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by German Lopez 05.29.2013
Posted In: News, State Legislature, Budget at 12:51 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
ohio statehouse

Ohio Senate Budget Keeps Conservative Issues at Forefront

Bill would cut taxes for small businesses, not other Ohioans

Ohio Senate Republicans unveiled a budget plan yesterday that would keep social issues at the forefront and refocus tax reforms on small businesses instead of all Ohioans.

The budget plan would potentially allow Ohio's health director to shut down abortion clinics, effectively defund Planned Parenthood, fund anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers and forgo the Medicaid expansion.

The plan would also cut income taxes by 50 percent for businesses owners while undoing a 7-percent across-the-board income tax cut for all Ohioans.

Republicans say the tax cuts will spur the state's economy, but Democrats were quick to argue the tax cuts will exclude a majority of Ohioans, particularly low- and middle-income earners.

The small business tax cut was originally proposed by Gov. John Kasich alongside a 20-percent across-the-board tax cut for all Ohioans, but the Ohio House undid both suggestions in its own budget plan in favor of a 7-percent across-the-board income tax cut.

Meanwhile, the conservative push on social issues echoes priorities established in the Ohio House budget bill, which was passed on April 18 ("The Chastity Bunch," issue of April 24).

But the Ohio Senate plan comes with a new addition: It would give the director of the Ohio Department of Health the power to close ambulatory surgical centers without cause, which could be "a thinly veiled tool to close abortion clinics and effectively outlaw abortion across the state," according to NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio.

The other Ohio Senate measures are drawn from the Ohio House budget bill, including a rework of family services funding that prioritizes other programs over Planned Parenthood, leading to less funds for the controversial women's health program.

The change has been trumpeted by Republicans who claim it will allow more programs to get funding. But the cuts have been criticized by Planned Parenthood advocates, who say other programs already compete for family planning services funding; those programs are just dismissed as inferior under the current competitive distribution process.

The Ohio Senate budget plan would also shift a separate set of funds to crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), which essentially act as the anti-abortion alternative to family planning institutions like Planned Parenthood.

Supporters of CPCs, including Denise Leipold of Right to Life of Northeast Ohio, praise them for promoting "chastity" and "abstinence."

But CPCs have been criticized by pro-choice groups for misleading women about false links between abortion, breast cancer, mental health problems and infertility. An "undercover investigation" from NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio found 47 percent of CPCs gave misleading information about abortions and mental health problems and 48 percent gave false information about abortions, breast cancer and infertility.

NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio criticized the measures in a statement.

"Just when you thought the budget couldn’t get any worse for Ohio women, it does," said Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, in a statement. "This budget attacks every choice a woman can make about her reproductive health.  If she wants to avoid an unplanned pregnancy, her family planning provider may be defunded. If she gets pregnant when she is unable to become a parent, the abortion clinic in her community may be shuttered.  If she chooses to become a parent and needs assistance to provide for her child, funding may no longer be available. Gov. Kasich can stop these attacks on women’s health care. We need him to pledge to line-item veto these dangerous measures when they reach his desk."

Just like the Ohio House budget plan, the Ohio Senate's plan also forgoes the Medicaid expansion. Kasich and Ohio Democrats have supported the expansion, but the Republican majority in the legislature has so far stood in opposition.

The expansion would use mostly federal funds from the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare") to increase the eligibility cut-off for Medicaid to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. The first three years would be completely paid by the federal government. Afterward, federal funding would be phased down to 90 percent over the next decade, where it would remain.

A study from the Health Policy Institute of Ohio found the expansion would insure nearly half a million Ohioans and save the state money in the next decade.

Despite staunch opposition in budget talks, Republicans have introduced a standalone bill that would expand and reform Medicaid, which Republicans say will let them take a more "holistic" approach to the health care program.

The Ohio Senate budget plan also pulled out controversial language that would have forced public universities and colleges to decide between $370 million in higher out-of-state tuition rates and providing out-of-state students with documents required for voting in Ohio.

If the budget plan is approved by the Ohio Senate, it will head to the Ohio House and Kasich for final approval.

Update (1:51 p.m.): This story was updated with comments from NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio.

by 04.14.2011

Qualls Opposes S.B. 5, But...

This week's issue of CityBeat features a lengthy letter to the editor by Cincinnati Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls explaining why she opposes Ohio Senate Bill No. 5, which limited collective bargaining rights for public-sector labor unions including police and firefighters.

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by 05.06.2011

Driehaus Plans Budget Meeting

Fresh from a successful effort at stopping a budget amendment to block the replacement of a deteriorating Cincinnati bridge, State Rep. Denise Driehaus (D-31st District) will hold a town hall meeting to discuss the Ohio budget with constituents.

Driehaus marshaled forces in the Ohio House this week after she noticed an amendment that affected the $66.5 million project had quietly been added to the state budget bill by State Rep. Bob Peterson (R-85thDistrict).

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by Hannah McCartney 05.16.2012
Posted In: Sex, State Legislature, Women's Health at 10:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Planned Parenthood Battles Pro-Life Defunding Efforts

House hearing voices pro-choice concerns on House Bill 298

Planned Parenthood advocates and supporters packed a hearing room in Columbus this morning to demonstrate opposition against controversial House Bill 298, a measure that, if passed, would put family planning clinics such as Planned Parenthood at the back of the line for state funding, instead giving priority to health departments.

The House Health Committee heard testimony from bill supporters and opponents. "If PP is defunded, we will still offer a full range of options for care, but the working poor will have no way to pay for them," testified Beth Lonn, Chief Operating Officer of Planned Parenthood of Central Ohio, according to a tweet from Planned Parenthood Affiliates of Ohio.

Opponents of HB 298 express concern that the reprioritizing of funds would deny high-need women, particularly those of low income, access to preventive, affordable health care services. "More than 96% of what we do is to provide essential lifesaving cancer screenings, breast exams, birth control, sex education and counseling to nearly 100,000 Ohio women and families, regardless of one’s ability to pay," reads a segment on the Planned Parenthood Affiliates of Ohio website.

Rep. Nicki Antonio (D-Lakewood) expressed her concern for bill supporters' motivation, noting, "The proposed defunding bill is is a move based on ideology, not on practical needs of Ohioans...There are many counties in Ohio without alternatives to PP. It's a 'Health Care Desert.'"

Supporters of the bill such as Ohio Right to Life tout the measure as a way to steer funds away from the "abortion industry." The bill is now awaiting a committee vote.

by Andy Brownfield 12.11.2012
solidarity with michigan photo 121112  01

Ohio in No Hurry to Pass Right-to-Work

Ohio Dems wear carnations in solidarity with Michigan workers

In light of Michigan’s progress in passing a so-called “right-to-work” law, Ohioans are both worried about and pushing for a similar law allowing workers to opt-out of paying union dues at businesses where workers are represented by a union.

Tea party activists are working to gather the 380,000 signatures needed to get the Ohio Workplace Freedom Act on the ballot. They have until July 3.

The Michigan House of Representatives on Tuesday passed the first of two right-to-work bills, both of which were passed by the state Senate last week. Gov. Rick Snyder has told multiple media outlets that he could sign the bills as early as Wednesday.

Michigan would be the 24th right-to-work state in the nation and the second in the Midwest. Indiana passed a similar law earlier this year.

Members of the Ohio House Democratic Caucus wore red carnations — Ohio’s state flower and a symbol of the labor movement — at the Statehouse Tuesday to show support for Michigan workers.

“Put simply, so called ‘right to work’ is wrong. Statistics show states with this anti-working family legislation have lower wages and higher poverty rates,” Ohio state Rep. Connie Pillich, D-Montgomery, wrote in an emailed statement. 

“We will continue to stand together and fight against these unfair attacks on workers in Ohio, Michigan and across the country.”

Despite the effort to put a right-to-work law on the ballot next year — a similar effort was unsuccessful in 2012 — it doesn’t seem like Ohio is in any rush to join Michigan and Indiana.

The Columbus Dispatch reports that Ohio Gov. John Kasich has higher priorities than passing a right-to-work law. The newspaper reports that Ohio added 127,000 jobs in the past two years and ranks fourth nationally and first in the Midwest in terms of job creation. 

Kasich said the agenda for the last two years of his first term include tax cuts, an education overhaul and infrastructure improvement to keep the state competitive.

“I have an agenda that I think is going to benefit the state of Ohio,” Kasich told the newspaper. “We’re doing very well vis-a-vis the rest of the country now, and I think if we continue to pursue the agenda I have and the legislature has, I think we’ll continue to be successful.”

FUN FACT: Michigan's right-to-work bill will be signed into law in the Romney Building. George Romney, former Michigan governor and father of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, was an opponent of right-to-work laws.

by Kevin Osborne 04.13.2012

Morning News and Stuff

A major roundup of people suspected of committing violent crimes in Cincinnati continues today. On Thursday, police announced they had arrested 30 people and confiscated more than 200 guns in raids in neighborhoods including Avondale, Madisonville, Price Hill, Walnut Hills and elsewhere. Cincinnati police are being assisted in the effort by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and Police Chief James Craig said the sweep would be ongoing for the next few days. About 100 additional suspects are being sought.

A 52-year-old woman who hasn't been able to speak for her entire adult life has now found her voice. Jan Christian recently completed a series of seven operations on her larynx to restore her speech at University Hospital. When she was 17, Christian was in a severe automobile accident in which she was thrown forward and hit her throat on the dashboard. She also broke her neck in four places.

Kentucky has changed a law so Amish people can drive their horse-drawn buggies without committing a crime. Gov. Steve Beshear signed a bill into law Wednesday that allows the Amish to use reflective silver or white tape on their buggies rather than the traditional fluorescent orange signs that makes the buggies more visible to approaching motorists. Some Amish farmers in western Kentucky had served jail time for refusing to use the emblems. They said the triangular shape represents the Trinity, which they are not allowed to display, and that the fluorescent orange calls undue attention to them against the norms of their religion.

In celebration of National Hug Day (yes, that's a real thing), several students from Xavier University will give free hugs on downtown's Fountain Square today. About 20 students will flock to the square between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., holding up signs that read, “free hugs.” Oddly, National Hug Day actually is celebrated on Jan. 21. Well, people always say Cincinnati is a little bit behind the times.

Two Kentucky men have been charged with a federal hate crime in an attack against a gay man last year, marking the first time the law has been applied in a case involving a victim's sexual orientation. The U.S. Attorney's Office in Lexington announced the charges against two Harlan County men on Thursday. A statement said David Jason Jenkins and Anthony Ray Jenkins were indicted in an April 2011 attack on a gay man in an eastern Kentucky park.

In news elsewhere, U.S. and Asian leaders are worried that North Korea's failure to launch a rocket into orbit Thursday will prompt the nation to take some sort of aggressive action in an attempt to restore its honor. The most common fear is that the secretive, authoritarian regime will conduct a nuclear test, which could heighten tensions with South Korea and Japan. The botched launch was supposed to carry a satellite into orbit for weather observation, as the centerpiece of a national holiday weekend to honor the birth of the nation’s founder, Kim Il Sung.

As if that's not troubling enough, the Russian military anticipates an attack will occur on Iran by summer and has developed a plan to move Russian troops through neighboring Georgia to stage in Armenia, which borders on the Islamic republic. Dmitry Rogozin, who recently was the Russian ambassador to NATO, warned against an attack on Iran. "Iran is our neighbor," Rogozin said. "If Iran is involved in any military action, it's a direct threat to our security."

A United Nations team of military observers is ready to deploy to Syria to begin a monitoring mission as soon as the Security Council approves its mission, which could be later today. The team is standing by to begin overseeing a tenuous but apparently stable ceasefire, which is now in its second day. Protests in the wake of that ceasefire have broken out across the nation, and government forces have responded by firing into the air, reportedly killing one protester, activists alleged.

Apple Inc. is rejecting the U.S. Justice Department's allegations that it colluded with publishers over electronic book pricing, calling the charges "simply not true." The U.S. government this week sued Apple and five publishers, saying they conspired to fix the prices of electronic books. It has reached a settlement with three of the publishers that could lead to cheaper e-books for consumers.

The mayor of Newark, N.J., was taken to a hospital Thursday night for treatment of smoke inhalation he suffered trying to rescue his next-door neighbors from their burning house. Cory Booker arrived home when he saw flames and smoke from the second floor of the building next to his home, and no residents outside. Booker rushed in and his security detail followed. Guards rescued two people on the first floor, while Booker rescued a woman on the second floor. No serious injuries were reported. (Mark Mallory, you need to step up your game.)
by Kevin Osborne 11.04.2011
Posted In: State Legislature, Democrats, 2012 Election at 01:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Driehaus Will Run in New District

If GOP leaders thought they were going to get rid of Denise Driehaus with their new state legislature map, they can think again.

Driehaus made it official today, announcing she would move into the new 31st House District before next year's election. Several weeks ago, the Republican-controlled state apportionment board reconfigured state legislative district boundaries and radically altered the political makeup of the current 31st House District, which Driehaus represents in Columbus.

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by Kevin Osborne 03.16.2012

Morning News and Stuff

Cincinnati’s new law for selling scrap metal, which was scheduled to take effect today, has been put on hold pending the outcome of a lawsuit filed by two local dealers. The law, approved by City Council last month, would require people who sell scrap metal within the city to get a license and make businesses that buy the metal pay dealers by check with a two-day hold, among other changes. The law was designed to cut down on metal theft in Cincinnati, but Cohen Brothers in the East End and American Compressed Steel in Carthage argued it would adversely impact their livelihood. Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Robert Winkler issued a preliminary injunction Thursday afternoon.

In related news, the Ohio Senate unanimously approved a bill Wednesday that requires scrap metal dealers to photograph anyone who sells them scrap. Dealers would be prohibited from buying metal from anyone who refuses to be photographed. Also, dealers must keep the photos on file for 60 days. The Ohio House will now consider the bill.

Last week we learned that Aaron Boone would be the grand marshal of the Findlay Market Opening Day Parade, and now we know who will throw out the first pitch at the opener against the Miami Marlins. Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis Jr., who will retire later this year after a 41-year career in public service, has been selected for the honor. Just how far the 77-year-old Leis will be able to throw the ball remains to be seen, but we're betting he will do a better job than Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory did a few years ago.

Clermont County residents who suffered property damage in the tornado two weeks ago will be able to apply for Small Business Administration loans beginning this morning. The Disaster Loan Outreach Center is now open at the Washington Township Hall, located at 2238 Highway 756. Renters could receive up to $40,000 in loans while homeowners could receive up to $200,000 in loans to rebuild their home or replace furniture, said disaster relief officials.

Kroger, the Cincinnati-based grocery chain, is among the retailers that use so-called “pink slime” in some of its ground beef products. U.S. consumers generally have reacted with disgust after learning that many fast food restaurants and grocers use ground beef that contains “finely textured lean beef,” the product made from beef trimmings after all the choice cuts of beef are removed. About 70 percent of the ground beef sold at supermarkets contains the meat filler, according to reports.

In news elsewhere, a United Nations official this week formally accused the U.S. government of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment toward Bradley Manning, the American soldier who was held in solitary confinement for almost a year on suspicion of being the WikiLeaks source. Juan Mendez has completed a 14-month investigation into the treatment of Manning since the soldier's arrest at a U.S. military base in May 2010. He concludes that the U.S. military was at least culpable of cruel and inhumane treatment in keeping Manning locked up alone for 23 hours a day over an 11-month period in conditions that he also found might have constituted torture, London's Guardian reports. American media, however, seem curiously quiet on this news.

Although President Obama reiterated his intention this week to stick to a timeline that calls for the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan in 2014, pressure is mounting to quicken the schedule. Afghan President Hamid Karzai is demanding that NATO withdraw its forces from the small, rural outposts around the nation and confine its soldiers to military bases. The demand is the latest fallout after the burning of Korans by U.S. service members last month and the massacre of 16 Afghan civilians Sunday, allegedly by an Army staff sergeant who went on a rampage.

The Columbia Journalism Review looks at what The Gannett Co., the owner of The Enquirer, could've bought with the $37.1 million compensation package it gave recently departed CEO Craig Dubow. CJR's findings include that the money would've paid for the starting salaries of 1,474 staffers at The Indianapolis Star or 310,720 annual subscriptions to The Tallahassee Democrat's website. “In October, four months after handing 700 employees pink slips, Gannett gave Dubow a $37.1 million package, also accumulated over decades. He earned a mere $9.4 million in 2010, some of which padded his retirement package. A few weeks later, the company announced it would force employees to take their fifth unpaid furlough in three years,” the magazine reports.

Much attention has been paid to a column published Wednesday by The New York Times, in which Greg Smith explained why he was resigning after 12 years at Goldman Sachs due to what he said was the unethical and corrupt culture at the investment firm. But lesser known is this letter to the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission by an unidentified whistleblower at JPMorgan Chase. The writer describes similar reckless practices at that firm, adding, “I am now under the opinion that we are actually putting hard-working Americans – unaware of what lays ahead – at extreme market risk.”
by 08.09.2011

Wisconsin Voters Decide GOP Recalls Today

The state-level political turmoil caused by the Tea Party and its financial backers, the Koch brothers, got its start in Wisconsin under rookie Gov. Scott Walker. Today, Wisconsin voters have the opportunity to oust six Republican state senators in unprecedented recall elections.

Follow the action via a live blog set up by Isthmus, the alt weekly paper in Madison, Wisc. Polls are open until 8 p.m. Central time, so there won't be a lot of action until later.

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by Kevin Osborne 04.27.2012

Local GOP Distributes Email from Husted

Burke: Poll workers aren't 'election police'

The local Republican Party this week sent a mass email to its members with a message from Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, urging them to sign up as poll workers for this fall’s presidential election.

Alex Triantafilou, chairman of the Hamilton County Republican Party, sent the email Tuesday.

Husted noted that 40,000 poll workers are needed across Ohio. “We can debate the efficacy of the law and voting procedures until we are blue in the face, but the truth is that those 40,000 individuals can have more of an impact on the ultimate success of our elections than the Secretary of State, lawmakers and judges combined,” he wrote.

When informed about the email, the head of Hamilton County’s Democratic Party said more poll workers always are needed. But he is worried those spurred to apply because of Husted’s email will do so due to the wrong motivation and potentially could cause problems at the polls.

“Many of our poll workers serve year after year in multiple elections,” said Tim Burke, Hamilton County Democratic Party chairman. “Just because this November is a presidential election doesn’t mean that our trained and experienced workers should be pushed aside by those folks, on either side, who want to be poll workers in the presidential, but not in other elections as well. That is a conversation I have had on a number of occasions with the election protection leaders on the Democratic side.”

Burke added, “The role of poll workers should be to assist voters in voting correctly, and better than 99 percent of the time, that is what the poll workers — be they Democrats or Republicans — properly do. I am hesitant to bring in poll workers who think their role is to be election police who want to spend Election Day ferreting out fraud and subjecting qualified voters to cross examinations.”

In Husted’s email, the Secretary of State also acknowledged the partisan battle over the GOP-backed push for voters to show a photo I.D. at polls.

“Unfortunately, the fact that there is ‘room for improvement’ seems to be the only common ground we have been able to find when it comes to elections reform,” Husted wrote. “The closer we get to Election Day, the more heated the rhetoric on both sides will become. One side believes the law is too restrictive and that legal voters are being suppressed. The other side says the system is vulnerable to fraud because there aren't enough checks to ensure only eligible voters are casting ballots.”

It should be noted that no study has ever found evidence of widespread voter fraud.

In 2007, a five-year review conducted by the U.S. Justice Department and ordered by President George W. Bush found that just 120 people had been charged and 86 convicted as of 2006 — a miniscule amount when compared to the number of eligible voters in the United States.

Back then, The New York Times wrote, “A federal panel, the Election Assistance Commission, reported last year that the pervasiveness of fraud was debatable. That conclusion played down findings of the consultants who said there was little evidence of it across the country, according to a review of the original report by The New York Times that was reported on Wednesday.”

The Times added, “Mistakes and lapses in enforcing voting and registration rules routinely occur in elections, allowing thousands of ineligible voters to go to the polls. But the federal cases provide little evidence of widespread, organized fraud, prosecutors and election law experts said.”

The Republican Party also tried to raise allegations of voter registration fraud during the 2008 presidential election, when it began looking like John McCain would lose. When pressed in November 2008, a top official with the McCain- Palin “Honest and Open Election Committee” couldn’t cite a single instance in which problems with fake voter registrations resulted in phony votes being cast.

At Husted’s urging, Republican state lawmakers recently acted to repeal portions of House Bill No. 194. Facing a referendum on the law in November that could’ve increased Democratic voter turnout, the repeal restores some opportunities for early voting and allows poll workers to guide voters to the correct precinct.

In Hamilton County, Democrats who want to be poll workers should call 513-632-7041; Republicans should call 513-632-7042.

Here is Husted’s text in its entirety:

April 24, 2012

Dear Chairman Triantafilou,

As Secretary of State, my primary responsibility is to administer a fair election where eligible voters can freely exercise their right to vote and have complete confidence in the accuracy of the results. This is no easy job because the reality is that the system by which we elect our political leaders will never be perfect.

Unfortunately, the fact that there is "room for improvement" seems to be the only common ground we have been able to find when it comes to elections reform. The closer we get to Election Day, the more heated the rhetoric on both sides will become. One side believes the law is too restrictive and that legal voters are being suppressed. The other side says the system is vulnerable to fraud because there aren't enough checks to ensure only eligible voters are casting ballots. I continue to believe that we can modernize our elections system and strike the right balance between maintaining convenience for voters and guarding against fraud. That balance is critical and increasingly hard to achieve when the two sides are so far apart.

I firmly believe that the place for critics is not on the sidelines, but on the field and there is one way we can put all this energy to a better, more productive use. I am encouraging all who are earnest in wanting a fair, well-run 2012 Presidential Election to join me on the front lines this November by signing up to be poll workers.  Encourage like-minded friends to do the same.

It takes a team of approximately 40,000 to staff polling places around the state, and each year all 88 county boards of elections struggle to find enough people who are willing to take time out of their busy schedules to serve. We can debate the efficacy of the law and voting procedures until we are blue in the face, but the truth is that those 40,000 individuals can have more of an impact on the ultimate success of our elections than the Secretary of State, lawmakers and judges combined. It is Ohio's poll workers who interact with each voter and, based on that interaction, have a direct bearing on that voter's confidence in our system.

I am committed to working with all sides on election reforms in the future, but for now let's put philosophical differences aside and do our part to give each Ohio voter the best experience they can have at the polls this November 6, 2012.

To learn more about joining Ohio's poll-worker ranks, please visit www.PEOinOhio.com


Jon Husted