COLUMBUS – This week, Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) introduced S.J.R. 3, a resolution to address water quality issues throughout Ohio. The resolution would permit issuance of state bonds to help preserve and expand sewer and water capital improvements for municipal corporations, counties, townships, and other government entities.
“Ohioans need water that is safe and clean,” said Senator Schiavoni. “We can help meet this need throughout the state without forcing families to bear additional cost. This is a collaborative solution to a critical problem that will enhance quality of life in our communities.”
If voters approve the resolution, the General Assembly may issue not more than $100 million each fiscal year over 10 years for sewer and water capital improvements, injecting $1 billion into targeted infrastructure investment. This grant program would be fiscally responsible and would keep finances well below the constitutionally mandated debt cap of 5%.
“We have the opportunity to improve our drinking water, lower environmental hazards, and increase protection for our natural resources, all while creating thousands of jobs and boosting the economy,” said Senator Schiavoni. “This is good legislation. I hope we can get it passed quickly.”
According to the latest finalized assessments conducted by all states and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Ohio has needs totaling about $15.5 billion in wastewater infrastructure and $12.2 billion in drinking water infrastructure. There is extensive documentation of water quality problems directly affecting Ohio residents and widespread support across political lines for addressing the issue.
Columbus – Today, Senator Tom Sawyer (D-Akron) called on the Ohio Department of Education to stop stonewalling public records requests related to the omission of online school data from charter school sponsor ratings. Senator Sawyer submitted his public records request on August 4, 2015. Today, he released the following statement regarding his unfulfilled request:
“By definition, public records belong to the public. The information I requested is necessary to evaluate misconduct that all parties admit occurred at the Department of Education, and to hold those responsible accountable for their actions. Given the complete absence of a transparent, independent, review of this matter, I consider it my responsibility as ranking member of the Senate Education Committee to provide oversight.
“It is frankly outrageous that the Department of Education is stonewalling media and legislators in their refusal to produce these records. Though called a ‘request,’ the law does not give the Department the option to refuse; they have no choice but to reply. As we have seen in recent days, the Department of Education is failing to meet its obligations. Three weeks later, the Department has not even acknowledged receipt of my request. That is unacceptable.
“Superintendent Ross was quick to say that David Hansen acted alone in omitting data from failing online schools. If that were true, why is it taking so long for the Department to verify Ross’ claim? Shouldn’t they jump at the chance to do so? The public deserves to know the full story.
“The requested records should be promptly provided to my office and to the multiple media organizations that have asked for them. If this does not occur, I will evaluate every available recourse, including, if necessary, legal action to compel the Department of Education to comply with the law.”
Sen. Sawyer’s original letter to the Department of Education is posted below.
Senator Sandra Williams (D-Cleveland) released the following statement on the passing of Ohio’s first black congressman, Louis Stokes:
“My heartfelt condolences and prayers go out to Mrs. Stokes and his entire family. Congressman Stokes was a compassionate leader who was always willing to provide valuable advice to me and others who were willing to listen. His leadership on civil rights, social justice, and voting rights helped to propel the African American community through very challenging times. His presence will be missed but his advice and legacy will live on forever.”
Congressman Stokes represented Cleveland’s east side for thirty years in the U.S. House of Representatives. Stokes was the Third Chairman on the United States House of Representatives Select Committee on Assassinations, charged with investigating the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and former President John F. Kennedy. Stokes attended Case Western Reserve University on the G.I. Bill after serving in World War II. He went on to earn his Doctor of Law degree from Cleveland Marshall College of Law.
COLUMBUS– Senator Charleta B. Tavares (D – Columbus) today criticized Secretary of State Jon Husted and the majority of the Ballot Board for excluding opponents of State Issue 2 from drafting an official argument against the anti-monopoly amendment. The argument written by the Secretary of State’s Office and adopted by the board includes inflammatory words that do not accurately reflect the view of opponents.
“People who oppose a ballot amendment should be the ones writing the argument against it. That’s just common sense,” said Senator Tavares. “I joined with other legislators in voting against the so-called anti-monopoly amendment because it limits Ohioans’ ability to amend the state constitution and it could have unintended consequences.”
The last time the General Assembly placed an amendment on the ballot without unanimous support (a proposed amendment to raise the retirement age of judges), legislators who opposed the amendment wrote the ballot arguments against it. This time the Senate President and Speaker of the House failed to appoint anyone to write the opposition argument despite recommendations by minority leadership to appoint Senator Tavares and Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland). The result was a process that did not include any women or minority appointees.
Senator Tavares and Rep. Howse wrote and submitted an opponent argument, but the Ballot Board rejected it.
“Ohio voters deserve to hear two opposing points of view when they are deciding how to cast their ballots,” said Senator Tavares. “It’s wrong to play games that tilt the playing field one way or another. Issue 2 should pass or fail on its own merits. That’s how our system is designed to work. That’s democracy.”
COLUMBUS—Today, State Senator Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati) introduced legislation to make driving without a front license plate a secondary rather than primary violation. With this change, law enforcement officers would be unable to stop motorists strictly because their vehicle does not feature two license plates. Senate bill 202 is entitled the, “Dubose Was a Beacon Act.” The title is a reference to Samuel Dubose, who was killed in an encounter with a University of Cincinnati police officer last month after being pulled over for only displaying one license plate.
“There is consensus that minor traffic violations should not end with the deaths of any more of our citizens,” said Senator Thomas. “This legislation further limits the likelihood of contentious and potentially violent encounters between police and citizens.”
Law enforcement groups from across the state voiced opposition to legislative proposals that would completely eliminate the front license plate requirement, arguing that vehicles having two plates are easier to identify for the purposes of criminal investigations. Senator Thomas was mindful of this perspective, as he initially advocated for a complete elimination of the front plate.
“From an enforcement standpoint, officers cannot possibly stop every car that doesn’t have a front plate. Selective enforcement of current law has been biased and proven to be impractical,” said Senator Thomas. “However, after listening to the concerns of several agencies, I decided to proceed in the spirit of compromise. I am confident this legislation will attract bipartisan support, as similar language in the House already exists with co-sponsorship from members of both parties.”
Columbus--August 6th marks the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act into law. In the video above, Senators Charleta B. Tavares (D-Columbus), Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati), Tom Sawyer (D-Akron) and Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights) discuss the significance of the landmark legislation.
Honorary resolutions commemorating the Voting Rights Act will be introduced by Reps. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) and Alicia Reece (D-Cincinnati) in the House and Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) and Senator Charleta Tavares (D-Columbus) in the Senate.
Here is what Democrat senators are saying about the anniversary of the Voting Rights Act:
Senator Charleta B. Tavares (D-Columbus): "We recognize this anniversary because the work is not finished. We have citizens who are still being disenfranchised with new 'Jim Crow' and voter suppression tactics to silence them and take away their voice – African Americans, people of color, students, older adults, ex-offenders etc. The tactics have changed, the geographies have changed, however; the results and negative impacts on our democracy are the same –disenfranchisement.”
Senator Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman): "The Voting Rights Act is a strong demonstration of our nation’s belief in the power of the people. It remains a crucial protection for those whose opinions others would like to stifle. Our vote is our voice, and every American deserves a say in the issues affecting their lives. "
Senator Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati): “Access to the ballot is a fundamental right and its importance cannot be understated. The long struggle that led to the Voting Rights Act is painted with the blood, sweat, and tears of activists who courageously sacrificed for the advancement of a more perfect Union. The 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act is a reminder of its continued relevance in our democracy and it is my hope that this landmark legislation will be fully reauthorized by Congress, defended by the Supreme Court, and enforced by the President of the United States.”
Senator Capri S. Cafaro (D-Hubbard): “The Voting Rights Act represents a vital part of American History. The 50th anniversary should serve as a reminder to all of us that we have come a long way, but still have very far to go. It is my hope that we move forward and strive to remove all barriers to voting, making it truly equal.”
Senator Lou Gentile (D-Steubenville): “We should never forget the sacrifice that was made by so many courageous Americans who fought for passage of the Voting Rights Act. Their contribution to strengthening our democracy should never be forgotten. As Americans and Ohioans we have an obligation to do everything we can to protect voters access to the ballot. Voting rights for all Ohioans is fundamental to a healthy and strong democracy.”
Senator Sandra Williams (D-Cleveland): “As we commemorate the Civil Rights Act, we must recognize the numerous Americans of all races who advocated, marched and made great sacrifices so that all Americans could have an opportunity to achieve the American Dream. But as significant this law has been in dismantling legal barriers to equality, we must remind ourselves that there is still more work to be done to break down remaining barriers to full equality, opportunity, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Columbus-State Senator Lou Gentile (D-Steubenville) announced that the Ohio Coal Technical Advisory Committee (Coal TAC) has approved over $1.8 million in coal development projects, through the Ohio Coal Research Consortium, a program administered by the Ohio Coal Development Office. This program awards funding to Ohio’s public universities involved in research and development with the goal of encouraging the use of Ohio coal in an economic and environmentally sustainable way. Some of the funding will go to research being conducted at Ohio University in Athens.
The first project will focus on research identifying ways to reduce the cost of CO2 capture; the other award will fund research using Ohio Coal and bottom ash to create plastic composites, such as deck material.
Because the USEPA is proposing more stringent regulations on CO2 emissions from coal fired power plants, the Coal TAC approved projects designed to better understand the impact of carbon capture processes on efficiency and economics.
“Protecting Ohio coal is critical to preserving good paying jobs in our region and ensuring reliable and affordable energy”, Gentile said. “Our state must continue to invest in research and the development of new technologies that will help protect Ohio’s coal industry as it faces new environmental regulations.”
Senator Gentile has served on the Coal TAC since 2010. The Ohio Coal Development Office invests in the development and implementation of technologies that can use Ohio's vast reserves of coal in an economical, environmentally sound manner. The TAC funds projects up to $100 million.
“I will continue to work with members of the Coal TAC as we identify ways to invest in new technologies that will promote the use of Ohio coal,” said Senator Gentile.
The committee will reconvene in the fall to give consideration to estimated 5-10 additional project proposals. These proposals will be for larger-scale pilot and demonstration projects. $8 million is budgeted this year for these large-scale projects, and the submission deadline is September 7, 2015, or upon commitment of all available funds.
Columbus—Today, State Senator Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati) released the following statement after a Hamilton County grand jury indicted University of Cincinnati Police Officer Ray Tensing in the shooting death of Samuel DuBose. Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters announced the indictment this afternoon and released video of the incident.
“The video clearly shows that Samuel DuBose was the victim of a police officer who acted with callous disregard for human life. I commend the members of the grand jury for faithfully following the law to advance the cause of justice and honor the memory of Mr. DuBose. Officer Tensing violated his sacred oath to protect and serve the citizens of our community and now he must be held fully accountable.
“A minor traffic violation should never lead to this—a senseless tragedy that has shaken our entire community. The video of the police stop confirms the need for better training and it underscores the necessity for equipping officers with body cameras to ensure they act responsibly and within the law.
“As a former police officer, I know the overwhelming majority of law enforcement officers perform their duties with honor and respect for the communities they serve. However, we must build a culture of accountability to root out misconduct and maintain public trust.”
In the wake of the indictment, Senator Thomas continues to emphasize the importance of proper training and the need for police officers to be equipped with body cameras. Senator Thomas has introduced legislation and proposed amendments to the state budget to provide funding for law enforcement training in de-escalation techniques, cultural sensitivity, and mental health and crisis intervention.
COLUMBUS--State Senator Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati) today joined community leaders in calling for Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters to release video footage, dispatch recordings, and the incident report concerning events that resulted in the death of Samuel Dubose on Sunday in Mount Auburn. Prosecutor Deters has refused to release these items, stating that doing so could “jeopardize my investigation.”
“Since the events of 2001, Cincinnatians have put in a great deal of effort toward building confidence in our justice system, from stronger police-community relations to increased trust in the grand jury process,” said Senator Thomas. “Investigations of previous questionable incidents have been open and transparent, and video evidence has been released to the public within twenty-four hours. A secretive process undermines the progress we have made, and has proven to be a recipe for disaster in cases across the country, from Beavercreek, Ohio, to Ferguson, Missouri.”
Senator Thomas believes the decision to withhold the footage fosters distrust among the deceased’s family and community, and carries no benefit to the investigation or the grand jury presentation. There are also concerns that withholding relevant materials is a violation of the Ohio Public Records Act. A formal request to the prosecutor’s office for footage, recordings, and incident reports submitted Wednesday by the Cincinnati Enquirer was denied.
“The family of Mr. Dubose deserves answers sooner rather than later,” said Senator Thomas. “Defying open records laws would betray the pursuit of transparency, aggravate tensions in the community, and – most importantly – antagonize the family in their time of grief.”
COLUMBUS--Today, Senator Tom Sawyer (D-Akron) and Senator Frank LaRose (R-Copley) introduced S.J.R. 2, a bipartisan resolution that would change the way congressional district lines are drawn in Ohio.
“Now is the time to act to make the process of drawing congressional districts more fair and representative of the citizens of Ohio,” said Senator Sawyer. “This resolution follows the same bipartisan blueprint for drawing state legislative lines that the General Assembly overwhelmingly approved last year. With that in mind, we hope it will receive the same strong support from our fellow lawmakers.”
This coming fall, voters will decide on H.J.R. 12, which creates a seven-person redistricting commission composed of the governor, auditor, secretary of state, two appointees from the majority party, and two from the minority party. The resolution introduced today by Senators Sawyer and LaRose would set rules for this proposed commission, detailing how and when counties, municipal corporations, and townships can be split and combined into districts.
“If we don’t do this now, there’s a very good chance it will be another decade before we can fix congressional redistricting,” said Senator Sawyer. “History has shown us that the closer we get to the next census, the less likely we are to reach bipartisan consensus on reforming the process.”
The U.S. Supreme Court recently put to rest any concerns regarding whether a commission could be used to draw congressional district lines. Therefore, it is important that Ohio act now to take partisan politics out of our redistricting process.
This resolution aims to create logical districts, reduce gerrymandering, and provide fair representation for all Ohioans. Under the resolution, approval of any 10-year redistricting plan requires the support of two minority members of the redistricting commission.
Columbus—Next week, Assistant Senate Democratic Leader Charleta B. Tavares (D-Columbus) will introduce legislation aimed at protecting citizens who record law enforcement and civilian involved incidents. The Eyewitness Protection Act will give a person the right to lawfully record any incident involving law enforcement or the public and to maintain custody and control of that recording and the device used to record the incident.
Columbus—Today, members of the Ohio Senate Democratic Caucus submitted more than 500 amendments to House Bill 64, the biennial state budget. The amendments represent the commitment of Senate Democrats to help Ohio families, grow our communities through targeted investments and increase opportunities for everyone.
Columbus—Today, State Senator Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati) testified before members of the State and Local Government Committee on Senate Concurrent Resolution 4 to urge Commissioner Robert Manfred to reinstate Pete Rose to Major League Baseball. The resolution also encourages the Baseball Writers' Association to consider Pete Rose for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Cleveland—Today, Senator Sandra Williams (D-Cleveland) released the following statement calling for accountability after Judge John O'Donnell found Officer Michael Brelo not guilty of voluntary manslaughter charges in the deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams: