COLUMBUS— Today, State Senator Sandra Williams (D-Cleveland) delivered sponsor testimony to the Senate Transportation, Commerce and Labor Committee on Senate Bill 228, which would prohibit the use of non-compete provisions in employment contracts in the broadcast industry. In Ohio, nearly two dozen radio and television personalities are out of work, in their chosen field, due to non-compete clauses.

During the testimony, Senator Williams said, “This legislation was introduced on behalf of Ohio broadcasters who would like the flexibility to continue to work and live in Ohio immediately after leaving an employer without taking a hiatus from the broadcast industry.”

Eight states and the District of Columbia have enacted some form of legislation barring non-compete agreements in the broadcast industry, including California, Connecticut, Montana, Illinois, North Dakota, Maine, Massachusetts, and New York. Non-compete provisions allow the broadcast industry to circumvent competition for talent among those they compete against in a given media market. This practice causes the employee to either remain with an employer through the completion of their contract, or move to another media market not in direct competition with their employer.

“Non-compete agreements inhibit competition, and serve to tie an employee to an employer without regards for the employee’s true market value,” remarked Senator Williams, “By not taking any action in this area, and by way sanctioning these agreements, the government is essentially putting its thumb on the free market scale.”

 
 
  

COLUMBUS–Yesterday, State Senator Charleta B. Tavares (D–Columbus), Assistant Senate Democratic Leader, gave testimony on Senate Bill 22, which would increase the amount of state funding for local governments. SB 22 would restore cuts made by the Ohio General Assembly in previous operating budgets.

“The Ohio General Assembly slashed the Local Government Fund by half with the passage of H.B. 153 in 2011,” said Senator Tavares. “The cuts amounted to a $400 million reduction in funds for local communities. While the General Assembly has restored some funds over time, local communities are still expected to have $270 million less in 2017 than they had in 2010. We can no longer continue to allow such a significant shortfall in the local government fund.”

Since the initial cuts to the local government fund, communities across Ohio have struggled to provide necessary services. Local property, sales and income taxes have all been insufficient in addressing the loss of state aid. Many communities have been forced to try to pass levies to fill the void. If a local community is unable to pass a levy, the results could be drastic cuts or the elimination of essential governmental services. Ohio currently has a $2 billion “rainy day” surplus, which could help local governments meet basic community needs. 

“Ohio’s surplus is a result of shifting dollars away from local communities, which rely on those dollars to provide basic services,” stated Senator Tavares. “The cuts to the Local Government Fund were made in a time of economic hardship, but that time has passed. The General Assembly must now commit itself to restoring the financial partnership between state and local governments, so local governments may continue to provide much needed direct services at the level Ohioans expect and deserve.”

 
 
  

COLUMBUS - State Senator Charleta B. Tavares (D-Columbus) issued the following statement on the passing of former Director of Ohio Jewish Communities, Joyce Garver Keller:

“Joyce was a passionate advocate for social justice and human rights. She was a long-time friend and constituent whose efforts had a positive impact in Ohio and throughout the country. My thoughts and prayers are with her friends and family at this time.”

 
 
  
 
Two Thirds Of Ohioans Support More Accountability For Charter Schools
PPP poll shows bipartisan support for new legislation
May 02, 2016
 
 

Columbus—According to a new poll released today by Public Policy Polling (PPP), 66% of Ohioans support legislation creating more accountability for public charter schools. Strengthening state law enjoys strong bipartisan support with 74% of Democrats, 62% of Independents and 60% of Republicans backing it.

“This poll shows Ohioans are deeply concerned about how this state’s for-profit charter schools are being run,” said Senator Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman). “Too many tax dollars are being wasted and too many students are falling through the cracks because of lax oversight.  Recent news reports have reinforced the urgent need for more accountability, especially for online charter schools.”

The Columbus Dispatch has reported that three online charter schools—Provost Academy, Lakewood Digital Academy and Akron Digital Academy—exaggerated their enrollment numbers, resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars being overbilled to taxpayers.  In the case of Provost Academy, the school reported enrollment of 162 students, but in reality only 35 students were attending full-time.

Senator Schiavoni has introduced Senate Bill 298 to provide much needed accountability, transparency and uniform standards for online schools, also know as e-schools. The legislation, which includes recommendations from the State Auditor and the Ohio Department of Education, would require online schools to fully account for student attendance and the tax dollars they receive.

Senate Bill 298 is scheduled for a second hearing Tuesday (5/3) at 3:00 PM in the Senate Finance Hearing Room. Recent editorials in the Columbus Dispatch, Akron Beacon Journal and Youngstown Vindicator have supported the legislation. 

Public Policy Polling surveyed 799 registered Ohio voters on April 26th and 27th.  The poll has a +/-3.2% margin of error.

 
 
  
 
Senator Lou Gentile Testifies In Support Of Job Opportunities For Veterans
Legislation would give tax credits to businesses that hire veterans
April 27, 2016
 
 

COLUMBUS, Ohio – This morning in the Ohio Senate’s Ways and Means Committee, Senator Lou Gentile (D-Steubenville) provided sponsor testimony for Senate Bill 18. This bill would give a refundable income tax credit to small businesses that hire qualified veterans and members of the National Guard and reserves.

“Senate Bill 18 is about prioritizing job opportunities for our veterans and military service men and women, with the added benefit of helping Ohio’s small business owners,” said Senator Gentile. “This is targeted tax relief aimed at making sure men and women who have served our state and country have better access to jobs.”

The bill would allow a business owner who hires a qualified veteran to claim a credit of the same amount as the federal Work Opportunity Tax Credit on their state tax return. Qualified veteran is defined by the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, and includes veterans who are long-term unemployed or use the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The amount a business may claim ranges from $2,400 to $9,600, and is outlined by the IRS.

“These are men and women who have served our country and have fallen on hard times. This tax credit is meant to give business owners an incentive to employ Ohio’s veterans,” Gentile added. “Also, they are able to reduce their tax liability and use the money they save to invest back into their business.”

In addition to the provisions allowing a tax credit for hiring veterans, the bill allows for a similar credit to be applied if a business hires a member of the National Guard or reserves. The amount of this credit may range up to $2,400.

Senate Bill 18 will now await a second hearing.

 
 
  

COLUMBUS - Today, the Dayton City Commission voted to pass a resolution in support of Senate Joint Resolution 3 (SJR 3), which would help fund local sewer and water infrastructure improvements statewide. Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman), who sponsored SJR3, testified before the Commission in favor of the resolution.

“I greatly appreciate Mayor Nan Whaley and the Dayton City Commission’s support on this critical issue,” said Senator Schiavoni. “SJR 3 would help local leaders fund water and sewer projects that need the most immediate attention in their own communities.”

SJR 3 would allow the General Assembly to authorize up to $100 million per fiscal year over a 10-year period for sewer and water capital improvements across Ohio, for a total investment of $1 billion. SJR 3 would not raise taxes, and would still keep Ohio well below the constitutionally mandated debt cap of 5%.

“We are at a crossroad," said Senator Schiavoni. "Do we make the necessary investments now, or push this issue down the road for the next generation to fix?”

The most recent report card from the Ohio Chapter of the American Society of Engineers gives Ohio’s drinking water a D+, and its waste water systems a C-. The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates Ohio needs a $14.2 billion investment in wastewater infrastructure, plus an additional $12.6 billion for capital improvements over 20 years.

 
 
  

COLUMBUS – Today, Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) testified in support of his bill – Senate Bill 298 – which would improve attendance reporting and accountability at online charter schools, also known as e-schools.

“If students aren’t logging in, they aren’t learning,” said Senator Schiavoni. “When that happens, tax dollars are squandered and students lose out on the education they need and deserve.”

Senator Schiavoni’s bill follows reports from the Columbus Dispatch that Provost Academy, Lakewood Digital Academy, and Akron Digital Academy exaggerated their enrollment numbers. As a result, these schools over-billed Ohio taxpayers by hundreds of thousands of dollars.

If other Ohio e-schools are overbilling to a similar extent, the state could be overpaying its online charter schools by tens of millions of dollars. Senator Schiavoni’s bill would strengthen reporting requirements and increase transparency to help prevent against overbilling and ensure that student are actually logging in and receiving an education. Three Ohio newspapers – the Columbus Dispatch, Akron Beacon Journal, and Youngstown Vindicator  have written in favor of the bill, which has received widespread bipartisan support.

“I believe e-schools can play a role in educating students who are in unique circumstances,” said Senator Schiavoni. “However, I fear that students who need the most intervention – the ones at risk of dropping out of school entirely – are slipping through the cracks because of the current lax attendance and accountability requirements in these online schools.”

This was the first hearing for Senate Bill 298. It now awaits additional hearings before it can be voted out of committee and sent to the Senate floor.

 
 
  

COLUMBUS – Today, State Senator Tom Sawyer (D-Akron) voted to pass the state’s $2.6 billion Capital Budget, which includes significant funding for projects in the 28th Senate district, including many of the senator’s top priorities. The budget passed the State Senate by a vote of 32 to 1. 

“It is exciting to see our efforts pay off for so many important organizations throughout my district,” said Senator Sawyer. “Though this process doesn’t allow for everyone to receive funding, I’m confident that the projects selected will lead to growth and improvement for Akron and Summit County.”

This year’s Capital Budget includes $160 million for community projects throughout the state. The City of Akron and Summit County will receive funding for 16 projects, totaling more than $6.7 million.

Senator Sawyer personally advocated for many of the projects funded, among them:

  • Renovations of campus buildings at The University of Akron, to house part of the Akron Global Business Accelerator program
  • Expansion and renovation to the Akron Battered Women’s Shelter
  • The addition of the Bud and Susie Rogers Garden at the Akron Art Museum
  • The renovation and expansion of the behavioral healthcare unit at Akron Children’s Hospital
  • A new building at Akron General Hospital to house the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners program.

Senator Sawyer’s projects support an array of worthy causes that benefit businesses, the arts and the health and safety of Akron and Summit County. He is pleased to have steered crucial aid to so many deserving recipients.

"The University of Akron is most grateful to the Ohio General Assembly, Senator Sawyer, and the Summit County Delegation for their support of the Main Street Redevelopment Project,” said Dr. Scott Scarborough, President of the University of Akron. “This project will add another element to the University’s broad-based participation in the region’s economic development, and further enhance our strong relationships with the city’s business and entrepreneurial communities.”

The Capital Budget, typically enacted in even-numbered years, is the vehicle for construction and renovation projects for state agencies, school districts, colleges, and universities.

 
 
  
 
Ohio Legislation Calls On U.S. Senate To Do Their Job, Take Action On SCOTUS Nomination
State lawmakers say U.S. Senate must uphold constitutional duty to advise and consent on Supreme Court nomination
April 20, 2016
 
 

COLUMBUS— State Rep. Dan Ramos (D-Lorain) and State Sen. Michael Skindell (D-Lakewood) today introduced companion legislation in their respective chambers to urge the U.S. Senate to consider the nomination of Appeals Court Judge Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court. The president nominated Garland on March 16, but the U.S. Senate has so far refused to hold hearings to consider his nomination. 

“The U.S. Senate has a constitutional duty to advise and consent, and I believe Ohioans and the American people want their Senators to do the jobs they elected them to do,” said Rep. Ramos. “As a long-serving, well respected jurist—who has already been approved by the Senate for his current position—Judge Garland deserves fair consideration as Supreme Court nominee. Beyond that, Congress established there must be nine justices serving on the Supreme Court. It’s time to get back to working for the American people instead of moving forward with a partisan political agenda.”

Polls show that the overwhelming majority of Americans want the Senate to hold confirmations hearings to consider Garland’s candidacy and to give the experienced federal appellate judge an up or down vote. Historically, the Senate has never failed to vote for a Supreme Court Justice nominee since 1900, and it has never taken them more than 125 days to vote after the President announces his nomination.

“We are asking the U.S. Senate to give Judge Garland proper consideration,” said Sen. Skindell. “Only partisan politics would prevent a highly qualified nominee from making his case through public hearings.”

Garland was appointed to the D.C. federal appeals court by President Bill Clinton in 1997 after being confirmed by a 76-to-23 vote. He has served for 19 years on the court, and was promoted to chief judge three years ago. In 1995, Garland oversaw the investigation into the Oklahoma City bombing, which was the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil at the time.

 
 
  

COLUMBUS—This week, Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) testified before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Senate Bill 269, a bill that would further clarify the responsibilities of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“The Sebring water crisis exposed a lack of departmental oversight in regards to threats to our public water systems,” said Senator Schiavoni. “It is important that we address the failures of both Ohio EPA and the village of Sebring to alert the community after tests revealed elevated levels of lead in local drinking water.”

Last week, Governor Kasich announced plans for a Mid-Biennium Review (MBR) bill to address lead contamination and drinking water concerns throughout the state. Many of the provisions outlined in Governor Kasich’s proposal are identical to what is contained in Senate Bill 269, such as the shortening of the public notification timeline and triggers for additional testing.

“I am glad to see the administration is committed to addressing the critical issue of lead contamination in Ohio’s drinking water,” said Senator Schiavoni. “I hope to incorporate some more ideas from Senate Bill 269 – such as stricter guidelines for when the Ohio EPA should intervene after local water systems fail to notify the public – into the MBR bill. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to tackle this critical issue."

 
 
  
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Senate Democrats Lauch Statewide Tour Of Ohio Schools

 

COLUMBUS - Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) and members of the Senate Democratic Caucus have launched a series of trips around the state to gather opinions from parents and educators on ways to improve education in Ohio.



 
 

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.