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.
A state lawmaker from Cincinnati is asking U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to send federal election monitors here to ensure all provisional ballots cast in the November election are counted.
State Rep. Alicia Reece (D-Bond Hill) sent the letter this week. She stated that concerns about how provisional ballots were treated in the 2010 race for Hamilton County Juvenile Court judge prompted the letter, adding no significant progress has been made in dealing with the issue since that time.
The Enquirer today offered a dramatic headline on its front page story, asking the figurative question, “Who will blink first on Music Hall deal?” Although Mayor Mark Mallory is able to literally blink, such involuntary action will not directly affect his stance on giving away Music Hall, which he is still opposed to.
Cincinnati's outstanding stadium tax
bonds were downgraded by Moody's Investor Services, partially as a
result of the county's sale of Drake Hospital last year and its
unwillingness to cut the property tax rollback that helped convince
rich people to vote for the tax in the first place.
Gov. John Kasich this week signed an executive order allowing the Ohio Lottery Commission to expedite new rules allowing slot machines at racetracks. The state's seven racetracks are expected to begin submitting applications for the 17,500 machines within the next few months.
A Seattle man yesterday killed five people before shooting himself as authorities closed in on him. Various security cameras caught footage of the suspect entering a cafe, where he allegedly shot and killed four people. He reportedly killed another person during a carjacking. According to The Seattle Times, the suspect is Ian Lee Stawicki, 40, of Seattle, whose brother says he is mentally ill.
Florida Democrats are wondering what's up with Republican Gov. Rick Scott's effort to purge illegal voters from the state's rolls before this year's elections, partially in response to legal voters being booted.
Job creation: light. Unemployment
claims: slightly up. Economy: growing a little slower than expected. Details here
Ever ordered a medium soda only to realize that the giant cup doesn't fit in a normal car cup holder? New York City could soon ban large sodas and other sugary drinks.
During a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado last night, a gunman walked into a theater, threw tear gas, and opened fire. Police identified James Holmes as the suspect in the shooting. Twelve were killed and at least 50 were wounded. On Twitter, one witness lamented that “there is no dark knight, no hero, that could save us from anything like this.”
Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig will learn later this summer if he'll be required to undergo additional training and take the state police exam. Craig and his attorneys yesterday told the Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission about his 36 years of policing experience.
This summer, Ohio families will receive health insurance rebates as part of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. The average family will receive $139. In total, Ohioans will be getting back $11.3 million.
Ohio’s unemployment rate dropped to 7.2 percent in June, down from 7.3 percent in May. That’s the lowest unemployment has been since 2008.
An Ohio Supreme Court task force approved changes that will help prevent racial bias in death penalty cases.
Gov. John Kasich can’t get even his own people to agree with him on his tax plan. An Ohio Tea Party group came out against the plan yesterday.
Speaker of the House John Boehner called the issue of Mitt Romney’s tax returns a “sideshow” and said that Americans don’t care about it. But Romney apparently disagreed with Boehner’s perspective in 1994 when he asked then-Senator Ted Kennedy to release his tax returns.
First giant mirrors, then volcanoes. Now, scientists want to use plankton to help fight global warming.
The Ohio State Senate’s top Republican wants to beef up ethics laws for state lawmakers.
Senate President Tom Niehaus tells The Columbus Dispatch that he plans on rolling out a new ethics bill within a few weeks. He didn’t offer specifics on what it would cover, but said disclosure and transparency would be the main themes.
Ohio’s ethics laws governing the relationship between public officials and lobbyists haven’t seen significant updates in more than 17 years. Niehaus told the newspaper he wants to see lawmakers vote on it before his legislative career ends this year.
The last major overhaul of Ohio ethics laws came in 1994, when the legislature banned public officials from receiving money to appear at dinners and receptions and required disclosure of all gifts costing more than $25.
The law also banned gifts costing more than $75, but oftentimes lobbyists will split up more expensive gifts among a number of lobbyists.