Political news briefs


FLASHBACK: Ohio Election Update: 100% of Precincts Now Reporting

All precincts are now reporting and the unofficial results show 5,449,264 ballots cast with 69.32 percent turnout. The 2016 Presidential General Election’s unofficial results are available at https://Vote.Ohio.gov/.

Additionally, county boards of elections reported that 157,843 provisional ballots were cast. State law does not allow these ballots to be counted until 10 days after the election. Voters who cast a provisional ballot because they were not able to provide proper ID at the polls may return to their county board of elections within seven days of Election Day to provide an accepted form of ID to have their ballot counted.

A county-by-county breakdown of outstanding absentee ballots, provisional ballots cast and overall ballots cast is available by going to the unofficial results website, https://Vote.Ohio.gov/, and clicking on the “Ballots Cast” tab.

AEP Ohio electricity fee hike met with strong resistance at Utilities Commission hearings

At three public hearings over the past week – in Bucyrus, Marietta and most recently in Columbus on April 17 – residents told the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) not to allow AEP Ohio to raise its fixed “customer charge” on monthly electric bills. The customer charge is a mandatory fee that residents must pay on their bill in addition to charges based on the volume of electricity they use.

“When you’re a low-wage family, every penny counts. I know from experience,” said Rev. Dan Clark with Faith in Public Life at the PUCO hearing in Bucyrus. “And as a Christian, I believe it is wrong to take money out of poor people’s pockets to enrich powerful special interests.”

A steep increase in the fixed monthly charge portion of a household’s electric bill, as AEP has proposed, especially disadvantages lower-income and working class Ohioans because the customer charge is the same for a family living in a small or modest-sized home consuming the least energy as for someone in a very large home consuming the most.

AEP Ohio has proposed a nearly 120 percent increase in its customer charge, from $8.40 a month to $18.40 a month. Other utilities in Ohio also have proposals before the PUCO for significant monthly fixed charge increases. Duke Energy Ohio has proposed a 280 percent increase, from $6 to $22.77 a month. First Energy’s proposal would increase its monthly customer charges from $6-$8 up to $18-$25.

“Everybody’s pretty sick of fees and hidden charges you just get hit with and can’t do anything about,” said Rachael Belz with the consumer and conservation group Ohio Citizen Action. “There’s a basic unfairness in saying to a consumer who wants to conserve energy or maybe invest in a more efficient appliance that you’re still going to have pay more no matter what.”

Steep increases in mandatory fixed charges on electric bills have come under widespread opposition around the country because of their disincentive to energy efficiency or home solar investments as well as their disproportionate impact on low energy users who are often those least able to pay more. Analysis of public utilities commission decisions on utility fixed charge increase proposals in the last year finds that the vast majority – 85 percent – were either rejected or reduced.

At the PUCO hearing in Columbus, Matthew Crouch was among those who spoke about how the rate hike will hurt low and fixed income residents: “When you’re getting paid weekly at my level of work that’s a paycheck,” Crouch said. “This is kind of corporate brutalism. Somebody just needs to say ‘this is how it’s affecting me,’ and that’s all I’m doing.”

BROWN STATEMENT ON BUY AMERICA EXECUTIVE ORDER

Brown Asked President Trump to Take Action on Buy America, Fought to Expand Buy America to All American Infrastructure Projects

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today (April 18) issued the following statement on President Donald Trump’s expected executive order on Buy America policies. In January, Brown wrote to Trump asking him to make Buy America rules a top priority when in office and introduced Buy America legislation on Trump’s first day in office.

“President Trump promised Ohioans his Administration would put American workers and American products first, and today’s action is one step toward looking for improvements to Buy America,” said Brown. “But reviewing Buy America alone won’t put construction workers back on the job, and until we apply Buy America to all our infrastructure and public works projects, we will allow this business to go to foreign countries at the expense of Ohio taxpayers.

“It’s simple: American tax dollars should go toward American-made steel that supports American jobs. That’s why I’ve asked President Trump to work with me on my legislation to use American steel and iron and American labor to build all taxpayer-funded infrastructure projects. I hope President Trump will follow his review of Buy America policies with firm action that puts our workers on the job rebuilding our infrastructure using products made here in the U.S.”

Brown applauded a part of the expected executive order that takes aim at the H-1B visa program, which Brown has sought to reform so American workers are given a fair shot at a fair wage for jobs before businesses seek to hire foreign workers through the H-1B visa program. Brown is also pleased the executive order will ensure that the entire steel making process must take place in America to be considered “Buy American.”

Brown led the fight last Congress to restore Buy America provisions to the water infrastructure bill that would have permanently changed the law to require the use of American-made iron and steel products in infrastructure projects. While Buy America rules apply to some federal infrastructure programs, many taxpayer-funded projects still lack rules requiring the use of American-made products. Brown’s proposed legislation would ensure Buy America rules apply to all federally-assisted projects.

Ohio START Expands to Serve Additional Southern Ohio Counties

Attorney General DeWine Increases Grant Funding by an Additional $1 Million

DeWine announced a pilot program to serve families harmed by parental opioid abuse in southern Ohio will expand to serve residents in four additional counties, bringing the total number of counties participating in the program to 18.

Attorney General DeWine announced the creation of the Ohio START (Sobriety, Treatment, and Reducing Trauma) program last month. The program will provide specialized victim services to children who have been abused or neglected due to parental drug use. It will also provide drug treatment for parents of children referred to the program.

Adams, Brown, Lawrence, and Scioto are the newest counties that will receive grant funds to bring Ohio START to their communities.

“I’m very glad Adams, Brown, Lawrence, and Scioto counties have joined this project,” said Attorney General DeWine. “The goal of this program is to stabilize families harmed by parental drug use so that both kids and parents can recover and move forward with abuse-free and addiction-free lives.”

Because more counties are now participating in Ohio START, Attorney General DeWine allotted an additional $1 million in Victim of Crime Act grants to the program. The Public Children Services Association of Ohio, which is administering the grants on behalf of each county, will now receive a total of $4,595,250 to launch the southern Ohio pilot program across all 18 counties.

The other counties involved in the southern Ohio pilot program are: Athens, Clermont, Clinton, Fairfield, Fayette, Gallia, Highland, Jackson, Perry, Pickaway, Pike, Hocking, Ross, and Vinton.

If shown to be successful, Ohio START could expand to more counties in other regions of the state.

More information on Ohio START can be found on the Ohio Attorney General’s website.

Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof Issues Statement on Selection of New Minority Leader

COLUMBUS—Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) issued the following statement today (April 19) in response to the selection of Senator Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights) as the new Senate Minority Leader:

“I congratulate my friend and colleague Senator Kenny Yuko on becoming the leader of his caucus. We’ve all been inspired by the character and determination he’s shown in taking on the toughest challenges, and I look forward to working with him on the important issues facing our chamber and our state in the days ahead.”

Secretary Zinke Announces $34.9 Billion Added to U.S. Economy in 2016 due to National Park Visitation

Report Finds Parks Support 318,000 Jobs Mostly in Hotels, Restaurants, Transportation, Recreation

SAN FRANCISCO – Today (April 19), during National Park Week, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced that 2016’s record visitation of 331 million visitors at America’s 417 National Park Service sites contributed $34.9 billion to the U.S. economy in 2016 – a $2.9 billion increase from 2015. Zinke made his announcement while visiting the historic Presidio of San Francisco at Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Zinke marked National Park Week by also visiting Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon, and Channel Islands national parks.

According to the annual peer-reviewed economics report, 2016 National Park Visitor Spending Effects, the strong economic output is attributed to record visitation and visitor spending in “gateway” communities near national park entrances. The report also found visitor spending supported 318,000 jobs in 2016, with the vast majority of them defined as local jobs, including those in the hospitality, retail, transportation, and recreation industries.

“National Parks are America’s treasure which provide magnificent outdoor recreation opportunities and serve as economic engines for local communities. In my own hometown of Whitefish, Montana, I saw how the popularity of Glacier National Park led to growth of the local outdoor rec and eco-tourism industry. And while traveling to Sequoia and Kings Canyon last week it was exciting to see tourism towns dotting the road to the park,” Zinke said. “This report is a testament to the tangible economic benefits our parks bring to communities across the nation. Visitation numbers continue to rise because people want to experience these majestic public lands.”

Zinke continued, “With continued record visitation it’s time to start thinking about accessibility and infrastructure. Last week, it was great to see the team at Yosemite opening up areas with new wheelchair accessible trails. In the coming years, we will look at ways to make innovative investments in our parks to enhance visitor experiences and improve our aging infrastructure. To ensure visitors continue to have great experiences, we will remain focused on increasing access and addressing the maintenance backlog to ensure we are on the right track for generations to come.”

More than 270,000 of the jobs supported by visitor spending in 2016 exist in the communities that lie within 60 miles of a park. These range from big parks like Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina, which attracted 11.3 million people and supported more than 14,600 jobs, to smaller parks like Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in New Hampshire that attracted more than 42,000 visitors and supported 34 jobs.

“National parks like Yellowstone, Zion, and Gettysburg connect us with nature and help tell America’s story,” said Michael T. Reynolds, acting director of the National Park Service. “They are also a vital part of our nation’s economy, drawing hundreds of millions of visitors every year who fill the hotels and restaurants, hire the outfitters and rely on other local businesses that help drive a vibrant tourism and outdoor recreation industry.”

Visitor spending in 2016 supported 318,000 jobs, provided $12.0 billion in labor income, $19.9 billion in value added, and $34.9 billion in economic output to the U.S. economy. The lodging sector provided the highest direct contributions with $5.7 billion in economic output to local gateway economies and 56,000 jobs. The restaurants and bars sector provided the next greatest direct contributions with $3.7 billion in economic output to local gateway economies and 71,000 jobs.

According to the 2016 report, most park visitor spending was for lodging (31.2 percent) followed by food and beverages (27.2 percent), gas and oil (11.7 percent), admissions and fees (10.2 percent), souvenirs and other expenses (9.7 percent), local transportation (7.4 percent), and camping fees (2.5%).

The report was prepared by economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas of the U.S. Geological Survey and Lynne Koontz of the National Park Service. It includes information by park and by state on visitor spending, the number of jobs supported by visitor spending and other statistics.

Report authors also produced an interactive tool to present data in full color circle and bar graphs. Users can explore visitor spending, jobs, labor income, value added, and output effects by sector for national, state, and local economies. Users can also view year-by-year trend data. The interactive tool and report are available at the NPS Social Science Program webpage: https://www.nps.gov/subjects/socialscience/vse.htm.

National Park visitation grew by 7.7 percent from 2015 to 2016, the centennial year of the National Park Service celebrated with the Find Your Park campaign.

National Park Visitor Spending Contributions to the U.S. Economy 2012-16

Visitation Visitor Spending Jobs Supported Local Jobs Total Output

2012 282,765,682 $14.7 billion 242,712 201,040 $26.8 billion

2013 273,630,895 $14.6 billion 237,599 197,343 $26.5 billion

2014 292,800,082 $15.7 billion 276,960 235,600 $29.7 billion

2015 307,247,252 $16.9 billion 295,339 252,030 $32 billion

2016 330,971,689 $18.4 billion 318,000 271,544 $34.9 billion

FLASHBACK: Ohio Election Update: 100% of Precincts Now Reporting

All precincts are now reporting and the unofficial results show 5,449,264 ballots cast with 69.32 percent turnout. The 2016 Presidential General Election’s unofficial results are available at https://Vote.Ohio.gov/.

Additionally, county boards of elections reported that 157,843 provisional ballots were cast. State law does not allow these ballots to be counted until 10 days after the election. Voters who cast a provisional ballot because they were not able to provide proper ID at the polls may return to their county board of elections within seven days of Election Day to provide an accepted form of ID to have their ballot counted.

A county-by-county breakdown of outstanding absentee ballots, provisional ballots cast and overall ballots cast is available by going to the unofficial results website, https://Vote.Ohio.gov/, and clicking on the “Ballots Cast” tab.