The latest e-news: food aid, fracking and more
Posted October 30, 2015 in eNews
A roundup of happenings at Policy Matters Ohio.....Seeking fair food policy
- Policy Matters senior project director Wendy Patton exposed Ohio's troubling policy of seeking extended federal food aid for 18 mostly rural counties, but not for urban areas and other qualifying counties. Since then, elected officials including Reps. Marcia Fudge and Tim Ryan have pressed Governor Kasich to seek federal food aid for all hungry Ohioans in eligible areas. Ohio's unequal policy is drawing national media coverage, while the U.S. Department of Justice considers a civil rights complaint brought last year by Legal Aid of Columbus, which alleges Governor Kasich's policy discriminates against minority populations.
A good start - Governors of Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia have agreed to cooperate on aspects of shale drilling. We're glad they recognize a unified strategy is good for the states. But the Multi-State Shale Research Collaborative, which includes Policy Matters and other state policy groups, says more cooperation is needed. Our energy researcher Amanda Woodrum says that if states are going to allow fracking, we should collaborate on a fair and adequate severance tax, community planning and environmental standards, to minimize environmental harm and try to capture some economic benefits for communities, not just companies.
Labor market woes - How is it that Ohio's unemployment rate continues to decline - falling in September to the lowest level since 2001 -- even as the number of jobs remains far lower than the start of the 2007 recession? Our labor researcher Hannah Halbert explains that many working-age Ohioans have dropped out of the labor force - meaning they aren't working or looking for work. Thus, they aren't counted in the unemployment rate. Even though we have a relatively low jobless rate of 4.5 percent, job growth and the labor market are weak: Net employment is down by 193,000 since the recession started.
A free ride - A bill before the Ohio General Assembly is a gift to Uber, Lyft and other ride services. House Bill 237 excludes drivers from whistleblower, minimum-wage and other job protections, and would forbid municipalities from regulating the services. Policy Matters Ohio Research Director Zach Schiller testified against key provisions of the bill before lawmakers on Oct. 20.
In the news - We were able to get our work in front of NPR's Morning Edition, which this week cited a Policy Matters analysis of Governor Kasich's tax policies to question the governor about inequality; A Toledo Blade editorial supported our call for a 5 percent severance tax on oil and gas production; An Akron Beacon Journal/Ohio.com editorial, citing our research, called out Governor Kasich and Ohio Republican leaders for "out of control" tax breaks, which amount to more than $8 billion a year; Our State of Working Ohio report drew wide coverage from news outlets, including the Columbus Dispatch, Dayton Daily News and The Plain Dealer/Cleveland.com; and Al Jazeera America wrote a hard-hitting piece about Ohio's pathetic efforts to rein in payday lending, citing the work of Policy Liaison Kalitha Williams.
Finally, check out the Policy Matters crew in the latest group shot from a staff retreat earlier this month!