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.”
State Reps. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) and Tavia Galonski (D-Akron) today hosted the Ninth Annual Human Trafficking Awareness Day at the Ohio Statehouse, as lawmakers, law enforcement officials, and hundreds of advocates and survivors from across the state gathered to raise awareness and discuss ways to further combat human trafficking in Ohio.
State Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire) and state Sen. Vernon Sykes (D-Akron), the two Democratic designees on the Ohio legislature’s redistricting working group, issued the following statement in response to today’s Republican congressional gerrymandering presentation to House and Senate committees:
“We are committed to achieving real reform and want to make sure that our state’s congressional districts are fair and truly representative of Ohioans. We want any congressional redistricting plan to end partisan gerrymandering.
“Unfortunately, the plan that Senator Huffman and Representative Schuring presented today doesn’t achieve that. In fact, in some ways, it is worse than our current system, as it eliminates the governor’s veto power and removes the citizen referendum from the legislative process.
“Any plan that does not include strict criteria to prevent gerrymandering or does not ensure bipartisanship weakens representation in Ohio.
“We are willing to continue discussions in good faith and hope a bipartisan plan that puts an end to gerrymandering is still possible.”
State Reps. Dan Ramos (D-Lorain) and John Boccieri (D-Poland) today renewed their call for their legislation to mandate the use of domestic steel in schools amid state reports showing that ten percent of school drinking water fixtures had elevated levels of lead last year. The state testing of school water fountains was included in legislation that passed in the wake of the lead contamination crisis in Sebring last year. Boccieri and Ramos introduced House Bill 57 soon after the crisis to require that all schools receiving public funding use American steel in school construction and renovations.
“This problem is even more widespread that we could have imagined. Our children are being put in harm’s way by importing cheaply made foreign goods, containing dangerous chemicals. We have to do something right away to protect our kids,” said Ramos.
State reports showed that over 1,400 out of 14,000 Ohio school drinking water fixtures contained lead levels above the federal limit. School districts recently completed their voluntary testing with funding from the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC). So far, the OFCC has released $500,000 for testing and drinking fountain or faucet replacement. Approximately half of the fixtures found to be contaminated have been replaced, while the rest have been shut off or are otherwise unused.
“Any number of contaminated fixtures in our schools presenting health risks to young students means we still have a problem,” said Boccieri. “We need to do more to eliminate lead contamination and protect the safety of our kids. Requiring the use of safe, American steel in our school infrastructure is one way to start getting there.”
China’s illegal over-subsidizing of their steel industry has given it a competitive advantage in markets, but has also resulted in a
Ohio House Democratic Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton) and Democratic Assistant Whip Brigid Kelly (D-Cincinnati) issued the following joint statement today in response to six proposed anti-worker state constitutional amendments:
“Taxpayers expect us to work together to increase opportunity and create jobs with wages and benefits that can sustain a family. These anti-worker, anti-family restrictions will do the exact opposite. Dangerous, divisive bills like these will only push our economy further out of balance and make people more poor and less safe on the job.”
The restrictions, introduced by state Rep. John Becker (R- Union Township), range from Right-to-Work-is-Wrong for public and private sector workers to outlawing project labor agreements, or terms and conditions of construction projects that encourage careers in the skilled trades and ensure projects are completed on time and under budget.
Over 2 million Ohio taxpayers overwhelmingly rejected similar attacks on working people in 2011, handing the Republican legislature a 62 to 38-percent defeat at the ballot box with a citizen-led repeal of Senate Bill 5.
State Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) today announced the release of $190,790 in state funding for Department of Developmental Disabilities (DODD) community housing purchases and renovations in Summit County.
“Families in Summit County depend on services like community homes to ensure loved ones are able to live safely, with some level of independence,” said Sykes. “By helping purchase and improve community residences we are able to offer people with developmental disabilities access to a safe and affordable home.”
The DODD Community Capital Assistance program helps purchase and renovate homes used to provide community living space for those with disabilities. Summit County offers a variety community housing including in-home support, shared living, adult family living and foster care living.
State Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire) today responded to the state inspector general’s latest report from an ongoing investigation into corrupt activity at the Department of Administrative Services (DAS).
“Today’s report confirms what many have known for quite some time: powerful public officials at the highest levels of state government have misused the system and taxpayer dollars to benefit political insiders and friends. This is just the latest report of wrongdoing in what is quickly becoming a pattern of corrupt activity,” said Cera. “Ultimately, reviewing this activity and making recommendations on changing the process is not enough. Nobody is above the law. The scope of the investigation should reflect this and hold individuals accountable.”
Cera, a State Controlling Board member tasked with oversight of state spending, sought additional information from Inspector General Meyer in June of this year, after news reports showed DAS was steering hundreds of millions of dollars in no-bid, taxpayer-funded state contracts to a few select IT firms for consulting services.
Cera, also the lead Democrat on the House’s state budget committee, supported an amendment to the state budget to force additional oversight on hundreds of millions of dollars in no-bid handouts at DAS. The amendment passed both the House and Senate before Gov. John Kasich vetoed the added taxpayer safeguard in the final budget version.
State lawmakers moved to pass a last-minute cash infusion for counties and local transit authorities today, on the heels of a new state auditor report showing worsening financial stability for local communities across the state.
State Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) today called on Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine to respect the 8th District of Ohio Court of Appeals’ recent decision declaring a 2016 state law outlawing local hiring standards, House Bill 180, unconstitutional.*
“Local hiring standards represent a commitment by cities to combat underemployment and reinvest in local communities. Workers benefit from public construction projects that often include jobs with apprenticeships – clear career paths and quality on-the-job training that pay dividends beyond the duration of a single project,” Sykes wrote in a letter to DeWine.
The City of Cleveland sued the state in 2016 after the Republican-passed bill directly conflicted with the city’s Fannie Lewis law, a local ordinance requiring public construction be completed with at least 20 percent local labor. Akron similarly uses local hiring standards on more than $1 billion in public works projects.
“Ohioans deserve a fair shot at good-paying local jobs because they have a stake in rebuilding the communities where they live and raise their families,” Sykes continued. “By putting money back in the hands of Ohio workers, local hiring ordinances like Cleveland’s Fannie Lewis Law are strengthening local businesses and giving workers the opportunity to get ahead. Without local hiring ordinances, investments would be more likely to flow to out of state companies and workers with no stake in the health and success of our regional economies.”
Sykes said she plans to introduce legislation in the new year that will strengthen Ohio communities’ ability to make decisions about local hiring standards.