State Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown) today asked* Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine to turn over records related to a sexual harassment investigation of Rep. Bill Seitz conducted by Taft Stettinius & Hollister, the law firm where Seitz worked for 36 years. DeWine retained the law firm, which has made significant campaign contributions to the AG including one on December 1, 2017, to investigate claims made by a female House employee that Seitz’s public statements at a Republican going-away party had worsened an already hostile work environment at the Statehouse.
“The selection of Taft Stettinius & Hollister tainted the inquiry from day one,” Rep. Lepore-Hagan said. “The firm was clearly conflicted on two levels – Seitz had worked there for decades and the firm has contributed thousands of dollars to the AG. I refuse to believe that, in a city with hundreds of law firms, Taft Stettinius & Hollister was the only one qualified to conduct this investigation.”
State Rep. David Leland (D-Columbus) today applauded concerned citizens and gun safety organizations who contacted Ohio Republican lawmakers and asked them to cancel their planned vote on House Bill 228, so-called “Stand Your Ground” legislation, this week.
“By standing their ground and raising their voices, thousands of citizens’ calls and letters let the Statehouse Republicans know that voting to increase the potential for gun violence is completely unacceptable,” said Leland. “I applaud concerned citizens and gun safety groups for staying engaged and forcing Republican lawmakers to pull down a vote on this dangerous and divisive bill that would make Ohioans less safe.”
House Speaker Ryan Smith (R-Bidwell) last week indicated to reporters that Republican members of the House would bring the gun-safety loosening bill up for a full House vote Wednesday before the legislature recesses for summer.
“Until Republicans in the legislature get serious about Ohioans’ calls for commonsense gun safety reforms, we must all keep the pressure on them to do the right thing,” Leland added.
Numerous gun safety bills, some championed by Republican Gov. John Kasich, sit idle continue to sit idle in the Ohio legislature.
State Rep. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo), the Democratic leader on the House Education Committee, today issued the following statement in response to House Republicans pulling down House Bill 707, online charter school regulation, from a vote in the House Education Committee next week:
“After submitting numerous Democratic amendments to hold politicians like Dave Yost and Keith Faber accountable for hundreds of millions of dollars in charter school fraud that hurt our children, House Republicans cancelled hearings on their decades-late ECOT regulation bill. Failing to move forward this late on needed regulations to online charter schools underscores the true intentions of this bill. It isn’t, and never was, really about the kids.
State Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) said she was disappointed by Ohio Department of Public Safety Director John Born’s unwillingness during a meeting Thursday to acknowledge his State Highway Patrol Troopers and contracted security agents acted inappropriately by singling out her and other Black Women at security checkpoints at the Ohio Statehouse in the past two years.
“I’m disappointed in Director Born. I had hoped he would address the issues of discrimination and profiling in a direct and sincere manner. Instead, he stuck to talking points about an “objective” security policy for his department that in truth is highly subjective and targets African-American lawmakers like myself for discriminatory stops and searches,” Sykes said.
Sykes said she pushed for and Born reluctantly agreed to launch two separate investigations into incidents dating back to 2016, but only after she questioned him repeatedly without getting any answers about bias within the OSHP.
“I explained to Director Born repeatedly that I followed the proper established “objective” procedure and showed my badge each time I tried to go through security, and when I questioned why my badge was not being recognized I was told “I looked too young to be a legislator.’ I also explained other people of color had been stopped for unacceptable reasons. Age, gender, skin color? Those are subjective, not objective, criteria,” Sykes said.
For more than two years, State Troopers and contracted security agents have allowed white male legislators to pass unquestioned through security checkpoints at the Ohio Statehouse and the Vern Riffe Center for the Arts while stopping and searching Black lawmakers although they followed procedures and showed identification badges.
The Ohio Supreme Court ruled today that the State of Ohio can withhold funding to communities who use traffic cameras. The case resulted from the City of Toledo’s suit against the State of Ohio for withholding local budget funding for a practice upheld by the Supreme Court in previous rulings. The Supreme Court’s past rulings said that cities could run a motor enforcement program how they see fit.
“Many in the Legislature hold suspicion that these stationary cameras are used less for safety and more for revenue, but let me be clear, I believe that local communities will use them more if Ohio begins cutting revenue because of their usage,” Rep. Boccieri said. “Many communities get a large revenue boost and will use them more frequently to fill in holes created by state funding as they are doing now in some cases.”
The Supreme Court ultimately ruled that the previous decisions of the Lucas County Common Pleas Court and the Sixth District Court of Appeals ignored the General Assembly’s ability to create laws. The argument for the previous Supreme Court decision was determined due home-rule authority given in the Ohio constitution. The City of Toledo will file another lawsuit to argue the constitutionality of the decisions.
Rep. Boccieri offered a solution to the issue by passing House Bill 219, legislation he authored to ensure that state speed limits begin at the sign. Enactment of this legislation will help prevent speed traps whereas current law vaguely says Ohio motorists must obey posted speed limits. The bill was voted out of the House Transportation Committee unanimously.
State Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire) today offered an amendment on the House floor that would have leveled the playing field for elderly and disabled Ohioans applying for the state’s homestead exemption, a program that works to reduce property taxes for qualifying homeowners. The amendment came during debate on House Bill (HB) 513, a bill to expand the homestead exemption to include surviving spouses of peace officers, firefighters and emergency medical personnel killed in the line of duty.
Ohio House Democratic state lawmakers today sent a letter to Governor Kasich asking him to take concrete action in the fight against the Trump administration’s recent policy decision to separate children from their families at the border.
State Rep. Kristin Boggs (D-Columbus) today announced the House passage of House Bill (HB) 365, known as the Reagan Tokes Act, her bill to implement new standards to improve the monitoring of violent offenders. The bill is named for Reagan Tokes, a student at The Ohio State University who was brutally kidnapped, raped and killed after leaving work at a Columbus restaurant in 2017.
State Rep. David Leland (D-Columbus) issued the following statement in response to House Speaker Ryan Smith (R-Bidwell) today telling reporters the House would likely vote on extremist “stand your ground” legislation, House Bill 228, next week:
“Now we know what Rep. Smith had to promise to get his paltry 44 votes for Speaker. Sadly, as a result, Ohioans will be less safe and local communities will be unable to protect their citizens from gun violence. As The Who said, ‘meet the new boss, same as the old boss.’”
Leland, the lead Democrat on the House Federalism Committee, has spoken out against restrictions in the bill that will prevent local communities from passing gun safety laws. The Columbus lawmaker is encouraging citizens to contact Republican legislators using the following link to voice their opposition to a full House vote on the legislation: http://www.ohiohouse.gov/members/member-directory
Today, legislative Democrats in the Ohio House and Senate announced state legislation opposing the Trump Administration’s family separation immigration policy, which has led to the mandatory separation of children from their parents at the border.