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by German Lopez 08.30.2013
Posted In: News, Health care, Barack Obama at 10:35 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
barack obama 2

Obamacare to Lower Ohioans’ Health Care Costs

Individuals’ premiums will rise, but tax credits will more than make up for the increase

The Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) will lead to an increase in Ohio’s raw health care premiums, but the increase will be more than offset by the law’s tax credits, according to an Aug. 29 study from the RAND Corporation, a reputable think tank.

Specifically, health care premiums will rise to an average of $5,312 under Obamacare in 2016. Without the law, premiums would reach an average of $3,973 that year.

But when Obamacare’s tax credits are plugged in, the average Ohio individual will only pay a premium of $3,131 — $842 less than an individual Ohioan would pay without the law.

The tax credits will be available to individuals between 100 percent ($11,490 in annual income) and 400 percent of the federal poverty level ($45,960 in annual income). The subsidies will be smaller for higher income levels, and the raw premium will vary depending on the insurance plan, so the premium and subsidy numbers don’t apply perfectly across the board.

The numbers also only apply to Ohioans in the individual health insurance market. Under Obamacare, individuals will be able to enroll for health insurance through an online marketplace. The majority of Americans who get health insurance through their employers or public programs fall under different rules and regulations.

Obamacare will help more non-elderly Ohioans get health insurance. Without the law, 14.9 percent of non-elderly individuals would lack insurance. With the law, only 6.2 percent will go without insurance.

RAND attributes the difference in insurance rates to tax credits, which make health insurance more affordable, and the individual mandate, which requires certain Americans buy health insurance or pay a fine.

The numbers are good news for Obamacare, which needs a certain amount of young adults to enroll to avoid causing health care costs to skyrocket. Federal officials say they expect to enroll 7 million people through individual marketplaces, but 2.7 million must be young adults. That’s because young adults tend to be healthier, which will help balance out sicker, older people flowing into health care plans.

The online marketplaces are supposed to open enrollment on Oct. 1. The actual plans will go into effect on Jan. 1.

 
 
by German Lopez 04.09.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Streetcar, Health care at 08:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
todo_casino_jf2

Morning News and Stuff

Local casino tops revenue, streetcar could get new director, Medicaid expansion to fail

Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino topped state casino revenues last month, translating to $1.4 million in casino tax revenue for the city in March. If the trend holds — a huge if, considering March was opening month for the Horseshoe Casino — the city would get $16.8 million a year, which would be above previous estimates from the state and city but below estimates presented in mayoral candidate John Cranley’s budget plan. Cranley and other city officials say casino revenue could be used to avoid laying off cops and firefighters to balance the budget, but the city manager’s office says it wouldn’t be enough.

Two City Council decisions yesterday will allow the current project manager for The Banks to take over the streetcar project. The two 5-4 decisions from City Council came in the middle of a tense budget debate that could end with the layoff of 344 city employees, including 189 cops and 80 firefighters. But John Deatrick, who could be hired as executive director of the streetcar project as a result of the measures, says his salary would come from the capital budget, which is separate from the general fund that needs to be balanced in light of structural deficit problems.

House Republicans are poised to reject Gov. John Kasich’s proposed Medicaid expansion. The expansion, which was part of Kasich’s 2014-2015 budget proposal, would have saved the state money and insured 456,000 Ohioans by 2022, according to the Health Policy Institute of Ohio. But it would have done so mostly with federal funds, which state legislators worry will not be there years down the line. The Medicaid expansion was one of the few aspects of Kasich’s budget that state Democrats supported. CityBeat covered Kasich’s budget in further detail here.

PolitiFact Ohio gave Kasich a “Pants on Fire” rating for his claim that his transportation budget and Ohio Turnpike plan “would make sure we have lower tolls than we’ve had through the history of the turnpike.” PolitiFact explains: “Yes, the bill aims to keep tolls from rising faster than the pace of inflation -- a practice that would stand in contrast to KPMG’s findings from the past 20 years. And, yes, the bill freezes tolls for 10 years on a small, targeted cross-section of turnpike users. But not only are higher tolls a part of Kasich’s plan, they are integral to the concept. The increased revenue will allow the state to issue bonds to finance other projects. Furthermore, the inflation cap is not written into the law, and the state has an out from the local EZ-Pass freeze.”

Melissa Wegman will be the third Republican to enter the City Council race. Wegman is a first-time candidate and businesswoman from East Price Hill. She will be joining fellow Republicans Amy Murray and incumbent Charlie Winburn.

The struggling Kenwood Towne Place will be renamed Kenwood Collection as part of a broader redesign.

One program in President Barack Obama’s budget plan would task NASA with pulling asteroids to our moon’s orbit, where the asteroids could then be studied and mined. The Obama administration says the program will only involve small asteroids, so big, killer asteroids will not be purposely hurled towards Earth.

New evidence suggests some two-legged dinosaurs were strong swimmers, further proving that unless we have extra asteroids to cause an extinction event, we might want to leave them dead.

 
 
by German Lopez 11.19.2012
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Plan Cincinnati hearing tonight, fiscal cliff threatens schools, Kasich declines exchanges

City Council’s Livable Communities committee is expected to hear about and likely vote tonight on the city’s first master plan in more than 30 years. The plan, which CityBeat previously covered, seeks a renewed emphasis on Cincinnati’s urban core through new infrastructure and transportation options. It was put together largely based on public feedback.

The “fiscal cliff,” which is really more of a self-induced austerity crisis from the federal government, could seriously hurt Ohio schools. Educators around the state, including Cincinnati schools, are expecting a cut of about 8 percent in federal funding. A Cincinnati Public Schools levy was recently renewed after a decade of cuts and problems at the school district.

Gov. John Kasich has finally made a decision for Obamacare: The state will not run the health exchanges that are a big part of the plan. With the governor’s decision, managing the health exchanges now falls to the federal government. Rob Nichols, Kasich’s spokesperson, defended the governor’s decision by pointing out that even if the state managed the exchanges, the federal government would always have the final say, creating an arrangement “just doesn’t make sense for the state.” Exchanges are subsidized, heavily regulated insurance markets that will go into effect in 2014 as part of Obamacare. They are supposed to bring down costs by offering more transparent, open competition through a fair, regulated marketplace.

Cincinnati’s economy is being carried largely by manufacturing, and that looks likely to continue.

Business schools at the University of Cincinnati, Miami University, Xavier University and Northern Kentucky University were found to be among the nation’s best, according to the Princeton Review. Still, none of the schools made the top 10 rankings for the review’s 11 categories.

City Council is holding a public hearing today to find out what the city should do with casino revenue. Some of the council members already have plans, but City Council wants public feedback to shape the final decision.

In other council news, the Human Services Advisory committee recommended funding for 56 out of 58 programs. The two programs left out are the Over-The-Rhine Kitchen and a social education program offered by the Starfire Council of Greater Cincinnati.

Cincinnati’s Metro bus service will be getting a revamp in the next few years. The company released a comprehensive plan with short-term and long-term goals that focus on increasing travel speed and reach.

Charter schools are where a large amount of Ohio kids are getting their education. This is despite the fact that, in general, traditional public schools perform better than charter schools, according to state standards.

Food stamps for Ohio families are getting reduced by about $25 a month. The good news is the cut is lower than expected.

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction released a “re-inspection report” for the Lake Erie prison owned by Corrections Corporation of America. According to the new report, CCA has come a long way and corrected many of the violations the state originally found in the private prison. The last report found the prison, which CCA bought in 2011, was riddled with problems. CityBeat looked at private prisons, their problems and the shady connections between state officials and CCA in an in-depth report.

A report found more Ohioans are taking advantage of a national settlement that lets households refinance their mortgages. In total, more than 4,500 Ohioans have refinanced for $165 million in consumer relief. Still, many eligible Ohioans are not taking advantage of the opportunity.

Here are pictures of a tiny octopus, fighting female robots and an orange-powered battery.

 
 
by German Lopez 09.16.2013
Posted In: News, LGBT, Health care at 11:46 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
evolution of equality

National Organization Targets LGBT Population for Obamacare

Out 2 Enroll considers Ohio a critical enrollment area

A national organization is looking at Ohio’s LGBT community as a potential target for a nationwide campaign that will raise awareness about the Affordable Care Act’s (“Obamacare”) enacted changes and benefits.

Kellan Baker, founder of Out 2 Enroll and associate director of LGBT Health Policy at the Center for American Progress, explains the campaign is crucial for Ohio and other parts of the country because gay, lesbian, bisexual and particularly transgendered groups are often uninsured at greater levels than the rest of the population — both because of poorly targeted outreach efforts and outright discrimination.

“We’re hoping to provide the tools that these systems need to see where LGBT people are and include them in these efforts so LGBT community members can get the benefits that they need,” Baker says.

To accomplish that, Baker’s team is using data collected through focus groups and other research to establish messages that will resonate with LGBT communities and land in hotspots in which the groups are active.

Some of the messaging is as simple as putting pictures of gay couples on brochures. Other times, it will involve reaching deep into specific LGBT circles and social media — perhaps even Grindr, the popular phone application that gay men use to arrange dates and other sexual activities.

In its messaging, Out 2 Enroll will tout the potential benefits of Obamacare: tax subsidies, online marketplaces that will allow participants to compare insurance plans and new regulations that protect LGBT groups from discrimination in the health care and insurance industries.

Baker says the efforts could be particularly critical for transgendered individuals. According to focus groups conducted by PerryUndem Research & Communication, the transgendered population has generally felt misunderstood and discriminated against when trying to obtain health insurance. Complaints about intrusive, inappropriate questions and being misgendered were fairly common.

In some cases, the discrimination wasn’t subtle. Until new regulations were enacted through Obamacare, insurance companies were able to withhold some medical services and refuse coverage altogether by treating gender identity issues as a pre-existing condition.

Gays, lesbians and bisexuals have faced their own discrimination as well: The focus groups found one in three respondents in a same-sex relationship tried to get partner coverage through an employer plan; of those, 50 percent had trouble getting partner coverage and 72 percent felt discriminated against during the process.

Baker explains that helping with many of these cases could be as simple as raising awareness about Obamacare’s LGBT benefits. Although 64 percent of respondents in the focus groups knew about Obamacare’s mandate to obtain health insurance, 71 percent had not heard about new coverage options made available through the federal law.

To reverse the statistical trend and ensure Obamacare’s success, Baker says Out 2 Enroll and other groups partnering with Enroll America will have to target critical enrollment areas with large uninsured populations, including Ohio.

A recent analysis from the Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati put Ohio’s population of uninsured working-age Ohioans at 1.25 million.

The outreach campaign will mostly play out in the next six months, as online marketplaces open for enrollment on Oct. 1 and remain open until April.

 
 
by German Lopez 08.29.2013
Posted In: Airport, 2013 Election, News, Health care at 08:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cover-kasich-2

Morning News and Stuff

Medicaid expansion vote stalls, Lunken Airport mismanaged, streetcar spurs campaigns

Republican lawmakers say they won’t hold any votes on the Medicaid expansion until October or later, even though state officials say the expansion must be approved by October to have it in place by 2014. Implementing the expansion at the start of 2014 would coincide with the implementation of other major programs in Obamacare. Gov. John Kasich supports the expansion, but he’s had trouble convincing his fellow Republicans to join him. The expansion would be mostly funded by the federal government, which would pay for the entire policy for the first three years then phase down to indefinitely paying for 90 percent of the cost. Earlier this year, the Health Policy Institute of Ohio released an analysis that found the Medicaid expansion would insure nearly half a million Ohioans and save the state about $1.8 billion in the next decade. Michigan, which is also dominated by Republicans, on Tuesday approved its own Medicaid expansion.

An internal audit found the city of Cincinnati has lost hundreds of thousands of dollars that could have gone toward improving the city-owned Lunken Airport through poor management and technology problems. In response, Councilman Chris Seelbach wrote on Twitter, “Lunken oversights completely unacceptable. Meeting w/ City & Lunken Mngr to work on detailed correction plan later this week.” The city is planning on making changes that should avoid losing revenue in the future.

Streetcar supporters plan to hold a fundraiser today for mayoral candidate Roxanne Qualls and City Council candidate Wendell Young. The fundraiser shows the extra steps now being taken by streetcar supporters, who have been proudly flaunting their support every month through “streetcar socials,” the latest of which Mayor Mark Mallory attended. Ever since its inception, the streetcar has been mired in controversy and misrepresentations, which CityBeat covered in further detail here.

A central Ohio lawmaker is renewing a legislative push for attaching drug tests to welfare benefits. The measure is meant to lower costs and ensure welfare money isn’t going to drug dealers. As CityBeat previously covered, the testing requirement can actually increase the cost of welfare programs: In Florida, the state government’s program had a net loss of $45,780 after it reimbursed all falsely accused welfare recipients of their drug tests. Only 108 people out of the 4,086 accused, or 2.9 percent, tested positive, and most tested positive for marijuana, according to The Miami Herald.

Heavy construction and improvements that will modernize and widen Interstate 75 are expected to continue for the next decade. Much of the work is being funded by Kasich’s Ohio Turnpike plan, which sells bonds that will be repaid with excess Turnpike polls.

Jeff Ruby yesterday responded to a lawsuit filed on Monday against his restaurant chain. Ruby says his servers “are highly compensated — averaging $65,000 a year, with shifts that average seven hours a day.” The lawsuit alleges that management at Ruby’s restaurants took tips from three employees, which supposedly left them earning less than minimum wage.

United Way of Greater Cincinnati plans to raise $62.8 million with its campaign this year. The organization supports Cincinnati’s human services, which CityBeat covered in further detail here.

Google Glass could be used to improve surgeries in the future.

 
 
by German Lopez 07.23.2013
Posted In: LGBT, News, Budget, Health care at 09:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
evolution of equality

Morning News and Stuff

Ohio must recognize gay couple, Qualls knocks pension plan, 1.25 million in state uninsured

A federal judge ruled that a state death certificate must recognize the marriage of a newlywed same-sex couple, but the order only applies to James Obergefell and John Arthur. It’s the first time a same-sex marriage is recognized in Ohio. The two men had the case expedited because Arthur is suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a deadly neurological disease with no known cure. Al Gerhardstein, the attorney for the two husbands, says the ruling could be the beginning of legal challenges from gay couples inspired by the Supreme Court’s ruling against the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which could put further pressure on Ohio to legalize same-sex marriage. CityBeat covered ongoing efforts to legalize gay marriage in the state here, although the group in charge of the movement is now aiming to put the issue on the ballot in 2014, not 2013 as originally planned.

Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls in a statement called the tea party-backed charter amendment that would revamp the city’s pension system “a wolf in sheep's clothing.” She is also requesting the city administration study the amendment’s consequences and report back to City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee on Aug. 5. The amendment would funnel new hires into a private retirement plan similar to what’s typically found in the private sector — except, unlike private-sector workers, city employees don’t pay into Social Security and don’t collect Social Security benefits from their years with the city. The amendment was announced less than a week after Moody’s, a credit ratings agency, downgraded Cincinnati’s bond rating in part because of the city’s increasing pension liability.

A poll analysis from the Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati suggests more than 1.25 million Ohioans are uninsured, with about 17 percent of the working-age population lacking insurance. It also found that Ohioans are increasingly reliant on public programs to obtain health benefits. The analysis looked at the Health Foundation’s 2013 Ohio Health Issues Poll. The results could spur further efforts to expand Medicaid eligibility in the state, which the Health Policy Institute of Ohio previously found would save the state money and insure nearly half a million Ohioans over the next decade. Republican legislators rejected the Medicaid expansion in the state budget, citing concerns that the federal government wouldn’t be able to uphold its 90-percent funding commitment.

Gov. John Kasich wants to fast track the I-71/MLK Interchange in part by using revenue from the Ohio Turnpike’s tolls. Kasich’s recommendations, which must be approved by the state’s Transportation Review Advisory Council, add up to $107.7 million in state funds.

State Rep. Peter Beck, a Mason Republican who’s facing 16 felony charges of fraud, won’t resign his seat.

Twenty-eight people have applied to become Cincinnati’s next police chief. With a recent uptick in violence, many have called on the city to expedite the process of replacing James Craig, the former police chief who left for Detroit earlier in the year.

Despite rising interest rates, Cincinnati-area home sales in June continued their strong trend up.

For-profit entities are opening more online schools in Ohio, with the process set by state legislators to shut out public educators. A previous investigation by CityBeat found online schools tend to do worse and cost more than their peers.

The city administration and social media network Nextdoor are partnering up to better link Cincinnati’s neighborhoods with the local government. The network will provide a free website for each of the city’s neighborhoods, which the city says will allow residents to “to get to know their neighbors, ask questions and exchange local advice and recommendations.” City officials plan to use the websites to regularly reach out to local citizens.

Computer software from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology could make the Internet three times faster.

 
 
by German Lopez 09.03.2013
Posted In: News, Health care, Barack Obama, Education at 08:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

Charter schools fail, Obamacare lowers costs, Medicaid expansion could help thousands

Ohio charter school have largely failed to live up to their promises, according to The Columbus Dispatch. Charter schools were originally pursued by Ohio lawmakers to help find a suitable alternative to the state’s struggling urban public schools. But in the latest school report cards, charter schools performed just as poorly as urban public schools. Charter schools are allowed to run a profit and skip on certain state rules and regulations, which was supposed to give them some leniency in implementing successful academic models.

Obamacare will lower average health care costs in Ohio’s individual market, according to a study from RAND Corporation, a reputable think tank. Although premiums will rise as a result of the law, the tax credits offered in Obamacare will be more than enough to offset the increases. The numbers only apply to the individual marketplaces; anyone who gets insurance through an employer or public program falls under different rules and regulation. Still, the findings are good news for Obamacare as the federal government aims to insure 7 million people — and 2.7 million young, healthy adults among those — to make the individual marketplaces work. As part of Obamacare, states and the federal government will open online enrollment for new, subsidized individual insurance plans on Oct. 1, and the plans will go into effect at the start of next year.

The Medicaid expansion could insure more than 42,000 people in Hamilton County, according to the Ohio Poverty Law Center. As part of Obamacare, states are asked to expand their Medicaid programs to include anyone at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level ($15,856 for a single-person household). If states accept, the federal government will pay for the entire expansion for the first three years then phase down its payments indefinitely to 90 percent of the expansion’s total cost. Earlier this year, the Health Policy Institute of Ohio released an analysis that found the Medicaid expansion would insure nearly half a million Ohioans and save the state about $1.8 billion in the next decade.

Gov. John Kasich says he wants to slow down Attorney General Mike DeWine’s facial recognition program and work with the Ohio legislature to review if changes are necessary. Kasich compared the program to federal surveillance programs like the NSA and FISA, which have come under scrutiny in the past few months after leaks unveiled broader snooping and data collection of Americans’ private communications than previously expected. The facial recognition program allows police officers and civilian employees to use a photo to search databases for names and contact information; previously, law enforcement officials needed a name or address to search such databases. The program was criticized by the American Civil Liberties Union because knowledge of the program’s existence was withheld from the public for two-plus months and an independent group never reviewed the program’s privacy-protecting protocols.

Democratic City Council candidate Greg Landsman backed the second phase of the streetcar in a column Friday. The endorsement could be vital to the projects future because Landsman is widely considered a favorite in this year’s City Council race.

JobsOhio’s leaders plan to launch a public relations offensive to repair the agency’s image. The privatized development agency has been criticized for its lack of transparency after media outlets uncovered that it was handing out tax credits to companies with direct financial ties to JobsOhio board members. Democrats argue the agency needs more transparency and checks on its recommendations, while Republicans, who created the agency to replace the Ohio Department of Development, claim the agency’s privatized, secretive nature allows it to move more quickly with job-creating development deals.

The University of Cincinnati was named public university of the year by The Washington Center. The award recognizes UC for supporting experiential education through its partnership with The Washington Center, an independent academic organization that serves hundreds of colleges and universities by providing internships and other opportunities in Washington, D.C., for school credit.

Police busted a $1 million shoplifting ring in Ohio that targeted discount retail stores along the Interstate 75 corridor, such as Walmart, Meijer, CVS and Family Dollar.

State law will soon require vaccine immunizations against several diseases for children attending school.

Cincinnati-based Kroger is cutting health care benefits for employees’ spouses on Jan. 1, but the plan will also increase pay, stabilize the company’s pension fund and provide more benefits for part-time employees. Obamacare apparently played a role in the decision to cut spousal benefits, but Kroger says the most influential factor was rising health care costs all around the nation — a trend that has been ongoing for decades.

Here is a visualization of the urban heat island effect, which will make cities warm up much faster as global warming continues.

Could you survive the end of the universe? io9 tackles the question here.

 
 
by German Lopez 09.28.2012
Posted In: Health care, News, Poverty at 12:41 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
kaiserstudy-20120928

Health Coverage in Ohio Lowest Among Minorities

Study shows Hispanics have lowest coverage in the state

Following a national trend, Ohio's minorities have the lowest levels of health care coverage, according to a new study from The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. The study looked at 2006-2008 data for only men to gauge health insurance coverage and other health issues in a pre-Obamacare world.

In Ohio, Hispanics have the highest rates of no coverage at 40.1 percent. Blacks are second with 25.3 percent having no coverage. Meanwhile, only 14.6 percent of whites have no coverage.

The disparity is prevalent on a national level. Hispanics still lead the nation with rates of no coverage at 46 percent, but Native Americans overtake blacks on a national level with a rate of 38.5 percent. Blacks are 28.8 percent, Asians and Pacific Islanders are 21 percent, and whites are 15.7 percent.

The study assigned “disparity scores” to measure the racial disparity in health care coverage. The national average score was 2.27. Ohio did better than most of the nation and its neighbors with a score of 1.83. Kentucky was rated 2.06, Indiana 2.14 and Michigan 1.86. Pennsylvania and West Virginia beat out Ohio with scores of 1.74 and 1.31, respectively.

The study also looked at access to personal doctors and health care providers. Ohio did a little better in this category among Hispanics. The study found 30.5 percent of blacks had no access to a personal doctor or health care providers, while 27.6 percent of Hispanics did not. Whites remained at the top with only 21.1 percent not having access to a personal doctor or health care provider.

For black men, the most striking national health disparity was that black men were more than seven times more likely as white men to be diagnosed with AIDS. For every 100,000 men, 104.1 black people were newly diagnosed with AIDS. Hispanics were second with 40.8, then Native Americans at 17.3, then whites at 13.7, then Asians and Pacific Islanders at eight. Overall, the study assigned a 4.37 disparity score to AIDS diagnoses nationwide.

In Ohio, the rates of new AIDS cases were better overall, but the disparity score was worse than the national average at 5.23. Among whites, only 7.3 out of 100,000 were newly diagnosed with AIDS. Blacks were 46.2, Hispanics were 26.1, Native Americans were 9.8 and Asian and Pacific Islanders were 1.6.

The report also looks at poverty levels, incarceration rates, routine checkups, unemployment, the wage gap and more. The full report can be found here.

Ohio Medicaid Director John McCarthy said on Sept. 26 Ohio might expand its Medicaid program, but at lower levels than Obamacare demands. Using the incentive of federal Medicaid dollars, President Barack Obama’s health care reform asks states to expand their state Medicaid programs to include everyone at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level. The requirement overlaps with the newly established exchanges, which cover individuals between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level by providing a market in which insurance companies compete for customers getting federal subsidies for health insurance. McCarthy said he would like to eliminate the overlap and only expand Medicaid to cover up to 100 percent of the federal poverty level.

Historically, Medicaid helps minorities the most. Medicaid expansions in other states also showed improvements in health and mortality rates while saving money by eliminating the amount of uncompensated care.

 
 
by German Lopez 09.26.2013
Posted In: News, Health care, Energy, Environment at 09:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news1_angrypowerplant_ashleykroninger

Morning News and Stuff

Ohio could weaken energy rules, city wins green award, Obamacare beats projections

CityBeat is participating in a City Council candidate forum on Oct. 5. Have any questions you would like to ask candidates? Submit them here.

Ohio legislators appear ready to weaken environmental and energy regulations after months of lobbying by Akron, Ohio-based utility company FirstEnergy. The utility company argues the regulations, particularly energy efficiency standards that require customers use less electricity, cost businesses and customers too much money. But environmental groups and other supporters of the rules say FirstEnergy is just looking out for its own self-interests while putting up a front of caring about others. A study by the Ohio State University and the Ohio Advanced Energy Economy coalition found eliminating the energy efficiency standards would cost Ohioans $3.65 billion more on electricity bills over the next 12 years. State Sen. Bill Seitz, who’s spearheading the regulation-weakening efforts, formally introduced his bill yesterday, and business groups say it’s a backdoor way to eliminate energy efficiency standards and the in-state renewable business by weakening them so much.

Meanwhile, Cincinnati on Tuesday announced it won a 2013 Green Power Leadership Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) because of local efforts to draw down dirty energy production and replace it with clean sources. The Cincinnati area currently produces nearly 408 million kilowatt-hours through green energy sources, which is enough to cancel out nearly 60,000 cars’ emissions and meet 14 percent of the community’s purchased electricity use, according to city officials. To commemorate the award, Mayor Mark Mallory unveiled a Green Power Community sign at the Cincinnati Zoo, which installed solar panels on its parking lot in 2011 and became one of the region’s leading clean energy producers.

Raw health insurance premiums for Obamacare’s online marketplaces will be 16 percent lower than previously projected, according to the latest estimates from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released less than one week before marketplaces open on Oct. 1. In Ohio, the average family of four making $50,000 a year will have to pay $282 a month after tax credits for the second cheapest “silver” plan, or $486 less than the plan would cost without tax credits. Under Obamacare, online marketplaces will allow consumers to compare and purchase subsidized health insurance plans in the individual market. The plans only apply to the individual market, which means the majority of Americans, who are currently getting insurance through an employer or public programs, will be under a different insurance system and won’t qualify for the online marketplaces’ tax subsidies. CityBeat covered outreach efforts for the online marketplaces — and Republican attempts to obstruct them — in further detail here.

Commentary: “Let Them Eat Nothing?

The Charter Committee, Cincinnati’s unofficial third party, yesterday endorsed Roxanne Qualls for mayor. The endorsement comes as little surprise to most election-watchers, considering the Charter Committee has endorsed Qualls four times over the years.

The Cincinnati Enquirer is displeased it couldn’t cover a private mayoral debate between Qualls and ex-Councilman John Cranley because the group hosting the debate closed its doors to the public.

Ohio Democrats yesterday made their endorsements for 2014: Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald for governor, former Hamilton County Commissioner David Pepper for attorney general, State Sen. Nina Turner for secretary of state, State Rep. Connie Pillich for state treasurer and Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Judge John O’Donnell for the Ohio Supreme Court.

This infographic released by an anti-privatization group shows the negative impact of private prisons. CityBeat covered Ohio’s own privately owned prison and the problems it’s faced, including rising violence, in further detail here.

A federal grand jury charged a North Canton man for allegedly making illegal campaign contributions to U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci and Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel. Both candidates returned the campaign contributions after they became public in stories published by the Toledo Blade and The New Republic.

A 43-year-old Hamilton man allegedly used a poison-laced knife to stab his brother-in-law.

A supposedly sexist gorilla is getting kicked out of the Dallas Zoo after 18 years.

 
 
by German Lopez 07.01.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Health care, Education at 09:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cover-kasich-2

Morning News and Stuff

Governor signs budget, school funding falls short in long term, Medicaid expansion denied

Following approval from the Republican-controlled General Assembly earlier in the week, Gov. John Kasich last night signed a $62 billion two-year state budget that makes sweeping changes to taxes and takes numerous anti-abortion measures. On the tax front, Policy Matters Ohio previously criticized the mix of income tax cuts and property and sales tax hikes for favoring the wealthy. Meanwhile, abortion-rights advocates say the budget will hurt women by limiting access to abortion, while Republicans say they’re trying to protect the “sanctity of human life.”

The budget also makes changes to the school funding formula that increases funding to schools by $700 million, but the funding is still $515 million less than Ohio schools got in 2009. Stephen Dyer, former Democratic state representative and education policy fellow at left-leaning think tank Innovation Ohio, says Republican legislators should have spent less time on tax reform and more on education. Although Dyer acknowledges the final education plan is more equitable than Kasich’s original proposal, he argues equity doesn’t matter much when schools are still underfunded.

One policy that didn’t make it into the final state budget: the Medicaid expansion. Kasich strongly backed the expansion throughout the budget process, but Republican concerns about federal funding ultimately won out and kept the Medicaid expansion from the final version of the budget. Col Owens, co-convener of the Southwest Ohio Medicaid Expansion Coalition, says the expansion’s absence is irresponsible, but he’s optimistic it will be passed in a stand-alone bill later on. Owens and other supporters of the expansion argue it will help insure hundreds of thousands of Ohioans and save the state money by placing more of the funding burden on the federal government.

One beneficiary of the state budget: low-rated charter schools.

Democratic State Sen. Nina Turner today announced her candidacy for Ohio secretary of state — a position she will attempt to take from Republican Jon Husted. Turner is a vocal critic of Republicans’ voting policies, which she says suppress voters, particularly minorities and low-income Ohioans.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine on Friday released the first Human Trafficking Statistics Report, which his office plans to release on an annual basis to continue spotlighting Ohio’s trafficking problem. Law enforcement identified 38 human trafficking victims in the last year, but that’s only a fraction of the estimated thousands of Ohioans, particularly youth and those “at risk,” who are reportedly trafficked and abused each year.

The Cincinnati Park Board won the National/Facility Park Design Award for Smale Riverfront Park. The award from the National Recreation and Park Association recognizes the park’s design, the inclusiveness of the design process and how the board met the local community’s needs for the park. This is just another major national award for The Banks; earlier in the year, the project won the American Planning Association’s 2013 National Planning Excellence Award for Implementation.

Some Republicans are not taking last week’s U.S. Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage well: State Rep. John Becker, a Republican from Clermont County, now says polygamy is inevitable.

Cincinnati is currently looking for a new police chief, and it already has 13 applications.

Ohio gas prices are down again this week.

Kasich says he’s not interested in running for president in 2016.

Apparently, the unmanned Voyager 1 spacecraft entered a scientifically funky region last summer.

Here is an explanation of what happens when stars collide.

 
 

 

 

 
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