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Thursday, June 14, 2007

News and Notes: Ohio

What's going on in the Buckeye State?
The Inspector General has issued his report on Frankie Coleman, finding that she was paid for 56 hours of time when she was not working and that she initially lied to investigators about it. I have more to say about this on the state sub-page.

The opportunity for amendments to improve the statewide video/cable franchising law (Am. Sub. SB 117) has passed and the Ohio House will vote on the measure tomorrow. Bill Callahan declares the law as it stands is "extremely bad news." It strips Ohio communities of their power over cable monopolies, allows cable companies to abandon neighborhoods that they had been serving, and does not guarantee that the new fiber-enhanced video broadband access will be universally (or even widely) available across the state.

The National Rifle Association will push to change the law so that victims of a felony are no longer required to prove that shooting in self defense was justified, and Gov. Ted Strickland (D-New Lisbon) reportedly supports the bill. Just to be clear, a prosecutor could still attempt to prove that a shooting was not justified in a particular case -- it is a matter of shifting the burden of proof from the shooter to the state.

Gov. Strickland has not only vowed to veto a proposed bill to allow electronic betting on archived races at horsetracks, he has now joined with Attorney General Marc Dann to call for a ban on cash prizes from table-top gaming devices that are appearing in bars and restaurants all over the state. Dann's support for a ban has developed out of his frustration with his earlier efforts to enforce the existing legal distinction between outlawed games of chance and permissible games of skill.

The Ohio Senate unanimously passed the state budget in the form approved by the Finance Committee, after Democratic leader Sen. Teresa Feder (D-Toledo) withdrew her proposed amendment that would have imposed stricter accountability standards on charter schools. Fedor hopes to get something done about charter school accountability in the joint conference committee that will attempt to reconcile differences among House and Senate versions of the budget.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Strickland Still Waiting for Assurances on Troop Equipment and Training

After the launch of State Sen. John Boccieri's congressional campaign in North Canton yesterday, Gov. Ted Strickland was asked by a reporter about his letter to George Bush, requesting assurance that Ohioans called up for military duty in Iraq would receive proper equipment and training before deployment. He replied that he has still not heard back directly from the president, but last week he did receive a "cordial" telephone call from the Secretary of the Army. However, that official was not able to give Strickland an affirmative answer to the two questions Strickland had asked, i.e., whether Ohio national guard personnel and reservists will have and be trained with the equipment they need to keep them as safe as possible, and whether the president will refrain from sending them into the war zone until they have that equipment and training. "I think what I am asking of the president is reasonable," said Gov. Strickland, "and I am troubled that I have yet to get an affirmative response."

Listen to the audio of his response here:

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

News and Notes: Ohio

Newsy bits from around the Buckeye State today:

Draft DePiero - Thanks to a new website with an internet petition, now you can add your voice to the chorus urging the popular mayor of Parma, Dean DePiero (D-Parma), to mount a primary challenge to serial long-shot presidential candidate Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Cleveland).

Kucinich's Rant: "It's The Oil, Stupid!" - Speaking of Cleveland's entry in the White House derby, I caught part of his long-sought one-hour floor speech on Iraq yesterday. He laid out his case that the underlying purpose of our presence in that traumatized nation is the greedy interest of big oil companies in vast untapped oil reserves. His case is rendered more difficult to dismiss by the fact that the oil law that the U.S. is pushing Iraq's parliament to pass was largely shaped by those western oil companies and it would grant them huge development opportunities in the country. Jill has the link to the printable version the speech.

Strickland Calls on Bush to Address Gas Price Crunch - Ohio's new governor joined top officials from 16 other states in calling on the president to work with the oil companies to find a long term solution to rising gas prices.

Ohio Senate Approves "Instant Racing" Machines at Race Tracks - The bill would allow the horse racing industry to install machines that allow gamblers to bet electronically on thousands of old races. But ... isn't that a lot like the slot machines that voters emphatically rejected last November?

Dann Proposes Regulating "Skill" Gambling Machines - Betting machines that resemble slots but purportedly require some element of "skill" have sprouted up all over the state. Attorney General Marc Dann (D-Liberty Township) has proposed a plan to test and certify those machines. Yesterday, Dann settled a lawsuit with a manufacturer of two types of such machines, and the settlement allows Dann to hire an independent expert to determine whether that manufacturer's products are based more on skill (which is legal) or more on chance (generally illegal). He wants to expand that testing to all such machines.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

News and Notes: Ohio

A few things making news in the Buckeye State:
Gas Price Spike Continues - Retail gas prices as high as $3.50 are front page news in the Toledo Blade, the Akron Beacon Journal, and the Cincinnati Enquirer, especially with families considering changing their Memorial Day plans due to the expense. CNN is reporting that the current spike is a record-breaker, with the average retail price having exceed $3 for 20 days and having set a new record high every day for the last eleven.

Senate Hearings on Budget Continue - The Dispatch has a story discussing possible changes to the two year, $52 billion budget passed by the House, with Senate hearings on the matter continuing today. Republican senators are talking about increasing the additional funding for higher education that the GOP-led House added to Strickland's proposal (without figuring out a source for the extra money). The basic plan for k-12 educational funding is not expected to change.

Income Tax Credit for Adoption Increased From $500 to $1,500 - Final Senate action was yesterday, and Gov. Strickland is expected to sign.

No Booze At State Fair - The governor rejects proposals to allow beer and wine sales, which are banned except at the final concert at Crew Stadium.

Credit Report Freeze Bill Passes House - A bill co-sponsored by Rep. Timothy DeGeeter (D-Parma) and Rep. Jimmy Stewart (R-Athens) that would enable consumers to freeze, and later temporarily or permanently unfreeze, their credit reports has passed the lower chamber. This is an important improvement for victims of identity theft. It requires payment of fees ($10 to each of the big three credit report agencies to implement the freeze), a feature that rankles consumer advocates. There is a similar law in about 35 other states, and a number of states don't require fees.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

News and Notes: Ohio UPDATED

Lots of things going on with Ohio elected officials:
Gov. Ted Strickand says he will decide today whether to sign Senate Bill 16, the Phil Burress/Citizens for Commmunity Values-backed law to impose additional restrictions on strip clubs. He also said he is optimistic about bringing an expansion project by Rolls-Royce North America to Ohio, although he would not say where.
UPDATE: Strickland has just announced that he will allow the bill to become law without signing it. This will get huge media coverage tomorrow.

Senators George Voinovich (R) and Sherrod Brown (D) announced today that they are co-sponsoring a bill to authorize federal grants in support of early education, which would help states "attract, train, and retain high-quality early childhood educators."

Rep. John Boehner (R-West Chester) and Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Loveland) have spoken out on the proposed immigration reform bill in the Senate, as reported in the Cincinnati Enquirer political blog Politics Extra, with Schmidt adamantly opposing it and Boehner sending a mixed signal that neither rejects nor supports it. Here is part of Boehner's statement:
“America is a nation of immigrants, but we are also a nation of laws – those laws must be obeyed and enforced. The Senate agreement appears to recognize that additional border security measures and more effective immigration law enforcement must come before any other issues are addressed, but I have significant concerns about parts of the Senate proposal - particularly provisions that would reward illegal immigrants who have consistently broken our laws. Republicans look forward to working with our colleagues on common sense reforms to shore up our borders and put a premium on enforcing our laws.”
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Cleveland) has only missed 10 roll calls in the 110th Congress on account of his presidential bid, which is just 2.7% of the votes taken. The other three Congressmen running for President have missed much more: Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) 12.8%, Ron Paul (R-Texas) 14.7%, Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) 24.9%. On the Senate side, Sen. Hillary Clinton is the least absent White House contender at 2.3% of roll calls missed.

Sect'y of State Jennifer Brunner announced a pilot program this morning aimed at getting more young people to vote by distributing voter registration forms and voter information with high school diplomas, calling it "the ultimate civics lesson." Also, information for young people about how to vote absentee and how to become a poll worker is now available on a special section of the Secretary of State web site.

State Senators Tom Sawyer (D-Akron), Dale Miller (D-Cleveland), and Robert Schuler (R-Sycamore Township) are co-sponsoring a bill that would make it a fourth-degree misdemeanor for 911 operators or translators from discussing billing information for translation services before handling an emergency. This proposal follows the drowning death of a 4-year old girl in Franklin County whose non-English speaking parents gave up on their 911 call after the operator brought a translator on the line to explain billing for translation services.

State Sen. John Boccieri (D-New Middletown), an interview with whom was posted on this blog today, will hold a press conference tomorrow at 12:30 pm in the Statehouse Minority Conference Room to announce a bill to bring Ohio law in line with the federal Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act (USERRA). The law would would protect servicemen and women from discrimination because of their service in the Armed Forces, National Guard or other services, and would safeguard their right to reclaim civilian employment following their time in military service or training.
UPDATE: Gov. Ted Strickland (D-New Lisbon) and Ohio Senate leaders will join Boccieri at the press conference.

The City Council of Oberlin voted last night to ask the U.S. House of Representatives to impeach President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Oberlin becomes the first city in the state to pass such a measure.

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