Archive for July, 2012

Legislative Leaders Call for Neutrality During Petition Verification

Senate Minority Leader Eric H. Kearney and House Minority Leader Armond Budish sent the following letter to Secretary of State Jon Husted today urging him to remain neutral on the Voters First redistricting reform ballot issue while his office verifies the organization’s petitions. 

July 31, 2012

The Honorable Jon Husted
Ohio Secretary of State
180 E. Broad St., 16th Floor
Columbus, Ohio 43215 

Secretary Husted:

We are writing to express our deep concern about comments you made regarding the Voters First initiative petition, which is currently under review by the Secretary of State’s office for placement on the November ballot.  In the Plain Dealer (July 1, 2012) and on subsequent occasions you stated publicly that you do not believe it is the solution for Ohio’s deeply flawed process for drawing congressional and legislative districts.

As the statewide officer charged with ensuring our elections are fair and unbiased, we believe it is highly inappropriate and irresponsible for you to comment on the merits of this, or any initiative or referendum, while your office is verifying signatures. We believe your neutrality is absolutely necessary given the fact you just participated in the redistricting process that would be replaced by this ballot issue. If the certification of the petition is denied, your comments will have created the appearance of impropriety and self-interest in the performance of your duties.  This is a charge all public servants should do their best to avoid.

In addition to placing in doubt the objectivity of your office during the petition verification process, we believe the best course for our chief elections officer is to not endorse any position on a ballot issue. When Ken Blackwell was Secretary of State and served simultaneously as the Bush re-election campaign chairperson, it created the appearance of unfairness from our chief elections officer. Just as poll workers cannot campaign at the polling place, we do not feel it is in the best interest of Ohioans for their chief elections officer to campaign for or against a ballot issue.

We urge you to refrain from making further comments against Voters First until a review of the petitions is completed. We would welcome your future neutrality on ballot issues after they are set for the ballot and until voters have their say.

Sincerely,

Eric H. Kearney                                 
Minority Leader, Ohio Senate    
9th  Senate District                           

Armond Budish
Minority Leader, Ohio House of Representative
8th House District

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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Dayton Daily News “Bill aims to steer state work to Ohio companies”

 

“State Rep. Roland Winburn, D-Harrison Twp., introduced legislation this week that would strengthen the state’s ‘Buy Ohio’ provision in an effort to steer more state government spending to Ohio companies.

 

“The bill would allow state agencies to give preference to an Ohio company if its bid on a public project came in no more than 10 percent greater than an out-of-state bidder and it can demonstrate that the contract would create or retain Ohio jobs.

 

‘”Our tax dollars should be putting Ohioans back to work,’ Winburn said. ‘We must work to ensure that we are investing right back into our local economies and not handing state funds over to out-of-state or overseas companies.’

 

“’Ohioans are willing and able to take on these jobs and do this work and we must give them the opportunities to do so,’ said Rep. Winburn.  ‘Ensuring preference to Ohio businesses helps to support and protect middle class Ohioans, and rebuild our economy.’

 

… 

 

“The state’s current Buy Ohio provision gives neighboring states, except West Virginia, the same preference as Ohio companies, in return for the same treatment in those states for Ohio companies. State officials say those agreements rely on all involved states maintaining similar preference provisions.

 

“A recent state analysis found Ohio gets more than it gives: Kentucky, Michigan and New York spend more than $770 million a year with 471 Ohio companies, while Ohio spends $249 million on a total of 876 companies in those three states combined.

 

“Winburn said he hopes that issue can be addressed in committee.

 

“…the Dayton Daily News reported that more than $791 million in large Ohio government contracts have gone to out-of-state companies since January 2009, often without giving Ohio firms a chance to compete for them.

 

“The newspaper’s analysis found that of the 168 out-of-state contracts that went before the state controlling board for approval this year, to date, 128 included waivers of competitive bidding. This means $54.5 million of the $89 million that left the state in large contracts this year did so without getting bids from a single in-state firm.

 

“Winburn’s bill was part of a larger effort by Ohio House Democrats announced in February that also included limiting outsourcing for state-funded projects and only allowing the privatization of state property or functions if the work goes to an Ohio entity. Neither of these measures have moved out of committee in the GOP-controlled House.

 

….”

 

 Read the full article here.

 

Rep. Winburn to Introduce Legislation to Strengthen “Buy Ohio” Provisions

COLUMBUS- State Rep. Roland Winburn (D- Harrison Township) officially introduced legislation today to strengthen the state’s “Buy Ohio” provisions.  Rep. Winburn has been working on this legislation over the course of this General Assembly and a copy of the bill draft is attached.

Rep. Winburn’s “Buy Ohio” job creation and retention preference bill will strengthen current “Buy Ohio” provisions which give preference to Ohio businesses selling products or services that will create or retain Ohio Jobs.  The bill specifies that when the lowest responsive and responsible bid is an out-of-state bidder, an Ohio bid that demonstrates that the contract will create or retain Ohio jobs shall be selected if the Ohio bid is not greater than 10 percent of the lowest out-of-state bid. 

 “Our tax dollars should be putting Ohioans back to work, we must work to ensure that we are investing right back into our local economies and not handing state funds over to out of state or overseas companies,” said Rep. Winburn.

In 1983, the 115th General Assembly enacted the current “Buy Ohio” preference which gave preference to Ohio bids when the lowest responsive and responsible bid is an out-of-state bidder, and the Ohio bid was within 5 percent of the lowest (out-of-state) bid.  Current law requires that the preference only be applied when the Ohio bid does not offer a disproportionately inferior product or service. And a bid is considered an “Ohio bid” if the bidder is located in Ohio or one of the bordering states, which is defined as any state that is contiguous to Ohio and that does not impose a restriction greater that Ohio imposes.

“Ohioans are willing and able to take on these jobs and do this work and we must give them the opportunities to do so,” said Rep. Winburn.  “Ensuring preference to Ohio businesses helps to support and protect middle class Ohioans, and rebuild our economy.”

According to the Dayton Daily News, more than $791 million in state contracts has gone to out-of-state companies since 2009, many times with not a single Ohio company getting a chance to compete. This year alone 168 contracts were awarded to out-of-state companies, and of those 128 were awarded competitive bidding waivers.  Gov. Kasich recently vetoed legislation that would have required state agencies that hire outside the state to ask Ohio companies why they didn’t bid, calling it “unnecessarily burdensome.” 

Schools Across State Starving in Face of Historically Deep Budget Cuts

As the Ohio House Subcommittee on Primary and Secondary Education prepares to meet at the Warren County ESC, in Lebanon, State Rep. Matt Lundy highlighted the need to put our kids and communities first as they face financial crisis.

Ohio school districts are projecting huge deficits because of $1.4 billion in cuts to education in the state’s operating budget, which passed along party lines.  Schools in Warren County were cut a total of nearly $27 million for fiscal years 2012-13 when compared to 2011, including more than $4 million from Lebanon City Schools and $9 million from Mason City School. Districts across the state are left to struggle with the best way to prepare children for the future with larger class sizes, fewer music and art programs, costly extra-curricular activities and limited or no busing. 

“Rather than addressing the brewing financial crisis facing communities like Lebanon, where the city schools face a projected deficit of nearly $2 million dollars for fiscal year 2013 and more than $3 million for fiscal year 2014, Republicans have decimated school funding.  Schools across the state struggle to cope with unfunded mandates, large class sizes and few teachers in the classroom,” said Rep. Lundy.

House Bill 30 dismantled education reforms set in place by Democrats taking apart key provisions like all-day kindergarten, and it removed the Evidence Based Model for education, returning us to an unconstitutional funding system that is overly reliant on property taxes, while we wait for Gov. Kasich to introduce his own plan, and hold hearings around the state nearly two years later.

“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 tax,” said State Rep. Matt Lundy. “Today, as schools face tough decisions this reliance is only growing, while we just begin to have hearings nearly two years after dismantling the Evidence Based Model that would have helped to reduce the burden on local property taxpayers.”

35 school districts are preparing to ask citizens to pass levies, increasing their local property taxes, during special elections in August. While school districts across the state 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.

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Okey Calls on Kasich, Legislature to Protect Landowners’ Rights

State Representative Mark D. Okey called on Governor John Kasich and legislative leaders in an open letter to act on legislation protecting Ohio’s landowners from predatory leasing practices by the oil and gas industry. As the Governor and his allies consider raising taxes on deep-shale drilling, Rep. Okey urged Republican leadership to make landowners’ rights a priority when the General Assembly returns to session.

“Governor Kasich’s recent press conference on fracking was a missed opportunity,” Rep. Okey said. “Every day, Big Oil is taking advantage of my constituents and people all around Ohio. The state needs to act now to protect their property rights before it is too late.”

Based on his personal experience representing landowners in eastern Ohio, Rep. Okey has sponsored House Bill 493, known as the “Truth in Leasing Act.” The bill would establish common-sense regulation of the oil and gas leasing process and guarantee a minimum royalty for Ohio’s landowners akin to those found in neighboring states.

Since being introduced in March, the bill has yet to receive a hearing in the House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources, chaired by Rep. Dave Hall (R-Millersburg).

“Drilling in Ohio must be done fairly and responsibly, and Ohioans deserve their full share of the earnings from the oil and gas on their property,” Rep. Okey said. “I call on Speaker Batchelder and Chairman Hall to work with me on this issue. Protecting Ohio’s landowners should not be a matter of partisan politics.”­

A copy of Rep. Okey’s letter can be seen below.

July 19, 2012

To: John R. Kasich, Governor
William G. Batchelder, Speaker of the House
Dave Hall, Chairman, House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources

Re: Landowners’ Rights

Dear Governor Kasich, Speaker Batchelder, and Chairman Hall,

Protection of property rights is one of the basic tenets of government, yet one that our state has avoided when it comes to shale drilling. The General Assembly broke for summer recess without debating what I would consider to be reasonable regulation of the shale drilling industry. We missed another opportunity to stand up for our constituents’ property rights. I was encouraged to see Governor Kasich bring drilling issues back to the forefront during his press conference last week.

Issues of taxation aside, there are common-sense reforms we can make to the oil & gas leasing process that would be good for both Ohio’s landowners and the companies developing our state’s natural resources. It is my firm belief that we have not done enough to regulate the drilling industry and to adequately protect the rights and property of Ohio’s landowners.

Our failure to act means that the industry will continue to face costly lawsuits and allegations of misconduct until we pass reasonable legislation to improve the leasing process in our state.

I have spoken to all of you on this subject, and I have shared stories of unethical and predatory behavior happening in my district and around the state. The time to act is now, as more and more landowners face the consequences of unscrupulous leasing practices.

It is my firm belief that we can find common ground on this issue. We can correct inequities and solve problems in a bipartisan fashion. I urge you to work with me on House Bill 493, my “Truth in Leasing” legislation.

While I have received encouraging feedback from colleagues on both sides of the aisle, leadership refuses to move this bill.  I urge immediate action on House Bill 493, in order to protect our landowner constituents.

My door is always open. Please feel free to contact me or my office at any time.

 

Respectfully Yours,

 MARK D. OKEY
State Representative

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Rep. Stinziano Applauds President Obama for Protecting the Voting Rights of Ohioans

State Rep. Michael Stinziano released the following statement on the decision by President Obama’s campaign to file suit in federal court to restore early voting during the Saturday, Sunday and Monday before Election Day.

“I applaud the lawsuit that was filed by the Obama campaign to restore voting rights to Ohioans.  When I co-sponsored HB 224 with Rep. Dovilla to protect voting rights for Ohio’s men and women in uniform, we took that responsibility very seriously. I never thought that this common sense solution to a known voting issue created by outdated Ohio law would then be used to take away voting rights from properly registered Ohio civilians.  

“Never in the debate about HB 194 or HB 224 was there a purposeful effort to create two different deadlines during the early voting periods – particularly for voters in identical circumstances.  All voters who are located in their county of residence on the weekend and Monday before voting should have the exact same early voting period.  This local control standard is ideal to address each county’s needs for a smooth and efficient election. Having two non-uniform periods of voting for civilian and military voters lacks any common sense and does nothing but confuse voters and create unnecessary problems for voters and election officials.

“Colleagues in both chambers supported protecting military voting rights when they voted for HB 224.  However, it remains ridiculous how some members of the General Assembly have twisted some last minute technical amendments into a way to take away the voting franchise of properly registered Ohio voters.

“As the former Director of the Franklin County Board of Elections, I have seen and experienced firsthand the importance of an efficient early voting period.  In 2008, almost roughly 93,000 voters appeared at their early vote center during the last three days of early voting prior to Election Day. Unfortunately, instead of building on this success and a desire for a smooth election day, there are apparently policy makers who prefer the long election lines encountered in 2000 and 2004 and are fighting to limit voting rights instead of expanding them. 

“Fortunately, the Supreme Court said in Bush v. Gore that every voter is entitled to equal protection of the laws of this country. That means that similarly situated voters must be treated similarly.The new lawsuit highlights the lack of justification or sound election policy for having two different early vote periods.”

 

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Rep. Clyde Commends President in Fight to Restore Early Voting

State Rep. Kathleen Clyde released the following statement on the decision by President Obama’s campaign to file suit in federal court today to restore early voting during the Saturday, Sunday and Monday before Election Day.

“I applaud President Obama’s decision to fight the shameful attempts by Ohio Republicans to limit early voting.  I have fought this battle on the floor of the legislature and also made repeated calls to Secretary of State Jon Husted to allow the people to vote, all to no avail.  The last three days of early voting are by far the three busiest.  These days are crucial to the ability of all Ohioans to exercise their right to vote, free from the long lines and chaos that plagued our state in 2004.  Ohio Republicans want to take us back to a time when voting was a privilege, not one of our most sacred rights.  President Obama wants to take us forward, and I commend him for it.”

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