As state lawmakers debate Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 5, a Republican-led proposal to change the way Ohio draws its legislative districts, the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus today urged state lawmakers to consider amending the bill to address concerns many voting rights and redistricting reform experts have regarding SJR 5.
“Gerrymandering has turned the idea of the ballot box being America’s great equalizer on its head, allowing politicians to choose their voters rather than having voters choose their politicians,” said OLBC President and state Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland). “SJR 5 only makes what’s wrong with current law worse. SJR 5 keeps the authority to redraw districts within the state legislature and eliminates key controls that seek to end rigged districts and give Ohio voters fair representation.”
State Rep. John Boccieri (D-Poland) today panned the congressional redistricting proposal introduced this week by Sen. Matt Huffman (R-Lima). Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 5 removes public input from the redistricting process by eliminating the option of a citizen referendum, and retains a partisan advantage for the party in control of the state legislature.
“Taking the public out of the equation creates a rigged system that’s worse that what we currently have in place,” Boccieri said. “We should have the people picking their elected officials, not politicians picking who they want to represent."
SJR 5 tasks the General Assembly with drawing a map for congressional districts. The plan must be approved with a three-fifths majority of lawmakers, including one third of the minority party. Should the body fail to approve the plan, the job is transferred to the existing Ohio Redistricting Commission. The Commission’s plan must garner support from at least two minority party commission members. If two minority members consent, the map is valid for 10 years. If not, the map is only valid for four years before the process restarts. However, a four-year map could become a 10-year map with approval from the General Assembly.
“To suggest that a partisan group is the best choice to draw political maps is just insane. We’ve seen in cases across the country that partisan groups draw these districts to their advantage,” said Boccieri.
In addition to likely being unsuccessful in preventing gerrymandering, the resolution does not require the Governor’s signature because it is not a bill, eliminating yet another check on the fairness of the maps.
State Reps. John Boccieri (D-Poland), Mike O’Brien (D-Warren), Glenn W. Holmes (D-Girard) and Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown) today applauded the Ohio House for unanimously passing Senate Concurrent Resolution (SCR) 8, which calls on the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (USMDA) to select Camp Ravenna Joint Military Training Center as the preferred site for a future east coast Missile Defense system. MDA, a sub-agency of the Department of Defense (DOD), announced its consideration of Camp Ravenna among two other locations for a potential future deployment of additional ground-based interceptors for homeland defense.
Ohio House Democratic Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton) issued the following statement today in response to a Republican push for so-called “right to work” restrictions on working people in Ohio:
“Instead of restrictions to make working people poorer and less safe on the job, we should prioritize commonsense ideas that grow our economy and create good-paying jobs that give working families the opportunity to get ahead. The Republican package of so-called “right to work” legislation is wrong for working families and wrong for Ohio.”
State Rep. Tavia Galonski (D-Akron) today responded to Educational Service Center of Lake Erie West’s announcement of suspending operations at Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) and urges the House Education and Career Readiness Committee to begin hearings on House Bill (HB) 418, which establishes a statutory requirement for schools to transfer student records upon request.
“Although I do not support ECOT’s fraudulent reporting methods or its significant misappropriation of taxpayer dollars, I cannot help but be heartbroken for the thousands of students impacted by this decision,” said Galonski. “Ohio’s children deserve an equal opportunity to receive a quality education, and now it is our job to make sure that these students are taken care of.”
Ohio House Democratic Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton) today announced state Rep. Kent Smith (D-Euclid) has been named policy chair for the House Democratic Caucus in 2018.
Smith, first elected to serve the 8th House District in 2014, will help shape the policy agenda for the caucus in 2018, working with members and organizations to research and draft legislation that furthers the caucus priorities of middle-class job growth, economic stability for working families and increased opportunities for working people to get ahead in the Buckeye State.
“Kent is smart, thorough, and will work hard to maintain a deep understanding of how the policies coming out of the Statehouse impact people’s quality of life,” said Strahorn. “Whether you’re a single parent working two jobs, the head of a family of five or a business owner looking to expand, we want you to be able to meet your basic needs and have enough left over to plan for a brighter future. Kent gets that.”
Smith graduated from Miami University and earned his Master of Science in Urban Studies from Cleveland State University in 2001. His Master’s Degree thesis, written in 2001, was about the emerging threat of Predatory Lending and the SubPrime Market. He also co-authored the first Predatory Lending Report by Policy Matters Ohio in 2002. Following his Master’s Degree studies, he was a PhD student at Cleveland State University in Economic Development.
“The work that we have been doing at the Statehouse to increase wages, grow our economy and let families better plan for the future is fundamental to the progress and economic stability of our state,” said Smith. “We need to take a different approach in Ohio. The current policies have not led to income growth for Ohio's working families. I look forward to working with my Democratic colleagues to create economic opportunities for everyday Ohio
In response to reports that ECOT’s sponsor is officially cutting ties with the online charter school, state Rep. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo), the lead Democrat on the House Education Committee, issued the following statement:
“What a relief! Finally, Education officials are standing up for our children and taxpayers. The unchecked charter school experiment has gone on long enough. With lessons learned, we must review the real successes and failures of this experiment. It is time for real oversight and real penalties for charter schools that are not living up to their charters. It’s clear, charter schools must be held to the same standards and requirements that are placed on Ohio’s public schools. Let’s create a real oversight effort immediately.”
State Reps. John Patterson (D-Jefferson) and Michael Sheehy (D-Oregon) recently announced the introduction of House Bill (HB) 460, legislation to exempt riparian buffers from property taxes in an effort to encourage more landowners in the western basin of Lake Erie to install these agricultural barriers, known for filtering nutrients that cause harmful algal blooms.
“Extensive research has proven that riparian buffers are effective filters for nutrients, including nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, potassium, sulfur and magnesium,” said Patterson. “Excessive levels of nitrogen and phosphorus are of particular concern in the nation’s streams and lakes due to their ability to cause harmful algal blooms. Understanding the tight profit margins associated with farming, removing land from agricultural production is not financially possible for most farmers in Ohio. By removing the tax burden, we hope HB 460 will enable landowners to help address Lake Erie water quality issues.”
In recent years, we have seen divisions emerge in our public debate. Partisan rancor spills from the halls of government to our homes, our classrooms and on our social media. We see demonstrations of hate in small towns and big cities and read profiles of self-proclaimed white nationalists in our newspapers. While this division reveals the many imperfections of America, like Dr. King, I do not believe it defines us.
As Martin Luther King, Jr. day nears, Ohio State Rep. Alicia Reece (D-Cincinnati) today issued the following statement on Ohio’s Voter Purge, or automatic cancellation of taxpayers’ voting registration, now being heard by the U.S. Supreme Court:
“Taxpayers deserve answers as to why their most fundamental freedom, the right to vote, can be automatically cancelled by politicians in Columbus. No other American privilege or right faces as little protection in Ohio as voting.
“I believe we can and should move past these constant assaults on our constitutional freedoms and guarantees by taking the lead, at the state level, to permanently enshrine a voter’s rights into state constitutions across our nation.”