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by Hannah McCartney 11.14.2013
john becker

Bill Would Stop Insurers From Offering Abortion Coverage

Union Township Rep. John Becker backs abortion ban for most insurance and Medicaid

Union Township Rep. John Becker doesn't exactly have a history of standing up for causes CityBeat agrees with, and this week we're seeing more of the same.

He's the voice behind another Republican-backed bill introduced Nov. 14, that, if passed, would introduce regulations that would ban most public and private health insurance policies, including Medicaid, from covering abortion care and several common methods of contraception.

According to a press release from NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, H.B. 351 would manipulate language on the Ohio Revised Code to redefine abortion services and restrict public hospitals from performing abortions — even on women whose lives are at risk due to the pregnancy or who have been victims of rape.

NARAL Executive Director Kellie Copeland commented, "Imagine facing a life-threatening pregnancy complication and being told that your insurance won’t cover the procedure because Ohio politicians banned that coverage. Imagine becoming pregnant as the result of a rape, and having to cover the cost of an abortion out of pocket because this bill became law. It’s unthinkable."

Also introduced on Wednesday to U.S. Congress was the Women's Health Protection Act, what supporters are calling a historic pro-choice bill that would outlaw states' authority to limit women's reproductive rights by prohibiting states from passing Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws, which impose extra regulations on doctors who operate in medical practices that perform abortions. The bill, which will likely face harsh odds in the U.S.'s conservative-dominated House, wouldn't completely diminish states' existing anti-abortion laws, although it require judges to be more carefully reconsider cases that challenge the legality of already-existing laws.

Becker's bill has yet to be assigned to a committee. Here's the bill in full.

As one of the self-proclaimed "most conservative" members of his party, he's also a cosponsor of the state's Heartbeat Bill and once called the proposal of a needle-exchange program, which could reduce the spread of infectious bloodborne diseases like HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C, the product of a "liberal media agenda."

In August, Becker introduced a bill that would kick a large chunk of pregnant women and low-income parents off of Medicaid by grossly lowering the entry eligibility.

Becker also recently lobbied for the impeachment of the judge who allowed the state to legally recognize the marriage of Jim Obergefell and his 20-year partner, John Arthur, who recently passed away from Lou Gehrig's disease, for his decision.
by Andy Brownfield 12.19.2012

Council Passes SORTA Resolution, Budget

Resolution promises no bus funds used on streetcar

In hopes of quashing rumors, City Council on Wednesday passed a resolution promising not to use Metro bus money on the streetcar.

The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit authority had voted Tuesday on an agreement with the city that contained a provision saying money from the $42 million transit fund that pays for bus operation can’t be used on the streetcar.

The agreement needs to be signed by the city as well in order to release millions of dollars in federal grants to help fund the streetcar. The city has pledged to match those grants with local funds. SORTA wants to make sure the transit fund isn’t used for that purpose, but the city wants to have the freedom to use that money on any transportation project.

At least one council member questioned the necessity of passing the resolution.

Chris Seelbach said that nobody on council or in the city administration had proposed or would propose using transit money on the streetcar.

“I don’t understand why we would need a provision in any contract that would make us not be able to, when nobody’s proposing that we do it,” he said.

The resolution has no legal standing preventing council from later coming back and using transit funds for the streetcar, but Qualls said she hoped it put citizens’ minds at rest regarding their intentions.

Mayor Mark Mallory on Monday published an editorial in The Enquirer promising that the transit money wouldn’t be used for the streetcar.

He went further on Wednesday and said during council’s meeting that he as mayor would never approve the use of transit money for the operation of the streetcar.

Council also passed a one-month budget for SORTA, requiring that they come back next month to pass another one.

Councilman Chris Smitherman accused Mallory of trying to flex political muscle in the budget to strong-arm SORTA into taking out the provision disallowing the use of transit funds for the streetcar. He questioned the timing of passing a SORTA budget the day after the transit authority voted to prevent transit funds being used for the streetcar.

Councilman Charlie Winburn — council's sole Republican — walked out of a Budget Committee meeting in advance of the vote.

However Councilwoman Yvette Simpson said it made sense to pass the one-month budget because it forbid SORTA from using taxpayer money to sue the city.

City Solicitor John Curp said it was SORTA’s position in the lawsuit that it should be the one deciding how transit funds are used, not the city.

by Hannah McCartney 11.07.2013
Posted In: LGBT, LGBT Issues, Governor, Government, News at 11:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Cincinnati Gay and Lesbian Center to Close Doors

Organization cites need to "evolve with the times" for virtual switch

In two days, the physical space that's housed Cincinnati's Gay and Lesbian Community Center for the past 20 years will be vacant, but the organization won't disappear entirely.

Instead, the Center will become a completely virtual informational resource for the region's LGBT community and act as a funding resource for other Cincinnati organizations.

The Center could not be immediately reached for comment on the closure.

A letter from the board of directors sent out on Oct. 28 announced that the decision to close was based on a need to "evolve with the times." The letter states that the organization will continue to answer emails and voicemails and maintain its popular annual fundraiser, Pride Night at Kings Island, and that the board is working on selecting a public location to hold annual meetings. 

Pride Night at Kings Island, which has consistently been the Center's most profitable and popular fundraising effort, brought out record crowds this year.

The private, nonprofit volunteer-run foundation, which has been located in Northside for the past 20 years, uses its profits to provide grant to other Cincinnati-area LGBT groups. The organization's first grant for 2014 will provide Cincinnati Pride with $5,000 to expand promotions for Cincinnati Gay Pride on May 31, 2014, and for the city's celebration of Pride Month, which runs through June.

by Kevin Osborne 09.23.2011

Candidates On: What to Do About the Tax Rollback

As part of CityBeat's continuing election coverage, we’ve once again sent a questionnaire to the non-incumbent Cincinnati City Council candidates to get their reactions on a broad range of issues.

Nine of the 14 non-incumbents chose to answer our questions. Others either didn’t respond or couldn’t meet the deadline.

During the next few weeks, we will print the responses from the non-incumbents to a different topic each time.

Today’s question is, “What is your stance on the property tax rollback? Do you believe the city's property tax rate should be increased to the maximum 6.1 mills allowed under the charter, or remain at a rate to generate $28.9 million each year, or be decreased? Please explain your answer.”

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by Hannah McCartney 02.01.2013

Court to Decide Dispute over Streetcar Utility Lines

Mallory announces construction to begin in April on track for 2015 completion

Another hurdle in the ongoing struggle to make the streetcar a reality was bypassed today, when Mayor Mark Mallory and City Manager Milton Dohoney, Jr. announced that after months entangled in a gridlock, Duke Energy and the city of Cincinnati have finally reached an agreement over who will pay for the relocation of utility lines.

Somewhat of an agreement, anyway. Mallory said that the city and Duke will go before a judge in Common Pleas court, who will make the final decision as to who should pay for the utility relocation. According to the agreement, Duke Energy will begin moving its utilities in the next few weeks, and the court decision will determine cost responsibility later. The city and Duke are expected to file in Common Pleas court within the next few weeks, although the court decision could take years to finalize.

The city broke ground on the streetcar nearly a year ago, but the skirmish between Duke and the city delayed further development — Duke refused to begin any kind of construction before financial responsibility was determined.

The reconciliation contains two separate agreements, one of which outlines how Duke will safely operate its utilities once the streetcar is in place. The other demarcates how Duke and the city will resolve the issue of financial responsibility; they've both agreed to abide by the court ruling after any appeals are exhausted.
"The utilities' agreements are in place, the cars are being ordered and the construction bids are coming in," announced Dohoney.

Roxanne Qualls, city council member and Democratic mayoral candidate, has long been a supporter of the streetcar project, which she values as an indispensable economic investment for the city of Cincinnati. Yesterday, Qualls announced her request for the city to ramp up the streetcar construction timeline in order to have the project completed in time for the All-Star Games, which will take place in Cincinnati July 2015. Her announcement came just weeks after the city revised its timetable to delay project completion until April 2016.

In a letter from Qualls to Mallory and Dohoney, she explains: “This may present a challenge, but it is one I am sure the administration is capable of meeting. The streetcar will serve a critical role in efficiently and effectively moving visitors to and from Great American Ballpark and allowing them to conveniently visit other venues such as Fountain Square, Horseshoe Casino, Over-the-Rhine, Washington Park, etc.”

At the meeting, Mallory announced that the city would shoot for construction to be completed prior to the games, but there were no guarantees. The streetcar builder will ultimately set the timeline for the project, according to Jason Barron, Mallory's director of public affairs.

CityBeat recently covered the streetcar project's delays and how the 2013 mayoral race could affect its progress here.

by 02.04.2011
Posted In: Public Policy, Government, Ethics, 2010 Election at 06:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Brunner Touts New Watchdog PAC

Just a few weeks after leaving office, ex-Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner is trying to raise awareness about a political action committee (PAC) she helped create while campaigning last year for the U.S. Senate nomination.

Courage PAC is designed to increase grassroots advocacy and citizen activism on several issues, and perform a watchdog role on Ohio government now that Republicans fill most statewide offices.

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by 01.05.2009
Posted In: 2008 Election, Government at 11:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Beginning of the End or End of the Beginning?

As we head back to work and school today after the holiday break, Barack Obama's inauguration as president is just two weeks away. The much-promised and long-anticipated change is almost upon us, and we'll finally get what we've been hoping for after "catching the car" we were chasing.

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by Andy Brownfield 09.17.2012
barack obama 2

Obama Announces Trade Action against China at Cincinnati Stop

Local Republicans criticize president's record on deficit in counter-rally

President Barack Obama announced a new trade action against China during a Cincinnati campaign stop on Monday, where he also took the opportunity to attack Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

The U.S. filed the case at the World Trade Organization on Monday and claims that China offers “extensive subsidies” to native automakers and auto-parts producers.

The Chinese government filed its own complaint before the WTO on Monday, challenging tariffs the U.S. imposes on Chinese products ranging from steel to tires. The tariffs are meant to protect American manufacturers against what the U.S. government claims are unfair trade practices by China.

“(The U.S. action is) against illegal subsidies that encourage companies to ship auto part manufacturing jobs overseas,” Obama said before an estimated crowd of 4,500 at the Seasongood Pavilion in Eden Park. “These are subsidies that directly harm working men and women on the assembly lines in Ohio and Michigan and across the Midwest.”

“It’s not right, it’s against the rules, and we will not let it stand. American workers build better products than anyone. ‘Made in America’ means something. And when the playing field is level, America will always win.

Obama went on to criticize his Republican challenger, saying Romney made his fortune in part by uprooting American jobs and shipping them to China. Obama accused Romney — who has criticized Obama’s foreign policy, saying the president apologizes for American interests — of talking the talk without being able to walk the walk.

The Romney campaign countered with an email after the rally, saying that Obama’s economic policies were hurting the private sector and harmed manufacturing.

“The President’s misguided, ineffective policies have hampered the private sector and allowed China to flaunt the rules while middle-class families suffer,” Romney campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg wrote. 

“As president, Mitt Romney will deliver a fresh start for manufacturers by promoting trade that works for America and fiscal policies that encourage investment, hiring and growth.”

The email pointed to reports from Bloomberg finding that manufacturing and production have shrunk recently.

Before the Obama rally several Ohio Republicans held a news conference behind a Romney campaign bus near Eden Park, where they focused more on the deficit than foreign trade.

U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot said it was “laughable” that Obama considers himself a budget hawk. He pointed to the decline in budget negotiations between the president and the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, saying Obama “walked away” from talks with Speaker John Boehner.

“Basically as president from that time last August until now, it’s been all politics,” Chabot said.

Chabot also attacked Obama on foreign policy, claiming the president has left Israel hanging in the Middle East and is not serious with Iran, who he says is on the brink of getting nuclear weapons.

The president in his speech said he did have a plan to reduce the federal deficit, and would reduce it by $4 trillion over the next 10 years without raising taxes on the middle class.

Monday’s visit to Cincinnati was Obama’s second of this campaign and his 12th trip to Ohio this year. Romney has visited the state 18 times during his campaign.

Obama was scheduled to fly to Columbus Monday afternoon for a campaign appearance there.

by 07.21.2009
Posted In: Government, Republicans, Spending at 05:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Cheney Applies for Government Aid

During its eight years in power, the Bush-Cheney Administration was a big supporter of privatizing services that traditionally were performed by government. The ostensible purpose was to save taxpayer money, although it often seemed like the real reason was to enrich the cronies of George Bush and Dick Cheney, including companies like Halliburton.

It’s odd, then, that Cheney is turning to taxpayers for a special favor.

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by German Lopez 02.21.2013
Posted In: News, Government, Immigration, Governor at 04:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Ohio's Illegal Immigrant Policy Remains Unclear

BMV reviewing driver's license rules for DACA recipients

Ohio’s Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) is granting driver’s licenses to some of the children of illegal immigrants, but what qualifies a few and disqualifies others is so far unknown.

When CityBeat last covered the BMV policy (“Not Legal Enough,” issue of Feb. 6), Ever Portillo, a 22-year-old from El Salvador, was unable to get his license even when he was accompanied by his attorney at the West Broad Street BMV office in Columbus. Since then, Portillo returned to the same BMV office with his attorney, a community leader from DreamActivist Ohio and a reporter from The Columbus Dispatch and successfully obtained his license.

At the same time, CityBeat received a tip from an anonymous illegal immigrant after she could not get a driver’s license for her son because, according to what she heard from the BMV, state policy is still being reviewed.

The differences between Portillo and the woman’s experiences are reflected by what seems to be an internal conflict at the BMV, which CityBeat found in a series of internal documents sent by Brian Hoffman, Portillo’s attorney. In emails dating back to January, state officials wrote that “foreign nationals” with C33 Employment Authorization Documents (EAD) and I-797 documents with case types I-765D and I-821D cannot qualify for driver’s licenses. The documents are part of President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allows the children of illegal immigrants to remain in the United States without fear of prosecution.

But a Feb. 13 memo from the BMV says Ohio has not issued a statewide policy on DACA for driver’s licenses and is currently reviewing the process. A Feb. 19 email echoes the memo, stating “neither the Department (of Public Safety) nor the BMV has yet issued a statewide broadcast to provide direction regarding the DACA issue.” In a Feb. 21 email, Lindsey Borher, spokesperson at the BMV, told CityBeat, “Our legal department is in the process of reviewing guidance from the federal government as it applies to Ohio law.”

The discrepancy between January and February may be attributable to CityBeat originally breaking the story on the state policy, which was followed by a barrage of statewide media coverage on the issue.