed an ‘All-Star’ state for making it easier for members of the military to vote, and today the voter rolls are in the best shape they’ve ever been.

“The only major recommendation where Ohio has fallen behind is the failure to enact online voter registration. Once again, I urge the General Assembly to pass the authorizing legislation so we can get online voter registration up and running as soon as possible.

“If we want to continue to be a leader in running smooth elections in the 21st Century, we need full online voter registration. The bipartisan recommendations of the Commission vouch for this as a common sense way to improve accuracy, reduce lines and most importantly, better serve voters as we continue our work to make it easy to vote and hard to cheat.”

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Column by Ohio Department of Health Director Ted Wymyslo: Ohio’s Roadmap to Better Health

Posted: December 16, 2013 10:51 AM

New public heath investments in Ohio will help jumpstart important prevention activities at critical life stages. While the Buckeye State has much to be proud of, good overall health has long eluded us. Historically we’ve ranked at or near the bottom of most national health indicators, leaving many to wonder how a state with numerous teaching hospitals and strong health systems, could find its residents in such poor health.

Ohio’s emergence from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression was set in motion more than two years ago with the development of the Kasich Administration’s blueprint for prosperity and its job-creating and pro-growth policies. Our new state budget continues building on those policies by reducing taxes, improving our schools, and by making state government more efficient. Ohio’s executive leadership has also taken bold steps forward to support public health’s priorities and improve health outcomes for Ohio citizens.

Through comprehensive health transformation strategies, the state has committed to standardizing how health care is delivered across Ohio by creating new efficiencies. These efficiencies allow organizations to modernize their operations and address important public health priorities through programs that have the greatest impact with the highest return on investment.

For example, a recent report released by the United Health Foundation, America’s Health Rankings 2013, shows smoking among adults in Ohio decreased by eight percent last year. While Ohio’s adult smoking rates remain high, this is an encouraging sign that Ohio’s recent public health interventions are taking hold.

Another effort worth noting is the additional funding directed to address Ohio’s high infant mortality rate by finding simple, common-sense ways to educate parents on what their baby needs to remain safe and healthy. One such strategy is the “Safe Sleep” information and education campaign, designed to discourage parents from allowing their babies to sleep with them, and teaching parents and caregivers the ABC’s of Safe Sleep (Alone, on their Back and in a Crib).

Also noteworthy are the efforts of the Ohio Tobacco Quit Line. Tobacco use is the most preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the U.S., and Ohio ranks 39th nationally in adult smoking rates. Ohio lawmakers this year approved $1.5 million per year during the next two years to support the use of the Ohio Tobacco Quit Line, allowing ODH to extend this service to nearly 8,000 individuals annually.

But legislation and government funding cannot do it alone. Each of us has a personal responsibility to take control of our own health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), if tobacco use, poor diet and physical inactivity were eliminated, 80 percent of heart disease and stroke, 80 percent of Type 2 diabetes, and 40 percent of all cancer-related illnesses would be prevented.

Further, studies show that adults who have established a relationship with a primary care provider have 33 percent lower costs of care, and better chronic disease management. That is why the Ohio Department of Health was pleased to announce this year that Ohio now has 340 nationally-recognized patient-centered medical home (PCMH) practices delivering primary health care services. In October 2012, there were 180. The PCMH model facilitates partnerships between patients and their personal healthcare providers. Statewide expansion will improve health outcomes, enhance the patient experience, and ensure that health care in Ohio is more affordable.

While individual behavior change is huge, so too is the impact of our environment and our communities. Businesses, schools, employers, health professionals, civic organizations, clergy and others can influence a community’s actions to develop policies and other changes that can help prevent chronic disease and improve overall health.

The value of a strong public health system is literally all around us. It’s in the thousands of people whose lives are saved by seat belts … the young people who say ‘No!’ to tobacco … and the children given a healthy start thanks to parent education. In fact, we are all living examples of the public health return on investment.

As we celebrate the start of a new year, I am optimistic about public health’s stronger role in using new investments on initiatives that most greatly impact positive health outcomes in our state.

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Statement of Sen. Kearney On Campaign Decision

Posted: December 10, 2013 6:37 PM

"When my wife Jan-Michele and I purchased the Cincinnati Herald we knew it would be a challenge. The media business was changing rapidly, and newspapers—both large and small—were struggling to adapt and remain profitable. But we were dedicated to keeping alive one of our nation’s oldest African-American newspapers and committed to our employees and their families.

Given the challenges the Herald faced, other small business owners might have walked away. But, we never considered closing our business because it would have meant shutting down a respected community newspaper dating back to the Civil Rights era, and putting people out of work.

When I became a State Senator in 2005, I stepped away from the day-to-day operations of the newspaper to focus on representing my hometown in the Ohio Senate. I have devoted my time in the Senate to improving children’s health, ensuring fair elections, and growing our state’s economy. Among the pieces of legislation that I was able to pass was a bill setting up a loan program that grants financial assistance to families wanting to adopt.

During my tenure as Minority Leader, I worked across the aisle with former Senate President Tom Niehaus to enact reforms to stabilize and strengthen Ohio’s public pension systems. It wasn’t easy, but it shows what can be accomplished if you take a thoughtful and bipartisan approach to solving problems and treat people with respect.

Last month I accepted an opportunity to run for Lieutenant Governor because I believe this state is headed in the wrong direction. Ohio’s unemployment rate is rising, voting rights are threatened, and our schools and local communities don’t have the resources they need.

As questions arose about the financial challenges facing our newspaper business I wanted to set the record straight. That’s why I provided hundreds of documents and answered questions from reporters from across the state. This was all done to let the facts be known and to ensure complete transparency. I am convinced our business is on a path to resolving these issues in the near future and the facts support that conclusion.

With that being said, it’s undeniable that this has come to be a distraction from a discussion of the vital issues facing Ohio, and the choice voters must make in this election. The stakes are too high: we need a change of leadership to move Ohio in a new direction that puts more Ohioans back to work and builds a better future for our children.

I have discussed this with Ed FitzGerald, and while I will always be grateful for him selecting me to be his running mate, we agree that the best course of action is for me to step aside from the campaign for Lieutenant Governor and focus on serving the people of the Ninth Senate district."

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Statement From Thomas E. Stewart, Executive Vice President of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association

Posted: December 4, 2013 4:36 PM

Today, Rep. Matt Huffman and Speaker William Batchelder introduced a comprehensive oil and gas tax reform package that is rational, substantive and good for Ohio. For these reasons, the state’s oil and gas industry supports it.

The package, which includes a sensible modification of the severance tax based on actual well economics, would enhance the state’s regulatory framework, increase funding for the Ohio Geological Survey and address the lingering environmental issue of plugging idle and orphan wells from historical production.

If passed, the package would also provide much needed clarity for oil and gas producers who have already invested heavily and plan to invest billions more to explore the state’s Utica Shale formation. The ongoing debate about increasing the severance tax has created an air of uncertainty within the industry. Resolving this issue will allow oil and gas development to flourish in eastern Ohio, which will expand economic opportunity and job growth throughout the state.

Additionally, the tax reform package would lower taxes for conventional oil and gas producers and eliminate the threat of higher taxes for the state’s thousands of royalty owners and landowners, which was a major point of contention with the previous tax proposal. The package also earmarks excess revenue for a reduction in the personal income tax for all Ohioans.

This tax reform package is based on sound regulatory, environmental and economic policymaking that will allow all of Ohio to benefit from a robust oil and gas industry.

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Release: Batchelder and Huffman Release Statement on Oil and Gas Regulatory Legislation

Posted: December 4, 2013 4:13 PM

COLUMBUS—Today, Speaker of the Ohio House William G. Batchelder (R-Medina), Speaker Pro Tempore Matt Huffman (R-Lima), and other members of the House Republican Caucus introduced legislation to enhance Ohio’s oil and gas regulatory program, a proposal that strives to promote economic development, address environmental concerns, and lower taxes on Ohioans and businesses.

Speaker Pro Tempore Huffman, who sponsored House Bill 375, released the following statement on the introduction of the legislation:

“House Bill 375 moves Ohio in the right direction as we responsibly explore our energy options right here in our state. It encourages job creation, benefits Ohio’s taxpayers, and prioritizes environmental issues, which puts us in the best possible position to take a fair and balanced approach to domestic energy exploration. This is a pragmatic, rational approach that will benefit all Ohioans.”

Speaker Batchelder, a cosponsor of the legislation, released the following statement:

“This tax reform proposal is a comprehensive, carefully constructed piece of legislation that incorporates many important aspects of oil and gas exploration in Ohio. As Ohio moves toward a significant energy-based economy, House Bill 375 will not only provide much-needed clarity about severance taxes and regulations, but also take significant steps to protect the environment and ensure that energy exploration in Ohio is safe and responsible. While I did not support previous proposals to institute a severance tax on the oil and gas industry, I believe that this legislation accomplishes many of the goals that needed to be addressed and can give Ohioans confidence in the process.”

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Gov. John Kasich Column On Federal Balanced Budget Amendment

Posted: December 2, 2013 9:53 AM

For Ohio families, balancing the checkbook is an essential value. It’s something we all need to do in order to make sure we don’t spend more than we take in. And state government in Ohio is no different, thanks to our state constitution’s requirement that we balance our budget every year. Unfortunately, the federal government operates in a very different way than Ohio families or even Ohio’s state government, as Washington’s $17 trillion federal debt and $663 billion deficit demonstrate.

The massive fiscal sinkhole that’s engulfing our nation gets deeper every day, making it harder and harder for our children to realize the kind of better tomorrow we want for them. If we are to have any hope of turning this situation around, we need to dramatically change how the American government does business.

We need a federal balanced budget amendment. And we need it now.

In Ohio, we recently did our part to move toward this goal, making ours the 20th state to pass a resolution calling for a balanced budget amendment. By doing so, we are urging Washington’s decision-makers to come together and draft a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution and then submit it to the states for ratification.

But we are also putting in place a powerful second option should federal leaders fail to act on their own. If 14 more states join us with similar resolutions, we can take this movement directly to a constitutional convention.

Washington does not need to look any farther than Ohio to see first-hand the powerful impact that a balanced budget can have. We’ve already shown the way for others to follow.

Having overcome a historic $7.7 billion imbalance in the state budget in 2011, Ohio is no longer looking in our rear-view mirror and fearing the dark fiscal clouds in our past. Instead, with our budget back on track, we’re now able to steer straight ahead and focus on ways to move our state forward. By putting Ohio’s fiscal house in order, we’ve been able to cut taxes, increase education funding by $1.6 billion, create funds to bring about innovation, begin fixing our highways and bridges and take care of vulnerable Ohioans.

A balanced federal budget isn’t a crazy economic theory that will never come to pass. We’ve had balanced budgets in Washington before. In 1997, I was proud to be part of a team that balanced the federal budget for the first time since men walked on the moon. We disagreed and debated, but at the end of the day we agreed to reforms that we could all be proud of as it strengthened our country. It was a special moment in time that doesn’t happen often enough.

If governments at every level put in practice the same important value that that our families use – balancing our finances – we will see a much brighter future for America.

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Ohio E&A Coalition Column On DeRolph Decision

Posted: December 2, 2013 9:53 AM

December 2, 2013

The Ohio Supreme Court, in its fourth DeRolph decision on December 11, 2002, decreed in paragraph 5, "To date, the principal legislative response to DeRolph I and DeRolph II has been to increase funding, which has benefited many schoolchildren. However, the General Assembly has not focused on the core constitutional directive of DeRolph I: 'a complete systematic overhaul' of the school-funding system. Id. 78 Ohio St.3d at 212, 677 N.E.2d 733. Today we reiterate that that is what is needed, not further nibbling at the edges. Accordingly, we direct the General Assembly to enact a school-funding scheme that is thorough and efficient, as explained in DeRolph I, DeRolph II, and the accompanying concurrences." Hence the Court again ruled the school funding system unconstitutional.

Even though the legislature had a bad track record for compliance with previous court orders in DeRolph, the Court released jurisdiction of the case in the DeRolph IV decision. The probable reason for the release of jurisdiction was that a change in membership of the Court was decided by the November 2002 election. The justices comprising the majority in the fourth DeRolph decision, were concerned that continued Court jurisdiction by the "new" Court would cause the unraveling of previous DeRolph decisions. Of particular concern was that Maureen O'Connor was replacing a justice who had sided with the majority in DeRolph I, II and IV.

Earlier this year, the current Chief Justice, Maureen O'Connor, was quoted in a news article as saying that she didn't believe the state's school funding system has changed since it was found unconstitutional in 2002. That statement, no doubt, caused heartburn to some state officials who have quietly, and in some cases blatantly, ignored the Court's decisions in DeRolph.

In a November 24 Columbus Dispatch column by Darrel Rowland, Justice Paul E. Pfeifer, in response to O'Connor's earlier pronouncement, is quoted, "It was a jaw dropper, because I said, 'Damn, I guess we guessed wrong.'" Possibly Justice O'Conner would have favored "the complete systematic overhaul" of the school funding system when first seated on the Court in 2003.

Perhaps it is time to once again challenge the constitutionality of school funding in Ohio. It is absolutely clear that the school funding system has not undergone a complete systematic overhaul, i.e. less dependence on property tax in the school funding formula and a formula based on the needs of students and the components of a high quality education. Typically, Ohioans are shocked when they learn that their elected officials continue to snub the Court's order to reduce reliance on property tax and to fix the system.

The current state budget (HB 59) further exacerbates the property tax issue by shifting the overall school funding burden toward property taxes and then compounding the shift by the elimination of the 12 ½ % state payment of property tax on new levies.

William Phillis

Ohio E & A

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Column by U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs: Washington Doesn’t Like Me Very Much

Posted: October 18, 2013 4:38 PM

Although the government shutdown has ended, the fight for stability in Washington still carries on. The passage of the Senate Amendment to raise the debt ceiling sent a message to the American people: The status quo is acceptable. I voted against the Senate amendment because it does not address our country’s reckless spending.

Passing a bill to raise the debt ceiling every time the country comes close to the limit is not the answer. Instead, we must face the problems that our country is dealing with, rather than kick the can down the road. Eventually raising the debt ceiling without addressing our spending issues would result in real default and completely diminish the full faith and credit of the United States.

The President puts our country’s credit in peril by not facing our spending problem head on.

By continuing to raise the debt ceiling without cutting spending or enacting necessary reforms, we will never change the current path that our country is on. I voted against this bill after much consideration and consultation with hundreds of constituents. Deciding to vote against the amendment was not the popular choice by many of my colleagues, but it was the right thing to do for the American people.

During the shutdown the House passed over fourteen bills that would reopen the government piece by piece along with four additional bills that would fully fund the government by enacting policies to fix our underlying problems that are driving our deficit spending and economic stagnation. If we continue to follow this destructive path, we will have left a country in deep economic trouble for generations to come.

It is frustrating to see the manufactured crises that arise every few months that continually hold ransom over the American people in the way that the President and Harry Reid have done in the past. Republicans and Democrats may disagree on what is best for the country, but I hope that in the months to come we will be able to come together in a timely fashion to pass legislation that will improve our future regarding our economy and bring back stability to American businesses. We are tired of Washington’s “business as usual” attitude and we cannot get people back to work if the Senate continues to stall jobs bills for political gain.

I join many of you who are disappointed with the “Washington Games” that many of my colleagues engage in over and over again. It is long past the time to stop the partisan gridlock and political games that seem to drive these stopgap deals, that occur every few months. Washington may not approve of my approach, but I will continue to fight for the people of Ohio and support policies that will address our underlying spending problems that continue to weigh on our already stagnate economy.

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Release: House Policy and Legislative Oversight Committee Releases Findings of Second Hearing on Affordable, Reliable Electricity

Posted: October 18, 2013 4:36 PM

COLUMBUS – State Representative Mike Dovilla (R-Berea), chairman of the Ohio House Committee on Policy and Legislative Oversight, this week convened the second in a series of hearings on affordable, reliable electricity to protect Ohio consumers. Following the hearing, Chairman Dovilla released the following statement and key findings of the committee:

“Our committee extended an open invitation to public officials, private companies, trade associations, and research institutes to discuss Ohio’s energy infrastructure, energy efficiency, advanced nuclear and natural gas power generation, and the role of renewables such as wind and solar in order for our state to enact a sound energy policy.

“As many witnesses testified, Ohio will be facing significant challenges in meeting the electricity needs of our state’s residents if coal-fired power generation is taken offline as scheduled due to regulations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. There was unanimous agreement that all fuel sources need to be part of our electricity mix in order to sustain Ohio’s economic recovery and ensure affordable, reliable electricity.

Key points from testimony included the following:

           The retirement of coal-fired electricity generation units will have a very significant impact on the ability of electric utilities and cooperatives to provide affordable reliable energy to Ohio - particularly when these retirements are coming at the same time as population and electricity demand increases;

           The combination of increased electricity demand and reduced coal-fired generation will increase Ohio's electricity bills by as much as 28.35 percent;

           Ohio needs a balanced approach where coal, natural gas and nuclear, along with renewable resources, can meet Ohio's electricity demand without forcing the state to become overly reliant on any one fuel source. An unbalanced dependence could leave us vulnerable to rapid price fluctuations due to changes in commodity prices;

           Unfortunately, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations - by forcing the premature shutdown of coal-fired power plants - will make it extremely difficult for states like Ohio to develop diverse portfolios that incorporate resources unique and abundant to a specific geographical area;

           America’s Natural Gas Alliance testified that the natural gas industry is ready to provide significant supplies of low-cost natural gas for electricity generation, but noted that the rules governing new capacity in the PJM Interconnection need to be revised to allow for somewhat longer commitments to new generating capacity which could significantly stimulate investment in new generation;

           According to the Electric Policy Research Institute, to ensure grid stability, power generated from renewable resources must be effectively deployed and integrated. This places greater importance on base load generation;

           Carbon capture storage is not commercially viable today as a realistic option to meet proposed EPA regulations for power plants, which will ultimately create an imbalance in power generation;

           One of the most cost-effective solutions to replace retiring coal-fired power generation in Ohio may be improving energy efficiency requirements supplemented with increasing wind and natural gas power production;

           The Nuclear Energy Institute testified that experience with deregulated markets, such as the case in Ohio, suggests that market price signals are not sufficient to stimulate investment in new generating capacity, or to support continued operation of existing capacity; and

           The unavailability of production sources for next generation baseload power system components is the most serious impediment for adapting Nuclear Energy Enabling Technologies and Advanced UltraSuperCritical Clean Coal technologies in Ohio according to Energy Industries of Ohio.

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House GOP Protest On Medicaid Expansion

Posted: October 17, 2013 8:29 AM

From the Ohio House of Representatives Journal:

CLERK'S NOTATION

A PROTEST

We, the undersigned members of the Ohio House of Representatives, hereby protest the filing of a controlling board request by the Director of Medicaid, John McCarthy, seeking to appropriate additional funds specifically not appropriated in the prevailing appropriation act of the 130th General Assembly, Amended Substitute House Bill 59.

Specifically, the request seeks to expand Medicaid by making an "appropriation [that] would provide Medicaid coverage to adults without dependent children between 0%-138% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) and parents otherwise not covered by current Medicaid eligibility levels up to 138% FPL." (emphasis added). However, the request does not carry out the clear intent of the General Assembly as indicated in its passage of Am. Sub. House Bill 59 and should be denied.

Pursuant to R.C. 127.17, "[t]he controlling board shall take no action which does not carry out the legislative intent of the general assembly regarding program goals and levels of support of state agencies as expressed in the prevailing appropriation acts of the general assembly." In State ex rel. Meshel v. Keip, 66 Ohio St. 2d379 (1981), the Ohio Supreme Court applied R.C. 127.17 to declare a nullity an action by the Controlling Board that was contrary to the clear intent of the General Assembly.

Here, the clear intent of the Ohio General Assembly not to appropriate the funds contained in the request was expressed in its prevailing appropriation act, Am. Sub. HB 59:

1) The General Assembly included the following prohibition in Am. Sub HB 59: "The medicaid program shall not cover the group in the "Social Security Act," section 1902(a)(10)(A)(i)(VIII)." (emphasis added). The requested appropriation seeks "[t]o cover individuals listed under Section 1902(a)(10)(A)(i)(VIII) of the Social Security Act" (emphasis added);

2) The General Assembly added over $400M in additional Medicaid funding to Am. Sub. HB 59 as a result of removing from the budget the same appropriation currently being requested by the Director of Medicaid;

3) The General Assembly did not appropriate any funds "[t]o cover individuals listed under Section 1902(a)(10)(A)(i)(VIII) of the Social Security Act," even though estimated state costs to do so are $13 to $22M.

The Ohio Constitution grants legislative authority solely to the Ohio General Assembly, an authority which cannot be delegated. This request is thinly-veiled legislation creating new eligibility levels and funding levels for Medicaid. In fact, the request itself admits as much.

Our protest is not about the merits or lack of merit in expanding Medicaid.

Our protest goes to the fundamental form of government upon which our country was founded-a Republic of checks and balances and separation of powers. The General Assembly is a co-equal branch of government that made its intent abundantly clear. The controlling board request attempts to subvert that intent, and is contrary to the Ohio Constitution and current statutory law.

For all these reasons, we protest the filing of the above described controlling board request.

William G. Batchelder, 69th District

Matt Huffman, 4th District

John Adams, 85th District

Cheryl L. Grossman, 23rd District

Jim Buchy, 84th District

Lou Terhar, 30th District

Jim Butler, 41st District

Louis W. Blessing III, 29th District

Kristina Roegner, 37th District

Michael E. Henne, 40th District

Terry Blair, 42nd District

Wes Retherford, 51st District

Margaret K. Conditt, 52nd District

John Becker, 65th District

Doug Green, 66th District

Margaret Ann Ruhl, 68th District

Bill Hayes, 72nd District

Tony Burkley, 82nd District

Robert Cole Sprague, 83rd District

Andy Thompson, 95th District

Ron Amstutz, 1st District

Tim Derickson, 53rd District

Rick Perales, 73rd District

Terry Boose, 58th District

Jeffrey A. McClain, 87th District

Ronald Maag, 62nd District

Mark Romanchuk, 2nd District

Peter Beck, 54th District

Cliff Rosenberger, 91st District

Ron Hood, 78th District

Matt Lynch, 76th District

Christina Hagan, 50th District

Dave Hall, 70th District

Andrew Brenner, 67th District

Marilyn Slaby, 38th District

Peter Stautberg, 27th District

Rex Damschroder, 88th District

Lynn R. Wachtmann, 81st District

Ron Young, 61st District

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Column from School Funding Coalition: Charter School Changes Needed

Posted: October 17, 2013 8:23 AM

The laws regarding charter school authorizers are seriously flawed and should be repealed

Ohio is one of two states which allow non-profit 501c3 organizations to authorize charter schools. A nonprofit organization that has education as one of its missions and has assets in the amount of at least $500,000 can be commissioned to authorize charter schools in Ohio.

Undeniably, the state has the constitutional obligation to secure a thorough and efficient system of public common schools. For the state to dole out part of that obligation to unelected private groups that may have a passing interest in some kind of education and a half million dollars in assets constitutes a breach of state responsibility. No meaningful thoroughness and efficiency is inherent in this type of state policy. In the current Ohio charter school landscape, what public agency actually monitors authorizers to determine if they have a process in place to ensure that their charter schools are operating to the constitutional standard of thorough and efficient? None!

The citizens of Ohio in 1912 adopted a constitutional provision to require the state to make provision for the organization, administration and control of the public school system. The concept of commissioning non-profit authorizers of charter schools is counter to the fulfillment of this constitutional provision.

The 1912 amendment was adopted in the context of a public school system comprised of more than 3,500 districts and over 10,000 one-room school buildings. There was an obvious need for state involvement in school district organization, administration and control. The charter school movement flies in the face of this 1912 amendment.

Another 1912 constitutional amendment provided for the office of Superintendent of Public Instruction to replace the office of State Commissioner of Common Schools. Words have meaning. Public instruction means that the public will provide instruction for the people (youth). The concept of private groups authorizing private schools (charter schools) does not fit the public instruction frame of reference of the 1912 amendment.

In 1953 Ohioans adopted a constitutional provision to establish a State Board of Education and Superintendent of Public Instruction appointed by the Board. The original elected State Board was assigned significant responsibilities in leading, rulemaking, monitoring, regulating and supervising the components of the public education system. Even though the state board lost its independence by the addition of appointed board members in the 1990s, it continues to function as a public body in full view of the citizens.

Private authorizers, which are to some extent the "state board" for their charter schools, operate essentially out of public view and, most assuredly, have no place in the state's common school system as provided for in the Ohio Constitution.

How should this substantial statutory debacle be corrected? The law should be changed to allow only public bodies to authorize charter schools. Citizens should not have to hunt in the weeds to find out who is doing the public's business. Charter school authorizers should have no legal standing in the state's common school system as provided for in the Ohio Constitution.

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Letter: Ohio Business Roundtable Urges Lawmakers To Uphold Common Core

Posted: October 9, 2013 5:11 PM

Dear Chairman Stebelton:

For twenty years since our founding, education has been the Ohio Business Roundtable’s transcending stake in the ground for a healthy economy. Together with Ohio lawmakers, we have worked hard to better prepare our children to succeed in college, career and the real world.

Despite our progress, however, today 41 percent of our high school graduates who attend Ohio public colleges and universities require remediation and, even more alarming, more than one in five of our grads do not even meet the minimum academic standard required for Army enlistment, as measured by the Armed Forces Qualification Test. This is not acceptable if we truly want our children to succeed. This is not acceptable if we are going to continue growing our economy – consider the fact that by 2020, almost 60 percent of Ohio’s jobs will require some form of postsecondary training, degree or certification.

The basis of education improvement is establishing higher standards. We all believe in human potential and there is no greater good than helping our children set goals beyond what they believe they can achieve. Ohio’s new learning standards, which embed the Common Core for English and math, deliver what parents expect and students deserve. I have read the new standards from cover to cover. They are common sense and reasonable and they afford local control and flexibility. There is not a single thing in them that we wouldn’t want our children to know.

To Ohio business leaders, it is dismaying that a controversy has suddenly arisen about the Common Core, because the standards it recommends are so basic to life – and success – in America, and it is equally clear that kids who fail to obtain this knowledge will not be able to participate fully in our economy or in our democratic society.

Yet, there is a bill pending in your committee that would undo the Common Core. That bill is just a recipe for delay at a time when we need to move forward, not backward. Ohio overwhelmingly adopted and began implementing the Common Core three years ago as part of its new learning standards. Teachers and administrators vigorously support these standards and are working hard to implement them. Ohio must not go backwards, losing time and wasting tax dollars that have gone into readying our schools to produce improved results for students. I respectfully request that you and your committee defeat or end consideration of this bill, thereby reaffirming Ohio’s commitment to better education and a brighter future for our kids.

Thank you and we stand ready to continue working with you and your colleagues.

Sincerely,

Richard A. Stoff

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Release: ProgressOhio Calls on Batchelder, House To Denounce Becker Impeachment Bill And Censure Rep. Becker

Posted: October 9, 2013 5:08 PM

COLUMBUS – Citing extreme inappropriate use of office, ProgressOhio today called on Ohio House Speaker Bill Batchelder to publicly denounce and begin censure proceedings on State Representative John Becker.

Becker announced last month that he was introducing a House Concurrent Resolution to impeach federal judge Tim Black over a decision he made in the case of a gay couple who wish to be buried together in a family cemetery plot.

“As a former judge and spouse of a federal judge, Speaker Batchelder knows how extreme and inappropriate Rep. Becker’s proposal is. The chilling effect it could cause on the judicial branch of government betrays the idea of seperation of powers. He should speak loudly and clearly in denouncing Rep. Becker’s legislation,” said Brian Rothenberg, Executive Director of ProgressOhio.

In July, John Arthur and James Obergefell married in Maryland. They then asked the court to recognize their marriage and allow for their burial in a family plot that is deeded to family members.

“It's inhuman and unconscionable of Rep. Becker to use his culture war mentality to reach out and attempt to deny the burial of a loving committed couple", said Rothenberg. “Mr. Becker in his co-sponsorship letter to legislators actually cited Judge Black’s 'personal political bias' conveniently ignoring recent United State Supreme Court decisions on the matter.

“Mr. Becker should be censured for using his office to threaten to impeach a Judge over his own personal bias. Enough is enough with this wingnut mentality.”

Black is a federal district judge in the Southern District of Ohio and only Congress could carryout impeachment proceedings. Rep. Becker’s legislation would only serve to incite his personal animosity and bigotry and attempt to chill the judiciary.

“At what point does Speaker Batchelder break his silence on the matter and send a clear message through censure proceedings that decorum will be restored in Ohio’s House?”

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Release: Commission Accepting Applications for Security Grants

Posted: October 9, 2013 5:06 PM

October 9, 2013 (Columbus) – The Ohio School Facilities Commission today began accepting grant applications for the recently enacted School Security Grant Program.

The program, established in H.B. 59, the recently passed state budget bill, authorizes OSFC to reimburse public schools, including community schools, for school security expenditures including:

--Up to $2,000 for one emergency communications system or Multi‐ Agency Radio Communications System

(MARCS) unit per eligible school building; and

--Up to $5,000 for costs incurred with a purchase of a security entrance system consisting of a security camera,

--an intercom, and remote access equipment for one entrance per eligible school building.

Eligible school districts received an email invitation to apply for the security grant program. Applications are being administered through an online application system in order to maximize efficiency in the approval process. The program will be funded by a $12 million re‐ appropriation from the Commission’s current capital allocation.

OSFC Executive Director Richard Hickman said the program provides a method for school districts to address the crucial needs of communicating with first responders in times of emergency and with reducing unsecured access points in schools. “While no single program can completely address this critical issue, the School Security Grant

Program will assist districts across the state in their security efforts,” Hickman said. “We welcome the opportunity to work with Ohio schools in this matter.”

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Release: Proposal Would Ensure WIC for Ohioans if Shutdown Continues

Posted: October 8, 2013 6:30 PM

Authorizes use of state surplus to provide food, nutrition benefits for children and pregnant mothers

COLUMBUS- Today, Rep. Dan Ramos (D-Lorain), Rep. John Rogers (D-Mentor-on-the Lake) and Rep. Nickie J. Antonio (D-Lakewood) introduced legislation that would authorize the state to temporarily fund the Women, Infant and Children program (WIC) if the federal government shutdown continues to jeopardize the stability of the safety net program. Over 260,000 Ohio women and children are served by the WIC program each year through supplemental foods, healthcare referrals and nutrition education.

“We cannot simply stand by and let our state’s most vulnerable citizens suffer while we allow radicals in the Tea Party to hold our nation hostage. Poor children should not be made to pay with empty bellies for the reprehensible lack of action by an extreme faction of one party in the U.S. House,” said Rep. Ramos. “We have a moral obligation to step in if extremists in Congress can’t put politics aside to do the right thing.

The Democratic proposal would authorize the Governor to disburse Budget Surplus Funds to the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) to prop up the WIC program if the shutdown drags on. The legislation would only become effective if the shutdown results in a programmatic funding loss for ODH. Up to $25 million in state funding could be directed to WIC under the bill, which includes an emergency clause to forego the 90-day waiting before it becomes law.

“We are calling on Governor Kasich and our colleagues in the General Assembly to authorize state funding for the WIC program if need be, so that no one goes hungry,” said Rep. Rogers. “People’s lives depend on it. I hope that my colleagues and the Governor show compassion for those in need during these hard economic times by passing this bill.”

“Women and children are once again collateral damage as political war wages with the federal government shutdown,” added. Rep. Antonio. “This resolution calls for a responsible action to provide needed nutritional safety net provisions-this appropriation would transcend partisan politics.”

Ohio ranks 48th in the nation for infant mortality rates, and WIC is helping to improve these alarming statistics by reducing the incidence of low birth weight, and providing infants and children with a healthy start in life by improving poor or inadequate diets. WIC provides specific nutritional supplements such as milk, cereal, cheese, fruits and vegetables to babies, pregnant women, women breastfeeding, and children under 5 who fall under 185% of the Federal Poverty Level.

This bill has six co-sponsors, Rep. Robert F. Hagan (D-Youngstown), Rep. Michael Sheehy (D-Oregon), Rep. Denise Driehaus (D-Cincinnati), Rep. Nickie J. Antonio (D-Lakewood) and Rep. Nick Barborak (D-Lisbon). To date, no Republicans have signed on to this legislation.

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Release: NeighborWorks Collaborative of Ohio Contributes $1.4 Billion to Ohio’s Economy

Posted: October 8, 2013 6:28 PM

Study shows significant economic benefit for public and private investment in affordable housing programs

COLUMBUS, OHIO - October 8, 2013 - Member organizations of the NeighborWorks Collaborative of Ohio (NCO) have contributed more than $1.4 billion to Ohio’s economy over a five year period, a recent study indicated. The independent study was conducted by New England Market Research and released today. From 2008 – 2012, NCO member organizations significantly impacted local and regional economies and generated $516 million of income, $176 million in tax revenue and sustained over 2,000 jobs annually in the state of Ohio.

“A good home is the foundation for many of the positive things that happen in our lives, whether it’s a quality education, good health or financial prosperity. This study shows us the economic good that comes from ensuring Ohioans have stable, affordable housing opportunities and have the tools they need to be successful in their housing”, said Rick Williams, Chair of the Collaborative. “The dollars invested in NCO and its members create a significant return that is in the best interest of individuals, neighborhoods and businesses throughout Ohio.”

The study analyzed several different kinds of economic impacts including direct and indirect effects that NCO member activities had on the various business sectors. Tax revenue, sustained employment and contribution to Ohio labor income were also considered. Economic activities factored into the study included physical construction of affordable housing, community development, and counseling and educational programs such as Home Buyer Education and Foreclosure Prevention. The study also indicated NCO was able to leverage $9 for every $1 received in public and private funding, a significantly higher amount than comparative industry benchmarks.

NCO is a statewide, nonprofit collaboration of nine Ohio organizations focused on creating sustainable and affordable housing for Ohioans. The organizations, East Akron Neighborhood Development Corporation (Akron), Home Ownership Center of Greater Cincinnati (Cincinnati), Neighborhood Housing Services of Greater Cleveland (Cleveland), Homeport (Columbus), Neighborhood Housing Services of Hamilton (Hamilton), Neighborhood Development Services (Ravenna), Neighborhood Housing Partnership of Greater Springfield (Springfield), NeighborWorks Toledo Region (Toledo) and St. Mary Development Corporation (Dayton) together offer services to all regions of the state. Over 70,000 individuals and families have benefited from services provided by NeighborWorks since 2006. NCO member organizations provide services and programs such as homebuyer education, foreclosure prevention, financial literacy and affordable rental housing and homes for sale. Each member organization is a non-profit affiliated with NeighborWorks America. For more information, please visit www.ohionwc.org.

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Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor Column: Name Game Does Disservice to Ohio Voters

Posted: October 8, 2013 6:27 PM

In 1976, the Toledo Blade, fed up with the “name game” in Ohio judicial campaigns, endorsed A. William Sweeney over incumbent William B. Brown for the Ohio Supreme Court for no reason other than the candidate’s last name.

“Well, voters must choose either the Brown or the Sweeney,” the newspaper’s editorial board wrote. “We give a nod to the latter solely on the grounds that there already are two Browns sitting on the high court, whereas there are no Sweeneys. It is, we readily grant, a poor basis for picking a Supreme Court justice, but it’s no more stupid than the selection system which sets up such ridiculous predicaments.”

Selecting our judges is way too important to be left to the happenstance of ancestry and marriage. So, I have proposed eight ideas for strengthening judicial elections in Ohio. You can read the plan and offer your comments online at OhioCourts2013.org.

We are fortunate in Ohio to have an exceptional bench of talented and hard working judges administering justice competently and impartially. But the public does not always see it that way. The public, based on what polling tells us, believes that judges are influenced by politics, donations, and other considerations. If we claim a candidate’s politics has no place in the courtroom, but then label candidates as either Republican or Democrat, we send a confusing message and undermine public confidence.

We can do better. Voters have made it clear time and again that they will never relinquish their right to vote for judges, so my plan starts with the assumption that we have judicial elections and asks, how can we make them better?

The name game is just one symptom of the overall problem with judicial elections in Ohio. Voters feel deprived of quality information about candidates and are therefore not fully engaged. Lacking quality information, voters either don’t participate (on average even among voters who show up at the polls, more than 25 percent do not cast a ballot in judicial contests) or they rely on superficial information like the candidate’s name.

In addition to last names, perhaps the second most powerful cue that voters often rely on is whether the candidate is a Democrat or a Republican. This is actually worse than last name because if there’s anything that should not matter on the bench it is party affiliation.

The current system places party affiliation on the ballot in the primary but not in the general election. It was instituted in 1911 as a political compromise and in response to the 19th Century abuses where political parties and their bosses totally dominated Ohio elections, including elections for judge.

Some have recently argued that we should go back to the 19th century and place party affiliation on the ballot for the general election.

Consider this: You’re standing before a judge who will decide your fate on a traffic violation, your divorce settlement, the custody of your children, or the estate of your parents. Do you care if the judge is a Democrat or a Republican? Do you want the judge to bring his or her political beliefs to these life-changing decision? Should the judge’s political affiliation have anything at all to do with judging?

Absolutely not.

So, my proposal includes a provision for eliminating party affiliation from the ballot entirely as is the case in 14 other states with competitive elections. It is part of a far-reaching plan that contains a number of suggestions for strengthening judicial elections in Ohio.

Among my other ideas: Should Ohio join the other states that have a formal, nonpartisan system for recommending nominees to the governor to fill judicial vacancies? Should appointments to the Ohio Supreme Court require the advice and consent of the Ohio Senate? Should Ohio increase the basic qualifications for serving as a judge? Should Ohio increase the length of judges’ terms?

 

I pose these ideas as questions because I do not profess to have all the answers. I am interested in leading a conversation and reaching a consensus on what we can do to strengthen judicial elections in Ohio. I hope you will join me in this important work by visiting www.OhioCourts2013.org today and sharing your thoughts.

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Release: Thank-You Celebration for Senator Finan scheduled for October 16

Posted: October 2, 2013 10:19 AM

(Columbus, OH) – The Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board (CSRAB) will host a “Thank-You Celebration” for the agency’s retiring Chairman, Senator Richard H. Finan, Wednesday, October 16 from 4-6 p.m. A short program is scheduled for 5 p.m. in the Ohio Statehouse Atrium. The event is free and open to the public.

Established in 1988, by the 117th Ohio General Assembly (OGA), CSRAB managed the massive $132 million restoration of the Ohio Statehouse and Capitol Square. With completion of the restoration in 1996, CSRAB transitioned from construction manager to building authority. CSRAB is charged with “maintaining the historic character of the Statehouse and Capitol Square while providing for the health, safety and convenience of those who work in and visit the complex.”

For forty years, Senator Richard H. Finan has dedicated his life to serving his fellow Ohioan’s in a variety of positions at the state level. Senator Finan was first elected to the Ohio House of Representatives in 1973, having previously served as Mayor of Evendale. He joined the Ohio Senate in 1978 and was elected the body’s president in 1997 serving through 2002. During his early years in the OGA Finan found the condition of the Ohio Statehouse wanting. The original Greek Revival edifice was showing signs of age and the interior had been neglected since the mid 1950’s. “I had a fire chief from Evendale come visit shortly after I started in the House. He found 65 code violations in a short walk from the parking garage to my office in the basement of the Statehouse, the place was a firetrap,” Finan explained in a 2011 interview with reporter Bill Cohen.

Under the leadership of Finan, the Capitol Square restoration master plan began in October 1989. The Senate Building and Atrium restoration projects were completed in 1993. The Ohio Statehouse became the focus of the project in 1993 and was completed three years later.

Throughout the restoration, Senator Finan pushed for historical accuracy whenever possible. His belief in restoring the Ohio Statehouse to its 1861 glory wasn’t always easy or inexpensive. The Senator educated skeptics on the importance of historical accuracy and outlasted the detractors and political winds of the time. Today visitors can see a reproduction of the 1849 stained-glass Seal of Ohio skylight, located in the Rotunda oculus. William Powell's Perry's Victory, the first piece of artwork commissioned for the Statehouse, was returned to its original location in the Rotunda.

As Chairman of the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board, Richard Finan championed the history, preservation and functionality of the Ohio Statehouse. He served as a true leader and interpreter of Statehouse history for legislators, dignitaries and guests. “There is no doubt in my mind that without the vision, passion and leadership of Senator Richard H. Finan, the Ohio Statehouse would not be the architectural jewel it is today,” said William Carleton, executive director of the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board. “As the only chair this agency has known Senator Finan has been a steadfast and passionate advocate for this magnificent building.”

Because of Senator Finan’s dedication to educating young people about Ohio history and the legislative process, he led the way to create a museum and education center on the Statehouse’s ground floor. Featuring educational displays and hands-on computer kiosks, this area serves nearly 80,000 tour visitors each year, inspiring the next generation of public servants.

Please, join us in celebration of Senator Richard H. Finan’s forty years of service to the State of Ohio, Wednesday, October, 16 from 4-6 p.m. in the Statehouse Atrium. Messages of congratulations and thanks should be sent to the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board prior to the event. Mail to:

Senator Finan Thank You

Ohio Statehouse

1 Capitol Square

Columbus, OH 43215

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Column: Speaker Boehner on Health Care & Government Shutdown

Posted: October 1, 2013 1:46 PM

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today (Oct. 1), Congressman John Boehner (R-West Chester) released the following column discussing House Republicans’ efforts to keep the government open and protect all Americans from ObamaCare:

“As I travel around our district and the country, I hear from Americans who are concerned about their jobs and health care costs. One of the reasons is the president’s health care law.

“Already, ObamaCare is driving up costs and nobody knows what the rules are. Here in Ohio individual premiums are expected to spike 88 percent for individuals, and I continue to hear from employers who are scared to death to hire new employees. Others, like Kroger foods, have announced they are dropping coverage.

“Many are speaking out. The Dayton Daily News reports local small businesses – including James Lagos of Lagos & Lagos, a Springfield property management company – are talking about the skyrocketing costs they’re facing under ObamaCare.

“‘I thought I was always part of the solution by providing this benefit to my employees,’ Lagos told the Daily News. ‘Now my premiums are going to go up because of the actions of the federal government, and that hurts me.’

“In a separate report, WDTN-Dayton spoke with small businesses voicing similar concerns.

“‘Well the biggest thing I’ve learned about the Affordable Care Act is it’s certainly not affordable,’ Steve Staub, owner of Staub Manufacturing, said. Facing rate hikes of up to nearly 20 percent, Staub told WDTN he was informed by his insurance company that the increases are ‘strictly to get ready for Obamacare.’

“Clearly this law is not ready for prime time. In fact, a recent non-partisan Congressional Research Service study determined that ObamaCare has missed half of its legal deadlines.

“Even the Obama administration knows the law is hurting the economy and making it harder for businesses to hire. This past summer, the president admitted as much when he decided to give big businesses an exemption from the law’s employer mandate altogether.

“This was an important step, but it didn’t go nearly far enough. It left families and individuals on the hook. That’s why, in the House, Republicans have been working to protect all Americans from this train wreck of a law.

“With more of the law scheduled to go into effect on October 1 and a government funding deadline looming, House Republicans spent much of the past few weeks fighting to stop this law from exacting further harm on our economy.

“In recent days we’ve passed measure after measure to keep the government up and running while defunding, dismantling and delaying the law. Sadly, at every turn Senate Democrats refused to work with us. They even rejected a simple bill to delay the individual mandate and get rid of the exemption for Members of Congress.

“How do we give a break to big businesses and others, and yet stick families and individuals with a bill that they don’t want and a bill that they can’t afford?

“That’s what this fight is all about. It’s a basic matter of fairness.

“So late Monday night, we passed one additional measure in an effort to resolve our differences with Senate Democrats. We moved to go to conference committee – the process our Founders set up to resolve differences between the House and Senate.

“Senate Democrats still insist they won’t negotiate, but this isn’t about us. It’s about treating the American people the way we would want to be treated.

“I can’t tell you how things will get sorted out in the days ahead, but I do know this: House Republicans are committed to keeping the government open and ensuring basic fairness for all Americans under ObamaCare. It will be up to Senate Democrats to earn their paychecks, appoint conferees and get to work.”

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Release: DeWine, 39 Attorneys General Urge FDA to Adopt E-Cigarette Regulations

Posted: September 24, 2013 2:13 PM

(COLUMBUS, OH)—Ohio Attorney General DeWine today urged the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to issue proposed regulations on electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes. The bipartisan letter to the FDA was issued jointly with Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley and was co-signed by attorneys general from 38 additional states and territories.

“Unlike traditional tobacco products, there are no federal age restrictions that would prevent children from obtaining e-cigarettes, nor are there any advertising restrictions,” DeWine wrote in his letter. “We ask the FDA to move quickly to ensure that all tobacco products are tested and regulated to ensure that companies do not continue to sell or advertise to our nation’s youth.”

DeWine’s letter urges the urges the FDA to take all available measures to regulate e-cigarettes as “tobacco products” under the Tobacco Control Act. E-cigarettes, an increasingly widespread product whose popularity is growing rapidly among both youth and adults, are battery operated products that heat liquid nicotine, derived from tobacco plants, into a vapor that is inhaled by the user.

DeWine’s letter expresses concern that e-cigarette manufacturers are using marketing tactics similar to those tobacco companies used in the past to attract new smokers. Celebrity endorsements, television advertising, cartoons, fruit flavors, attractive packaging and cheap prices all serve to encourage youth consumption of these dangerous products. Advertisements also imply that e-cigarettes are a safe alternative to smoking, when, in fact, nicotine is highly addictive, the health effects of e-cigarettes have not been adequately studied, and the ingredients are not regulated and may still contain carcinogens.

This is the first letter DeWine has co-authored to become National Association of Attorneys General policy, which requires the signatures of 36 attorneys general. In addition to Ohio and Massachusetts, the letter to the FDA was signed by the attorneys general of Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virgin Islands, Washington, and Wyoming.

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Release: Sen. Turner, Rep. Clyde Renew Call for Motor Voter Study

Posted: September 24, 2013 2:12 PM

On National Voter Registration Day, legislators push for better compliance in Ohio

COLUMBUS—Today, State Senator Nina Turner (D-Cleveland) and State Representative Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) marked National Voter Registration Day by calling on their colleagues in the legislature to take up and pass Senate Bill 146 and House Bill 214. The legislation would create a bi-partisan study committee to determine how to improve the state’s compliance with the National Voter Registration Act, or Motor Voter law, and increase training requirements for BMV employees.

“It is clear that the vision of the National Voter Registration Act has not been realized in Ohio,” said Senator Turner. “From lackluster registrations and updates at state agencies to data-sharing glitches, we have some serious problems that deserve the attention of our state’s elected leaders.”

Just days before the primary election in May, it was discovered that the secretary of state had again failed to send thousands of voter registration updates to local boards of elections—a repeat of the situation that unfolded before the general election in November 2012.

In Ohio, just 16.4 percent of the state’s registrations at public agencies come through BMVs, compared to 80.5 percent in Pennsylvania and 87.1 percent in Michigan. Moreover, according to a recent report by the Northeast Ohio Voter Advocates, the number of voter registrations occurring at Ohio’s public assistance agencies has fallen 45 percent since the November election.

“Ohio voters deserve better than the current non-compliance with this important federal law,” Rep. Clyde said. “We must study and fix the problems we face in complying with the Motor Voter law to ensure that Ohio voters’ rights are protected.”

Senate Bill 146 and House Bill 214 have been referred to committee in their respective chambers, but have not yet received hearings.

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Release: Senator Gentile Strongly Opposes Closing of Mine Safety Training Center

Posted: September 24, 2013 2:11 PM

Calls on ODNR to keep Cadiz facility open to protect jobs & miners

Columbus- State Senator Lou Gentile (D-Steubenville) today expressed his strong opposition to closing the Jerry L. Stewart Mine Safety Training Center and called on the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to work with the Village of Cadiz to keep the facility open. ODNR Director James Zehringer recently acknowledged his agency is considering shutting down the training center and moving the existing offices to another location. ODNR has not announced plans to reconstruct a new mine training facility.

“The safety of Ohio’s coal miners should be a top priority and closing this facility would be a mistake,” said Senator Gentile. “I’ve written to Governor Kasich calling on him to direct ODNR to reconsider its plans to close the Mine Safety Training Center. This facility provides hands-on training that is incredibly important to saving lives if a disaster should strike one of Ohio’s coal mines.”

The Stewart Mine Safety Training Center was designed and built in response to the Sago mine disaster in West Virginia that left a dozen miners dead. The Cadiz facility is equipped with a training simulator that enables miners from Ohio and neighboring states to practice safety procedures outside the classroom.

“Besides the training center’s safety benefits, it represents an important economic engine in Harrison County,” said Senator Gentile. “The training center provides good jobs and helps support local businesses by bringing hundreds of coal miners to the area, many of whom stay in local hotels and eat in local restaurants.”

ODNR officials have cited potential code violations at the Cadiz facility as a reason for closing the training center. However, as Senator Gentile pointed out in a letter to Governor Kasich, “…the alleged code violations have never been raised before as a concern, despite the fact that over the past four and a half years, hundreds of miners have undergone on-site training.” Senator Gentile has stated he is willing to work with ODNR and the Village of Cadiz to address any concerns about the current building to ensure the training center remains at its current location.

Senator Gentile represents Carroll, Jefferson, Harrison, Belmont, Monroe, Noble, Washington, Meigs, and part of Athens and Vinton Counties.

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Ohio Ethics Commission And Ohio Casino Control Commission Host “Casinos And The Ohio Ethics Law” Information Sessions

Posted: September 23, 2013 2:12 PM

The Ohio Ethics Commission and the Ohio Casino Control Commission will jointly host information sessions regarding the Ohio Ethics Law as it pertains to Ohio’s casinos. The free educational sessions will be held in the four Ohio cities where casinos are located.

The sessions will offer guidance regarding the Ohio Ethics Law to those in the casino industry as well as the public officials and employees charged with regulating Ohio’s casinos, both at the state and local level.

“Because casinos are relatively new to Ohio, it’s important for people to understand when ethical dilemmas may occur and what to do about them,” said Ohio Ethics Commission Executive Director Paul Nick. “These sessions will help both the public and private sectors to identify and avoid potential violations of Ohio’s Ethics Laws.”

The sessions will be held on the following dates:

1.         Friday, October 4, 2013

1:00 PM - 3:00 PM

Owens Community College

Perrysburg, OH

2.         Friday, October 18, 2013

10:00 AM - 12:00 PM

Cincinnati City Hall

3.         Monday, October 21, 2013

10:00 AM - 12:00 PM

Hollywood Casino, Columbus

4.         Friday October 25, 2013

10:00 AM - 12:00 PM

Cuyahoga County Justice Center

Casino personnel and public servants with regulatory authority at casinos are encouraged to attend this informative and interactive discussion.

Questions regarding the sessions can be directed to Susan Willeke at (614) 466-7090 or susan.willeke@ethics.ohio.gov

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Release: Ohio Republican Party Announces Regional Directors

Posted: September 20, 2013 2:57 PM

COLUMBUS - As part of continuing efforts to strengthen the Republican ground game, Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges announced the hiring of regional directors to oversee and implement the Ohio Republican Party's field operations.

"Our new regional directors bring a strong and diverse set of skills and experiences to the Ohio Republican Party," said Borges. "These new team members all bring a unique skill-set that will serve our Party well as we continue to build our grassroots network by engaging with voters in their communities where they live, work and worship."

Ohio Republican Party Regional Directors:

Northwest: Brian Bauman

Brian served as a member of the Ohio Victory team for the Romney Ryan ticket in 2012. He also served as an intern in Congressman Jim Jordan's office. Brian is a graduate of the University of Findlay in Findlay, Ohio, where he served as chair of the College Republicans.

West: Gregory Allison

Gregory served as a member of the Ohio Victory team for the Romney Ryan ticket in 2012. His previous political experience also includes internships with the Ohio House of Representatives and the Ohio House Republican Organizational Committee. Gregory is a graduate of Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, where he was an active member and leader with the College Republicans.

Southwest: Beth Hamad

Beth's previous experience includes Romney Ryan 2012 and Geoff Davis for Congress in 2010. She is a graduate of Northern Kentucky University in Highland Heights, Kentucky, where she served as president of the College Republicans.

Central: Jacob Witzel-McConkey

Jacob is a graduate of Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, Ohio. He worked for Mike Dovilla's successful campaign for the Ohio House of Representatives in 2010.

Northeast: Scott Kayser

Scott brings both political and small business experience to the Ohio Republican Party. He served as a field representative for Jim Renacci for Congress in 2012, and worked to reelect former Congressman Steve LaTourette in 2006. He has also owned and operated his own digital and print marketing business. Scott is a graduate of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

Southeast: Perry Alexandrides

Perry's diverse experience includes owning and operating his own small business, manufacturing and selling guitar electronics. He also previously served as district finance director for Bill Johnson for Congress in 2012. Perry is a graduate of Youngstown State University in Youngstown, Ohio.

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Leader Heard to Attend 43rd Annual Congressional Black Caucus Conference

Posted: September 20, 2013 2:49 PM

Over 70 forums will address critical challenges facing African Americans

COLUMBUS– Today, House Democratic Leader Tracy Maxwell Heard (D-Columbus) will join her federal counterparts in Washington D.C. for the 43rd annual Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s (CBC) “It Starts With You” legislative conference. Through her participation in the event, Leader Heard will be able share her thoughts with national leaders on uplifting communities of color. She joins Congressional Black Caucus President Marcia Fudge (D-Cleveland) and her own U.S. representative, Congresswoman Joyce Beatty (D-Columbus).

“I am excited by this opportunity to share my perspective as an African American state legislator with congressmen and women for all over the country,” said Leader Heard. “It is encouraging to take part in such a vibrant agenda focused on policy issues that affect our African American communities. It is imperative that we as African American representatives use our resources to continue the legacy of the caucus in speaking for people of color and vulnerable communities.”

Some events on the Leader’s itinerary include: The Joyce Beatty Luncheon on Saturday September 21st 2013 and the Congressional Black Caucus Ball on Sunday September 22nd 2013. Aside from representing the state legislature at evening functions, Leader Heard also will attend events focusing on a wide range of issues, from education to gun control reform.

Since its founding in 1971, the CBC has been a forefront in advocating for the African American community. When the voice of people of color was overlooked or muted, the CBC was there to speak on their behalf. For over 40 years, members of the CBC have been committed to utilizing all the tools and resources afforded by the government of the United States of America to ensure the fair treatment and prosperity of all persons of color, so that all may know the American Dream.

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Release: Rep. Hagan Pushes for Transparency in Oil and Gas Industry Influence

Posted: September 20, 2013 2:48 PM

Youngstown lawmaker’s proposal to require lobbyist salary disclosure

COLUMBUS– State Representative Robert F. Hagan (D-Youngstown) announced today that he will be introducing legislation to require that lobbyists report their annual salaries. The effort would render a more complete picture of the financial influence of special interests at our state’s capitol. The legislative proposal follows Common Cause Ohio’s recent “Troublesome Gap in Transparency” report that detailed oil and gas industry donations of two millions dollars to Ohio politicians in the past two years

“Two million dollars is a pretty effective means to making some new friends, but it doesn’t represent the millions more that the industry is likely spending,” said Rep. Hagan. “I just want to make sure that the public has a full understanding of the vast resources being spent to promote a specific agenda.”

In states that require lobbyists to report their salaries, the full extent of lobbying efforts is clear. In Pennsylvania, a state heavy with fracking activity, $12.7 million was reported to have been spent on lobbying efforts on behalf of the oil and gas industry. However, because Ohio’s disclosure laws do not require lobbyists to report the salaries being paid to them by their clients, only a partial picture of the money being spent is available.

Lobbyists working on behalf of oil and gas interests reported $43,000 in expenditures from 2011-2012.

“This gap in transparency is particularly troublesome when considering the vast amount of money pouring into the legislature and other state offices as a result of the shale boom,” Rep. Hagan said. “The untold money behind the lobbying efforts should give us all great concern. Ohioans deserve the complete story behind the influence peddling that goes on, especially when reasonable efforts to require chemical disclosure or to modernize the severance tax are shut down.”

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Release: Secretary Of State Husted To Speak At Presidential Commission On Election Administration

Posted: September 19, 2013 12:38 PM

COLUMBUS –Secretary of State Jon Husted will provide a testimony to the Presidential Commission on Election Administration about what’s being done in Ohio to make it easy to vote and hard to cheat. The event is Friday, September 20, 2013 at the Duke Energy Convention Center in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The Presidential Commission on Election Administration was establish by the Executive Order in March of 2013. Chaired by the former general counsels of the Obama and Romney presidential campaigns, the goal is to identify best practices in election administration and to provide recommendations to improve the voting experience. The hearing in Cincinnati represents the panel’s fifth public meeting. For more information about the Presidential Commission on Election Administration visit www.supportthevoter.gov.

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Release: House GOP Prevents Public Broadcast of Women’s Health Discussion

Posted: September 18, 2013 3:24 PM

Public access to government dictated by GOP ideology

COLUMBUS- Today, Ohio House Democrats scheduled Ohio Government Telecommunications (OGT)—the state’s public access network—to record a discussion by legislators, doctors, legal experts, women’s health advocates and Ohio women on provisions in Gov. Kasich’s budget that attack women’s health care. Participants were stunned to learn at the last minute that House Republicans ordered OGT to abandon public coverage of the event.

“Once again, House Republicans refuse to focus on critical issues pertaining to Ohio’s women, as they have attempted to block public access to meaningful discourse surrounding women’s health issues,” said House Democratic Leader Tracy Maxwell Heard (D-Columbus). “We organized this discussion because the public never had a chance to hear the likely implications of the budget bill in regards to women’s health, and the effort Republicans have put into limiting the public discussion that occurred today is shameful and discourteous. The people of Ohio and I expect much better of the House GOP than suppression of speech.”

House Democrats viewed today’s events as an opportunity to finally have an in-depth discussion on harmful healthcare policies for targeting women that were passed in the state budget at the 11th hour without public input.

“It is clear that House Republicans will stop at nothing to suppress any views they disagree with, especially when it comes to health care for Ohio women,” Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) added. “These egregious actions highlight the need for transparency in state government more than ever.”

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Column: Senate President Keith Faber

Posted: September 18, 2013 3:23 PM

Republicans and Democrats Join to Serve Those Most in Need

From the Desk of Senate President Keith Faber:

These days, most of what you hear and see about what is happening at the Statehouse in Columbus and in Washington, DC is focused on all of the disagreement, partisanship, and name-calling between our elected officials and political parties.

But I want to draw your attention to a wonderful bipartisan volunteer effort that’s taking place at the Ohio Senate.

Our staff, Republican and Democrat, has joined forces to create The Emma Project, a community service program to meet the needs of our fellow Ohioans. The Emma Project was named for a Columbus woman who provided lodging and a warm meal for travelers to the Ohio Statehouse back in the 1800s.

Last week, as we remembered September 11th, The Emma Project participated in a National Day of Service. Staff members spent their day at the Gladden Community House in Franklinton, a neighborhood in Columbus, to hand out groceries and produce to residents of that community.

Thank you to HandsOn Central Ohio, The Gladden Community House and the Mid-Ohio Food Bank for making this service project possible. Most importantly, I’m so proud of the staff at the Ohio Senate, Republican and Democrat, who take their responsibility to serve their fellow Ohioans beyond the walls of the Statehouse.

Video link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SeHQv9QsW1o&feature=youtu.be

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Release: State Rep. Dan Ramos Introduces Legislation to Require Broadcasting of House Committee Hearings

Posted: September 11, 2013 2:16 PM

Ohioans deserve more government transparency and accountability

COLUMBUS – State Rep. Dan Ramos (D-Lorain) introduced legislation today in an effort to increase government transparency and accessibility by requiring the broadcasting of all Ohio House of Representatives legislative hearings.

The legislation, which has support from members on both sides of the aisle, would require that every standing committee and subcommittee be broadcast and made available to the public. Currently, there are 23 total committees and subcommittees that would fall under the requirements of the proposed law. These panels debate, cast votes on, and make recommendations to the full House regarding proposed legislation on topics such as healthcare, education, economic development, labor rights, veteran’s services, transportation and public safety, among other issues.

“Ensuring transparency in and accessibility to government is one of the primary responsibilities we have as elected officials to the taxpayers across this state,” said Rep. Ramos. “Unfortunately, not everyone is able to travel to Columbus the day of a legislative hearing to witness the testimony that takes place in our Statehouse, but Ohioans still deserve access to their state government.”

Currently, the Ohio House broadcasts full voting sessions on the Ohio Channel. As part of House policy, these broadcasts are made available live on the internet for the public’s convenience and the online streams are then archived and can be viewed anytime simply by going to the Ohio Channel’s website. Earlier this year, the House made live broadcasts of the state budget committee hearings available both on television and online.

“As legislators, we shouldn’t be picking and choosing which committees are broadcast,” said Rep. Ramos. “After the success of broadcasting the Finance Committee’s work this spring, I feel it is time we act more consistently by making all legislative hearings more readily accessible.”

The equipment required to broadcast committee hearings was purchased during a prior General Assembly. However, official House policy was never updated to require the broadcasting of committee hearings. Since the equipment was purchased, it has remained mostly unused and in state storage. As a result of the equipment having already been purchased and because the Ohio Channel staff infrastructure already exists to broadcast House voting sessions, there would be no anticipated additional cost to taxpayers to make this service available.

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Text Of President Barack Obama’s 9/11 Speech at the Pentagon

Posted: September 11, 2013 2:15 PM

From Scripture, we learn of the miracle of restoration. “You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again. From the depths of the earth you will bring me up again. You will increase my greatness and comfort me again.”

Secretary Hagel, General Dempsey, members of our Armed Forces and most of all, the survivors who bear the wounds of that day and the families of those we lost, it is an honor to be with you here again to remember the tragedy of twelve Septembers ago -- to honor the greatness of all who responded and to stand with those who still grieve and to provide them some measure of comfort once more. Together we pause and we pray and we give humble thanks -- as families and as a nation -- for the strength and the grace that from the depths of our despair has brought us up again, has revived us again, has given us strength to keep on.

We pray for the memory of all those taken from us -- nearly 3,000 innocent souls. Our hearts still ache for the futures snatched away, the lives that might have been -- the parents who would have known the joy of being grandparents, the fathers and mothers who would have known the pride of a child’s graduation, the sons and daughters who would have grown, maybe married and been blessed with children of their own. Those beautiful boys and girls just beginning to find their way who today would have been teenagers and young men and women looking ahead, imagining the mark they’d make on the world.

They left this Earth. They slipped from our grasp. But it was written, “What the heart has once owned and had, it shall never lose.” What your families lost in the temporal, in the here and now, is now eternal. The pride that you carry in your hearts, the love that will never die, your loved ones’ everlasting place in America’s heart.

We pray for you, their families, who have known the awful depths of loss. And in the quiet moments we have spent together and from the stories that you've shared, I'm amazed at the will that you've summoned in your lives to lift yourselves up and to carry on, and to live and love and laugh again.

Even more than memorials of stone and water, your lives are the greatest tribute to those that we lost. For their legacy shines on in you -- when you smile just like him, when you toss your hair just like her, when you foster scholarships and service projects that bear the name of those we lost and make a better world. When you join the firehouse or you put on the uniform or you devote yourself to a cause greater than yourself, just like they did, that's a testimony to them. And in your resilience you have taught us all there is no trouble we cannot endure and there is no calamity we cannot overcome.

We pray for all those who have stepped forward in those years of war -- diplomats who serve in dangerous posts, as we saw this day last year in Benghazi, intelligence professionals, often unseen and unheralded who protect us in every way -- our men and women in uniform who defend this country that we love.

Today we remember not only those who died that September day. We pay solemn tribute to more than 6,700 patriots who have given their full measure since -- military and civilians. We see their legacy in the friendships they forged, the attacks they prevented, the innocent lives they saved and in their comrades in Afghanistan who are completing the mission and who by the end of next year will have helped to end this war.

This is the path that we've traveled together. These are the wounds that continue to heal. And this is the faith in God and each other that carries us through, that restores us and that we summon once more each time we come to hallowed ground -- beside this building or in a Pennsylvania field or where the towers once stood. Here, in such moments of grace, we are renewed. And it is here that we reaffirm the values and virtues that must guide us.

Let us have the strength to face the threats that endure, different though they may be from 12 years ago, so that as long as there are those who would strike our citizens, we will stand vigilant and defend our nation.

Let us have the wisdom to know that while force is at times necessary, force alone cannot build the world we seek. So we recommit to the partnerships and progress that builds mutual respect and deepens trust and allows more people to live in dignity, prosperity and freedom.

Let us have the confidence in the values that make us American, which we must never lose, the shining liberties that make us a beacon of the world; the rich diversity that makes us stronger, the unity and commitment to one another that we sustain on this National Day of Service and Remembrance.

And above all, let us have the courage like the survivors and families here today to carry on, no matter how dark the night or how difficult the day. “You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again. And from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again. You will increase my greatness and you will comfort me again.”

May God bless the memory of those that we lost. May he comfort you and your families and may God bless these United States of America.

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Release: Kasich Orders Flags Flown At Half-Staff To Commemorate 9/11

Posted: September 11, 2013 2:14 PM

COLUMBUS—Today Governor John R. Kasich ordered flags to be flown at half-staff upon all public buildings and grounds throughout Ohio in honor of the lives lost in the attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001. Flags will be flown at half-staff from sunrise to sunset on September 11, 2013.

Additionally, the governor issued a resolution in honor of Patriot Day and the National Day of Service and Remembrance in which he says: “We honor and pay tribute to our courageous men and women in uniform serving around the world, as well as to the dedicated members of our law enforcement, public safety, and intelligence communities who work diligently to protect us from danger and when called upon, stand willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice to preserve the freedoms we hold dear.” A copy of the governor’s resolution can be viewed here: http://www.governor.ohio.gov/Portals/0/Patriot%20Day.pdf

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Release: Ohio Farmers Union president, members take to Capitol Hill for Farm Bill, Country of Origin Labeling, Renewable Fuel Standard

Posted: September 9, 2013 11:30 AM

NFU Board Passes Resolution on Farm Bill, COOL and the RFS

COLUMBUS – Ohio Farmers Union president Roger Wise of Fremont and the board of directors of the National Farmers Union unanimously passed a resolution over the weekend indicating the obligation of Congress to pass a five-year farm bill, continue support for Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

Wise and the other NFU state presidents are in Washington, D.C. with rank and file Farmers Union members to lobby members of Congress with the leadership and staff of NFU early this week.

“As a member of the NFU Board of Directors, I voted to support the resolution to show the Ohio Farmers Union’s unflagging support for a new Farm Bill and for Congress to continue support for COOL and the Renewable Fuel Standard,” Wise said.

“The fact that the Farm Bill has become an object of partisanship and has been mired in the House for two years – held hostage by a group of extremists – is a prime example of our broken political process in Washington,” Wise added.

“I’m here again with my colleagues from around Ohio and the country to simply ask for reason and a willingness to work together for compromise that allows agriculture in America to move forward with a bill like that passed by the Senate which contains deficit reduction, contains reforms and has farmers with more skin in the game as it pertains to the safety net,” Wise added.

Roger Johnson, NFU president said, “Along with providing a comprehensive, five-year farm bill, Congress and the administration must protect the existing COOL law for meat, seafood, poultry and other agricultural products. In an increasingly economically-interconnected world, COOL provides important, common-sense information to American consumers about their food.”

“Congress must also pursue policies that support our nation’s energy security,” the resolution stated. “The RFS is a crucial tool to wean our nation off foreign oil, promote rural economic development, and reduce greenhouse gases in the transportation sector,” Johnson added.

The meeting of the board this past weekend preceded NFU’s Fall Legislative Fly-In that will bring nearly 300 Farmers Union members to Washington for meetings with legislators and other events Sept. 9 to 11.

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OHROC Chairman Matt Huffman Releases Statement on Passing of W. Roak Zeller

Posted: September 9, 2013 9:20 AM

COLUMBUS—Chairman of the Ohio House Republican Organizational Committee Matt Huffman (R-Lima) today released the following statement on the passing of W. Roak Zeller:

“Speaker Batchelder and I, as well as the members of the House Republican Caucus, are saddened and shocked by the passing of W. Roak Zeller, a man who demonstrated an unwavering commitment to serving his community and the people of Portage County. As a candidate for the Ohio House in 2010, Roak always showed the utmost integrity and strength of character in everything he did, and he had a lasting impact on all of us at OHROC.

“Ohio lost a great man today—one who will be truly missed by all of us at the Ohio House as well as those who have had the distinct privilege of working with him. Our prayers are with his family and friends during this very difficult time.”

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Column: Ohio E&A Coalition: Public Common School System: Must be as perfect as can be devised

Posted: September 9, 2013 8:23 AM

State officials have the obligation, by constitutional oath, to appropriate sufficient resources of the state to ensure a public common school system as perfect as can be devised. Draining a billion dollars annually out of an already underfunded public common school system for alternative schools, which are largely unregulated and mostly substandard in educational opportunities, is an insult to the framers of the Ohio Constitution and to the students of Ohio. Stealing educational opportunities from children by operating an unconstitutional system of public common schools is unconscionable.

State officials and the citizens of Ohio should review the constitutional obligation of the state for public education.

The delegates to the Constitutional Convention of 1850-1851 were generally frustrated with the lack of progress the state had made in public education in the first forty-eight years of statehood. Delegate J. McCormick, stated, "Under the old constitution it provided that public schools and the cause of education shall forever be encouraged; and, under this constitutional provision we have trusted the General Assembly for forty-eight years; and we may trust them for forty-eight years longer, without any good result." (II Debates at 702).

The debates focused on crafting constitutional language that would ensure that the legislature would provide for a complete and appropriate educational program for all students in future generations. Delegate Samuel Quigley, while speaking to the "thorough and efficient system of common schools" concept, stated, "The language of this section is expressive of the liberality worthy a great state. There is no stopping place here short of a common school education to all the children of the State" (II debates at 14). Delegate R. P. Ramey said, "I desire to lay out a plan and as within limits the Legislature shall be bound to carry out." (II Debates at 16).

Delegate Archbold indicated that he wanted the common school of the future to be far above the common school of the present. He wanted to see a system of schools as perfect as could be devised (emphasis added) and to see it improve so as to keep pace with the most rapid progress of the most rapid element of our social or political constitution. (II debates at 698).

There is no doubt that the delegates to the 1850-1851 Constitutional Convention intended, and thus crafted a provision that required the state to ensure high quality educational opportunities to all students.

By the "thorough and efficient system of common schools" decree they meant that, through the one state system, students would be guaranteed high quality educational opportunities. They ordained that the system would be as perfect as can be devised.

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Release: Senator Schiavoni to Introduce Legislation to Create Greater Oversight in Ohio's Charter Schools

Posted: September 4, 2013 2:12 PM

Columbus- Today, Senator Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) announced he will be introducing legislation to create greater oversight in Ohio’s charter schools equivalent to what is found in traditional public districts. The bill aims to strengthen charter school accountability, transparency as well as create uniform standards with traditional public schools through the implementation of the following:

Accountability

           Require the state Auditor to do an annual audit of each charter school

           Require charter schools to follow public records laws the same as traditional public schools

           Prohibit charter schools from using taxpayer dollars for advertising, recruiting, or promotional materials

Transparency

           Ensure that charter school teachers are evaluated by the same methods as traditional public school teachers and that they are licensed the same and are paid equivalently

           Require that upon a student’s transfer from one school to another, the report cards of both schools are given to the parents of that student

Uniform Standards

           Require that schools follow the same course of study requirements, disciplinary standards, and that school board members abide by the same standards

Along with these new requirements, the legislation would also strengthen the charter school closure laws to prevent a repetition of failure in schools that the state deems unable to meet the necessary standards.

The legislation follows the recent introduction of Ohio’s new school report card system that grades both public and charter schools on the same scale. A recent study by the Columbus Dispatch found that 87 percent of the state’s charter school students attend a school that has either a D or an F in meeting state performance standards.

“This is not about the different approaches to education but the fundamental idea that every child deserves to attend a quality school,” Sen. Schiavoni said. “We need to be stringent on all schools in order to not only protect our taxpayers’ investments, but most importantly make certain that we are preparing our young people to be successful.”

Sen. Schiavoni will ask the Chairperson of the Senate Education committee to hold hearings on the bill when the Senate returns from summer recess.

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Release :Congressman Bob Gibbs Statement on Syria

Posted: September 4, 2013 2:11 PM

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. Congressman Bob Gibbs (OH-7) released the following statement regarding the evolving situation in Syria.

“The President’s current plan does not meet the threshold for an authorization of military force resolution against Syria. Any type of military action must have clear and coherent objectives on how we can move forward. As this situation evolves, we need to approach it with clear intentions for the best possible outcome. This will require the President to make the case to Congress and to the American people.” -- U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs (OH-7)

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Release from Equality Ohio: Majority of Ohioans oppose Ohio’s “Super DOMA”

Posted: September 4, 2013 2:10 PM

But achieving marriage equality will take time

COLUMBUS-OH—According to a values survey released by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), a majority of Ohioans support the legalization of either marriage or civil unions for same-sex couples.

When given three options – to allow marriage, to allow civil unions only, or to continue disallowing any sort of recognition – only 30% chose to disallow any recognition. The survey found that 41% of voters support allowing same-sex marriage and 23% support civil unions.

Earlier in the year, a key section of the federal Defense of Marriage Act was struck down, but Ohio’s constitutional marriage inequality amendment and “Super DOMA” still remain in place. Ohio’s “Super DOMA” does not allow for any form of legal recognition – neither marriage, nor civil unions.

“Here’s the complexity we face in Ohio,” said Elyzabeth Holford, executive director of Equality Ohio. “The research shows that Ohioans don’t want to discriminate, but we do not yet have enough support for marriage equality.”

Holford says the data means that to achieve marriage equality in Ohio, the strategy must be precise and multi-layered. “We know we can achieve marriage equality in Ohio. The work that needs to be done is intentional, focused, and requires all of us to work together. We also know that equality is not just about one issue. At Equality Ohio we have a roadmap for ensuring fairness and dignity for all Ohioans.”

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Release from Rep. Antonio: Rape Survivor Child Custody Act Proposes Fair Process for Mothers

Posted: September 4, 2013 2:08 PM

Bipartisan bill would overhaul Ohio custody standards in cases of sexual assault

COLUMBUS- State Rep. Nickie J. Antonio (D-Lakewood) today introduced HB 257, the Ohio Rape Survivor Child Custody Act, with Rep. Kirk Schuring (R-Canton). Ohio law does not currently provide custodial protections for mothers who become pregnant as a result of rape. Consequently, a mother who gives birth as a result of rape can find herself in lengthy custody battles with the rapist or his family.

“No woman who has survived the trauma of sexual assault should have to be further victimized through a custody battle with her rapist,” said Rep. Antonio. “However, too often that is precisely the situation in which survivors find themselves.”

If passed, the legislation would prohibit custody, visitation, notice and consent of adoption for men who father children through rape. Specifically, the proposal would apply to fathers that are convicted of sexual assault or to cases where the court determines there to be clear and convincing evidence of sexual assault through a fact-finding hearing. The legislation would also permit a rape victim to file a complaint to terminate parental rights.

“Most states, including Ohio, have provided either no protection or inadequate protection to rape victims who carry their pregnancies to term,” Rep. Antonio added. “It is unconscionable.”

In 31 States, including Ohio, the rapist can sue for custody of the child he fathered in rape. If a woman does choose to carry her pregnancy to term, her options are limited to placing the child for adoption or risk having to raise her child with the man who raped her.

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Statement: Ohio Democratic Chairman Redfern’s Statement on the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington

Posted: August 28, 2013 1:12 PM

COLUMBUS, OHIO – Today, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I have a dream speech,” Ohio Democratic Chairman Chris Redfern released the following statement:

“Fifty years ago today, men and women from all corners of America converged on our nation’s capital to demand payment on the promise of a more equal, more just society. Today, we are further along that road toward racial and social justice, but there are far too many miles left to travel.

“In our small corner of the world in Ohio, we are constantly reminded of the fragility of our victories for freedom and equality. Our jails are still disproportionately filled with people of color, women face unprecedented restrictions against their health care, and equality under the law, despite who you love, is at risk. And exactly a year ago today, voting rights came under attack, as so often happens, when two officials were fired for expanding access to the polls.

“It’s clear we have further to go.

“Honoring Dr. King’s legacy requires more than just words, but rather a steadfast commitment to marching ahead. Despite the adversity in store for tomorrow or the day after, we will not turn back.”

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Column: Congressman Steve Chabot - The Greatest Blunder

Posted: August 28, 2013 11:36 AM

Critics of former President George W. Bush (and there are still many, even though he’s been out of office for half a decade now) often say that Bush’s decision to go into Iraq was the worst foreign policy blunder in American history. For the record, I don’t share that view, but I do believe that reasonable minds can come to different conclusions as to whether the U.S. should have gone in and toppled Saddam, or not.

It is my contention that once the decision was made to go in, and so much blood and treasure was expended, and a relative peace was secured, President Obama made a terrible blunder, and, in effect, seized defeat from the jaws of victory by precipitously pulling ALL U.S. troops from Iraq. Iraq wasn’t ready to maintain security on its own, and a number of us warned that all hell would break loose, and many innocent people would die.

And that is exactly what is happening now. Iraq is on the verge of a civil war (between Sunni and Shia), which is likely to spread throughout the region. Car and truck bombs killing dozens and dozens of innocent men, women, and children are once again a common occurrence. And rather than have a stable, pro-American ally in the Middle East, we have a festering boil which, when it ruptures, will spill over onto the United States and our allies.

As a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, I traveled to Iraq on three separate occasions – once early in the war, once shortly before the surge, and finally about six months before President Obama announced his decision to pull all U.S. troops out. Having met with our top military officials, troops on the ground, state department and embassy officials, our coalition allies in Iraq, and many Iraqi’s themselves, I can tell you unequivocally that everyone understood and expected a U.S. advisory force of 10,000 or so American troops to remain in Iraq to keep the peace and secure our gains there.

President Obama’s half-hearted attempt to reach an agreement with Iraqi officials on the details of our troops remaining, and his subsequent shocking decision to pull all troops out, surprised everyone. And it has been a disaster. (Although with the turmoil in Libya, Syria, and Egypt the ongoing violence in Iraq gets very little attention in the press anymore.)

Now to be fair, Iraqi President Nouri al-Maliki shares the blame with President Obama for botching the negotiations to maintain a certain level of U.S troops in Iraq after the war. And considering the daily carnage in Iraq after U.S. troops were ungratefully shown the door, clearly before Iraqi troops were ready to keep the peace, he must be kicking himself for his stupidity. But al-Maliki is not the leader of the free world, President Obama is. And we expect more from our presidents.

I would submit that perhaps the greatest foreign policy blunder in recent American history was President Obama’s decision to put Iraq in the rear view mirror, and forget about the sacrifices made by so many American heroes at such a high cost.

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Release: Kasich Declares Let Freedom Ring Day Throughout Ohio

Posted: August 28, 2013 11:12 AM

COLUMBUS – Today Governor John R. Kasich issued a proclamation for Let Freedom Ring Day in honor of the 50th anniversary of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1963 March on Washington, in which he said:

 

“The highlight of the 1963 March on Washington was Dr. King’s groundbreaking speech, ‘I Have A Dream’, which he gave while standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial. This speech will forever be recorded in the annals of history as a pivotal contribution to the advancement of civil rights for African Americans in the United States.”

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Statement From Ohio Secretary Of State Husted

Posted: August 8, 2013 4:13 PM

COLUMBUS – Earlier today, State Senator Frank LaRose (R-Copley) introduced Senate Bill 175 to establish online voter registration, online absentee ballot requests and improve the exchange of voter data among states and state agencies – innovations for which Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted has long supported and advocated. All of the following may be attributed to Secretary Husted.

“Allowing Ohioans to register to vote online will improve voter access, ensure greater security, save taxpayer dollars and increase the accuracy of the state’s voter rolls. It is the next step in further modernizing Ohio’s election system.

“Leveraging data and technology is an effective way to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse in our democratic process – ensuring that it is easier to vote and harder to cheat.

“I commend Senator LaRose for the work he has already done on this issue and encourage the legislature to take up and pass this important measure this year.”

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Guest Column: Ohio: On the Road Again to Economic Recovery

Posted: August 8, 2013 3:18 PM

By ODOT Director Jerry Wray

Governor John R. Kasich recently announced a Jobs and Transportation Plan that includes more than 40 major road construction projects across the state that the Ohio Department of Transportation plans to build over the next six years. These projects will improve motorist safety, reduce congestion on our highways, add capacity, and improve our state’s economy. All told, ODOT plans to spend nearly $3 billion on these projects. It is estimated that for every billion dollars spent on our transportation infrastructure, 30,000 jobs are created.

The Ohio General Assembly’s passage of the state’s $7.6 billion two-year Transportation Budget, which Governor Kasich signed into law in April allows the newly renamed Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission to seek an estimated $1.5 billion in bonds backed by future revenues to finance additional transportation projects. The bill says the projects must have a “nexus” with the turnpike and must be within 75 miles of the turnpike. Projects considered for Turnpike funding must first be approved by ODOT’s Transportation Review Advisory Council, or TRAC. The TRAC approves all major new capacity projects over $12 million. Following TRAC approval, the projects then must be approved by the Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission before they move forward. Under the plan recently unveiled by Governor Kasich, all of the projects that will be funded by this revenue stream will meet that definition.

As a result of this innovative legislation, projects that were once delayed for more than a decade will actually get built in the next few years. Examples include Cleveland’s $324 million Opportunity Corridor that will link the city’s University Circle business district with Interstate 490. It will also fund the second $340 million Innerbelt Bridge project on Interstate 90 over the Cuyahoga River in downtown Cleveland. Other projects that will move forward include:

  • Two projects to widen I-271 in Summit and Cuyahoga counties totaling nearly $200 million
  • Adding lanes to I-80 through Mahoning and Trumbull counties at over $115 million
  • Reconstructing portions of I-76 and I-77 in Summit County at almost $100 million
  • Reconstructing parts of I-75 at I-280 and I-475 in northwest Ohio at over $250 million
  • Widening and reconstructing the I-71/I-70 interchange in Franklin County for more than $325 million
  • Construction of a new interchange on I-71 at MLK Boulevard in Hamilton County for $107 million

These are just a few examples of the more than 40 major new capacity projects recently announced by Gov. Kasich. All of them will make Ohio’s transportation system one of the finest in the world. Together, they will make our state a better place to do business and create jobs. They will also make our system safer and help reduce congestion. This is the largest investment in our transportation system Ohio has ever made. If not for the changes in how we do business outlined in the Transportation Budget, many of these projects would wait for decades to get built, or not get built at all. Yet our communities depend on these projects. They both want and need them. They are critical to our state’s recovering economy and will help Ohio continue to create and maintain jobs.

Jerry Wray is the Director of the Ohio Department of Transportation

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Column From Rep. Tracy Maxwell Heard (D-Columbus)

Posted: July 22, 2013 1:58 PM

I have received several calls from concerned citizens, churches and civic groups since the decision in the Trayvon Martin case came out a week ago. All asking what I thought, how I felt, and what I planned to do.

I was deeply saddened for Trayvon’s family when I heard the verdict and at the loss of yet another young black male child. I am sick and sad like so many people who love Trayvon and mourn his loss. My feelings won’t change or soothe their frustration. I hope my prayers will.

Following my sadness, my thoughts turned to how long before this comes to Ohio and how can we stop it?

Ultimately, this senseless situation was a direct result of legislation – House Bill 249 introduced by Rep. Dennis K. Baxley (R-Florida) in 2005 and supported by a majority Republican legislature. 133 of 153 legislators voted to pass Stand Your Ground legislation in Florida.

Therein lies my fear, Ohio Republicans have supermajorities in both the House and Senate – 83 of your 132 elected legislators are prepared to bring Stand Your Ground to your state.

In Ohio, three gun bills expanding the scope of concealed carry laws have passed in the last two and a half years. Ten have been put forward this year – including House Bill 203, sponsored by Rep. Terry Johnson (R-McDermott).

Ohio’s HB 203* not only extends reciprocity to other states’ citizens holding concealed carry licenses – it proposes Stand Your Ground for Ohio. Stand Your Ground created the environment for Zimmerman – a in a state with lax concealed carry laws – to act far beyond what reasonable people deem necessary, and counter to what law enforcement directed him to do.

There are far too many scenarios where a private citizen, without the extensive and continued training that law enforcement receives, could misread a situation and intentions of another based on , and with the added courage of a firearm, overreact with deadly force and unnecessarily take the life of another human being – let alone a child.

In Ohio, existing law allows private citizens to defend themselves in their homes or cars if they feel imminent threat of physical harm or to their lives, but only if the opportunity to flee or escape is absent. Reasonable.

It is unreasonable, however, that legislators like Rep. Johnson are ready to turn Ohio into the Wild West by allowing anyone who wants to buy a gun from any random trunk at a gun show to take that gun, level it on anyone they deem a threat to them on Main Street, Any City, Ohio and shoot them dead! If these extreme laws provided safer streets and communities, law enforcement and prosecutors would be supportive of these measures. They are not.

Three bills expanding concealed carry have been signed in the last two and half years. Yet, common sense legislation like Rep. Bill Patmon’s (D-Cleveland) House Bill 31, requiring child access prevention locks; or even my own expanded gun show loophole bill, House Bill 119, now requiring universal background checks for gun purchases stand no chance in this extreme environment without the voice and force of the people.

Everywhere I go as a legislator, I talk about civic engagement. Lawmakers are accountable to the voters who elected us, and accountability is best served when you, the voter, engage and pay attention.

If you DO NOT think Stand Your Ground is a good idea, now is the time to make your voice heard. If the direction the legislature is going unacceptable to you, if stand your ground legislation IS NOT what you want IN OHIO – NOW IS THE TIME TO SPEAK!

Call you your state representative. Call your state senator. Send them a letter. Send them an e-mail. Call their offices. Sign the petition at change.org. Circulate the petition. Do ALL of the above!

STAND YOUR GROUND OHIOANS!

LET YOUR VOICES BE HEARD!

This is life and death in Ohio, and the only thing that should die is House Bill 203.

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News Release: Jim Petro Endorses Freedom To Marry Amendment

Posted: July 8, 2013 3:30 PM

COLUMBUS – Former Ohio Attorney General and State Auditor Jim Petro has endorsed the Ohio Freedom to Marry and Religious Freedom Amendment.

In a statement, Petro said:

“Last year, my daughter Corbin married Jessica Gelman in Massachusetts, where same-gender marriages are legal. They are expecting a child soon, and deserve the same protections guaranteed to other families. Seeing their happiness, and realizing all the rights they would be denied here in Ohio has proven to me the importance of equal marriage in our state.

 

“I’m thoroughly convinced that bringing marriage equality to Ohio is the right thing to do. This amendment is rooted in a central conservative value, namely, freedom – the freedom to love, the freedom of religion, and the freedom from big government. I am proud to endorse this amendment.”

Ian James, FreedomOhio co-founder, thanked Petro for the endorsement.

“This endorsement shows that the tide is turning in favor of marriage equality in Ohio. We are grateful that Jim Petro is providing leadership to his fellow Republicans in making the conservative case for marriage equality. I look forward to seeing this amendment on the ballot in 2014, and with this endorsement, we move one step closer to bringing marriage equality to Ohio.”

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Statement from Director Bonnie K. Burman on Ohio's SFY 2014-15 Budget

Posted: July 8, 2013 3:28 PM

We here at the Ohio Department of Aging hope that the beginning of our State’s 2014 fiscal year is off to a good start for you. The Department of Aging has “hit the ground running” as the proverbial saying goes! Since it takes all of us to ensure that Ohio remains at the forefront of responding to our growing and changing aging population in the most responsive and innovative ways, we want to share with you some of the provisions in the new 2014-2015 biennial state budget that support this vision. As we like to say, “one truth, one vision.”

I want to begin by putting our specific aging-related budget items in the broader context of our Jobs Budget 2.0 (Am. Sub. HB 59*). As you know, Governor Kasich recently signed the new state budget into law, and it builds upon the job-creating policies in the budget he signed two years ago when Ohio and the nation were just beginning to climb out of the toughest economic downturn since the Great Depression. For example, this budget features:

           A $2.7 billion net tax cut to make Ohio more competitive with other states – and around the world – for jobs and economic growth. This includes a 10 percent personal income tax reduction over three years and a 50 percent small-business tax deduction on the first $250,000 of business income.

           An additional $3 billion in federal, state and local funds to meet Ohio’s pressing transportation infrastructure needs – a crucial factor for a growing economy.

The budget also includes significant health transformation initiatives. You can review the Governor’s Office of Health Transformation’s “Top Ten Transformation Initiatives in the Budget” on the OHT website at www.healthtransformation.ohio.gov under the “Budgets” tab.

At the Department of Aging, we’ve continued our laser focus on public policies that promote quality, person-centered care and services for our elders wherever they call home while ensuring that businesses can continue to grow in the Buckeye State. The Jobs Budget 2.0 fosters this progress through many related provisions. A few highlights include:

           BENHA to BELTSS: Transforms the Board of Examiners of Nursing Home Administrators (BENHA) into the Board of Executives of Long-Term Services and Supports (BELTSS) with expanded scope and authority to provide education, training, credentialing and licensure opportunities for administrators and others in leadership positions who practice in all Long-Term Services and Supports settings. Transfers fiscal responsibility for this independent Board from the Department of Health to the Department of Aging, co-locating the Board with other long-term services and supports. We will continue to work in close collaboration with the National Association of Long-term Care Administrator Boards to respond to the changing landscape of long-term care and caring. Given the passage of the budget with these provisions, Ohio now leads the nation in pursuing such initiatives.

           Special Focus Facility Program: Caps the length of time a nursing facility may continue to receive Medicaid payments while on the Special Focus Facility list. Institutions must show improvement within one year, and graduate off of the focus list within two years. This provision helps ensure that aging Ohioans receive the best possible care while protecting precious taxpayer money.

           Nursing Home Quality Initiative and TAP: Transfers the Technical Assistance Program (TAP) from the Ohio Department of Health to the Department of Aging to provide streamlined and coordinated resources through an existing technical assistance program within the Office of the State Long-term Care Ombudsman. TAP’s transfer is critical to support the Nursing Home Quality Initiative. This initiative will strengthen person-centered care by adding advance care planning to licensure requirements, and increasing quality of service through collaboration of the Department of Aging and nursing facilities participating in Quality Improvement Projects. The Nursing Home Quality Initiative provides a central coordination point for multiple quality improvement efforts while streamlining access to quality improvement technical assistance for nursing homes.

           Enhancing Choice: Authorizes rate and funding increases to continue to expand choices and enhance care for Ohioans who choose facility or home- and community-based services.

o          20 percent increase for Adult Day Services.

o          5 percent increase for PASSPORT Administrative Agency site operations.

o          3 percent increase in Assisted Living rates.

o          1.5 percent increase in PASSPORT provider rates.

o          Increase in Personal Needs Allowance (PNA) for Medicaid-eligible nursing facility residents of $10/month for individuals and $20/month for couples, over the biennium. This increase is the first in 15 years.

As we celebrate the start of the state’s new fiscal year, we look forward to continuing to work with you and all Ohioans we serve. We’re optimistic about the future of our aging network, our outstanding programs and our agency as together we continue our unwavering devotion and dedication to creating a healthy, vibrant Ohio where Golden Buckeyes can continue to grow, thrive and contribute.

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Guest Column: Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor

Posted: June 28, 2013 11:09 AM

Prioritize Judicial Elections and Empower the Voters

The search engine Yahoo! once did a study that found almost no one clicks to the second page of search engine results.

Because under Ohio law, judicial contests come at the end of the ballot, judicial elections are a lot like second-page Yahoo! Results: They don’t get the attention they deserve. It’s not until after voters have cast a ballot for president, U.S. senator, school levy, and county coroner that voters are then presented with a list of choices for judges.

Is it any wonder that judicial races routinely have fewer voters participating? About 25 percent of the time, voters who show up at the polls and vote on races at the top of the ticket never get to the bottom of the ticket to vote for judges.

I have proposed eight ideas for strengthening judicial elections in Ohio. You can read the plan and offer your comments at www.OhioCourts2013.org. One of the ideas is for Ohio to consider either randomizing or even prioritizing judicial races so they receive higher billing and more participation from voters.

Studies for decades have shown that order is important. In everything from search engine results to election ballots, people tend to focus more attention on what comes first.

This is why Ohio law already mandates that candidates’ names be randomized on the ballot because there is a slight edge to the candidate whose name appears first. Should a similar approach be applied to the order of contests? Would changing the ballot order increase voter participation in selecting the people who serve in our judicial branch?

Another idea in my plan would address the same low participation problem from another angle: Should all judicial elections be held in odd-numbered years?

Today, Ohioans cast ballots for judges each year – state and county judicial races in even-numbered years and municipal judgeships in odd-numbered years. The races for president and Congress, as well as statewide executive officeholders, such as governor, often overshadow the judicial races in even-numbered years.

Should Ohioans amend their Constitution to allow all judicial elections to be in odd-numbered years? This change would raise the profiles of judicial candidates, and avoid voter-information overload, as well as the magnetism of polarizing top-of-the ticket races. Such a change also would likely raise voter and media interest in “off-year” elections for municipal judgeships and other local government races.

It might be asked, what good is it for more people to start voting in judicial races if those voters aren’t necessarily more informed about the candidates? Good question. In fact, polls routinely show that the level of knowledge about the courts is inadequate, and voters express frustration about not having substantive information about judicial candidates.

This is why my plan presents a number of ideas to address voter information and education: Should Ohio centralize and expand civic education in the law? Should there be a statewide, Web-based repository for judicial candidate information and a formal body for conducting judicial debates? Should the use of cameras in the courtroom in Ohio be expanded? These are all questions that begin a conversation that can end in improving judicial selection in Ohio.

A systematic effort at voter information and education, combined with moving judicial elections out from under other races could increase the level of informed participation in selecting our judges and thereby strengthen our democracy.

I pose these ideas as questions because I do not profess to have all the answers. I am interested in leading a conversation and reaching a consensus on what we can do to strengthen judicial elections in Ohio. I hope you will join me in this important work by visiting www.OhioCourts2013.org today and sharing your thoughts.

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Column: Teacher Prep in Ohio Falls Short

Posted: June 18, 2013 8:55 AM

By Terry Ryan, The Thomas B. Fordham Institute

To improve student learning in Ohio, and in other states, we need to improve the quality of our teaching force. Statistics don’t lie when it comes to the impact of teachers on children’s learning. Stanford economist Eric Hanushek has observed that “having a high-quality teacher throughout elementary school can substantially offset of even eliminate the disadvantage of low socio-economic background.” Yet, according to a new report by the National Center for Teacher Quality (NCTQ) and US News and World Report too many of our new teachers enter the classroom unprepared.

Over a century ago, Abraham Flexner provided a withering critique of the nation’s medical schools, which led to a transformation of a sub-standard system of doctor preparation into preparation programs that would become models of quality for the rest of the world. NCTQ wants to do the same thing for teacher preparation that Flexner did for medical training back in 1910.

Toward that end, NCTQ and US News and World Report have issued their Teacher Prep Review. The Review provides data on the 1,130 institutions that prepare 99 percent of the nation’s traditionally trained new teachers. Forty-six institutions in Ohio were included in the Review. The findings are not good. In fact, NCTQ warns that the nation’s teacher prep programs “have become an industry of mediocrity, churning out first-year teachers with classroom management skills and content knowledge inadequate to thrive in classrooms with ever-increasing ethnic and socioeconomic student diversity.”

The urgency to improve teacher preparation has never been greater. Teachers in Ohio, as across the nations, are facing increased demands in terms of their student needs (more poverty and rapidly changing demographics), more rigorous academic standards and expectations, and increased public scrutiny around professional performance. Add to this the fact that the teaching force itself is changing significantly through retirements and changes in demographics. Twenty-five years ago, if you asked a teacher how long she had been teaching, the most common response would have been 15 years. If you ask that some question today, the answer is just one year. Nationwide first-year teachers now teach around 1.5 million students every year, and the vast majority of these new teachers are woefully unprepared for the classroom.

Given all this, it comes as no great surprise that 24 state chiefs and 98 school district superintendents from across the country have endorsed the Review’s findings. In Ohio, endorsers include Eric Gordon (CEO of Cleveland Metropolitan School District), Lori Ward (superintendent of Dayton Public Schools), Mary Ronan (superintendent of Cincinnati Public Schools) and the Fordham Institute.

Students taught by first year teachers lose ground in comparison to their peers taught by more seasoned teachers, and most of these novice teachers are placed in the classrooms with children who face the greatest academic deficits. It need not be this way. High-performing countries, such as Finland, South Korea and Singapore, have revitalized their teaching forces, and improved student achievement significantly over recent decades, by increasing the selectivity around who gets into teaching and dramatically upgrading the quality of training provided novice teachers.

Findings for Ohio include:

•The Ohio State University was the only higher education institution in the country that earned more than three stars for both its elementary (3.5 stars) and secondary (4 stars) programs.

•Marietta College and Ohio Northern University are on the Honor Roll, earning three out of four possible stars for their undergraduate secondary programs.

•The vast majority of the state’s teacher preparation programs received mediocre ratings of one or two stars.

•Three programs (Cleveland State’s undergraduate elementary and secondary programs and Kent State’s graduate secondary program) received a consumer alert.

•Only 27 percent of elementary and secondary programs in Ohio restrict admissions to the top half of the college-going population, compared to 28 percent nationwide. High-performing countries recruit candidates from the top third of their college-going population.

•Only four percent of Ohio’s elementary programs earn three or four stars for providing teacher candidates adequate content preparation. Forty-nine percent of Ohio secondary programs earned the top-rating of four stars.

NCTQ proposes a straightforward strategy for improving teacher preparation – “use the marketplace as the engine for change.” Specifically, NCTQ and US News and World Report (which has 20 million visitors a month to its website rating universities and colleges) are using the Teacher Prep Review to help prospective students, and their parents, make decisions about which education prep programs offer the best return for the tuition dollars invested. These ratings can also be used by school districts to inform their hiring decisions. This strategy, however, is not without challenges. NCTQ warns, “It is not just conceivable, but likely, that many aspiring teachers and school districts will not be able to locate a highly-rated program anywhere near them.”

Teacher preparation makes a difference, but our prospective teachers need better choices. Maybe this can be the “Flexner moment” for teacher training programs.

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Op-Ed: Response To Sponsor’s Presentation On Local Property Tax Appeals

Posted: June 12, 2013 4:32 PM

Dear Editor:

I read with interest your June 11, 2013 report on SB 52*. Unfortunately, everything you quoted the sponsor as saying is not supported by the facts.

“I think the substitute version can go a long way to bringing a level playing field into play here. But don’t kid yourselves – the odds are still stacked in the local government’s favor,” said the sponsor.

However, the facts simply do not support that conclusion.

As the Columbus schools treasurer testified to..., not only is the sponsor's claim unsupported, the facts show that far more reductions are granted than increases.

Thus, the facts show that Boards of Education have filed only 4.4% as many complaints as property owners. Even if Boards of Education would win all their cases, the offset is only about 15% of the enormous reductions won by taxpayers.

But there is more. While Boards of Education tax revenue is an important factor, another result of SB 52* will be a net tax increase for the majority of property owners. The reason for this is quite simple. If no one other than the owner of a parcel can file a complaint against its valuation, then there will never be another board of revision complaint filed seeking an increase in value because no rational property owner would ever seek to have their value increased for tax purposes.

This means that a property owner whose property is substantially undervalued will not be paying its correct portion of the total tax. Instead, that tax subsidy received by the few will be unjustly paid by the rest of the property owners whose values are correct. Those other taxpayers will likewise have no recourse to correct this injustice because SB 52* will prohibit them from initiating complaints on the undervalued properties they do not own. Instead, they will be stuck with their increased tax bills subsidizing the tax breaks of others. Requiring a petition to a County Recorder to file a complaint is no solution. County Recorders do just that, record property transfers. They have no experience in property valuation and have no financial stake in the outcome of any valuation case. As a result, they have no incentive whatsoever to make sure properties are valued correctly. No wonder why the Ohio Chamber of Commerce has not supported this bill!

The clear result would also be more levies more often. As a direct result of the effects of SB 52*, Boards of Education will be forced to return to the ballot more often with higher levy requests. This is so, because without the ability to partially offset the otherwise massive amounts of reductions granted annually, Boards of Education will receive less revenue on their current levies than they are supposed to receive resulting in earlier and larger budget deficits. In addition, budgeting for this additional phantom revenue will be difficult if not impossible. With regard to bond issues, a Board of Education will likely find that its interest costs will increase as their tax duplicates decline.

The sponsor also stated in your article: “The problem now is sometimes the county department of development, the county recorders, everybody in the county is working to encourage business to come in, only to have that whole relationship poisoned by the fact that one governmental entity decides to file suits all the time, be it the school board, or be it one of the boards, whoever has a levy,” he said. “Sometimes the county gets working at cross-purposes, so at least this would provide for some coordination,” he said.

Wrong again. The schools in the state with the strongest records of maximizing and protecting their tax duplicates, like Dublin, Hilliard and Solon, also have had the strongest business growth in the state. The answer is clear, businesses want to locate in areas where the playing field is level and their taxes are not artificially inflated to support a small cadre of taxpayers. A tax increase for the majority of business owners, now that is bad for business!

Thus, the passage of SB 52* will not have any substantial impact on the number of property value challenges filed each year or the number of hearings held by county boards of revision. The sole effects of SB 52* will be increased amounts of lost revenues by Boards of Education causing more and higher levy requests more often as well as tax hikes on 99% of Ohio property owners.

Sincerely,

Jeffrey A. Rich, Esq.

Rich & Gillis Law Group, LLC

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Release: 2013-2014 Ohio Hunting and Trapping Season Dates Announced

Posted: June 12, 2013 11:29 AM

COLUMBUS, OH - The 2013-2014 Ohio hunting and trapping season dates have been released by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). The seasons include changes to address deer management on a county level, and increase hunting opportunities through extended hours and a new early muzzleloader season.

2013-2014 hunting and trapping seasons:

           Deer archery: Sept. 28 - Feb. 2, 2014

           Antlerless deer muzzleloader: Oct. 12-13

           Youth deer: Nov. 23-24

           Deer gun: Dec. 2-8

           Deer muzzleloader: Jan. 4-7, 2014

           Squirrel (gray, red and fox): Sept. 1 - Jan. 31, 2014

           Ruffed grouse: Oct. 12 - Jan. 31, 2014

           Fall wild turkey: Oct. 14 - Dec. 1

           Youth upland game: Oct. 19-20, Oct. 26-27

           Cottontail rabbit: Nov. 1 -Feb. 28, 2014

           Ring-necked pheasant: Nov. 1 - Jan. 5, 2014

           Bobwhite quail: Nov. 1 - Dec. 1

           Fox, raccoon, opossum, skunk and weasel: Nov. 10 - Jan. 31, 2014

           Mink and muskrat: Nov. 10 - Feb. 28, 2014

           Mink, muskrat, raccoon, opossum, skunk and weasel (Erie, Ottawa and Sandusky counties, and Lucas County east of the Maumee River):

Nov. 10 - March 15, 2014

           Beaver: Dec. 26 - Feb. 28, 2014

           River otter: Dec. 26 - Feb. 28, 2014

           Crow: June 7 - March 8, 2014; June 6, 2014 - March 7, 2015 (Friday, Saturday and Sunday only)

           Youth spring wild turkey: April 19-20, 2014

           Spring wild turkey: April 21, 2014 - May 18, 2014

           Coyote and feral swine (wild boar): No closed season

           Groundhog: Closed only during deer gun season

Deer bag limits are now determined by county. Deer bag limits, by county:

One either-sex permit, one antlerless permit (eight counties): Darke, Erie, Fayette, Hancock, Madison, Ottawa, Sandusky and Wood.

Two either-sex permits, one antlerless permit (23 counties): Auglaize, Butler, Champaign, Clark, Gallia, Harrison, Henry, Hocking, Jackson, Jefferson, Lawrence, Logan, Meigs, Mercer, Miami, Monroe, Montgomery, Perry, Preble, Ross, Shelby, Van Wert and Washington.

Three either-sex permits, one antlerless permit (57 counties): Adams, Allen, Ashland, Ashtabula, Athens, Belmont, Brown, Carroll, Clermont, Clinton, Columbiana, Coshocton, Crawford, Cuyahoga, Defiance, Delaware, Fairfield, Franklin, Fulton, Geauga, Greene, Guernsey, Hamilton, Hardin, Highland, Holmes, Huron, Knox, Lake, Licking, Lorain, Lucas, Mahoning, Marion, Medina, Morgan, Morrow, Muskingum, Noble, Paulding, Pickaway, Pike, Portage, Putnam, Richland, Scioto, Seneca, Stark, Summit, Trumbull, Tuscarawas, Union, Vinton, Warren, Wayne, Williams and Wyandot.

Deer hunting hours are 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes past sunset for all deer seasons. Antlerless permits will be valid until Dec. 1, the Sunday before the deer-gun season.

Hunters may harvest only one buck in Ohio, regardless of method of take or location. The statewide bag limit is nine deer, but a hunter cannot exceed a county bag limit. Additional controlled hunting opportunities do not count against the statewide bag limit.

The antlerless deer muzzleloader season was added in October. The December bonus gun weekend, the early muzzleloader season at three public hunting areas (Salt Fork Wildlife Area, Shawnee State Forest and Wildcat Hollow), and urban hunting zones are discontinued.

The fall wild turkey season begins on Oct. 14, the Monday following the antlerless deer muzzleloader season. Butler, Delaware, Fairfield, Franklin, Hamilton, Huron, Seneca and Warren counties are added to the list of counties open for fall turkey hunting.

Deer and fall turkey permits will go on sale July 1.

Cottontail rabbit hunting restrictions are removed in the snowshoe hare protected area in Geauga and Ashtabula counties. Remaining snowshoe hares are still protected as a state-endangered species, and it remains illegal to kill them in Ohio.

Season dates and bag limits for migratory birds, including mourning dove, Canada goose, rail, moorhen, snipe, woodcock and waterfowl will be set in August in compliance with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2013-2014 framework.

ODNR ensures a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all. Visit the ODNR website at ohiodnr.gov.

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Column: Public’s skepticism justified

Posted: June 7, 2013 8:48 AM

By Seth Morgan, former state lawmaker

President Obama delivering the commencement speech at Ohio State University said, “Unfortunately, you’ve grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s at the root of all our problems … They’ll warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices ...”

Those comments were delivered May 5, 2013. Just six days later on May 11, Lois Lerner of the Internal Revenue Service admitted that the IRS had unfairly targeted tea party groups when considering whether or not to grant tax exempt status. Over the last couple weeks, we learned that the scandal at the IRS was far more targeted than just at tea party groups and far broader reaching than several IRS employees in Cincinnati.

With a profound inconvenience in timing, the administration now finds itself answering questions about illegal seizure of personal records from reporters of the Associated Press and the mishandling of the attacks on Americans the night of September 11, 2012, in Libya.

While the administration continues its strategies of playing ignorant, feigned outrage, and arrogant disregard, the American people have a right to wonder about the implications of this all. After all, the president warned us not to think that “tyranny is always lurking just around the corner.” The president thinks we should “reject these voices” — considering the American public’s skepticism as apparently “sinister.”

Ironically, it was not the tea party or conservatives who started such “sinister” skepticism, but rather our founders. James Madison, writing in Federalist Paper 51 said, “What is government itself but the greatest of all reflections of human nature?” Recognizing that government, which was to be run by humans, could be a destructive force, our very own Constitution specifically laid out restraints on government. The federal government and its administrators were not granted the “benefit of the doubt”; instead it was given specific duties and restricted from doing all others.

The scandal at the IRS does not come as a result of poor government leadership alone. Simply replacing this administration with another does not automatically secure the integrity of our government. As our founders knew and we are learning anew, the only way to truly keep government’s power checked is to strictly limit such power.

Abuse of power

It is impossible to give the federal government the level of information, money, or power we do today, without seeing an abuse of such power, extending now even to our personal health care. This is why our debates on public policy should not just include whether the policy is a good idea, but whether or not it extends beyond the original purpose and power of government.

Mr. President, unfortunately, your administration has proven what your words failed to — our founders were right. The American people should embrace healthy skepticism of government and not accept that merely replacing an administration is enough to keep government’s power in check.

Our founders understood it, our president abused it, and now we, the American people must take it back — that is, the power of the American government.

Seth Morgan, a Dayton area business consultant, is a former 36th District Ohio state representative and regular speaker and writer for the Ohio Tea Party movement.

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Release: Ohio’s Ultra-Fast Statewide Broadband Network Honored By Leading National Technology Publication

Posted: June 6, 2013 2:34 PM

Computerworld names OARnet a 2013 Laureate in emerging technology

Columbus, Ohio/Washington, D.C. (June 6, 2013) – IDG’s Computerworld Honors Program named the Ohio Academic Resources Network (OARnet) as a 2013 Laureate in the “Emerging Technology” category Monday night during its Gala Evening and Awards Ceremony at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C. The award program honors visionary applications of information technology promoting positive social, economic and educational change.

The State of Ohio invested $13.1 million to increase the capacity of the network to 100 Gbps, specifically to support next-generation business applications for attracting new employers and provide a platform for developing large-scale scientific research. Ohio Governor John R. Kasich championed the project, from announcing the state’s commitment of funds during his 2012 State of the State address to celebrating its completion during a ceremonial lighting event on Dec. 11, 2012.

“Governor Kasich and his team had great foresight to know that increasing the capacity of the network will create jobs, attract employers and make Ohio a stronger player in a global economy,” said Ohio Board of Regents Chancellor John Carey.

A panel of 22 distinguished judges from diverse industries selected OARnet for its 100 Gig project; in eight months, the organization increased the capacity of its 1,850-mile, statewide fiber-optic backbone from 10 Gigabits per second (Gbps) to 100 Gbps, connecting 10 major cities and linking to Internet2’s international 100 Gbps network. At 100 Gbps, 300,000 high-resolution X-rays can be transmitted in just one minute.

“To be named a Computerworld Laureate is a testament to Ohio’s evolution into a high-tech environment,” said Pankaj Shah, executive director of the Ohio Supercomputer Center and OARnet. “We’re pleased that our peers have found our efforts worthy of this prestigious acknowledgement.”

“Ohio's research broadband backbone already was the envy of many other states,” said Caroline Whitacre, vice president for research, The Ohio State University. “Accelerating its capacity to 100 Gbps has made Ohio even more attractive to medical research, manufacturing, engineering and other technology sectors. This puts Ohio far ahead of the pack in university research collaboration and competition for federal grants.”

“Computerworld is honored to recognize the outstanding accomplishments of OARnet and the 2013 class of Laureates. These projects demonstrate how IT can advance an organization’s ability to compete, innovate, communicate and prosper,” added John Amato, vice president and publisher of Computerworld. The Computerworld Honors Program has had the privilege of celebrating IT achievements for 25 years.

A member of the Ohio Board of Regents Ohio Technology Consortium and a multidisciplinary research center under The Ohio State University’s Office of Research, OARnet provides networking and technology needs to Ohio colleges and universities, K-12 schools, public broadcasting stations, health care facilities and state and local governments.

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Release: New Effort Seeks to Improve Health Care for Ohio’s Most Vulnerable Patients

Posted: June 6, 2013 2:33 PM

Patients eligible for Medicare and Medicaid among most at-risk, underserved

COLUMBUS –UHCAN Ohio today announced the Ohio launch of Ohio Consumer Voice for Integrated Care, a project to advance care and establish a strong voice for 114,000 “dually eligible” Ohioans -- older and disabled Americans who qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid coverage. In today’s fragmented health care system, dual eligible patients, who tend to be poorer, sicker and rely more heavily on supportive services, are forced to navigate through a complicated maze of multiple doctors, medications and programs. This care is expensive, estimated at over $2.5 billion in annual Medicare and Medicaid spending in Ohio.

Ohio Consumer Voice for Integrated Care will work to shape Ohio’s demonstration project, created by the Kasich administration and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to provide quality care for the state’s unique dually eligible population. Ohio’s demonstration will begin enrolling people in the seven demonstration regions on March1, 2014. Enrollees will be able to select from between two integrated managed care plans in each region (except for enrollees in the region including Cuyahoga County, which will have 3 plans). An estimated 114,000 Ohioans are targeted for enrollment in the seven regions.

Ohio Consumer Voice for Integrated Care is part of the national Voices for Better Health, a multi-year, $3 million four-state effort funded by The Atlantic Philanthropies, a limited life foundation, and supported nationally by Community Catalyst. It will also seek to institutionalize ways to make dual eligibles active, meaningful and lasting participants in the demonstration projects.

“Today there are few health delivery systems designed around the needs of at-risk patients, but coordinating care across providers and services can dramatically improve outcomes for dual eligibles,” said Cathy Levine, Executive Director of UHCAN Ohio. “Ohio Consumer Voice for Integrated Care will bring together patients, advocates, delivery systems and providers to draw lessons from models that are already working and to improve the health of the growing number of dually-eligible older adults.”

The Voices for Better Health project seeks to improve the quality and affordability of care for dual eligibles. Practices that put patients’ needs first can also make care more cost-effective by reducing hospital readmissions and unnecessary nursing home placements. A number of delivery systems across the country are already illustrating how providers can deliver on the promise of quality, coordinated and cost-effective care for vulnerable older adults.

“There is a growing recognition among health plans that we need to redesign the way we deliver care to our poorest, sickest and neediest patients who often suffer under our current fragmented health system,” said Janet Grant, Executive Director, CareSource. “We now have an opportunity to develop a much more rational system that does a better job caring for patients and improves the bottom line – Voices for Better Health will help us get there faster.”

The Ohio Consumer Voice for Integrated Care is a joint effort of UHCAN Ohio, Ability Center of Greater Toledo, Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging, Alliance for Retired Americans in Ohio, Contact Center, Disability Rights Ohio, Easter Seals of Ohio, Legal Aid Society of Columbus, Inc., Linking Employment, Abilities and Potential, Ohio Association of Area Agencies on Aging, Ohio Olmstead Task Force, Ohio Poverty Law Center, Ohio Statewide Independent Living Council, and UHCAN Ohio.

Learn more about Ohio Consumer Voice for Integrated Care at www.uhcanohio.org; learn more about the national Voice for Better Health initiative at www.communitycatalyst.org

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Release: LWV Ohio Open Letter to Election Officials on Referring Absentee and Provisional Voters to Prosecutors

Posted: June 6, 2013 2:32 PM

June 6, 2013

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Carrie Davis

Phone: 614.469.1505

Columbus, OH - Today, the League of Women Voters of Ohio issued the following open letter to Ohio election officials, a full copy of which is available at www.lwvohio.org:

An open letter to Ohio election officials

Secretary Jon Husted

Ohio Secretary of State

180 E. Broad St., 16th Floor

Columbus, Ohio 43215

Karla Herron, President

Ohio Association of Election Officials

c/o Delaware County Board of Elections

2079 U.S. Highway 23 N

P.O. Box 8006

Delaware, OH 43015-8006

June 6, 2013

Dear Secretary Husted and President Herron,

The League of Women Voters of Ohio (LWVO) is a nonpartisan organization committed to protecting Ohio citizens' right to vote. We are deeply disturbed by recent actions taken in Hamilton and Franklin Counties, and perhaps others, referring to local prosecutors voters who obeyed the law and sought to exercise their right to vote. The only "wrong" committed by these voters was requesting an absentee ballot and then casting a provisional ballot at the polls on Election Day.

This activity is perfectly legal, and referring these cases to the prosecutor sends a dangerous and chilling message not only to Ohio voters but also to poll workers.

If a voter requests an absentee ballot, there is a mark placed next to the voter's name in the poll book to indicate they requested an absentee ballot. The Ohio Revised Code expressly says that if a voter shows up at the polls on Election Day, and the poll book indicates that the voter requested an absentee ballot, the voter shall be permitted to cast a provisional ballot (see RC 3505.181 and RC 3509.09(B)). It's not optional. Poll workers are trained that they must give voters a provisional ballot. And poll workers in turn instruct these voters to cast a provisional ballot.

Some people may ask why a voter would show up at the polls after requesting an absentee ballot. There are many reasons:

           Voters may not be sure that they mailed their absentee ballot.

           Voters may be concerned that they did not mail it in time.

           Voters may have neglected to include necessary information, such as ID or a signature, with their absentee ballot, or not remember if they included all the necessary information.

           For the November 2012 election, the Secretary of State for the first time sent absentee applications to all registered voters statewide. Since that was new in many counties and certainly new to first-time voters, some voters may have filled out and returned the form, later forgot that they requested an absentee ballot, and then showed up to vote on Election Day as usual.

The reason the law is written the way it is - and why it should remain that way - is so that all these voters can still vote. Whether their ballot was lost, they worried their absentee ballot wasn't sent in time or received by the Board of Elections, etc. all eligible voters should be able to vote. And the procedures set forth in RC 3509.09 ensure that only one vote from that voter will be counted.

Referring to these cases as double voting is misleading and disingenuous. These voters do not get two votes. RC 3509.09 provides a protocol for determining which ballot to count. The Board of Elections reviews provisional and absentee ballot envelopes before they are counted. For voters marked as requesting an absentee ballot, Boards check to see if an absentee ballot was received by the deadline and if the signature on the envelope matches the signature in the poll book (RC 3509.09(C)). If both of those conditions are met, then the absentee ballot is counted and the provisional ballot is not (RC 3509.09(C)). If an absentee was not received by the deadline or the signature does not match, then the provisional ballot is counted (RC 3509.09(C)). Under no circumstances does a voter get to cast two ballots and have both counted. The language in the Revised Code anticipated that voters could fill out both an absentee and a provisional in certain circumstances, and there is no reference to a penalty for doing this.

While the League wholeheartedly agrees that we need to protect the integrity of our voting system and investigate cases where a voter intentionally tries to abuse the system and cast more votes than they are entitled to, that is not what happened here. Voters did what poll workers told them to do, poll workers did what they were instructed to do, and all of them were acting in accordance with the letter of the law.

Referring these cases to local prosecutors - when it is clear to election officials that the activity in question was legal - is wrong. The chilling effects are undeniable. Lawful voters may be fearful of exercising their legal right to vote knowing that even if they follow the poll worker's instructions, they may still be referred to the prosecutor and face the prospect of a costly and unnecessary legal defense. Poll workers may likewise be very concerned. Poll workers are dedicated people who work long hours for little pay because they believe in our democracy and want to help voters. If poll workers fear that their actions, even their actions following the instructions they receive, could lead to voters names being sent to the prosecutor, these people may conclude that they are put in an untenable position and decide not to work the polls again. Referring these cases to the prosecutor for them to sort out and dismiss is not the answer, because the harm is already done. They never should have been referred in the first place. Doing so wastes government resources and sends a dangerous message to voters and poll workers.

We should be doing everything we can to encourage eligible citizens to vote and serve as poll workers. Referring perfectly legal acts to the prosecutor has exactly the opposite effect.

We therefore urge the Secretary of State, county Boards of Elections, and local prosecutors to reserve legal process for people who may have intentionally violated the law and not for voters who were simply following instructions - indeed instructions which complied exactly with the Ohio Revised Code.

Sincerely,

Nancy G. Brown, LWVO President

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Ohio Statehouse Nominated by Columbus Parent Magazine as Best of Columbus

Posted: June 5, 2013 5:08 PM

(Columbus, OH) – The Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board (CSRAB) is proud to announce that the Ohio Statehouse has been nominated by Columbus Parent Magazine, for their “Best of Columbus” contest, in three categories. The Ohio Statehouse was nominated in the following categories:

           Best Place to Bring Out-of-Town Visitors

           Best Museum

           Best Locally Made Gifts

“The unique ability to house state government, while at the same time offer innovative public programs, is what makes the Ohio Statehouse unlike any other capitol in the country,” said William E. Carleton, Executive Director of the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board.

To see the entire list of nominees and to vote, please, visit www.columbusparent.com/bestofcolumbus.

To view this press release and others, visit www.ohiostatehouse.org.

The Ohio Statehouse is more than a monument to our past; it's where history happens! The Ohio Statehouse is open weekdays from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.; weekends from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; closed holidays. The Ohio Statehouse Museum is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; weekends from noon to 4 p.m.; closed holidays. Admission is free. Free guided tours are offered weekdays on the hour from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and weekends from noon to 3 p.m. Tours depart from the Map Room easily accessible from the Third Street entrance. Groups of 10 or more are requested to call in advance to ensure a guide is available. Contact 888/OHIO-123 for more information or to schedule a group tour. For more information about the Ohio Statehouse visit www.ohiostatehouse.org.

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Release: Amendment would enable natural gas utilities to charge customers for clean-up of old gas sites

Posted: June 5, 2013 10:24 AM

OCC Governing Board issues resolution in opposition

COLUMBUS, OH – June 4, 2013 – A century-old law protecting natural gas consumers from being overcharged for utility service may be weakened as part of an amendment to the state’s budget bill proposed today in the Ohio Senate. At stake for consumers are tens to hundreds of millions of dollars in costs for long-closed gas plant sites (some dating to the early 1800’s) that gas companies want to clean up at their customers’ expense. There are an estimated 90 former manufactured gas plant sites throughout Ohio. (See map).

The Governing Board of the Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel (whose nine members are appointed by the Ohio Attorney General) today adopted a resolution in opposition to the amendment. The resolution states that the Board, “opposes efforts to weaken the ‘used and useful’ standard and other standards designed to fairly balance the interests of consumers and utilities.”

Current Ohio law allows utilities to collect costs to maintain their facilities only when they are “used and useful” for the benefit of their customers. The amendment to the statute would reduce that legal hurdle by allowing natural gas utilities to charge for clean-up costs as long as a former plant site “was” used to provide utility service. Another problem is that the amendment would burden smaller usage customers (such as residential and small commercial) with relatively more of the charges than larger usage industrial customers.

“Since 1911, an Ohio law has balanced the interests of consumers and utilities for setting rates,” said Consumers’ Counsel Bruce Weston. “The natural gas utilities want to tip the scale in their favor by changing the law and charging customers for millions and millions of dollars in clean-up costs. That is a very bad idea that should be rejected by the Ohio Senate.”

Recently, OCC recommended to the PUCO, under current law, that it reject the request by Duke Energy Ohio to collect $62.8 million related to the clean-up of two manufactured gas plant sites. In that case, the PUCO Staff recommended that Duke’s request be reduced to just $6.4 million. The PUCO Staff based its recommendation on the “used and useful” standard in the law that the amendment would change. The Duke rate case is awaiting a decision by the PUCO.

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Release: Ohio’s Oil and Gas Industry Reveals Industry Approved Ohio Workforce Training Schools

Posted: June 5, 2013 10:23 AM

More than 70 Ohio Schools Offer Qualified Training Programs

Ohioans seeking training and employment opportunities in Ohio’s natural gas and crude oil industry now have a trusted source when seeking industry approved education and training programs.

As part of its “Careers in Ohio Series,” the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program (OOGEEP), which had already posted a list of 75 careers in the oil and gas industry, has taken the next steps to help direct students and the general public how to attain training for these jobs. The organization has identified and compiled a listing of programs offered by Ohio educational institutions that provide qualified training programs. To date, OOGEEP has identified programs at more than 70 different Ohio colleges, universities, career centers and technical schools.

“The oil and gas industry wants to hire Ohioans. And to help make the connection between the classroom and workplace, we have diligently been working with educational institutions around the state to certify that they are providing industry specific training so these students can be hired,” said Rhonda Reda, OOGEEP executive director. “By providing this list, we want to help prevent Ohioans from being misled by programs that call themselves oil and gas training programs but are nothing more than a few safety courses.”

“The information on our redesigned website also allows individuals to search for typical job titles in the oil and gas industry which then offers fact sheets for each job title and the educational institutions that provide qualified training for that job,” states Charlie Dixon, OOGEEP’s Safety and Workforce administrator. “This list will continue to grow as more training facilities and educational institutions expand or introduce these programs.”

After completion of an Economic Impact Study in late 2011 that indicated more than 200,000 Ohioans would be employed in the oil and gas industry, the industry requested the OOGEEP identify schools that have the appropriate training and begin promoting many of these programs to the general public and through OOGEEP’s other educational and public outreach programs.

“The oil and gas companies that are doing business in Ohio want to hire qualified local individuals to work in this expanding industry. We hope the workforce career and training information on our website will make it easier for individuals to connect their career goals to their education planning,” adds Reda. “OOGEEP is also working with K-12 schools in all 88 Ohio counties to help educate them on the industry as well as to provide career connections and scholarship opportunities.

“Oil and gas exploration in the state is helping to turn Ohio’s economy around,” Reda said. “Our industry is on track to create and support thousands of Ohio-based jobs in upstream, midstream and downstream activities in Ohio’s 30+ geological formations that produce natural gas and crude oil including the Utica shale. These jobs are very technical in nature and many may require workers to work outdoors in all kinds of weather elements and will also require applicants to pass ongoing drug tests.”

For more information about workforce training programs and careers in oil and gas, check out OOGEEP’s newly redesigned website at OOGEEP.org.

The mission of OOGEEP is to facilitate educational, scholarship, safety and training programs; to promote public awareness about the industry; and to demonstrate to the general public the environmental, energy and economic benefits of Ohio’s independent natural gas and crude oil producers. OOGEEP is not funded with any taxpayer dollars.

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Release: Search Warrants Served at Illegal Casino Locations

Posted: June 4, 2013 2:25 PM

(MEDINA, Ohio) -- Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine joined local and state authorities this morning to announce an investigation into two businesses allegedly operating as illegal casinos.

Attorney General DeWine, Ohio Casino Control Commission Director of Enforcement Karen Huey, Medina County Sheriff Tom Miller, Medina County Prosecutor Dean Holman, and Brunswick Police Chief Carl DeForest spoke about the investigation in Medina after authorities served multiple search warrants in connection with the case.

"These are not internet cafes," said Attorney General DeWine. "The joint investigation shows that these locations are operating as illegal casinos with no regulatory oversight."

Agents with the Attorney General's Bureau of Criminal Investigation assisted local law enforcement in serving search warrants at the following locations:

 • Cyber City, 2696 Medina Road, Medina, Ohio

 • Cyber 777's, 1733 Pearl Road, Brunswick, Ohio

Investigators removed dozens of cash-operated slot machines from both locations.

The owner of the businesses, Adam Syed, of Fairlawn, Ohio, was taken into custody. Authorities also served a search warrant at his home and at another business maintained by Syed in Akron, Ohio.

Syed is accused of violating the Ohio Casino Control Act. According to the statute, anyone running a casino gaming operation outside of the four voter-approved casinos violates the law and can be charged with a felony crime.

"The criminal code associated with the Ohio Casino Control Act is designed to ensure the integrity of casino gaming in our state," said Karen Huey, OCCC Director of Enforcement. "Today's raid sends a strong message that illegal gaming operations will be not be allowed."

"The investigation has been a joint effort by the Attorney General's Office, The Brunswick Police Department and with assistance from Fairlawn and Akron Police Department and the Summit County Prosecutor's Office. We want to thank all the involved agencies for their work," said Medina County Sheriff Tom Miller and Medina County Prosecutor Dean Holman.

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Release: White House On Early Childhood Education In Ohio

Posted: June 4, 2013 2:23 PM

Increasing Access to High-Quality Early Childhood Education in Ohio

The President believes we need to equip every child with the skills and education they need to be on a clear path to a good job and the middle class. That education has to start in the earliest possible years to prepare our children for later success in school and in life. To ensure these opportunities are available to all, President Obama has put forward a comprehensive early learning proposal to build a strong foundation for success in the first five years of life. These investments – made in partnership with States and fully paid for in the President’s budget – will help close America’s school readiness gap and ensure that America’s children enter kindergarten ready to succeed:

           Providing High-Quality Preschool for All. In partnership with the States, President Obama’s Preschool for All proposal would provide every four-year-old child with access to high-quality preschool, while also incentivizing States to adopt full-day kindergarten policies. Providing a year of free, public preschool for every child is an important investment in our nation’s future, providing our children the best start in life while helping hard-working families save thousands each year in costs associated with early care and education. This proposal would invest $75 billion over 10 years without adding a dime to the deficit.

Under the President’s proposal, Ohio is estimated to receive $103,400,000 in the first year it participates in the Preschool for All program. This funding, combined with an initial estimated state match of $10,300,000, would serve about 12,628 children from low- and moderate-income families in the first year of the program alone.*

           Investing in High-Quality Infant and Toddler Care. In order to increase high-quality early learning opportunities in the years before preschool, a new $1.4 billion competitive Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership grant program would support communities that expand the availability of early learning opportunities with child care providers that meet high Early Head Start quality standards, growing the supply of high-quality child care for children from birth through age 3.

 

About 20,671 children in Ohio from birth to age three are currently served by the Child Care and Development Block Grant. Through Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships, more of these children will have access to high quality early care and education.

           Expanding Effective Parent and Family Support. Quality education begins at home as parents support their child’s learning and development. As part of a comprehensive early learning agenda, the President proposes $15 billion over 10 years to extend and expand voluntary home visiting programs. These programs allow nurses, social workers, parent educators, and other professionals to connect families to services, supports, and tools that positively impact the health, development, and education of their children.

Under the President’s proposal, Ohio is estimated to receive $10,900,000 in the first year it participates in the expanded Home Visiting program.** Each year, 45,741 low-income mothers in Ohio give birth to a new baby and may benefit from these voluntary services.

_____________________

* These figures estimate the funds a State could receive in the first year if it chooses to participate in the Preschool for All program. The estimate is based on the State’s current population of four-year-olds in families at or below the 200 percent federal poverty level. Estimates will vary based on the scope of the State’s preschool expansion and the cost of providing high-quality preschool services. This estimate assumes that States will expand to 20 percent of their eligible four-year-olds in the first year at a per child cost of $9,000 a year. The federal share of the total cost is calculated at 90 percent, which is the regular match rate the State would receive in the first year. Please note that this estimate is designed to be illustrative only and does not attempt to represent how the Department of Education would determine actual first year awards.

** This figure estimates the funds a State could receive in the first year of an expanded Home Visiting program. The estimate assumes $15 billion of total funding over 10 years and assumes the same proportion of total funding is allocated for statutory set-asides, formula and competitive grants as in FY 2012 and States received an equal amount of competitive funding. Please note that this estimate is designed to be illustrative only and does not attempt to represent actual first year awards. The methodology and criteria for funding allocations beyond FY 2014 has not yet been determined.

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Column: Ohio’s Big Cities are Rapidly Becoming National School Reform Leaders

Posted: June 3, 2013 11:06 AM

By Terry Ryan, The Thomas B. Fordham Institute

This week I am joining members of CEE-Trust for a conversation on some of the nation’s most promising city-based school reform efforts. CEE-Trust is a national coalition of 33 reform organizations including mayors' offices, foundations and various school reform groups. In years past as a school reformer I always left the CEE-Trust meetings wishing more were happening in Ohio’s cities. But, this year is different. Ohio’s big cities are rapidly becoming leaders in school reform. In fact, there is no state with three major cities doing more than what is happening in Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati. Consider the following.

Cleveland: In early 2012 Mayor Frank Jackson (who appoints the school board) unveiled his “Plan for Transforming Schools.” The Jackson Plan required changes to state law and in July 2012 Governor Kasich signed House Bill 525, which gave the Cleveland Metropolitan School District and its superintendent Eric Gordon new flexibilities to deal with the city’s long-suffering schools. Key elements of the plan included:

• Keeping high-performing and specialized teachers during layoffs by making tenure and seniority only secondary factors in those personnel decisions.

• Paying teachers on a “differentiated” salary schedule based on performance, special skills and duties, as opposed to years of service and education level.

• Lengthening school day and school year.

• Sharing local tax dollars with high-performing charters.

• Replacing failing schools with new high quality charter and district magnet schools.

• Attracting, retaining and developing excellent new teachers and school leaders.

Cleveland voters backed the school reform plan by passing a 15-mill tax in November, which provided the district with $85 million annually with high-performing charters receiving about $5.7 million of that. Finally, just last month the Cleveland Teachers Union and the Cleveland School Board agreed to a contract that tied pay raises and layoffs to teacher performance, not seniority or advanced degrees. The agreement also lengthened instruction time for students.

Columbus: Mayor Michael Coleman launched the “Columbus Education Commission” in December 2012. (Note, both CEE-Trust and MindTrust have assisted efforts in Columbus). In late April, the 25 member Commission (a who’s who of Columbus business, philanthropic and community leaders, including the head of the Columbus Education Association) unanimously approved 55 recommendations to improve the city’s schools. The Commission’s recommendations include:

           Creating a public/private partnership to spend $50 million (a blend of public and private funds) to improve schools in Columbus and make the city a magnet for education talent.

           Hiring an “education director” in the mayor’s office who would become a non-voting member of the school board.

           Providing pre-K programs to every family in the district.

           Creating a new entity to develop and deploy technology throughout the district.

           Making local levy dollars available to high-performing charters (like Cleveland).

           Having the mayor become a charter school authorizer (joining Indianapolis as one of only two cities in America with mayoral authorizing authority).

Some of the Commission’s recommendations, including mayoral sponsorship of charter schools, require changes to state law. In May, House Bill 167 was introduced and it has received bipartisan support and passed out of the House Education Committee by a 19-3 vote. It is hoped the bill will make it through the House and Senate in record time. Governor Kasich has promised to sign it.

Cincinnati: In 2010, Cincinnati became the first big city in Ohio to receive an “Effective” (B) rating from the Ohio Department of Education. The district received Effective ratings in 2011 and 2012 as well. The successes in Cincinnati have been so eye-popping that The Atlantic ran a piece on the city in May entitled “How to Turn an Urban School District Around – Without Cheating.” Reform efforts in Cincinnati are different to those being undertaken in Cleveland and Columbus in that the district is leading the reform charge. Not the mayor. But, in all three cities the business community, philanthropy and numerous community partners have not only supported the school reforms, but have worked with educators help to drive them.

Cincinnati’s hard-charging superintendent Mary Ronan and her team have befuddled reformers by turning around the district’s 16 lowest-performing elementary schools, some of which had languished for decades. Key to the success has been building level leadership and a focus on improving teacher quality. As in Cleveland and Columbus, the local teachers union has been a key ally in the overall reform strategy, but new schools (Carpe Diem and SEED Academy) and new talent (Teach for America) have also been welcomed by the district and city as important allies.

Ohio’s cities are rapidly becoming leaders in the charge to improve education for all students. This is a story still very much in progress, and there are significant academic challenges in each of these cities to yet overcome, but those interested in city-based school reform efforts should pay close attention to what’s happening in the Buckeye State.

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Release: Lawmaker Hosts Bipartisan Reception

Posted: May 30, 2013 2:30 PM

State Rep. John Patterson Hosts Bipartisan Food and Wine Social

Event highlights importance of cooperation, features Ohio-produced wines and cheeses

COLUMBUS—State Representative John Patterson (D-Jefferson) held a reception for Republican and Democratic lawmakers and staff Wednesday in Columbus. The purpose of the event was to encourage more bipartisanship in the state’s legislature while showcasing Ohio-made wines and cheeses.

“At a time when hyper-partisanship pervades politics in Ohio and across the nation, now more than ever, we need opportunities to come together to simply enjoy each other’s company and reflect on why we’re in our elected positions in the first place,” said Rep. Patterson. “In keeping with that theme, it is my hope that each member of both the Ohio House and Senate in attendance left this reception with a renewed spirit to find areas of common interest.”

All of the Ohio-made products featured at the reception came from Rep. Patterson’s 99th House district, which includes portions of Ashtabula and Geauga Counties. Rep. Patterson worked with Donniella Winchell of the Ohio Wine Producers’ Association to coordinate the event and to bring in vendors.

Vendors from the 99th House District that were showcased at the event include The Middlefield Cheese Company, Great Lakes Cheese, Markko Vineyards, Debonné Vineyards, The Winery at Spring Hill, Grand River Cellars, M Cellars and Ferrante Winery.

Officials from Rep. Patterson’s 99th House district were also in attendance, including Ashtabula County Commissioner Peggy Carlo, Ashtabula County Commissioner Danny Claypool, Geauga County Growth Partnership President Frank Samuel, Ashtabula County Tourism Director Mark Winchell, Lake County Tourism Director Bob Ulas and Ice Wine Queen Mary Beckwith.

A lifelong resident of the district, State Representative John Patterson is currently serving his first term in the Ohio House of Representatives.

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Release: Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Backs Marriage Equality

Posted: May 30, 2013 8:29 AM

Ed FitzGerald Supports Marriage Equality

FitzGerald Would Be First Ohio Governor in Favor of Full LGBT Equality

COLUMBUS- In a May interview with Outlook Magazine, gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald discussed his support for full equality, including marriage and ending housing and employment discrimination. If elected, Ed FitzGerald would be the first governor in the history of the state to support full equality for all Ohioans.

“My support for full equality, including marriage, is as simple as supporting basic civil rights for all Ohioans, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

“Part of being a Democrat is fighting for equality for all people. We should not have a law that discriminates against gay and lesbian couples in Ohio. The fabric of our state is diverse, and we all deserve to stand on equal ground.

“Marriage provides the greatest security for loving, committed couples and their families, especially in times of crisis. If elected governor, I will do everything I can to help in the fight for marriage equality and work to end housing and employment discrimination for all Ohioans.”

From serving as an FBI agent on the Organized Crime Task Force, assistant prosecutor, Lakewood mayor, and county executive, Ed FitzGerald has brought down corrupt public officials, cleaned up government and fought to make government work for the middle class.

For more information, visit http://www.edfitzgeraldforohio.com/.

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Release: County Commissioners Vote To Expand NW Ohio Rail Terminal

Posted: May 30, 2013 8:26 AM

Commissioners Sponsor TIGER Application to Expand Northwest Ohio Terminal

May 28, 2013 -- The Wood County Commissioners, in cooperation with CSX, will seek U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) TIGER funding for half of a $42 million project to expand CSX's Northwest Ohio Terminal.

Located in Henry Township, west of North Baltimore, the facility is the cornerstone of CSX's double-stack freight rail corridor between East Coast sea ports and the Midwest, employing nearly 300 people and transferring approximately two million freight containers annually.

"The Northwest Ohio Terminal has rapidly emerged as an engine of growth for Wood County," said Wade Gottschalk, executive director of the Wood County Economic Development Commission. "The Northwest Ohio Terminal has created opportunity for major businesses and distribution centers to locate here, and we are excited for this next phase of growth to our region."

The expansion project would add eight additional tracks, install two additional wide span cranes and extend the process area by 2,300 feet. The TIGER grant application will seek $21 million of the $42 million cost of the project, with CSX committing the remaining funding for the expansion.

facility manages more than 30 trains per day over 24,000 feet of process track and 75,000 feet of classification track with parking capacity for approximately 280 units. The terminal opened in 2011 following a private investment of $175 million by CSX and other partners. This private investment leveraged additional infrastructure investment in the nearby area including a new configuration of State Route 18, a grade separation at Liberty Hi Road and the intermodal facility, and an extension of water and sewer capacity.

The terminal's location is ideal in terms of rail and highway connectivity, and provides a critical link along the National Gateway, a public-private partnership which supports the movement of double-stacked intermodal containers on rail cars by raising bridges, increasing tunnel clearances and building new terminals along existing rail routes. When complete, the National Gateway will benefit CSX customers by improving service reliability and transit times, reduce highway congestion, and enhance the environment by converting more than 14 billion highway miles to rail and decreasing fuel consumption by nearly 2 billion gallons.

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Release: ACEC Retains Government Advantage Group

Posted: May 24, 2013 11:26 AM

The American Council of Engineering Companies of Ohio has retained Government Advantage Group, LLP, to represent the organization in legislative and regulatory matters. Firm partner Kevin L. Futryk will serve as the Council’s primary representative for both legislative and executive agency matters.

“We believe Kevin will be an outstanding representative for Ohio’s engineering companies,” said Donald L. Mader, Executive Director of the Council. “He has an excellent reputation and comes to us with a lot of knowledge of the engineering industry.”

“Kevin is well-respected in the legislature and his strong background in transportation and environmental issues will allow him to hit the ground running on our behalf,” Mader said.

The 115 companies that comprise ACEC Ohio are responsible for designing most of Ohio’s public works construction, including highways, bridges and water and wastewater facilities. They also design structural and mechanical systems for buildings, and all types of environmental, commercial and industrial facilities.

Member companies of ACEC Ohio must be licensed by the State Board of Registration for Professional Engineers and Surveyors in order to provide engineering services to the public.

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Column: Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor On Judicial Elections

Posted: May 24, 2013 11:24 AM

It’s Time to Work Together to Strengthen Judicial Elections

It would be hard to think of an area of our society that is not affected by judges and the courts. From approving adoptions to settling estates, from marriage licenses to divorce decrees, from traffic tickets to serious violent crime, judges in Ohio handle more than 1 million cases each year, and behind every one of these cases there are real people and families seeking justice.

Thus, there are few matters more important in our democracy than how we select our judges. I believe we can do a better job, and I am inviting Ohioans to join me in this cause.

Make no mistake, we enjoy one of the best systems of justice anywhere in the world. Extraordinarily talented and hard-working people make up the Ohio judiciary, and the work they do every day is remarkable. But there are three reasons why I believe we can do even better: 1) There are problems with the public’s perceptions of judges and the judicial branch. 2) Voter participation in judicial elections is less than it should be. 3) There is evidence that more can be done to educate and inform the electorate.

The public perception problem arises again and again in poll after poll. A poll by the National Center for State Courts found that 59 percent of Americans believe courts’ decisions are influenced by politics. A recent poll found that the public’s view of the U.S. Supreme Court – viewed as a barometer of the general perception of the judicial branch – has reached an all-time low of 44 percent.

Voter participation in judicial races is consistently much less than in other contests. For example, I researched voter participation in Ohio over the past decade and found that on average one quarter of all voters who come to the polls in statewide elections do not cast a ballot in Ohio Supreme Court contests.

And those voters who do stick around for the judicial races at the back of the ballot often express frustration that they do not have sufficient information on which to base their vote. A national study recently found that 14.5 percent of voters leaving the booth could not name even one of the judicial candidates on the ballot they just cast.

“Ohio Courts 2013: A Proposal for Strengthening Judicial Elections” offers an 8-point plan for public consideration and establishes a process for bringing people together to reach consensus on judicial reforms. Judges, lawyers, and the general public are encouraged to read the plan and offer their views on strengthening judicial elections by visiting www.OhioCourts2013.org.

Judicial elections have been a matter of controversy in Ohio since they were first established in the Constitution of 1851.

However, there is widespread agreement today that we should elect our judges. Over the last 75 years, there have been multiple attempts to do away with judicial elections entirely in Ohio, and voters time and again have reaffirmed by large margins that they want judges to be accountable in competitive elections. Most recently, a poll in December 2012 found that more than 80 percent of Ohioans oppose doing away with competitive elections.

My proposal was developed based on a careful review of previous efforts to examine judicial elections in the state, including the 2003 Next Steps conference and the 2009 Forum on Judicial Selection, both of which were led by the late Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer and included the Ohio State Bar Association, the League of Women Voters Ohio Chapter, legislative leaders, academic experts, and groups representing business and labor.

The plan identifies a series of issues and poses questions surrounding specific potential reforms for public consideration:

1. Should Ohio Change the Law So Judicial Races Are No Longer Listed at the End of the Ballot?

2. Should All Judicial Elections be Held in Odd-Numbered Years?

3. Should Ohio Centralize & Expand Its Civic Education Programming and Institute a Judicial Voter Guide?

4. Should Ohio Eliminate Party Affiliation on the Ballot in Judicial Primaries?

5. Should Ohio Join the Other States that Have a Formal, Non-Partisan System for Recommending Nominees to the Governor to Fill Judicial Vacancies?

6. Should Appointments to the Ohio Supreme Court Require the Advice and Consent of the Ohio Senate?

7. Should Ohio Increase the Basic Qualifications for Serving as a Judge?

8. Should Ohio Increase the Length of Judges’ Terms?

Over the next several months I will be leading a public discussion about the plan on the website and in a series of meetings with the hope of refining the proposal and moving forward with a final plan in 2013.

For as long as we have had judges in Ohio, we have had discussions about the best way to select the people who serve in this important roll. For the last 45 years at least, this debate has centered on whether we should appoint judges rather than elect them, but the voters in our democracy have made it clear that they want their judges elected.

I believe now is the time to revisit this topic once and for all, not to do away with judicial elections, but to strengthen them. I hope you will join me in having this conversation.

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Column: Sen. Rob Portman On Memorial Day

Posted: May 24, 2013 11:22 AM

Remembering America’s Fallen Heroes

Weekly Column from U.S. Senator Rob Portman

This Memorial Day, many of us will gather together with family and friends to usher in the unofficial start of summer. We will do so under a blanket of peace, security, and freedom. Those blessings are bought with a price. For some Americans, Memorial Day will begin with a visit to a cemetery or a monument to celebrate the life of someone who paid that price, who died fighting for our country.

This nation is built on their sacrifice, and we see the legacy of their victories throughout our history. The men and women of our Armed Forces we honor today challenged the greatest empire the world has ever seen and won this country its independence. They preserved a union and gave our nation a new birth of freedom. They saved Europe from the shadow of fascism and the world from the crushing hand of Communism. They have stood against terror and kept our cities safe. Now we must work to make sure we never forget these sacrifices.

Recently, I cosponsored legislation with Senator Brown to honor with the Congressional Gold Medal the World War II heroes known as the Doolittle Raiders. Not enough Americans are aware of the incredible story of these men.

It was April 1942, and the nation was still reeling from the attacks on Pearl Harbor. What most Americans did not know was that an audacious plan was underway to strike back at the Empire of Japan. Sixteen bombers with eighty crewmen took off from an aircraft carrier deep in Japanese-controlled territory. All of them knew it would be a one-way trip—the bombers barely had enough fuel to reach Japan. But they went anyway, and when they dropped their bombs on enemy soil, they shattered the myth of Japanese invincibility, and they restored hope to the American people.

 

One aircrew landed in the Soviet Union, most of the rest abandoned their aircraft over China. Eleven died during the process—of those, three were executed by the Japanese. All of them are heroes. They deserve our gratitude, and this award—which will be housed at the Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton—will serve as a token of appreciation to the four living Doolittle Raiders and ensure that their service is not forgotten.

I also recently re-introduced legislation that would add to the World War II Memorial the words that President Franklin D. Roosevelt prayed with the nation on June 6, 1944 following the D-Day landings. It would recall those harrowing hours when the fate of the world hung in the balance. That evening, as American forces were struggling to maintain their perilous beachheads on the Normandy shore, Franklin D. Roosevelt prayed for our soldiers in harm’s way, saying,

…They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest—until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war.

For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and goodwill among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.

Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom….

These words echo down through the years. They are timeless, and they apply to the men and women who fight for us today, to all those who lay down their lives for the cause of liberty. On this Memorial Day we remember them, and we recommit ourselves to ensuring that those selfless heroes who die for this country are never forgotten.

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School Voucher Students Outperform Public School Peers on Ohio Graduation Test

Posted: May 9, 2013 10:05 AM

COLUMBUS, Ohio (May 9, 2013) – School voucher recipients in Ohio outperform their public school counterparts on the Ohio Graduation Test (OGT), according to data from the Ohio Department of Education.

In four of the state’s largest school districts – Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Dayton – School Choice Ohio compared OGT scores of voucher students with the scores of students in local public schools. Overall, in these four districts, scholarship recipients performed, on average, 11 percent better in math, 20 percent better in reading and 24 percent better in science.

“There has been considerable misinformation spread recently by school voucher opponents concerning the academic progress of students who participate in the scholarship programs,” said School Choice Ohio Legislative Director Jason Warner. “The time has come to set the record straight, and these numbers demonstrate the academic success that can be achieved when a child is in a great school that is a great fit for his or her learning needs.”

Students who receive scholarships would have been assigned to the state’s lowest-rated public schools. This data compares their test scores with the test scores of their public school peers who come from all buildings, including those rated Excellent and Excellent with Distinction.

In the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, 59.9 percent of students received a grade of proficient or above in reading compared to 85.4 percent of Cleveland scholarship recipients. That means Cleveland scholarship recipients outperformed their public school peers on the reading portion by 25.5 percent.

In Columbus City School District, 48.5 percent of students received a grade of proficient or above on the state science assessment compared to 88.9 percent of EdChoice students in Columbus – a difference of 40.4 percent.

In Dayton City School District, 62.3 percent of students were rated as proficient or above in math compared to 81.4 percent of EdChoice students in the district. That is a difference of 19.1 percent.

In Cincinnati Public School District, 78.5 percent of students were found to be proficient in reading compared to 90.5 percent of local EdChoice students – a difference of 11.7 percent.

“When we look at the achievements of students, the data from these Ohio cities clearly shows children are achieving greater outcomes in schools that best suit them,” said Ohio House Speaker Pro Tempore Matt Huffman. “Expanding voucher eligibility, under certain income thresholds, ensures that parents have fewer obstacles to finding that best fit and creates the best outcomes for students in Ohio.”

“Students who participate in Ohio’s school voucher programs are succeeding academically when given the opportunity to improve,” said Warner. “This is why the income-based scholarship program, included in House Bill 59, is so important to so many families across Ohio. Parents are tired of seeing their children fall behind, even in non-failing school districts, and want to provide them with a quality education – they just lack the means to do so on their own.”

Warner will share this information in his testimony before the Ohio Senate Finance Subcommittee on Education today.

For more information about school vouchers in Ohio, visit www.scohio.org.

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Ohio Statehouse Announces 2013 ‘Summer Fridays at the Statehouse’ Season

Posted: May 9, 2013 10:04 AM

Free Lunch-Time Performing Arts Series

Summer Fridays at the Statehouse May 31 - August 30

Noon – 1 p.m. on the West Plaza

(Columbus, OH) The Ohio Statehouse today announced the 2013 Summer Fridays at the Statehouse schedule of performances. The Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board (CSRAB) has partnered with 13 central Ohio performing arts groups to present, Summer Fridays at the Statehouse. Summer Fridays is a FREE lunch-time outdoor performing arts series staged on the West Plaza (High Street) of the historic Ohio Statehouse. Summer Fridays at the Statehouse provides an opportunity for the public and downtown community to gather on Capitol Square to experience some of Columbus’ diverse arts groups and to visit the beautiful Capitol building.

This year’s participating performing arts groups include a diverse cross section of central Ohio’s arts organizations.

Scheduled 2013 performances include:

May 31 – Opera Columbus, concert performance of La Bohème

June 7 – One Way Gospel Singers, Gospel & Country

June 14 – (Flag Day) RMT Presents, Songs of America, Americana

June 21 – Franklin Xpress, Classic Rock

June 28 – Columbus Gay Men’s Chorus, Choral

July 5 – NO CONCERT

July 12 – Ohio Dance

July 19 – Columbus Symphony Youth Orchestra Pops, Classical

July 26 – Alliance of Greater Central Ohio, Barbershop Harmony

August 2 – Ladies of Longford, Celtic

August 9 – Grassahol Band, Bluegrass

August 16 – Big Iron, Country, Bluegrass, Gospel

August 23 – The Smoking Guns, Blues, Country, Rock

August 30 – Steve Ball, Music of the Civil War

Summer Fridays at the Statehouse will take place Fridays, May 31 through August 30 (absent July 5). The program will run between noon and 1 p.m. The series gives the downtown community and visitors the opportunity to enjoy the majestic Statehouse grounds while some of Columbus’ best arts groups perform. There is no better place, downtown, to enjoy your lunch this summer!

Visitors are encouraged to bring their lunch – there are a number of downtown restaurants located on Capitol Square. Also, CSRAB will be taking non-perishable food donations for Operation Feed through June 14.

Performances will be canceled in the event of inclement weather. Up to the minute performance information about Summer Fridays at the Statehouse will be posted on the front page of the Ohio Statehouse website at www.ohiostatehouse.org. Summer Fridays at the Statehouse audience members are encouraged to visit the Statehouse website each morning of the scheduled performances to retrieve last minute performance information.

Media support for Summer Fridays at the Statehouse is provided by 10 TV and CD 101.

High resolution photos from the 2012 season are available at: http://www.ohiostatehouse.org/Multimedia/MediaLibrary/Collection.aspx?start=1&collectionId=108519

A 30 second Public Service Announcement promoting the event can be viewed at:

http://www.ohiostatehouse.org/Multimedia/MediaLibrary/Media.aspx?fileId=138816

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Release: Rep. Gerberry Introduces Bill to Redistribute Portion of Lottery Profits

Posted: May 7, 2013 2:52 PM

Bill calls for excess lottery funds to be disbursed to Ohio schools

COLUMBUS – State Representative Ronald V. Gerberry (D-Austintown) re-introduced legislation that calls for a portion of lottery profits to be distributed annually, on a per pupil basis, to public and chartered nonpublic schools.

“The shell game played with lottery profits has now gone on for several decades under both Democrat and Republican Administrations,” said Rep. Gerberry. “The public believes lottery dollars are used for education and while technically they are; in reality they only free up dollars to be spent elsewhere in state government. The time has come to make this right for Ohio's school children. With VLT's now in full swing in Ohio horse racing facilities the Lottery Fund will grow at a tremendous rate and this problem should be corrected.”

House Bill 154 calls for the Lottery Profits Education Fund to be capped at its current level with all additional revenue generated during the biennium transferred to the State Lottery Gross Revenue Fund. The State Lottery Gross Revenue Fund would then be distributed annually on a per pupil basis to public and charted non public schools. This legislation will stop the ongoing “Shell Game” played with Ohio Lottery dollars and truly make lottery dollars additional revenue for education rater than dollars used to free up General Revenue Fund dollars for other state related expenditures at the expense of education funding.

HB 154 has yet to be assigned to a House committee.

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Release: Rep. Dovilla and Treasurer Mandel Hold Press Conference Introducing Transparency Legislation to Post State Checkbook Online

Posted: May 7, 2013 2:52 PM

COLUMBUS- State Representative Mike Dovilla (R-Berea) was joined by Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel at a press conference today to unveil legislation seeking to establish "Open Ohio," a state government expenditure database showing taxpayers exactly where their money is being spent.

 

In an effort to increase government accountability and transparency, this legislation creates a searchable, freely accessible database that displays the expenditure information of state agencies, including the amount of the expenditure, the date of the expenditure, the person to whom the expenditure was paid, and the state entity that made or requested the expenditure.

 

"Ohio's hardworking taxpayers deserve to know how their state government is spending their tax dollars," said Dovilla. "We are committed to advancing efficient, effective state government that respects taxpayers, and one of the best ways to accomplish this objective is to allow Ohioans to help us root out government waste, fraud, and abuse."

 

"As Ohio's taxpayer watchdog, I believe it's important that Ohioans have the ability to follow their tax dollars and hold elected officials accountable. Shining sunlight on state spending and decisions made deep in the bureaucracy will give taxpayers the resources to help root out waste, fraud and abuse," said Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel. "This new database of state government expenditures will give Ohioans fully searchable access to billions of dollars of spending information at their fingertips. I am proud to have partnered with Representative Dovilla and the Ohio General Assembly on legislation to publicly display this state expenditure database, which is a continuation of the Treasurer's Transparency Project I launched shortly after taking office."

 

Under Representative Dovilla's legislation, Treasurer Mandel's office will host the new fully searchable state agency expenditures database on www.OhioTreasurer.gov. The legislation also places in statue a requirement that the Treasurer's office host fully searchable databases that display salaries of state employees and local school district education employees, a practice that the Treasurer's office started in 2011.

 

The legislation will now undergo further consideration in the Ohio House of Representatives.

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Release: Leader Budish, Rep. Antonio Push for Needed Update of Ohio’s Civil Rights Law

Posted: May 7, 2013 2:48 PM

Lawmakers ask Speaker Batchelder to prioritize anti-discrimination bill

COLUMBUS- In a letter sent to House Speaker William G. Batchelder today, Rep. Nickie J. Antonio (D-Lakewood) and Minority Leader Armond Budish (D-Beachwood) urged swift consideration of the Equal Housing and Employment Act. The bipartisan bill would prohibit discrimination in employment and housing based on gender identity or sexual orientation, and is scheduled for introduction later this week. It has been taken up by the legislature before, and was passed by the House in 2009 before dying in the Senate.

A copy of the letter can be seen below.

Honorable William G. Batchelder

Ohio House of Representatives

77 South High Street; 14th Floor

Columbus, Ohio 43215

May 7, 2013

Dear Speaker Batchelder,

We write this letter to seek your support for legislation to prohibit discrimination in housing and employment based on sexual orientation or gender identity. This legislative proposal has been a reoccurring subject during past General Assemblies, and it was ultimately passed by the House in 2009 before dying in the Senate. Unfortunately, elected officials have failed to act on such a measure over the years, leaving many Ohioans without the same opportunity to hold a job or find housing to which all people are entitled.

Our great nation and state were founded on principles of equality and freedom. However, data shows that Ohioans have been fired, denied employment or a promotion, and suffered abuse in the workplace based on their sexual orientation. Ohio law does not make it illegal to fire someone based merely on sexual orientation. This is an obvious divergence from the basic constitutional rights that Americans and Ohioans hold dear. We recognize this as a serious impediment to job creation and retention in our state, and hope that you do as well. Ohio can no longer expressly or tacitly endorse this antiquated and unjust approach to employment and housing. The vibrancy of a diverse community attracts young entrepreneurs and innovators, who play a crucial role in bolstering local economies.

To provide a long overdue remedy, we ask that you will expeditiously move our forthcoming bill. The legislation will add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the list of classes protected from discrimination found in the Ohio Revised Code. This bill will not require quotas or mandate affirmative action programs. Rather, it will modernize Ohio’s anti-discrimination laws by ending unjust and prejudiced practices. Furthermore, it will align Ohio with numerous states, countless cities and counties, most of Ohio’s public universities, and almost all Fortune 500 companies that have enacted laws or policies to achieve the same end.

Ohio law must receive a 21st Century renovation to reflect our long-held, core values of fairness and equality. We hope that you will agree, and consider our request to give the Equal Housing and Employment Act the attention it and so many Ohioans deserve.

We look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Armond Budish Nickie J. Antonio

House Minority Leader State Representative

Ohio’s 8th House District Ohio’s 13th House District

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Release: Groups Push Action On Traffic Cameras

Posted: April 16, 2013 3:14 PM

Red Light Running Victims and Families Urge Legislators to Reject Bill Banning Traffic Safety Cameras

Columbus, Ohio – Twenty-one parents, spouses, grandparents and children of people killed by red light runners are calling on Ohio state legislators to support the use of red light cameras by opposing legislation which would ban their use in the state. The group sent a letter to legislators yesterday urging them to oppose any effort to prohibit or limit Ohio cities from utilizing traffic safety cameras to make roads safer. Signers include Somerset residents and Traffic Safety Coalition national co-chairs, Paul and Sue Oberhauser, whose daughter Sarah was killed in 2002 by a red light runner in Milford Township.

 

“As individuals who have either lost a loved one or been personally involved in a crash as a result of someone running a red light, we know how ignoring our most basic traffic safety laws can turn a family’s life upside down. We know how it feels to lose a loved one because of a quick, reckless decision and have our whole lives changed in a split second. Because of our experiences and a desire to prevent other families from experiencing the same loss, we ask you to vote no on House Bill 69, which strips city leaders and law enforcement of this important tool,” they wrote.

 

Ohio legislators will consider legislation at a hearing today introduced by Rep. Ron Maag (R-Lebanon) and Rep. Dale Mallory (D-Cincinnati) to ban the use of safety cameras in the state.

Fifteen communities throughout Ohio use safety cameras and have experienced tremendous improvements in road safety following the installation of safety cameras. The following are a few examples of Ohio cities where cameras are making roads safer.

           74% reduction in right-angle crashes and 25% reduction in rear-end crashes in Columbus.

           47% reduction in crashes in Springfield.

           39% reduction in fatal red light running crashes in Toledo.

           35% reduction in red light running crashes in Dayton.

“With these results, state leaders should be encouraging more cities to use cameras as a tool to reduce injury and death on our roadways,” the group concluded. “But still, some Ohio leaders are leading a charge to ban this life-saving technology. No one should ever have to go through what we have gone through. Safety cameras save lives.”

The full text of the letter can be found below.

April 15, 2013

Dear Legislator:

We write to voice our support for the continued use of traffic safety cameras in Ohio and to encourage you to oppose House Bill 69, which if passed, would prohibit Ohio cities from utilizing traffic safety cameras.

As individuals who have either lost a loved one or been personally involved in a crash as a result of someone running a red light, we know how ignoring our most basic traffic safety laws can turn a family’s life upside down. We know how it feels to lose a loved one because of a quick, reckless decision and have our whole lives changed in a split second. Because of our experiences and a desire to prevent other families from experiencing the same loss, we ask you to vote no on House Bill 69, which strips city leaders and law enforcement of this important tool.

The data is indisputable: Intersections safety cameras change driver behavior, reduce red light running and crashes, and ultimately, save lives. In Columbus, there was a 74% reduction in right-angle crashes and a 25% reduction in rear-end crashes since the city started using cameras. Springfield saw a 47% reduction in crashes after cameras were installed. Safety cameras in Toledo led to a 39% reduction in fatal red light running crashes and there was a 35% reduction in red light running crashes in Dayton after cameras were installed. The numbers tell the story – these cameras make roads safer.

Additionally, a study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety determined that traffic safety cameras reduced fatal red light running crashes by an average of 24% nationally, saving 159 lives in 14 of the largest U.S. cities using cameras from 2004-2008. IIHS concluded 815 more lives could have been saved during that time if every large U.S. city had been using cameras.

With these results, state leaders should be encouraging more cities to use cameras as a tool to reduce injury and death on our roadways. But still, some Ohio leaders are leading a charge to ban this life-saving technology. You are in an important position to preserve cities’ access to a tool that we know saves lives and helps enforce our most basic traffic safety laws.

Please vote against House Bill 69 and stand with us to support safety cameras in the state. No one should ever have to go through what we have gone through. Safety cameras save lives.

Sincerely,

Paul & Sue Oberhauser, Parents of red light running victim

Jacy Good, Red light running victim, parents killed in red light running crash

Frank Hinds, Daughter killed by red light runner

John & Kathy Phillipi, Parents of red light running victim

Melanie & Michael Swanson, Parents of red light running victim

Pam & Ty Woods, Grandparents of red light running victim

JoAnn Castellano, Grandmother of red light running victim

Tedeux Yang, Fiance of red light running victim

Barbara Hoffman, Mother of red light running victim

Pat & Howard Fleischmann, Parents of red light running victim

Charles & Laura Sobczak, Father killed in red light running crash

Dave & Tracy Zentz, Son killed in red light running crash

Jay & Shelley Wonders, Son killed by reckless driver

About the Traffic Safety Coalition:

The Traffic Safety Coalition is a not-for-profit organization comprised of concerned citizens, traffic safety experts, law enforcement, public officials, victims’ advocates, health care professionals and industry leaders who are committed to working together to make our roads safer for drivers, passengers, and pedestrians. We work with our partners throughout the country to promote technology and education that save lives and keep our roads safe.

The Traffic Safety Coalition received the 2011 Peter K. O'Rourke Special Achievement Award from the Governors Highway Safety Association for outstanding achievements in highway safety.

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Releases: Groups Comment On BWC Appeal Of Group Rating Decision

Posted: April 16, 2013 3:13 PM

STATEMENT BY PLAINTIFFS' COUNSEL ON BWC APPEAL

Cleveland, OH -- James A. DeRoche, Esq., a lead attorney representing the plaintiffs in the landmark class action lawsuit against the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (San Allen, Inc., et al. vs. Stephen Buehrer, Administrator of the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC)), which impacts hundreds of thousands of Ohio employers, made the following statement today:

"The Bureau once again has proven to the business community that its claims of being “business friendly” are just empty words. The Bureau filed an appeal of the trial court’s well-reasoned decision, proposing arguments that turn the concept of insurance on its head. The Bureau has argued it has no obligation to return money that it unlawfully collected and that the thousands of Ohio businesses it harmed are not entitled to receive their own money back. This comes after the former BWC Administrator and even the Bureau's own actuaries repeatedly conceded that roughly 270,000 employers were overcharged.

After six years of legal wrangling, multiple motions asserting the same tired arguments and a two week trial — where the Bureau lost at every step of the way — it's time for the Bureau to acknowledge the overwhelming weight of the evidence and reimburse the businesses so grievously damaged and in many cases destroyed. At a time when Ohio’s valued job-creators are struggling to move the State’s economy forward and create jobs for hard working families, the Bureau’s decision to delay further is disgraceful."

STATEMENT ON BWC'S FILING OF AN APPEAL

Cleveland, OH -- Earl Stein, president of Pay Us Back Ohio BWC, Inc., the coalition representing the roughly 270,000 employers injured by the Bureau of Workers' Compensation's illegal overcharges; and lead plaintiff in the landmark class action $860 million lawsuit against the BWC (San Allen, Inc., et al. vs. Stephen Buehrer, Administrator of the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC)) issued the following statement today in response to BWC Administrator Stephen Buehrer's choice to appeal a Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Judge's ruling against the BWC:

"Administrator Buehrer's decision to appeal adds insult to the injury the Bureau of Workers' Compensation inflicted on over a quarter of a million businesses — many of whom are no longer in business because of the BWC's actions.

Administrator Buehrer can come up with any justification he likes, but his choice to ignore hundreds of thousands of employers and appeal the Court's order only strengthens our resolve.

Administrator Buehrer recently said he would appeal out of his "fiduciary duty". By choosing to appeal he clearly has decided to ignore his fiduciary duty to Ohio job creators.

His choice to file this appeal totally ignores his duty to Ohio businesses, employees and the Bureau's stated goal of creating a "business friendly" environment in Ohio.

It's time the BWC listened to the hundreds of thousands of Ohio employers that struggle day-in and day-out to grow our businesses and create jobs.

It's time for the BWC to do the right thing. It's time for the BWC to pay us back the money it owes us rather than resorting to legal games that will cost the State of Ohio about $73,000 a day — $27 million a year — and harm the employers and their employees who are the backbone of our State's economy."

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Release: Students converge on Columbus for Ohio’s YMCA Youth in Government Student Legislature and Supreme Court

Posted: April 12, 2013 9:37 AM

Columbus – Adding 20 days to the Ohio school year, Requiring every student a foreign language at a primary school level, Increase taxation on cigarettes and a Gun Amnesty program are among the student written legislative proposals to be considered at Ohio’s YMCA Youth in Government Student Legislature at the Statehouse on April 13-15, 2013.

Almost one hundred sixty (160) high school students and advisors convene in the House at 4:30 p.m. on April 13, 2013, for Ohio’s 62nd Student Legislature and Student Supreme Court.

Welcoming the students will be former Ohio State Auditor and Attorney General Betty Montgomery. Once the opening ceremonies are over, student elected officers take the reins of state government for the next three (3) days ending on Monday at noon in the House Chambers.

We invite all to stop by and see the students in action throughout the three (3) days. Please call for more information about the schedule or stop by the Senate Chambers on April 13-15, 2013 to talk to the YMCA staff.

Youth in Government is a program of the Ohio Alliance of YMCA’s. Every school and community may involve their teens by calling 419-632-1000 and we will come to you to assist your students in preparing for the next conference.

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Op-Ed: Connecting the school funding tunnels

Posted: April 11, 2013 10:11 AM

Terry Ryan, Thomas B. Fordham Institute / April 11, 2013

During construction of the continental railroads in the 1860s, workers dug from both ends to tunnel through the Rocky Mountains. When they met in the middle, the tunnel was finished and the trains could roll. This is how America became a great continental power. This image of the tunnel bored from two directions is an apt metaphor for what needs to happen with Governor Kasich’s biennial budget proposal (House Bill 59) and the very different plan emerging from the Ohio House this week.

Governor Kasich’s “Achievement Everywhere” plan has three main things going for it. First, it actually tries to target children and the schools they actually attend as the loci of public funding, as opposed to just spreading money across school districts. Traditionally, school funding has been about simply spreading the money around so far more districts feel like winners than losers. The House version does this by reducing the number of districts receiving no new money from nearly 400 to 175. But in doing so the House version loses some of the worthy Kasich reforms.

Specifically, Kasich’s plan proposed reducing one-size fits all spending restrictions by removing a number of minimum operating standards. This would free up educators but the House puts those standards back in place. They mandate practices like assignment of personnel and the use of specific instructional materials (especially odd considering the speed at which blended learning is spreading across the state). The House version also requires fixed staffing ratios for both speech pathologists and school psychologists when there is little evidence that such ratios result in kids actually getting the services they need (it does bump up spending however).

Governor Kasich’s plan offers incentives for innovation through the Straight A grant program. The idea here is simple: innovation costs money. Rather than trying to mandate it across schools and districts, encourage it through flexible competitive grants dollars, Kasich’s plan offered substantial dollars ($100 million in FY14 and $200 million in FY15) along with wide latitude in the reforms these dollars could support and in what types of organization do the work. The House would shrink the Straight A fund by half ($50 million in FY14 and $100 million in FY15) while restricting how and for what these dollars can be used and for what purposes. Again, this limits options for innovation and partnerships.

Third, Kasich’s Achievement Everywhere plan proposed some modest reforms to encourage efficiency and better use of tax dollars. Specifically, it would spur consolidation of services and cost savings by creating competitive funding and governance structures for the state’s 55 county-level education service centers. Unfortunately, the House version of the budget would bump up funding for all ESCs, thus protecting the weak ones from competition while reducing the ability of strong performers to expand their markets and services. Worse, low performers will be subsidized and have no incentive to improve or customize their services where there is the greatest demand. This drives up costs for schools, reduces quality, and discourages innovation.

Meanwhile, however, tunneling from the other direction the House developed some promising policy ideas of its own, including:

•Requiring school districts to report their student counts monthly (as charters do) and basing funding on these more-frequent counts,

•Providing creative busing alternatives for charters and private schools,

•Increasing the dollar amount for Cleveland students using vouchers to attend a private school, and

•Removing the gimmicky “parent trigger” mechanism.

Both sides, agreed to removing provisions requiring minimum salary steps for teachers. Thus, the House and Governor have already converged on one important reform; now they need to converge on more.

The House plan also bumps up overall funding for schools by $400 million in FY14 and $500 million in FY15. Properly used, those added resources will help educators to improve their schools and start working toward higher academic standards. But the House version by itself does not move Ohio forward. What’s needed is a joining of the best of the House plan with the best of the Governor’s plan. If the Senate can help bring the best of the two parts together then Ohio education should, just like transcontinental travel in the 19th century, take off to a whole new level.

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Guest Column: Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor

Posted: April 8, 2013 1:30 PM

It's Time for the United States Supreme Court to Catch Up With the Times

Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor

Guest Editorial Column

March 29, 2013

As the U.S. Supreme Court heard historic oral arguments on same-sex marriage last week, a debate outside the courtroom centered on a timeless question facing the top court in the land: Should the justices respond to public opinion or lag behind as society moves forward?

I believe that what we witnessed last week leads to the inescapable conclusion that the U.S. Supreme Court should catch up with where the nation has come. It is time for the court to allow cameras in its courtroom.

I write not as chief justice of the Supreme Court of Ohio but as a citizen. I have a unique perspective by virtue of my experience as a justice on a televised Supreme Court.

Regardless of one’s views on same-sex marriage, this week offered a spectacle of vivid images demonstrating that the justices are lost in the 19th Century when it comes to being open and transparent to the public they serve. Rather than seeing lawyers in action before the justices, we saw citizens huddled in the cold for days, waiting for a ticket to have the privilege to watch our democratic system of justice in action. There are over 300 million Americans, but only 500 seats in the Supreme Court gallery. For most of us, after two days of arguments, we have only almost comical courtroom sketches of the proceedings rather than video or even still photographs. We are left with talking heads speculating on what they did not themselves observe in the impenetrable sanctum accessible only to an elite and chosen few. These images serve no purpose but to further erode the public image of the court.

Late last year, public confidence in the Supreme Court reached its lowest point in 25 years. In one poll by the New York Times and CBS News, only 44 percent of Americans said they approved of the job of the court. About 75 percent said they believe the Court’s decisions are influenced by politics.

In this Information Age -- when you can post a video of your child’s piano recital and his grandparents “like” it on Facebook before he has finished playing – the public’s expectations about how they acquire knowledge and understand the world have undergone a radical metamorphosis. The impact of video and audio has no equal and, absent really being there, there is no substitute.

The tired, old arguments against allowing cameras in the courtroom are approaching flat earth status. They essentially fall into one of four categories:

1.Justices, counsel or observers will “grandstand” for the cameras. Like many of our counterparts across the nation, the Ohio Supreme Court has broadcast its oral arguments live, in our case for almost 10 years. Initial speculation of grandstanding has been proven unfounded. Our archived video, coupled with online access to briefs and opinions represents a superior learning tool that has been utilized thousands upon thousands of times.

2.Allowing cameras detracts from the majesty and decorum of the proceedings. To the contrary, cartoonish courtroom sketches detract from the proceedings, and as already noted, the public today distrusts what it cannot observe. Technology has advanced to the point where the cameras are wall mounted and unobtrusive. The presence of a camera operator is unnecessary, and there is no distraction.

3.Things will be taken out of context, and the general public won’t understand the nuance and complexity of the legal argumentation. This one is the worst because it is elitist and insulting to the public. The inevitable result of this attitude is that the public is forced to process its information about the court through the filter of the media because there is no other direct option available. This is a democracy. We settled the question of whether we trust the people to govern themselves 230 years ago.

4.The justices’ reluctance to become public figures. Justices are not ‘ivory towered’ nor should they be. Justices write and promote their books; they lecture and are often participants in teaching events and interviews. The American public is as entitled to know who sits on the Supreme Court as they are entitled to know their local council member or mayor. And they are entitled to see them in action.

The court is to be commended for allowing same day audio of certain big arguments, and select federal lower courts have been experimenting with recorded video of certain proceedings. However, the day will come – hopefully very soon – when all U.S. Supreme Court cases are broadcast live in their entirety.

When it does, people will look back on this era the way we do today on the days when ladies were not allowed on the floor of the U.S. Congress.

The times, they are a changing. It’s time for the Supreme Court to catch up.

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Release: ODOT Issues Draft Transportation Program

Posted: April 5, 2013 1:41 PM

The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) today announced the draft Statewide Transportation Improvement Program is available for comment.

The program identifies highway and transit maintenance, new capacity, bicycle and other transportation-related projects that will be implemented throughout the state over the next four years.

The draft documents will be available for public review and comment at 30 locations statewide during the review period of April 8-19, 2013 during normal business hours. These locations consist of the Planning and Engineering Administrator's Office in each of the 12 ODOT District Offices, the ODOT Central Office Division of Planning, located in Columbus, and each of the 17 Ohio Metropolitan Planning Organization Offices.

For additional information and locations of Open Houses please visit the program’s website at:

http://www.dot.state.oh.us/Divisions/Planning/STIP/Pages/comments.aspx

Any comments concerning the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program may be submitted by email to Natasha.Turner@dot.state.oh.us or mail to:

Mrs. Jennifer Townley, Acting Deputy Director

Division of Planning

Ohio Department of Transportation

Mail Stop # 3260

1980 West Broad Street

Columbus, Ohio 43223

Written comments must be received by the close of business on April 22, 2013

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Release: CSRAB Hosting Statehouse Fossil Tour

Posted: April 1, 2013 11:04 AM

Discover Fossils on Capitol Square

Ohio Statehouse Hosts Fossil Tour

(Columbus, OH) The Ohio Statehouse will celebrate Earth Day by offering a FREE fossil tour on Capitol Square. The special tour will take place Friday, April 19 from noon until 1 p.m. The tour will depart from the Map Room, located on the ground floor of the Ohio Statehouse. Participants will explore the building stones that make up the Ohio Statehouse and Senate Office Building. The tour will be conducted by Dale M. Gnidovic, Curator of the OSU Orton Geological Museum, and Mike Angle, Assistant Division Chief at ODNR Division of Geological Survey. While the event is free, participants are asked to RSVP to Luke Stedke at lstedke@csrab.state.oh.us or 614/728-2130.

The Ohio Statehouse is constructed of Columbus Limestone. Columbus Limestone is of the Middle Devonian age and was named for the city where it has long been quarried. A large vein of Columbus Limestone formed in a north-south line, from the Glacial Grooves of Kelleys Island in Lake Erie, south to Columbus, Ohio. Four hundred million years ago the limestone was the sandy bottom of a tropical ocean that covered the state. Fossils of marine animals are abundant in Columbus Limestone and can be seen throughout the Capitol Square complex.

To view this press release and others, visit www.ohiostatehouse.org.

The Ohio Statehouse is more than a monument to our past; it's where history happens! The Ohio Statehouse is open weekdays from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.; weekends from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; closed holidays. The Ohio Statehouse Museum is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; weekends from noon to 4 p.m.; closed holidays. Admission is free. Free guided tours are offered weekdays on the hour from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and weekends from noon to 3 p.m. Tours depart from the Map Room easily accessible from the Third Street entrance. Groups of 10 or more are requested to call in advance to ensure a guide is available. Contact 888/OHIO-123 for more information or to schedule a group tour. For more information about the Ohio Statehouse visit www.ohiostatehouse.org.

The Ohio Statehouse is handicapped accessible and senior friendly. The Capitol Square complex was restored to allow for greater access by individuals living with disabilities. Ohio Statehouse public programs and events are held in accessible and barrier free areas of the building so that everyone can participate. Ohio Statehouse visitors needing disability-related accommodations in order to fully participate in an event may contact the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board at statehouse@csrab.state.oh.us or 614/752-9777 to communicate special needs. Please allow three weeks for arrangements to be completed.

The Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board (CSRAB) is responsible for maintaining the historic character of the Statehouse and Capitol Square while providing for the health, safety and convenience of those who work in or visit the complex. The Ohio Statehouse Museum Education Center coordinates tours of Capitol Square and provides information about the buildings, their history and Ohio's government.

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Release: Ohio Edison To Spend On Electric Reliability

Posted: March 28, 2013 10:49 AM

Ohio Edison Spend of $275 Million in 2013 Designed to Enhance Electric System and Reliability

Akron, Ohio – Ohio Edison, a subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corp. (NYSE: FE), announced today that its spend of approximately $275 million in 2013 is designed to further enhance the electrical system and reliability in its northern and central Ohio service areas. Major projects scheduled for this year include completing three new substations, enhancing circuits and substations, inspecting and replacing utility poles, and ongoing vegetation management programs.

 

“The planned infrastructure projects are designed to help maintain our system on a day-to-day basis to benefit Ohio Edison customers now while helping to prepare our system for future load growth,” said David Karafa, regional president of Ohio Edison.

“Whether it be building new substations, installing equipment that can be operated remotely, or spending on vegetation management, our ultimate goal is to continue to enhance the reliability of our system to benefit our customers.”

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Release: Lobbying Firm Marks 25th Year

Posted: March 28, 2013 10:49 AM

Governmental Policy Group, Inc., one of Ohio’s premier government consulting firms, is proud to be celebrating its 25th anniversary. Over the past two and a half decades, Governmental Policy Group, Inc. has provided effective government affairs representation with public sector entities in order to support businesses and associations in dealing with national, state, and local governments.

President and founder of Governmental Policy Group, Inc., Brooke Cheney, opened their first office in 1988 in downtown Columbus. Since that time, the company has developed into one of Ohio’s largest and most successful government consulting firms by creating a strong presence within the Ohio General Assembly and the Executive Branch. Governmental Policy Group, Inc. utilizes the support of several premier governmental relations experts with over one hundred years of combined political experience to provide its clients with professional consultation before the state’s legislative leaders. Despite growing in size, Governmental Policy Group, Inc. remains on the corner of Broad and High street as the company continues to offer quality government affairs representation from its office, opened a quarter century ago. They proudly note that they still represent their very first client, the Automotive Service Association of Ohio, Inc. They also represent a host of other statewide businesses and professional associations, as well as a number of larger national and international corporations. In addition to business oriented issues, the firm has helped to generate construction funding from the state for various worthy non-profit organizations including the Cleveland Clinic, the Cincinnati Zoo, the Cleveland Botanical Gardens, Cleveland Speech and Hearing, and the Thurber House in Columbus.

Governmental Policy Group, Inc. offers its clients a full range of services designed to support their needs. In addition to legislative and regulatory consulting, Governmental Policy Group, Inc. provides numerous training and educational programs that brings its clients directly into the political process. This unique, full-service, approach has proven successful throughout its years of doing business. Governmental Policy Group, Inc. remains committed to providing its clients with the most professional and effective government affairs representation available.

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Release: Ohio Chamber Pushing Immigration Changes

Posted: March 28, 2013 10:46 AM

Ohio Chamber of Commerce joins metro chambers in calling for immigration reform

Urges Senators Brown and Portman to restructure system to satisfy economic priorities

COLUMBUS- The Ohio Chamber of Commerce and several other metro-chambers co-signed a letter to US Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman in support of comprehensive immigration reform. In conjunction with the Partnership for a New American Economy, these chambers have joined the ranks of business leaders and city mayors across the nation calling on Congress to restructure our immigration policies in the name of economic development.

“As we uphold these outdated policies, other countries will continue to reap the economic benefits from this ‘brain drain,’ and capitalize on the competitive advantage it creates,” the chambers state in their letter. “Thus, to cultivate economic expansion, our nation needs to be able to businesses with the talent they need to compete in the marketplace.”

The letter signatories include: Andrew Doehrel, Ohio Chamber of Commerce; Michael Dalby, Columbus Chamber of Commerce; Phillip L. Parker, Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce; Lair Marin-Marcum, Hispanic Chamber of Columbus; and Thomas M. Humphries, Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber of Commerce.

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Release: Gun Group Says Teachers, School Staff Attending Educational Seminar

Posted: March 22, 2013 11:52 AM

400 Ohio Teachers, Administrators and School Board Members Attend Seminar on School Killings

On Saturday, March 16th, a group of 400 educators gathered at the Villa Milano Banquet and Conference Center in Columbus, Ohio to listen to Lt. Col. Dave Grossman talk to them about violence.

Billed as a "mind training" seminar, the presentation lasted more than seven hours and sought to teach these professionals about the motivations and methods of mass school killers in the U.S. and around the world. Many of those attending said it was a life-changing experience.

"I was so naive," said one educator from central Ohio who preferred to remain anonymous. "I came here thinking that all these mass school murders could be stopped if we passed a few new laws. But now I realize that won't help at all. And we have to get serious about making our schools safe and stop playing politics."

Jim Irvine, President of Buckeye Firearms Foundation, which sponsored the event, said this was the most amazing day of his life.

"We've been sponsoring these seminars for years," said Irvine. And every year, we invite educators. It's been impossible to get more than two or three to attend. They were all in denial about the reality of school violence. But after Newtown, something changed. This year instead of two or three, we had a full house of 400 teachers, administrators, and school board members. Their eyes have been opened and they're ready to change how we think about dealing with these horrific events."

Irvine said this was not a "Second Amendment" crowd, but ordinary teachers from all over the state and a few from neighboring states. "These are the men and women who teach our kids, coach the football team, and run the schools here in Ohio."

Recognized as an expert on societal violence, Col. Dave Grossman shared the gruesome details of several mass school killings in the United States, including Newtown and Columbine, and others around the world, such as the infamous massacre in Beslan, Russia. And he explained why more such incidents are likely to happen, which he predicts will be much worse unless dramatic changes are made in how American school systems think about safety.

Throughout the presentation, educators openly wept. A few left the room, before returning minutes later to hear more.

"This was a rough day for many people here," said Irvine. "It's hard to have your illusions shattered and face this kind of evil head-on. But I'm proud that all 400 educators stuck it out and walked away better informed and ready to go back into the classroom with a more realistic mindset. This is just the beginning. We're tired of the denial in our schools and now we're doing something about it."

According to Irvine, Buckeye Firearms Foundation will run 24 educators through an intensive three-day firearms course very soon. And they have a waiting list of more than 1,400 other educators who have applied for this training. The Foundation is currently raising money for several more courses, which will include responding with force to active school killers and live-saving medical training.

When asked if school boards will allow armed teachers in schools, Irvine responded, "We already have armed teachers in school right now. It's already happening in schools across Ohio. Like I've said before, we're done debating this. The discussion is over."

Buckeye Firearms Foundation is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) educational organization.

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Release: Conservatives Criticize State Party’s Direction

Posted: March 22, 2013 11:51 AM

CONSERVATIVE LEADERS REJECT CURRENT DIRECTION OF STATE REPUBLICAN PARTY

Columbus, Ohio – A statewide coalition of social and fiscal conservative leaders in Ohio today announced a rejection of the current direction of the state Republican leadership.

While signers of this statement put emphases on different policies, all the signers believe that Ohio is best served with limited government and low taxation, affirm the definition of marriage as one man and one woman as specified in Ohio’s Constitution, stand for the right to life for unborn children, and believe that the State Republican Party Chairman should reflect and fight for these values.

In recent months, Ohio has seen Governor John Kasich propose a “tax shift” unfairly targeting certain landowners and creating a drag on energy exploration, recommend the expansion of a failing Medicaid program, and propose an increasing budget.

Senator Rob Portman has reversed course, defying one of the key planks of the Republican Party Platform to take a position in support of same-sex marriage. This dismisses the views of roughly 3.3 million Ohioans who in 2004 voted for a Constitutional Amendment defining marriage as one man and one woman.

Finally, this week, the elected statewide Republican officials declared their support for Matt Borges to replace Bob Bennett as Ohio Republican Party Chairman. Dismissing other potential candidates for the chairman’s position, these statewide Republican officials endorsed Borges, a man who plead guilty to a misdemeanor for improper use of public office in a bribery investigation and served as a lobbyist for the liberal homosexual activist group, Equality Ohio.

This statement of rejection is not personal – the individuals above have reasons and explanations for their actions. Nor is this statement designed to elicit a specific response. This statement is merely to inform the public that we have not moved on these issues important to our fellow Buckeyes and we will not accept this leadership which is inconsistent with the principles of the Republican Party.

Tom Zawistowski, President of the We the People Convention and Executive Director of the Portage County TEA Party, said, “The leaders of the Republican Party in Ohio have chosen to separate themselves and the party from the wishes and values of their support base. Not just liberty group members and social conservative voters, but rank and file registered Republican voters who overwhelmingly voted for the Ohio Healthcare Amendment. With this letter we put the party bosses on notice that we reject their betrayal of the party platform and our conservative values. We will not support them going forward but will instead support those who are true to our cause.”

“With sadness I put my name on this statement,” said Seth Morgan, former State Representative and Conservative Coalition Leader. “Never have I been more concerned for the direction of our state and country – largely due to a failure in leadership. Why would our Republican leaders put themselves at odds with sound public policy and the platform of their own party?”

“Some of our Republican officials seem hell-bent on alienating conservative voters and volunteers, which reduces voter turnout. They ignore the GOP platform, choosing to put themselves outside the mainstream of our party base,” said Lori Viars, Vice President of Warren County Right To Life, who also serves as Vice Chair of the Warren County Republican Party.

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Release: ORP Blasts Democrats On JobsOhio Requests

Posted: March 22, 2013 11:49 AM

ODP Demands Run Afoul of Law, Put Jobs at Risk

COLUMBUS - Earlier this week the Ohio Democratic Party attempted to jeopardize Ohio's private economic development program. In a political move, designed to slow the progress of Ohio's economic recovery, ODP demanded access to confidential information of private businesses from Ohio's Auditor of State Dave Yost.

As a member of the Ohio General Assembly, Chairman Redfern should know that not only is he not entitled to documents during an ongoing audit, but he also requested information the Ohio General Assembly specifically exempted in order to avoid being open to political theater and substantially disrupt the creation of new jobs.

Ohio Republican Party Chairman Bob Bennett released the following statement.

"Four years ago, while Ted Strickland was Governor and Democrats controlled the Ohio House, economic development was almost non-existent, and nearly 400,000 Ohioans lost their jobs. As a member of the General Assembly, Chairman Redfern should have known better than to demand highly sensitive documents concerning Ohio jobs to selfishly use for his own political purposes. This behavior is childish, and detrimental to the forward progress Ohioans have made creating jobs in the past two years. Ohioans deserve better."

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Release: Clean Energy Report Details Program Benefits

Posted: March 20, 2013 1:49 PM

Ohio Clean Energy Report Card Highlights Success Stories

Columbus, OH—From a solar zoo to an ultra-efficient new high school, Ohio is booming with success stories from its Clean Energy Law passed in 2008, according to a new report from Environment Ohio Research & Policy Center, Ohio’s Clean Energy Success Story: The Clean Energy Law Three Years In. The report found that between January 2009, when the law took effect, and December 2011 Ohio’s four largest utilities implemented energy efficiency programs that have saved enough electricity to power 267,000 Ohio homes for a year, and added enough of wind solar photovoltaic capacity between 2009 and 2012 to produce enough energy to power 95,000 Ohio homes.

“It’s the 21st century, and our energy doesn’t need to pollute our air and water. The Clean Energy Law is paving the way for a future of clean energy for Ohio,” said Julian Boggs, Environment Ohio State Policy Advocate. “Across the state, we’re investing in wind, solar and energy efficiency projects that are helping to repower the state with clean energy, cutting pollution, saving money, and helping to create local jobs. And the best part is, we’ve only scratched the surface of Ohio’s untapped potential for clean energy.”

The report documented case studies of customers across the state are saving money and cutting pollution as a result of programs established by major utilities to comply with the Clean Energy Law. For example:

  • Funding from American Electric Power’s (AEP’s) New Construction program helped Reynoldsburg build its new high school to strong building energy efficiency standards. With help from incentives from AEP, the new school was constructed to consume less energy than a conventional school building and will cost less to operate.
  • An incentive from Duke Energy’s Smart Saver Non-Residential Program spurred the Kroger Company to upgrade the cooling equipment in its Cincinnati data center, reducing Kroger’s costs by $86,555 in the first eight months after the project came online in August 2010.
  • With the installation of solar energy projects at two schools, Centerburg School District will save an estimated $50,000 annually on its electricity bill. An outside company financed and installed the solar panels, while Centerburg paid only a modest upfront legal fee.
  • Blue Creek Wind Farm, a 304-MW facility in Van Wert and Paulding counties, was made possible in part by a long-term power purchase agreement with FirstEnergy. Ohio State University also agreed to purchase power from this wind farm—enough to meet 25 percent of the campus’ electricity needs annually and save Ohio State $1 million every year.

Boggs was joined by Ohio Interfaith Power & Light’s Sara Ward at the First English Lutheran Church in Columbus. The church participated in an efficiency program with Columbia Gas in 2010, and has saved 20 percent on its energy bills in the last year. Ward said the First English experience can be used as a model to take advantage of utility programs under the Clean Energy Law.

“By connecting to energy efficiency programs, Ohio Interfaith Power and Light can help Houses of Worship reduce their energy use and energy costs--becoming better stewards of God’s creation” she said.

Based on Ohio’s enormous potential for clean energy and the early success of the law, the report recommended expanding the state’s commitment to renewable energy, and providing stricter oversight of utilities’ compliance toward efficiency benchmarks.

“Leading states have renewable standards that are more than twice as strong as Ohio’s, and solar standards that are 6 times as strong,” said Boggs. “Our efficiency standard could be even more effective than it is already. If any change is going to be made to our Clean Energy Law, we should to be raising the bar.”

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Release: Christian Alliance Comments On Portman Marriage Position

Posted: March 20, 2013 1:47 PM

Ohio Christian Alliance Response to Senator Portman's Announcement That He Now Supports Homosexual Marriage

Ohioans woke up last Friday morning to read the startling news headline that Ohio U.S. Senator Rob Portman had changed his position on traditional marriage to now support homosexual marriage. This stunning news surprised and saddened people across the State of Ohio. Mr. Portman stated that he had changed his position because of his son's announcement that he was a homosexual. He went on to say that he now supports marriage between two same-sex partners, to the surprise and chagrin of many. Mr. Portman went on to express love and support for his son, which many understand. But when he changed his policy position, he crossed a line and violated the trust of the voters that supported him in 2010, who believed that he carried with him into office the same traditional values that they hold so dear.

To change his policy position on the institution of marriage in the middle of his 6-year term is a betrayal of those voters who entrusted him with their sacred vote for office. Mr. Portman says that religious institutions shouldn't be forced to perform weddings or recognize marriage they don't condone, but does he really believe that in the future there won't be charges filed and prosecutions levied against individuals and institutions that hold a different view and speak opposition to homosexual marriage? For an example of where homosexual marriage has been legalized, one only has to look to our neighbor to the north, Canada, to find that pastors who preach from the Scriptures that condemn homosexuality are being prosecuted for hate speech crimes. If homosexuality is granted marital status and the full complement of the civil rights code here in the U.S., it is only a matter of time until this same legal scrutiny that exists in Canada will come here to the door of Bible preaching churches and institutions, including the Ohio Christian Alliance. The Senator's belief that religious institutions will not be penalized does not instill confidence in people of faith who hold to a traditional view of marriage, and who now worry that their religious views will one day become criminalized. His decision was not conducted in a vacuum, and the timing of the decision was politically orchestrated to have the greatest impact before the Supreme Court's hearing of the federal DOMA case.

It is unfortunate that Senator Portman did not seek the advise and counsel of this organization and other fundamental clergymen before making such an announcement that will affect so many. 3.3 million Ohioans voted in favor of the state constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Many of those same Ohioans in 2010 supported Mr. Portman for office to represent them as their U.S. Senator. It is understandable that these Ohioans now feel saddened and dismayed by the Senator's announcement.

Chris Long, OCA President

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Release: Constitutional Modernization Commission Seeks Public Input

Posted: March 15, 2013 11:13 AM

Constitutional Modernization Commission Offers New Public Input Opportunity on Website

COLUMBUS—Speaker of the Ohio House William G. Batchelder (R-Medina) and State Representative Vernon Sykes (D-Akron), who serve as co-chairs of the Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission (OCMC), today announced that the OCMC website now allows public input in an effort to make the commission more transparent and accessible.

Members of the public are able to submit suggested changes, hot topic issues that need to be addressed, and items that they believe should be added to the Ohio Constitution. The Submit Your Ideas page can be found at: http://ocmc.ohio.gov/ocmc/submitideas.

“Public feedback is essential to the work of the Commission, and in a continuing effort to make our state government more open to the people, providing a means for Ohioans to submit their suggestions will help the Commission to be reachable by all of our citizens,” said Speaker Batchelder. “We greatly value public input and believe that the resources on the website will be greatly beneficial to those who are interested in updating Ohio’s Constitution.”

“It is so important to have civic engagement throughout this process,” said Rep. Sykes. “We greatly enhance our democracy when we can provide channels for Ohioans to interact with their elected and appointed officials on issues of importance. I look forward to seeing some of the suggestions and opinions as we move forward.”

The OCMC was established by the passage of House Bill 188, which was signed into law in July 2011. The Commission is charged with studying the Ohio Constitution, promoting an exchange of suggestions and respecting desired changes in the Constitution, considering the problems pertaining to the amendment of the Constitution, and making recommendations from time to time to the General Assembly for the amendment of the Constitution.

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Column: Sen. Rob Portman On Same-Sex Marriage

Posted: March 15, 2013 10:55 AM

Gay Couples also Deserve Chance to Get Married

By Senator Rob Portman, March 15, 2013

I have come to believe that if two people are prepared to make a lifetime commitment to love and care for each other in good times and in bad, the government shouldn’t deny them the opportunity to get married.

That isn’t how I’ve always felt. As a congressman, and more recently as a senator, I opposed marriage for same-sex couples. Then something happened that led me to think through my position in a much deeper way.

Two years ago, my son Will, then a college freshman, told my wife, Jane, and me that he is gay. He said he’d known for some time, and that his sexual orientation wasn’t something he chose; it was simply a part of who he is. Jane and I were proud of him for his honesty and courage. We were surprised to learn he is gay but knew he was still the same person he’d always been. The only difference was that now we had a more complete picture of the son we love.

At the time, my position on marriage for same-sex couples was rooted in my faith tradition that marriage is a sacred bond between a man and a woman. Knowing that my son is gay prompted me to consider the issue from another perspective: that of a dad who wants all three of his kids to lead happy, meaningful lives with the people they love, a blessing Jane and I have shared for 26 years.

I wrestled with how to reconcile my Christian faith with my desire for Will to have the same opportunities to pursue happiness and fulfillment as his brother and sister. Ultimately, it came down to the Bible’s overarching themes of love and compassion and my belief that we are all children of God.

Well-intentioned people can disagree on the question of marriage for gay couples, and maintaining religious freedom is as important as pursuing civil marriage rights. For example, I believe that no law should force religious institutions to perform weddings or recognize marriages they don’t approve of.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has said he supports allowing gay couples to marry because he is a conservative, not in spite of it. I feel the same way. We conservatives believe in personal liberty and minimal government interference in people’s lives. We also consider the family unit to be the fundamental building block of society. We should encourage people to make long-term commitments to each other and build families, so as to foster strong, stable communities and promote personal responsibility.

One way to look at it is that gay couples’ desire to marry doesn't amount to a threat but rather a tribute to marriage, and a potential source of renewed strength for the institution.

Over the past decade, nine states and the District of Columbia have recognized marriage for same-sex couples. It is understandable to feel cautious about making a major change to such an important social institution, but the experience of the past decade shows us that marriage for same-sex couples has not undercut traditional marriage. In fact, over the past 10 years, the national divorce rate has declined.

Ronald Reagan said all great change in America begins at the dinner table, and that’s been the case in my family. Around the country, family members, friends, neighbors and coworkers have discussed and debated this issue, with the result that today twice as many people support marriage for same-sex couples as when the Defense of Marriage Act was signed into law 17 years ago by President Bill Clinton, who now opposes it. With the overwhelming majority of young people in support of allowing gay couples to marry, in some respects the issue has become more generational than partisan.

The process of citizens persuading fellow citizens is how consensus is built and enduring change is forged. That’s why I believe change should come about through the democratic process in the states. Judicial intervention from Washington would circumvent that process as it’s moving in the direction of recognizing marriage for same-sex couples. An expansive court ruling would run the risk of deepening divisions rather than resolving them.

I’ve thought a great deal about this issue, and like millions of Americans in recent years, I’ve changed my mind on the question of marriage for same-sex couples. As we strive as a nation to form a more perfect union, I believe all of our sons and daughters ought to have the same opportunity to experience the joy and stability of marriage.

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Release: LWVO Objects To Initiative, Referendum Changes

Posted: March 6, 2013 5:15 PM

Ohio League Urges Senate to Allow More Time, Input on Petition Changes

Limits on Initiative and Referendum Should Not be Cloaked in Routine Election Updates

The Senate is expected to pass Senate Bill 47 (SB 47*) this week, a bill that primarily addresses routine election administration updates. The League of Women Voters of Ohio urges the Senate to pull out sections of the bill pertaining to changes in the petition process to give this major electoral change the careful scrutiny it deserves.

In testimony presented to the Senate State Government Oversight and Reform Committee on Tuesday, the League expressed serious concerns about the provisions in the bill affecting initiative and referendum petitions.

"Unlike the rest of the bill, which focuses on fairly routine administrative matters, these provisions relate to a fundamental right enshrined in the Ohio Constitution," said Peg Rosenfield, Elections Specialist for the League. "Therefore, we recommend that the petition language be considered in a separate bill, so it can be given the careful consideration it deserves."

"In order to appreciate the importance of these petition provisions," Rosenfield continued, "it is helpful to put them in historical context. One hundred years ago, voters in Ohio and other states became increasingly distrustful of state legislatures, which they felt were controlled by the railroads and corporations. Voters responded by amending the state constitution in 1912, reserving to themselves the right to initiate laws they wanted and to repeal laws they didn't like - both by circulating petitions to put those laws on the ballot for all voters to approve or disapprove."

SB 47* proposes to limit the time for collecting petition signatures and impose bureaucratic hoops to jump through to file those signatures. Both would make it more difficult to get issues on the ballot, thereby making it much more difficult to fulfill the constitutional purpose of holding the legislature accountable.

The League is concerned that the restrictions on petitions in SB 47* will have the effect of weakening the right to the initiative and referendum - in direct contradiction of the intent of the 1912 amendment.

"Ohioans have benefited for over 100 years by the availability of the initiative and referendum process," Rosenfield concluded. "A change of this nature should not be rushed through the legislature as if it were a minor procedural correction. We urge the Senate to separate out all the petition provisions for a different bill for full, careful consideration."

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Release: Realtors Association Opposes Sales Tax Expansion

Posted: March 6, 2013 5:13 PM

RE: Ohio Association of REALTORS opposes expansion of Ohio sales tax to services

Date: March 6, 2013

The Ohio Association of REALTORS Legislative Steering and Executive Committees voted unanimously to oppose the expansion of the sales tax base to services, including those involved in a real estate transaction.

The 26,000-member REALTOR Association will actively advocate the Ohio General Assembly to strongly oppose the imposition of a statewide 5 percent sales tax on real estate services, as it will unduly increase the cost of housing and business throughout the state.

The real estate industry has played an integral role in the improvement within the Ohio economy since the onset of the economic challenges a few years ago, as increased home sales activity and rising average sales prices have helped to establish a solid foundation for the state’s current and would-be property owners. Additionally, Ohio’s commercial real estate practitioners have helped Ohio businesses – from small to large – locate, grow and flourish in the Buckeye State.

The expansion of the sales tax to every service associated with a real estate transaction threatens a fragile, but critical sector of the economy and will place an unnecessary financial burden on Ohio’s property owners.

The industry applauds Ohio lawmakers for solving the state’s financial woes two years ago, when an $8 billion budget deficit was filled without any tax increases. The resulting economic turnaround that has transpired across the state; with rising employment, a strengthening real estate marketplace and robust consumer confidence among our fellow citizens cannot be discounted.

REALTORS know firsthand the challenges wrought by the recent economic downturn. Since the market’s peak in 2005, OAR’s membership base has declined by more than 9,000, activity in the state’s housing market has dropped by nearly 23 percent and the average price of homes sold has declined by nearly 14 percent. Our recent gains in homes sold over the past two years and the modest uptick in pricing last year – while impressive – could be derailed by the imposition of a sales tax on every aspect of a housing purchase, including home inspections, appraisers, mortgages, radon inspections, titles, commissions and more.

Further, a sales tax on commercial rent leases poses a threat to future economic development by unnecessarily adding to the cost of business operations in Ohio.

The REALTOR profession is committed to selling Ohio as an ideal locale to live, work and call home. Our focus is on making our local communities attractive to both first-time and seasoned buyers, in bolstering the local economies by helping entrepreneurs open for business or expand their operations, in establishing great schools and civic opportunities, spurring job creation and building a solid foundation for a strong, vibrant and growing marketplace in the Buckeye State going forward.

Our 26,000 members embody the entrepreneurial spirit that is vital to a healthy marketplace. The men and women in our organization are independent contractors – each reliant on their personal skills and work ethic to earn their livelihood. To be sure, the proposed lowering of the personal income tax rate will be helpful and the concept of reducing the tax rate for small business will assist some of our REALTOR members. Yet, the detrimental effect imposing a sales tax on every aspect of a real estate transaction will offset any benefits associated with these savings.

The median household income for all Ohio home buyers last year was $67,100, which marked a decline from the $68,800 income level we recorded in 2011. Despite the tighter budgets, the desire to achieve the American Dream of home ownership among our fellow Ohioans remained strong as sales last year rose nearly 13 percent. Further, 42 percent of our buyers reported that they made significant financial sacrifices in order to make the home purchase a reality. Adding to the cost of a home purchase, as is being proposed with the 5 percent sales tax on all services associated with a real estate transaction, will deepen the financial burden and create a serious headwind to a sector of the economy that has begun to display some strength.

The 26,000-member Ohio Association of REALTORS is opposed to the imposition of the Ohio sales tax on all aspects of a real estate transaction because it will increase costs for homeowners and businesses and threaten the recovery of an important sector of our state’s economy.

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Release: Rep. Carney Seeks Audit Of JobsOhio Operations

Posted: March 6, 2013 5:11 PM

Many Questions and No Answers in JobsOhio Financing Scheme

Over five million taxpayer dollars unaccounted for

COLUMBUS- Recent news reports have indicated that the state’s private economic development organization, JobsOhio, is the recipient of at least $5.3 million of public funds. JobsOhio was initially appropriated $1 million by the state legislature in 2011 to cover start-up costs associated with promoting economic development in the state. Now, it appears that the organization was able to siphon off at least five times that amount from state’s Development Services Agency (DSA). It remains unclear if DSA followed the appropriate legal procedures to contract with a JobsOhio subsidiary for economic development services. Neither the DSA nor JobsOhio have been able to provide any account of how the public funds were spent.

Upon learning of this complex arrangement to spend state dollars, State Representative John Patrick Carney (D-Columbus) asked State Auditor Dave Yost to audit the use of all state dollars involved in the complex financing scheme. Rep. Carney is also seeking public records disclosing the process the DSA used in appropriating the public funds to JobsOhio.

“The secretive nature surrounding the use of these tax dollars is extremely alarming,” said Rep. Carney. “I support the mission of JobsOhio, but they can’t just haphazardly prop up operations with public funds. It seems possible that, in this case, JobsOhio was acting more on their own whims rather than the rule of law. You can’t do whatever you want with the people’s tax dollars.”

The additional public resources for JobsOhio were provided through grants from the DSA to JobsOhio’s funding organization, the JobsOhio Beverage System. It is not immediately clear whether or not private corporate donations and tax dollars are somehow separated in the JobsOhio Beverage System. The $5.3 million discrepancy came to light after a self-imposed audit from the organization. A series of reports in the Columbus Dispatch highlighted the divergence of funding sources for JobsOhio. To date, the DSA and JobsOhio have not provided any explanation of the grants’ purpose or intended use.

“I have several questions with respect to the allocation of these resources, and I hope our State Auditor and the Development Services Agency are willing to help provide answers,” Rep. Carney continued. “It is concerning if these ‘grants’ were not competitively bid or made available to other entities around the state. The confusion surrounding these funds clearly demonstrates that the legislature and the Governor need to revisit disclosure requirements for JobsOhio to shine some light on how they are financed and what the money is being used for.”

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