Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Senate Democrats Believe Committee Should Comply with Inspector General's Request

COLUMBUS – Senator Nina Turner (D-Cleveland), Senator Shirley Smith (D-Cleveland) and Senator Joe Schiavoni (D-Canfield) today called on the Senate Judiciary Criminal Justice Committee to comply with a request of the Office of the Inspector General and delay hearing testimony from witnesses. The Inspector General said he needed until April 9th to complete interviews and review records regarding the Highway Patrol.

Unfortunately, the committee’s chairman rejected the request. As a result, the three Democratic members of the committee declined to participate in a hearing that could interfere with the Inspector General’s investigation.

“The Democratic members of the committee feel very strongly that we should respect the office of the Inspector General,” said Senator Turner, the ranking member on the committee. “The committee should have complied with the request to delay taking further testimony.”

“There is precedent in the Senate to delay hearings at the request of the Inspector General,” said Senator Smith, the Assistant Minority Leader. “The committee should have followed the same policy in this case to avoid anything that could hinder the Inspector General’s investigation.”

In September 2009, the Senate Government Oversight Committee scheduled a hearing to collect testimony regarding procedures at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. The hearing was postponed at the request of the Inspector General while he conducted a similar investigation.

“We have time to take testimony from witnesses after the Inspector General has completed his work,” said Senator Schiavoni. “What’s the rush?”

During today’s hearing, the committee chairman also violated Senate procedure in refusing to recognize a point of order made by Senator Turner.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Senator Smith Introduces Legislation to Close Loopholes in Tier III Sex Offender Notification

Columbus - State Senator Shirley Smith (D-Cleveland) introduced legislation that closes two loopholes in Ohio’s Tier III sex offender notification laws today. The bill has bipartisan cosponsorship, and it is supported by Cuyahoga County Sheriff Bob Reid and the Buckeye State Sheriffs’ Association.

“The discovery of bodies in Anthony Sowell’s home in Cleveland prompted me to seriously study Ohio’s laws about sex offender notification,” Senator Smith explained. “I discovered two problems. The first problem let Sowell continue living in his home without the community being notified about his Tier III sex offender status. The second discrepancy would have given Sowell some impunity if he had decided to move.”

Senator Smith’s legislation requires sheriffs to check each Tier III sex offender’s files to verify that notification has been sent. If notification has not been sent, the bill mandates that sheriffs do so. The legislation also eliminates a section of the Revised Code that potentially excludes reclassified Tier III sex offenders from current notification law.

In 2007, Ohio became the first and only state to comply with the federal Adam Walsh Act, which requires states to implement a three-tier classification system for sex offenders. All registered sex offenders were re-classified according to this new system on January 1, 2008. Ohio law requires county sheriffs to issue notification to communities, victims, and certain other entities when a Tier III sex offender relocates to their neighborhood.

Sowell, who was originally classified as a low-level sex offender, was reclassified as the most serious type in the new system, a Tier III sex offender, for his 1989 conviction of attempted rape. He did not change residence after reclassification, so no notification was required to be sent to the community about his new Tier III status. Additionally, other language in the Ohio Revised Code could have prevented sheriffs from sending community notice if the sex offender was not subject to the state’s old notification laws.

“Like all sexually oriented offenders, Tier III offenders are currently required to register their home addresses with their sheriff’s office every 90 days, but sheriffs are only required to notify the community the first time a Tier III sex offender registers. So, after 90 days of enactment of this bill, communities that were not initially notified about resident Tier III sex offenders in their neighborhood will learn about the offenders’ presence,” Senator Smith explained. “Bipartisan support for this bill shows the seriousness of closing these loopholes. Other states need to consider our experience when they change their own sex offender notification laws.”

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Senator Eric Kearney Honors Big East Football Champs: The UC Bearcats

Senator Eric Kearney honored the UC Bearcats Football Team in the Ohio Senate for their record-breaking season today. The Bearcats' finished the season 12-0, taking them to the 2010 Allstate Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.

Watch here:

Monday, March 1, 2010

Governor Signs Senator Cafaro's Biobased Products Bill

Columbus – Governor Ted Strickland today signed into law Senate Bill 131, a bill jointly sponsored by Senate Democratic Leader Capri S. Cafaro (D-Hubbard) and Senator Karen Gillmor (R-Tiffin). The legislation encourages the use of biobased products by state agencies, colleges and universities.

“I am proud that we were able to work together on a bipartisan basis to promote Ohio’s growing biobased products industry,” said Senator Cafaro. “Ohio is uniquely positioned to be a leader in this field thanks to the research and development programs at our state universities and our strong agricultural and industrial base.”

SB 131 requires the Director of the Ohio Department of Administrative Services (DAS) to establish a program that gives purchasing preference to biobased products. In order to qualify for this program, the biobased products must be comparable in cost and quality to traditional petroleum-based products.

Bio-technology converts corn, soybeans and other plants into products that range from lip balm to paint and textiles. Goodyear, Proctor & Gamble and Sherwin Williams are just a few of the Ohio companies involved in developing and producing biobased products.

“I believe biobased products represent a tremendous opportunity for job growth in Ohio,” said Senator Cafaro. “Plus, it gives our farmers a new market for the crops they produce.”

SB 131 is similar to the national BioPreferred program that gives purchasing preference to biobased products at federal agencies.

The Caucus

Minority Leader Eric H. Kearney - Cincinnati - 9th District
Assistant Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni - Canfield - 33rd District
Minority Whip Nina Turner - Cleveland - 25th District
Assistant Minority Whip Edna Brown - Toledo - 11th District
Senator Tom Sawyer - Akron - 28th District
Senator Charleta B. Tavares - Columbus - 15th District
Senator Shirley Smith - Cleveland - 21st District
Senator Michael J. Skindell - Cleveland - 23rd District
Senator Lou Gentile - Steubenville - 30th District
Senator Capri S. Cafaro - Hubbard - 32nd District

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