Archive for June, 2011

OLBC Talks Election Law

The Ohio Legislative Black Caucus and other Ohio House Dems gathered yesterday for a news conference about HB 194, the elections “reform” bill currently in the Ohio legislature.

State Representative Sandra Williams, President of the OLBC, referred to the bill as the resurrection of voter profiling and the infamous poll tax. HB 194, if enacted, would create barriers to the ballot, barriers that would directly affect minority, senior and low-income voters. Every Ohioan deserves equal access to their ballot regardless of skin color, income or age and any policy that would intentionally or unintentionally lead to the disenfranchisement of certain groups based on these characteristics should be unequivocally opposed and defeated.

Three major problems with HB 194 are the restriction of early voting opportunities, the needless disqualification of eligible votes and the elimination of local control. For the past week or so there have been rumors that a photo ID requirement would also be added. Although this provision has been cut from the final version of HB 194, it is very likely that House Republicans will move forward with this requirement as a separate piece of legislation.

Requiring a photo ID at the polls, which many low-income citizens, seniors and college students do not have, will likely lead to lower voter turnout, particularly among those groups that make up the most loyal voting base for Democrats. What a coincidence! Proponents of this provision argue that it would help eliminate voter fraud, a problem that is virtually nonexistent. The damage that this provision would create far outweighs any benefit it could bring to the democratic process.


Rep. Fedor Introduces “Safe Harbor for Exploited Children” Act

If you’ve followed State Rep. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo), you know of her committment to the issue of human trafficking. It has been a top priority of hers even back when she was a state Senator. So it will be no surprise that she is continuing her fight against the horrible reality with new legislation to protect children who are the victims of human trafficking. The “Safe Harbor for Exploited Children” act (House Bill 262) would help human trafficking victims return to society.

 “Under Ohio current law, minors who are victims of human trafficking are arrested as prostitutes and incarcerated.  Minors who cannot legally consent to sex should not be considered prostitutes,” said Rep. Fedor. “Furthermore, a minor who has been commercially sexually exploited should not be incarcerated, but should receive treatment to help the crime victim re-enter society.”

Human trafficking is defined as the sexual or labor exploitation of one person by another.  Generally, traffickers prey on the most vulnerable in society, they exploit them, and they keep any profits from the forced labor.  Human trafficking is modern-day slavery, and globally there are more slaves today than during any other time in history.  The United States is part of the worldwide trafficking network, and American children are sexually exploited yearly.  In Ohio, 3,000 children are at risk of exploitation, and as many as 1,700 children (under the age of 18) are recruited into the sex industry every year (Trafficking In Person Study Commission of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, 2009.)

Rep. Fedor’s Safe Harbor Act will provide a “safe harbor” for minor victims of human trafficking. HB 262 requires that a minor be given appropriate services and prevents a child victim from being charged with solicitation. 

Several other states have already enacted safe harbor legislation. Also, the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act (2000) contains safe harbor provisions, and this bill would bring Ohio in line with federal law. 

Rep. Fedor has been a leader in the fight against human trafficking for years. She was the primary sponsor of legislation signed into law December 2010 that made human trafficking a 2nd degree felony. Her battle against this exploitation continues with the follow-up legislation that she introduced today.

Her bill will now be assigned to the appropriate Ohio House committee for hearings.

Speaker Batchelder: Liar, Liar

The independent fact checking group Politifact says House Speaker Bill Batchelder is a liar when he claims the Ohio Consumers Counsel has 74 lawyers on staff. The real number: 14.

The Consumers Counsel is in the GOP cross hairs right now. The Governor and House R’s want to drastically cut their funding and severely restrict the OCC’s ability to fight for lower utility rates on your behalf.

The money they want cutting from the budget does not come from taxpayers but instead is funded through a levy on utility companies. So connect the dots and see whose money the GOP really wants to save.

Republicans love to talk about big government, so it’s no surprise Rep. Batchelder would try to make the point that the agency is bloated. But when Politifact checked his claim of “74 lawyers,” they found him to be a liar, liar, with his pants on fire (their words, not mine!).

Check it out…click here for the full story.

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