Ohio Honors Moses Fleetwood Walker, First African-American Major League Baseball Player

Posted May 21, 2017


Many Ohioans will be rooting for the Cleveland Indians as they play in the American League Division Series.

But some baseball enthusiasts are hoping they’ll take time to remember an Ohioan whose baseball career was cut short because of racism.

Many people think Jackie Robinson was the first African-American player to play major league baseball, however Ohio native Moses Fleetwood was actually broke the color barrier in 1884, according Democratic state Rep. David Leland, who is also a member of the Columbus Clippers board of directors.

Fleetwood’s birthday, October 7 will be known as Moses Fleetwood Day in Ohio due to a new state law.

Walker was born in Mount Pleasant, Ohio, in 1856. After a college career at Oberlin College and the University of Michigan, Walker was signed by the American Association’s Toledo Blue Stockings as a catcher. He played 42 games in 1884 before being cut because of an injury.

He subsequently played in the minor leagues but never got a chance to return to the majors when both the American Association and National League banned black players in 1889. Walker died in Cleveland in 1927.

Democratic state Rep. David Leland, of Columbus, says a day honoring Walker celebrates “the fight for equality in our society.”

Morris Eckhouse with the Baseball Heritage Museum in Cleveland says both Walker and Robinson were targets of racist behavior in their own times.

“I think Fleet Walker was in some ways more isolated in that but certainly had to go through the same kinds of things, the same kinds of racism and with the difference being, again, when Jackie Robinson broke in spring training, there were places that did not want to allow him to play,” Eckhouse said. “There were talks of strikes and petitions when he got to the major league level and at every turn, he had enough back up that he was able to persevere.”

“Certainly he had to go through the same things that Jackie Robinson had to go through and it doesn’t seem like he ultimately had the people in his corner like Branch Rickey for instance and the ownership of the Dodgers that decided to go through with what has been called ‘the great experiment.’” – Morris Eckhouse

Original article at: WOSU

Walker inducted into civil rights hall of fame

Blue Stockings player the first black in the major leagues


Published on Oct. 5, 2017


COLUMBUS — Moses Fleetwood “Fleet” Walker, major league baseball’s first black player to play under contract, was given an early 160th birthday present Thursday as he was inducted into the Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame.

In the years following the Civil War and the end of slavery, the biracial, bare-handed catcher, born in Mount Pleasant near Steubenville, caught one injury-interrupted season, 1884, for the Toledo Blue Stockings. His younger brother, Weldy, soon after joined the team, becoming the second black major league player in history. 

Toledo’s first professional team soon folded, but not before it became part of the American Association, retroactively considered a major league that eventually merged with the National League.

After that season, white team owners erected the unofficial “color barrier” that would prevent Walker, his brother, who any other black players from setting foot on a major league field for nearly seven decades.

“I look at it as a sort of a cautionary tale, because, remember, we had it right in 1884—an African American playing professional baseball…,” said Rep. David Leland (D., Columbus), one of the sponsors of a new law designating Oct. 7 of each year as Moses Fleetwood “Fleet” Walker Day.

“And then we lost it…,” he said. “Hatred, bigotry, racism kept Moses Walker from playing baseball in the United States of America. An African American would not play professional baseball until 67 years later with Jackie Robinson.”

He said the award was a reminder that “the fight for liberty, justice, and equality is never ever finished.”

Walker continued to play in the minors until 1889.

“This guy was experiencing people shouting at him and spitting at him,” said Rep. Thomas West (D., Canton), the first African American state representative from Stark County. He sponsored the Walker bill with Mr. Leland.

“Even his own team players couldn’t stand him, but this is a man who every day went after his dream…,” he said. “It’s so important right now for us in looking at history to make it right, and I think today we got that right.”

Walker died in 1924, decades before Robinson broke the color barrier. The first official day honoring Walker in Ohio will take place on Oct. 7, 2018.

The Ohio Civil Rights Commission also inducted:

—Lawrence “Bunker” Harper, Mansfield’s first black police officer and eventually the city’s first black police chief. He died last year.

—Lt. Col. Gilbert H. Jones, of Columbus, became the second African American graduate of the Ohio State Highway Patrol Academy and the first to be promoted to a supervisory position and then lieutenant colonel. He personally accepted his award.

—The marching mothers and children, who despite the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, fought against segregated schools in Hillsboro in southern Ohio. They marched daily for two years to a white-only school only to be turned away. The legal fight made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the first integrated school opened in Hillsboro in 1956.

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.

Original article at:  The Toledo Blade

Democrats discuss budget at town hall

By Jim Siegel | The Columbus Dispatch
Posted Sep 29, 2017 at 6:01 AM


Franklin County’s six Democratic House members made a unique joint appearance for a town hall Thursday, where they highlighted state challenges, concerns about the new two-year state budget and legislation they are working to pass.

All six voted against the two-year, $65.5 billion budget that passed in late June.

“Show me your budget and it will show me your priorities,” said Rep. Kristin Boggs, D-Columbus, who organized the event. Lawmakers can talk about opioids and education, but “If it’s not addressed in the budget, that’s pretty cheap talk.”

Democrats didn’t think the budget did enough in those areas, Boggs said, and it sought to do things like freeze enrollment in Medicaid expansion. Republicans have overridden some of Gov. John Kasich’s Medicaid-related vetoes, which “chipped away at” Medicaid coverage, Boggs said.

Rep. Richard Brown, D-Canal Winchester, said the people in his district want good jobs, good schools, decent health care.

“The state of state is not as great as some Republicans would lead you to believe,” he said.

Brown ran down some state statistics — job growth trailing the national average for 56 consecutive months, more babies die by their first birthday in Ohio than 45 other states and we rank 45th in college affordability.

“We can do better and must do better,” Brown said.

They were joined by Reps. Hearcel Craig, Bernadine Kennedy Kent, David Leland and Adam C. Miller.

Leland also wants to do away with Ohio’s marriage penalty, where couples with two incomes pay a higher income tax rate when filing jointly than if they filed separately. Leland wants to do away with the state requirement that Ohioans must joint file their state taxes if they file jointly on their federal income tax return. He would pay for it by eliminating the pass-through income tax exemption for business owners earning more than $250,000.

Kennedy Kent wants to end Ohio’s distinction as the only state not to mandate police officers to report child abuse if witnessed. She also wants to require every county educational service center to employ an emergency response planner and wants more access to health care.

“I want everyone to be able to get health care,” she said. “It’s well worth it that we save everyone and everyone appears to be equal.”

The modest crowd asked questions of the Democrats on topics including the state barber board, distracted driving and immigrant settlement.

Mark Cole of Columbus said the property tax is being abused. “More and more taxes are being dumped on middle-income homeowners. The city is granting tax abatements to everyone who asks for it.”

Lawmakers said city council could speak for itself, but they agreed that cuts to the local government fund by the state and lack of education funding is adding to the problem.

“Many of us are stuck with the bill. Our homeowners and our seniors are suffering,” Craig said.


Original article at:  http://www.dispatch.com/news/20170929/democrats-discuss-budget-at-town-hall

Whose taxes would Ohio lawmakers raise to get rid of the marriage penalty?

By Jim Siegel  | The Columbus Dispatch
Posted Sep 19, 2017

A bipartisan pair of lawmakers isn’t finding much resistance to the idea of ending the marriage penalty built into Ohio’s tax code — but one serious unanswered question lingers.

“There is a lot of support in the General Assembly on the topic in general. We need to solve the riddle of where we get the money,” said Rep. Tim Schaffer, R-Lancaster, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

“That’s the big question: How do we pay for it?”

Ohio married couples who file joint federal tax returns also must file a joint return with the state. While a joint federal return is usually beneficial from a tax standpoint, joint returns filed by married couples who both work often means paying a higher state income tax rate.

Under Ohio’s progressive income tax system, higher incomes are taxed at higher rates. A married couple that jointly earns $100,000 will pay more than two people living together who each earn $50,000 but file separately, though a joint filer tax credit mitigates some of that cost.

Rep. David Leland, D-Columbus, who is jointly sponsoring the bill with Rep. John Becker, R-Cincinnati, estimates that nearly 2.5 million Ohioans pay a higher tax rate because of the marriage penalty. The bill would allow married Ohioans to choose whether to file jointly or separately.

“In a sense, we are penalizing people for being married in the state of Ohio,” Leland told the committee on Tuesday.

Becker told the committee that while a new analysis is not yet available, past estimates have pegged the cost at $500 million to $600 million per year.

Leland suggested that lawmakers could pay for most of it by eliminating the state business income tax exemption for individuals earning more than $250,000 per year.

Becker said there’s some merit to that idea, or looking at some of the other tax credits, exemptions and deductions in the state.

Schaffer isn’t a fan of reducing the business income tax exemption.

“There are a lot of folks who don’t want to risk costing jobs and costing the benefits that a lot of small businesses have enjoyed and been able to improve their production with these tax cuts,” he said. “We’re still climbing out of that competitive hole that the Great Recession left us.”

As an accountant, Rep. Gary Scherer, R-Circleville, said he has long thought the marriage penalty was “silly” and should be eliminated. But he’s not convinced of the best way to address it, noting that under the bill, a single mom earning $80,000 would pay a higher tax rate than a married couple filing separately with two $40,000 salaries.

“If you are easily able to define a household and mandate those incomes be combined for taxation purposes, that could solve it. But I think that’s a huge can of worms,” he said, noting that defining a household can be difficult and could lead to fraud.

Rep. Dan Ramos, D-Lorain, noted that married couples likely pay less in sales and property taxes, because of shared costs and economies of scale.

“My goal is to create a tax code that’s fair,” Leland replied. “It’s a slippery slope when you start using a magnifying glass to see how people are living.”


Original article available at:  The Columbus Dispatch

Liberal, conservative lawmakers team up against Ohio marriage penalty

By Jim Siegel  | The Columbus Dispatch
Posted Aug 31, 2017

One of the most conservative members of the Ohio General Assembly and one of its most liberal have found a reason to join forces — on income tax reform, no less.

Reps. David Leland, D-Columbus, and John Becker, R-Cincinnati, have introduced a bill aimed at doing away with Ohio’s so-called “marriage penalty,” where many married couples filing joint tax returns pay higher state income taxes than they would if they filed separately.

Instead of current law, which requires married couples to file state taxes in the same way they file federal taxes, the bill would allow a couple to choose whether it wants to file jointly or separately, depending on which produces a smaller tax burden.

This is not a new issue — Leland said he introduced the same bill as a freshman legislator in 1983. Becker also introduced a different marriage penalty bill in 2013.

“Ohioans shouldn’t be forced to pay higher taxes just because they get married,” Leland said, adding that House Bill 333 would allow more than 2.5 million Ohioans to seek tax relief.

Leland and Becker said a married couple in Ohio with each person working full time for minimum wage paid a marriage penalty of $159 in 2016. Their bill already has 25 House co-sponsors.

In August 2016, Jessica Salerno of the Ohio Society of CPAs wrote: “Like an ugly junk car, Ohio’s marriage tax penalty has been around so long some people don’t even see it anymore. Tax practitioners don’t have that luxury, and say it’s past time to clean it up.”

A marriage penalty occurs from a combination of a progressive income tax system, where higher income is taxed at higher rates, and the taxing of married couples as a single entity. So when two people who each earn $50,000 file separately in Ohio, the tax rate paid by each person will be less than if they file jointly as a couple earning $100,000.

Most couples benefit from filing a joint federal tax return, so they also must file a joint return in Ohio.

The marriage penalty can impact couples differently, depending on circumstances. For example, a couple where one person earns the vast majority of the income often pays less in taxes by filing jointly than separately.

Ohio married couples may qualify for a joint filing tax credit up to $650 — an amount not adjusted since 1989, according to the Society of CPAs — and it usually does not cover the additional tax owed from a joint filing.

Noting that all neighboring states either do not require married couples to file the same as their federal status, or they have a tax rate that mitigates the marriage penalty, the Society recommended in 2016 to a legislative tax study commission that lawmakers make changes. It proposed allowing a different filing status in Ohio, or creating a new tax table for joint returns.

The bill likely would mean a significant cost in state revenue, which has not yet been estimated. The timing could be an issue, considering lawmakers one month ago finished a tight state budget that had to be adjusted by about $1 billion because of lagging revenue.


Original article at:  The Columbus Dispatch

Ohio proposal would label neo-Nazi groups terrorists

By Associated Press

Published: August 17, 2017

COLUMBUS, OH (AP) — Police in Ohio would be directed to recognize white nationalist and neo-Nazi groups as terrorist organizations under a state legislative proposal.

The resolution was introduced Thursday by Democratic state Rep. David Leland, of Columbus. It follows a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a woman was killed.

The measure would enable law enforcement to pursue such groups’ activities and whereabouts with the resources and attention devoted to domestic terrorist groups. Illinois recently passed a similar measure.

Republican President Donald Trump has been criticized for insisting blame for the rally’s bloodshed must be shared on “both sides.”

Leland acknowledged free speech is a “bedrock value” of America but argued such groups violate foundational national principles of “liberty and justice for all.”

The proposal’s fate in the Republican-dominated House is unclear.

Original article available at: NBC4i.com

House OKs concealed-guns in schools, day-cares, churches

Ohioans carrying a concealed weapon could legally walk right past “no guns allowed” signs into schools, churches and day-care centers under a measure approved Thursday by the Ohio House.

Conceal-carry license holders would get into trouble only if they refuse to leave when asked. And the requirement that they leave with their guns is only temporary; after 30 days, they could return to that place with a gun.

Under current law, taking a gun into a prohibited site can result in immediate criminal charges or confiscation of the gun.

If the Senate approves the proposal, only those who choose to remain after being asked to leave, or those who return with a concealed gun within 30 days, could face jail time and fines.

“I call this the ‘jerk’ clause,” said primary sponsor John Becker. “If you choose to be a jerk about it and refuse to leave, you are then subject to the charge of criminal trespass with a deadly weapon. … A violator could be told that he has 30 seconds to leave the premises or face 30 days in jail.”

House Bill 233, informally titled the “Decriminalization Effort for Ending Notorious Deaths” — or DEFEND Act — passed by an unofficial vote of 64-31, overcoming opposition from law enforcement, prosecutors and business groups.

Becker, a Republican from Cincinnati, called conceal-carry holders the “cream of the crop of citizenry” who complete criminal background checks, training and other requirements. Becker said the bill would not expand the list of locations where concealed guns are allowed; instead, it would “decriminalize” a person inadvertently carrying a gun into one of those locations.

But opponents say the changes would essentially allow gun owners to break the law.

“These people are knowingly violating the law,” said Rep. David Leland, D-Columbus. “They’re taking a concealed deadly weapon into a prohibited space. … The message that we’re sending is that it’s an open season for somebody to illegally, purposely, knowingly bring a deadly weapon into police stations, into schools and into day-care centers.”

House Minority Leader Fred Strahorn, D-Dayton, said the legislation erodes the personal responsibility of gun owners.

“I am a handgun owner,” he said. “There is never a time I do not know where my handgun is. And if you do not know where your handgun is, I think that’s a problem. If you’re wearing that, and you forgot … that’s a problem.”

Strahorn also suggested that the legislation could assist people bent on acts of violence.

“You’re giving people a pass to do a dry run on facilities and places that, ‘If I try to sneak a gun in, and I get it in undetected, I can go to town,’” he said. ”‘But if I’m caught, there’s really no consequence.’”

Rep. Kyle Koehler, R-Springfield, said he was insulted by opponents’ comments on the bill.

“I’m sorry, (conceal-carry) holders are not people breaking the law,” he said. “These are people who, in an effort to defend themselves, have been fingerprinted, background-checked, taken classes on understanding the law. They are the people that are trying to do what’s right, and this bill is helping those individuals do what’s right.

“To say that this bill somehow allows a law-abiding citizen to take a gun where they know they cannot take it is simply wrong, and I cannot sit here and listen to that.”



New analysis says much of Ohio’s business tax cut goes to the rich

By Marty Schladen 
The Columbus Dispatch

By Jim Siegel 
The Columbus Dispatch
Posted Jun 22, 2017

When talking about Ohio’s controversial business tax deduction, Republicans often paint the picture of hard-working, small-business, mom-and-pop-type operations.

“The people I see benefiting from this in my hometown own small restaurants downtown, coffee shops, florists, dry cleaners, folks like that,” Sen. Matt Huffman, R-Lima, told his colleagues Wednesday night.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Scott Oelslager, R-Canton, added: “They go to work every day, turn on a light in their stores, factories and farms and hope somebody comes in and buys their product. We have lifted the spirits of these people.”

But a new analysis by the Ohio Legislative Service Commission indicates that as much as $450 million a year of those business tax cuts are benefiting a wealthy slice of wage earners who represent only 0.5 percent of the state workforce and just 5 percent of those claiming the deduction.

Of the $1.1 billion a year the business tax cuts are costing the state, between 34 and 41 percent of the benefit is going to people who are making more than $250,000 a year, according to the analysis.

Originally billed as a “small business” deduction, the cut was created in a lesser version 2013 and then escalated to its current form in 2015. Owners of pass-through entities — limited liability corporations, partnerships and the like — pay no state income tax on the first $250,000 of income, and get a 40-percent cut on income over $250,000 by paying 3 percent instead of 5 percent.

“Small? There’s nothing small about it,” state Rep. David Leland, D-Columbus, said of the tax cut. “It’s shocking that one-half of a percent of the people who are filing tax returns in Ohio are getting the lion’s share of this.”

The new analysis, completed at Leland’s request, estimates that between $377 million and $450 million of the benefit from the tax cut is going to Ohioans who are claiming at least $250,000 a year in profits from eligible businesses.

A separate analysis last year by the National Bureau of Economic Research determined that 66 percent of income from pass-through entities flows to the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. It also found that the businesses paid less in federal tax than traditional corporations.

Just 29,000 Ohio tax filers earned more than $250,000 in 2015, compared to 605,000 who claimed the pass-through exemption and the 5.4 million who file tax returns.

The hefty exemption is being scrutinized as lawmakers struggle to cobble together a tight 2018-2019 budget.

Revenues for the year have fallen almost $1 billion short of projections, leaving the legislature is scraping for funds to address the state’s opioid crisis, fund schools, pay for health care and meet other challenges.

Democrats have pounced on the message that the business-income tax cut has failed to live up to its promises, as Ohio’s job growth has lagged the national average since the cut was enacted.

A similar measure was the centerpiece of cuts that were recently reversed by the Kansas legislature in the face of a chronic budget crisis. Senate Democrats proposed ending the tax cuts in Ohio to either spend on programs including Medicaid and K-12 education, or use for tax cuts targeted largely at lower- and middle-income Ohioans.

The deduction is “nothing but a giveaway that is hurting our state and we should do away with it now before it does more damage,” said Sen. Charleta B. Tavares, D-Columbus. “The loophole only benefits those that are already in the top income brackets.”

An early proponent of the cut, Gov. John Kasich and Republican legislative leaders continue to fiercely defend it.

Kasich tweeted late Thursday morning: “Can you believe some are calling for Ohio to raise taxes? Not going to happen. Not on my watch.”

But some Republicans have begun to question whether it might be time to consider scaling it back.

GOP defenders made their voices heard during the Senate budget debate Wednesday night.

Eliminating it means telling business owners, “the problem is, you’re not paying enough in taxes,” Huffman said.

“If we take away these income tax cuts for these small businesses … you’re going to have to explain to them why that was important,” he said. “In the last six years, spending in the state has increased from $52 billion to $64 billion. That’s a lot higher than the rate of inflation.”

Much of that increase is from Medicaid, including an expansion.

Oelslager said eliminating the tax breaks would amount to a $2.2 billion business tax increase over two years at a time when the state of New York is running ads in Ohio, touting the improved business climate there, including lower taxes.

“We believe hard-working Ohio families need to keep more of their earnings and people running a business need to be able to grow their business,” he said.

Leland has consistently voted against the cut even though he benefits from it personally.

He said that supporters of the cut need to be clear that if they keep it, they will be giving a tax break of as much as $900 million over the two-year budget to a tiny sliver of Ohioans, the poorest of whom is making $250,000 a year.

“If that’s the idea, they need to tell everybody,” he said. “If not, we need to make adjustments.”

State Budget Director Tim Keen has stressed that the cost of the business tax deduction continues to come in below estimates, so it is not driving Ohio’s tax revenue shortfall.




Original Article available at:  The Columbus Dispatch

Editorial: Open the shades on charter spending

Posted May 21, 2017

No function of state government is more important than its constitutional obligation to “secure a thorough and efficient system of common schools throughout the state.” Education is the bedrock of democracy. That is why the Ohio Constitution, since 1851, has obligated the state to provide an education to each of its citizens.

How thoroughly and how efficiently the state fulfills this mandate should concern every Ohioan, every year, every generation.

But Ohioans’ ability to judge the state’s performance is threatened by state lawmakers’ willingness to hide from public view how the charter-school industry spends a sizable portion of taxpayer dollars.

In an era of privatization of much of primary and secondary education, taxpayers should insist that state lawmakers provide complete transparency of the expenditure of public funds for education.

State Rep. David J. Leland, D-Columbus, has introduced legislation to accomplish this goal. In fewer than 100 words, the bill declares “funds that the department of education pays to a community (charter) school or nonpublic school . . . are public funds and shall be subject to the same requirements related to permissible expenditures and audit by the auditor of state as public funds allocated to school districts.

“If a community school uses public funds to pay for services of an entity to manage the daily operations of that school or to provide programmatic oversight and support of that school, those funds maintain their status as public funds upon transfer.”

In recent years, Ohio earned an unwelcome reputation for having the nation’s worst oversight of the charter-school industry. No surprise, then, that Ohio has had some of the nation’s worst-performing charter schools.

Responding to an avalanche of criticism, including from the operators of good charters, in October 2015 the General Assembly passed legislation (House Bill 2) to address some of the problems.

That legislation requires management companies receiving more than 20 percent of a school’s annual revenues to provide an accounting of expenses in 19 categories, such as aggregate wages, school supplies and transportation.

However, the bill didn’t go far enough. Why allow expenditures falling below a 20 percent threshold to escape scrutiny? There is no legitimate reason to prevent the taxpaying public from tracking each and every dollar it spends for education.

Upon introducing his bill, Leland correctly stated: “Ohio taxpayers deserve a full and complete accounting for every one of their hard-earned dollars invested in education, whether the money is directed to public school districts or charter schools.

“Charter schools and their management companies shouldn’t be able to hide their spending of public funds behind closed doors. This bill will close a loophole in state law and help ensure charter schools in Ohio operate in a transparent, accountable manner.”

Honest, well-performing charters and nonpublic schools have nothing to fear from transparent bookkeeping. In fact, operators of many of Ohio’s best-performing charters have urged state lawmakers to insist on full transparency. Failure to do so creates a cloud of suspicion over all of Ohio’s charter schools.

Ohio was a pioneer in adopting a constitutional mandate guaranteeing an education to each of its citizens. Many states followed Ohio’s lead, adopting similar language in their constitutions.

In the 21st century, unfortunately, Ohio has been the opposite — a laggard — in guaranteeing that its citizens get a full and complete accounting for that education.

Bill to honor Walker hits House floor for 3rd time


COLUMBUS — Supporters of the idea of setting aside a day each year to honor the first black man to play in baseball’s major leagues hope the third time at bat will bring the bill home.

State Reps. David Leland (D., Columbus) and Tom West (D., Canton) reintroduced a bill Monday that would honor Moses Fleetwood Walker on Oct. 7, his birthday.

The bare-handed catcher “Fleet” Walker caught less than a full season in 1884 for the Toledo Blue Stockings, which was part of the American Association. The team soon folded, but when the association later became the American League, Walker retroactively was considered to have been the first black major league player.

He also was one of the reasons major league team owners soon after erected the so-called “color barrier” Jackie Robinson would 60 years later get credit for breaking.

The bill first was introduced two sessions ago. It was reported out of committee but never reached the House floor. Last session, it passed the House but was left stranded in the Senate.

This time, backers are looking to get it across home plate, Gov. John Kasich’s desk.

Leland said he chose to introduce the bill because it marked the opening of spring training for the majors and came in the middle of Black History Month.

“But honoring Moses Walker is more than just remembering a baseball player,” he said. “It is a reminder of who we say we are as a nation, a nation whose constitution vows to protect everyone’s inalienable rights to ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’

“It is also a persistent reminder that sometimes, after we get something right, we lose our way. So today we seek to honor Moses Fleetwood Walker and remember that the battle for equality, justice, and freedom never dies.”

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.

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