State Rep. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) is calling for a criminal probe into the actions of the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT), an online charter school accused of putting in place a scheme to falsely inflate its attendance in order to overbill Ohio taxpayers for more money. Rep. Fedor, a former educator, has long been an advocate of charter school reform and transparency.
“ECOT owes Ohio taxpayers at least $80 million. The best way to make sure the money is repaid is to have the proper authorities launch a criminal investigation,” said Rep. Fedor. “By not properly examining the whistleblower’s allegations nearly a year ago, Auditor Yost failed the people who elected him.”
A persistent whistleblower repeatedly tried to warn state officials that ECOT put in place a scheme to pad its attendance and collect more public money, according to a report by the Associated Press (AP). His warnings were ignored.
Almost a year ago, the whistleblower met with employees of Auditor David Yost, who was paid $11,400 in campaign donations from ECOT’s founder*. After no movement from Auditor Yost, the whistleblower sent an email to the head of Ohio State Board of Education, who also did nothing. The whistleblower then emailed the Ohio Department of Education’s top lawyer. Only after the AP story was published did the Department say it is looking into the explosive claims.
* Yost also spoke at ECOT graduation ceremonies in 2014 and 2015 and awarded them an Auditor of State Award for exemplary record-keeping in 2016.
Monroe County Court Judge Jason A. Yoss today traveled to Columbus to shadow state Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire) as part of the Judicial-Legislative Exchange hosted by the Ohio Judicial Conference.
“I am delighted to meet with Rep. Cera to discuss concerns we have in Monroe County and to hear his plans for helping the district. It was also good to reminisce about old times when I served as a Page for the House of Representatives at the Ohio Statehouse,” said Judge Yoss.
The Ohio Judicial Conference helps create uniformity in the application of the law, rules and practice through the state. Ultimately, the OJC helps determine the judicial impact that bills and resolutions have on the state.
State Rep. John Patterson (D-Jefferson) recently introduced bipartisan legislation with Rep. Sarah LaTourette (R-Chesterland) to give a boost to local maple producers and businesses while putting recognized best practices in place for sustainable forest management throughout the state.
“Maple syrup products generate over $5 million annually for our state’s economy, and a lot of that comes from right here, in our community,” said Patterson, who serves as a ranking member on the Ohio House Agriculture and Rural Development Committee. “By strengthening local maple businesses and producers, we’re also strengthening our woodlands through sustainable practices that ensure a strong industry and strong local businesses for generations to come.”
The proposed law change, House Bill 606, exempts local producers and businesses from paying taxes on land used for maple syrup and sap production, and reimburses local schools and communities for any loss in local revenue. Under the bill, small businesses and producers who drill 30 taps on at least 12 trees per acre would also need to adopt a forest management plan in place to qualify for the tax exemption.
“I’m pleased to sponsor House Bill 606 with Rep. Patterson, what we believe to be a modest proposal to assist Ohio’s maple producers who practice a craft so rich in cultural significance to our great State,” said Rep. Sarah LaTourette.
“In our corner of the state, we know the important role a safe and healthy habitat play in economic development and our overall quality of life,” Patterson added. “Whether we’re welcoming tourists to share in our community’s natural beauty or we’re spending time fishing, hunting or just enjoying the outdoors, a vibrant environment is at the forefront of what we love about the region we call home.”
The legislation will soon be assigned to a House committee w
State Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) today announced her new plan to close secret money loopholes, increase transparency and strengthen the ban on foreign money in Ohio elections with new legislation, the Ohio Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections Act, or DISCLOSE ACT.
Following former Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger's abrupt resignation amid questions of possible FBI inquiries into matters he may have been involved with, two House lawmakers are saying the House and taxpayers deserve more answers, and soon.
State Reps. David Leland and Kristin Boggs are asking two outside parties to indepently investigate the nature and extent of potential corruption at the Ohio House to ensure lawmakers can continue the People's work without getting caught up in pay-to-play lawmaking.
"Allegations of corruption targeted at the Ohio Speaker have never before resulted in a Speaker’s resignation. This is the first time in Ohio’s history that the Speaker of the Ohio House has resigned in such disgrace, and his resignation leads us to believe that illicit forces have been corrupting, and may continue to corrupt, the work of the Statehouse," the lawmakers wrote in their letter.
Click the link to read the whole letter.
The Ohio Legislative Black Caucus (OLBC) today is holding their annual Day of Action. This year’s theme “Reclaiming our Government” focuses on four areas in which citizens can be empowered to take control of their communities and address disparities through engaging with the legislature.*
OLBC President and state Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland) has ramped up the group’s focus on rooting out disparities within Ohio’s black community during her second year as president.
“Our Day of Action is focused on getting an understanding of the barriers that have led to systematic disengagement within our government,” said Howse. “We want to offer pathways for how African Americans in Ohio can increase advocacy on pressing issues that matter to our community.”
According to the Ohio Poverty Report released in February of 2018, the areas that had the highest poverty rates were counties with metropolitan areas, where a bulk of the black population resides. Counties with poverty rates higher than the state average of 15.4 percent include Allen (Lima), Clark (Springfield), Cuyahoga (Cleveland-Elyria), Franklin (Columbus), Hamilton (Cincinnati), Lucas (Toledo), Mahoning (Youngstown), Montgomery (Dayton), Richland (Mansfield) and Trumbull (Warren).
In 2016, while Ohio’s graduation rates rose to a little over 83 percent, only about 67 percent of black high school students graduate, ranking Ohio forty-fifth in the nation for black graduation according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
The OLBC is hopeful that this year’s Day of Action will create even more opportunities for collaboration to engage and advance communities around Ohio. In its 2018 legislative agenda, the OLBC takes aim at education, criminal justice, voting rights, and health and family care.
Marking National Tax Day, House Democratic lawmakers today detailed a state tax reform package they say will make life better for families in the Buckeye State. After seven years of Republican tax policies benefitting the wealthiest one-percent, Democratic lawmakers say the tax responsibility has been unfairly shifted to middle-class and working families.
“For too long we’ve seen tax schemes worked up to benefit the wealthy at the expense of hardworking Ohioans,” said Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire). “Our plan works to fix this by offering real, commonsense solutions that allow working families to get ahead.”
Proposals include House Bill 333, a bill to end Ohio’s marriage penalty, as well as a plan to expand Ohio’s tax credit for families who adopt. Democrats also outlined a blueprint to stop forcing families to pay for state inaction on the state’s worst-in-the-nation opioid epidemic.
“Ending Ohio’s marriage penalty and expanding tax credits for families looking to adopt are commonsense ways to support hardworking families,” said Rep. Rich Brown (D-Canal Winchester). “Also, by creating a tax credit to help our families that struggle with addiction, we help Ohioans get back on their feet to support their families and strengthen our communities.”
In addition, Democrats are looking at new legislation to reduce the cost of essential everyday products by eliminating certain items from the state sales tax, including feminine hygiene products, diapers, over-the-counter medicine, child safety seats and other goods.
“Republicans have continued to nickel and dime hardworking people by shifting taxes from the wealthy to middle-class and working people, especially women and young parents,” said Rep. Janine Boyd (D-Cleveland). “By eliminating certain essential products from the state sales tax, we increase consumer purchasing power and make it e
Ohio House Assistant Democratic Whip Brigid Kelly (D-Cincinnati) today responded to former Republican House Speaker cliff Rosenberger’s expedited resignation from the Ohio House amid an FBI investigation into events in which he may have been involved. Rosenberger initially announced he would resign May 1, but late Thursday announced he was resigning immediately.
Kelly says the about face amid outside political-party pressure raises new questions about the legislature’s work and the breadth and depth of the federal investigation. Kelly issued the following statement:
“It is no secret that the people’s work in the state legislature has become overshadowed by suspicions of corruption and violations of the public trust since former Speaker Rosenberger announced he could be part of an FBI investigation. We are hopeful his expedited resignation helps us all get back to work on behalf of the taxpayers sooner, but the truth is, it also creates new questions about how the outside influence of political party pressure during an election year may be dictating the terms, conditions and deadlines of the people’s work in the legislature.
“The former speaker was right – allegations of public corruption and breach of the public’s trust is bigger than one person. That is why, even though one person has resigned, we are concerned that the impact and scope of this investigation remains unclear.”
State Reps. John Boccieri (D-Poland) and Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown) today expressed concern about House Bill (HB) 591, a Republican-led effort to once again overhaul the state’s school report card system. The bill would leave current triggers in place for schools that are under or near academic distress—a move the lawmakers say unfairly targets districts in academic distress like Youngstown, Lorain and at least 22 other districts across the state.
Assistant House Democratic Leader Nick Celebrezze (D-Parma) today issued the following statement in response to House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger’s (R-Clarksville) Tuesday announcement that he will resign effective May 1:
“This is a deeply troubling situation that restricts the ability of this institution to focus on issues and laws that improve people’s lives. While I personally like Cliff Rosenberger, the citizens of Ohio deserve to know the truth behind these allegations as the public trust of the taxpayers should be of utmost importance.”
“The one-party rule that has dominated our state for decades has led to unchecked power that has damaged not only this institution, but our state. Ohioans deserve better and that is why I agree that Cliff should step down immediately.”
“When public officials appear to act in their own interest instead of public interest, it shakes the entire confidence of the taxpayers. It is my sincerest hope that the nature of these allegations is made public soon, so that the House can refocus on the job at hand and move our state forward.”