Republican Representative J. Todd Smith (R- Farmersville) recently indicated he will not seek re-election for his Ohio House seat. This ends a Republican primary battle between Smith and Preble County Commissioner Rodney Creech. Creech will face Democrat Amy Cox in November.
The district has been Republican controlled since 2014 but is considered in play by the House Democrats who remarkably shared with Cleveland.com that they are focused on winning only two Ohio House seats this November.
“House Democrats this year are aiming for the more modest goal of picking up the two additional seats needed to erase the House GOP’s 60-seat supermajority, which allows Republicans to override gubernatorial vetoes and put measures on the statewide ballot without Democratic votes,” Jeremy Pelzer, Cleveland.com.
Is the lack of effort from the House Democrats a sign of overall failed party leadership? The last time Democrats controlled the Ohio House was in 2009 when Armond Budish was Speaker for two years. His tenure ended at the same time former Democrat Governor Ted Strickland lost after only one term.
Since that time the Democrat party has failed to obtain any significant wins with the exception of U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown.
We asked political operative and former Chief Operating Officer for the Ohio Senate, Neil Clark, if the Democrat party is all but throwing in the towel in Ohio by setting such a low bar to win back seats in the House?
Clark explained that he doesn’t think so, and he actually thinks the Democrats had a resurgence through using Instant Voter Registration and the issue of redistricting to make Ohio more competitive.
He went on to explain that Republicans have been successful in the past without creating ballot initiatives or wanting to redraw district lines because their primary focus is on policy issues and how they can message those to the public. He believes that by remaining focused on those strategies, Republicans will keep their power.
Legislation in the Ohio House would require pole-to-pole safety netting in Ohio ballparks by the start of the 2021 season. The bill was introduced in response to serious injury to spectators at Major and Minor League Baseball games.
Some ballparks are being proactive and have already extended or have plans to extend their protective netting. House Bill 479 would make this mandatory for the ones that haven’t taken the initiative.
“Baseball players are getting bigger and stronger each year, while fans are sitting closer to the action,” said Representative Rick Perales ( R-Beavercreek) who introduced the bill along with Representative John Patterson (D-Jefferson).
A baseball can be hit in excess of 100 mph by top batters
“There have been a number of incidents in Ohio and around the country with people being seriously injured, sometimes killed, with foul balls and bats landing in the lower levels of the stadium,” said Perales.
“Many professional groups have taken it upon themselves to install netting as a safeguard,” Perales added. “This bill is simply requiring it of all Ohio professional teams.”
Patterson got involved with the issue when a constituent reached out to him with concerns about safety in ballparks.
The constituent, Dina Simpson, 46, was permanently blinded in one eye after being struck in the head with a line drive. Simpson was sitting with her family at a Lake County Captains game, a Single A Farm Club for the Cleveland Indians.
Simpson has been pushing for legislation to require netting since 2017 when the injury occurred.
“I couldn’t say no,” said Patterson. “This just makes sense.”
It just so happened that, prior to being a legislator, Patterson’s dream was to be a college baseball coach. Incidentally, he said, Urban Meyer used to play for him on a American Legion team years ago.
“Our job as Ohio lawmakers is to protect Ohioans,” said Patterson. “Fans have been moved closer to the action over the years and pitchers are throwing harder than ever. Then there are distractions, mainly cell phones, and that’s a mix for tragedy.”
Patterson noted that the safety netting would be retractable. Once a game begins, however, the fans would need to be protected.
Currently, many ball fields have safety netting in the dugout areas. The law would require netting along the first and third baselines, from the end of the dugout to the outfield foul poles. The outfield would not require netting.
Perales said that it has yet to be decided which legislative committee will be looking at specifics on the bill.
“We wanted to get this conversation started,” said the lawmaker. “I would think that it is something that everyone would get behind due to fan safety.”
Sponsors say bill will have support
“We will have interested party meetings with representatives from the ball teams,” added Perales. “We will try to come up with a good design.”
“My colleagues in the House and the Senate are always conscious of protecting Ohioans,” said Perales. “That’s one of our missions, protecting the citizens of Ohio, their safety. That’s one of the cornerstones of our government. I think that they would support a very rational logical approach that works for everybody.”
Perales said he doesn’t believe the cost of installing the required safety netting would impact Ohio’s professional ball teams, as the expense would not be excessive.
Injuries and death at ballparks
Ballpark injuries range from vision loss to concussions. Several deaths have been reported nationwide and in Ohio. Most of the injuries have occurred in the foul-ball zone, but some have also taken place during batting practice and home-run blasts, according to reports.
In December, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said all 30 MLB teams would extend their safety netting. Manfred said the changes would be made for the 2020 season. The netting will extend all the way to the foul poles in some parks. In others, it will go substantially beyond the far end of the dugout, the commissioner said.
“I think the number is a lot higher than people realize. I think the teams know it,” said Gorman, whose book is a comprehensive history of fatalities at ballparks. “I think they’ve intentionally downplayed it.”
“The physics of getting struck with a baseball can be brutal. Baseballs are hard, weigh about five ounces and are nine inches around, roughly the size of a fist. And in the major leagues, they can fly off the bat of the best hitters at more than 100 miles an hour. At that speed, they can strike a fan about a second after leaving the bat,” Gorman said in his book.
The Ohio Republican Party is asking candidate Joe Dills to withdraw from the race for Ohio House District 65 after he admitted to setting up an Ashley Madison account.
The party may rescind its endorsement, which was made prior to learning details of Dill’s involvement with the married dating site. A decision from the Republican Party’s Central Committee is expected late next week.
Dills called the allegations a smear campaign and refused to drop out. He is running in the Republican primary against former U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt and Dillon Blevins, a NRA-certified pistol instructor.
The Air Force veteran and small business owner was endorsed by both the Clermont County Republican Party and Ohio Republican Party in his GOP primary campaign.
Ohio Statehouse News will be following the race and interviewing candidates. Stay tuned!
Dills claimed that he was single at the time the account was established.
On Dill’s Facebook page the candidate stated that he never used the site to actively meet with anyone and was never involved in any illicit behavior beyond creating the profile on that site.
If you’re among the estimated one million Ohioans with shoddy internet or no internet access at all, you may feel left behind by the Information Age. Broadband access is as essential as running water, yet some 300,000 Ohio households are without it, mainly in rural areas.
Ohio House Bill 13 proposes to change that. This residential broadband expansion legislation would extend high speed internet throughout the state, most importantly to unserved areas that cable providers currently don’t go.
Rural areas have been left behind in the digital era
The bill’s sponsor, Representative Rick Carfagna, (R- Genoa Township) knows a little something about broadband. Carfagna worked in the cable industry for 14 years as a liaison to local governments before being elected to the Ohio House, where he represents the eastern half of Delaware County and all of Knox County.
“I understand the economics of the broadband issue, and the frustrations behind not being able to get these facilities and these resources out to unserved areas,” said Carfagna, who noted that one of the main barriers in rural areas is a low population density. “Broadband providers simply don’t offer service where there aren’t enough customers to pay for it,” he added.
Along with Carfagna, Representative Michael O’Brien, (D-Warren) is a sponsor on the broadband bill.
The Proposed legislation has big goals
Carfagna said that HB 13 was pretty modest starting out, but that it is in the process of being modified to meet some more ambitious goals. At the direction of Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, (R-Glenford) the legislation is being made more inclusive and robust.
“Speaker Householder recognizes this as a serious problem and something we should make a public policy priority,” said Carfagna. “He designated this as one of our caucus’ priority bills.”
“The thought is, if we’re going to do this, let’s do it right,” said Carfagna. “Let’s be ambitious. Let’s be expansive. It will be significantly different from the original bill,” added the representative. “It will be bigger and better.”
Expanded broadband means a more competitive Ohio
Access to broadband has been shown to increase job growth and educational opportunities, it benefits small businesses and even improves healthcare, explained Carfagna. Telemedicine is an example of how a strong internet infrastructure can improve healthcare in Ohio, he said.
Much of rural Ohio and small pocket areas of Ohio’s inner cities are lacking reliable and affordable broadband, said Cera.
Many other states already have statewide broadband access
HB 13 is currently in the House Finance Committee, of which Representative Jack Cera, (D-Bellaire) is a ranking member. Cera represents Monroe and Jefferson counties and parts of Belmont County in East Ohio, some of the most underserved and rural areas of the state. Cera said he is very supportive of any efforts to expand broadband. The challenge, he said, is how to go about it. “Broadband expansion has been done in other states with great results and it can be successful here too,” said the legislator. “Technology is going to continue to evolve and improve rapidly and it’s important that we keep pace.”
“Quality internet access is necessary, from kids, to business, to health care,” Cera added. “It’s a shame that the parts of Ohio that need help the most, Appalachia, has the biggest problem with it.”
Cera said cellular coverage also needs a serious look. “In the counties that I represent, we have whole communities that have no access to cellular service.”
Grants would help pay for broadband expansion
Cera said that state and federal grants would likely help fund a statewide broadband undertaking. “You could probably spread a program out over a few years and it wouldn’t be very much per year,” said Cera. “We really need to get moving on this. Everybody needs to come together to come up with the best solutions.”
A similar bill, HB 281, passed easily in the House with 92 votes during the last general assembly.
“Most, if not all, the representatives get the issue,” said Carfagna. “Every district, I don’t care how urban or suburban or affluent you are, you’re going to have unserved and underserved households. This is a legitimate issue that cuts across all demographics, though it’s obviously more prevalent in the rural areas.”
Lack of broadband access negatively affects every district
The proposed legislation would go hand in hand with the Ohio Broadband Strategy, created under the direction of Lt. Governor Jon Husted. Husted’s plan calls for aggressively expanding and enhancing the state’s broadband network. If approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it will qualify local governments in Ohio for funding through the federal ReConnectprogram.
The representative said the cost of the project is to be determined by Governor Mike Devine’s office.
“I don’t have a dollar amount at this point,” said Carfagna. “The governor’s office is working on that. When we release a revised bill, I think that the amount that will be inserted in there will be a meaningful amount to do some ambitious projects.”
Overcoming cost hurdle of statewide broadband access
The challenge of a statewide broadband expansion is determining the “cost hurdle” that has prevented cable companies from getting to end users, the representative explained. This funding gap would be the difference between the total amount of money a broadband provider calculates is necessary to construct the last miles of a specific broadband network and the total amount of money that the provider has determined is the maximum amount that is cost effective.
“I’m convinced that if the bill does pass and is signed into law, it will be a success,” Carfagna added. “It will prove its worth and it will produce real tangible results.”
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