Thursday, May 26, 2011

Senate Democrats Submit Amendments to Restore Fairness and Accountability to State Budget

Columbus – The Ohio Senate Democratic Caucus is submitting more than 300 amendments today to add much-needed fairness and accountability to House Bill 153, the proposed biennial state budget for fiscal years 2012-2013. The amendments reflect the Caucus’ commitment to protecting good-paying jobs, strengthening families and empowering communities.

“Our priority is to protect taxpayers and address some of the devastating cuts proposed by the Governor and House Republicans,” said Senate Minority Leader Capri S. Cafaro (D-Hubbard). “We should not balance the budget on the backs of the vulnerable or local governments. Unfortunately, that’s what will happen if we don’t make considerable changes to the current budget plan.”

The budget amendments protect taxpayers by strengthening oversight and accountability for charter schools and by ensuring there are no “sweetheart deals” to sell state prisons or lease the Ohio Turnpike at less than fair market value.

The Senate Democratic Caucus has proposed restoring funding for PASSPORT and Help Me Grow—programs that provide vital healthcare and nutrition services for older and younger Ohioans. The list of amendments also includes the restoration of funding for public transportation, mental health/developmental disability programs and the Ohio Consumer’s Counsel.

“The Republican budget cuts are going to hurt too many Ohioans who desperately need our assistance,” said Senator Michael J. Skindell (D-Lakewood), the Ranking Member on the Senate Finance Committee. “Our amendments will help Ohioans at a time when many of them have no where else to turn.”

The amendments utilize resources from a projected budget surplus for fiscal year 2011.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Senator Smith's Letter to the Cleveland Plain Dealer

I agree with the Plain Dealer that Ohioans should hold on to their wallets if Republicans succeed in carrying out an unwarranted attack on the Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel. The watchdog agency should be commended for protecting consumers, not muzzled and defunded.

Consumers’ Counsel Janine Migden-Ostrander leads an agency that is a fierce advocate for Ohio’s utility customers. Since 1976, the agency has saved Ohioans more than $10 billion on their gas, electric, telephone and water bills

It doesn’t make sense to slash the Consumers’ Counsel’s budget by 51 percent when the agency is funded by fees on the utility companies, not tax dollars. And I don’t understand why Republicans want to impose a gag order to bar the Consumers’ Counsel from speaking out if natural-gas deregulation leads to higher prices. These issues must be addressed by the Ohio Senate.

As a member of the Senate Finance Committee, I will be fighting to restore funding to the Consumers’ Counsel. I urge every Ohioan who supports lower utility bills to do the same.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Elections Legislation Press Conference

At a Statehouse news conference, Senate and House Democrats said if proposed changes to Ohio's election laws pass the General Assembly, voting in Ohio will become harder and more restrictive.

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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