Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald is calling on Republican Gov. John Kasich to veto a bill that would prevent State Auditor Dave Yost, a Republican, from fully auditing JobsOhio, following months of controversy surrounding the private nonprofit entity.
"I further encourage the Governor to return to negotiations with Auditor Yost, with the explicit goal of establishing an open and transparent process by which the people of Ohio can be sure JobsOhio is spending our tax dollars efficiently, and that the program is doing what it is supposed to be doing: creating Ohio jobs," FitzGerald said in a statement. "The people’s money is the people’s business, and this bill, which slams shut the door on accountability, is simply unacceptable."
Yost claims he can audit JobsOhio's liquor profits, which add up to $100 million a year, and private funds, such as donations.
But the bill effectively defines JobsOhio's liquor profits as private funds that can't be audited by the state
auditor. Under the proposal, Yost could only audit liquor profits and excise taxes that JobsOhio owes to the state, with all other funds effectively deemed private.
JobsOhio was established by Kasich and Republican legislators in 2011 to replace the Ohio Department of Development. The agency's liquor profits come from a lease deal with the
state to run Ohio's liquor operations.
Yost argues the liquor profits are intrinsically public money because the money would be in public hands if JobsOhio wasn't handling operations.
But other Republicans, led by Kasich, say
opening JobsOhio to full audits would slow down the agency, hindering its
ability to quickly react to economic changes and tides. Kasich has often said the private nature of JobsOhio allows it to move at the "speed of business," which he claims fosters stronger economic development in Ohio.
Democrats have pushed back against the notion, saying JobsOhio's private nature only makes it more difficult to hold the state government accountable. With the latest bill, Democrats, who have now taken to dubbing the agency "RobsOhio," say their concerns are being vindicated.
But the bill could have far-reaching effects beyond JobsOhio that would effectively disallow the state auditor to audit privately funded accounts in any institution that receives public funding.
Despite Yost's pleas to involve him in the process, the auditing bill was passed through the Ohio House and Senate in just two days without his input.
Democrats were quick to criticize the bill, asking what JobsOhio has to hide.
Kasich is expected to sign the bill to make it law.
JobsOhio isn't the only privatization scheme pushed by Kasich. He also sold the Lake Erie Correctional Institution, a northeastern Ohio prison, to the Corrections Corporation of America. So far, inmate reports and inspections have largely found deplorable conditions at the Lake Erie facility ("From the Inside," issue of May 29).
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio on Sunday asked Gov. John Kasich to halt the death penalty across the state, following the botched execution of convicted killer Dennis McGuire that reportedly lasted 26 minutes.
McGuire’s prolonged execution, the longest since Ohio resumed capital punishment in 1999, was carried out on Jan. 16 with a new cocktail of drugs that had never been tried before in the United States. The use of the new drugs came about after Ohio ran out of its previous supplies.
With its letter, the ACLU joined other groups, including Ohioans to Stop Executions, in calling for an end or pause to state-sanctioned killing.
“This is not about Dennis McGuire, his terrible crimes, or the crimes of others who await execution on death row,” reads the ACLU letter. “It is about our duty as a society that sits in judgment of those who are convicted of crimes to treat them humanely and ensure their punishment does not violate the Constitution.”
The letter adds, “We are mere months away from new recommendations from the Ohio Supreme Court Taskforce on the Administration of the Death Penalty that could alter our system for the better. On the eve of monumental changes, along with increasing problems with lethal injection, is not now the time to step back and pause?”
McGuire’s family also announced on Friday it would file a lawsuit claiming his death constituted “cruel and unusual punishment.”
Five more people await execution in Ohio this year, according to the ACLU. It’s unclear whether the state will use the same cocktail of drugs following McGuire’s execution.
Former Ohio governor Ted Strickland will not run for governor in 2014. In a statement released today, the Democrat who previously served four years as governor did not give a reason for why he won’t run. But he did promise his wife and him will “continue to be politically active private citizens.” Strickland also touted his accomplishments as governor, including energy, health care, social services and property tax reform. In September, Strickland faced criticism from the left for pushing for the Democratic platform to include a mention of God and a proclamation that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. The platform amendment contradicts decades of U.S. foreign policy.
Hamilton County wants an efficiency review of the Metropolitan Sewer District. Republican Commissioner Chris Monzel ordered the review. He says he expects “things at the Metropolitan Sewer District are being managed and operated in a highly efficient and effective manner,” but he wants to make sure. MSD is currently taking part in a multi-billion dollar, federally mandated upgraded system. CityBeat wrote about MSD’s green initiatives here.
Findlay Market might soon host Cincinnati’s first freestanding restroom. If it goes well, it could be the start of a much bigger city-wide project, and freestanding restrooms will be built all around downtown and Over-the-Rhine. The test facility is being touted by Councilman Chris Seelbach and other city officials as they seek to provide better access to restrooms throughout the city.
Rep. Peter Beck, a Republican from Mason, is facing a possible ethics investigation from the Ohio House of Representatives. The controversy was prompted by a recently filed lawsuit, which alleges Beck participated in a fraud that cheated investors out of more than $1.2 million.
Some local educators are supporting the use of seclusion rooms in Ohio. The rooms, which are enclosed spaces used to calm or restrain children who become violent, have come under criticism after an investigation from StateImpact Ohio and The Columbus Dispatch found the rooms were being abused for the convenience of staff. Ohio does not currently regulate the use of seclusion rooms, but that is likely to change in an upcoming Ohio Board of Education meeting.
On the bright side, Ohio has the 10th best education laws, according to a study from StudentsFirst. Overall, Ohio got a C-, making it one of the 12 states to get a B or C. No state received an A. StateImpact Ohio has more on the grade here. State officials probably understand how I felt when I dropped out of a college history class because the professor was too strict of a grader. Then again, state education systems are probably more important than Colonial History 101.
The Blue Wisp, home of the greatest spinach-and-artichoke dip in the universe, is looking to renegotiate its lease. Over the holidays, restaurant hero and Blue Wisp manager Ed Felson told customers his jazz-themed restaurant and club is having financial problems.
The most emailed phrase while committing fraud at work is “cover up.”
One major problem with prolonged space missions: Humans become lazy and sleepy. It seems like being an astronaut isn’t different from any other job. Who can we rely on when aliens finally invade?
Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel has returned more than $100,000 in campaign contributions in response to an FBI investigation into 21 donors who had no record of giving to federal campaigns and many appearing to have low incomes. Mandel, a Republican, is running against incombent Democrat Sen. Sherrod Brown. Mandel's campaign treasurer Kathryn Kessler sent a letter to donors explaining that any contributions appearing to be under investigation would be refunded.
From The Toledo Blade:
Although the campaign provided a copy of the letter to The Blade, it would not explain the timing of the decision or how long it has been aware of the federal probe.
The Blade revealed the unusual pattern of contributions in August.
The company's owner, Benjamin Suarez, and 16 of his employees (plus some of their spouses) gave about $200,000 to Mr. Mandel and U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci (R., Wadsworth) last year. Each of those donors gave $5,000, the maximum allowable amount, to one or both candidates.
The Ohio Senate yesterday passed new fracking regulations, and the final version caused some environmental organizations to change their stance on the bill. The Ohio Environmental Council and the Sierra Club had both been neutral on the legislation until changes were made forcing anyone suing over chemical trade secrets to show current or potential harm, according to The Enquirer. The regulations are part of Kasich's new energy bill and easily passed both the Senate and House and is expected to be signed by Kasich soon.
Cincinnati Public Schools says it will apply for the latest available federal education grants, which amount to nearly $700 million. The grants are geared toward helping schools proceed with reform and innovation.
The John Edwards trial has entered day six of deliberations.
United Nations inspectors have reportedly found uranium in Iran enriched beyond the highest levels previously reported. One diplomat said the measure could actually be a measurement error, though the reading could also mean that Iran is closer to producing bomb-grade uranium than previously thought.
Scientists might be one step closer to creating birth control for men after U.K. scientists found a gene used to enable sperm to mature.
Facebook's initial public offering didn't go entirely as expected, and some investors are getting refunds after technical problems and other issues marred the company's first week of trading.
The Reds completed a four-game sweep of the Atlanta Braves last night, winning their sixth in a row and overtaking the St. Louis Cardinal for first place in the NL Central.
Opponents of Ohio's new restrictive election law have gotten it postponed until next year at the earliest, with a potential repeal of House Bill 194 in November ending it before it begins.
The Ohio Democratic Party is asking both state and federal prosecutors to look into allegations that a major coal company is coercing its employees to donate to political causes against their will.
The ODP on Monday sent letters to U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio Steven Dettelbach and Acting Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty asking them to launch a criminal investigation into Ohio-based Murray Energy Corporation.
The letters allege that Murray Energy “may have engaged in a pattern of illegal activity, extorting millions in financial contributions from employees and vendors for Republican candidates running for public office.”
Murray Energy fired back in a Monday statement, saying the allegations “are simply an attempt to silence Murray Energy and its owners from supporting their coal mining employees and families by speaking out against President Barack Obama’s well known and documented War on Coal.”
The allegations stem from an Oct. 4 investigation by left-leaning magazine The New Republic.
The article is based on the accounts of two anonymous former Murray managers and a review of letters and memos to Murray employees. It suggests that employees are pressured into making donations to Republican candidates and contributing to the company’s Political Action Committee.
“There’s a lot of coercion,” one of the sources told the magazine. “I just want to work, but you feel this constant pressure that, if you don’t contribute, your job’s at stake.”
ODP Chairman Chris Redfern told reporters during a conference call that party research found that Ohio political candidates — including all current statewide officeholders — had received almost $750,000 from Murray Energy, its subsidiaries and employees.
Neither Dettelbach or McGinty returned CityBeat calls for comment on any pending investigations.
Murray Energy in its statement called The New Republic biased and radically liberal. The company’s characterization in the article is incorrect and untruthful, according to the statement.
Murray had previously come under fire when Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney held a campaign event at one of its mines. Some workers claim they were pulled out of the mine early when it closed for the event and forced to attend without pay.
Headline: "Stadium tax rebate favors wealthy." Analysis: "No shit." Owners of the county's most-expensive homes reportedly receive more savings from the property tax rollback than they pay in the sales tax increase that was supposed to pay for the sports stadiums. An Enquirer analysis of last year's property tax payout found that the half-cent sales tax increase amounts to a maximum of $192 annually, while some high-value homeowners received tax rebates of $1,175 or more.
• Million-dollar homes account for less than 1 percent of households, yet they received nearly 5 percent of the total rebates — or one out of every $20 paid out.
• One out of four homeowners - those with a home worth $200,000 or more - got $8.8 million in rebates - more than half the total rollback.
• The median Hamilton County homeowner with a property worth $106,700 is eligible to get a $50.15 rebate under the rollback.
• The 132 Hamilton County homeowners with houses worth $2.5 million or more get at least $1,175 apiece.
• Property owners with homes worth $150,000 or less account for nearly six out of 10 households, but collectively they received less than 23 percent of the benefits.
County commissioners have four days to tell the auditor to go ahead and tax homeowners at the previous rate, but Chris Monzel and Todd Portune are up for reelection this year and won't dare change take it away from the powerful rich people.
[Correction: Monzel is not up for reelection.]
Said former commissioner David Pepper:"At its core, the property tax rollback creates a reverse-Robin Hood scheme, where middle-class homeowners and renters are not only the ones paying for the stadium, but also footing the bill for a tax break for high-value property owners. Those high-end property owners are not paying for the stadium at all."
Some Democratic lawmakers want answers from Republican Gov. John Kasich.
A group of Democratic state representatives has put forth a bill that would require Kasich — and every governor after him — to come before the Ohio House of Representatives 10 times per year for 45-minute question and answer sessions where the governor would have to take at least five questions from each side of the aisle.
Rep. Mike Foley, D-Cleveland, is the bill’s sponsor. He did not return CityBeat’s call for comment as of Wednesday afternoon.
Cincinnati Democratic Rep. Denise Driehaus is one of the bill’s co-sponsors. She said Foley had the idea while visiting Canada, where their parliament has a similar procedure.
“I think it’s a great idea where the governor interacts with the legislature and we have the opportunity to question him and really engage on some of the issues and get his opinion on things,” Driehaus says.
She said the Legislature doesn’t currently have a whole lot of opportunity to interact with the governor, except for the State of the State address, but even then they can’t really engage Ohio’s chief executive.
The Ohio Democratic Party has recently filed suit against Kasich for what it says is a failure to comply with open records laws for redacting parts of his public schedules when responding to a public records request.
The ODP has called Kasich opaque and secretive for failing to respond or only partially responding to records requests.
However, Driehaus said the bill isn’t meant to apply only to Kasich, but would apply to every governor after him. She said she didn’t think it was in reaction to her party’s spat with the governor.
“This is much broader and much more forward thinking than that,” Driehaus says.
Gov. John Kasich’s 2014-2015 budget plan is on the horizon, and it contains “sweeping tax reform,” according to Tim Keen, budget director for Kasich. Keen said the new plan will “result in a significant competitive improvement in our tax structure,” but it’s not sure how large tax cuts would be paid for. Some are already calling the plan the “re-election budget.” Expectations are Kasich’s administration will cut less than the previous budget, which greatly cut funding to local governments and education.
Chris Monzel is now in charge
of the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners. Monzel will serve as
president, while former president Greg Hartmann has stepped down to vice
president. Monzel says public safety will be his No. 1 concern.
City Council may vote today on a plan to build the first freestanding public restroom, and it may be coming at a lower cost. City Manager Milton Dohoney said last week that the restroom could cost $130,000 with $90,000 going to the actual restroom facility, but Councilman Seelbach says the city might be able to secure the facility for about $40,000.
Tomorrow, county commissioners may vote on policy regarding the Metropolitan Sewer District. Commissioners have been looking into ending a responsible bidder policy, which they say is bad for businesses. But Councilman Seelbach argues the policy ensures job training is part of multi-billion dollar sewer programs. Board President Monzel and Seelbach are working on a compromise the city and county can agree on.
The Hamilton County Board of Elections is prepared to refer five cases of potential voter fraud from the Nov. 6 election. The board is also investigating about two dozen more voters’ actions for potential criminal charges.
King’s Island is taking job applications for 4,000 full- and part-time positions.
Ohio may soon link teacher pay to quality. Gov. John Kasich says his funding plan for schools will “empower,” not require, schools to attach teacher compensation to student success. A previous study suggested the scheme, also known as “merit pay,” might be a good idea.
An economist says Ohio’s home sales will soon be soaring.
Debe Terhar will continue as the Board of Education president, with Tom Gunlock staying as vice president.
Equal rights for women everywhere could save the world, say two Stanford biologists. Apparently, giving women more rights makes it so they have less children, which biologists Paul R. and Anne Ehrlich say will stop humanity from overpopulating the world.
Ever wanted to eat like a caveman? I’m sure someone out there does. Well, here is how.