New Poll Has Good News for Kasich; Teachers Raise Questions About Tests and Common Core

This week Gov. John Kasich hit the critical 50% mark in an election related poll. The Quinnipiac poll had him leading Democratic challenger Ed FitzGerald by a wide margin, but the poll also showed Kasich’s approval rating at 56%, the highest it’s been since he was elected and above that important 50% mark. The poll also shows that there still are some undecided voters and those who say they won’t vote for either Kasich or FitzGerald. In a second Quinnipiac poll of Ohio voters, Kasich outperformed all other widely discussed Republican candidates for president in a 2016 race against potential Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, but the former Secretary of State still beats any one of the possible Republican candidates. Another Quinnipiac poll out this week showed that Ohio voters favor the death penalty 69% to 25% for those convicted of murder, and 50% of voters say they support same-sex marriage. Meanwhile, backers of same-sex marriage in Ohio delivered petitions bearing 6,000 signatures to Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office, to encourage him to drop his appeal of a federal judge's order to legally recognize gay marriages performed in other states. Back to the governor’s race for a moment – Democratic candidate Ed FitzGerald says he'll work to guarantee that all Ohio 4-year-olds have access to public preschool by 2018 if he's elected governor. And speaking of preschoolers – a bill has been introduced in the House that would require kids in day cares to be vaccinated for preventable diseases such as mumps and measles. And some 800 new jobs are planned in the Dayton area from one of Ohio’s largest and most profitable companies - Procter and Gamble.

A new tax on oil and natural gas drillers is halfway through the legislature, but is facing an uncertain future in the Senate and before Gov. John Kasich. The bill that passed the House puts a 2.5% severance tax on gross receipts on shale wells that are horizontally fractured, and allows drillers to deduct the commercial activity tax they pay from the severance tax they owe. It’s estimated that will bring in $316 million over five years, which would go to an income tax cut. That was enough to get most House Democrats to vote against it, including Rep. Bob Hagan (D-Youngstown). Republican Brian Hill (R-Zanesville) voted against the bill in committee, but supported it on the floor only because lawmakers approved his amendment to raise the percentage going to local governments from 15% to 17.5%. The bill provides $21 million for the Department of Natural Resources for regulation, to cap orphan wells and for geological mapping. But another lawmaker from fracking country, Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire), said the money going to those poverty-stricken and neglected communities isn’t nearly enough to help. The fracking tax is still lower than severances taxes in other states, and Republicans who backed the bill cautioned that while they feel this bill isn’t perfect, the industry could still be scared off by high taxes. Rep. Dave Hall is from Millersburg in Amish country, which has seen a number of drilling companies in recent years.

Three Democrats voted for the tax – John Barnes Jr. of Cleveland, Zach Milkovich of Akron and Bill Patmon of Cleveland. And some of the House’s most conservative Republicans were among the six who voted against it. Those six are John Adams of Sidney, John Becker of Cincinnati, Jim Butler of Dayton, Ron Hood of Ashville, Matt Lynch of Bainbridge Township near Solon and Andy Thompson of Marietta. Those Republicans on the committee that had approved the tax said they opposed it because they feel it’s a tax shift that grows government. But this bill may be running into big problems. The rate is lower than Gov. John Kasich’s proposed 2.75% tax - too low, he says.

The school year is coming to an end, but now parents are getting the results of all the testing that their kids were doing over the last few weeks. And that’s firing up the debate over Ohio’s new learning standards in the Common Core. Last week two key leaders on the issue of the Common Core standards, Reps. Gerald Stebelton of Lancaster and Andy Thompson of Marietta, appeared on the show. They’re both Republicans, which shows the battle over the Common Core that’s raging within the party. But as lawmakers debate Common Core, teachers are having to deal with its implementation. And the state’s two teachers’ unions say they support the standards, but have serious concerns about the testing related to it, and about the decisions that will be made by lawmakers and administrators based on the results of those tests. The Ohio Education Association is the state’s largest teachers union. OEA president Becky Higgins talks about the union’s concerns about what’s happening with Common Core and the tests that are part of it.

This week a big report was released from a team of retired three and four star generals and admirals – who say that climate change isn’t merely an inconvenience, it’s a threat to national security. The CNA Corporation Military Advisory Board, which is funded by the US government, issued an update to an earlier report that was released in 2007. One of the board members is Retired Air Force General Don Hoffman, who lived in Dayton for several years before leaving the military. He says though many of the events cited in the report are happening half a world away, they are and will impact Ohioans. The report doesn’t deal with any questions or debate about whether climate change is happening, because as Hoffman says – “97% of appropriate scientists and experts agree the evidence is real, and the primary cause is human activity”.

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