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Published: Wednesday, 11/1/2000

2 quit panel on funding schools, say it lacks will

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU

COLUMBUS - Two Ohio Senate Democrats yesterday resigned from a legislative committee examining Ohio's school funding dilemma.

They charged the committee is dragging its feet in hopes that Ohio Supreme Court Justice Alice Robie Resnick, a Toledo Democrat, is defeated next week.

“We've seen so many commercials on TV attacking Justice Resnick,” said state Sen. Michael Shoemaker (D., Bourneville). “It seems to be the only plan of action for people in this building to solve the school-funding crisis.

Sens. Shoemaker and Robert Hagan (D., Youngstown) submitted their resignations from the Joint Select Committee on School Funding and Accountability, which consists of House and Senate members.

The committee was named in the wake of the latest Supreme Court ruling that the state's system of funding public education unconstitutionally places students in property-poor districts at a competitive disadvantage. Justice Resnick wrote the 4-3 decision.

Senate President Richard Finan (R., Cincinnati) said he will accept the resignations once the Senate Democratic caucus offers him two replacements.

State Rep. Randy Gardner (R., Bowling Green), who is co-chairman of the committee, said he remains committed to its task.

The resignations were announced even as a Teamster rally was gearing up outside the Statehouse to push Democratic candidates, including Justice Resnick.

“We will prove that the power of the people will overcome the people of the purse,” she told a crowd of about 300, referring to a virtually anonymous business-backed campaign to defeat her.

“They may have the millions, but we have the people and that's how we're going to win,” she said.

At one point, she clasped her right hand with Teamster President James P. Hoffa's left, and he raised them above their heads. LaterMr. Hoffa dismissed the suggestion that such a rally and image might reinforce the opposition's allegations that Justice Resnick is beholden to the unions.

“Look who's against her, the chamber of commerce,” he said. “That says it all.”

Meanwhile, Citizens for an Independent Court - a conglomeration of consumer attorneys, unions, teachers, and police organizations -presented their new pro-Resnick ad questioning why insurance companies and “big drug companies” are spending millions to unseat her.

Tacked onto the end of the ad almost as an afterthought was Hamilton County Judge Tim Black, a Democrat locked in his own race to unseat Republican Justice Deborah Cook of Akron.

Ohioans for a Fair and Independent Judiciary, another business-backed organization, started running an ad yesterday promoting Judge Terrence O'Donnell, Justice Resnick's Republican opponent. The $100,000 in ad time is concentrated on cable television statewide and on broadcast TV in the Cincinnati area.

“Judge O'Donnell is not well-known outside of Cleveland,” said Ohioans spokesman Mark Weaver. “We expect that Republican turnout in Cincinnati will be phenomenal.”



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