Good morning, Cincinnati! Hope you enjoyed the warm weather this weekend! Here are your morning headlines.
The hacking group Anonymous says it is targeting the Cincinnati Police Department. In a video announcement released Sunday, the group claimed it will release the personal information of 52 CPD employees, including Police Chief Eliot Isaac. The group said the information dump is in response to the shooting of Paul Gaston, who was killed by CPD officers on Feb. 17 while reaching for a pellet gun in his waistband. CPD released two videos of the incident taken by witnesses the following day. Information released by Anonymous includes the names, ages, street addresses, email addresses and social media account information of two officers seen in the videos. Cincinnati Police Lt. Steve Saunders said the department is investigating the situation to see if there was any breach of security in CPD's system.
• Hundreds showed up in front of Cincinnati's City Hall on Saturday to march in support of Democratic presidential primary candidate Bernie Sanders. The rally was organized by local groups supporting the Vermont Senator's bid for the White House. Sanders has been gaining on opponent Hillary Clinton's lead for the Democratic nomination. Later in the day, however, Sanders lost in the Nevada Democratic caucus to Clinton.
• Officials have lowered the standards required to pass the GED, the high school diploma equivalency exam. Both states lowered the number of pointed required to pass the GED after GED testing officials recommended it on Jan. 26. CityBeat reported last year on the test's major overhaul that caused the passing rate to plummet by 90 percent from 2013 to 2014.
• A national $10 billion reform program implemented by Cincinnati's Veteran Affairs Medical Clinic has left many veterans claiming they're struggling with bureaucracy and a reduction in services. The congressionally mandated Veterans Choice Program is supposed to aid accessibility issues some veterans have experienced with their local VA clinics by allowing them to choose their own doctors if the wait time is more than 30 days or they live more than 40 miles away from the clinic. But a WCPO investigation found that some are claiming the Cincinnati VA has cut some medical services because of the new program, forcing veterans to use the choice program — all to make the clinic's budget look better.
A crowd of hundreds gathered at Cincinnati City Hall today to show support for Democratic presidential primary candidate Bernie Sanders.
The rally, organized by local supporters, featured speeches from several labor leaders, activists and political candidates followed by a brief march through downtown.
"The political revolution is coming to Cincinnati now,” said Jordan Angelo Opst, a University of Cincinnati student and organizer with the group Cincinnati for Bernie Sanders, which helped set up the rally. “We're ready to stand up in unity against injustice, unfairness and corruption. You'll notice that we've got white people. We've got black people. We have brown people. We have Christians. We have atheists. We have Muslims.”
Sadie Hughes, registered nurse and local director of National Nurses United, told the crowd the group was endorsing Sanders “because he cares for the same things we care about."
"He is leading the fight for Medicare for all,” she said. “Too many Americans, even with the Affordable Care Act, remain priced out of access to necessary health care. Too many of our seniors are still working at McDonalds and Wendy's and places like that. Bernie believes that everyone should be able to earn a living wage."
Sanders, currently a U.S. Senator for Vermont, identifies as a democratic socialist and was, until his primary campaign, an independent who caucused with Democrats. His candidacy began as a long shot against Democratic favorite and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, mostly due to the perceived baggage of his self-professed socialism and his low name recognition outside his home state.
Over the past few months, however, Sanders’ growing national popularity has many political pundits taking him more seriously as primary voters expressing fatigue over an increasingly divided political system line up to support him. He came in a close second behind Clinton in the Iowa caucus earlier this month and outright beat her in the New Hampshire primary by a large margin.
As he's run, Sanders has shifted policy debates with Clinton to the left. In recent debates, the two largely agree on broad-based policy ideas, instead debating on the feasibility of their respective progressive plans. Clinton has hit Sanders on statements from liberal (often Democratic Party-affiliated) economists saying that his proposals for a single-payer health care system don't add up, and by bringing up his past record voting against certain gun control measures, a big issue for many Democrats. Other progressives, though, have leaped to Sanders' defense. The Vermont Senator, meanwhile, has hit Clinton for the large financial institutions that have given her campaign and PACs millions, and from which she has taken large, six-figure speaking fees.
Now, his supporters are looking to South Carolina and Nevada, the next two states to weigh in on the primary race. Democrats caucus today in Nevada, where Sanders has been chipping away at a large Clinton lead. The most recent polls out of South Carolina, where Democrats will have primary voting next week, show Clinton with a commanding 18-point lead, however.
Here in Cincinnati, things are heating up ahead of Ohio’s March 15 primary. Last week, former president Bill Clinton spoke at the Clifton Cultural Arts Center to a capacity crowd of 200. There, he touted his wife’s ability to be “a change maker.”
But some Cincinnatians see Sanders as a better fit for that role.
Some attendees at today’s rally expressed frustration with the current political system and say they see Sanders, with his calls for campaign finance and financial industry reform, as a catalyst for bigger changes.
“It’s not just Democrats, it’s not just Republicans. It’s institutional politics on both sides,” said rally-goer Jim Applebee, who lives in the Cincinnati area. But electing Sanders could be a tipping point, he says. “I don’t think he can change things, but we can. We need a leader for that movement. It can’t be one person. But it can happen. And if it doesn’t, we see the trend that we’re on.”
Some cited Sanders’ populist proposals around cost-free college education, expanding Medicare to the entire U.S. population, and other issues as the way to systemic change, and as signs of his principles.
“He has a concise platform about what he believes in, and he comes across as the most honest and ethical candidate,” Lou Ebstein of Cincinnati said. “My kids both have college loans, and they’re paying them back, and it’s an increasing burden. We’re not going to get anywhere if that continues to be the case for people.
Ebstein didn’t have negative words about Sanders’ primary opponent Hillary Clinton, but said he saw Sanders as a candidate more likely to proactively push progress beyond the Obama era.
“There are so many things that need to get done, and we need to go about them in a different way. Sanders really put a big challenge out there. He came out of nowhere, and now we’re going to see what Nevada does.”
Hey all. Here’s the news today.
A deal to equip Hamilton County Sheriff’s deputies with body cameras will be delayed, Sheriff Jim Neil announced yesterday. Hamilton County commissioners approved a deal between the Sheriff’s office and Taser, International for $1.3 million over five years, which would have provided body cameras as well as new Tasers for the department. However, contracts that big must be opened up to public bidding, so the county’s deal with Taser is on hold until other bids are solicited. The department has been looking into body cameras at a time when many law enforcement agencies across the country, including the Cincinnati Police Department, have taken steps to adopt the technology following controversial police shootings of civilians.
• In case you missed our update yesterday, Cincinnati police released the name of the man shot by officers in Cheviot. Officers Eric Kohler, Zachary Sterbling and Scott McManis of the Cincinnati Police Department shot Paul Gaston, 37, Wednesday, after they say he pulled a gun. Those officers fired a total of nine shots at Gaston, who they say was pulling what turned out to be a realistic-looking Airsoft bb gun from his waistband.
Video of the incident taken by bystanders shows Gaston initially complying with orders to get on his knees. The video, taken from behind, shows Gaston make a motion toward his mid-section with his right arm, but does not show a gun. He was originally reported waiving a gun in Westwood in a 911 call by his girlfriend, who was not at the scene, but who says she was receiving texts from her sister, who was. Police followed several other calls to find Gaston after he wrecked his truck and walked to neighboring Cheviot. Gatson was the second person shot by CPD this year. The first, Robert Tenbrick, was also shot while he had a toy gun.
City officials, including Mayor John Cranley, said they’re standing behind the officers, who have been placed on procedural administrative leave as the shooting is investigated. Sterbling and Kohler have been flagged for receiving multiple complaints through the Citizen’s Complaint Authority in the past, but officials say they acted appropriately Wednesday.
• This is kind of lame. MadTree will be temporarily pulling production of my favorite of theirs, Gnarly Brown, due to conflicts with a California wine maker over the use of the word “gnarly.” Delicato Vineyard has filed a complaint with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office over MadTree’s use of the word, which the vineyard uses in its Gnarly Head wine. While this seems a little ridiculous on it face — it’s beer vs. wine, after all, and it’s not even the same exact phrase — far be it from me to contest California’s ownership of the word “gnarly.” MadTree will retool the beer’s branding slightly and begin production again.
• Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin has signaled he’ll sign a controversial bill passed by the state’s legislature outlawing tolls as a way to fund the looming $2.6 billion Brent Spence Bridge project. Tolls have been forwarded as one possible way to fund the prohibitively high cost of replacing the bridge, which is functionally obsolete but structurally sound for now. The span, which carries I-75 across the Ohio River, is on one of the busiest shipping routes in the country. The bill stipulates that tolling cannot be part of any project connecting Kentucky to Ohio without the approval of the state’s legislature, which will not approve the funding method as a way to pay for the bridge.
• Will the fight over a replacement for late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia affect Ohio’s U.S. Senate race? It could. Incumbent Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican, has sided with other conservative senators who have signaled they will refuse to have confirmation hearings for President Barack Obama’s replacement nominations. They argue that Obama should wait until after the next election to let voters have a say on the pivotal placement. Currently, the court is divided evenly between four liberal and four conservative judges. Scalia was ultra-conservative, and Republicans would like nothing more than to replace him with someone ideologically similar. Portman has sided with most, but not all, Republicans in the chamber signaling they won’t give any confirmation hearings.
The question is, will that help or hurt him in a close race with Democrats, who look somewhat likely to nominate former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland in the March 15 primary? Ohio is a purple state, but Portman could rally his staunchly conservative base with the highly partisan move. On the other hand, it may not endear him to moderates and fence-sitters, who Strickland looks able to scoop up in November.
Portman’s taken some heat for the move from the Toledo Blade, among other editorial boards. While Democrats in the Senate, including Obama during his term, have opposed Republican presidents’ judicial nominees, they have done so through more traditional means — by voting no, by filibustering to avoid procedural votes on cloture, or closing debate on a nominee so a final vote can be taken during a confirmation hearing. Republicans are proposing something different and unprecedented: refusing to hold a hearing at all.
Hey hey Cincy. Here’s what’s happening today.
Cincinnati Police officers shot and killed a man in Cheviot yesterday after they say he pulled a gun from his waistband. Officers say they were responding to calls about a man intoxicated and waiving a gun in neighboring Westwood when an accident happened a few blocks away. They determined the driver in that accident was the same person from the initial call and followed him, ordering him to stop. He initially complied, according to officers, but then pulled a gun, at which time officers opened fire. Police have not released the person’s name, but say he is a 36-year-old black male. No dash cam or other footage of the incident, if it exists, has been released yet, but police officials say they will release more information about the shooting today. A witness named Clites Holloway saw the shooting from a nearby van and told reporters, “I barely seen him move his body, and as soon as I seen that, first cop took the shot.” All involved officers are on a seven-day paid leave of absence as the shooting is investigated.
UPDATE: Police say 37-year-old Paul Gaston pulled an Air Soft toy pistol from his waistband while he was on his knees in the street complying with officers. A video of the incident taken by a member of the public doesn't show Gaston with a gun, though he does reach briefly for his waist area.
• Improper prescriptions, dirty surgical implements and receiving extra money as a head surgeon without actually performing surgeries are accusations being leveled at the head of Cincinnati’s Veterans Administration Hospital Dr. Barbara Temeck, who is caught up in a federal investigation of the VA branch. A WCPO investigation alleges Temeck takes in more than $100,000 extra a year for a surgical role she doesn’t perform, that she prescribed prescription pain medicine to her boss’ wife, seemingly without the necessary licenses, and that she has looked the other way at dirty instruments, staffing shortages and other problems at Cincinnati’s VA hospital.
Detractors interviewed by the news organization say Temeck’s tenure has resulted in a quantifiable drop in the quality of care at the hospital. The investigation features interviews with doctors and patients, as well as public records supporting some of its findings. Supporters within the VA point out the hospital routinely gets four- and five-star reviews from the administration and that Temeck has done a good job at her post. They also say that the report doesn’t include information about whether or not the hospital has seen budget cuts from the federal government and what role those cuts may have played in quality of care.
• Cincinnati streetcar riders won’t be able to buy a specific, month-long unlimited use pass like the kind you can get for METRO buses, the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority says. Such a pass would be very similar to the $70 METRO passes, SORTA says, and could run afoul of federal regulations about segregating ridership. Some council members have said that potential riders may not want to ride the bus, but will want to ride the streetcar, and that SORTA should look into a separate pass for them. Riders will be able to buy unlimited-use daily passes for the streetcar at $2, however, and can also use their monthly METRO passes on the cars.
• Cincinnati officials, including Mayor John Cranley and
representatives from 3CDC yesterday held a groundbreaking event for
upcoming renovations to Ziegler Park, which sits on Sycamore Street at
the border of Over-the-Rhine and Pendleton. Those renovations will
include a new pool and a 400-car underground parking lot. The renovation
plan calls for at least $20 million in public money from state New
Markets Tax Credits and city parks and recreation bonds. 3CDC says it
still needs $12 million to finish the project and will continue
fundraising from public and private sources to fill in that gap. The
project comes even as the Cincinnati Parks Board has said it is running
low on funds to complete needed maintenance on parks across the city,
though much of the money for Ziegler is coming from other sources.
Cincinnati City Council recently approved giving the parks and
recreation bonds to 3CDC.
Neighborhood residents this summer took part in a three-session planning effort to garner feedback about the park. Among concerns expressed by residents, including advocates for low-income tenants in the neighborhood worried about the area’s ongoing gentrification, were preserving the park’s basketball courts and the possibility that Ziegler could become a busy “destination” park like Washington Park. Planners assured community members that those wishes would be honored. Cranley suggested hosting “a mini-LumenoCity here sometime soon” in his remarks, though park planners say the park will remain passive, or without major programming. Let's see what happens there.
• Finally, the question continues: Who owns the Western Hills Viaduct, and who will pay to repair or replace it? Right now, Cincinnati and Hamilton County officials are basically doing this about the question: ¯_(ツ)_/¯
The mile-long bridge, built by the city in 1932, needs to be replaced or seriously repaired in the next decade or so, and officials are finally getting serious about figuring that whole thing out. Sort of. The county and city are still fighting over who has ownership over the bridge and will foot the expected $80 million share of the $280 million replacement project. That conversation would be a lot easier if we as a country, you know, prioritized public infrastructure funding at the state and federal levels, but, ya know, times were different in the 1930s and we were just swimming in cash back then… oh wait. Anyway, now I’m editorializing. Maybe we can just build a giant zipline when the thing finally collapses?
• Early voting is now open for Ohio's primary on March 15. Voters can now head down to Hamilton County Board of Elections to vote, which mght be a good idea to avoid long lines or obnoxious political junkies at the polls. The Board of Elections website also lets you look up whether you're actually registered to vote and where you can go to vote, if you feel like doing so on the actual day.
• The University of Cincinnati is thinking about expanding its campus into downtown. UC President Santa Ono said the university is considering moving its law, business and music programs to a new downtown campus in order to connect better with the city. The university has long discussed moving its law school in particular. Ono says the current building on the corner of Clifton Avenue and Calhoun Street that houses the school is in need of renovations. UC officials are still considering possibilities, so there's no solid word yet on whether any programs will actually move.
• The recent spike in heroin use reported in the greater Cincinnati area has caused another outbreak: Hepatitis C. The number of infections jumped in 2015 with more than 1,000 new reported cases, The Enquirer reports, which public health officials say goes hand-in-hand with injection drugs like heroin. About 75 percent of Hepatitis C cases result in severe liver problems. Public health officials are pushing needle exchange programs to help curb the rate of infection, and on Monday the Northern Kentucky Health Department got approval to develop its own exchange program.
• Ohio has created a $20 million program to help aid the clean up of abandoned gas stations. The Ohio Development Services Agency is in charge of handing out the grant money over the next two years to city land banks. The state is currently working on a website for applicants to apply online set to launch in March. Ohio Development Services Agency Director David Goodman said the idea for the program struck him when he noticed the number of small Ohio towns with an abandoned gas station in the middle. These properties can also have issues with oil and gas leaks from leftover underground tanks.
Good morning all. Hope you enjoyed your weekend and got an extra day off, either thanks to past presidents or present precipitation. I went sledding in memory of Abraham Lincoln on my President’s Day holiday.
Anyway, here’s the news today.
Speaking of past presidents: Former commander in chief Bill Clinton came to Clifton Friday to campaign for his wife, former senator and secretary of state Hillary Clinton. Clinton’s visit comes about a month before Ohio’s March 15 primary, where Hillary is facing off against U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. You can read more about Bill’s pitch to Cincinnati voters, and how they responded, in our coverage here.
• How are policing reforms at University of Cincinnati coming along? So far, community members and police reform advocates are skeptical. A town hall discussion Monday night with UC’s police force and an outside organization contracted to help with the reforms, called Exiger, revealed that distrust in the department is still high after the July 19 shooting death of unarmed black motorist Sam DuBose by then-UC police officer Ray Tensing. The university will pay Exiger $400,000 to complete a review of the force. The company will issue its report in June, but activists say that shouldn’t be the end of the conversation and that rebuilding trust will take years.
• So, the University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium just got a big renovation. It cost $86 million. Now, UC is trying hard to get into the Big 12 Conference, which may or may not be looking for new members. UC President Santa Ono is confident the school is an attractive choice for the conference, though, and if it does tap UC, that means… spending millions again to expand Nippert’s capacity by 10,000 to 15,000 seats. But, hey, it’s not like the university already subsidizes its athletic program by $27 million or anything. Wait, it does? Oh. Ono says Big 12 membership would make the school’s athletic programs more profitable and could reduce those subsidies. But first, UC has to get into the conference and drop some serious dime on getting its stadium up to size.
• Here’s something terrible: The general store in Rabbit Hash, Kentucky has burned down. The structure, built in 1831, was a landmark in the small town that once elected a dog for a mayor. It carried food, beverages and gifts and also hosted both live music and the unquantifiable spirit of that funky town. I remember some great bike trips to Rabbit Hash. Bummer. Plans to rebuild are in the works, but the historic shack was in some ways irreplaceable. The owners say they’ll be hosting music in a neighboring barn until then.
• I’ve always had a fantasy that someday I’ll have a birthday party at Union Terminal where guests can play old-school Nintendo on the enormous domed Omnimax screen. That will probably never happen, but assuming it’s possible, I’ll still have to wait a while. Soon, the Omnimax will close for two years as part of the terminal’s large-scale, $200-million-plus renovation process. The last film to screen there before that process starts, National Parks Adventure, just opened and will run until the theater shuts down this summer. I haven’t been since I was a kid so I’m probably going to check it out even though they won’t let me play Tetris on that dome.
• Former Ohio governor and U.S. Senate hopeful Ted Strickland yesterday held a news conference outside the Hamilton County Courthouse to blast incumbent Sen. Rob Portman over the senator’s refusal to consider a new Supreme Court justice appointed by President Barack Obama. That statement came following the death of ardent conservative Justice Antonin Scalia Saturday. Senate confirmation is a vital step in the process of naming a new justice, and the court will have only eight justices until that happens. Immediately following Scalia’s death, many Republican senators, including Portman, said they would not consider an Obama appointee and called on the president to wait until after the 2016 election so the next president could make the appointment. That’s not really how it works, but I guess they figure it’s worth a shot.
That’s it for me. Tweet or email your news tips or improbable birthday party suggestions.
Former President Bill Clinton urged a group of more than 200 people in Clifton today to support his wife and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid.
Clinton called his wife a “changemaker” who held the expertise and experience to become the next president.
Much of his speech touched on the need to grow the country’s economy in the aftermath of the financial crisis through lowering the country’s high student loan debt and increasing the number of jobs.
“We suffered a terrible wound in that financial mess,” Clinton said.
Clinton also addressed the sixth Democratic debate that took place last night between Clinton and her competitor for the Democratic nomination, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, without ever mentioning Sanders’ name. He recapped Hillary’s points from the debate on refinancing student loans and avoiding another financial crisis.
“I love the closing of the debate last night when Hillary said, ‘Look I agree we’ve got to do something to make sure the economy doesn’t crash again. You have your solution. I have mine. Most experts say my plan is stronger, and it’s more likely to prevent the financial crisis,’ ” he said.
Bill Clinton has been touring the country in support of his wife’s bid for the Democratic nomination in the wake of disappointing outcomes for Hillary in the last two weeks. She came in neck and neck with Sanders in the Iowa caucus on Feb. 1 and lost significantly in New Hampshire Democratic primary on Feb. 9.
At the rally, the former president expressed disappointment at the current Supreme Court for upholding the Voting Right Act and the “Citizens United" decision, which allows unlimited spending on political campaigns by corporations and unions.
He emphasized how such issues could change with the next president, as he or she will likely appoint two Supreme Court judges.
“She’ll give you judges who will stick up for your rights,” he said.
Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley and former mayor Mark Mallory introduced Clinton. Vice mayor David Mann and council members Chris Seelbach and Yvette Simpson were also at the event.
Christie Malaer of Green Hills says she attended the rally because she believes Hillary, along with her husband Bill, will make a good team together again in the White House.
“Hillary and Bill have stuck together through everything they’ve been through,” Malaer said. “That says a lot.”
Good morning, Cincinnati! Here are your morning headlines.
Former University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing is expected to testify at his trial, which has been set for Oct. 24. Tensing is charged with the murder of motorist Samuel Dubose during a traffic stop in Mount Auburn last July. Tensing's attorney indicated in a pre-trial motion that Tensing would be on the list of more than 20 witnesses scheduled to testify. Other listed witnesses include Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters and UC President Santa Ono.
• Former President Bill Clinton is coming to Clifton today. Clinton will speak at the Clifton Cultural Arts Center at 3 p.m. at a Get Out the Vote event. The event could mark the beginning of the aggressive campaigning from presidential candidates in Ohio in the coming months. Not surprisingly, Clinton is expected to urge people to vote for his wife and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for president as well as discuss the current election. Doors open at 2 p.m., and you can RSVP here.
• Grocery giant Kroger announced today that it will start selling Narcan, the heroin overdose antidote, without a prescription at its pharmacies in Ohio and Northern Kentucky. The drug, which is often carried by emergency personnel, is currently only available in 27 state pharmacies without a prescription. Kroger's announcement follows the one made earlier this month by drug store CVS, which said it would begin selling Narcan in its Ohio stores next month. The corporations' decisions come as more attention has been brought to a recent spike in the number of heroin-related deaths sweeping the region.
• Weed and redistricting are several issues on the minds of legislators. At the Associated Press Legislative Preview Session on Thursday, House and Senate leaders said they were each holding their own separate hearings on medical marijuana. Senate President Keith Faber (R-Celina) said while thinks there's support for it in the legislature, if marijuana is legalized it will probably be not be available in smoking form in order to keep from creating a loophole for those who just want to get high legally. Leaders also said they were kind of, sort of working on redistricting reform, which was approved by voters last November. Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) said the proposals received so far are going to a seven-member commission, which includes four lawmakers.
Good morning, Cincinnati! Here are your morning headlines.
A trial date has been set for former University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing, who fatally shot unarmed motorist Sam DuBose in Mount Auburn in July. Tensing will face murder and manslaughter charges brought against him by Hamilton County prosecutor Joe Deters on Oct. 24, a year and three months after he shot DuBose during a traffic stop. Tensing pulled DuBose over for a missing license plate. DuBose refused to exit his car, and after a brief struggle where Tensing reached into the ca and DuBose started his vehicle, the officer shot him. Tensing's next pre-trial hearing will be in April.
• Forty people marched downtown yesterday stopping in front of the John Weld Peck Federal Building on Main Street to protest the U.S. immigration policy. The protest, which was coordinated with the Christian holiday of Ash Wednesday, was specifically calling on the feds' recent decision to start deporting women with young children and unaccompanied minors from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. The march also comes a week after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement raided an East Price Hill apartment complex with a large number of Central Americans for unknown reasons.
• Park Chili in Northside has new owners. The Cincinnati chili staple, which has been in operation since 1937, was bought by Steven and Susan Thompson to be operated by their daughter and son-in-law Allie Thompson and Kevin Pogo Curtis as The Park. Curtis previously operated Tacocracy on Hamilton Avenue. Curtis says they plan to keep it a cozy diner, and they even have the chili recipe from former owner Norm Bazoff, which they bought along with the restaurant.
• U.S. Senate candidate and city councilman P.G. Sittenfeld may have gotten his biggest endorsement yet. Former Democratic Ohio Gov. Richard Celeste has come out in support of Sittenfeld. Sittenfeld is currently running against another former Ohio Gov., Ted Strickland, for the Democratic nomination. The winner of the March primary will face the Republican incumbent Sen. Rob Portman.
• A bill that would defund Planned Parenthood of Ohio is on its way to Gov. John Kasich's desk. Yesterday, while Kasich was celebrating his second place victory in the New Hampshire GOP primary, the House voted to approve the bill with the amendments added by the Senate. Some political analysts are asking if these two things were strategically planned. The House happened to vote on the legislation the day after the New Hampshire primary where the state's moderate Republicans are likely to be less supportive of defunding Planned Parenthood. But it could help Kasich at his next stop in South Carolina where the state's republicans are more stoked on the idea. Republican Senate President Keith Faber denied on Wednesday the vote was timed to boost Kasich's shot at the presidential nomination, but said he does think the bill will please South Carolina Republicans.
The Ohio House of Representatives today passed HB-294 with amendments added by the state Senate that would ban the Ohio Department of Health from distributing state and federal funds to centers that perform non-therapeutic abortions.
Health organizations are already prohibited from using state and federal funds toward abortion services. The bill will take this a step further by prohibiting federal funding for non-therapeautic abortions, meaning organizations that perform abortions as a result of rape or incest or those that are not medically necessary are banned as well. Along with non-therapeautic abortions, organizations like Planned Parenthood also use such funding for things like services that help prevent infant mortality, breast and cervical cancer, infertility, minority AIDS and HIV infection and teen STDs and pregnancy. The bill also bars the state from contracting or affiliating with any such organization.
It would redirect the funding into other community health organizations like Women, Infant and Children (WIC) clinics.
If Kasich signs the bill into law, it will strip Planned Parenthood of Ohio, the largest abortion provider in the state, of the nearly $1.4 million it receives in government funds.
The added amendments would direct $250,000 toward infant mortality prevention efforts and allow pregnant women to go to government-sponsored medical programs while they are applying for Medicaid, instead of waiting until after they are approved.
Ohio ranks 45th highest in the U.S. for infant mortality, with 7.3 deaths per 1,000 live births, according the 2013 Centers for Disease Control's National Vital Statistics Reports.
On the House floor, Democrats argued that even though the bill's amendments were directing more resources toward an issue like infant mortality prevention, the bill overall is causing greater harm by stripping an organization like Planned Parenthood of funding it already uses for that purpose.
Rep. Janine Boyd (D-Cleveland Heights) said the majority of Planned Parenthood clinics in the state tackle educational issues like this and do not perform abortions.
"You are not defunding abortions with this bill," she said.
Rep. Kristina Roegner (R-Akron) said she believes the two items are mutually exclusive.
"The rate of infant mortality rate for aborted babies is 100 percent," said Roegner.
The legislation is the latest move in a long string of new requirements lawmakers have passed for abortion providers.
Proponents of the requirements say the laws are intended to improve safety standards at abortion providers. Opponents say they are bureaucratic red tape aimed at reducing the number of clinics performing abortions.
A 2009 law requires that abortion clinics have a patient-transfer agreement with a public hospital but can request a variance, or exception, if they are unable to do so.
Planned Parenthood in Mount Auburn and the Women's Med Clinic, the last two abortion providers in southwest Ohio, nearly lost their licenses to perform the procedure earlier this year when the Department of Health denied the clinics' request for a variance.
Planned Parenthood sued the state, and a judge ruled in October that the clinics are allowed to operate during the lawsuit.
If the clinics lose their licenses, Cincinnati would be the largest metropolitan area in the country without access to abortion services.
Stephanie Kight, the CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, told the Enquirer that its health education programs will see the most funding cuts under HB-294.
Erin Smiley, a health educator at Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio, told CityBeat last October the organization stands to lose a $300,000 federal grant for a sex education class for adjudicated and foster care youth it teaches across 18 Ohio counties.
"I would welcome anyone, the legislature, Senators, whomever, if anyone ever wanted to come and see what our messages are really like and see the impacts that we have and how these young people are empowered by this information," Smiley said. "I really believe it would be hard for those folks to think that what they're doing right now is the best for young people."