State Rep. Robert F. Hagan (D-Youngstown) is renewing calls for the state Inspector General to open an investigation into the cozy relationship between Governor John Kasich and the oil and gas industry after new details regarding a plan to sell Ohioans on the “benefits” of fracking in state parks were revealed in Saturday’s edition of the Columbus Dispatch.
The Kasich administration indicated in February that any consideration of fracking in state parks had ended in August of 2012, but records obtained through a public records request by the Columbus Dispatch show that meetings between high-level officials in the governor’s office and ODNR to discuss the marketing plan continued for months afterward.
The original pro-fracking marketing plan from Ohio’s Department of Natural Resources uncovered in February showed the regulatory agency working closely with big oil and gas companies and Gov. Kasich to identify, stifle and discredit groups and elected officials concerned with drilling in state parks. The document listed Rep. Hagan by name along with several state environmental organizations on a list of “opposition groups,” while “allied groups” included the Governor’s office, JobsOhio and big oil and gas companies, such as Halliburton.
Prompted in part by the revealing of the original public relations strategy, Rep. Hagan joined several other state representatives this spring in calling for an investigation into whether the Kasich administration and Ohio’s regulatory agencies exert inappropriate political pressure to the benefit of certain energy companies. So far there has been no response from the Inspector General.
“The lack of honesty and transparency coming from the Governor’s office is alarming, and these new disclosures should raise a big red flag for the Inspector General,” Rep. Hagan said. “Ohioans deserve better than a Gover
State Rep. and Ohio Legislative Black Caucus (OLBC) President Alicia Reece (D-Cincinnati) today released the following statement mourning the loss of iconic author, poet and civil rights activist Dr. Maya Angelou:
“It is with heavy hearts that we mourn the loss of Dr. Maya Angelou, and yet we are able to find great joy and comfort in knowing that her indelible contributions to social justice, civil rights and positive social discourse will carry on for lifetimes to come.
“I consider meeting Dr. Angelou one of the greatest honors of my life. Her dedication to bettering the lives of others truly made our world a better place. She redefined beauty and self-esteem among African American girls and women, and she defined courage in her iconic poem ‘Still I Rise.’”
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.”
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.
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.
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.