This story by Mike Palmer appeared in the St. Clairsville Times Leader:
CADIZ - The Jerry L. Stewart Mine Safety Training Center located in the Industrial Park, which had been slated to close, received it's official reprieve Wednesday during the Ohio Mine Safety Competition in Cadiz.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director James Zehringer announced that the state is finalizing an agreement with local officials to build a new facility across from the current location in Harrison County.
"There were several good proposals," Zehringer said. "Harrison County got very innovative with theirs and I can not thank the county commissioners enough."
The director also thanked the Cadiz and Harrison County Community Improvement Corporations, Cadiz Mayor Ken Zitko, State Senator Lou Gentile, Representatives Jack Cera and Andy Thompson.
"It was very important that we have this money in the capital budget," Zehringer stated. "These guys really went to bat for you."
The mine safety training facility originally opened in May 2009 and is one of just four in the United States. Others are in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Colorado. The Cadiz center provides training to about 8,000 miners a year from Ohio and neighboring states.
"I think it is important to recognize that we truly would not be here today without the support of the director and the governor," Lanny E. Erdos, chief ODNR Division of Mineral Resources Management added. "Safety is what ODNR is all about. We are very pleased with this announcement and the support for our mission to bring these coal miners home safely every day."
The chief added that the new facility will be located on 10 acres of land in the industrial park and will also house the ODNR Oil and Gas offices. The building is scheduled to be completed in December of 2015.
"A year or so ago when this process started there was a lot of anxiety," Harold "Babe" Erdos, UMWA International representative commented on the decision.
"Officials from Cadiz, Harrison County and the United Mine Workers, along with Gentile's office, joined forces to communicate to the state the importance of the facility," he explained to the crowd.
"I think our efforts locally were a major turning point in the state keeping a presence in the area," Gentile said that the process to save the facility began back in September of 2013 when ODNR officials announced that the training center would close and move to a temporary location in Cambridge.
"We came together here and began the effort then and never gave up on our commitment," the Senator said. "This announcement today illustrates that when government officials at all levels work together we can get things accomplished."
"My concern all along has been to preserve these jobs and keep them in Harrison County while continuing to provide coal miners in Ohio with the best possible training facilities." Gentile added that after the dismantling of the mine simulator back in March he and Jack Cera had led the effort to keep the facility open in Columbus.
"This is a positive development for Cadiz and all of Harrison County," Representative Cera commented. "Insuring the safety of our coal miners is of upmost importance and we appreciate the cooperation of the state in making sure this facility remained here in Eastern Ohio."
Harrison County Commissioner Dale Norris took the microphone giving the local perspective on brokering the deal with ODNR.
"We put together a grass roots coalition between the county, the CIC, the board of commissioners, the Cadiz Village CIC and some village council members, sat down together and hammered out issues towards keeping this facility here in Harrison County," Norris spoke to the crowd about the importance of coal in the local community and it's heritage.
The Commissioner recognized his fellow commissioners Don Bethel and Bill Host, CIC president Dale Arbaugh, board members John Jones and Mike Sliva Cadiz CIC President and Ken Mason, Mayor Zitko, village councilman Paul Coffland and village Zoning Administrator Charlie Bowman who drew up the proposal.
"Over the past 30 years the state has been very supportive of our efforts to make mines safer and prevent mine accidents through training," Craig Corder, Mine Safety Program Administrator was instrumental in the construction of the previous training simulator. "As long as we are involved in the the design of the new training center it will be a great learning tool and ultimately will save lives."
Contest director Ron Glasgow passed out the awards for the safety competition. First place went to Hopedale Mining, second to Rosebud Mine #1 and third to American Energy Corporation Century Blue Mine.
Amesville- State Senator Lou Gentile (D-Steubenville) visited Athens County to speak at a sustainable energy symposium held in Amesville. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss what local communities can do to promote sustainable energy use and to identify ways in which they can be more energy efficient. He was joined at the event by Rep. Debbie Phillips of Athens.
COLUMBUS, Ohio – State Senator Nina Turner (D-Cleveland) and State Representative Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent), along with Executive Director of the Ohio Domestic Violence Network Nancy Neylon, announced today the introduction of legislation to help protect survivors of domestic violence in the state. The Address Confidentiality Program would establish safeguards to protect victims’ personal information from being accessed by abusers.
“This bill presents a common sense, low-cost measure following in the footsteps of 37 other states that have successfully implemented similar programs. As a state, we should be doing all we can to ensure the safety of people who take the hard and dangerous step of leaving domestic violence situations. Protecting their address and restoring their ability to vote without fear is one way to do that,” said Rep. Clyde.
The Address Confidentiality Program sets up an alternate mailing address that participants would use in government and other transactions so that victims of domestic violence can shield their home address and other personal identifying information from the public record where it can be available to abusers. The program would be housed in the Secretary of State’s office. The office would also serve as the intermediary for election-related correspondence and facilitate voting for the participants.
“Through the Address Confidentiality Program, victims of domestic violence and other crimes can protect their families from potential harm,” said Sen. Turner. “As legislators, we can help break the chain that allows abusers to find their victims by tracking their address through public records. It is time to act and join the 37 other states that have already implemented this program and give victims the resources that allow them to engage in the electoral process without the constant fear that their attacker may find out their whereabouts.”
Under this bill, individuals and their children who fear for their safety or have already experienced incidents of abuse, stalking or harassment would be eligible to enroll in the program with the help of an application assistant. This specially-appointed and trained professional, such as a counselor at a domestic violence shelter, would help the victim understand if the program is a fit for her or his situation and complete paperwork to enroll in the program.
“Domestic violence is a community problem that demands community solutions,” said Neylon. “The fact that we have the opportunity to help survivors live fuller lives after taking the dangerous steps of leaving a violent situation is reason enough to enact the Address Confidentiality Program.”
An identical version of the Address Confidentiality Program passed the House with unanimous support in the 128th General Assembly.
Columbus - Sen. Charleta B. Tavares (D-Columbus) and Progress Ohio held a news conference at the Ohio Statehouse to call attention to delayed payments to home health aides. Because of a new system instituted by the Ohio Department of Medicaid some home health aides and independent providers have not been receiving their pay on time.
Columbus-Today, the Ohio General Assembly honors the heroes of 9-11 with a flag memorial on the west lawn of the Ohio Statehouse. Each of the 2,999 flags represents a life lost on September 11, 2001.
The flags are arranged to represent where the tragedies took place--the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the open field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Columbus –Today, members of the Ohio Senate Democratic Caucus announced legislation to restore early voting hours in Ohio. Last week Judge Peter C. Economus ruled in a lawsuit, NAACP v. Husted, that a Republican-backed law and directives from Secretary of State Jon Husted were unconstitutional and violated the Voting Rights Act. As part of that ruling, the court instructed the General Assembly to pass new legislation that restores “Golden Week”—the week when Ohioans can vote and register at the same time—and provides weeknight and weekend early voting hours.
The legislation, which will be introduced this week by Senator Eric H. Kearney (D-Cincinnati) and Senator Nina Turner (D-Cleveland), restores the early voting hours cut by Secretary Husted and Republican legislators through SB 238, encourages bipartisanship on county boards of elections and establishes a system that fits the schedules of hard-working Ohioans.
“Under this plan, voters will have the access they deserve to cast their ballots, while allowing a degree of flexibility to local Boards of Elections,” said Senator Turner. “I urge the General Assembly to adopt this set of early voting hours expeditiously, and hope that our elected officials will use this as a starting point to begin introducing pro-voter reforms rather than reducing access to our most fundamental exercise in Democracy.”
“The goal of this legislation is to have a system of early voting that puts voters first,” said Senator Kearney. “This plan gives flexibility to county boards of elections, encourages bipartisan cooperation and complies with the Voting Rights Act and the United States Constitution.”
The legislation sets a minimum number of early voting hours and days that begin 35 days prior to an election and conclude at 2:00pm on the Monday before election day. This standard calls for at least ten hours after 5pm on weeknights, and a minimum of eight hours on Saturdays and four hours on Sundays within two weeks of an election.
Each county board of elections will be allowed to adopt additional hours based on the needs of its citizens if there is bipartisan agreement on the board. If there is no bipartisan agreement (at least 3 out of 4 members) on accepting the minimum hours (mentioned above) or on establishing additional hours, the county will be subject to a default schedule that includes additional hours above the minimum standard. This default mechanism is designed to make sure voters are guaranteed more access rather than less if the two political parties cannot reach an agreement.
“Hardworking Ohioans across the state depend on early voting and the option to have additional voting hours on Sundays and weekday evenings,” said Sen. Lou Gentile (D-Steubenville). “The legislation being introduced today reflects our Caucus’ commitment that every eligible voter should have the chance to cast their ballot in a way that accommodates their work schedules, family responsibilities, and other obligations.”
It seems like a week hasn’t gone by this summer without more headlines about failing charter schools. First, it was the news of state and federal investigations into Horizon Science Academy in Dayton followed by the sudden closing of VLT Academy in Cincinnati. These schools represent an ongoing problem that can no longer be ignored by Ohio’s General Assembly.
In the case of Horizon Science Academy, it was reports by teachers alleging child abuse and manipulation of test scores and attendance records. And for VLT Academy, it was longstanding academic and financial failures that left 600 students scrambling to find new schools just days before classes were supposed to begin.
While there are successful charter schools in Ohio that provide students with a quality education, the bad schools outnumber the good. According to the most recent state report cards issued last fall, more than 60% of charter schools received the equivalent of a “D” or an “F”. In contrast, only 20% of traditional public schools received those poor grades.
So, what’s the solution? The first step to meaningful charter school reform is increasing transparency and accountability. Right now charter school sponsors and operators—the companies hired to run many of the schools—do not have to reveal how they spend tax dollars or abide by public records laws. Too often this wall of secrecy hides mismanagement that wastes tax dollars and shortchanges our children of the education they deserve.
In response to the problems at Horizon, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Education told this newspaper that ODE “is utilizing the existing laws as effectively as possible to make sure all schools are held accountable.” That statement reveals the heart of the problem—our current charter school laws are too weak.
That’s why I introduced legislation in the current General Assembly to bring stronger oversight to charter schools. Among other changes, SB 190 and SB 329 would require annual audits of charter schools, sponsors and operators. The legislation would also require the sponsors and operators to comply with public records laws the same as traditional public schools.
Neither bill has received a hearing in the Ohio Senate. One of them has been languishing in the Senate Education Committee for nearly a year. Similar legislation in the Ohio House of Representatives is also in limbo.
Other issues such as strengthening charter school closure laws should also be addressed by the General Assembly. But, nothing will change if lawmakers do not take action.
Recently, I was disappointed to hear that Senator Peggy Lehner (R-Kettering), the chair of the Education Committee, said that she does not plan to pass any charter school reform legislation this year.
Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the General Assembly to address the problems with Ohio’s charter schools since state legislators write the laws that govern them. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away. It is time for the General Assembly to act—waiting for next year should not be an option.
Columbus—Today, members of the Ohio Senate Democratic Caucus applauded Federal Judge Peter C. Economus’ decision to issue a preliminary injunction to restore early voting opportunities that had been eliminated through GOP sponsored legislation. Judge Economus said Senate Bill 238 and subsequent directives from Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted were unconstitutional and violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Specifically, the decision restores the first week of early voting—the so-called “Golden Week” when voters can register and vote at the same time—and reinstates additional voting hours on Sundays and weekday evenings.
The Senate and House Democratic Caucuses had filed an amicus brief in support of the NAACP’s lawsuit against Secretary Husted. The brief stated that the unjustified restrictions on same-day registration and early voting hurt all voters and disproportionately harmed low-income and minority voters who have historically been disenfranchised.
Senate Democrats issued the following statements in response to the decision:
Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman)
“I applaud the decision because it reinforces the fundamental right to vote. Early voting was working and it should not have been changed. It’s time for the General Assembly to work together on a bipartisan basis to pass new legislation that fully restores early voting opportunities for all Ohioans.”
Senator Eric H. Kearney (D-Cincinnati)
“Ohioans should not have to depend on the federal courts to protect their right to vote. I hope this decision sends a strong message to my Republican colleagues in the General Assembly to stop their partisan efforts to limit voting opportunities for Ohioans.”
Senator Nina Turner (D-Cleveland)
“Today, the federal court ruled in favor of upholding the right to vote for every citizen of this great state, once again,” said Senator Turner. “However, it saddens me that we have to continue to rely on the justice system to protect Ohioans from the voting legislation pushed by my colleagues from across the aisle. We should approach all election regulation decisions with the ultimate goal of protecting and promoting the right to vote.”
Senator Edna Brown (D-Toledo)
“I am always supportive of making voting more convenient and accessible for all Ohioans. I am pleased to see that Judge Economus has once again restored a method of voting which has been utilized by thousands of Ohioans in the past.”
Senator Lou Gentile (D-Steubenville)
“This decision confirms another example of the Republican Party’s failed attempts to suppress voter turnout in the state of Ohio. SB 238 is and was bad public policy, and I am encouraged by the decision reached by the court today.”
Caldwell- State Senator Lou Gentile (D-Steubenville) visited the 162nd Noble County Fair last week in Caldwell. He's pictured with 11 year old Jewelzlynn Chicwak, a member of the Noble County 4-H club.
Toronto- State Senator Lou Gentile (D-Steubenville) spoke at the opening ceremony for the 37th annual Toronto Festival of the Arts Saturday in Jefferson County. The two-day festival highlights local and regional handmade arts and crafts as well as live entertainment and a wide variety of food.
COLUMBUS—To commemorate the 94th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote in the United States, State Senator Nina Turner (D-Cleveland) issued the following statement:
Cleveland –Senator Nina Turner (D-Cleveland) visited McGregor Assisted Living and Retirement Center today with representatives from the Council of Smaller Enterprises (COSE) to speak with facility officials on successes and regulatory challenges they face as a small business. McGregor was recently awarded a five-star rating by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services as well as named one of America’s Best Nursing Homes in the country by the U.S. News and World Report.
I respond to the Aug. 10 op-ed “Democrats miss opportunities by not running in every race,” by Thomas Suddes, which mischaracterized my concerns about Gov. John Kasich’s appointment of Rick Hodges as the director of the Ohio Department of Health. I requested confirmation hearings in the Ohio Senate because I think Hodges fails to meet the qualifications for the job as required by state law.
On August 15, Senator Cafaro attended the Lake Erie Caucus Forum at the Maumee Bay State Park Lodge where she and members from the Ohio Senate and Ohio House listened to community residents and business leaders as they discussed the recent Northwest Ohio water crisis. Nearly 500,000 residents were unable to use their tap water for more than two days due to contamination from toxic algae blooms in Lake Erie. The water crisis highlights the necessity to keep Ohio’s water supply free from toxic algae and other pollutants that are harmful to the collective health of Ohio’s citizens.