A break for Covelli Centre

On the side

Delegate at-large: Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman David Betras will be heading to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., in September. He is among the 38 at-large delegates selected by the Ohio Democratic Party’s State Executive Committee to represent the state.

Political bedfellows: Betras and Richard Oz Ouzounian, who finished in last place in the March primary for a Mahoning County commissioner seat, have apparently kissed and made up.

In the weeks leading to the primary, Ouzounian made public a number of text messages sent to him by Betras mocking him about his appearance and his chances of winning (turns out Betras was dead-on), and used a variety of insults, including expletives. Ouzounian also sent insulting message to Betras. Betras apologized at the time “for the tone and tenor of the messages.”

The two sent an email earlier this week to the local media saying they’ve “buried the hatchet” in order to avoid any “distractions” from getting Democrats elected.

I’m sure the Betras-Oz feud was keeping you and President Barack Obama up at night too. Now you can rest easy.

The “I’m Just a Bill” Schoolhouse Rock! segment about how a bill becomes a law makes the process sound easy — or at least it’s a catchy song.

Then there’s the saying: “Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made.”

Falling somewhere in between is how the Ohio House passed an amendment to a bill last week to make the Youngstown-owned Covelli Centre tax exempt and forgive $4.75 million in delinquent taxes and penalties the city owes on the property.

On March 22, the Ohio Department of Taxation rejected Youngstown’s long-standing request for the status and informed city officials that it was time to pay up.

Of course, the city doesn’t have the money.

The city is appealing the decision to the tax commissioner. Good luck with that.

The other option is to have the Republican-controlled state Legislature approve a bill to give the arena in Youngstown, one of the state’s most Democratic cities, a tax exemption and forgive the $4.75 million.

State Rep. Tom Letson of Warren, D-64th, the ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, introduced an amendment to the mid-budget review bill during an April 24 committee meeting to make the center tax exempt and forgive the money owed.

When he did that, state Rep. Terry Boose of Huron County, R-58th, the committee’s vice chairman, asked that it be tabled.

That’s a nice way of saying, “Kill the amendment from the political party not in power.”

The vote to table was 7-7 with all the “yes” votes from Republican members and all the “no” votes from Democrats.

There are three other Republicans on Ways and Means, but it was a rare busy day at the Statehouse so they were at other committee meetings when the Covelli table vote was taken.

Letson reminded state Rep. Peter Beck of Warren County, R-67th, the committee’s chairman, that a tie vote meant Boose’s proposal failed.

Shortly after that, state Rep. Peter Stautberg of Hamilton County, R-34th, a member of the committee, arrived.

Letson asked for a vote to pass the amendment and Stautberg sided with the Democrats, approving it by an 8-7 vote.

Why did Stautberg cross party lines? The state Legislature approved a similar tax exemption last year for $10 million owed by the Cincinnati-owned Duke Energy Convention Center in his home county.

He “is a firm believer in turnabout being fair play,” Letson said of Stautberg.

Other Republicans likely would have supported the Covelli proposal if “someone from Youngstown was able to testify and if we would have had hearings,” Letson said.

But, unfortunately, that’s not how Ohio government typically works.

The day after the 8-7 committee vote, the full House easily approved the bill, with the amendment.

It now goes to the state Senate and then to Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, for approval.

The Youngstown item can taken out by the Senate or the governor.

But without Stautberg’s late arrival, it would already be dead.

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