Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Legislative Leaders Call on Secretary of State to Remain Neutral During Petition Verification

COLUMBUS- Senate Minority Leader Eric H. Kearney and House Minority Leader Armond Budish sent the following letter to Secretary of State Jon Husted today urging him to remain neutral on the Voters First redistricting reform ballot issue while his office verifies the organization’s petitions. 

July 31, 2012

The Honorable Jon Husted
Ohio Secretary of State
180 E. Broad St., 16th Floor
Columbus, Ohio 43215

Secretary Husted:

We are writing to express our deep concern about comments you made regarding the Voters First initiative petition, which is currently under review by the Secretary of State’s office for placement on the November ballot.  In the Plain Dealer (July 1, 2012) and on subsequent occasions you stated publicly that you do not believe it is the solution for Ohio’s deeply flawed process for drawing congressional and legislative districts.

As the statewide officer charged with ensuring our elections are fair and unbiased, we believe it is highly inappropriate and irresponsible for you to comment on the merits of this, or any initiative or referendum, while your office is verifying signatures. We believe your neutrality is absolutely necessary given the fact you just participated in the redistricting process that would be replaced by this ballot issue. If the certification of the petition is denied, your comments will have created the appearance of impropriety and self-interest in the performance of your duties.  This is a charge all public servants should do their best to avoid.

In addition to placing in doubt the objectivity of your office during the petition verification process, we believe the best course for our chief elections officer is to not endorse any position on a ballot issue. When Ken Blackwell was Secretary of State and served simultaneously as the Bush re-election campaign chairperson, it created the appearance of unfairness from our chief elections officer. Just as poll workers cannot campaign at the polling place, we do not feel it is in the best interest of Ohioans for their chief elections officer to campaign for or against a ballot issue.

We urge you to refrain from making further comments against Voters First until a review of the petitions is completed. We would welcome your future neutrality on ballot issues after they are set for the ballot and until voters have their say.


Eric H. Kearney                                  Armond Budish
Minority Leader, Ohio Senate            Minority Leader, Ohio House of Representatives
9th  Senate District                             8th House District

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Senator Shirley Smith and Governor Kasich Talk About Passage of Collateral Sanctions Bill

19 Action News|Cleveland, OH|Breaking News, Weather, Exclusives
Cleveland--Senator Shirley Smith (D-Cleveland) and Governor John Kasich met with members of the Greater Cleveland Congregations to discuss collateral sanctions reforms.  The legislation, sponsored by Senator Smith and signed into law by the Governor, removes job barriers for nearly two million Ohioans with criminal records.

Senator Kearney Weighs In on Report on Childhood Obesity in Ohio

Columbus –Today, Senate Democratic Leader Eric H. Kearney expressed disappointment with the Ohio Department of Health’s recent study of the body mass index (BMI) for Ohio’s school children. The report shows that nearly 35% of students who participated in the study were overweight or obese. The report also reflects:

·        The highest percentage of overweight/obesity was found among 9th graders.
·        Kindergarteners represented the highest percentage of underweight students (3.7%).
·        The average BMI percentile increased with increasing grade level, with 9th graders having the highest average BMI percentile (68.4%).

“It is disappointing to know that more than one in three participating students were overweight or obese,” said Senator Kearney. “It is even more disheartening to know that approximately 686 educational institutions chose not to provide data or opted out of the program. Children throughout the state of Ohio deserve better and it is up to us as parents and community leaders to ensure that they have the best in quality healthcare to assist in early identification of risks, provide healthier food options, and encourage physical activity.”

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a measurement used to asses if a person is obese, overweight, normal weight or underweight. BMI is a number that is calculated using the height and weight of an individual and is a better assessment of excess body fat than weight alone. Additionally, BMI is an inexpensive and easy-to-perform method of screening children for weight categories that may lead to health problems.

Senate Bill 210, The Healthy Choices for Healthy Children (HCHC) Act sponsored by Senator Kearney and signed into law in September 2010 requires the Ohio Department of Health to establish a body mass index (BMI) and weight status category screening program for students in kindergarten (K) and grades 3,5, and 9. Other provisions include increasing students’ physical activity and ensuring access to healthy meals and beverages at school.

“These results reinforce the need for developing healthier choices for healthier children,” said Senator Kearney. “I hope that this will lead to stronger dialogue between families, schools and healthcare providers. I agree wholeheartedly with the recommendations from the Ohio Department of Health that our top priority should be to encourage all students, school districts, and chartered nonpublic schools to participate in the BMI screenings in the future. Continuous participate in this program will assist parents and community organizations in developing viable solutions to decrease the obesity rates of our children.”

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

NEW VIDEO: Senator Kearney Calls on Ohio House of Representatives to Pass Pension Reform

Senate Democratic Leader Eric H. Kearney (D-Cincinnati) discusses the urgent need for the Ohio House of Representatives to pass pension reform legislation already passed by the Ohio Senate.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Senator Sawyer Introduces Ambition Penalty Relief Act

Columbus—Today, State Senator Tom Sawyer (D-Akron) introduced the Ambition Penalty Relief Act, to address the growing trend among Ohio state colleges and universities to charge additional credit-hour fees to students who take extra classes.  These fees are often referred to as “overload fees” or “student excess credit fees.”

“While this practice isn’t necessarily a new one, the increasing size of the fees make it unfair,” said Senator Sawyer.  “School officials justify these fees on the grounds that they are needed for long-deferred capital maintenance costs, but these unfairly applied overload fees are simply ambition penalties.”

Many state universities in Ohio charge overload fees for students who seek additional coursework beyond the school’s credit-hour cap.  The University of Cincinnati charges the highest rate of overload fees at $450 per credit hour, followed by Kent State University at $440 (beginning in Fall 2012), and Wright State University at $365.

“These fees serve as disincentives for students to pursue a second major or to graduate early,” Senator Sawyer said.  “It is even more unfortunate that these disincentives are intensifying at a time when we are trying to encourage on-time or early graduation.”

The Ambition Penalty Relief Act works in three ways to correct the problem:

·      Overload Fee Cap:  The bill caps the “overload fees” that public universities in Ohio can charge their students. The cap is set at the marginal cost of the last full-time tuition credit hour. For example: if a university charges $4,000 in tuition, covering up to 16 credit hours, then the university cannot charge an overload fee in excess of $250 for credit hours over 16.  (In this example, $4,000 ÷ 16 = $250).
·    Capital Appropriations for Deferred Maintenance: In exchange for capping overload fees, the bill provides funding relief to public universities to hold them harmless from the cap ($31.5 million).
·      Re-enactment of Former Capital Funding Method:  To distribute the supplemental capital appropriation of $31.5 million, the bill re-enacts the former method of allocating capital appropriations to universities.  In doing so, the bill restores rule-making power for the Chancellor of the Board of Regents to develop a higher education capital funding formula.

“This legislation will address a very significant piece of the student debt crisis facing our state and nation today,” said Senator Sawyer. “My hope is that this legislation will be a point of initial departure for addressing the broader issues of rising college costs and student debt loads.”

The Ambition Penalty Relief Act already has bipartisan support in the Senate.  Senator Peggy Lehner (R-Kettering), the Chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, and Senator Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) have agreed to co-sponsor the legislation.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Senator Turner Calls on Secretary of State Husted to Give More Access to the Polls

CLEVELAND—Today, State Senator Nina Turner (D-Cleveland) joined other Northeast Ohio citizens, community leaders, and elected officials in calling for Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted to reverse his decision prohibiting extended weekday and weekend hours at the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections during the 35 day early voting period before the election on November 6.

“The decision made by Secretary Husted to limit voting hours in Cuyahoga County is unfortunate, misguided, and—frankly—wrong,” Senator Turner said. “This goes beyond even the most restrictive option that was before the Board. The State of Ohio should not be in the business of making it harder to vote.”

Husted’s decision came as a result of a tie vote by the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections on how to best handle extended hours during the early voting period. By law, the Secretary of State is to cast the tie-breaking vote in the case of a split decision. In his letter to Board members on Friday, Husted cited budgetary concerns and the need to maintain uniformity in the elections process across the state.

“While I appreciate the Secretary’s insistence on a uniform elections system, the state should be uniformly expanding access to the ballot—not limiting it,” Turner said. “Ohio’s urban counties have to deal with heavy traffic at polling stations throughout the election, and this needs to be taken into account. This decision could disenfranchise thousands of voters.”

“The standard business hours of the Board of Elections are also the same ones during which most people are at work,” Turner commented. “This will hurt hard working Ohioans who need the flexibility to vote around their work schedules.”

During the 2008 election, nearly 30,000 voters cast ballots during times that would no longer be available as a result of the Secretary of State’s ruling and the passage of House Bill 194, which eliminates early voting on the three days leading up to Election Day.

“This is yet another instance of Republicans in Columbus making it harder for Ohio’s citizens to cast their vote,” Senator Turner said.

In 2008, the majority of Cuyahoga County voters who utilized in-person early voting were African American, and these changes are likely to disproportionately affect this population. “These battles were fought decades ago and, for the life of me, I cannot figure out why we are fighting them again. History is repeating itself in a very ugly way.”

Secretary Husted’s decision could be nullified if the Board of Elections reaches a compromise on the issue of extended early voting hours.

“There is no reason why we should let our political affiliation stand in the way of doing what is right. Our Board has a long history of working in the interest of voters, and I urge the members to come together to continue this work and expand access to the ballot,” Turner stated.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Senator Schiavoni Issues Statement on New Regulations for Deep-Injection Wells

Columbus – State Senator Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) released the following statement today regarding the Governor’s executive order imposing new regulations on deep-injection wells in Ohio:

“I am pleased that Governor Kasich is putting more safeguards in place to regulate deep-injection wells so the citizens of Ohio are better protected.  There is no question that the Ohio Department of Natural Resources needed more authority to issue conditional permits and to shut down injection wells that pose a danger to the public.  That is why I fought for tougher regulations during the recent debate over new rules for the oil and gas industry.  I have worked extensively with ODNR and I have confidence they will be able to use these new rules effectively in preventing situations like we experienced in the Mahoning Valley.”

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Senate President Niehaus and Minority Leader Kearney Joint Statement On Pension System Actuarial Report

 COLUMBUS--Senate President Tom Niehaus (R-New Richmond) and Minority Leader Eric H. Kearney (D-Cincinnati) issued the following statement today in response to a study commissioned by the Ohio Retirement Study Council. The independent analysis of Ohio's public pension system was conducted by Pension Trustee Advisors and KMS Actuaries: 

"We are please the independent actuarial study agrees with the Senate's unprecedented bipartisan effort to stabilize and strengthen Ohio's pension systems. The study recognizes that the reforms proposed by the pension systems and contained in the Senate sponsored legislation are "appropriate" and "significant".

"In reference to passing pension reform legislation, the report states 'We see no valid reason for delay.' This study confirms the legislation passed by the Senate '...will put each of the five retirement system in a much more solid financial position.' It is important to note, the Senate reforms do not require additional taxpayer dollars. 

"We appreciate our colleagues in the Senate for taking a bold stand to ensure all the state pension plans are on solid financial footing to protect the retirement benefits of millions of Ohioans. We encourage our colleagues in the House of Representatives to join us in passing this pension legislation without any further delay."

Senator Brown Calls on Governor and Lt. Governor to Stop Dragging Their Feet on Improving Health Insurance Options for Ohioans

State Senator Brown at the Supreme Court following the Affordable Healthcare Act decision. 

Columbus--State Senator Edna Brown (D-Toledo) released the following statement today regarding the unnecessary delay in implementing a health insurance exchange for Ohio:

“I was fortunate to be outside the U.S. Supreme Court building last month shortly after the court announced its decision upholding the Affordable Care Act as constitutional.  The landmark ruling signified a turning point in the long struggle to help millions of uninsured Americans gain access to affordable health insurance. 

“However, the excitement I felt at that moment has been followed by deep disappointment with Governor Kasich and Lt. Governor Taylor for so far stubbornly refusing to establish a health insurance exchange for Ohio. This key component of the Affordable Care Act will create a competitive market place where Ohioans and small business owners can purchase affordable health insurance. 

“I find it baffling that Lt. Governor Taylor in her role as the Director of the Ohio Department of Insurance does not see the wisdom in giving consumers more and better choices for purchasing health insurance.  This should be a no-brainer. 

“If we don’t set up an exchange the federal government will do it for us.  A plan designed by Ohioans for Ohioans is a better solution because it has a greater opportunity to create Ohio-based jobs.

“My colleague, Senator Mike Skindell of Lakewood, has already drafted legislation to establish a health insurance exchange tailored to fit the needs of Ohioans.  As the ranking member on the Senate Insurance, Commerce and Labor committee, I am ready and willing to help turn this legislation into law.  Its time for the Governor and Lt. Governor to put politics aside and stop dragging their feet on much needed health care reform.” 

Friday, July 6, 2012

Lawmakers Push Efforts to Boost Ohio Tourism

COLUMBUS – A pair of Northeast Ohio attractions took center stage today as state lawmakers touted a plan to bolster tourism and economic growth across Ohio. Both the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton and Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum served as settings as Governor John Kasich and State Senators Mark Wagoner (R – Ottawa Hills) and Capri Cafaro (D – Hubbard) highlighted the initiative.

Sponsored by the bipartisan pairing of Wagoner and Cafaro, Senate Bill 314 creates TourismOhio, a bold new effort to showcase Ohio’s various points-of-interest.  Beginning with a five-year pilot program, sales-tax revenue from tourism-related industries will be used to fund the marketing of tourism across Ohio.  The plan also calls for the appointment of an advisory committee to assist in developing ways for the state’s tourism market to flourish in years to come.

“From halls-of-fame and storied landmarks to sports teams and scenic wonders, Ohio has no shortage of worthwhile destinations to see in person,” Wagoner said. “The creation of TourismOhio is the first step in broadening the appeal of these sights and reaching out far beyond our state’s borders.”

The legislation also contains provisions to assist Ohio’s small business community and streamline government services.  Under the plan, the Development Services Agency will play an integral role in supporting the job creation initiatives of JobsOhio.  Additionally, both the Capital Access Program and the Minority Business Enterprise Loan will be revamped in order to further stimulate Ohio’s burgeoning economy.  By cutting through bureaucratic red tape, more entrepreneurs and small business owners will be able to set up shop in Ohio.

“Not only will this measure help to highlight the tourist attractions in Ashtabula County and across Northeast Ohio, but it will also provide an innovative new approach to economic development,” said Cafaro. “In doing so, we will help to ensure the long-term success of minority and family-owned businesses in Ohio.”

Senate Bill 314 was passed by both the Ohio Senate and House of Representatives with broad bipartisan support.

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

This page may operate better if you download a free copy of Adobe Flash Player, found here.