COLUMBUS—Today, State Senator Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights) released the following statement after the Ohio Senate confirmed him as Minority Leader by unanimous vote. The Northeast Ohio Democrat was elected to the top position by members of his caucus last Wednesday.  

“It is an honor to be confirmed as Minority Leader by the Ohio Senate. This tremendous opportunity comes at a time when the Senate has a lot of work to do very quickly. It will involve the entire Caucus and staff working together for a common goal – to represent 11.5 million Ohioans who deserve a voice in their government. 

“I have dedicated my career to working on issues that improve quality of life. This is consistent with our Caucus’ past agenda, and it will shape our agenda going forward. I look forward to working with the Senate President to make sure Ohioans’ priorities are the Senate’s priorities.” 

A video of Minority Leader Yuko discussing his new role can be viewed here.

 
 
  
 
Senator O'Brien Responds To Proposed Ohio House Budget Changes
NE Ohio Senator praises some lower chamber revisions, is critical of others
April 25, 2017
 
 

COLUMBUS - Today, State Sen. Sean O’Brien (D-Bazetta) responded to the version of the state biennial budget bill, House Bill (HB) 49, that was proposed by the Ohio House of Representatives.  Among other things, this version of the budget set to be voted on by the House cuts “all-funds spending” by roughly $2.5 billion for fiscal years 2018-2019, adds additional funding to the governor’s proposed budget for fighting the opioid epidemic in Ohio, and provides more funding for K-12 education.

“The budget version that was delivered to the House today for consideration does some very good things for my district and the greater state of Ohio, but it is still going to require a lot of work here in the Senate,” said Sen. O’Brien.  “While I was happy to see more funding to fight the scourge of opioid drug addiction, as well as an increase in funding for most of the schools in my district, I’m concerned about cuts to Medicaid that are still included.” 

House committee members inserted an additional $170 million in new resources over the next two years to fight the recent opioid crisis that has been plaguing Ohio. This includes $12.2 million for prevention, $19.4 for mental health services, drug courts, and drug lab reports, and $130 million for addiction treatment.  Additionally, the current version of HB 49 proposes an increase of roughly $80 million over the biennium for K-12 education.  However, due largely to warnings from the state Office of Budget and Management that revenue estimates would likely be reduced by around $800 million over the biennium, cuts to Medicaid entitlements totaling hundreds of millions of dollars were included in the bill by House GOP leaders.

“Lower income Ohioans who disproportionately rely on Medicaid services for healthcare should not have to bear the burden of the Kasich administration’s failure to accurately project budget estimates for the next two years,” continued O’Brien.  “During the budget’s time in the Senate, I will do all I can to ensure that the final version of the bill signed by the governor is as beneficial as possible to all my constituents in the 32nd Senate District.” 

In addition to the budget changes outlined above, the current version of HB 49 authorizes credit unions to participate in state linked deposit programs, revises fees for county recorder charges, allows for cashless lottery sales using a debit card, expands video poker to racinos, and reduces the number of sick days for university employees from 15 to 10, among many other things.  The House is set to vote on the budget late the week of May 1st.  Finance Subcommittee deliberations on the budget bill are tentatively set to begin the week of May 1st in the upper chamber, with a full Senate floor vote slated for some time in late June.

 
 
  

COLUMBUS - Today, Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) issued the following statement regarding the House version of the state operating budget: 

“I have said for months that tax cuts should not be a priority when our schools are not adequately funded and our state is facing the worst public health crisis in decades. It appears the House has listened to the cries of their constituents and their communities. But the heroin epidemic is not going to be fixed overnight. We must keep Medicaid expansion and continue increasing investment in our state’s treatment infrastructure in order to make any long-term progress.

"While I appreciate some positive changes that my colleagues in the House made to Governor Kasich’s budget, there are still troubling aspects. I oppose any efforts to quietly slip in major changes to charter school sponsor evaluations. We should be strengthening accountability in charter schools – not weakening them.”

 
 
  

CLEVELAND - Today, Senator Williams (D-Cleveland) spoke at a press conference with leaders from the city of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County to advocate for the Quicken Loans Arena deal. 

“I am here to confirm my support for the Q deal and press upon Council the importance of protecting and growing investments the citizens of this region have already made. As a member of the legislature, I've worked extremely hard to bring dollars back to this district for economic development and workforce training--because that's what the citizens have asked of us. Opposing a deal that helps to grow our economy is unwise!” 

Senator Williams wrote a letter of support to the Cleveland Plain Dealer for the original “Q Deal” and now supports the three new agreements that have been added. First, the Cleveland Cavaliers have guaranteed that, for every dollar of admission tax that goes toward financing the renovations, one dollar will also go to the city's general fund. Second, the Cavaliers have agreed to resurface every basketball court at Cleveland recreation centers across the city. Finally, the Cavaliers will donate all the proceeds from away game watch parties to Habitat for Humanity in order to restore 100 homes across Cleveland over the next three years.

“I support this deal because I support job growth, economic development, and workforce training. The region is growing in high paying, in-demand jobs as old industries are being reimagined. Public dollars coupled with private investments have helped this region grow," added Senator Williams. "This shouldn't be about us versus them. Contrary to what some would have you believe, this deal is not about investing in a millionaire. It is about investing in ourselves and our region to improve our future.”

 
 
  

Columbus—Today, Ohio Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) resigned his leadership position, effective next week, to concentrate on his campaign for governor. The members of the Ohio Senate Democratic Caucus unanimously elected Kenny Yuko of Richmond Heights to replace him as Minority Leader.

“It’s been an honor to serve as Minority Leader for the past three years,” said Senator Schiavoni.  “I am proud of how our caucus has fought to give all Ohioans a fair shot and stood up for our schools and communities in the face of Republican budget cuts.  Together, we have been a strong voice for millions of Ohioans at the Statehouse and I know that will continue under Senator Yuko’s leadership.”

Senator Yuko will take over as the Senate’s highest-ranking Democrat on April 26th, the date of the next Senate session. 

“I am grateful that my colleagues have given me the opportunity to serve as their leader,” said Senator Yuko. “We have a great team and we’ll work hard every day to protect working families, promote access to quality health care and improve Ohio’s economy. During the upcoming budget debate in the Senate, we will fight to ensure our schools and communities have the resources they need and deserve.”

Senator Yuko represents the 25th Senate District, which includes the eastern portion of Cuyahoga County and part of Lake County.  He spent 25 years as a union organizer before he joined the General Assembly, first as a member of the House of Representatives in 2005 and then as a Senator in 2015. 

Senator Schiavoni, who served as Minority Leader since December of 2013, will continue to represent the Mahoning Valley and the 33rd Senate District.

“I look forward to serving on committees again, hearing testimony from Ohioans and working on more legislation to help the citizens of this state,” added Senator Schiavoni.

 
 
  
 
Sen. O'Brien Lauds PUCO Approval Of Natural Gas Settlement
11th-hour deal reached between Commission and Ohio Rural Natural Gas
April 18, 2017
 
 

Columbus- State Sen. Sean O’Brien (D-Bazetta) responded today to a deal reached between the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) and the soon-to-be defunct gas provider, Ohio Rural Natural Gas (ORNG).  Under the settlement, northeastern Ohio natural gas customers who were previously told they would be forced to pay to switch to a different provider will be allowed to keep their current service with no additional charge or gap in service.

“The agreement reached yesterday between the PUCO and ORNG is the result of intensive discussions over the last couple of months, and it means that hardworking citizens in my district will not have to go a single day without gas or pay to switch providers,” said Sen. O’Brien.  “I applaud the work of individuals on both sides of this issue for coming to an agreement that both ensures the safety of my constituents, and resolves concerns surrounding ORNG.” 

Concerns about ORNG’s natural gas delivery system arose initially after repeated safety violations by the gas company, which eventually totaled 37 over the course of 14 months.  The issue came to a head on January 18th with the PUCO’s order for ORNG to cease operations by March 1st.  However, under this initial order, customers themselves would have been forced to find and pay for an alternative source of heating gas by the date of the shutoff while ORNG worked to fix the situation.  Extensive pushback from consumers, as well as state and federal lawmakers, who were concerned about shutting off the residential gas supply to dozens of Ohioans during the cold weeks of early March, resulted in the PUCO pushing the initial shutoff date back to April 17th

“Thankfully, an agreement was reached in the 11th hour, prior to the shutoff deadline yesterday,” continued O’Brien.  “My office will continue to monitor this situation, but I’m happy to report that, as of this morning, the pilot lights of everyone formerly serviced by ORNG were still on.”

Under the new settlement terms, ORNG will turn over all control of its assets and operations by Monday, May 15th, to a newly created entity, Ludlow Natural Gas LLC.  Ludlow, in turn, has been charged with selling or transferring those assets to a PUCO-approved entity by July 15th, after which it too will cease operations.  Until then, Utilities Technologies International Corporation will be retained to oversee compliance with the PUCO’s orders and ensure that strict safety requirements are met.

 
 
  

Columbus—Today, Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) released the following statement in response to Governor Kasich's announcement of additional budget cuts:

“Today we learned once again that more income tax cuts don’t lead to more revenue. Governor Kasich has been in office for over six years, yet he blames everyone but himself for the struggles that Ohioans face every day. Even some Republicans in the General Assembly are beginning to question the Governor’s fixation with cutting income taxes for the wealthy. And they should. Job growth and household income in Ohio are worse than the national average. It’s time for Governor Kasich to take responsibility for the consequences of his disastrous economic policies.” 

 
 
  
 
Trumbull County Highway, Bridge To Memorialize Ohioans Killed In Vietnam
Amendments from Senator O'Brien will re-name sites in honor of local victims
April 12, 2017
 
 

Columbus- State Sen. Sean O’Brien (D-Bazetta) announced today that his amendments to the General Assembly’s recently signed biennial transportation budget bill, House Bill (HB) 26, will re-name a highway and bridge after two Trumbull County citizens killed during the Vietnam War.  Once the bill is enacted, the bridge spanning Meander Creek in Niles along state route (SR) 46 will be known as the “Sgt. Bruce R. Jones Memorial Bridge”, while SR 7 in Trumbull County between SR 82 and SR 62 will be known as the “Virginia E. ‘Ginny’ Kirsch Memorial Highway.” 

“I was happy to have my highway and bridge re-naming amendments included in this year’s transportation budget bill,” said Sen. O’Brien.  “The two individuals being memorialized through this legislation paid the ultimate price as a result of the war in Vietnam, and it is only right that they should be honored for their sacrifice all these years later.”

With the tragic distinction of being the first Ohioan named on the Vietnam Memorial Wall, Sgt. Bruce R. Jones was a resident of Niles serving with the 13th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, 13th Air Force when he was killed on August 10th, 1961.  Ginny Kirsch, a graduate of Brookfield High School, was in Vietnam serving with the American Red Cross “Donut Dollie” program, which sent teams of young women to conduct morale-boosting audience participation programs for soldiers stationed there, when she was senselessly murdered in her quarters at the 25th U.S. Infantry Division base camp at Cu Chi, Vietnam during the middle of the night on August 16th, 1970.

“The sacrifices made by Americans during wartime come in all shapes and sizes,” continued O’Brien.  “Although some might not serve on the front lines directly, the fact that these two brave Ohioans were killed abroad as a result of their wish to contribute to our country’s efforts in Vietnam more than warrants the renaming of these sites in their memory.” 

Governor Kasich signed HB 26 on March 31st.  Since bills not containing an emergency clause go into effect 90-days after the governor’s signature, the new road names are set to take effect on June 31st.  Official memorial signs will be installed at the highway and bridge sites by ODOT crews on or around that date. 

 
 
  
 
State Board Releases Funds For Additional DODD Community Assistance Projects
State dollars to fund purchase of community home in Trumbull County
April 11, 2017
 
 

COLUMBUS - State Senator Sean O’Brien (D-Bazetta) announced today the release of funds by the state Controlling Board to be used to purchase a new community home in Trumbull County.  Released at the request of the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities (DODD), capital appropriations totaling $568,626 will be released, with $225,000 of that money going to purchase a community home at a location in Trumbull County that has yet to be determined.

“I was glad to receive word of the funds made available for another new community home in my district,” said Sen. O’Brien.  “There is always more we can do to help those living with developmental disabilities in Ohio, but steps such as this bolster my optimism that the state is attempting to do its part to ensure our friends with disabilities are able to live the fulfilling lives they deserve.”

As the second Controlling Board item in three months to provide benefits to the disabled community in Trumbull County, this release of funds is similar to one from February that provided state dollars to fund the construction of two new community homes.

“While I was disappointed with the DODD’s decision to close the Youngstown Developmental Center last year, it is encouraging to see them now taking strides to increase housing availability in my area of the state,” continued O’Brien.  “Developmental disability advocates in the Mahoning Valley are still working to mitigate the damage done by the closing of that facility, but these funds will go some way toward improving the situation in my district.”

In addition to the funding being directed toward Trumbull County, the remainder of the funds released by the Controlling Board on Monday will go to fund DODD Community Assistance Projects in Hamilton, Ottawa, Pike, and Wyandot Counties.  The use of these funds is secured by a 15-year participation contract between the funding recipients and the DODD under terms outlined in the Ohio Revised Code.

 
 
  

Columbus – Today, Senator Charleta B. Tavares (D-Columbus) called for an immediate and thorough investigation into the actions of Columbus Police Officer Zachary Rosen who, Saturday morning, violently kicked a restrained suspect.

A video showed the suspect, Demarko Anderson, had already been restrained on the ground by another officer when Officer Rosen arrived at the scene and deliberately kicked Mr. Anderson in the face. Officer Rosen was also involved in the controversial shooting of Columbus native Henry Green who was killed last year. In that incident, Rosen and another officer opened fire on Mr. Green, allegedly without identifying themselves as police officers.

"The officer involved in the April 8th apprehension of a Columbus suspect was abusive and deliberative. He walked over to the suspect, who was already under control, to kick the individual in the head while he was on the ground and handcuffed. This officer has shown a pattern and practice of abuse and excessive force having been involved in the controversial and questionable shooting of Henry Green.  We cannot allow this behavior to continue with anyone who is sworn to protect and serve all residents of Columbus,” stated Senator Charleta B. Tavares, Assistant Minority Leader. “This officer appears to have issues with power, violence and excessive force." 

Since the incident on April 8th, Officer Rosen has been assigned to non-patrol duty indefinitely.

 
 
  
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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. 



 
 

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: