Archive for April, 2012

MUST READ: House Republican’s Sneak Attack on Women and Families

While House Democrats are working to create and maintain good paying jobs through programs focused on education like our Kids and Communities First Fund, just introduced, Republicans continue their partisan agenda attacking women’s rights, workers’ rights and voter’s rights.  Their effort to defund Planned Parenthood is just the latest example. Excerpts of an article by the Huffington Post are below:

“The GOP may insist that there is no war on women, but the campaign against Planned Parenthood, which provides health care to one in five American women each year, is gaining ground in the Midwest.

“Republican state representatives in Ohio slipped an amendment into the state’s substitute budget bill on Tuesday that puts family planning clinics like Planned Parenthood at the bottom of funding priorities and blocks them from receiving funding for cancer screenings and HIV and domestic violence services.

“Defunding Planned Parenthood through Ohio’s budget bill is a way for GOP lawmakers to pass the measure without having to vote on a separate bill, which would likely cause controversy. The Planned Parenthood amendment, introduced by Republicans in the House Finance Committee on Tuesday, puts family planning clinics that provide abortions in the bottom tier of priority for Title X funds, making it more likely that the state will run out of money before it can provide any funding to Planned Parenthood.

“The amendment further prohibits federal funds from the Minority HIV/AIDS Initiative, the Violence Against Women Act, the Breast and Cervical Cancer Mortality Prevention Act and the Infertility Prevention Project from going to Planned Parenthood or any other family planning clinic that provides abortions.

“The GOP-controlled House is expected to vote on the budget bill next week and pass it, with the amendment attached.

“’This House seems to stop at nothing to attack women and their reproductive rights, and in this case, their access to basic health care and cancer screenings,’ State Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent), a member of the House Finance Committee, told HuffPost. ‘It’s just a very tough legislature to be a part of.’

“Planned Parenthood Affiliates of Ohio said that of its 37 health centers, only three perform abortions, and none of the $1.7 million it receives in federal funding annually is used to pay for abortions. Opponents of the amendment are concerned that many of the rural and low-income women in Ohio who rely on Planned Parenthood clinics for basic health and family planning services will not have any nearby alternative if Planned Parenthood is stripped of funding.

“Republicans on the Finance Committee, however, ‘seem to be burying their head in the sand on that issue,’ Clyde said. ‘We’ve heard some pretty clear testimony that the services are not available — there’s already wait times, not enough doctors out there offering these services — but the Republicans seem to think that other types of health centers can pick up all of the extra demand and absorb all of these patients. I think that is completely false.’

“House Finance Chairman Rep. Ron Amstut (R-Wooster) and state Rep. Kristina Roegner (R-Hudson), who are pushing the amendment, did not respond to calls for comment.

…”

Read the full article here.

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Republican Budget Cuts Responsible for More than 700 Teacher Layoffs this Week Alone

State Representatives Denise Driehaus and Mike Foley urged the Republican legislature and Gov. Kasich to take a serious look at the Kids and Communities First Fund announced by House Democrats this week.  The fund would help offset historically deep budget cuts after the layoff of more than 700 teachers that was disclosed over the course of two days.

Cleveland City Schools announced that 508 teaching positions would be lost at the end of this year while another 200 teachers take retirement packages.  The district will also shorten the school day and cut music and arts programs.  These layoffs come even as the district will place a $65 million levy on the ballot in the fall to close the budget hole created by the $59 million the district will lose due to state budget cuts. Additionally, the Cleveland Teachers Union agreed to a 5.6 – 6 percent pay cut for next year.  [Cleveland Plain Dealer, 4/17/12]

“These kinds of cuts will only continue statewide if we do not take action to curb Gov. Kasich’s massive budget cuts.  This week’s news is incredibly disheartening,” said Rep. Foley. “While unemployment rates slowly go down more than 700 teachers were laid off this week in two of the state’s largest districts.”

Cincinnati City Schools, the highest ranked urban district in the state, announced 237 teacher layoffs this week due to $43 million dollars in budget cuts.  The district says the layoffs are due to funding cuts. Cincinnati City Schools faces a projected deficit of more than $53 million ($53,868,502) in fiscal year 2013 and a frightening $115 million ($115,099,388) in fiscal year 2014.  Julie Sellers, President of the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers was quoted in the Cincinnati Enquirer as saying, “This year already most of our grievances were about overloaded classrooms…” [Cincinnati Enquirer, 4/18/12]

“These layoffs will not only hurt our children’s education and future, they will hurt the families of those losing jobs, predominantly women,” said Rep. Driehaus. “Gov. Kasich’s policies are bad for economic development and bad for women.  Our communities deserve better, but unfortunately we’re seeing that women and families are being disproportionally affected. I urge my Republican colleagues and Gov. Kasich to put partisan politics aside and do what is right for our children and their teachers by passing the Kids and Communities First Fund.”

This week, House Democrats announced the Kids and Communities First Fund will be offered as an amendment to Gov. Kasich’s Mid-Biennium Review (HB 487).  This fund will help keep teachers in the classroom and cops and firefighters on the streets in communities all across Ohio. Additionally, this fund will help curb the growing need for local tax levies due to state budget cuts and provide relief for local property taxpayers. The fund will make up to $400 million available this year from surplus revenue (currently $265 million), a portion of the Budget Stabilization Fund ($120 million), and $15 million from Gov. Kasich’s proposed severance tax increase.  The fund would be replenished after fiscal year 2013 by increased severance tax revenue.

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Rep. Clyde Disappointed with Disrespectful Comments by Ohio Right to Life

As an Ohio Right to Life advocate was testifying in the ongoing Finance Committee hearings on the Mid-Biennial Budget Review (HB 497), which now includes a provision to defund Planned Parenthood, State Representative Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) was taken aback by the inappropriate comments made about young women. 

During her testimony before the committee, the Ohio Right to Life advocate stated, “We know why Planned Parenthood clinics are in places like Kent.”  The statement was made as if there is something wrong with locating a Planned Parenthood clinic near a college campus, where thousands of young women would be in proximity to the clinic’s important, life-saving services.  That sentiment was expressed further during questions and answers.    

“These insinuating comments are completely out of line and disrespectful to young women around this state,” said Rep. Clyde.  “Many college students are away from home, do not have a primary care physician on campus, and are not insured or are out of their network while away at school.  They often do not have the financial means to go elsewhere for these very basic and private healthcare needs such as annual pap smears.”

The Planned Parenthood clinic in Kent does not perform abortions.  However, like all Planned Parenthood clinics, they provide basic preventative health services for thousands of women and men.  If Ohio follows through with this attempt to defund stand-alone family planning clinics, such as Planned Parenthood, we risk losing millions in federal funding putting women’s health at great risk.  Recently, Texas lost all federal family planning funding, which totaled $39 million last year, for blocking Planned Parenthood from receiving any state or federal funding.  Federal law already prohibits funding for abortion services.

During Rep. Clyde’s questions, Committee Chairman Ron Amstuz abruptly cut off all questioning, calling this an “emotional” issue for some members of the committee and ended the hearing. 

“This war on women is offensive and degrading.  This is not simply a women’s issue or an issue about a women’s choice, this is a family issue,” said Rep. Clyde.  “Many mothers depend on services such as cancer screenings that Planned Parenthood provides.  If we take these critical services away, we put these families at risk of losing a mother, a daughter, grandmother or aunt.  That is simply unacceptable.”

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Leader Budish Praises President Obama’s Efforts to Re-build the Economy

Ohio House Democratic Leader Armond Budish released the following statement on President Obama’s visit to Lorain County Community College in Elyria:

“I welcome President Obama to Ohio today to see his economic policies at work, rebuilding our economy and creating jobs.  Lorain County Community College is a great example of a higher education leader preparing working and middle class Ohioans for the jobs of today and the future in manufacturing, clean energy production and technology.

“While President Obama and Democrats here in Ohio are working to create and maintain good paying jobs through programs focused on education like our Kids and Communities First Fund, just introduced, Republicans continue their partisan agenda attacking women’s rights, workers’ rights and voter’s rights.  Their effort to defund Planned Parenthood is just the latest example. This overreaching partisan agenda only continues to demonstrate the clear difference in priorities between President Obama and the Republican majorities in the Ohio House and in Washington.”

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House Dems Urge Caution with Unprecedented Legislative Repeal

Ohio House Democrats held a press conference to urge caution as House Republicans look to move forward with an unprecedented partial legislative repeal (SB 295) of HB 194.   The measures also includes additional language beyond repealing HB 194, which lawmakers contend will make this unprecedented legislative maneuver is ripe for a constitutional challenge.

“This theme is playing out across the country. In the 2008 presidential election, record numbers of young people, lower income people, and minorities voted.  Since then, Republicans have been executing a strategy to make it more difficult for those populations to vote, thereby trying to ensure their success at the ballot box this November – not by winning a clean campaign on the issues, but by gaming the system, creating voter confusion and chaos, and pursuing a set of punitive rules that hurt voters.  It is outrageous, and we will continue to speak out about their dirty tricks and tactics,” said State Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D- Kent).

Most recently Reps. Clyde and Gerberry reached out to Speaker Batchelder over the legislative spring break, urging caution with the Republicans’ unprecedented legislative repeal bill of HB 194 through SB 295.  In a letter to Speaker Batchelder they laid out three consensus-building steps on how Democrats can work with the Republican leaders to ensure a smooth election this fall. First, any bill should contain a clean repeal of HB 194, not a partial repeal like SB 295. Second, bi-partisan support and consent of the petition committee would be required. Third, Republicans would have to make a firm public commitment not to make other election law changes at any point before November.  A copy of the letter to the Speaker is attached.

“Time and time again we have given Republicans the opportunity to work with us to improve our elections system, but they refuse and at every turn Republican leaders of this state prove they will stop at nothing to disenfranchise voters,” said State Rep. Ronald V. Gerberry, ranking member of the State Government and Elections Committee (D-Austintown).  I am incredibly disappointed in my colleague’s decision to continue to pursue yet another lawsuit; it is a complete abdication of our duty to the people of this state to use their hard earned tax dollars in an attempt to make their voices silent and their votes unheard.” 

 “A pre-emptive legislative repeal to a law that has been certified for a citizen’s referendum has never occurred in the Ohio General Assembly’s 209-year history.  Pursuing such an unprecedented maneuver with broad partisan opposition will only strengthen a potential constitutional challenge,” said State Rep. Vernon Sykes (D-Akron).  “Furthermore, continuing to pursue lawsuits at the federal and state level on the taxpayer’s dime in an effort to receive a different outcome is simply unacceptable.”

Yesterday, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals again ruled against Secretary of State Jon Husted and Hamilton County Republicans, ordering that provisional ballots in the undecided 2010 Hamilton Country Juvenile Court judge’s race be counted.  In response, Senate President Niehaus and Rep. Blessing filed a suit in the Ohio Supreme Court against Secretary Husted in another desperate attempt to throw out registered voters’ provisional ballots.  Using taxpayer dollars to argue against counting eligible voters ballots, often cast due to poll worker error, shows just how out of whack Republicans’ priorities are.

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MUST READS: House Dems propose $400 million jump in funding to schools and local governments

The Cleveland Plain Dealer highlighted House Democrats plan to put Kids and Communities First and work to restore historically deep cuts to schools and communities across the state.  Excerpts from the article are below.

“Ohio House Democrats want to funnel tax dollars back to schools and local governments handed a whopping cut in Republican Gov. John Kasich’s state budget passed last year.”

 “House Minority Leader Armond Budish, a Beachwood Democrat, and five Democratic members of the House Finance Committee appeared at a Statehouse news conference Monday morning calling for $400 million in additional funding for schools and local governments hit by cuts in the state’s operating budget.

 “’The Kids and Communities First Fund will keep teachers in the classroom and police and firefighters on the streets in communities across Ohio,’ Budish said.

 “In Kasich’s first two-year budget signed into law in July 2011, local governments and schools faced deep cuts adding up to more than $2 billion collectively. Local governments were smacked with a 34 percent cut in the Local Government Fund and both schools and local governments had revenues from utilities and business property taxes slashed.

 …

 “The Democrats are proposing the funding increase be inserted into Kasich’s mid-budget review plan currently undergoing legislative hearings. They would fund the grant program by snatching up $265 million in surplus revenue, $120 million in rainy day funds and $15 million from a proposed hike in the severance tax proposed by Gov. John Kasich on oil and gas drillers. In future budgets, the fund would rise to $500 million and be paid for by adding in the proceeds of the severance tax, which is expected to rise in future years.

 …

“Joined by a member from the Fraternal Order of Police as well as the state firefighters union, the Democrats said the cuts were making communities less safe and watering down the quality of local schools.

 “’Absent a proposal like this, we are stuck in a race to the bottom in Ohio,’ said Rep. Debbie Phillips of Athens. She said the cuts affect Ohio’s economic future by making the state less attractive to businesses looking to relocate.

 “Jay McDonald, president of the Ohio FOP, said the Democratic offer was ‘a pretty reasonable plan that doesn’t fix all of our problems, but takes some steps to alleviate some of our problems.’ He said he plans to encourage his membership to lobby for the Democratic proposal with GOP lawmakers.

 …”

Read the full article here.

Relief Fund for Schools and Communities Proposed by House Lawmakers

Ohio House Democratic lawmakers announced a new proposal today to help offset the impacts of last year’s historically deep state budget cuts to schools and local communities.  The Kids & Communities First Fund uses surplus revenue to make up to $400 million available to schools and communities this year, and another $500 million once Gov. John Kasich’s proposed severance tax increase takes effect.  

“The Kids and Communities First Fund will help keep teachers in the classroom, and cops and firefighters on the streets in communities all across Ohio,” said House Minority Leader Armond Budish (D–Beachwood). “Additionally, this fund will help curb the growing need for local tax levies due to state budget cuts and provide relief for local property taxpayers.”

The Kids and Communities First Fund will be offered as an amendment to Gov. Kasich’s Mid-Biennium Review (HB 487).  The fund will make up to $400 million available this year from surplus revenue (currently $265 million), a portion of the Budget Stabilization Fund ($120 million), and $15 million from Gov. Kasich’s proposed severance tax increase.  The fund would be replenished after fiscal year 2013 by increased severance tax revenue.

“It’s been 15 years since the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that our school funding system is unconstitutional because it relies too heavily on local property taxes,” said State Rep. Debbie Phillips (D-Albany).  “Today, instead of finding ways to reduce this over-reliance, the state of Ohio is walking away from that responsibility and leaving the burden of educating our children squarely on the backs of local property taxpayers.”

Lawmakers calculated that districts are facing a combined school-funding deficit of over $1.79 billion in fiscal year 2014.  This is based on a calculation of each school district’s five-year projection of finances, which is required to be submitted to the Ohio Department of Education.  Policy Matters Ohio also estimates that school districts in “Fiscal Watch” or “Fiscal Emergency” could spike by 300 percent this year, from 14 to 43.

“Stories of communities cutting or privatizing critical safety services and in some cases even considering dissolving all together are pouring in from across the state,” said State Rep. Alicia Reece (D-Cincinnati).  “If we don’t protect our communities, we undercut our economic recovery and hurt working and middle class families.”

Compared to fiscal year 2011, the state budget (HB 153) cut nearly $1.1 billion from communities last year.  Specifically, the Local Government Fund was cut by $463 million; state funding provided to offset previously eliminated business property taxes were cut by $492 million; and state funding provided to offset previously reduced utility property taxes were cut by $135 million.

“Failing to address last year’s deep budget cuts will hurt our schools and make Ohio less economically competitive.” said Rep. John P. Carney (D- Columbus).  “Doing nothing will keep forcing local taxes to go up and put more pressure on middle class Ohioans.” 

According to Matt Mayer, the former head of the conservative think-tank the Buckeye Institute, local property taxes have gone up in Ohio under Gov. Kasich because of state budget cuts.  In a recently published column, Mayer states, “net taxes on Ohioans have gone up under Governor Kasich, making our state even less competitive.”

“Our state is only as strong as our schools and our local communities,” State Rep. Matt Lundy (D- Elyria). “If we do nothing we will hurt our children’s education, weaken safety services in our communities and create even more pressure on local property taxpayers.”

The Kids & Communities First Fund would be available as early as July 2012, when the current fiscal year ends.  It would make up to $400 million available for schools and communities to apply for an emergency relief grant. After fiscal year 2013, the fund would be supported by the severance tax increase as proposed by Gov. Kasich and a portion of that funding would be available to protect local communities that are most affected by hydraulic fracturing though a local impact grant.

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