CityBeat Blogs - Abortion http://www.citybeat.com/cincinnati/blogs-1-1-1-34-236.html <![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

Mayor John Cranley yesterday announced a plan to add another recruit class to the Cincinnati Fire Department and effectively eliminate brownouts, but it remains unclear how the class will be paid for in the long-term. The Fire Department applied for a federal grant that would cover the costs for two years, but the city would need to pay for the new firefighters salaries after that. To some City Council members, the proposal, along with other plans to add more police recruits and fund a jobs program for the long-term unemployed, raises questions about what will get cut in the budget to pay for the new costs.

Gov. John Kasich’s administration has led an aggressive effort to shut down abortion clinics around the state, and a clinic in Sharonville, Ohio, could be the next to close after the administration denied a request that would have allowed the clinic to stay open without an emergency patient transfer agreement. The process has apparently involved high-ranking officials in the Ohio Department of Health, which one regulator says is unusual. The threat to the Sharonville clinic follows the passage of several new anti-abortion regulations through the latest state budget, but state officials say the new regulations were unnecessary to deny the Sharonville clinic’s request to stay open.

Unions broadly support Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald’s campaign, but at least one union-funded group, Affiliated Construction Trades (ACT) Ohio, seems to be throwing its weight behind Kasich, a Republican. The surprising revelation shows not every union group has kept a grudge against Kasich and other Republicans after they tried to limit public employees’ collective bargaining rights through Senate Bill 5 in 2011. ACT Ohio says its support for Kasich is related to jobs, particularly Kasich’s support for infrastructure projects. The jobs market actually stagnated after Kasich took office, which some political scientists say could cost Kasich his re-election bid even though economists say the governor isn’t to blame.

Talk of tolls continues threatening the $2.65 billion Brent Spence Bridge project as opposition from Northern Kentuckians remains strong. Ohio and Kentucky officials insist tolls are necessary to replace the supposedly dangerous bridge because the federal government doesn’t seem willing to pick up the tab.

Ohio gas prices keep rising.

A Dayton University student froze to death after falling asleep outside, with alcohol a possible factor.

Airplane pilots often head to the wrong airport, according to new reports.

Watch people tightrope walk between hot air balloons.

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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

The Hamilton County Board of Elections remains split on whether to move its offices and early voting from downtown to Mount Airy. The two Democrats on the board oppose the move because it could make voting more difficult for Over-the-Rhine and downtown residents. The two Republicans on the board support the plan because it will consolidate operations with the county, which plans to move the county crime lab to the Mount Airy site, and add free parking. If the board remains split, Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted will break the tie.

Councilman Charlie Winburn shelved his idea to sell the city-owned Southern Railway to help shore up Cincinnati’s underfunded pension system. It’s unlikely the idea would have made it through City Council or Mayor John Cranley. The proposal seemed a bit hypocritical coming from Winburn, who criticized the previous city administration for attempting to sell off or lease long-term revenue sources, such as the city’s parking system, for lump sums. Still, the pension issue remains a major concern for local officials; Winburn asked council members to help find a solution to the problem this year.

The Ohio Department of Health ordered a Cincinnati-area abortion clinic to close after it failed to reach a patient transfer agreement with a local hospital, as required by law. The clinic, located in Sharonville, plans to appeal the ruling. The facility has failed to establish a patient transfer agreement since 2010, but previous Democratic administrations exempted the clinic from the regulations. At the current rate of closures, Ohio could soon fall below 10 available abortion clinics for the first time in decades. For several clinics, part of the issue stems from anti-abortion restrictions in the 2014-2015 state budget approved by Gov. John Kasich and his fellow Republicans in the Ohio legislature.

Council last week approved form-based code for a third neighborhood, Walnut Hills. The regulation allows neighborhoods to bring in new development while hopefully keeping the historic charm and character of the city.

The Cincinnati Bengals asked Hamilton County to hand over sole ownership of naming rights for Paul Brown Stadium, but county commissioners don’t seem keen on the idea.

Over-the-Rhine residents have mobilized to save two old buildings that the Freestore Foodbank originally planned to tear down. Ryan Messer, who is leading the charge to save the buildings, said on Facebook today that the Freestore Foodbank agreed to hold off on the demolitions while both parties meet with residents willing to buy and renovate the buildings.

Federal authorities questioned an Ohio man wearing Google Glass at a movie theater over fears he was attempting to record the film. No action was taken after the man confirmed the Google Glass is also a pair of prescription glasses and the recording function was turned off.

Robots could replace one-fourth of U.S. combat soldiers by 2030, according to a general.

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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

Ohio and various other states passed more abortion restrictions between 2011 and 2013 than they did in the previous decade, according to the Guttmacher Institute. The findings indicate that the latest Republican-backed abortion restrictions, which were passed through Ohio’s two-year state budget last June, were part of a broader trend that’s culminated across the nation since the tea party rose to national prominence in 2010. The trend could play a pivotal political role: Ohio Democrats have made their opposition to the abortion restrictions a central part of their campaigns to unseat Republican incumbents who hold top executive offices in the state.

One of the candidates expected to join the tea party ticket in a Republican primary challenge against Gov. John Kasich appears to have personal tax problems. Brenda Mack, tea party leader Ted Stevenot’s expected running mate, is linked to nearly $60,000 in unpaid state and federal taxes and penalties, according to government records in Mahoning and Cuyahoga counties analyzed by The Columbus Dispatch. Mack refuses to comment on the tax problems until a Tuesday press conference in which she and Stevenot are expected to officially announce their candidacies for the May 6 primary.

Former Mayor Charlie Luken says he will run for Hamilton County probate judge. The Democratic candidate will likely face off against Republican Ted Winkler, a Hamilton County Common Pleas Court judge. Luken recently garnered the public spotlight for his support for Mayor John Cranley’s campaign.

Cincinnati’s homicide rate for victims younger than 18 rose to 1 in 7 in 2013 and 2012, up from 1 in 10 from 2000 through 2011, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer. Four of the juvenile victims were 1-year-old or younger, including a fetus who died after the mother was strangled to death in April.

Four seats on the 19-member Ohio Board of Education remain unfilled, including two seats that have been vacant for months, long past the 30-day deadline Gov. Kasich has under state law to name a replacement. Administration officials said they’re aware of the deadline, but they intend to find the best fit for the position before moving forward with an appointment. “It’s far more important to us to find the right person than putting warm bodies on the board,” Kasich spokesperson Rob Nichols told The Columbus Dispatch.

The amount of untested rape kits submitted to Ohio’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation exceeded 5,000.

Fewer than 1,000 died last year in traffic crashes across Ohio, the lowest number since the state began keeping track of the fatalities in 1936.

Bill Nye the Science Guy will debate evolution and biblical creationism at northern Kentucky’s Creation Museum on Feb. 4. Evolution is a scientific fact, but Creation Museum leader Ken Ham denies its existence.

Aaron Betsky announced yesterday he will step down as director of the Cincinnati Art Museum. The news follows Betsky’s controversial comments against the streetcar project in ArchitectMagazine.com, which Betsky expanded on in a separate blog post. CityBeat recently interviewed Betsky here.

The Cincinnati Bengals received an extension until 4 p.m. today to sell out tickets for Sunday’s game and avoid a television blackout in the Cincinnati area.

Strange lights sometimes precede earthquakes.

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<![CDATA[Ohio’s Latest Abortion Restrictions Follow Nationwide Trend]]>

Ohio was among various states in the nation that passed more abortion restrictions between 2011 and 2013 than the entire previous decade, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

Between 2011 and 2013, states passed 205 new restrictions on abortion. Between 2001 and 2010, states passed only 189 new restrictions.

The trend is unsurprising for Ohio, which the Guttmacher Institute says has been “hostile to abortion” since 2000, but the timeline shows a clear shift in state policies around the nation since the tea party rose to national prominence in 2010.

Ohio’s latest restrictions were passed last June by Ohio Republicans through the two-year state budget.

Among other restrictions, one measure forces doctors to perform an external ultrasound on a woman seeking an abortion and tell her if a heartbeat is detected and the statistical probability of the fetus making it to birth.

Ohio and Oklahoma were also the only states in 2013 to pass restrictions on federal funding for family planning providers, the Guttmacher Institute claims.

Abortion providers, including Planned Parenthood, insist they don’t use public funds for abortions, instead funding the procedure with the help of private contributions.

But Ohio Republicans, who predominantly oppose abortion rights, went through with the restrictions anyway, ultimately hitting some family planning service providers that don’t even offer abortions.

“Members of the House who have issues with Planned Parenthood have only issues with the abortion services,” Michael Dittoe, spokesperson for Ohio House Republicans, told CityBeat last June. “The rest of what Planned Parenthood provides, I imagine they have no issue with whatsoever.”

Ohio Democrats, particularly gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald, have made their opposition to the anti-abortion measures part of their campaigns to unseat Gov. John Kasich and other Ohio Republicans who hold top executive positions in the state. But given the Guttmacher Institute’s timeline, reversing the trend could require a radical shift in the state government of the past 14 years.


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<![CDATA[Bill Would Stop Insurers From Offering Abortion Coverage]]> Union Township Rep. John Becker doesn't exactly have a history of standing up for causes CityBeat agrees with, and this week we're seeing more of the same.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Becker also recently lobbied for the impeachment of the judge who allowed the state to legally recognize the marriage of Jim Obergefell and his 20-year partner, John Arthur, who recently passed away from Lou Gehrig's disease, for his decision.
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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

Early voting for the 2013 City Council and mayoral elections is now underway. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days are extended.

On Oct. 29, local residents will be able to give feedback to Cincinnati officials about the city budget — and also nab some free pizza. The open budgeting event is from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 29 at 1115 Bates Ave., Cincinnati.

An audit of the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) found former Sheriff Simon Leis crippled technological developments, stacked leadership positions with political cronies and still kept his staff fiercely loyal during his 25 years in charge of HCSO. The Oct. 15 audit claims the agency was “largely frozen in time” and didn’t meet the most basic modern standards, including a failure to adopt computer spreadsheets and other modern technologies instead of keeping paper-based records that only one person can access at a time. The audit claims a few possible consequences for Hamilton County: outdated policing policies, exposure to possible litigation and an overworked, under-trained staff. To fix the mistakes, the audit recommends various investments and changes to policies that could prove costly to the county — perhaps too costly to a county government that has been forced to make budget cuts for the past six years. Read more about the audit here.

Developers sold the apartments and 96,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space in the first phase of The Banks for $79.5 million. In a memo, City Manager Milton Dohoney claimed the sale is a sign of the strong market that’s being built in Cincinnati. Dohoney noted that the sale will provide nearly $1.2 million for the city and county, which will likely go to other projects in The Banks, and allow Carter and The Dawson Company to repay the city and county’s nearly $4.7 million retail fit-up loan three years in advance. The sale should also increase the property’s assessed value, which Hamilton County Auditor Dusty Rhodes previously put at $52 million, or $27.5 million less than it actually sold for, and subsequently lead to higher property-based tax revenue, according to Dohoney.

The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) could force the Lebanon Road Surgery Center, a Cincinnati-area abortion clinic, to close after a health examiner upheld ODH’s decision to revoke the clinic’s license because it couldn’t establish a patient transfer agreement with a nearby hospital. Abortion rights advocates touted the closure as another example of how new regulations in the recently passed state budget will limit access to legal abortions across the state. But ODH handed down its original decision for the Cincinnati-area abortion clinic in November 2012, more than half a year before Gov. John Kasich in June signed the state budget and its anti-abortion restrictions into law. Meanwhile, Ohio Right to Life praised the state for closing down or threatening to close down five abortion clinics this year.

Reminder: Officials project the streetcar will have a much greater economic impact in downtown than Over-the-Rhine, despite what some detractors may claim.

The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office last night began threatening to arrest homeless people who refuse to leave the Hamilton County Courthouse and Justice Center and find another place to sleep, according to Josh Spring of the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition. The sheriff’s office says the steps are necessary to put an end to public urination and defecation on county property, but homeless advocates say the county should focus on creating jobs and affordable housing to solve the root of the problem. CityBeat covered the issue in greater detail here.

Former Ohio House Speaker Jo Ann Davidson questioned her fellow Republicans’ legal threats against Gov. John Kasich’s plan to bypass the legislature and get the federally funded Medicaid expansion approved through the Controlling Board, a seven-member legislative panel. Davidson says Kasich is on “firm ground” legally because the state budget contained a provision that allows the state’s Medicaid director to expand the program. The Kasich administration on Oct. 11 announced its intention to call on the Controlling Board to take up the expansion, which will use federal Obamacare funds for two years to extend Medicaid eligibility to more low-income Ohioans. The Health Policy Institute of Ohio previously found the expansion would generate $1.8 billion for Ohio and insure nearly half a million Ohioans over the next decade.

Ohio Libertarians and Greens threatened to sue the state if the legislature passes a bill that would limit ballot access for minor political parties. The Ohio Senate already approved the legislation, and an Ohio House committee is expected to vote on it at a hearing on Oct. 29.

More charges have been filed against a local spine doctor accused of carrying out unnecessary surgeries in the Cincinnati area and Florence, Ky., and billing health care programs millions of dollars, according to court documents released Thursday.

A race car managed to swap fossil fuels for hydrogen power.

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<![CDATA[State Could Force Local Abortion Clinic to Close]]>

The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) could order the Lebanon Road Surgery Center, a Cincinnati-area abortion clinic, to shut down after a hearing examiner upheld ODH’s decision to revoke the clinic’s license because the clinic failed to establish a transfer agreement with a nearby hospital.

Abortion rights advocates touted the closure as another example of how new regulations in the recently passed state budget will limit access to legal abortions across the state. But ODH handed down its original decision for the Cincinnati-area abortion clinic in November 2012, more than half a year before Gov. John Kasich in June signed the state budget and its anti-abortion restrictions into law.

NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio decried “the closure of an abortion provider in the Cincinnati area despite an exemplary record of medical safety.”

“Just as we feared when Gov. Kasich enacted medically unnecessary regulations on abortion providers, officials at the Ohio Department of Health have launched a regulatory witch hunt against Ohio’s abortion providers and have recommended the closure of an abortion clinic in Cincinnati,” said Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, in a statement.

Ohio Right to Life, which opposes abortion rights, celebrated the decision.

“We are gratified to see yet another late-term abortionist shutting down,” said Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, in a statement. “As a result of this Health Department order, Martin Haskell, a strong proponent and former practitioner of the controversial and deadly partial-birth abortion procedure, will no longer be able to abort children and jeopardize womens health in Hamilton County.”

Ohio law classifies abortion clinics as ambulatory surgical facilities and requires they establish transfer agreements with nearby hospitals, where clinics can send patients for more comprehensive care in case of an emergency. The 2014-2015 state budget also barred abortion clinics from establishing transfer agreements with public hospitals, which abortion-rights advocates say greatly hinders the clinics because private hospitals are generally religious and oppose abortion rights.

The Cincinnati-area clinic is just one of five Ohio clinics in the past year to either close down or face the threat of closing down, according to The Columbus Dispatch. Without the five, Ohio would be reduced to just nine abortion clinics.

On Oct. 9, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio announced a lawsuit against Ohio’s newest anti-abortion restrictions. The ACLU claims the regulations went beyond the budget’s purpose of appropriating funds and therefore violated the Ohio Constitution’s “single subject” rule, which requires each individual law keep to a single subject to avoid complexity and hidden language.

The hearing examiner’s decision:

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<![CDATA[ACLU Sues Ohio Over Anti-Abortion Restrictions]]>

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio on Wednesday announced it is suing the state of Ohio over anti-abortion restrictions enacted as part of the 2014-2015 state budget.

“To put it simply, none of these amendments have any place in the state budget bill,” said Susan Scheutzow, ACLU cooperating attorney and partner at the law firm of Kohrman Jackson & Krantz, in a statement. “This massive bill is not intended to deal with new policy; the single subject of the budget should be the appropriation of funds for existing government programs or obligations.”

The lawsuit claims the restrictions violate the Ohio Constitution’s “single subject” rule, which requires each individual law keep to a single subject to avoid complexity and hidden language. In the case of the budget, the ACLU argues that the law shouldn’t go beyond appropriating state funds and tax collection.

The three anti-abortion budget amendments in question ban public hospitals and abortion clinics from making transfer agreements that are required to keep clinics open; order clinics to take government-outlined steps, including showing a patient if a fetal heartbeat is detected, before carrying out an abortion procedure; and create a new “parenting and pregnancy” program that shifts state funds into private organizations that are barred from mentioning abortion services.

“The first two amendments have nothing at all to do with budget appropriations,” said Jessie Hill, ACLU cooperating attorney and professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Law, in a statement. “The third is also unconstitutional because it creates and funds an entirely new government program, something that requires stand-alone legislation.”

The ACLU says the lawsuit is about promoting good government that follows the rules, regardless of where any individual stands on the issue of abortion.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Preterm, a women’s health clinic in Cleveland that provides contraception, family planning and abortion services.

One anti-abortion restriction that’s not being sued over: The state budget effectively defunded clinics like Planned Parenthood by deeming their non-abortion services less competitive.

Republican legislators and Gov. John Kasich approved the anti-abortion restrictions with the state budget in June. But Democratic critics say the new rules harshly restrict access to legal abortions protected by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

CityBeat covered the state budget in further detail here.

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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

Ohio’s unemployment rate remained at 7.2 percent in July, unchanged from June, according to new data from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. The amount of employed Ohioans went up by 5,300 from month-to-month and 37,700 year-over-year, showing stronger signs of job growth than earlier in the year. But the amount of jobless Ohioans still looking for jobs went up by 3,000 between June and July. In the past year, the private service-providing sector, education and health services and leisure and hospitality have gained the most jobs, while local government and construction jobs have plummeted.

The Port Authority of Greater Cincinnati proposed keeping neighborhood parking meter hours the same under a lease agreement with Cincinnati in which the city is handing over control of its parking meters, lots and garages to the Port and the agency is tasking private companies with operating the assets. Keeping the meter hours the same as today, instead of expanding them as previously suggested, would lower Cincinnati’s upfront lease revenue from $92 million to $88.3 million and reduce annual payments, which were originally projected at $3 million but estimated to go up over the life of the lease. Still, the move would satisfy neighborhood residents and businesses who were worried the expanded hours would quickly become a financial hassle. CityBeat covered the parking lease and the controversy surrounding it in further detail here.

Republican legislators are reintroducing a bill that would ban abortions in Ohio as early as six weeks after conception, even though questions remain about the proposal’s constitutionality. The bill has been dubbed the “heartbeat bill” because it prohibits abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected. A federal judge on July 22 blocked a similar law in North Dakota after deeming it unconstitutional. “The United States Supreme Court has unequivocally said that no state may deprive a woman of the choice to terminate her pregnancy at a point prior to viability,” wrote U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland, who was appointed to the District of North Dakota seat by former President George W. Bush in 2002. Health experts generally agree viability is not reached until 24 weeks into the pregnancy.

Part of the Cincinnati streetcar route could be operational in late 2015, much earlier than the Sept. 15, 2016 date the city previously announced for the entire track.

The Ohio Ethics Commission won’t investigate Gov. John Kasich’s relationship with a company that received $619,000 in tax credits from JobsOhio because Kasich supposedly made a clean break from the company upon taking office. JobsOhio, the privatized development agency established by Kasich and Republican legislators, has been mired in controversy in the past few weeks for providing state aid to companies that have direct financial ties to JobsOhio board members and the governor.

Meanwhile, Kasich is fueling speculation that he will run for president in 2016.

Cincinnati mayoral candidate and ex-Councilman John Cranley on Thursday unveiled an innovation plan that he says will boost government transparency and help foster Cincinnati’s newly gained reputation as a tech startup hub. The plan would take $5 million in capital funds over four years and ask local startup incubators Cintrifuse, The Brandery and CincyTech where they would like to see the money going. It would also call for hiring a chief innovation officer (CIO) and creating “CincyData,” a transparency initiative that would gather and publish city data to create “a more efficient, effective and user-friendly City government.” Under the plan, both the CIO position and CincyData would be leveraged to find new ways to carry out city services in the hopes of running the local government more efficiently.

Cincinnati Public Schools’ ratings are likely to dip as the school district transitions into Common Core standards and a new state report card system. Superintendent Mary Ronan says the district is doing well but needs to work on getting kids’ reading scores up to grade level. CityBeat originally covered the ratings drop here and some of the hurdles faced by CPS in the past few years here.

New data show the growth of health care costs is slowing down in the Cincinnati area.

Ohio will come up with a new plan to execute condemned inmates no later than Oct. 4 to deal with the state’s expiring supply of drugs used to carry out capital punishments. Specifics were not detailed in court filings.

Procter & Gamble is recalling dog and cat food because some of the product may be contaminated with Salmonella.

Science confirmed pulling out is a bad way to avoid pregnancy.

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<![CDATA[Republicans to Reintroduce Anti-Abortion ‘Heartbeat Bill’]]>

Ohio legislators today reintroduced a bill that would ban abortions in the state as early as six weeks after conception, even as questions remain about the proposal’s constitutionality.

The bill has been dubbed the “heartbeat bill” because it prohibits abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected.

In the past, some of Ohio’s anti-abortion groups, including Ohio Right to Life, raised concerns about the heartbeat bill because they said it could lead to legal challenges that would endanger the anti-abortion movement.

So far, Ohio Right to Lifes concerns might be proving true in North Dakota. A federal judge on July 22 blocked a similar law in that state after deeming it unconstitutional.

“The United States Supreme Court has unequivocally said that no state may deprive a woman of the choice to terminate her pregnancy at a point prior to viability,” wrote U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland, who was appointed to the District of North Dakota seat by former President George W. Bush in 2002.

Health experts generally agree viability is not reached until 24 weeks into the pregnancy.

When contacted earlier today, Ohio Right to Life said it’s not providing comment on the bill yet.

Abortion-rights advocates are already standing against the proposal, which they call “the heartless bill” and an attack on women’s rights.

“Here we go again,” says Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio. “A month after Gov. Kasich signed one of the worst anti-choice bills in the nation that is already closing abortion facilities, you’ve got this group coming back and saying, ‘No, no, no, that’s not good enough. You have to outlaw abortion before women even know they’re pregnant.’ ”

Forty of 99 legislators in the Ohio House have signed onto the bill, according to The Associated Press. The Ohio Senate majority caucus and Gov. John Kasich have so far declined to comment on the bill when asked by various reporters.

In June, the Republican-controlled General Assembly and Kasich passed a two-year state budget that imposes regulatory hurdles that make it more difficult to get an abortion in Ohio and have already forced various abortion clinics to shut down in Ohio.

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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

A tea party-backed pension amendment yesterday cleared the hurdle of 7,443 petition signatures required to appear on the November ballot. Cincinnati for Pension Reform, the group behind the amendment, had previously paid nearly $70,000 to petitioners to gather signatures. The amendment would privatize pension plans so the city and city employees hired after January 2014 would contribute to individual retirement accounts that the employee would then manage by independently selecting investments. That’s a shift from the current system in which the city pools pension funds and manages the investments through an independent board. But unlike private-sector employees, city workers might not qualify for Social Security, which means they’ll lack the safety net that typically comes with risky 401k-style plans. If workers do qualify for Social Security, the city would have to pay into the federal entitlement program, which would cost the city more money, according to an Aug. 5 report from the city administration.

Cincinnati is cutting ties with SoMoLend, the local startup that had previously partnered with the city to connect small businesses and startups with $400,000 in loans. SoMoLend has been accused of fraud by the Ohio Division of Securities, which says the local company exaggerated its performance and financial figures and lacked the proper licenses to operate as a peer-to-peer lending business. The Division of Securities won’t issue a final order until after a hearing in October. SoMoLend’s specialty is using crowdfunding tactics to connect small businesses and startups with lenders.

Ohio Republicans are considering bringing back the “heartbeat bill,” the controversial anti-abortion bill that would ban induced abortions after a heartbeat is detected, which could happen as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. The bill could be reintroduced next week. That would come just a couple months after Republican legislators and Gov. John Kasich approved a slew of anti-abortion measures through the two-year state budget.

The Ohio Senate will today hear testimony from the Health Policy Institute of Ohio about projections that show the state could save money if it takes up the Medicaid expansion. 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. In return, the federal government will pay for the expansion for the first three years and wind down to paying 90 percent of the costs after that. The Health Policy Institute previously estimated the expansion would save Ohio roughly $1.8 billion and insure nearly half a million Ohioans in the next decade.

Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan is touting Cincinnati Safe Student Housing, a website that allows university students to pick from housing options that passed a free fire inspection. The website was unanimously approved by City Council following several university students’ deaths to fires, which council members argue could have been prevented with stronger standards.

The new owner of the former Terrace Plaza Hotel says he will reopen the building as a hotel. Alan Friedberg, managing principal of the company that bought the building earlier this year, says the process of bringing back the building will take a lot of time and work, considering it’s now been vacant for three years.

Four Greater Cincinnati hospitals have been recognized for protecting the LGBT rights of patients and employees by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation: Bethesda North Hospital, Good Samaritan Hospital, the Veterans Affairs Cincinnati Medical Center and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine rejected a ballot initiative that would have legalized marijuana in Ohio. DeWine claims the summary for the ballot initiative is untruthful and leaves out various important details.

Mason, a Cincinnati suburb, was ranked one of the top 10 places to live by CNNMoney. Maybe CNN really likes Kings Island.

Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown was in Cincinnati yesterday to call on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to expedite processing on benefit claims. The VA currently has a backlog of 500,000 veterans, according to a press release from Brown’s office.

Introducing Elon Musk’s Hyperloop, a proposal for a railway system that would use high-pressure tubes to shoot passengers around the country. It’s estimated traveling from Los Angeles to San Francisco, which normally takes about five and a half hours, would only take 30 minutes in the tubes.

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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]> Democratic mayoral candidate John Cranley is releasing a plan today that promises to reward more of the city’s business contracts to black people, Latinos and women if he’s elected. Cranley says he will hire an inclusion officer that would help him achieve the goals of the plan, which is modeled partly after the African American Chamber of Commerce’s OPEN Cincinnati Plan that was passed by City Council in 2009. “In order to make Cincinnati a world-class city, we have to have a thriving, diverse middle class. We can’t do that if we leave half of our residents behind economically,” Cranley said in a statement. Cranley’s main opponent in the mayoral race is Democratic Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, who supported the OPEN Cincinnati Plan in 2009. So far, the main issues surrounding the campaign have been the streetcar and parking plan — both of which Cranley opposes and Qualls supports.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald is asking Ohioans to take up a long, complicated petitioning process that could lead to the repeal of some of the anti-abortion measures in the state budget. The process could force the Ohio General Assembly to consider repealing some of the measures unrelated to appropriating state funds, or it could put the repeal effort on the ballot in November 2014. FitzGerald is jump-starting the repeal campaign through a new website, Ohioans Fight Back. CityBeat covered the state budget and its anti-abortion provisions, which Republican Gov. John Kasich signed into law, in further detail here.

A state audit found more evidence of misused public funds at Cincinnati College Preparatory Academy (CCPA), Greater Cincinnati’s largest charter school, including one example of salary overpayment and a range of inappropriate purchases of meals and entertainment. The school’s former superintendent and treasurer are already facing trial on charges of theft for previously discovered incidents. CCPA is set to receive $6 million from the state in 2014, up 3 percent from the previous year.

The state’s prison watchdog released a new report that found force is more often used against blacks in Ohio prisons. Nearly 65 percent of “use of force” incidents in 2012 involved blacks, even though they only make up about 46 percent of the total prison population.

After analyzing reports from the first quarter, Hamilton County revised its estimates for casino revenue downward. That means $500,000 less in 2014 for the stadium fund, which has long presented problems for the county’s budget. Still, the county says the revision isn’t a big problem and the focus should instead be on the bigger problem: a looming $30 million budget gap.

Following an approved transfer from the governor and his staff, Ohio’s “rainy day fund” hit an all-time record of $1.5 billion. The fund is typically tapped into during emergency economic situations in which the state must spend a lot of extra money or take extraordinary measures to fix a sudden budget shortfall.

Cincinnati area exports reached a record high in 2012.

Ohio is No. 4 in the nation for foreclosures, according to a report from real estate information company RealtyTrac. The report adds more doubt to claims that Ohio is undergoing some sort of unique economic recovery, following a string of reports that found year-over-year job growth is lacking in the state. Still, Ohio added more jobs than any other state in May. If the robust growth holds in the June job report due next week, it could be a great economic sign for the state.

Early streetcar work is leading to a downtown street closure this weekend, presenting yet another sign that the project is moving forward. Earlier this week, CityBeat published the top 10 misrepresentations surrounding the streetcar project.

New evidence suggests a fraction of disposable wells used during the hydraulic fracturing process — also known as “fracking” — cause earthquakes, but the risk can be averted with careful monitoring, according to the researchers. Fracking involves pumping millions of gallons of water underground to free up oil and gas reserves. CityBeat covered its effects in Ohio in further detail here.

A nanoparticle device can kill germs with sunlight.

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<![CDATA[FitzGerald Unveils Plan to Repeal Anti-Abortion Measures]]>

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald is urging a coalition effort to begin a long, complicated petitioning process that could repeal some of the anti-abortion measures in the recently approved two-year state budget.

If the petitioning process is successful, it would force the Ohio General Assembly to consider repealing aspects of the budget that dont involve appropriations of money. If the General Assembly changes, rejects or ignores the repeal proposal, it could be put on the ballot in November 2014.

FitzGerald is jump-starting the repeal effort through a new website, Ohioans Fight Back.

Speaking at a press conference Thursday, FitzGerald also questioned the constitutionality of some of the anti-abortion measures, particularly those that require doctors give certain medical information regarding abortions and restrict publicly funded rape crisis centers from discussing abortion as a viable option. He said such rules might violate free speech rights.

The state budget effectively defunds contraceptive care and other non-abortion services at various family planning clinics, including Planned Parenthood. It also makes it more difficult for abortion clinics to establish mandatory patient transfer agreements with hospitals.

The budget provides separate federal funding to crisis pregnancy centers, which act as the pro-abstinence, anti-abortion alternatives to comprehensive clinics like Planned Parenthood.

The budget also gives money to rape crisis centers, but centers that take public funding are barred from discussing abortion as a viable option with rape victims.

Days before the budget’s passage, Republican legislators also added an amendment that forces women to get an ultrasound prior to getting an abortion. As part of the amendment, doctors are required to inform the patient if a heartbeat is detected during the ultrasound and provide an estimate of the fetus’s chances of making it to birth.

FitzGerald, who’s currently Cuyahoga County executive, plans to run against Republican Gov. John Kasich in 2014.

Kasich signed the controversial state budget with the anti-abortion measures on June 30, despite calls for the governor to use his line-item veto powers — a move that would have kept the rest of the budget in place but repealed the anti-abortion provisions.

CityBeat analyzed the state budget in further detail here.

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<![CDATA[Anti-Abortion Group to Show Graphic Video on Fountain Square]]>

Fountain Square will bear witness on July 11 to an explicit anti-abortion video as part of a Midwest tour by Created Equal, a Columbus-based anti-abortion group that describes itself as “a social action movement seeking to end the greatest human rights injustice of our time.”

The “graphic abortion video,” as the group calls it, utilizes images familiar to anyone who regularly passes by protests outside of Planned Parenthood clinics: bloodied fetuses, separated fetal limbs and other images that are meant to link fetuses to defenseless, dismembered babies.

Mark Harrington, executive director of Created Equal, says the display is necessary to grab people’s attention.

“Unfortunately, it’s required. This type of message has to be strong because of the apathy in our culture to issues like abortion and injustices like this,” he says.

Abortion-rights advocates have taken steps to stop Created Equal, with some signing a MoveOn.org petition to convince 3CDC, which manages events on Fountain Square, to pull its permit for the event.

“It is time to tell Created Equal that they are not permitted to show graphic abortion footage on public space,” the petition reads. “Fountain Square is a family friendly public space and such footage is not appropriate in this venue. Their viewing date is Thursday, July 11, 2013, stop this from going forward.”

Harrington says groups like MoveOn.org are attacking his First Amendment rights to free speech and assembly. He argues political speech, such as his display, is completely protected by the U.S. Constitution.

“If they wanted to come out and show bloody images of women who had used coat hangers for abortions … it’s protected under the First Amendment,” Harrington says. “We would defend their right to do so. I would never circulate a petition to stop them.”

In general, the U.S. Supreme Court has been supportive of free speech as long as it’s politically motivated, with the notable exceptions of sexual content and airwave broadcasts.

Still, the Supreme Court on June 10 refused to consider overturning an injunction from the Colorado Court of Appeals that’s preventing an anti-abortion group from displaying graphic images outside of a Denver church. The Colorado court argued that the images were too “gruesome” and barred their display in areas where they might disturb children. Keeping with tradition, the Supreme Court gave no reasons for declining to hear the case.

For those who are genuinely offended by the graphic nature of the images and not just obstructing the organization’s anti-abortion message, Harrington says the message is worth the downsides: “I would urge them to be equally if not more concerned for the children that are dying and not simply for their own children, who might be disturbed by this.”

Created Equal is against abortion in most contexts, with the sole exception of a situation in which the mother’s life is undoubtedly in danger.

“You do the best you can to save both. When you can’t save both, you got to save one,” Harrington says.

Even then, Harrington says letting miscarriages naturally occur is typically his preferred option.

Thursday’s event will take place less than two weeks after Gov. John Kasich signed a two-year state budget that limits access to legal abortions, among other changes to school funding and taxes. CityBeat analyzed the state budget in further detail here.

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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

Plunderbund Ohio reports that Gov. John Kasich has picked up his first endorsement for a presidential bid from Citizens for Community values president and executive director and self-professed former porn addict Phil Burress, following Kasich's signing of some of the country's most archaic and restrictive anti-abortion provisions in the nation. This week’s news story by CityBeat’s most glamorous misanthrope, German Lopez, explains how the recently passed state budget caters to Republicans by lowering taxes for the rich, tries to block health care for the poor and effectively defunds Planned Parenthood and its valuable health services.

Eleven school buses were hijacked from the Petermann Bus Company bus lot in Golf Manor. All but one of the buses has been recovered. Ralph Brown, who supervises the company, speculated some kids just wanted to take a "joy ride."

Columbia Parkway is open again after massive flash flooding and landslides inundated the road, but this weekend's wet forecast could cause it to flood again.

SPCA Cincinnati is adopting out cats and kittens for just $5 through this weekend in honor of Independence Day. Visit the Northside or the Sharonville location. 

"God buried fossil fuels 'because he loves to see us find them.'" No. 5 on Rolling Stone's top 10 list of the dumbest things ever said about global warming comes from Bryan Fischer, director at the American Family Association.

Men can eat a lot more weiners than women. Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas ate 36.75 hot dogs yesterday in Brooklyn, N.Y., at Coney Island's 98th annual Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, earning first place in the women's division, while male title winner Joey Chestnut ate 69 dogs IN 10 MINUTES.

Here's why hot temperatures sometimes can make you cranky

Women in Egypt are at a staggeringly high risk to become victims of sexual assault. More than 80 women were raped, sexually harassed or sexually assaulted during Wednesday night’s mob celebration of the forced departure of president Mohamed Morsi on Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo. 

Buttercup, a duck born with his left foot twisted backward, is now on top of the world after his owner used 3D printing to create a brand new foot for Buttercup. Here is a video for good measure.

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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls is calling for a quick police chief search following a bout of local violence during the past few weeks. In a memo to City Manager Milton Dohoney, Qualls argues a police chief replacement is necessary to clamp down on crime, particularly gun and gang-related violence. She asks the city manager to report to City Council on the hiring search in early August and have a full replacement ready by the end of the summer. Former Police Chief James Craig recently left Cincinnati to take the police chief job in Detroit, his hometown.

Ohio dropped from No. 13 to No. 25 in a state-by-state ranking of highways. The report from the Reason Foundation, a libertarian think tank, looked at highway conditions and cost effectiveness. Among the findings: About 22.73 percent of Ohio’s bridges were deemed deficient in 2009, down from 24.51 percent in 2007. Twenty states reported more than one in four bridges as deficient — a threshold Ohio barely missed. Despite Ohio being relatively worse off, the nation as a whole improved in major categories, according to the report: “Six of the seven key indicators of system condition showed improvement, including large gains in rural interstate and urban interstate condition, and a reduction in the fatality rate.”

Ohio Democrats now criticizing the state budget’s rape counselor restriction voted for the measure in a separate House bill on June 16. The “gag,” as Democrats now call it, prevents publicly funded rape counselors from discussing abortion as a viable medical option for rape victims. “Democrats supported the bill to fund rape crisis centers and we were led to believe that this offensive language gagging rape counselors would be fixed in the budget,” Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern told the Associated Press through a spokesperson. “It was not.” Democrats voted against the state budget that actually encoded the measure into law.

On July 11 at Fountain Square, anti-abortion group Created Equal plans to use a jumbo screen to show a graphic video containing footage of aborted fetuses and their separated limbs.

Three more statewide online schools — known as “e-schools” — are coming to Ohio following approval from the Department of Education. Proponents of e-schools call them a “valuable alternative” to traditional schooling. But some education experts and studies have found e-schools often perform poorly.

Mason is having some success using private-public partnerships to attract high-tech companies.

The Ohio State Highway Patrol says “pilot error” caused the stunt airplane crash that killed two at last month’s Dayton Air Show.

BBC explains why phones sometimes feel like they’re vibrating when they’re not.

New contact lenses give telescopic vision.

Fireworks would likely look boring in space.

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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

The Republican-controlled Ohio General Assembly yesterday passed its state budget for the next two years, and Gov. John Kasich is expected to sign the bill this weekend. Part of the budget is a tax plan that would cut income taxes but raise sales and property taxes in a way that Policy Matters Ohio, a left-leaning public policy think tank, says would ultimately favor the state’s wealthiest. On average, individuals in the top 1 percent would see their taxes fall by $6,083, or 0.7 percent, under the plan, while those in the bottom 20 percent would pay about $12, or 0.1 percent, more in taxes, according to Policy Matters’ analysis.

The state budget also includes several anti-abortion measures: less funding for Planned Parenthood, more funding for anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers, regulations that could be used by the state health director to shut down abortion clinics and a requirement for doctors to do an external ultrasound on a woman seeking an abortion and inform her whether a heartbeat is detected. Republicans claim they’re protecting the sanctity of human life, while abortion rights advocates are labeling the measures an attack on women’s rights.

Cincinnati will have a mayoral primary on Sept. 10. Five candidates vying for the highest elected position in the city: Democrats Roxanne Qualls and John Cranley, Libertarian Jim Berns, self-identified Republican Stacy Smith and Sandra Queen Noble. Qualls and Cranley are widely seen as the favorites, with each candidate splitting on issues like the parking lease and streetcar. Qualls supports the policies, while Cranley opposes both. A recent poll from the Cranley campaign found the race deadlocked, with Cranley and Qualls both getting 40 percent of the vote and the rest of polled voters claiming they’re undecided.

Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords will appear at the Northside Fourth of July parade. Giffords will be in Cincinnati as part of a nationwide tour on gun violence.

Elmwood Place’s speed cameras are being confiscated by the Hamilton County Sheriff Department. Judge Robert Ruehlman originally told operating company Optotraffic to turn the cameras off, but when the company didn’t listen, the judge ruled the cameras should be confiscated.

The Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments released its new bike map for southwest Ohio.

President Barack Obama signaled on Thursday that the federal government will extend marriage benefits to gay and lesbian couples in all states, even those states that don’t allow same-sex marriage. That may mean a gay couple in Ohio could get married in New York and Massachusetts and still have their marriage counted at the federal level, but state limitations would still remain. The administration’s plans follow a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Wednesday that struck down a federal ban on same-sex marriage.

The U.S. Senate on Thursday approved a bill to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws. Ohio’s two senators were split on the bill: Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown voted for it, while Republican Sen. Rob Portman voted against it. A Congressional Budget Office report previously found the bill would reduce the nation’s deficit and boost the economy over the next decade.

Scientists cloned a mouse with a mere blood sample.

CityBeat won a bunch of awards at Wednesday’s Society of Professional Journalists Cincinnati chapter awards banquet and hall of fame induction ceremony. Read about them here.

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<![CDATA[State Budget to Limit Access to Abortion]]>

Republican state legislators are using the two-year state budget to pass sweeping anti-abortion measures — and they’re proud to admit it.

The goal is “to maintain the sanctity of human life,” says Michael Dittoe, spokesperson for Ohio House Republicans.

Most recently, the House-Senate conference committee, which put the final touches to the state budget, tacked on an amendment that requires doctors to perform an external ultrasound on a woman seeking an abortion and inform the woman if a heartbeat is detected. The doctor would also be required to explain the statistical probability of the woman carrying the fetus to birth.

The amendment came in addition to other anti-abortion measures in the budget that would reprioritize family services funding to effectively defund Planned Parenthood, increase funding for anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers and impose regulations that the state health director could use to shut down abortion clinics.

Under the regulations, abortion clinics would be unable to set patient transfer agreements with public hospitals, and established agreements could be revoked by the state health director. At the same time, if a clinic doesn’t have a transfer agreement in place, the state health director could shut it down with no further cause.

The rules allow abortion clinics to set agreements with private hospitals, but abortion rights advocates argue that’s more difficult because private hospitals tend to be religious.

Abortion rights advocates are protesting the measures, labeling them an attack on women’s rights.

“If the governor and members of the Ohio General Assembly want to practice medicine, they should go to medical school,” said Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, in a statement. “We urge Gov. (John) Kasich to veto these dangerous provisions from the budget. Party politics has no place in a woman’s private health care decision. The time is now to stand up and lead, not in the interests of his party, but in the interests of the women and families he has been elected to lead.”

Dittoe insists Republicans are not attacking women with the measures: “The women in our caucus have introduced some of these proposals. It’s hard to say it’s a ‘war on women’ when you have women actually introducing the legislation. It’s certainly not about an attack on women; it’s about protecting human life.”

Abortion rights supporters rallied today in Columbus in a last-minute stand, calling on Kasich to line-item veto the measures — a move that would keep the rest of the budget in place but nullify the anti-abortion provisions.

Kasich has so far declined to clarify whether he will veto the anti-abortion measures, instead punting multiple reporters’ questions on the issue.

Much of the debate has focused on Planned Parenthood, which provides abortion services, sexually transmitted infection and cancer screening, pregnancy tests, birth control and various other health care services for men and women.

Supporters point out no public funds go to abortion services, which are entirely funded through private donations. Public funds are instead spent on Planned Parenthood’s other services.

Dittoe says that Republicans still take issue with the abortion services, and it’s the sole reason Planned Parenthood is losing funding.

“Members of the House who have issues with Planned Parenthood have only issues with the abortion services,” he says. “The rest of what Planned Parenthood provides, I imagine they have no issue with whatsoever.”

About 15 percent of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio’s budget comes from the family planning grants that are being reworked. Not all of that money is allocated by the state government; a bulk is also set by the federal government.

The anti-abortion changes will go into effect with the $62 billion state budget for fiscal years 2014 and 2015. Both chambers of the Republican-controlled General Assembly passed the budget today, and Kasich is expected to sign the bill into law this weekend.

Check out all of CityBeat’s state budget coverage:
Report: State Budget Tax Plan Favors Wealthy
State Budget's Education Increases Fall Short of Past Funding
State Budget Rejects Medicaid Expansion

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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act today in a broad ruling that requires the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages for couples who reside in a state where same-sex marriage is already legal. The ruling effectively extends equal protection rights to same-sex couples. For gay and lesbian Ohioans, that means same-sex marriage must be legalized in Ohio before the federal government is required to recognize it. FreedomOhio is already aiming to legalize same-sex marriage in the state with an amendment that could be on the ballot this year, which CityBeat covered in an in-depth report here.

Republican state legislators added another anti-abortion measure to the state budget yesterday, which will require doctors to perform an external ultrasound for a heartbeat then inform the patient if one is detected. The provision is in addition to other anti-abortion measures already in the budget, including less funding for Planned Parenthood, funding for anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers and regulations that will allow the state health director to shut down abortion clinics. CityBeat covered those measures in further detail here. “This is continuing to go way overboard by a majority obsessed with abortion,” said Rep. Mike Foley (D-Cleveland).

Cincinnati-area employment dramatically increased in May, up 6,400 from April and 5,400 from the year before, according to new data from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. Although the unemployment rate went up between April and May, it went down year over year — the measure economists prefer to look at to control for seasonal factors, such as hiring picking up during the summer because of outdoors work.

StateImpact Ohio says the new tax plan in the proposed 2014-2015 budget could make it more difficult to pass future school levies. The plan cuts income taxes for all Ohioans and particularly business owners, but it raises sales and property taxes to balance the cuts. CityBeat covered the tax plan in further detail here.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is giving Cincinnati a $37 million loan guarantee for economic and housing development projects that aim to benefit the region’s neediest. In a statement, HUD estimated some of the economic development projects will create at least 350 new jobs.

Cincinnati is continuing efforts to obtain the Wasson Way line, which the city plans to develop into a bike and hike trail.

The other side of the river is getting some love, too: More luxury apartments are coming to Newport.

Cincinnati was ranked No. 9 smartest city in a recent Movoto blog list.

Ohioans may be souring on President Barack Obama. A Quinnipiac University poll found his approval ratings at 40 percent, his lowest grade ever in the state.

Obama proposed an extensive plan to combat climate change yesterday. The plan will not require congressional approval.

The cure for cancer could be found in space. Apparently, microgravity environments are optimal for cancer research.

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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

Got questions for CityBeat about, well, anything? Submit them here, and we’ll try to get back to you in our first Answers Issue.

CityBeat is also looking to talk to anyone who’s been incarcerated for a drug-related offense in Ohio. If you know someone or are someone interested in talking to us, email glopez@citybeat.com.

An Ohio House bill introduced June 11 would impose harsher restrictions on legal abortions, and some of the requirements may coerce doctors into giving medically inaccurate information. Among other requirements, the bill would force doctors to explain fetal development and supposed risks to inducing an abortion, while pregnant patients would be forced to undergo an ultrasound 48 hours before the procedure. But research has found that, barring rare complications, the medical risks listed in the bill are not linked to abortion.

Local leaders are beginning a collaborative effort to combat Cincinnati's alarmingly high rate of infant mortality. The effort is bringing together local politicians from both sides of the aisle, nonprofit groups and local hospitals. Infant mortality rates are measured by the number of deaths of babies less than one year old per 1,000 live births. In Cincinnati, infant mortality rates are at 13.6, while the national average is six. In previous comments, Mayor Mark Mallory explained his moral justification for increased efforts against infant mortality: "In Cincinnati, we have had more infant deaths in recent years than victims of homicide. Our community, justifiably, invests millions of dollars, immense political capital and large amounts of media attention in reducing our homicide rate. It's time to start doing the same for our infant mortality rate."

State Rep. Alicia Reece, who heads the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, sent a letter to Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted yesterday criticizing recent efforts to investigate 39 voter fraud cases in Hamilton County. "It is unfortunate that during the past few years, the focus has been on voter suppression instead of voter access and education," Reece said in a statement. "Many of these voters come from African-American and low-income neighborhoods, and they would benefit from a comprehensive voter education program." CityBeat previously covered the 39 "double voter" cases, which mostly involved voters sending an absentee ballot prior to Election Day then voting through a provisional ballot on Election Day, here.

Mayoral candidates Roxanne Qualls, John Cranley, Jim Berns and Stacy Smith squared off at a mayoral forum yesterday. Democrats Qualls and Cranley, who are widely seen as the top contenders, debated the parking plan and streetcar project — both of which Qualls supports and Cranley opposes. CityBeat previously covered the streetcar project and how it could relate to the mayor's race here.

An audit of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) found Ohio's Medicaid program could save $30 million by avoiding fraudulent billing. State officials responded to the audit by highlighting changes in budget plans that supposedly take steps to reduce Medicaid fraud, including Gov. John Kasich's proposal to add five full-time Medicaid auditors to perform additional on-site monitoring in an effort to reduce overpayments.

Ohio lawmakers seem unlikely to approve a federally funded Medicaid expansion, but bipartisan bills introduced in the Ohio House and Senate make sweeping changes to the Medicaid program that aim to lower costs and make the government health care program more efficient. Legislators claim the goal is to bring down costs without reducing services, all while providing avenues for Medicaid participants to move out of poverty. Hearings for the bill will begin next week.

After giving a speech celebrating the resurfacing of a high-speed test track, Gov. Kasich rode a car at 130 miles per hour in a more literal "victory lap."

Scientists are apparently making advancements in helping people regrow limbs.

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