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State Reps. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) and John Patterson (D-Jefferson) today announced they have introduced a series of bills to bring charter schools up to public school standards.

The lawmakers, both former public school teachers, said charter schools should conduct the same teacher evaluations as public schools, and that the state’s third grade reading guarantee should be equally applied to students on state vouchers. They also want to see a state study commission in place, one that would review the effectiveness of charter school regulations and issue findings to the legislature and governor.

“To truly provide an adequate and equitable education for our children, all schools must be at the same starting line together with the same final goals in mind,” said Rep. Fedor. “These bills would move our state closer to that balance while putting common sense reviews in place to measure the effectiveness of charter school regulations.”

 
 
Ohio to become first state to move backward on energy efficiency standards
May 22, 2014
Lawmakers Say Stopping Energy Standards Costs Ohio's Economy, Consumers and Environment

State Reps. Mike Foley (D-Cleveland) and Robert F. Hagan (D-Youngstown) on Wednesday discussed potentially harmful implications of Senate Bill 310, legislation to suspend Ohio’s—by most accounts, successful—advanced energy standards. If SB 310 becomes law, it would make Ohio the first state to reverse Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) by eliminating targets for advanced energy and freezing targets for renewable energy.

 
 
Offer suggestions to restore early voting, improve voter outreach, fix ballot defects
May 16, 2014

Ohio House and Senate Democrats on Thursday sent a letter to Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted urging him to implement a checklist of positive suggestions for putting the voters first and truly making it easier to vote in Ohio. Highlights include suggestions to restore early voting, let voters search the Secretary’s website by their home address for their polling place, allow all Ohioans to use online voter registration and comply with Ohio’s laws for voter instructions and public comment on directives.

 
 

Most House Democrats today voted against House Bill 375, legislation that increases the tax rate on oil and gas drilling to largely pay for an income tax cut in Ohio.

House Republicans’ plan to alter Ohio’s severance tax to two and a-half percent and would establish Ohio as the only state in the country to require oil and gas revenue—which is predominantly generated in rural and Appalachian working-class communities—to pay for an income tax cut that disproportionately favors Ohio’s wealthiest citizens. 

A review of oil and gas taxation policies across thirty-five states that levy a tax or fee on drilling production shows that no state uses any amount of oil or gas revenue to pay for any level of income tax reduction.

 

Quotes from Democratic lawmakers throughout the state are below:

“Ohio Republicans will stop at nothing to pad the pockets of the wealthy and well-connected. No other state in the nation uses taxes on oil and gas to fund tax cuts for millionaires. This is a missed opportunity to do the right thing by Ohio’s local communities that are on the front line of confronting new challenges from this burgeoning industry.” --Democratic House Leader Tracy Maxwell Heard (D-Columbus)

“Oil and gas severance taxes must be devoted to funding adequate inspection and oversight, plugging orphan wells, and investing in impacted communities. This bill is woefully inadequate and strips wealth from southeast Ohio to provide tax breaks for the wealthiest Ohioans.”  --Assistant House Democratic Leader Debbie Phillips (D-Albany)

“It is a sad day when we have the chance to make a difference to an entire region of the state and fall short of that goal. I have worked with local elected officials and economic development leaders over the last few months on this issue.  All have emphasized

 
 

State Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) on Thursday released the statement below in response to the filing by the ACLU of a new lawsuit to restore early voting access in Ohio. The lawsuit challenges Senate Bill 238's elimination of Golden Week and Directive 2014-06's elimination of evening voting and the final 2 and 1/2 days of early voting.  

 
 
Coingate failure, pattern of political activity "proof positive" of need for reform in IG's office
April 30, 2014

State Rep. Connie Pillich (D-Montgomery) today renewed her call for greater accountability and oversight for the office of the Inspector General (IG) in light of Tuesday’s reported failures to adequately investigate the “Coingate” scandal.

Specifically, Inspector General Randall Meyer failed to initially investigate the involvement of former Gov. Bob Taft in the decade-old scandal, citing a prohibition on examining expunged criminal records. Nearly no mention of the former Republican governor is contained in the IG’s long-awaited report on Coingate, yet Taft’s record is still public according to the Franklin County Clerk of Courts’ records and Taft himself. Meyer has now reversed his opinion, announcing he will revise his report to include Taft's connection to the matter.

“These mistakes are proof positive that reform is needed to remove any possible partisanship from the Inspector General’s office and give the taxpayers the accountability and oversight that they deserve," said Rep. Pillich.  "Moving forward, I hope that the process for selecting the state's top watchdog follows the bipartisan guidelines laid out in legislation I introduced more than a year ago so that we can ensure politics do not sway the Inspector General's investigations of the executive branch."

Rep. Pillich’s proposal—House Bill 76—takes the appointment process for IG out of the governor’s hands and requires the four legislative leaders to appoint an inspector general by majority vote. The bill also restricts political activity for the IG and all employees of the IG, guidelines that are currently in place for other state administrative and legislative employees. The IG would serve a six year term subject to appointment and removal by a simple majority vote from the four legislative leaders.

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Legislation aims to increase commerce, tourism in counties bordering Lake Erie
April 23, 2014
 
Quarterly report indicates state prisons' private food service provider fails to meet contract requirements
April 22, 2014

On Monday, State Rep. Matt Lundy (D-Elyria) called for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) to terminate its contract with the state’s privately-run prison food service staffing company, Aramark Correctional Services. On Friday, the DRC released a quarterly report indicating that the company did not provide adequate staffing nor meet sanitary regulations and dietary needs. DRC issued a $142,000 fine to Aramark for the specified failures and indicated that the company could lose its state contract for “persistent defaults.”

 
 
Efforts bring about second look at prohibiting same-sex couples from renting the People's House
April 11, 2014

State Reps. Stephen Slesnick (D- Canton), Nickie J. Antonio (D-Lakewood) and Michael Stinziano (D-Columbus) released the following joint statement today in response to the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board’s vote to review its terms of use for special events at the Ohio Statehouse:

“We are pleased that the governing body of the Statehouse will review the current policy that excludes people without an Ohio marriage license from using the grounds for a reception or ceremony. We are hopeful that they find that all Ohioans should have equal access to the ‘People’s House.’ Non-criminal legal circumstances shouldn’t dictate who is allowed to rent space at our taxpayer-funded capitol.”

A review of neighboring states reveals no similar standards for use of capitol facilities.

 
 
New permit terms vindicate Rep. Hagan's tireless push for stronger regulation of oil and gas industry, renew skepticism of political targeting
April 11, 2014

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio– After one month of denying any link existed between recent earthquakes in Poland Township and nearby fracking activity – and over two years after the first round of major earthquakes hit the Mahoning Valley – officials at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources finally acknowledged today that the state’s current permitting procedures for fracking are exceedingly lax.

Today, ODNR officials announced tougher permit conditions after finally admitting that the recent seismic events in Poland Township show a probable connection to fracking activity near a previously unknown microfault.

“We clearly have a situation where Kasich administration officials ignored repeated calls for greater safeguards against seismic activity caused by the fracking process,” said Rep. Hagan. “Instead of responding to my calls for action, ODNR and the Kasich Administration unfairly targeted me as an enemy of fracking, and even developed a plan to discredit my concerns. If they truly worked in a bipartisan, democratic way to address public health and safety concerns, our state wouldn’t be so slow to recognize these obvious shortfalls.”

An August 2013 memo from Ohio’s Department of Natural Resources was released that shows the regulatory agency working closely with big oil and gas companies and Gov. Kasich to identify, stifle and suppress groups and elected officials concerned with drilling in state parks. The document targets Democratic legislators and environmental watch groups as part of a strategy to marginalize public concern and advance oil and gas interests.

Over the past two general assemblies, Rep. Hagan has introduced nearly a dozen bills aimed at strengthening Ohio’s fracking regulations. Rep. Hagan’s legislation has been largely ignored by the Re