Friday, August 31, 2012

Senate Democrats Comment on Early Voting Decision

Columbus – Senate Democratic Leader Eric H. Kearney (D-Cincinnati) and other members of the Senate Democratic Caucus issued the following statements after Federal District Court Judge Peter C. Economus ordered that in-person early voting be restored for the three days proceeding the November 6th election:

Sen. Eric H. Kearney
Senate Democratic Leader (D-Cincinnati)

“This is a great day for democracy and a tremendous victory for veterans and all Ohioans. Judge Economus correctly pointed out that the fundamental rights of Ohioans were being restricted and we celebrate his decision to restore voting on the weekend prior to Election Day.  I urge all interested parties to accept the judge’s order and to stop any further efforts to take away voting opportunities for Ohioans.”

Sen. Joe Schiavoni
Assistant Minority Leader (D-Boardman)

“Judge Economus has made a common sense ruling that protects the fundamental right to vote for all Ohioans.  I believe we should ensure that Ohioans have every opportunity to vote before such an important election.”

Sen. Nina Turner
Minority Whip (D-Cleveland)

“I am pleased that Judge Economus saw the disparate treatment of Ohio voters for what it is. This is the second time this week that Republican-led efforts to make it harder to cast a ballot have been blocked by the courts. Voting is our country’s most fundamental right and I am glad to see that it is finally being treated as such. 

Sen. Edna Brown
Assistant Minority Whip (D-Toledo)

Making voting convenient for as many Ohio citizens as possible should be the highest priority for election officials in this state. Today’s ruling by Judge Economus to restore early voting hours on the weekend prior to the election was a step in the direction of easier, more accessible voting for Ohio’s working families and I applaud the decision.”

Sen. Shirley Smith

“I believe that the federal court’s decision to reopen early voting during the final three days before Election Day was right and just, and that it will provide clarity for Ohio’s voters.  It was shameful of the governing party to try to reduce early voting in the first place, and I trust that the Secretary of State will do whatever is necessary to promptly comply with the court order.  Ohioans are tired of the political games, and I hope that this decision represents an end to election shenanigans and, perhaps, the beginning of an honest debate on what is best for the future of Ohio.”

Sen. Tom Sawyer

“I am not surprised by Judge Economus’ ruling given the confusion that GOP legislators created by their convoluted efforts to limit voting opportunities in Ohio.  This decision benefits not only veterans, but all hard working Ohioans.”

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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Happy Women's Equality Day!

This day in history: 92 years ago women were granted the right to vote in America by the certification of the 19th Amendment. Ohio Senate Democratic Senators discuss why this day is so important in American history.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Senator Turner Introduces Legislation to Restore Weekend Voting

CLEVELAND—State Senator Nina Turner (D-Cleveland) introduced legislation today in the Ohio Senate to restore weekend early voting in Ohio for the 2012 general election. Senate Bill 366 would reverse a directive by Secretary of State Jon Husted that eliminated weekend voting in all 88 counties.

“Public officials at all levels have a moral obligation to make it easier to vote, but some of Ohio’s leaders have ignored this responsibility,” said Senator Turner. “This legislation will reverse the disturbing trend of voter suppression in our state and make it easier for all Ohioans to cast their ballot this fall.”

The legislation would establish weekday and weekend voting hours and require a minimum number of early voting hours for each county. SB 366 includes the following provisions:

·         Weekday hours (for the entire early voting period): 8am-7pm
·         Saturday hours: 8am-5pm
·         Sunday hours: 1pm-5pm
·         Restore extended hours for the last three days before the election

SB 366 would also explicitly state that these are minimum hours for early voting and can be expanded by a vote of the local board of elections. 

“Uniformity may seem fair on paper, but ignoring the disparate effect caused by these one-size-fits-all solutions is dangerous,” noted Turner. “Ohio voters deserve a basic level of access to early voting, but if local boards of elections need to expand upon them to accommodate the needs of their voters, the state should not stand in their way.”

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Senator Kearney Introduces Legislation to Allow Prepaid Debit Cards for State Income Tax Refund

Columbus--State Senator Eric H. Kearney has introduced Senate Bill 365 to require the Ohio Department of Taxation to provide taxpayers the option of receiving their income tax refund in the form of a prepaid debit card. Currently, all state tax refunds are issued in the form of a check or direct deposit. This new option allows Ohioans to use their refund without having a preexisting debit card. 

"This prepaid debit card program will benefit those citizens that do not have a bank account for direct deposit, or for those who wish to avoid the hassle with paper checks and check cashing fees," said Senator Kearney. "They will also be able to use their prepaid debit cards in stores, online, over the phone, or anywhere that accepts debit cards." 

The tax commissioner will be responsible for establishing a program for the payment of income tax refunds by prepaid debit cards. 

Senator Kearney sponsored legislation (SB 194) in the 128th General Assembly to have income tax refunds deposited directly into a checking, savings or individual retirement account. The legislation was signed into law by former Governor Strickland on May 20, 2010. 

Would you like the option of having your state income tax refund on a prepaid debit card? Answer our poll on Facebook!


Monday, August 20, 2012

Senator Kearney Calls on Secretary of State to Reinstate Weekend Early Voting

Columbus – Senate Democratic Leader Eric H. Kearney (D-Cincinnati) issued the following statement today as Secretary of State Jon Husted considers firing two members of the Montgomery County Board of Elections simply because they want to give hard working Ohioans more opportunities to vote:

“Given all that has happened in recent weeks, Ohioans need reassurance that our system of voting is honest and fair.  I again call on Secretary of State Jon Husted to reinstate weekend early voting to restore confidence in our elections process.
“Under the guise of uniformity, Secretary of State Jon Husted has done more to limit voting opportunities than even the GOP controlled General Assembly.  After Republican legislators eliminated in-person absentee voting on the weekend before the election, Husted has gone even further.  First, he blocked weekend early voting in Ohio’s largest urban counties where the highest percentage of African Americans live.  Then, when confronted with the blatant unfairness of his decisions, he eliminated weekend voting for all 88 counties. 
“Let’s be clear, it was Jon Husted who decided that Ohioans would not have weekend voting this year.  No one else, not even Republican legislators, limited early voting to such a degree.
“In addition, comments made by a Republican member of the Franklin County Board of Elections, who is a close advisor to Governor Kasich, have raised further suspicions that there is an orchestrated effort to suppress the African American vote in Ohio.  Secretary Husted should publicly repudiate those comments.” 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Senator Turner Reacts to Husted Directive on Early Voting

(Cleveland) – State Senator Nina Turner (D-Cleveland) issued the following statement today in response to Secretary of State Jon Husted’s announcement that all county boards of elections will have the same early voting hours this year:

“While I am pleased that Secretary of State Husted has decided to provide for uniform extended early voting hours during the this year’s election, his directive does not go far enough. It will still be harder to vote in Cuyahoga County than it has been in the past, when voters had the option of casting ballots on Saturdays and Sundays.

“These more restrictive hours will still disproportionately affect the county’s African American communities, which were responsible for 56 percent of all ballots cast on the four weekends leading up to the election in 2008.

“While the Secretary’s decision does create uniformity, I cannot understand why—in a presidential election year—voters would not be afforded every opportunity to cast their ballot. Weekend voting is essential to promoting voter access.”

Minority Leader Kearney Reacts to Early Voting Directive

Columbus—Today, Senate Minority Leader Eric H. Kearney released the following statement in response to Secretary of State Jon Husted’s directive to require uniform early voting hours in all 88 counties.

“I thank Secretary of State Husted for providing uniformity concerning extended early voting for all Ohioans,” said Senator Kearney.

“However, while Husted’s directive does create uniformity, it still ignores the moral and legal obligation of all public officials to take every reasonable step to promote voting.  In particular, the lack of weekend voting still threatens ballot access for many hard-working Ohioans. It is unfair that this directive still represents reduced voting opportunities for many Ohioans compared to 2008.”

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Kearney, Mallory: Extend Early Voting Hours for All Ohioans

Former State Lawmaker William L. Mallory Sr., Cincinnati Attorney Don Mooney, City Councilmember Yvette Simpson, Senator Eric H. Kearney and Mayor Mark Mallory 

Cincinnati-Today in a press conference held at the Hamilton County Board of Elections, State Senator Eric H. Kearney and Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory called for Secretary of State Jon Husted to extend early voting hours for all 88 counties.

On August 16th, the Hamilton County Board of Elections will meet to vote on extending early voting hours, as was the case for the 2010 general election. The final vote by the board may end in a deadlock forcing Husted, a Republican, to cast the tie-breaking vote.

In recent weeks, Ohio’s largest counties—including Franklin, Lucas, Summit and Cuyahoga—with large minority populations have had their extended voting hours cut as a result of tie-breaking votes cast by Husted. However, several Republican leaning counties will have additional early voting hours.

“This act of denying extended voting hours for a select population is unconstitutional and violates our 14th amendment rights,” said Senator Kearney. “What is happening across the state in urban counties for extended early voting hours is a part of a pattern of voter suppression that needs to end.”

Husted’s tie-breaking vote impacts 40 percent of Ohio’s registered Democrats and more than a quarter of registered voters statewide.

“I’ve been advocating for voting for many years and what we see here is a repeat of all the efforts historically to keep us from voting and we will not tolerate it,” said former state lawmaker William L. Mallory Sr.

Yesterday, several Democratic state lawmakers sent a letter to Husted requesting uniformity in the elections process calling for Husted to take action to ensure fair and equal access to extended early voting hours across the state. 

“We talk of how the government should be responsive, like the private industry. Well the private industry is responsive to the needs of the customer,” said Mayor Mallory. “So when they are approaching the Christmas season, they have extended hours. This isn’t anything different.”

State Senator Turner,County Executive FitzGerald,Community Leaders Call on Board of Elections and Husted to Reconsider Vote

State Senator Nina Turner on CNN 

Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, State Senator Nina Turner (D-Cleveland), and community leaders gathered at the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections today to call upon Secretary of State Jon Husted and the Board of Elections to offer voters greater access to the polls this fall.

“Voting opportunities should be as broad as possible.  It comes down to a common sense question – do you believe in providing fair and complete access to voters, or do you have another agenda?  And when elections officials – the very leaders who should be supporting maximum access to voting – are trying to restrict access, you make it very easy for citizens to lose faith in the overall process,” said County Executive FitzGerald.

A recent tie vote by the four-member Board of Elections on how to best manage extended early voting hours leading up to the November 6 election prompted a ruling by Husted to limit availability to the board’s regular business hours. This follows the trend in other larger urban counties across Ohio in which Husted has sought to limit early voting access on the heels of undecided boards of elections.

“Public officials have a moral responsibility and a legal duty to promote voting and voter access,” said Senator Turner. “Secretary of State Husted has ignored this obligation and created unsound and unfair election policy as a result.”

In making his decisions—which will impact 40 percent of Ohio’s registered Democrats and more than a quarter of registered voters statewide—Husted cited budgetary concerns and the need to maintain uniformity in the elections process across the state.

“As we all know at this point, at least two dozen counties in Ohio have voted to expand early voting opportunities, so the “uniformity” principle is out the window,” said County Executive FitzGerald.  “And our Cuyahoga County Board of Elections – and other county Boards – have available funding and should be able to make the best use of it in providing more opportunities to vote.”

According to the Northeast Ohio Voter Advocates, as many as 14,000 citizens cast ballots during early voting times in the 2008 general election that will no longer be available as a result of the Secretary of State’s ruling. Moreover, Husted’s decision will likely have a disproportionate impact on African American voters, who cast 56 percent of all early in-person ballots despite comprising only 26 percent of the county’s population.

“Hardworking Ohioans need more than just regular business hours to vote,” Said Senator Turner. “They shouldn’t have to choose between going to work and casting their ballot.”

Monday, August 13, 2012

Senator Tavares Speaks at Affordable Care Act News Conference

Columbus--State Senator Charleta B. Tavares (D-Columbus) hosted a news conference to call attention to the key components of the Affordable Care Act that benefit women and minorities.  She was joined by Kenneth Munson, the regional director for the Department of Health and Human Services and representatives from UHCAN Ohio and the African American Male Wellness Walk.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Ohio Senate Democratic Caucus Responds to Revenue Estimates

COLUMBUS—Today, members of the Ohio Senate Democratic Caucus issued the following statements regarding the estimates released by the Office of Budget and Management indicating that Ohio will finish fiscal year 2013 with a $408 million surplus.

Minority Leader Eric H. Kearney (D-Cincinnati):

“This shows that Gov. Kasich's planning is poor. This money should have been used to assist Ohio schools or struggling local governments. To the extent the Ohio economy is rebounding it is attributable to President Obama's decisive action to save Ohio's auto industry and prevent the bottom from falling out of Ohio's economy.”

Sen. Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman):

“Governor Kasich’s decision to cut local government funding by 50 percent has forced taxpayers to foot the bill through additional levies.  If this surplus holds, these funds could help struggling families and Ohio’s children by restoring essential services and reinvesting in our public schools.”

Nina Turner (D-Cleveland):

It is wrong to force local governments to ask their citizens to vote for tax increases while the state sits on a surplus of hundreds of millions of dollars. This is especially true if next year yields another surplus for the state’s books. It is only right that the state return this money to cities, counties, and townships to provide relief to local taxpayers and support the critical services that these local governments provide.

Sen. Tom Sawyer (D-Akron):

“It’s good to see continuing signs of economic recovery. It’s also important to remember that we still face a number of fiscal obligations, and we are still months away from knowing how positive our actual fund balance might turn out to be. Meanwhile, state cuts have required local governments to cut services or pursue tax increases, thereby affecting local safety forces and infrastructure. Several major school districts, including Cleveland and Akron, have been forced to the ballot to make up for lost revenue. I am encouraged by this news, but recovery in state and local government revenue is still slow in coming. If we do have a significant fund balance next year, I would ask the Governor to reconsider his unwillingness to reverse the local government and education funding cuts contained in his last budget.”

Senator Tavares Speaks About Facebook Bill at National Conference

Senator Tavares (right) with Texas State Senator Ellen Roberts in Chicago
Chicago--State Senator Charleta Tavares (D-Columbus) spoke Monday at the annual meeting of the National Council of State Legislatures about legislation she is sponsoring in the Ohio Senate to protect Facebook users.  Senator Tavares was one of the featured speakers at a seminar entitled "Identity Theft and Privacy in the Online Age" at the national conference in Chicago.  Senator Tavares has introduced Senate Bill 351 to stop employers from forcing employees and prospective employees to divulge their passwords and user names for Facebook and other social media.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Senator Turner's Legislative Update on Ohio in Focus

State Senator Nina Turner (D-Cleveland) makes a guest appearance on Ohio in Focus for a mid-year legislative update.  She discusses the Cleveland School Plan, the Affordable Care Act and local government funding.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Ohio Women Gain Access to More Preventive Healthcare Services

COLUMBUS—The women of the Ohio Senate Democratic Caucus today praised the latest benefits of the Affordable Care Act, designed to improve the health and well being of millions of women. Beginning today women will have guaranteed access to preventive services without paying more at the doctor’s office.

About 47 million American women will benefit from the expanded coverage—a requirement for health insurance policies renewed on or after August 1, 2012. The eight new additional women’s preventive services that will be covered without co-payments include:

· Well-woman visits.

· Gestational diabetes screenings that help protect pregnant women from one of the most serious pregnancy-related diseases.

· Domestic and interpersonal violence screening and counseling.

· FDA-approved contraceptive methods, and contraceptive education and counseling.

· Breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling.

· HPV DNA testing, for women 30 or older.

· Sexually transmitted infections counseling for women.

· HIV screening and counseling for women.

Members of the Senate Democratic Caucus issued the following statements in support of the additional preventative coverage:

Sen. Nina Turner (D-Cleveland):

“Today is a great day for women all across America, who will now have greater access to critical preventative care without co-pays. Because of these and other provisions in the Affordable Care Act, women will no longer be treated in a substandard manner because of their gender. The increased availability and decreased cost of wellness visits, contraception, and domestic violence screening and support is good not just for women, but for their children, families, and country too.”

Sen. Capri S. Cafaro (D-Hubbard):

“Women’s health is family health and it is absolutely imperative that we protect women and their families by providing them with affordable preventative care. This is why I am the Senate sponsor of Prevention First legislation, which emphasizes the importance of education and prevention in promoting women’s health and safety. The coverage that begins today will ensure that there are more healthy moms and babies and that more cases of chronic diseases such as HIV and breast cancer are caught at an earlier stage. Preventative health is an economic issue that is particularly important in my district of Ashtabula and Trumbull Counties, which have been severely hit by the economic recession. I applaud this commitment to preventing unnecessary health risks and expenses for women.”

Sen. Shirley Smith (D-Cleveland):

“As the senator whose district includes the Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, and MetroHealth, I am proud to announce that, beginning today, millions of Ohio women will have guaranteed access to preventive services to improve their health outcomes. These services include gestational diabetes screening, breastfeeding support, and domestic violence counseling, all of which will not cost any additional fees and will reduce health disparities for women. We should take pride in these and other provisions in the Affordable Care Act that promote women’s health.”

Sen. Edna Brown (D-Toledo):

“Making preventative health services available with no cost sharing to women throughout their lifespan is one of the most welcome aspects of the Affordable Care Act. This recognizes the integral role of women in the lives of their families, communities and the nation at large.”

Sen. Charleta B. Tavares (D-Columbus):

"President Obama cares for the 47 million women in the U. S. and knows that healthy and well-women translates into healthy babies and healthy communities. Prevention and early intervention equals reduced illness and disease, provides cost savings and most importantly, saves lives."

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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