Archive for May, 2011

Coming to a Park Near You!

No, it’s not new playground equipment, improved walking paths or updated camping facilities. 

Ohioans look out, the newest attraction at your favorite state part may very well be an oil well!!!

Not what you expected?  We know how you feel.  See the video below for what may happen if we start turning state parks into an oil surveyor’s paradise.

Here are some of the comments from our members:

Rep. Matt Lundy

“The extreme agenda continues in Columbus where our valuable state assets are up for sale. Whether it’s plans to lease our Turnpike or turn our state parks over to corporations for the right price, this is careless and reckless.  The governor’s buddies will win and future generations of Ohioans will pay the price. This ‘drill at any cost’ mentality will have severe consequences. Recent spills and accidents in Pennsylvania serve as proof that this type of drilling near Lake Erie poses a threat to our most valuable resource.  Drilling in lakefront parks is just another example of how the governor and the majority party have an extreme agenda for Ohio that is all about money and not about what’s good for our families.”

Rep. Nickie J. Antonio

“This legislature should not jeopardize our public parks and nature preserves using them as the ‘canary in the coal mine’ risking their safety, natural beauty and environmental health with the experiment of ‘fracking’ that could forever contaminate and destroy these most precious public lands.”

Rep. Denise Driehaus

“Our predecessors had the foresight to set aside and invest in lands for public park use.  Investments were made then, and have been made since, to ensure that the public park system in Ohio would thrive into the future.  These individuals understood the value of parks, both from an environmental and an economic stand point.  Superior parks improve the quality of life in Ohio and in turn help drive economic growth.

As a member of the Cincinnati Recreation System for 16 years, I was periodically approached about selling off city golf courses and other assets.  It was our policy to refuse such offers no matter the short-term gain; we were the protectors not the owners of these lands.  The long-term consequences were too dire – once these lands were lost, they were lost forever.

I think we need to recognize that the Ohio State park system does not belong to us, the General Assembly.  The parks belong to the people of Ohio.  We are simply the stewards of these state assets.  It is our charge, during our service as state representatives, to preserve and care for the state’s assets on behalf of the citizens of the state.  We owe it to the future generations of Ohioans to be responsible public stewards.  We should work to preserve public parks instead of adulterating them for private profit.”

Rep. Sean J. O’Brien

“As stewards of our state parks, we have a duty and responsibility to protect these cherished areas.  With the history of our land and the enjoyment countless Ohioans receive while experiencing the pristine and natural beauty of our parks, to simply allow drilling and exploitation of these untouched lands, based on economic necessity and not scientific evidence, is negligent and irresponsible. We don’t know precisely what the future impact this bill will have on the integrity of our state parks, and until we do, we should really only rely on carefully conducted studies and not self serving propaganda.”

Rep. Ted Celeste

“I join the National Wildlife Federation, The Buckeye Forest Council, The Sierra Club, and The Ohio Environmental Council in opposition to this bill, as well as any effort to drill in our State Parks.  This has the potential to contaminate our underground water sources, damage the environment, and expose the public to health risks for years to come.  With less than 1% of Ohio’s total land area dedicated to State Parks, I believe there are better suited solutions to increasing State revenue that do not compromise our natural habitats or health.”

Rep. Teresa Fedor

“Drilling in our state parks is unwanted, unnecessary, and unsafe.  Most of Ohio is already open to drilling; most Ohioans oppose opening the state parks to drilling; and we need only look to Pennsylvania to see how many explosions, contaminated rivers, and other accidents can be caused by this new, unconventional drilling method.”

Rep. Sandra Williams

“Allowing oil companies to drill in Lake Erie will no doubt harm Ohio’s fishing, boating and tourism industry which provides over 1 billion dollars into Ohio’s economy.  The state would experience a net loss in allowing companies to take this valuable and profitable resource. That combined with the adverse effects on human health due to toxins in oil waste and the potential for accidental oil spills makes this a bad deal for Ohioans.”

Rep. Robert F. Hagan

“Oil and gas companies have access to about 99.5% of land in Ohio. It simply makes no sense that we write a blank check to oil companies to do whatever they like on taxpayer land. Until we can get approval and profit sharing for 11.5 million Ohioans, the Republicans shouldn’t pretend this is fair or reasonable. If I ever hear a Republican from this administration say they care about property rights in this state, it will be too soon.

Also, I thought the Ohio Department of Natural Resources might fight the Governor harder to protect public lands, but after realizing Kasich’s appointee,  Director Mustine, comes from the Texas oil and gas industry,  I must say- I wish I was surprised. It should come as no surprise then that taxpayers of this state will once again be subsidizing the profits of some of the most powerful corporations in the world.”

Assistant Minority Leader Matthew A. Szollosi

“It took former State Representative Barney Quilter 17 years to make his vision for Maumee Bay State Park a reality.  What would Rep. Quilter say about H.B. 133 and the vision of oil or gas rigs in our state parks?  He would have said ‘keep your damned hands off our state parks.’

Today’s vote in the House yet again demonstrates the majority Republican’s complete lack of regard for preservation of critical and precious state assets.  H.B. 133 is aligned with the trend in the House, which is eager to sell off prisons and lease the turnpike as well.

The revenue projections for drilling in our state parks are speculative at best, and pale in comparison to the damage this bill will cause due to the private exploitation of our state’s natural treasures.”

Rep. Dennis Murray

“Our parks are a promise made.  A promise kept.  And a call to renew.  Each successive generation is tasked as a steward of its inheritance and, in turn, looks to the next to renew the promise to do likewise. 

House Bill 133 would permit oil and gas companies or their straw men to “nominate” property owned by a state agency for drilling, without any provision for public input and indeed over the objections of the agency itself.  If approved for drilling, the agency is then required to utilize the industry standard lease.  In committee and on the floor we offered over a dozen amendments designed to protect the state and its treasury, to protect local communities and to protect our water sources.  Each was tabled.

 Make no mistake, the fracking that we are talking about is unconventional.  This is horizontal fracking, that goes down thousands of feet and then goes out in all directions for miles.  It has proven to be so dangerous in other states, such as Pennsylvania and New York, that it has been temporarily shut down while a better regulatory framework is developed.  There are only two such wells drilled in Ohio and while we on this side of the aisle are not ideologically opposed to fracking, our parks are the wrong place for experimentation.

Henry David Thoreau said that “A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.”  I urge that we leave our parks alone and thereby secure for this generation and those to follow true riches in the simple enjoyment of nature.”

Rep. Kenny Yuko

“Since 1949, Ohio’s state park system has provided locations where individuals and families can go and enjoy our state’s natural beauty.  Because of today’s actions by the House Republicans, pristine campsites and lakes will now be littered with heavy drilling machinery.

The people of House District 7 have spoken to myself and Cleveland Councilman Michael Polensek expressing hopes, dreams, and concerns about our Euclid Beach State Park.  Our commitment to our constituents addresses our historical past, our challenging present, and our hopeful future.  We must respect our history while we hold vigil for what we leave to future generations.

The environmental risks of this bill are immense, and the only people benefitting from it will be the oil and gas industry.  In a time when we are looking to put Ohioans back to work, the only growth will be in the pocketbooks of big energy companies, and that is simply unacceptable.”

 

Rep. Debbie Phillips

“I am deeply disappointed by the passage today of HB 133 by the Republican majority in the Ohio House.  This bill is about our parks, which generations of Ohioans worked to create and protect.  House Democrats offered amendments that would protect the parks, prevent the use of water from our lakes, eliminate the requirement to use the industry-written lease language, protect Lake Erie, and protect counties that depend on tourism.  All were tabled on party-lines, and the bill passed on party-lines,” said Rep. Phillips. 

“More than 70% of Ohioans oppose the bill.  It’s a shame that House Republicans casually disregard the will of the people to benefit one industry.  I hope the Ohio Senate will seriously consider the fact that this is about our parks, and reverse course on this irresponsible corporate giveaway.”

“I understand the importance of a having a secure domestic energy policy at both the state and national level.  However, citizens should not be made to sacrifice these valued public lands that improve the quality of life of people in this state. Past generations saw fit to protect these public areas for our benefit, and we have a responsibility to future Ohio generations to do the same.”

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Ohio House Approves Rep. Celeste’s Dyslexia Bill

If you or someone you know is dyslexic, you know the frustrations of having to work so hard just to make sense of every day words. And it’s especially difficult for a child, who frequently doesn’t understand why learning comes so hard.  Today, there is good news, at the Ohio House of Representatives approved legislation sponsored by State Rep. Ted Celeste (D-Grandview Heights) to deal with the problem of dyslexia in young people.  Amended House Bill 96 includes clarifying the definition of learning disabilities in the Ohio Revised Code to specifically include dyslexia.  The vote was a bipartisan 93-1, and it now goes to the Senate.

The legislation also creates a pilot project at the Ohio Department of Education including one urban, one suburban, and one rural school district to forge a partnership with the local library system to provide early screening and intervention services for children.  Existing funds within the Ohio Department of Education will be used to pay for these screenings, and the inclusion of libraries will help ease the financial burden on school districts.

Here is some of what Rep. Celeste said about the bill during debate on the floor:

“Many times the proper diagnosis of dyslexia is what holds students back from receiving the kind of educational instruction most appropriate for their individual situations.  Often times a student may fall through the cracks in which he or she is not ‘behind far enough’ to qualify for special educational services. House Bill 96 directly addresses that issue by allowing for easier research-based intervention. We should never sit by as we watch our children struggle to read and write.”

By identifying dyslexia early on in the course of learning to read, we will prevent children from falling significantly behind in decoding, reading fluency, spelling, and writing, let alone avoiding the heartache, self-esteem damage, and expense to the family and schools involved.”

Click here if you want to see Rep. Celeste’s speech on the bill.  My favorite part is where he can’t mind his p’s and q’s.

Rep. Celeste demonstrates some of the difficulties people with dyslexia face

Students in Rep. Garland’s District Produce Safe Driving Video

May is National Youth Traffic Safety Month. As the sponsor of a bill that would ban texting while driving statewide, I would like to recognize students from Gahanna Lincoln High School for creating a video that highlights the dangers of texting while driving. I would also like to share their great video with you: http://www.actoutloud.org/.

The students are participating in the Allstate Foundation and National Organizations for Youth Safety video contest with nearly 100 other schools nationwide, including several others from Ohio. The contest runs through May 22nd.

Over the past three years of working on this issue, I have heard from Ohioans from every corner of the state who have been involved in accidents or lost loved ones to a driver who was texting behind the wheel. I am so proud of these students for their activism on this important issue.

Nancy Garland
State Representative
Ohio House District 20

The Truth Will Set You Free

And the truth gives us a better insight into what’s going on at the Statehouse.

PolitiFact Ohio, an independent journalism site run by Politifact.com and Cleveland.com, gives State Rep. Matt Lundy (D-Elyria) a rating of TRUE for recent comments he made on how the House GOP is trying to sweeten the deal for selling the state’s prisons.

Here is what Rep. Lundy said at a news conference May 2, 2011, “The substitute budget now adds in tax breaks and tax deductions for those who buy these prisons.”

Here is what Politifact Ohio says about that, “Lundy is correct that the substitute budget includes tax breaks and tax deductions for those who buy the prisons. There would be no sales tax on the purchase and there are other exclusions for income and commercial taxes.”

At his news conference, Rep. Lundy called the sale “the Deal of the Century” for private prison companies but a “raw deal” for Ohio taxpayers. He called the Governor’s plan a “yard sale” of the state’s assets.

“This yard sale is so bad for Ohio that it should have a new word to describe what this is really all about – ‘profitization’ to ‘profitize’ not privatization or privatizing.  Once ‘profit’ becomes the motive, taxpayers, specifically Ohio taxpayers will lose,” Rep. Lundy said.

You can read more about Politifact’s rating of TRUE for Rep. Lundy’s comments on their website:

http://www.politifact.com/ohio/statements/2011/may/12/matt-lundy/state-rep-matt-lundy-says-house-gop-added-extra-ta/

Democrats Talk About Voter Disenfranchisement

Video footage of yesterday’s news conference where Democrats in the House and Senate criticized aspects of a bill that would disenfranchise many of Ohio’s eligible voters.

Elections Bill Will Make Voting Harder, More Restrictive

The Ohio House was scheduled to vote today (Wednesday 5/11) on House Bill 194, GOP sponsored legislation that will take away voter’s rights and reduce the number of ballots counted. Maybe even the Republicans realized what a bad law this would make.

Some Democrats, including Reps. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent), Alicia Reese (D-Cincinnati), and Senator Charleta Tavares (D – Columbus) joined Professor Daniel P. Tokaji of The Ohio State University’s Election Law @ Moritz project for a news conference to explain why this bill, and a similar one in the Senate, would make voting in Ohio harder and more restrictive.

“If these changes become law, Ohio voters will have fewer opportunities to participate and exercising our constitutional right to vote will become harder,” said Rep. Clyde.  “Regrettably, this bill will make it harder to vote, fewer votes will be counted and local boards of elections will be prohibited from making voting more accessible in their individual counties.”

The proposed changes that Democrats raised concerns over were provisions that severely limit the number of days that a person can vote at a designated polling location from 35 days to 5 ½ days; new requirements that make it more difficult to cast and count a provisional ballot; and changes that eliminate local control by county boards of elections. 

“An elections law overhaul of this magnitude should have bipartisan input or it runs the risk of increased litigation at election time,” said Rep. Clyde.  “Our hope was to have a thoughtful and deliberative process but that has not yet occurred.”

Decreasing in-person early voting will make it hard for voters to participate and additional changes will mean that fewer votes will be counted.  These changes include throwing out votes because of incomplete voter information on the absentee ballot request and provisional ballot affirmation forms. The bill also needlessly prohibits poll workers from assisting voters to get them to the right voting location or to make sure that voter paperwork is filled out properly. 

 “The key question should be whether or not this bill increases participation, and unfortunately House Bill 194 falls well short,” Rep. Reece said. “Denying someone their right to vote because of a minor error on a form or because their ballot was cast in the right polling location but at the wrong precinct table is simply unconscionable.”

 The proposed law does nothing to address poll worker error, despite numerous lawsuits and costly litigation.   Democratic lawmakers believe that poll workers should be required to identify the voter’s correct precinct on the ballot envelope so that mistakes can be discovered and ballots can be counted. 

“Provisions of this bill will upset the stability of our election system and make it more difficult for eligible citizens to vote and have their vote counted,” said Prof. Tokaji. “House Bill 194 will result in years of controversy, litigation and confusion for the state of Ohio, at a time when Ohio’s election system is functioning better than it did in 2004. The net effect of the bill would be to make our election system worse rather than better.”

The bill also imposes a “one-size-fits-all” approach for county boards of elections. This change will result in limitations that will prohibit county boards from mailing absentee ballot requests, setting their own hours for early voting and setting up satellite in-person voting locations that make voting easier and more accessible.

Democrats in the House and Senate gather to voice concerns over new proposals that would disenfranchise many of Ohio's eligible voters.

Dems Vote No On Job-Killing State Budget

Despite strong objections from Democratic members, the Ohio House of Representatives this afternoon approved a state budget that hurts local communities and the middle class.  After the vote, the following members made these statements to the public:

State Representative Debbie Phillips, Ohio House District 92

“This budget moves Ohio in the wrong direction. It includes deep cuts to the services that are important to our community and our working and middle class families. The budget spends $5 billion more than the current one, and yet includes deep cuts to education, mental health care, health care, higher education and funding to our local communities for basic services like police and fire protection.

 It guts transparency and accountability, it sells off public assets for one time money, and it will harm Ohio’s middle class and working families, and our most vulnerable citizens.”

State Representative Kathleen Clyde, Ohio House District 68

 “Today’s budget passed by the Ohio House will be a tough blow to Portage County’s middle class families.  Local communities will be forced to cut critical services, such as police and fire.  Class sizes will increase, teachers will be laid off, and property owners will be asked to pay more for our local schools.  While the Governor increases the budget to his own office, he makes cuts to programs for the most vulnerable, such as the PASSPORT program for senior citizens and child protective services.  Because of these misplaced priorities, I opposed this budget.”

State Representative Connie Pillich, Ohio House District 28

“This budget is an abomination.  After telling us for more than a dozen months that we faced an $8 Billion shortfall, the GOP budget manages to increase spending by $5 billion!  But instead of providing quality services with these increased expenditures, this budget cuts funding for state services.  The budget busts public schools, local governments, and care for the elderly and infirm.  It balances the budget on the backs of the middle class, diverting money from important services to fund pet projects of the wealthy donors of the Governor and GOP.”

State Representative Tom Letson, Ohio House District 64

“I am truly disappointed at the budget decisions that were made by the House this evening.  This budget does not assist Ohioans in finding jobs.  We had an opportunity to make Ohio a better place for our middle class citizens, and instead, the Governor and the Republican led House used this opportunity to ensure the loss of over 50,000 jobs while also ensuring that their rich friends get richer.  This is indeed a sad day for Ohio and its citizens.”

State Representative John Patrick Carney , Ohio House District 22

“The budget passed out of the House today is a detriment to Ohio’s middle class.  Unfortunately, it is a partisan bill that decreases valuable services to children and our most vulnerable citizens.  This budget cuts funding to school districts and local governments while increasing funding and eliminating accountability for failing charter schools.

 “The state budget affects every Ohioan and I believe that we must work in a bipartisan manner to reach common ground.  We must make key investments in workforce development and education if our State is to maintain long term economic viability.  This budget, unfortunately, uses short term budgeting maneuvers at the expense of the long term prosperity and opportunity of our citizens.”

State Representative Denise Driehaus , Ohio House District 31

“This budget eliminates jobs, reduces money for both public and private education, reduces funding to local governments which will likely result in cuts to public safety and cuts to programs that help keep our seniors in their homes. Additionally, the budget cuts important consumer protection funding and hurts the middle class. At the same time, this budget spends more money than the previous budget. This budget shifts the priorities of the State from investing in education and long term strategies to save money and instead sells off State assets for short term gain.”

 State Representative Teresa Fedor , Ohio House District 47

“This destructive budget spends more, provides less, rewards friends, and hurts the middle class.  The solutions offered by this bill are a race to the bottom with no secure investments to weather the economic storm. 

The budget’s cuts to schools and local communities will result in layoffs of police officers, teachers, and firefighters and could reverse Ohio’s 13 straight months of rising employment. Deep cuts to schools and local communities will have long-term, negative impacts on Ohio’s children and the safety of our communities.”

State Representative Sean O’Brien , Ohio House District 65

“Finally in Ohio we are beginning to see unemployment rates decreasing, state revenues exceeding previous estimates, and business expansion. It is unfortunate that this budget proposal does nothing to further capitalize on our state’s economic recovery. This budget increases state spending by $5 billion dollars yet calls for devastating cuts to schools, local communities, and services provided to our state’s most vulnerable populations. It passes the buck to middle class families and will result in layoffs for firefighter, educators, and police offices. These funding reductions will have a significant long-term impact on our children, families, and neighborhoods and will most certainly do nothing to contribute to growing Ohio’s fragile economy. I simply cannot support a budget that does more harm than good in my district.”

State Representative Ronald Gerberry , Ohio House District 59

 “I am disappointed that the budget bill was not a true Bi-Partisan effort.  The direction chosen by our majority party for our schools and educators is troubling.  Democratic amendments that would have made this bill better, that would have helped the middle class and that would have helped keep the programs and services that people utilize on a daily basis in place were constantly tabled.  There is nothing in this bill that screams ‘economic development,’ when in fact, it seems to jeopardize the very jobs the Republicans have said they want to create.  I am disappointed in the whole process and therefore could not lend my support to the proposal.”

State Representative Tracy Maxwell Heard , Ohio House District 26

It is another sad day in Ohio for the middle class and working families of this state.  There is such an obvious intent to dismantle anything that could potentially support the stabilization, elevation or mobilization of the middle class.  Education, transportation and compensation – all under assault.  The failure to recognize that sabotaging the middle class is a detriment to the stability of the entire state is both selfish and short sighted.”

 State Representative Nickie Antonio, Ohio House District 13

“This budget will be balanced on the backs of seniors, working people, the middle class and our children– dashing their hopes for achieving the American Dream in the state of Ohio.”

State Representative Lou Gentile, Ohio House District 95

“This plan does nothing to move Ohio’s economy forward but instead leaves struggling Ohioans further behind. This budget doesn’t create jobs, doesn’t position Ohio for economic success, doesn’t invest in education and doesn’t help keep college tuition affordable. Furthermore, it does nothing to protect the most vulnerable among us who have been hardest hit by the economic storm that has been building for the last decade.”

 State Representative Kenny Yuko, Ohio House District 7

“The budget that was passed today reflects the General Assembly’s lack of respect for Ohio’s middle class.  My ‘no’ vote is in support of our local governments, our working families and our schools.  Ohio’s budget should be fair to every Ohioan, not just a select few.”

State Representative Jay Goyal, Ohio House District  73 

“As north central Ohioans struggle to recover from the recession, this budget continues to devastate the middle class. Public education, local governments and libraries take huge cuts – Mansfield City Schools losing over $5 million alone. In particular, health care for our elderly, treatment for the mentally ill, and protective services for abused and neglected children are absolutely devastated. Gov. John Kasich is balancing the budget on the backs of the middle class and the most vulnerable and fragile amongst us.”

State Representative Matt Lundy, Ohio House District  57

“This so-called “jobs budget” is a jobs buster. When police officers, firemen and teachers lose their jobs in this budget, our families, communities and schools suffer greatly. The sale of our prisons in Lorain County will lead to “yard sale prices” of these valuable assets in a bad economy. Guards will be working for significantly lower wages resulting in less money for our local economy and greater safety concerns for residents. ‘Profitization’ (Privatization) has it’s price. The governor and the republican majority are moving the state further away from meeting a constitutional responsibility to fund public schools, but found plenty of ways to help for-profit charter schools. They’re taking care of their friends, while leaving our schools and children behind.”


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