Archive for September, 2012

Rep. Ramos Announces Signing of Public Pension Bills: Months of legislative work ensure retirement stability for middle class Ohioans

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Yesterday, Governor Kasich signed into law the five bills that reform public pension systems in Ohio. These bills provide comprehensive updates to each of Ohio’s five pension systems and are the culmination of months of hard work by legislators, the state pension systems, and interested stakeholder groups.

Representative Ramos (D-Lorain) serves on the House Health and Aging Subcommittee on Retirements and Pensions and has dealt with this issue extensively over the duration of this General Assembly.

“As with any bill or set of bills this complex, there is no doubt a section that someone might disagree with, or something that one might have done differently; however, these bills achieve a very important and laudable goal, which is to provide comprehensive change that ensures the continued existence of a meaningful defined benefit retirement system for our state’s public employees,” Rep. Ramos said at the signing of these bills today.

Ohioans across the state depend on income from one of the five retirement systems, and the ability to plan for income and count on retirement stability not only helps retirees but ensures their participation in Ohio’s economy. The pension systems represent over $100 billion in financial resources for their members.

“Put simply, these bills are not just a step toward fixing our five retirement systems, these bills are the fix necessary to provide long-term solvency to these systems, and more importantly, long-term retirement stability to more than 1.5 million Middle class Ohioans across our state,” Rep. Ramos Said. “The benefits of this solution will continue to be seen by members over years, not just days or weeks. This is really their bill, not ours. These bills belong to the workers.”

 

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Rep. Alicia Reece Requests Federal Election Monitors for General Elections

State Representative Alicia Reece (D-Cincinnati) along with area clergy and community leaders have urged Attorney General Eric Holder to send federal election monitors to Ohio for the general election this November in a letter they sent yesterday. Rep. Reece called the Attorney General’s attention to two federal court decisions in Ohio that have the potential to cause confusion for voters with in-person early voting and casting provisional ballots. Both decisions have been appealed by the Ohio Secretary of State, leaving voters unsure of their voting rights for this election.

Representative Reece, area clergy and community leaders announced the letter at a press conference in Bond Hill yesterday. In addition to Rep. Reece, Reverend Doc Foster, President of the Cincinnati Baptist Ministers Conference and Reverend Gene Ellington, President of the Clergy Empowerment Group, also spoke at the press conference. There was bi-partisan support for the letter with the participation of local Republican talk show host, Ken Anderson, and President of the Cincinnati Chapter of the League of Women Voters, Shirley A. Jason.

“We need to ensure that Ohio has a smooth and fair election this November. These two federal court decisions are a step in the right direction for voters in Ohio, but the appeals processes are confusing for voters. The presence of federal election monitors will help restore the integrity of the voting process. The entire country is looking at Ohio. We must get it right!,” says Rep. Reece.

Rep. Reece sent a letter to US Attorney General Holder which resulted in observers in Hamilton County during the primary. Rep. Reece and clergy are asking for monitors in the General Election.

 

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The full text of the letter can be seen below:

Attorney General Eric Holder

U.S. Department of Justice

950 Pennsylvania Ave, NW

Washington, DC 20530-0001

September 24, 2012

Dear Attorney General Holder,

I am writing to make you aware of the urgent and troubling issue in Ohio regarding extended in-person early voting hours and provisional ballots. As you may know, there have been two federal court decisions recently that will have enormous impacts on voting in Ohio this November.

The first is a decision ruling that Ohio’s provisional ballot counting process is unconstitutional. The judge ordered the simple solution that provisional ballot envelopes include a checklist for poll workers to follow. This would remedy the high numbers of ballots thrown out in 2008 due to poll worker error by documenting poll worker errors and allowing the votes of eligible voters to be counted in this election. Almost, 40,000 provisional ballots were thrown out in the 2008 election. Additionally, a juvenile court race in Hamilton County that was voted upon by citizens in my district in 2010 was not decided until May of this year because of problems with the way provisional ballots were counted. The State of Ohio and the Ohio Secretary of State have filed an appeal in the case, continuing to push the issue even though a common sense solution has finally been found.

The second decision regards the issue of in-person early voting. A federal judge ruled that Ohio must re-instate the last three days of in-person voting the weekend and Monday before the election. The Ohio Secretary of State is also appealing this decision. He sent a directive ordering Boards of Elections not to set hours for the last three days until after the appeal was decided. He only rescinded the order after the judge ordered him to appear in court because of issuing the directive. In 2008, 93,000 Ohioans took advantage of in-person early voting on the three days in question.

I would ask for your help in bringing a fair and balanced approach to the election in Ohio this November. Both of these decisions have been appealed which has created an atmosphere of uncertainty and confusion for voters in Ohio. I am concerned that problems will arise in the election this year. Thus, I am requesting the United States Department of Justice send federal election observers to Hamilton County and all of Ohio to monitor the upcoming 2012 election. The presence of federal observers will help restore the integrity of the voting process and will prevent the citizens of Ohio from being denied their democratic right to vote.

I look forward to hearing your response to my request soon.

Sincerely,

Alicia Reece

State Representative- 33rd District

Rep. Clyde asks Court to Uphold Last 3 Days of Early Voting for All

State Rep. Kathleen Clyde submitted an amicus brief asking the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold the lower federal court ruling that reinstates the 3 busiest days of early voting for all Ohioans. 

“I support the federal court’s ruling to uphold early voting on the Saturday, Sunday and Monday before Election Day,” Rep. Clyde said of the brief. “Ohioans recognize the partisan, misguided attacks on their fundamental rights, and I urge the appeals court to uphold the three busiest days of early in-person voting for all Ohio voters.”

On August 31, a federal court ruled that Secretary Husted’s directive denying some Ohio voters access to ballots during the three busiest days of early voting was unconstitutional. Secretary Husted appealed the case to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, where the case is currently pending. The lower court rejected Husted’s request to stay its decision pending the appeal, meaning the in-person early vote period is October 2nd through November 5th at this time.

“Rather than permit all qualified voters to cast their ballots, Ohio law reflects a two-tiered system: the majority of Ohio voters are excluded from polling sites on the three days leading up to the election, while military and overseas voters, according to Appellee Secretary of State, may be permitted to cast their ballots through the day before the election,” explained Clyde in the brief. “This system did not emerge as a matter of any intentional, deliberative legislative choice, but rather from an utterly confused series of legislative enactments, repeals and technical corrections and administrative decisions that produced an arbitrary and unjustified distinction among voters in their access to the ballot box.”

The brief was submitted to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in the case Obama for America, et al. v. Jon Husted, et al. (Case nos. 12-4055 & 12-4076).

The group Vote Vets also filed an amicus brief arguing that the denial of in-person voting during the last three days before election day unconstitutionally burdens the rights of more than 900,000 Ohio veterans.  So did the Mahoning County Commissioners.  They argued that there is no rational basis for allowing some voters to vote on the final three days before the election while turning away other voters.  The Commissioners seek to avoid expensive litigation that arose after the unacceptably long voting lines of 2004 – lines that were alleviated in subsequent elections by the use of early voting for all voters. 

Rep. Clyde represents the 68th Ohio House District serving Northern and Southeastern Portage County, including Aurora, Garrettsville, Hiram, Kent, Mantua, Ravenna, Streetsboro, and Windham.

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Rep. Pillich Urges Congress to Pass Veterans Jobs Corps Act

State Rep. Connie Pillich (D-Montgomery) announced she will introduce a House Resolution urging Congress to immediately pass the Veterans Jobs Corps Act.  This week, the bill was blocked in the U.S. Senate by Republicans.

The Veterans Jobs Corps Act would create new job training programs to help veterans utilize their military skills and find work in targeted fields, including police and firefighting, historic preservation, and national park conservation.  This bill was fully paid for and did not initiate any new spending.

“As the men and women who have proudly served this nation return home, it is our duty to make sure they can find good paying secure jobs,” said Rep. Pillich.  “There is a lot of talk about how important job creation is but there has been little action.  Now is the time to act.  The Veterans Jobs Corps Act will work to ensure our veterans can make a living and provide for their families once they return home.”

Veterans have been disproportionately affected by the recession in recent years.  The rate of unemployment for veterans has often drastically outpaced civilians.  In some segments, veterans’ unemployment rate reached 48 percent. In August, the unemployment rate for Iraq and Afghanistan- era veterans was 10.9 percent.

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Budish, Szollosi Push for Congressional Action as Trade Deficit Grows

House Minority Leader Armond Budish (D-Beachwood) and Assistant Minority Leader Matt Szollosi (D-Oregon) circulated a letter to all Ohio House members yesterday seeking bipartisan support to urge congressional action on the Currency Exchange Rate Oversight Reform Act. The letter comes on the heels of news that the U.S trade deficit to China grew by 7.2 percent in July.

“The deficit continues to grow and middle class Ohioans are struggling because jobs have been shipped overseas. Congress should take action and pass the Exchange Rate Oversight Reform Act,” said Minority Leader Armond Budish.  “This legislation will take real meaningful steps at putting our economy back on track and preventing the trade deficit from continuing to grow.”

This legislation by U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown and joined by Senator Rob Portman received bipartisan support in the Senate but has not been brought to the floor for a vote in the U.S. House. This legislation would strengthen the United States’ oversight of currency exchange rates and provide tough new trade laws to hold accountable countries that manipulate their currency rates to gain an unfair foreign trade advantage. China’s currency manipulation makes it difficult to reduce the U.S. – China trade deficit, which damages our economic competiveness and harms Ohio workers.

“Reports show that China’s currency manipulation has cost Ohio 95,500 jobs since 2001, and more than 2.7 million jobs nationwide, most of which were manufacturing jobs. It is simply unacceptable for Congress to stand by and do nothing,” said Assistant Minority Leader Matt Szollosi.

A copy of the letter can be seen below:

September 14, 2012

Speaker John Boehner
Office of the Speaker
H-232 The Capitol
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Speaker Boehner:

We are writing to urge you to allow a vote on bipartisan legislation to crack down on Chinese currency manipulation.  The Currency Exchange Rate Oversight Reform Act passed the Senate in October 2011 with strong bipartisan support, including from both Senator Sherrod Brown and Senator Rob Portman.  This legislation would create and protect jobs in Ohio and throughout the nation.

In 2011, the U.S.-China trade deficit expanded to more than $295 billion, the highest bilateral trade deficit on record.  While Ohio exports of machinery, aerospace products, and soybeans to China have increased, these exports are still dwarfed by a deluge of Chinese imports. This problem requires action as currency manipulation undermines our economic competitiveness.  The United States, to no avail, has been pressing China to allow the renminbi to appreciate to its market-based value.

The Currency Exchange Rate Oversight Reform Act is pragmatic legislation – consistent with our international trade commitments – that seeks to reform and enhance oversight of currency exchange rates.  Specifically, the legislation would trigger tough consequences for countries that fail to stop manipulating their currency, and it would ensure U.S. trade laws may be used to counter the economic harm that currency manipulation has inflicted upon U.S. workers, farmers, and manufacturers. As you know, several Ohio industries – from paper, to glass, to aluminum, to steel – use these trade laws to defend against unfair trade. This legislation would provide another valuable tool in the effort to combat these destructive practices.

Even though the China currency legislation passed with strong bipartisan support in the Senate nearly one year ago, the House of Representatives has refused to even bring this bill to the floor for a vote. President Obama should continue pressing this issue with Chinese officials, which is why the Ohio House passed a unanimous resolution on this issue this summer.

Yet it is Congress’ responsibility to provide our nation with the tools needed to fight back against unfair trade practices like currency manipulation.  Our workers and businesses deserve action when it comes to dealing with China’s unfair trade practices.

We urge you to move forward with this legislation and stand ready to support you.

Respectfully,

Armond Budish
Ohio House Minority Leader
8th District

Matthew A. Szollosi
Assistant Minority Leader
49th District

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