Ohio House Democrats today celebrated welcome news for the state’s imperiled northern coastline, following a statement by Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman released Wednesday guaranteeing full funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). The initiative, a $300 million program once-targeted to lose 90 percent of it’s funding in President Trump’s proposed 2019 budget, was one of many federal environmental projects under threat this year.
State Reps. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) and Tavia Galonski (D-Akron) yesterday hosted the 2nd annual Human Trafficking Youth Prevention Summitat the Ohio Statehouse. The Youth Prevention Summit brings students, teachers, public officials and advocates together from across the state to empower students through education, awareness, discuss policy proposals and participate in skill-building workshops.
Additionally, several student participants joined the two lawmakers for a press conferenceto detail Ohio’s anti-trafficking legislative efforts and allow students to share their advocacy experiences.
Today State Reps. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) and Michael Sheehy (D-Oregon) introduced a resolution urging the Director of the United States Environmental Protection Agency to add Lake Erie’s Western Basin to the list of impaired waters. The move follows a State of the State address that left the two Toledo-area representatives disappointed with the lack of urgency surrounding the continued water quality crisis in Northwest Ohio.
“To seriously address harmful algal blooms in our state requires a firm commitment to reform and to exploring all avenues for action,” said Rep. Fedor. “I was hopeful that Ohio and federal governments would treat the ongoing crisis with more resolve and that last week’s State of the State address would outline some real policy initiatives. It is past time to put Lake Erie and the lives we have built here first.”
This resolution recognizes that Lake Erie’s Western Basin is facing a water quality crisis, plagued by pollution, algal blooms, and fish kills. Both Rep. Fedor and Rep. Sheehy were serving Toledo in the Ohio House of Representatives in 2014 when an algal bloom left 500,000 Toledoans without safe drinking water. Lake Erie’s Western Basin still requires massive doses of chlorine to be considered safefor consumption, continually impacting much of the region.
“The algae problem is far too critical to continue the weak actions taken by the current state and federal administrations,” said Rep. Sheehy. “If swift and decisive action is not taken now, Ohioans along the coast will continue to lose income, wildlife, and many more resources from Lake Erie.”
Unlike Ohio, Michigan did include the open waters in its jurisdiction on its list of impaired waters that it submitted to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, which approved that list. The United States EPA already has declared Michigan’sportion of Lake Erie impair
On the heels of their House resolution calling for the Lake Erie’s open waters to be declared “impaired,” state Reps. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) and Michael Sheehy (D-Oregon) today issued the following statements in response to the Kasich Administration’s about-face on issuing the declaration – which could mean tighter pollution standards and more resources to protect the Great Lake:
“Today, the governor listened to the needs, fears, and wishes of this legislative body and the people of our great state on the issue of Lake Erie. I want to thank him for finally standing up and calling for Lake Erie to be declared impaired. I look forward to working closely with his office, the people of Toledo, the communities all along Lake Erie, and all Ohioans on cleaning up Lake Erie, returning it to its former glory, and ensuring that it is safe and healthy for years to come.” —state Rep. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo)
“This decision certainly comes as welcome news following years of economic damage in Northwest Ohio. We are thankful for the Governor’s political courage, and that he is joining us in defense of Ohio’s single greatest natural resource against the big-money special interest groups fighting against a solution.” —state Rep. Michael Sheehy (D-Oregon)
State Rep. John Boccieri (D-Poland) today criticized the passage of House Bill 410, legislation that slashes state funding to local communities who use photo enforcement of traffic laws. The bill also gives city and county courts exclusive jurisdiction over civil actions stemming from local traffic law violations.
“We should focus on common sense ways to fix photo enforcement complaints, not punish local communities by slashing their state funding,” said Boccieri. “We need to make sure taxpayers are treated fairly while preserving their ability to self govern and make their own decisions locally, without heavy-handed threats from Columbus.”
The bill comes as the state has cut more than $2 billion from local communities over the last several years.
Boccieri has made strides to protect taxpayers from uneven and confusing traffic law by sponsoring House Bill 219. House Bill 219 sets a commonsense standard for speed limits by requiring all speed limit zones to become effective beginning at the speed limit sign.
“I support this component of the bill, but local communities should answer to local taxpayers on the enforcement of traffic laws in our community.”
The bill passed the House 65-19 and now heads to the Senate for consideration.
House Minority Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton) today reported the passage of House Bill (HB) 529, the state’s $2.6 billion biennial capital budget. The capital budget is primarily used to invest in the upkeep of state facilities, colleges and university campuses, and state lands, but also includes a number of community projects.
HB 529 invests more than $480 million for technology and facility upgrades at Ohio’s colleges and universities, allowing them to retool to meet the demands of 21st century higher education and job training. Sinclair Community College will receive $10.33 million for campus renovations and upgrades.
“A competitive workforce begins with educating our students and training workers with the skills they need in this new and changing economy,” said Strahorn. “For years, Sinclair has been a leader in education and job training in Southwest Ohio, and these investments will allow the next generation of students, business leaders and entrepreneurs to make an impact in their communities.”
In addition to more than $1 billion in statewide funding for K-12 and higher education capital projects, HB 529 invests $350 million in statewide infrastructure projects through the Public Works Commission and $147 million throughout the state in local community projects.
“Whether it’s rebuilding crumbling roads and bridges or upgrading our cultural centers, investing in Ohio communities makes us more competitive, creating jobs and spurring growth in our local and regional economies,” added Strahorn. “Projects like the Arcade Innovation Hub are changing the game, using the tremendous community resources we already have right here in Southwest Ohio, including our universities and business leaders, to encourage entrepreneurs and students to take their ideas to the next level.”
Notable Montgomery County community projects funded under HB 529 include:
State Rep. Jack Cera’s (D-Bellaire) bipartisan bill with Rep. Ryan Smith (R-Bidwell) to expand high-speed internet access in Ohio’s rural communities received bipartisan support today from the House Finance Committee. The legislation, House Bill 378, would better connect people and businesses, driving growth and creating jobs in rural communities across the state.
“People and businesses in our part of the state deserve the same economic opportunities other communities have, and that starts with reliable, modern infrastructure,” said Cera.
HB 378 would appropriate $100 million over the next two years from the proceeds of bonds issued to support Ohio’s Third Frontier Program. Local communities, businesses, nonprofits and co-ops would all be eligible to participate in the grant program, which would be administered by the Ohio Development Services Agency.
“Staying competitive, creating jobs and growing our economy comes from public-private partnerships like this, where our communities in Eastern Ohio aren’t priced out of taking the first step,” Cera added.
Cera is working with Republican leadership to determine the soonest date the bill could receive a full vote of the House before heading to the Ohio Senate.
State Reps. John Boccieri (D-Poland) and Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown) sent a letter to state Rep. Andrew Brenner (R-Powell), Chair of the House Education and Career Readiness Committee, requesting an investigation into the effectiveness of the Youngstown Plan, which was created in House Bill (HB) 70 in 2015. Under the plan, the state assumed control of the Youngstown City School District, eliminated the school board and appointed a CEO to oversee all operations of the district. The letter comes amid the resignation of three Academic Distress Commission members and the potential departure of Youngstown City School District CEO, Krish Mohip.
“The rushed legislation that instituted the Youngstown Plan under HB 70 in the last biennium now causes a need for an investigation,” the Mahoning Valley lawmakers wrote.
Boccieri and Lepore-Hagan are scheduled to meet with Brenner and a member of the Academic Distress Commission in Youngstown on Monday, April 16.
*Editor’s note: A copy of the letter is attached
In the wake of Ohio Republican lawmaker Niraj Antani’s public comments suggesting students should arm themselves in high schools across the state, state Rep. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) today issued the following statement:
“To suggest students should carry guns at school is to turn our backs on our constitutional oath to further a free society where students have an equal opportunity to succeed. Arming students in the 21st century violates every shred of commonsense, responsible lawmaking, and is better saved for oppressive regimes in foreign lands – not America.
“We should be deeply troubled and angered by politicians who suggest arming students is an appropriate response to the national discussion on commonsense ways to reduce gun violence in our nation. Too many politicians have robbed our students of a childhood by failing to keep them safe, which has pushed them out of our schools and into the streets to fight for accountability from their elected officials. It’s clear some politicians still aren’t listening.”
On the heels of the first state Oil and Gas Commission meeting Thursday, state Rep. David Leland (D-Columbus) today introduced legislation that would protect Ohio’s parks and nature preserves from the impacts of fracking. The proposed bill will ensure adequate protections for Ohio’s state and local parks by refusing any new well permits for lands typically enjoyed by families and people who enjoy the outdoors.
“It is my hope that we can all share a vision for our state that includes meeting our energy needs without ever having to sacrifice our beautiful state and local parks, forests, nature preserves, and wildlife areas,” said Leland. “Conserving Ohio’s public lands ensures they will be around for future generations to utilize and enjoy.”
This year’s state-budget-veto showdown between Gov. Kasich and Ohio House Republicans resulted in the appointment of members to the vacant Oil and Gas Commission, which is responsible for issuing drilling licenses for state lands. The commission held its first meeting Thursday in Columbus.
The footprint and disruption of fracking, or horizontal drilling, is much larger than conventional oil and gas wells, raising additional concerns over habitat fragmentation and wetland destruction. Fracking also typically costs Ohio’s communities much more in added cleanup, greater wear and tear on roads, and significant emergency response needs.