Mahoning Valley Lawmakers Seek State Funding Reform For School Buildings
Introduce bill to cut taxes, costs of funding school construction
October 28, 2014
 
 

COLUMBUS— State lawmakers Senate Democratic Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) and Rep. Ron Gerberry (D-Austintown) today introduced companion legislation to reduce school building costs for local school districts and taxpayers. The legislation would require the state to pay set percentages of school construction costs while decreasing the cost of local school improvement levies by 12.5 percent for local property taxpayers— changes the lawmakers say will increase the fairness of school construction funding.

“I’m happy to join Senator Schiavoni in introducing legislation that will decrease local costs for school construction projects in districts like Boardman, Poland and Canfield,” said Rep. Gerberry. “This modification would be a great benefit to those districts. Senator Schiavoni and I will do everything possible to move this legislation forward expeditiously.”

Specifically, the bill would cap local matching funds at 75 percent of total school improvement costs through the Classroom Facilities Assistance Program (CFAP) and set a fifty-fifty cost share between the state and local districts for construction under the Exceptional Needs Program (ENP), a funding model that prioritizes single building replacement based on student health and safety. The current funding system is based on an assessed property valuation per student.

The bill would also reduce the increased cost of local levies for some schools by reinstating the 12.5 percent state cost sharing for local school improvement levies that was eliminated in the last state budget.

“The state needs to make a greater investment into public education now and into the future,” said Senator Schiavoni. “This legislation will take some of the burden off local taxpayers while ensuring that our young people have more opportunities to succeed."

The legislation does not change the priority list of districts in line for funding, and it could mean schools would face looser requirements in usingthe ENP for school construction funding. In the past, schools could not use the program if local levies had failed or if they first did not seek funding through the CFAP.

Rep. Gerberry’s legislation, House Bill 650, and Sen. Schiavoni’s version, Senate Bill 376, now await committee assignments for further consideration.

 
 
  
 
Senator Kearney Calls For Longer School Year
New legislation would create academic calendar similar to other countries
October 27, 2014
 
 

Columbus – Today, State Senator Eric H. Kearney (D-Cincinnati) announced that he will be introducing legislation this week to lengthen the academic year for public and non-public chartered schools to 220 days.  Ohio’s current academic calendar requires 182 days of instruction or the equivalent number of hours (1,001) for grades 7-12.

“My goal is to make Ohio students competitive in the global marketplace,” said Senator Kearney.  “In the world’s leading economies, students go to school substantially longer than students in Ohio.”

Senator Kearney’s legislation also increases the number of instruction hours for students attending kindergarten and elementary school.  Specifically, the bill would do the following:

  • Expand academic year for grades 7-12 by an additional 38 days or 209 hours.
  • Increase calendar for grades 1-6 and all-day kindergarten by 190 hours.
  • Lengthen regular half-day kindergarten by 95 hours.

Many industrialized countries already have more school days than Ohio.  The list includes: China 260, Japan 243, Germany 240, South Korea 220, Australia 220, Israel 216 and Russia 211.

“It is time to modernize our school calendar to fit today’s work environment,” said Senator Kearney.

 
 
  
Senator Gentile, pictured far right, presents proclamation. (Courtesy: Daily Sentinel)

Reedsville-State Senator Lou Gentile (D-Steubenville) visited Meig County to present a proclamation honoring the girls basketball team at Eastern High School in Reedsville.  The Eastern Lady Eagles won the 2014 Divison IV state basketball championship.

 
 
  

Columbus – Today, State Senator Eric H. Kearney (D-Cincinnati) introduced Senate Bill 374 to designate a portion of State Route 562 in Hamilton County the “Barack Obama Norwood Lateral Highway.”  The highway would be the second in Hamilton County to honor a former president.  State Route 126 has been called the Ronald Reagan Cross County Highway since the 1990’s—an honor bestowed on the former President while he was still alive.

“President Obama, like President Reagan won Hamilton County twice and was a two-term President,” said Senator Kearney.  “Such accomplishments deserve recognition.”

The Norwood Lateral Highway runs east to west for approximately 3.5 miles between I-71 and I-75 within the cities of Norwood and Cincinnati.

The notable accomplishments during President Obama’s time in office include:  national healthcare reform, repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”, passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, appointment of the first Hispanic to the U.S. Supreme Court and a decline in the national unemployment rate from 10.0% to 5.9%.

“President Obama’s presidency is historic and deserving of a lasting recognition through renaming State Route 562,” Senator Kearney added.

 

 
 
  

Cadiz - The Harrison County Farm Bureau honored State Senator Lou Gentile (D-Steubenville) this week by presenting him with the organization's Friend of Agriculture award at a meeting in Cadiz.  The award recognizes Sen. Gentile's committment and dedication to Ohio's number one industry--agriculture. Sen. Gentile serves as the ranking Democrat on the Senate Agriculture committee.

 
 
  
 
Senator Schiavoni Proposes Grant Program For Bullying Prevention
Funding targeted at helping Middle School age children
October 21, 2014
 
 

Columbus – Today Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) introduced Senate Bill 373 to create the School Bullying Prevention and Education Grant Program.  The bill’s introduction coincides with October being Bullying Awareness Month.

“I’ve had the opportunity to see the harmful of effects of bullying in schools in my district and throughout the state,” said Senator Schiavoni.  “After talking to students, parents, and school administrators it is clear that this is a problem we need to take seriously. The goal is to prevent these incidents from occurring and I want to ensure that school districts have the flexibility to decide how they want to enhance their existing programming.”

The legislation creates a grant program that would offer one time funding to school districts based on the size of their student population. The State Board of Education would oversee the program and application process. The funding is to be used specifically at middle schools, a time when intervention, education, and awareness is crucial for students.

“I’ve worked to address this issue in previous legislation but this new bill helps school districts with the financial resources they need to provide the type of programming that will make a lasting impact,” said Senator Schiavoni. “We have nearly $1.5 billion sitting in the Rainy Day Fund and the $1.85 million that would be dedicated to this program is a worthwhile and reasonable investment.”

Senator Schiavoni’s previous legislation on the topic includes the dedication of a week in October as Non-Violence week and a bill titled the Jessica Logan Act which added cyber-bullying to the definition of school anti-bullying policies. 

 
 
  
 
Senator Skindell Calls For Joint Health Committee Hearing On Ebola
Request for Director of Dept. of Health to Brief Legislators
October 15, 2014
 
 

Columbus—State Senator Michael J. Skindell (D-Lakewood) today sent a letter to the chairpersons of the House and Senate Health Committees requesting a joint meeting for the purpose of hearing testimony from state health officials.  The request follows news that a healthcare worker with the Ebola virus visited Akron and the greater Cleveland area this week.

Dear Chairwoman Jones and Chairman Wachtmann:

Due to the recent developments of a healthcare worker infected with the Ebola virus travelling to Northeast Ohio, I am respectfully requesting a joint meeting of the Senate Medicaid, Health, and Human Services committee and the House Health and Aging Committee. Testimony from Ohio Department of Health Director Richard Hodges and healthcare experts is imperative to ensuring that correct knowledge of the Ebola virus is heard and the safety of our constituents is guaranteed.

Please feel free to contact my office with questions or concerns.

Sincerely,

Sen. Michael J. Skindell                                                                                                        

 
 
  
 
Senator Schiavoni Introduces Bill To Protect Injured Workers
Legislation provides disability assistance for brain and spinal cord injuries
October 09, 2014
 
 

Columbus – Today, Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) introduced legislation that would make an individual eligible to apply for disability compensation when a brain or spinal cord injury causes the loss of use of a body part.  Senate Bill 368 is in response to a recent Ohio Supreme Court ruling, Smith v. Industrial Commission of Ohio, that denied a workers comp claim to an employee of Ohio State University.

The employee suffered brain damage as the result of an accident and remains in a persistent vegetative state.  After approving earlier claims, the Industrial Commission denied a claim for the loss of vision and hearing.  The Supreme Court sided with the commission because the General Assembly has not included the loss of brain-stem function on a list for approved compensation.

“It’s completely unfair and shows the need for closing this loophole in state law,” said Senator Schiavoni.  “I’m concerned the decision by the Ohio Supreme Court will be used to deny future claims for other workers who’ve suffered devastating spinal cord injuries.”

Senator Schiavoni’s legislation changes current law to recognize that the loss of function of a body part related to a brain or spinal cord injury.  SB 368 also requires a medical examination and review by the Bureau of Worker’s Compensation to determine whether the individual would be eligible for partial or permanent disability compensation benefits.

 
 
  
Photo courtesy Herald Star

Steubenville-- State Senator Lou Gentile took part in a groundbreaking ceremony to mark the beginning of construction for apartments in Steubenville that will provide permanent housing for homeless individuals and famlies.  The $1.8 million Lighthouse Haven project is being built at North Sixth and Dock Streets.

"It speaks volumes of the community helping those who need it. Without safe and affordable housing, it would be difficult to overcome the challenges (persons) face," Sen. Gentile said.

 
 
  
 
Senator Gentile Holds Town Hall Meeting In Martins Ferry
Discusses severance tax and creating jobs in the oil and gas industry
October 08, 2014
 
 

By KAYLA VAN DYNE - Staff Writer, Times Leader

MARTINS FERRY - A town hall meeting featuring State Sen. Lou Gentile was held Monday night at the Belmont County District Library.

Gentile covered multiple issues that have been on the minds of many Martins Ferry residents. One of the biggest has been the state severance tax.

"It is still uncertain about whether or not the severance tax will be debated and finally passed at the end of this year," said Gentile. "The Senate president has indicated that we may take more time with it, however, I don't think this issue is going to go away."

Gentile feels that it if it is not addressed immediately after the November election that it will come back in January.

The severance taxes come into play when a non-renewable natural resource are exacted within a taxing jurisdiction. In this case, the non-renewable natural resource is oil and gas, which is quickly growing in the area.

Gentile went on to say that in a recent Columbus Dispatch article, Ohio Gov. John Kasich stated that he was adamant about seeing the severance tax through.

"The issue before us now and I am glad that Mayor Paul Riethmiller asked me talk about it is this severance tax issue," said Gentile. "The House has passed this legislation and the Senate has, I believe, one hearing in what they call a sponsor hearing. We have had no further hearings and there is a great deal of uncertainty about what will happen in the future with respect to that the senate president has indicated that he may hold off for a little while first."

Gentile feels that the severance tax is an issue that the Senate needs to continue to talk about.

"Let me say this, we are in the very early stages of this oil and gas development and throughout this process and this goes for all of our natural resources that we can, in a responsible way, an environmentally friendly way, develop our natural resources here in Eastern Ohio, whether it be oil and gas or whether it be coal," said Gentile. "I think we have under our feet some great reserves if we can unlock them, but we have to do it responsibly and we got to make sure we are holding people accountable."

Gentile states that is what he has tried to do throughout this entire process and treat them like he would any other industry. He has also tried to work with them and have these industry hire more local people.

"I think if they are going to come here and exact our resources, then they have an obligation to work with Ohio companies, Ohio businesses and Ohio workers," said Gentile. "In private meetings that I have had with these companies, I have strongly encouraged them to consider our workforce and local suppliers. And I will continue to do that."

(This news story appears courtesy of the Times Leader newspaper.)

 
 
  
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