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Lepore-Hagan proposes "Fair Lending through Land Contracts" bill targeting unfair lending practices by out-of-state investment firms

State Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown) today introduced House Bill 368, The Fair Lending through Land Contracts Act, which will establish new protections for Ohioans who are buying homes through “lease to own” or “rent to own” agreements. Along with protecting consumers, the legislation will strengthen communities throughout the state by requiring sellers to correct code violations and pay outstanding fines before they can enter into a land installment contract (LIC) with a prospective buyer.

“When done right, these contracts provide a path to home ownership for people who do not qualify for a traditional mortgage loan,” said Lepore-Hagan. “It is unfortunate that a growing number of unscrupulous firms are now using the agreements to trap trusting buyers in predatory loans.”

Rep. Lepore-Hagan drafted the legislation in response to concerns about abuses in the LIC market raised by consumers, traditional lenders, advocacy organizations, local government officials and the news media.

“Companies swooped into Ohio and other states devastated by the collapse of the housing market, bought homes for pennies on the dollar, inflated the value of the homes, then enticed borrowers to enter into high-interest, long-term loans they have little, if any, chance or repaying,” Lepore-Hagan said.

The problem has become so severe that the City of Cincinnati recently filed suit against Harbour Portfolio Advisors, the nation’s largest seller of foreclosed properties, alleging

 
 
Lawmakers look to eliminate gerrymandering, increase fairness in Congressional representation
October 3, 2017

State Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire) today was named to a four-member, bipartisan panel of state legislators to review and suggest reforms to the way Ohio draws districts for congressional seats. Ohio voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot initiative in 2015 to reform redistricting for statehouse districts.

“Our Democracy is strongest when people feel like their vote counts, and that starts with putting an end to gerrymandering in Ohio,” said state Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire). “We expect a process that is open, transparent and accountable to all public voices, groups and citizens who want change and progress. We need to put our political differences aside and do right by those who sent us here.”

Four lawmakers, two Republicans and two Democrats, will review current congressional redistricting practices, gather input from the public and make recommendations to the General Assembly later this year. Any action state lawmakers take would need approval from the voters, and a proposal could be placed on the statewide ballot as early as next year.

“Throughout his time at the Statehouse, Rep. Cera has been a voice for fairness and accountability. His experience, knowledge and expertise will be invaluable to this group and to the taxpayers who want us to work together to deliver results,” said Minority Leader Rep. Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton).

Working group meetings are expected to be held as soon as this month, though official dates and times have yet to be released.

 
 

State Rep. Bernadine Kennedy Kent (D-Columbus) today released the following statement in response to the deadly Las Vegas Strip shooting which claimed the lives of at least 50 people and injured hundreds:

"I am shocked and dismayed at the latest attack in Las Vegas. With more than fifty killed and 200 injured, the media is calling this attack the ‘deadliest’ shooting in U.S. History.  My heart goes out to the many victims and their families, who I can only imagine feel hopeless, alone, and motionless as they struggle to cope with the unbearably unexpected.

“I am thankful to law enforcement for fighting to protect one of our most basic human needs – safety. Though our instinct is to run away from gunfire and bullets, our law enforcement officers run toward the sound of gunfire to save lives; and for that, we are extremely grateful.”

 
 
Bill would allow removal of discriminatory language from property documents
September 25, 2017

State Rep. Hearcel Craig (D-Columbus) and Franklin County Recorder Danny O’Connor today announced new legislation to give property owners the freedom to redact discriminatory language from their online housing documents.

The proposed law change follows O’Connor’s discoveries of racially discriminating language, or restrictive covenants, expressed in thousands of property documents that historically barred African Americans, Jews and others from owning a home in some neighborhoods.

“Even though this type of discrimination is not enforceable, I want to make it clear that in Ohio, and certainly in Franklin County, we do not condone offensive or discriminatory language of any kind,” said O’Connor.

Housing discrimination referenced in these property documents has been unlawful and unenforceable since a 1948 Supreme Court ruling and the enactment of the Fair Housing Act of 1968. However, under current Ohio law, county recorders do not hold the authority to edit documents once they have been recorded, regardless of the content.

“As a military veteran and state representative, I believe that protecting our country’s fundamental values of freedom and equality are vital to ensuring a high quality of life for everyone,” said Craig. “This language undermines our strides, advancement and progress as a community and nation. Redacting it is a small, but simple step we can take to further thoughtful dialogue within our communities, while showing would-be residents and businesses that we are not stuck in shadows of our past.”

The proposed legislation would specifically allow property owners, attorneys, title companies and other agents authorized to do business in Ohio to notify their recorder’s office of a potential restrictive covenant, as well as give the recorder permission to redact a restrictive covenant from an online version of the property document. The original

 
 
Governing announces twenty-five women elected leaders for class of 2018
September 20, 2017
Sykes selected for national Women in Government Leadership Program

Governing magazine today announced State Rep. Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) has been selected as one of 25 women elected leaders to the Women in Government Leadership Program Class of 2018. The women selected for the program are changing the face of politics in America, according to the publication, from council chambers to statehouses, during a tumultuous time in American history. The program celebrates their service, courage and commitment to advancing good government.

“It is an honor to be selected for the 2018 Women in Government Leadership Program. I look forward to collaborating and sharing experiences with intelligent and innovative women from all levels of government across the United States,” said Sykes.

Governing Institute’s Women in Government Leadership Program brings together outstanding elected women leaders from across the nation to acknowledge their contributions, provide leadership development and mentor the next generation of women leaders to run for office.

“The women in the Class of 2018 are subject matter experts, negotiators, civic activists and pioneers,” said Julia Burrows, director of the Governing Institute. “Each year, the program adds to a national network, with 25 new members who establish deep friendships, provide consultation and campaign support and recruit future female candidates. The common goals of gender parity and advancing good government forge a bond that rises above partisanship and will pay dividends for many generations.”

The 25 women in the program’s new class will be profiled in the February 2018 issue of Governing magazine and will participate in Governing events throughout the coming year.

The Class of 2018 will gather for their first leadership conference in November in Phoenix, Arizona. 

 
 
"Moses Fleetwood Walker Day" recognizes historic career of Ohio native
September 20, 2017

Sponsors state Reps. David Leland (D-Columbus) and Thomas West (D-Canton) today announced the Senate passage of their legislation designating October 7 as “Moses Fleetwood Walker Day” in the state of Ohio to honor the nation’s first professional African American baseball player.

“Honoring Moses ‘Fleetwood’ Walker is more than just honoring a baseball player, because anytime we recognize and celebrate the fight for equality in our society, it moves the whole country forward,” said Leland, who also serves on the board of trustees for the Columbus Clippers, the Cleveland Indians’ Triple A farm team. 

 
 
Wage and benefit-killing bill picks up steam in GOP-controlled Ohio House

The Republican-controlled Ohio House of Representatives held a second committee hearing on legislation that critics say would reduce wages and benefits for non-union and union workers in construction and building trade careers.

The legislation, House bill 163, would effectively limit wages and benefits for workers by kicking communities off the state’s prevailing wage structure before allowing them to reapply. Under current law, local communities and state universities undertaking public construction projects hire contractors who pay employees an industry-recognized standard wage, or prevailing wage, that is in line with their profession.

“Prevailing wages helped build the American middle class while delivering safe buildings to taxpayers on time and under budget,” said the state Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown), the lead Democrat on the House Commerce and Labor Committee. “It would be a mistake to take us back to a time when poverty wages and dangerous buildings were considered the standard.” 

The Ohio Department of Commerce works with the U.S. Department of Labor to calculate prevailing wages and benefits to protect workers with careers as plumbers, painters, roofers, electricians, masons, elevator technicians, metal fabricators, and bricklayers.

 “Without fair wages, we’re looking at contractors who want to cut corners to increase company profits by hiring out-of-state and foreign workers with little experience for next to nothing,” added Lepore-Hagan. “It’s hypocritical for Republicans to encourage children to learn a trade or go to career-tech while they roll back wages and benefits that let those same workers buy a car, own their home and have a family. People are tired of politicians who say one thing and do another.”

Ohio’s “prevailing wage” laws have encouraged career paths for skilled workers and artisans in the b

 
 

A new, bipartisan effort to end Ohio’s Marriage Penalty – extra income taxes on married couples who file jointly in Ohio – will get attention from the House Ways and Means Committee tomorrow, Tuesday, Sept. 19 at 9:00 a.m. in Room 121 of the Statehouse.

Because Ohio is the only state in the Midwest to require married couples to file state tax returns mirroring their federal filing status, married couples in Ohio pay at least an extra $159 per year according to the Ohio Department of Taxation. State Reps. David Leland (D-Columbus) and John Becker (R-Union Township) are hoping to change that by allowing married people in the Buckeye State to choose the state filing status that suits them best.

 
 

In the wake of President Trump’s recent decision to phase out Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an Ohio state lawmaker is asking Gov. John Kasich to make good on his call for immigrants to come to Ohio.

In a letter to Kasich today*, state Rep. Bernadine Kennedy Kent (D-Columbus) said immigrants with American-born children are being kicked out of the Buckeye State while the governor pleads with the nation to reject Trump’s divisiveness on national TV.

“I applaud you for separating yourself from President Donald Trump in front of a national TV audience, but taxpayers in Ohio need more than words,” Kent wrote in the letter. “The people we represent, and the people you called to come here, deserve a leader who will work hard with the legislature, or independently through executive order, to ensure that honest, caring people who are fighting for the American Dream have a safe place – a sanctuary – to call home in Ohio.”

The freshman is asking Kasich to issue an executive order in Ohio, “barring police and state resources from being used to enforce unstable federal immigration policy.”  

 
 
Representative files amicus brief with legislators from across the country
September 6, 2017

State Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) recently shared her experiences as a state lawmaker in a severely gerrymandered state in a bipartisan amicus brief filed in the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Wisconsin case, Gill v. Whitford, has implications for Ohio’s state legislative districts, which suffer similar constitutional defects. Plaintiffs in the case allege extreme partisan gerrymandering deprived them of their First Amendment right of association and the Equal Protection of the laws guaranteed to them by the 14th Amendment.

“When the minority party is locked out of the legislative process, so are their constituents,” said Rep. Clyde. “We cannot effectively serve the people of Ohio when half of Ohioans’ concerns and preferences are ignored. I have seen the quality of work at the Statehouse go downhill in my four terms here because of the gerrymandered map that was drawn in a ‘bunker’ and approved by a short-sighted majority in 2011. We need to turn this dysfunctionality around and that is why I joined state lawmakers from Ohio and across the country to share my experiences in the brief."