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. 

 
 
  
 
Senator Gentile & Representative Cera Honor Shadyside High School Softball Team
Softball championship win is the first in Shadyside history and the history of Belmont County
July 22, 2015
 
 

SHADYSIDE, OH—Senator Lou Gentile (D-Steubenville) and Representative Jack Cera (D-Bellaire) today applauded the Shadyside Lady Tigers Softball Team for winning the Ohio High School Athletic Division IV state championship.  Sen. Gentile and Rep. Cera presented the team with a Senate and House Resolution honoring players for their efforts and the contributions they have made to the Shadyside community.

“I am tremendously proud of the hard work of the Shadyside Lady Tigers Softball Team,” said Sen. Gentile.  “This is a momentous occasion for the community of Shadyside and for Belmont County. The team’s dedication, talent, and perseverance, as well as the commitment of the team’s coaches and staff, have represented Shadyside and Belmont County well throughout the state of Ohio.”

The state softball championship victory was the first in not only Shadyside history, but also in the entire history of Belmont County.

Sen. Gentile and Rep. Cera presented the Senate and House Resolutions on Tuesday evening at the Mead Township Pavilion, where students, faculty, staff and other community members attended to honor the team.  The Shadyside Lady Tigers have also been recognized by both the Belmont County Commissions and the Mead Township Trustees.

 
 
  
 
Top Democratic Lawmakers Call On State Board Of Education To Remove Superintendent
Say his leadership marked by lack of transparency, accountability
July 20, 2015
 
 

COLUMBUS— Top democratic lawmakers in both the House and Senate today called on the State Board of Education to dismiss Superintendent Dick Ross, citing the recent scandal involving the cover up of failing charter school grades in state evaluations, the plan to takeover the Youngstown public schools crafted behind closed doors, and general lack of accountability to the State Board of Education and the public.

The lawmakers released the following statements today: 

“Under Superintendent Ross’ leadership, the Department of Education has shown a severe lack of transparency and a disturbing disregard for the law,” said Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman). “In just the past week we learned that his department broke the law by hiding the failing grades of some online charter schools run by political friends of the administration.  Superintendent Ross also failed to inform state school board members—the people he works for—that he was meeting behind closed doors to plan a CEO takeover of the Youngstown School District.  Clearly, he can no longer be trusted to lead the department responsible for educating our children. I urge the state board to take appropriate action to relieve him of his duties.”

“The Department of Education under the direction of Superintendent Ross has suffered from a systemic lack of transparency and accountability,” said House Minority Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton). “Ohio families deserve to have honest and accountable leadership overseeing the schools that are responsible for educating their children. I believe the State Board of Education needs to take swift and decisive action by removing the current failed leadership.”  

“The data-scrubbing of failing charter schools from state evaluations is only the tip of the iceberg in the blatant disregard for the law exhibited by the superintendent and his Education Department officials,” said Rep. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo), ranking member on the House Education Committee. “The Ohio constitution does not allow for a rogue superintendent to operate outside the purview of the State Board of Education, but that is exactly what is happening. The superintendent has failed as a leader for our children and their future. The latest corruption in the Department of Education goes all the way to the top, and I urge the state school board to convene a meeting immediately to root it out.”

“It is with deep regret that I join the call for the State Board of Education to remove Superintendent Ross. I have always had great respect for Dr. Ross, but recent events have caused him to lose my trust and the trust of many Ohioans,” said Sen. Tom Sawyer (D-Akron), ranking member on the Senate Education Committee. “At this point, it is clear that Dr. Ross was either in on recent events, or he was totally out of it. Either way, he no longer enjoys the broad confidence needed to serve in such a crucial capacity. I am left with little choice but to ask for his removal.” 

 
 
  

COLUMBUS, OH--Today, Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) sent the following letter to State Auditor Dave Yost requesting that his office launch a special audit of the Ohio Department of Education.  The request follows several news reports that questioned whether ODE may have broken state law by not counting the failing grades of some online charter schools when determining the ratings of their sponsors.

 

Auditor Dave Yost                                                                                     

Office of Auditor of State
88 East Broad Street, 5th Floor
Columbus, Ohio 43215 

Dear Auditor Yost:

As you are aware, reports have surfaced that the Ohio Department of Education excluded certain data from the annual ratings of charter school sponsors.  The exclusion of this data, which measures the performance of online charter schools, may have illegally inflated the ratings of the schools’ sponsors.

I know you share my conviction that the integrity of our education system must be held to the highest standard. There should be no doubts about the institutions to which we entrust our children, and the data used to judge our schools and students must be above reproach.

We have both worked hard to improve transparency and accountability in Ohio schools and provide the best possible education for our children. I have concerns that this current situation possesses traits similar to other recent instances of inaccurate data reporting affecting Ohio schools.

I therefore request that you use your authority under Ohio Revised Code section 117.11(B) to conduct a special audit to determine whether the Ohio Department of Education properly rated sponsors and fully complied with state law.

I would be happy to discuss this further, and thank you for your consideration of this request.

Sincerely,

Senator Joe Schiavoni

 
 
  

Columbus – Today, State Senator Charleta B. Tavares (D – Columbus) announced she has drafted legislation to ensure Ohio taxpayers do not have to pay for State Highway Patrol security when Governor Kasich travels outside the state for campaigning or political fundraising. In addition, the bill requires the cost and payment information for the Governor’s security to be considered a public record unless the out-of-state trip is for official state business or personal travel unrelated to campaign activity.

“No one is saying the Governor should not have adequate security to protect himself and his family,” said Senator Tavares.  “But, if he is running for President, Ohio taxpayers should not have to foot the bill for State Troopers to accompany him to New Hampshire and South Carolina when the trips are completely unrelated to his job as Governor.”

Last week the Governor’s office refused to disclose to the Cleveland Plain Dealer who picks up the tab for security when Governor Kasich goes on out-of-state campaign trips.  That is in contrast to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker—another Republican candidate for Governor—who has announced that his fundraising organization will pay the travel costs for his security detail on political trips, according to the Plain Dealer.

“This legislation requires the openness and transparency that Ohioans expect from their Governor and from someone who aspires to hold the nation’s highest office,” said Senator Tavares.

The bill will be formally introduced Monday during non-voting session in the Ohio Senate.

 
 
  

Columbus –Today, Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) and Senator Capri S. Cafaro (D-Hubbard) sent a letter to Senate President Keith Faber (R-Celina) requesting the Ohio Senate hold a vote to override Governor Kasich’s line-item veto of a provision in HB 64 that would create a Developmental Center Closure Commission.  Senators Schiavoni and Cafaro first proposed the commission as a response to the planned closures of the Youngstown and Montgomery Developmental Centers.

The Senators said the following in explaining the need for the commission: 

“The vulnerable population that resides in these developmental centers is at risk of losing a place they consider home and the caregivers they consider family. It is our responsibility to respond to these quality of life issues with a fair legislative solution that reflects the nearly unanimous disapproval of the closures and its process…We believe that by vetoing this well-vetted and widely supported provision the Governor is ignoring the will of the legislature and therefore the will of the people of Ohio.”

 
 
  
 
Youngstown Residents Speak Out Against CEO Takeover Of School District
Hundreds turn out for town hall meeting on Youngstown School Plan
July 13, 2015
 
 
A crowd of parents, teaches and concerned residents fill the auditorium at McGuffey Elementary School.

Youngstown – Today, a standing room only crowd packed McGuffey Elementary School in Youngstown for a public meeting hosted by Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman), State Representative Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown) and Youngstown Mayor John McNally to discuss the Youngstown School Plan.  Parents, teachers and community residents protested the plan contained in House Bill 70 that gives broad and unprecedented powers to an unelected Chief Executive Officer (CEO) to run the district.

“We all agree that our children deserve the best education we can provide them,” said Senator Schiavoni.  “But, this plan is flawed and the concerns expressed today show there was not enough public input in putting the plan together in the first place.  This is our community and everyone, especially parents and teachers, should be part of the solution. One person should not be given the power to make all the decisions.  We all need to work together to improve the Youngstown schools.”

House Bill 70 started out as legislation to establish Community Learning Centers in school districts across the state—a model for learning that has been successful in Cincinnati.  But, the bill was amended at the last minute to include wholesale changes to the operation of academic distress commissions that oversee troubled school districts including Youngstown.

“Today’s town hall demonstrated that our community cares deeply about our children and our public school system. Local education decisions should be made in consultation with parents, teachers, regional lawmakers, business leaders and local education officials – not by Columbus outsiders who do not understand our unique and diverse community,” said Rep. Lepore-Hagan. “Community Learning Centers offer a holistic learning model that bridges the gap between the classroom and the community. I look forward to proceeding in a constructive, inclusive manner to offer practical alternatives that that will put our children first by preparing them to succeed inside and outside of the classroom.”

HB 70 establishes an appointed Academic Distress Commission that hires a CEO to “exercise complete operational, managerial and instructional control of the district.”  The CEO’s authority includes the following:  replace administrators and staff, make staff reductions, set class sizes, determine curriculum and select instruction materials.  In addition, the CEO has the power to suspend/alter collective bargaining contracts, reconstitute any school as a charter school or close a school entirely.

The plan also gives incentives for students to leave Youngstown schools by giving them vouchers to enroll in private schools and providing bonuses to school districts that accept Youngstown students.

 
 
  

Columbus—This week, Senator Sandra Williams (Cleveland-D) testified to the Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission (OCMC) regarding possible reforms to the Ohio indictment process and the abolishment of grand jury procedure.

“The time is right to reexamine the grand jury process, and many states are looking at the issue,” Senator Williams stated. “Technically we don't know what authority the legislature has compared to the authority of the constitution. So no one seems to know, and it's vague.”

The Judicial Branch of the OCMC and the Administration of Justice Committee have recently examined proposals from the Ohio Task Force on Community-Police Relations regarding ways to improve the indictment process.

“Short of doing away with grand juries, lawmakers could possibly mandate that special prosecutors be appointed in certain cases—especially cases that involve police shootings, “ said Senator Williams. “There is also a chance of legislation being introduced that would give the state attorney general’s office the responsibility of determining whether charges should be filed against law enforcement officers who fatally shoot people.”

Proposed improvements to the indictment process include requiring judicial oversight of the grand jury process, creating an open and transparent process by authorizing release of testimony in certain cases, and mandating that grand juries review all officer-involved deaths or injuries in the absence of independent investigations.
 
Senator Williams discussed problems with the grand jury process in a recent column in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

The OCMC will meet again to discuss the possibility of reforming the indictment process in Ohio. 

 
 
  
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Senator Tavares To Introduce Eyewitness Protection Act

 

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. 



 
 

Senate Democrats Submit More Than 500 Budget Amendments

 

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. 



 
 

Senator Thomas Testifies To Reinstate Pete Rose To Major League Baseball

 

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. 



 
 

Senator Williams Issues Statement Calling For Accountability After Verdict In Michael Brelo Trial

 

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: