Senate debate: Brown vs. Renacci


Staff & Wire Reports

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio speaks during a debate at the Idea Center in Playhouse Square, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Phil Long, Pool)

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio speaks during a debate at the Idea Center in Playhouse Square, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Phil Long, Pool)

Rep. Jim Renacci, R-Ohio speaks during a debate at the Idea Center in Playhouse Square, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Phil Long, Pool)

Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown speaks during a debate at the Idea Center in Playhouse Square, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Phil Long, Pool)

Ohio US senate candidates spar over health care, immigration


Associated Press

Sunday, October 14

CLEVELAND (AP) — Candidates in Ohio’s U.S. senate campaign sparred Sunday over health care, approaches to climate change, student loan debt, immigration, tariffs and gun control in the first of three debates.

Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci repeatedly criticized incumbent Democrat Sherrod Brown as being a Washington insider, citing Brown’s connections to Democratic New York Sen. Chuck Schumer multiple times.

“The problem is Sherrod Brown loves Washington so much and Chuck Schumer that he continues to vote with those policies instead of trying to change those,” Renacci said in one remark, answering a question about student loan debt.

Renacci referred to Brown’s two-decade career as a congressman and senator, claiming he spends little time in Ohio.

Brown said he returns home to his Cleveland home each weekend. In turn, he criticized Renacci as unable to get things done in Washington even though Republicans control both the presidency and Congress.

“They can’t seem to get anything done on immigration or on wages or on trade or on healthcare or on climate change,” Brown said.

Late in the debate, both candidates were asked how the ugly Supreme Court nomination fight in the Senate over Judge Brett Kavanaugh could have been handled differently.

Brown said he decided against supporting Kavanaugh before the judge faced decades-old allegations of sexual assault.

As he has in ads during the campaign, Renacci then accused Brown of a different standard of conduct on domestic abuse, raising Brown’s divorce in the 1980s when his then-wife accused him of domestic violence.

“That situation is a standard of conduct that Sherrod Brown now has violated, and he should not be sitting in a U.S. Senate seat any longer,” Renacci said.

Brown’s ex-wife, Larke Recchie, and her second husband have held fundraisers for Brown and repeatedly asked Republicans to stop using the divorce in political campaigns.

Brown told Renacci his ex-wife has called these attacks despicable. “You should be ashamed of yourself,” Brown said to his opponent.

Asked about combating climate change, Brown said Republicans have been derelict on the subject, saying the U.S. should never have pulled out of the Paris climate accord. He said he supports all forms of energy, including renewable energy.

By contrast, “Our state government and our federal government continue to be in the pockets of the fossil fuel industry,” Brown said.

Renacci said he supports clean air and water, but he said the state can’t walk away from the coal and natural gas industry.

“You eliminate coal and natural gas like the senator would like to do, and energy costs for hard-working Americans are going to go up,” Renacci said.

On health care, Renacci said he supports coverage of preexisting conditions and keeping children on parents’ plans until they’re 26 years old. But he also said the cost of health care is out of control.

“Our health insurance since the Affordable Care Act has gone up 132 percent in this state,” Renacci said. “It’s unacceptable.”

Brown said Renacci voted 20 times to repeal the federal health care act, which would have eliminated coverage for preexisting conditions.

Five million Ohioans have some kind of preexisting condition, and “If Congressman Renacci has his way, they could lose their coverage,” Brown said.

On tariffs, Brown said he supports tariffs enacted by President Donald Trump if they’re done correctly. He noted he has sided with Trump on “Buy America” policies, though he’s also taken on Democratic presidents over trade policies. Brown said Renacci has supported every trade agreement that came before him while he’s been in Congress.

Renacci said he supports Trump’s use of tariffs in a trade war started by China, but he said tariffs should be used on a short-term, not long-term process.

He said he supported trade agreements “because Ohioans wanted it.”

Renacci has aligned himself closely with Trump, whose administration urged Renacci to enter the Senate race after state Treasurer Josh Mandel dropped out because of his wife’s health.

Renacci moved over from the governor’s race to challenge Brown, a longtime fixture in Ohio politics who some see as a potential 2020 national-ticket candidate.

The two have debates planned Saturday in Columbus and Oct. 26 in Oxford.

Gingrich breaks with Ohio’s GOP leaders, backs drug issue


Associated Press

Saturday, October 13

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s support of an Ohio ballot proposal aimed at reducing the state’s prison population by making most drug possession cases misdemeanor crimes places the Republican stalwart at odds with many in his party.

An Oct. 7 column Gingrich co-authored with civil rights activist Van Jones argues that Issue 1 provides a way for Ohio to change course in fighting the opioid crisis. Co-leaders of the nonpartisan Advocates for Opioid Recovery, Gingrich and Jones say Ohio wastes taxpayer dollars locking up people who are suffering from addiction.

“Law enforcement resources need to focus on violent and serious crimes, while states need to take real action to expand treatment for those battling addiction,” Gingrich and Jones said in the column published in western Ohio’s Lima News . “Issue 1 is the type of long overdue change states must make.”

Opponents argue Issue 1 could have unintended consequences, would tie judges’ hands in sentencing drug defendants and would be difficult to fix if embedded into the constitution.

Ohio Supreme Court Justice Maureen O’Connor, a Republican, wrote in an op-ed piece the proposed reforms would have “catastrophic consequences” for the state if possession of the powerful opioid fentanyl, blamed for the bulk of fatal overdoses in recent years, is reduced to a misdemeanor. Under the proposed amendment, possession of less than 20 grams — nearly three-quarters of an ounce — of fentanyl would no longer be a felony that could lead to a prison sentence.

Issue 1 supporters counter that people arrested with anything more than a small amount of fentanyl are almost always charged with felony trafficking.

The measure calls for reducing the purchase, possession or use of drugs such as fentanyl, heroin, cocaine and LSD from felonies to misdemeanors. Jail time couldn’t be imposed until a third drug offense within a two-year period. Savings from reducing the state’s prison population would be earmarked for drug treatment and crime victim programs.

It also allows for reductions of up to 25 percent on the sentences of current inmates who participate in rehabilitation, work or educational programming. Murderers, rapists and child molesters are ineligible for reductions.

Ohio attorney general and Republican gubernatorial candidate Mike DeWine has made opposition to Issue 1 central to his campaign against Democrat Richard Cordray, who supports it. Cordray says that while drug dealers need to serve long prison sentences, Ohio should do more to get low-level drug offenders substance abuse treatment instead of putting them in prison.

In their column, Gingrich and Jones argue the nation’s “current response to drug addiction in America stubbornly relies on obsolete practices and beliefs about addiction and recovery.”

“The opioid epidemic is not partisan, and the solutions are not liberal or conservative,” they wrote. “To solve this horrific problem, we must look beyond political ideology and see facts.”

ICYMI: Rob Richardson appears on AM Joy to talk criminal justice reform

Democratic nominee for Ohio Treasurer Rob Richardson appeared on MSNBC’s AM Joy to discuss his plan to impact criminal justice reform from the state treasurer’s office. You can watch the clip here:

During his appearance, Richardson talked about his plan to have Ohio’s public pension funds divest the tens of millions of dollars currently invested in private prison corporations CoreCivic and The GEO Group. According to Richardson:

“A budget is more than a collection of numbers. It’s a moral document of what you stand for. I find the premise of for-profit prison systems morally reprehensible… Ohio is unfortunately a top incarcerating state because we’re incentivizing locking people up.”

While the treasurer’s office has no statutory powers related to the state budget, Richardson hopes his proposed idea will spur action from lawmakers move away from for-profit correctional systems.

Rob Richardson is a former chairman of the University of Cincinnati Board of Trustees, where he established the U.C. Scholars Academy for students in the Cincinnati Public School District. He also founded the first Next Lives Here Innovation Summit and led the development of the 1819 Innovation Hub where students, faculty, and staff collaborate with entrepreneurs, startups, and others in the private sector.

Richardson has been a longtime advocate for workers as a marketing construction representative. He also serves “of counsel” with the law firm Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, where he practices in securities litigation.

Backers say there’s still time to save Ohio’s nuclear plants


Associated Press

Thursday, October 11

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — A group backed by the owner of Ohio’s two nuclear plants is taking another run at persuading state lawmakers to come up with a lifeline for the plants, which are slated to close by 2021.

The newly formed coalition, the Ohio Clean Energy Jobs Alliance, says that time is running out and that a solution needs to be found within nine months.

Closing the two plants, which produce 14 percent of the state’s electricity, would make Ohio too dependent on natural gas and take away a reliable source of energy, putting the state at risk of blackouts if the supply is interrupted, backers say.

It also would mean the loss of at least 1,500 jobs and millions in tax money for schools and local governments, they say.

“The list goes on and on,” said Jamie Beier Grant, head of an economic development agency in Ottawa County where the Davis-Besse nuclear plant has been producing power since the 1970s.

But opponents argue that a financial rescue for the plants could increase electricity rates across the state.

So far, state lawmakers have turned back proposals to subsidize the Davis-Besse and Perry plants, which sit along Lake Erie.

Many of the nation’s aging nuclear reactors are becoming endangered because they are expensive to operate and maintain and are struggling to compete with cheaper natural gas plants and renewable energy.

New York, New Jersey and Illinois have responded by giving out billion-dollar bailouts that will be paid by ratepayers to stop unprofitable nuclear plants from closing prematurely.

Federal appeals courts have upheld the subsidies in New York and Illinois.

Members of the Ohio Clean Energy Jobs Alliance think Ohio should look at those states to figure out how to save the state’s nuclear industry.

“They have shown the way forward,” said Guy Parmigian, superintendent of a school district that stands to lose millions of dollars if the Davis-Besse plant closes.

Jerry Cirino, a commissioner in Lake County, home to the Perry nuclear plant, said a plan needs to be in place by May or June because that’s when FirstEnergy Solutions must decide whether to commit to close or refuel the Davis-Besse plant.

Once that happens, he said, “there’s no turning back.”

Cirino said he’s still optimistic something will be worked out because other states “discovered the political will to get it done once it got grim there.”

“I don’t think it’s asking the world for people to understand that what’s good for the northern region is good for the state,” he said. “If these two plants close, there would be a ripple effect across the state.”

PUCO deploys natural gas pipeline safety experts to Massachusetts

COLUMBUS, OHIO (Oct. 12, 2018) – The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) today committed to providing natural gas pipeline safety experts to assist the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities’ oversight of natural gas service restoration in the wake of the Merrimack Valley natural gas incident last month.

“Ohio is pleased to lend a helping hand by providing qualified safety experts in a time of need,” stated PUCO Chairman Asim Z. Haque. “Ohio’s safety program routinely scores perfect ratings from the US Department of Transportation.”

Two PUCO natural gas pipeline safety inspectors will work under the direction of the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) over a five-week period beginning October 14. The Massachusetts DPU is charged with overseeing the safe repair and restoration of natural gas service in the Merrimack Valley region. The local utility has committed to repairing or replacing nearly 55 miles of natural gas distribution infrastructure over the next six weeks.

On Sept. 13, 2018, a widespread natural gas outage occurred after an apparent over pressurization of the local natural gas distribution system in Merrimack Valley, affecting thousands.

The PUCO is committed to ensuring the safe, reliable and environmentally sound operation of Ohio’s natural gas pipeline system. The PUCO oversees more than 56,000 miles of distribution lines, which provide natural gas to individual users, as well as more than 10,000 miles of transmission lines and over 1,100 miles of gathering lines. The PUCO’s natural gas pipeline safety program has routinely scored a perfect rating from the the US Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) is the sole agency charged with regulating public utility service. The role of the PUCO is to assure all residential, business and industrial consumers have access to adequate, safe and reliable utility services at fair prices while facilitating an environment that provides competitive choices. Consumers with utility-related questions or concerns can call the PUCO Call Center at (800) 686-PUCO (7826) and speak with a representative.

ODNR Schedules Open Houses to Discuss Abandoned Mine Land Projects

Residents have opportunity to learn about potential remediation projects

COLUMBUS, OH – The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) will host open house meetings the week of Monday, Nov. 5, to discuss proposed abandoned mine land projects in 17 Ohio counties. At the meetings, staff from the ODNR Division of Mineral Resources Management will be available to discuss environmental and public health and safety issues associated with Ohio’s abandoned mines.

Staff will present a list of proposed projects for Athens, Belmont, Carroll, Columbiana, Guernsey, Harrison, Hocking, Holmes, Jefferson, Lawrence, Meigs, Muskingum, Perry, Tuscarawas and Vinton counties. Funds are available for mines abandoned before Aug. 3, 1977, when legislation to address the issue of abandoned mine lands went into effect. Meeting attendees are encouraged to present details of their own abandoned mine concerns and inquire about the potential for funding future remediation efforts.

In November, ODNR will apply for federal construction grant money from the U.S. Department of the Interior to fund abandoned mine reclamation during the 2019 grant period (January 2019–December 2022) throughout the state’s coal-mining region. A total of $11 million is earmarked for the design and construction of emergency and non-emergency public health and safety projects in Ohio.

Below are the meeting dates and locations:

Carroll, Columbiana, Harrison, Jefferson and Stark counties

Monday, Nov. 5, 5-7 p.m.

ODNR Mineral Resources Management

3601 Newgarden Road, Salem 44460

Phone: 243-206-4240

Athens, Hocking, Vinton, Meigs and Lawrence counties

Tuesday, Nov. 6, from 5-7 p.m.

Zaleski ODNR Complex

29371 Wheelabout Road, McArthur 45651

Phone: 740-274-4943

Belmont, Guernsey, Muskingum and Perry counties

Wednesday, Nov. 7, from 5-7 p.m.

ODNR Mineral Resources Management

2050 E Wheeling Ave., Cambridge 43725

Phone: 740-439-9079

Tuscarawas, Holmes and Coshocton counties

Thursday, Nov. 8, from 5-7 p.m.

ODNR Mineral Resources Management

2207 Reiser Avenue SE, New Philadelphia 44663

Phone: 330-339-2207

ODNR ensures a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all. Visit the ODNR website at

Secretary Husted Releases New Business Filings Figures for September 2018

Four out of five companies are now started using Ohio Business Central

Monday, October 15, 2018

COLUMBUS – Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted today announced 9,375 new entities filed to do business in Ohio last month, an increase of 617 when compared to September 2017.

Ohio is currently on track for 2018 to be another record-breaking year for new business filings. Since January, the Buckeye State has seen 96,499 new businesses file, up 5,760 from the same nine-month period last year.

Ohio finished 2017 with 117,429 new businesses registering with the Secretary of State’s office, surpassing the previous record of 105,009 that was set in 2016. Last year also marked the eighth consecutive year the state has seen a record number of new business filings. In all, Ohio has seen a rise of 46.3 percent in filings from 2010 to 2017.

From the time Ohio Business Central was launched until the end of September 2018, the Secretary of State’s Office has processed 453,544 online filings. Today 80 percent of all new businesses are started online through Ohio Business Central, which launched in 2013. In August 2017, Secretary Husted announced that 100 percent of all filings needed to start or maintain a business in Ohio may now be submitted online.

September 2018 marked 35 months since Secretary Husted reduced the cost of starting and maintaining a business in the Buckeye State by 21 percent. This change has saved Ohio businesses over $7.8 million to date.

Secretary Husted’s efforts to cut costs don’t stop there. In fact, he requested a 100 percent cut in the amount of tax dollars needed to run his office, which was approved as part of the state’s budget. Husted’s request is saving taxpayers nearly $5 million over fiscal years 2018 and 2019. Secretary Husted was able to do this because of his wise financial stewardship. During his first term, he reduced spending by $14.5 million, a 16 percent reduction when compared to the previous administration. Secretary Husted is also operating his office with roughly 42 percent fewer staff and payroll costs at the Secretary of State’s Office are at the lowest level in 11 years.

Though the most visible role of the Secretary of State is that of chief elections officer, the office is also the first stop for individuals or companies who want to file and start a business in Ohio. While recognizing these numbers can’t provide a complete picture of Ohio’s jobs climate, they are an important indicator of economic activity that Secretary Husted hopes will add to the ongoing discussion of how to improve the state’s overall climate for business.

NOTE: New business filings are classified as forms filed with the Ohio Secretary of State that declare the formation of a business entity, including for-profit, non-profit and professional corporations, limited liability companies, partnerships, limited partnerships and limited liability partnerships. Filing as a business in Ohio does not guarantee the company will begin operations, be profitable or create jobs.

Columbus Native Serves with U.S. Navy Helicopter Squadron in San Diego

SAN DIEGO – A 1999 West High School graduate and Columbus, Ohio, native is serving in the U.S. Navy with Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 85 at Naval Station North Island in Coronado, California.

Petty Officer 1st Class Joseph Rissi is a Navy aviation ordnanceman serving with HSC 85, a versatile squadron that’s capable of completing a number of important missions for the Navy with the MH-60S “Knighthawk” helicopter.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio speaks during a debate at the Idea Center in Playhouse Square, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Phil Long, Pool) Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio speaks during a debate at the Idea Center in Playhouse Square, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Phil Long, Pool)

Rep. Jim Renacci, R-Ohio speaks during a debate at the Idea Center in Playhouse Square, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Phil Long, Pool) Jim Renacci, R-Ohio speaks during a debate at the Idea Center in Playhouse Square, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Phil Long, Pool)

Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown speaks during a debate at the Idea Center in Playhouse Square, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Phil Long, Pool) Sen. Sherrod Brown speaks during a debate at the Idea Center in Playhouse Square, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Phil Long, Pool)

Staff & Wire Reports