Reps. Joyce, Sykes vote for tax package with child tax credit

Portage County’s representatives in the U.S. House of Representatives joined the majority Jan. 31 in passing a bipartisan tax package that would include a child tax credit expansion.

Republican Rep. Dave Joyce, whose 14th District includes most of Portage County, and Democratic Rep. Emilia Sykes, whose 13th District includes part of southwestern Portage County, voted for the bill sponsored by Rep. Jason Smith, R-Missouri.

The proposed improved tax credits for low-income families “would lift as many as 400,000 children above the poverty line and make an additional 3 million children less poor as their incomes rise closer to the poverty line” in just the first year, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says.

Important changes are that families would get a per-child credit, receiving the same credit per child, and lift the incremental tax credit over time, NBC reported.

As an example, “a parent who has a toddler and a second grader and earns $15,000 working as a food server” would see the child tax credit increase by $1,725, from $1,875 to $3,600, the CBPP says.

Further, the bill would benefit businesses by including tax breaks for research and development and small business expenses, CNBC reported. Smith adds that it also would impose taxation on certain Taiwan residents who have income sources in the U.S., improve the low-income housing tax credit and provide tax relief for victims of some federally declared disasters.

Both Sykes and Joyce said in separate newsletters that East Palestine residents would benefit, because the bill would make their train derailment relief payments exempt from federal taxes. Smith calls it a “pro-growth, pro-family, and pro-America tax package” that builds on tax reforms started during the Trump administration.

The bill has been received in the Senate. However, some senators are opposed to it. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, reportedly sees it as a “win” for President Joe Biden if bigger refund checks roll out this year; Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, sees it as new spending and “another entitlement.”

But fans include Sens. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio. Vance told that he hasn’t decided how he’ll vote, but he does like that the bill expands the child tax credit and provides relief for East Palestine residents. 

Brown, meanwhile, said in a news release that he would work to get the bill passed quickly.

Honors for officer

A bill sponsored by Republican state Rep. Gail Pavliga would rename a portion of state Route 88 in Portage County the Patrolman James R. Wert Memorial Highway. Jan. 31 was the 43rd anniversary of the Ravenna officer’s death on the job; he was struck and killed by a drunk driver.

Chief Jeff Wallis accompanied Wert’s widow, Rebecca, and his siblings Lynn and Dave to Columbus to observe Pavliga speak about the bill on the House floor, according to a police department Facebook post. Pavliga’s district covers most of Portage County.

The bill passed unanimously in the House on Dec. 13, and on Jan. 24 was referred to the state Senate’s Transportation Committee.

A dedication ceremony would be held at a later date, according to the police department.

The Record-Courier wrote about the bill in December.

State laws on tobacco

Ohio legislators recently overrode Gov. Mike DeWine’s veto of a law that would ban local governments from regulating smoking, vaping and other e-cigarette usage and sales, the Ohio Capital Journal reported.

In the House, Republican Reps. Pavliga and Steve Demetriou, who both represent Portage County, joined the 60-30 majority in voting for the override on Dec. 13.

The Senate then overrode the vote Jan. 24; Democratic Sen. Vernon Sykes, whose district includes all of Portage County, was among the seven Democrats and one Republican voting against the override.

DeWine had in early 2023 vetoed lawmakers’ ban on local regulations. The Capital Journal reported the provision that leaves the state in charge of regulations was in response to Columbus City Council’s vote to stop the sale of flavored tobacco products.

DeWine has spoken forcefully against the flavored vape products that he says appeal to youths and get them addicted to the nicotine they contain. 

The Ohio Health Department says 20 percent of the state’s high school students are vape users. The state’s adult smoking rate remains above the national rate.

Pregnancy concerns

Sykes recently joined Democratic colleagues in urging the Biden administration to “protect against criminalization of pregnancy,” miscarriages and abortion. In a Feb. 2 letter, the Democratic Women’s Caucus links the October arrest of a Warren woman who miscarried to a growing pattern of criminalization after the overturn of Roe v. Wade. Women in the current political environment fear discrimination and criminalization when they seek health care, the Democrats argue.

Ultimately, a Trumbull County grand jury decided not to indict Brittany Watts, 34, who had a miscarriage at home but was investigated and arrested after she went to Mercy Health-St. Joseph’s Hospital for treatment, the Associated Press reported. She was originally charged by police with abuse of a corpse, a fifth-degree felony, after she told hospital workers the miscarried fetus clogged the toilet. 

The Democrats say Black women, like Watts, all too commonly receive inadequate pregnancy-related care and experience “disrespect, abuse, and punitive responses” when they do seek care.

Pregnant individuals “deserve the right to control their own bodies, lives, and futures,” rather than be subjected to “criminal investigations and arrests, civil penalties, loss of custody of children, and reputational harm,” the Democrats wrote.

Human trafficking

Pavliga is a cosponsor of an Ohio House bill that would allow human trafficking victims to expunge records of misdemeanor and low-level felony convictions. The primary sponsors are  Reps. Tracy Richardson, R-Marysville, and Josh Williams, R-Sylvania.

Richardson explained in a news release that victims of human trafficking currently can have their records expunged after being convicted of soliciting, loitering and prostitution. House Bill 385 would expand the eligible nonviolent offenses (such as theft and drug possession) for those who can show the court they were under duress when the crimes were committed.

In an interview, a Cleveland woman who was trafficked and committed crimes said finding a job and affordable housing were nearly impossible because of her criminal record, public radio’s Statehouse News Bureau reported. It was a “game changer” when her record was expunged.

The bill was referred to the Criminal Justice Committee on Feb. 6.

Dirty water

On Feb. 1, the representatives who represent Portage County in the U.S. House, along with two other Congress members, reintroduced the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (BEACH) Act, which would help state and local governments battle contamination in such recreational waters as Lake Erie.

Joyce and Sykes joined with Reps. David Rouzer, R-North Carolina, and Frank Pallone, D-New Jersey, on the bipartisan funding measure, according to a news release from Joyce’s office.

The bill reauthorizes the BEACH Act program at $30 million for the 2025-2029 fiscal years. Currently, the funds are to be used for the monitoring and notification of contamination, but the reintroduced bill also would permit the identification of sources of contamination. Adding identification of sources as an eligible use of funds will help address the root causes of  contamination, the news release says.

Environment America praised the proposed change that would allow states to identify causes. On its website, the group noted that outdated or deteriorating sewage systems and large livestock farms that generate excessive manure can be among the sources of fecal contamination in waterways.

Nationwide, more than half of tested beaches had “at least one day on which fecal contamination reached potentially unsafe levels,” Environment America says.

Correspondent Mary Kay Quinn can be reached at [email protected].

Mary Kay Quinn
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