It's been a long time coming, but today gays and lesbians are finally taking the fight for our rights where it belongs, through the federal justice system.
The trial before the U.S. Supreme Court on same-sex marriages in California begins today and the result of Perry v. Schwarzenegger is expected to affect gay marriage legislation nationwide.
Officials with the Hamilton County Board of Elections have announced the processing will occur today, Thursday and Friday. A total of 286 provisional ballots are being tallied in a Juvenile Court judge race, in compliance with a recent order from a federal judge.
The ballots are being counted today until 4 p.m., as well as from 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Thursday, and from 10:30 a.m. until the work is completed on Friday. The board’s offices are located on the third floor at 824 Broadway Ave., downtown.
Also, the Board of Elections will hold special meetings this week. Both will occur Friday; one at 10 a.m., the other at 4:30 p.m. Board members will discuss “pending litigation” related to the Hunter-Williams race.
Earlier this month a federal appeals court upheld a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Susan Dlott that 286 provisional ballots should be tallied in the 2010 race between Democrat Tracie Hunter and Republican John Williams.
Hunter seemingly lost by just 23 votes out of nearly 230,000 ballots cast by county voters, but 286 ballots weren't counted because they were cast by people who showed up to vote at the correct polling place but were misdirected by poll workers and voted at the wrong precinct table.
Hunter filed a lawsuit in
federal court alleging the ballots should be counted. Dlott had ordered the
local Board of Elections to precisely determine how many ballots weren’t
counted due to poll worker error, before she decided. That’s when local
Republicans appealed the order.
Williams alleged poll workers correctly followed Ohio law and excluded the ballots, and that they shouldn’t be tallied. The GOP tried to get the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on the matter, but it declined to hear the case in April 2011. That put the matter back in Dlott’s court.
Since the dispute began, Williams was appointed to another vacant Juvenile Court judgeship in November 2011.
The Ohio Supreme Court on Thursday expedited the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law’s challenge against the federally funded Medicaid expansion, which Republican Gov. John Kasich pushed through the Controlling Board, a seven-member legislative panel, despite resistance from the Ohio legislature.
The case will decide whether Kasich was constitutionally allowed to bypass the legislature to expand Medicaid eligibility to more low-income Ohioans. The 1851 Center says the Controlling Board isn’t allowed to go against the will of the legislature. The Kasich administration argues the Controlling Board can unilaterally accept federal funds.
With the case now expedited, both sides will submit their arguments on the merits of the case to the state’s highest court by Dec. 1.
Kasich tried for most of 2013 to get the expansion approved by the Ohio House and Senate, but he couldn’t convince Republican legislators, who control both chambers, to approve the plan.
But instead of accepting defeat, Kasich asked the Controlling Board to take up federal funds for the expansion. The board approved the funds on Oct. 21.
The legal complaint was filed on Oct. 22 on behalf of Republican State Reps. Matt Lynch, Ron Young, Andy Thompson, Ron Maag, John Becker and Ron Hood, Cleveland Right to Life and Right to Life of Greater Cincinnati.
Kasich, in a rare alliance with Democrats, says the Medicaid expansion is necessary to insure more low-income Ohioans and obtain federal Obamacare dollars that would go to other states if Ohio declined the expansion.
But Republican legislators say they’re concerned about the government’s involvement in the health care system and whether the federal government can afford to pay for the Medicaid expansion.
Under Obamacare, states are asked to expand Medicaid eligibility to reach anyone up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or individuals with an annual income of $15,856.20 or less. If states accept, the federal government will pay for the entire expansion through fiscal year 2016 then gradually phase down its payments to 90 percent of the expansion. In comparison, the Kaiser Family Foundation found the federal government paid for nearly 64 percent of Ohio’s Medicaid program in fiscal year 2013.
The expansion would fill a so-called “coverage gap” under Obamacare and Ohio law. Without it, parents with incomes between 90 percent and 100 percent of the federal poverty level and childless adults with incomes below 100 percent of the federal poverty level won’t qualify for either Obamacare’s tax credits or Medicaid.
The Health Policy Institute of Ohio (HPIO) previously found the expansion would insure between 300,000 and 400,000 Ohioans through fiscal year 2015. If the expansion is approved beyond that, HPIO says it would generate $1.8 billion for Ohio and insure nearly half a million Ohioans over the next decade.
If the Ohio Supreme Court upholds the Controlling Board’s decision, the Medicaid expansion will go into effect in 2014 and cost the federal government nearly $2.6 billion, according to the Ohio Department of Medicaid.
A local appellate court judge who is a neighborhood activist and a one-time Cincinnati City Council candidate recently was elected as president of the Ohio State Bar Association.
Patrick F. Fischer was elected Friday during the Bar Association's annual convention in Columbus.
Homeless advocates gathered in front of the Hamilton County Courthouse on Wednesday to speak out against the county sheriff’s attempts to evict homeless people sleeping at the courthouse and Hamilton County Justice Center with the threat of jail time.
The press conference came on the same day that four local homeless filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil’s new policy is cruel and unusual because it punishes people for being homeless.
Charmaine McGuffey, head of the Hamilton County Justice Department, says the policy is necessary to address a public health issue. She explains that every morning county officials are forced to clean up urine and feces left by the homeless the night before, and often the county doesn’t have the resources to completely disinfect the areas.
Josh Spring, executive director of the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition, says county officials should stop using taxpayer money to address public defecation and focus on the state of the economy. He’s asking locals to tell county officials, “I want my government to invest in jobs and housing, not in pushing people to the margins.”
If the policy remains, Spring says the county could at least compromise and hold enforcement until the winter shelter opens, which would provide another housing opportunity for many of the homeless people who currently rely on county buildings for a safe spot to sleep.
McGuffey says the current timeline for the winter shelter opening — two months — is too much time to wait for what she describes as a public health issue. She says it’s also unclear whether local organizations, which are still gathering funds for the shelter, will have enough money to open it.
At the press conference, Spring was joined by several homeless people who shared their experiences. All the speakers echoed a similar theme: They’re not homeless by choice, and they only sleep on county property because it’s much safer than the alternatives, such as alleys and abandoned buildings.
McGuffey insists no one is trying to demonize homeless people. She says officers try to link homeless people with local human services when possible. Some of that outreach is already underway through trained officers and neighborhood liaisons, and starting next week the county will bring in a trained mental health professional to act as an advocate and outreach coordinator.
But if help can’t be found, McGuffey says officers have to threaten arrest to invoke a “sense of immediacy” or homeless people might never leave the properties and the public health issue would go unaddressed.
So far, the sheriff’s office sees the program as successful. Over the past four weeks, it’s brought down the amount of homeless people camping out at the Hamilton County Courthouse and Justice Center each night from 40 to 12, according to McGuffey. She says the reductions exemplify people who were redirected to human services, but there’s no hard evidence showing those people actually got help or whether the reduction is temporary.
Spring says there aren’t enough human services to get all of the city’s homeless help. That, he claims, is the real problem that needs local officials’ attention.
Over the past decade, City Council fell far short of its funding goal for human services,
which aid homeless and low-income Cincinnatians.
candidates, including Chris Seelbach, Greg Landsman and Mike Moroski,
say increasing human services funding to 1 percent of the operating budget will be a
priority for them over the next few years. The increase would represent an
improvement, but it would still fall short of the city’s 1.5 percent goal.
Meanwhile, Strategies to End Homelessness aims to reduce homelessness in Hamilton County from more than 7,000 to roughly 3,500 over the next five years through an initiative backed by the city and county.
As part of Homelessness Awareness Month, Spring and other
advocates will march in support of homeless causes later this month. The
march will begin at 3 p.m. on Oct. 26 at 1300 Vine St. in Over-the-Rhine.
The speaker of the Ohio House is asking a local state representative to resign after he was indicted on 16 counts of fraud. State Rep. Peter Beck, a Mason Republican, already faces a maximum of 43 years in prison if he’s convicted on all the counts, but Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine says the ongoing investigation might produce more charges. The charges are a result of Beck’s alleged actions involving an Ohio software company called Christopher Technologies, which investors claim bilked them out of $200,000.Claiming discrimination, a newlywed same-sex couple is suing the state of Ohio for failing to recognize their marriage. Jim Obergefell and John Arthur were married in Maryland, but the couple lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, where same-sex marriage is banned by the state constitution. The couple’s attorney claims the state should be forced to recognize the marriage because of Fourteenth Amendment protections extended to gay couples by the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Arthur was diagnosed in 2011 with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a neurological disease that causes muscles to rapidly deteriorate, and he’s currently bedridden as a result. Given Arthur’s health, the couple will argue for an expedited ruling at a hearing at 1:30 p.m. today in front of U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black.
The Buckeye Firearms Association is raising money to buy a gun for George Zimmerman, who was acquitted of second-degree murder in the murder trial of black 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman’s gun is currently being held by the U.S. Department of Justice as it investigates further charges.
Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld and 100 members of the Children’s Defense Fund will meet at Washington Park at 1 p.m. today to rally against gun violence in Cincinnati. The group plans to march to City Hall, where they will listen to students’ suggestions for making the city a safer place to visit and reside.
A state representative introduced a bill that would allow some public university students to forgo traditional tuition and instead pay for their college education through a percent of their income for 24 years after they graduate.
An Ohio health aide is being sent to prison for Medicaid fraud.
Ohio gas prices are down this week.
In a desperate bid to save the endangered Sumatran rhino, the Cincinnati Zoo is attempting to breed a brother and sister.
If you think the recent heat has been bad, Popular Science has a humbling list of the 10 worst places to live in the universe.
The city of Cincinnati and opponents of the parking plan met in court today to debate whether laws passed with emergency clauses are subject to referendum — a crucial legal issue as the city attempts to speed ahead with plans to lease the city’s parking assets to the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority to help balance the deficit and foster economic development.
After hearing extensive legal arguments
from both sides, Judge Robert Winkler, who presided over the hearings, said
a decision is unlikely today.
Curt Hartman, who represented opponents of the parking plan, argued the city charter’s definition of emergency clauses is ambiguous, and legal precedent supports siding with voters’ right to referendum when there is ambiguity.
Terry Nestor, who represented the city, said legal
precedent requires the city to defer to state law as long as state law
is not contradicted in the city charter.
Cincinnati’s city charter does not specify whether emergency legislation is subject to referendum, but state law explicitly says emergency laws are not subject to referendum.
Meg Olberding, city spokesperson, previously told CityBeat that if the parking plan is held up for too long in legal battles, the city will have to carry out spending cuts before July to balance the budget in time for the 2014 fiscal year.
Emergency clauses remove a 30-day waiting period on approved legislation, and the city claims they also remove the possibility of referendum.
City Council approved the parking plan in a 5-4 vote on March 6 before attaching an emergency clause to the law in a 6-3 vote. But the law was quickly put on hold by a temporary restraining order from Winkler after a lawsuit was filed in favor of subjecting the plan to referendum.
Opponents of the parking plan say they’re concerned the plan will cede too much control over the city’s parking meters, which they say could lead to skyrocketing parking rates.
The city says rates are set at 3 percent or inflation, but the rate can change with a unanimous vote from a special committee, approval from the city manager and a final nod from the Port Authority. The special committee would comprise of four people appointed by the Port Authority and one appointed by the city manager.
The city is pursuing the parking plan to help balance the city’s deficit for the next two fiscal years and enable economic development projects (“Parking Stimulus,” issue of Feb. 27).