Archive for November, 2011

Rep. Carney Calls on Lt. Governor to Testify Before Health Committee

COLUMBUS – State Representative John Patrick Carney (D-Columbus) once again called on Representative Lynn Wachtmann (R-Napoleon), Chairman of the House Health and Aging Committee, to schedule testimony from Lt. Governor Mary Taylor.

In a letter today, Representative Carney reiterated the need for Lt. Governor Mary Taylor to testify before the committee regarding Ohio’s progress in setting up a statewide Health Insurance Exchange. Lt. Governor Taylor also serves as Director of the Ohio Department of Insurance, the agency responsible for instituting certain provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Representative Carney and Democratic Members of the Health and Aging Committee sent a similar memo earlier this month.

In response to the first letter, Representative Wachtmann stated that he had asked Director Taylor to provide hard copies of information to the committee but that he would not be asking her to address the committee in person.

“It is perplexing to me and my colleagues why Ohio Lieutenant Governor and Department of Insurance Director Mary Taylor is unwilling to appear publicly to address these issues,” Rep. Carney said in his letter. “If, in fact, Director Taylor is interested in maintaining a strong marketplace for independent agents and reducing the amount of uncertainty in Ohio’s health insurance market, what better way to provide clarity and direction from the Kasich Administration then to appear in front of our committee and explain the direction of the Kasich Administration on this issue.”

Read the full text of the letter here.


Leading Death Penalty Opponent Supports Ohio Capital Punishment Ban

There was an execution in Ohio today, and it brought more attention to the issue of whether the practice should be replaced in Ohio by life in prison without the possibility of parole. State Reps. Nickie J. Antonio (D-Lakewood) and Ted Celeste (D-Grandview) are sponsoring that bill (House Bill 160, the Execute Justice Bill) and today got support from a leader death penalty opponent.

Sister Helen Prejean was at the Statehouse today supporting HB160. Her book, Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States, has been turned into a play, an opera, and a 1995 major motion picture starring Susan Sarandon. 

“People don’t think about it (capital punishment) much,” Sister Helen said. “As a Catholic nun, the Gospel is about more than just being charitable, it is about justice.”

“We need to educate people that life without parole is real, that people will be safe with that punishment. We can be safe without killing.”

“More than 90 per cent of people on death row had brutal childhoods, they were abused and one day they just exploded into violence. By executing them you’re not stopping violence, you’re repeating it,” said Sr. Helen.

Sister Helen Prejean traveled with a group of students from Archbishop Moeller High School in Cincinnati to Lucasville for a vigil to mark the scheduled execution of Reginald Brooks, and met with lawmakers and officials from Governor Kasich’s administration in Columbus.

 The students attended the Statehouse news conference, and were interviewed themselves by a reporter from the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Meanwhile, the Ohio House Criminal Justice Committee will hear proponent testimony on House Bill 160 on December 14th. The Ohio Supreme Court Joint Task Force to study the death penalty held its first meeting in early November and is scheduled to meet again in January.

Sr. Helen voices her support for HB 160

It’s not just an Ohio House Dems issue. Joining Reps. Antonio, Celeste and others from the caucus were Republican State Representatives Terry Boose and Terry Blair, both supporting the elimination of capital punishment.

Dem Lawmakers Urge Secretary Husted to Not Cut off Early Voting

The tactics are confusing, and the reasoning complicated, but the result is clear: Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State wants to cut down on your right to early vote in this election.  He doesn’t want early voting on the three traditionally busiest days.  We think that’s wrong.

So, two of the leading elections experts in our caucus, State Reps. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) and Ronald V. Gerberry (D-Austintown), Ranking Member on the State Government and Elections committee, held a news conference today amid the ongoing confusion surrounding the implementation of the military voting bill, HB 224.  Over the last month, Democratic lawmakers have repeatedly contacted Secretary Husted informing him of their concerns and asking him not to thwart the HB 194 referendum and to allow in-person early voting at county Boards of Elections through Monday, Nov. 7.  Secretary Husted has refused these requests and ignored the concerns.

“House Bill 224 is obviously not clear on many points, yet it is being treated as a clear statement of the legislature’s intention by the Secretary of State’s office.  We ask Secretary Husted to immediately rescind his Advisory 2011-7 and notify local Boards of Elections that they are to remain open for early voting through Monday, November 7,” Rep. Clyde said.  “If we sit by while executive office holders make the law, we are abdicating our duty as lawmakers and setting a dangerous precedent with respect to the separation of powers between the branches of government.”

Secretary of State Jon Husted has ordered early voting to be cut off on Friday, November 4. This means the Saturday, Sunday and Monday before Election Day, the three busiest days across the state, there will be no in-person early voting at local Boards of Elections. This is due to confusion between House Bill 194, which has been put on hold due to referendum, and House Bill 224. In cutting off early voting three days early, Secretary Husted is implementing parts of House Bill 224 that are impossible to implement due to the stay on House Bill 194.

“The attempt to implement this unreadable bill threatens people’s right to Equal Protection under the U.S. Constitution. If Secretary of State Husted continues to require that in-person early voting end on Friday, he is opening up his office and local Boards of Elections to lawsuits,” said Rep. Gerberry.  “The voters of Ohio have spoken – they want a chance to vote on how Ohio conducts early voting and Secretary Husted should not take that choice away from them.”

One of the most important problems with Secretary Husted’s reading of House Bill 224 is that it violates the Equal Protection guarantee of the U.S. Constitution.  Secretary Husted’s Advisory says early voting must end Friday for non-military voters only and that military voters shall be permitted to vote early through Monday, November 7.  Neither House Bill 194 nor House Bill 224 intended to create two different early vote end dates.  Reasonable accommodations for military/overseas voters can and should be made.  However, for purposes of in-person early voting, both military and non-military voters are identically situated, and treating them differently in this circumstance violates the guarantee of Equal Protection of the laws. 

 Told you this was complicated, but it is also very important.  If you would like more background…see the links below….

  • 2011 Elections Calendar currently posted on the Secretary of State website listing November 7 as the final day for in-person early voting
  • Early voting information page from the Secretary of State website – no mention of November 4 end to early voting
  • Absentee deadline information from the Secretary of State website indicating voters may vote early at their local Board of Election “no later than the day before the election.
  • Language creating a new reason to throw out absentee ballots can be seen here.
  • Language adding confusion to the provisional ballot law can be seen here.
  • October 4 Letter from Secretary Husted to legislative leaders asking for clarity can be seen here.
  • October 14 Letter to Secretary Husted from the Democrats on the State Government and Elections Committee regarding early voting can be seen here.
  • October 14 Response from Secretary Husted regarding early voting can be seen here.
  • October 20 letter to Secretary Husted from State Government and Elections Committee Ranking Member Rep. Ron Gerberry and Committee Member Rep. Kathleen Clyde highlighting additional problems with HB 224 can be seen here.

House Dems Receive Honors

A number of Ohio House Democrats have received nice honors over the past few weeks.

The Ohio Environmental Council has named State Rep. Dennis Murray (D-Sandusky) their Public Servant of the Year. The award is in recognition of Rep. Murray’s “significant contributions to securing healthy air, land, and water for all who call Ohio home.”

“Representative Murray is one of Mother Nature’s most stalwart friends at the Ohio Statehouse.  This year, alone, he spoke truth to power during not one, but two high-profile, high-stakes debates.  He lead the fight against oil and gas drilling in Ohio’s state parks and against a flawed scheme to allow massive water withdrawals from Lake Erie,” said Jack Shaner, Deputy Director for the Ohio Environmental Council.  “Somewhere, somehow, someone is always scheming hot to take advantage of our natural world.  But as long as he is in the General Assembly, Dennis Murray will be there to balance the scales.  Ohioans are better off, thanks to this true public servant.”

The C.J. McLin Award, presented to Rep. Heard

Representative Tracy Maxwell Heard (D-Columbus) was awarded the Representative C.J. McLin Award from the Ohio Justice Alliance for Community Corrections (OJACC) for her work in passing her Sentencing Reform Bill known as HB 86. The Ohio Justice Alliance for Community Corrections is a coalition of elected officials and correctional providers working together to improve and promote community corrections. OJACC attempts to achieve this goal through legislative initiatives and public education.

State Rep. Barbara Boyd (D-Cleveland) was named Legislator of the Year by the Public Children Services Association of Ohio (PCSAO). This award is given to state legislators who take the lead in advocating for children and child welfare.    

Rep. Boyd established the Kinship Incentive Program to support children in the homes of family or friends who have committed to caring for them when birth parents cannot. She also worked to save it from being gutted through budget cuts.

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