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Losing Democracy

Redistricting helped the GOP win the House, and it almost caused the fiscal cliff

0 Comments · Thursday, January 3, 2013
Over the past few weeks, the political drama in Washington, D.C., has circulated around the “fiscal cliff,” a series of tax hikes and spending cuts set to kick in for 2013. On Jan. 1, U.S. Congress narrowly avoided the fiscal cliff. But the close call left some wondering: Could it have been more easily prevented, particularly through redistricting reform?   
by German Lopez 01.08.2014 98 days ago
Posted In: News, Budget, 2014 election, Courts, Economy, Governor at 10:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Judge halts election law, unemployment benefits advance, city loses budget director

A federal judge halted a controversial election law that limited minor political parties’ access to the ballot and ruled that the state must allow minor parties to participate in the primary and general elections in 2014. But by merely agreeing that only the retroactive restrictions for 2014 are too burdensome for minor parties, the judge left room to keep the law intact for elections in 2015 and beyond. Still, the ruling comes as a major victory for the Libertarian Party of Ohio and other minor parties who took to calling the Republican-backed law the “John Kasich Re-election Protection Act” because it conveniently limited minor parties that are upset with Republican Gov. John Kasich’s support for the Obamacare-funded Medicaid expansion.Ohio Sen. Rob Portman broke with most of his fellow Republicans yesterday to help advance federal legislation that would extend emergency benefits for the long-term unemployed. Still, he hinted that he would not support the three-month extension if the $6.4 billion cost isn’t covered by federal spending cuts elsewhere. Without the extension, 128,600 Ohioans could lose unemployment benefits through 2014 even as the state economy shows signs of weakening. Cincinnati Budget Director Lea Eriksen yesterday confirmed she is leaving her high-level city job to take the same job in Long Beach, Calif. Peggy Sandman will fill in for Eriksen while a search for a permanent replacement is held. Eriksen’s announcement comes as a blow to the city but little surprise to political watchers. Shortly before taking office, Mayor John Cranley called Eriksen and other administration officials “incompetent” because of how they handled the $132.8 million streetcar project, even though their estimates for cancellation costs turned out to be mostly on point.Newsflash: Global warming didn’t stop just because we’re cold now.The worst of the deep freeze should be over for Ohio.Cincinnati’s 2013 homicide rate of 25 per 100,000 residents compares to Cleveland at 22, Indianapolis at 14.85, Columbus at 11.24 and Louisville at 8.43.An Ohio appeals court ruled Cincinnati can change medical benefits for retirees after all.Construction for the uptown interchange could begin in July and finish in late 2016.The city announced yesterday that it’s extending its Winter Holiday Trash Amnesty through Jan. 17, which means residents have until then to set out extra trash next to their city-provided trash carts. Gov. Kasich is asking parents to tell their children about the dangers of drug abuse, as the state works to combat problems with prescription painkillers and heroin.A Fairfield, Ohio, teacher who was fired for allegedly telling a black student, “We don’t need another black president,” will fight for his job.Dozens of inmates at the Lebanon Correctional Honor Camp endured frigid conditions Monday evening after one of three furnaces broke, according to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.A Cincinnati-area medical device firm is in a race with some of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world to get a painless drug injector on the market.People are stealing English ferrets used to hunt rabbits.A survey of brown dwarfs found they’re racked by planet-sized storms of molten iron.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
 
 

More Than 36,000 Ohioans Could Lose Unemployment Benefits

0 Comments · Wednesday, December 18, 2013
More than 36,000 Ohioans could lose out on emergency unemployment benefits this month if Congress doesn't act.   
by German Lopez 12.17.2013 120 days ago
Posted In: News, Streetcar, City Council, Development, Economy at 09:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
election_streetcaressay_juliehill

Morning News and Stuff

Big week for streetcar, council OKs interchange funds, emergency jobless aid to expire

Major events for Cincinnati’s streetcar project this week: Today, supporters will turn in petitions to get the issue on the ballot; late today or early tomorrow, KPMG will turn in audit of the project’s completion, cancellation and operating costs; tomorrow, council will take public comment on the project at 1:30 p.m.; and on Thursday, council will debate and make the final decision on the streetcar. Other streetcar news:• Mayor John Cranley is asking streetcar opponents to speak up during the public comments section of Wednesday’s council meeting.• Supporters collected more than 9,000 signatures to get the streetcar project on the ballot. Nearly 6,000 signatures need to be verified to allow a vote in the coming months. City Council’s budget committee yesterday advanced funding for the $106 million uptown interchange project at Martin Luther King Drive and Interstate 71. The capital funding set by council will be backed through property taxes, which, according to the city administration, will prevent the city from reducing property taxes in the future as originally planned. Still, proponents of the project, including a unanimous body of council, say the project is worth the investment; the University of Cincinnati’s Economics Center found in a May 2012 study that the interchange will generate 5,900 to 7,300 permanent jobs, $133 million in economic development during construction and another $750 million once the interchange opens. Congress appears ready to pass a bipartisan budget deal that will not extend emergency benefits for the long-term unemployed through 2014, which could leave more than 36,000 unemployed Ohioans behind in December and 128,600 Ohioans without aid through 2014. The emergency benefits were originally adopted by Congress to provide a safety net for those worst affected by the Great Recession. Conservatives, touting the $25.2 billion annual cost, say the economy has improved enough to let the costly benefits expire, but liberals, pointing to the high numbers of long-term unemployed, say the benefits are still needed and would help keep the economy on a stable recovery.The Cincinnati area’s economy could overtake the Cleveland area in 2015.Six men were taken into custody after a SWAT team responded to a home and engaged in a gun battle that left a three-year-old critically injured.A Union Township trustee says he can’t believe Chris Finney would hurt his credibility for a $850-a-year tax break to open a law firm in Clermont County. As a member of the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes, Finney repeatedly spoke against tax breaks for businesses in the past.Medicaid expansion supporters announced yesterday that they’re no longer pursuing a ballot initiative after actions from Gov. John Kasich and the Ohio Controlling Board effectively enacted the expansion, which taps into federal funds to expand Medicaid eligibility to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.The Kasich administration expects to hand out education grants from the “Straight A” fund on Wednesday in an attempt to reward innovation at the state’s schools. The grants will go to more than 150 of Ohio’s 614 school districts, according to state officials.Someone hacked The Cincinnati Enquirer’s online streetcar polls. The Mega Millions jackpot hit $586 million yesterday.A new study finds “blind as a bat” isn’t blind at all.Watch giraffes clash in a surprising, epic one-on-one:Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
 
 
by German Lopez 12.16.2013 121 days ago
Posted In: News, Economy, Congress at 02:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
capitol hill

More Than 36,000 Ohioans Could Lose Unemployment Benefits

Congress will not extend emergency benefits through budget deal

Despite lingering signs of a weakened economy, a bipartisan budget deal working through U.S. Congress will not extend emergency benefits for the nation’s long-term unemployed past Dec. 28. If the emergency benefits are allowed to expire, the cut will hit more than 36,000 Ohioans in December and 128,600 through 2014, according to left-leaning think tank Policy Matters Ohio.Without the extension, Ohioans can tap into just 26 weeks of state-provided jobless aid. Federally funded emergency benefits give the unemployed another 37 weeks to find work before losing government assistance. The emergency benefits were originally adopted by Congress to help Americans hit hardest by the Great Recession. The economy has improved since then, but some question whether it’s improved enough. “There are 4.1 million workers who have been unemployed for more than six months, which is well over three times the number of long-term unemployed in 2007, before the Great Recession began,” write Lawrence Mishel and Heidi Shierholz of the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute (EPI).Supporters claim the benefits boost the economy by allowing the long-term unemployed to continue buying goods and services that effectively support jobs. EPI estimates the benefits would sustain 310,000 nationwide jobs in 2014. But at $25.2 billion a year, the emergency benefits come at a hefty price tag for conservatives who are trying to rein in federal spending. EPI claims the “sticker price” overestimates the net cost of the benefits. “The 310,000 jobs created or saved by the economic activity this spending generates will in turn generate greater federal revenues from the taxes paid on the wages earned by those who otherwise would not have jobs,” write Mishel and Shierholz. “They will also save the government money on safety net spending related to unemployment (for example, Medicaid and food stamps).”U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, last week joined 31 other Democratic senators in support of extending the benefits.“We must do everything we can to support those who are still struggling following the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression,” Brown said in a statement. “These are hardworking Americans — many with children — who have fallen on tough times.”White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters on Thursday the administration “absolutely expects” Congress to extend emergency benefits, but the extension could come after Congress reconvenes from a winter recess in January. The House of Representatives on Thursday passed a bipartisan budget deal without an extension for the long-term unemployed. The Senate expects to take up the same budget bill sometime this week.
 
 
by German Lopez 08.02.2013
Posted In: News, Poverty, Economy at 03:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Incoming Federal Cuts to Hit Low-Income Ohio Families

Food stamp program losing temporary funding boost

With a temporary boost to the federal food stamp program coming to an end this November, more than 1.8 million Ohioans — 16 percent of the state’s population — will receive significantly less food aid, according to an Aug. 2 report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). The report calculates that the cut is the equivalent to taking away 21 meals per month for a family of four. After the cut, the food stamp program will provide each person with less than $1.40 per meal, according to CBPP’s calculations. Citing research from the USDA that shows many low-income families still fail to meet basic standards for food security, CBPP says the cuts will hit families that arguably need more, not less, help: “Given this research and the growing awareness of the inadequacy of the current SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefit allotments, we can reasonably assume that a reduction in SNAP benefit levels of this size will significantly increase the number of poor households that have difficulty affording adequate food this fall.” Although the federal food stamp program has been cut before, it’s never been cut to this extent, according to CBPP. “There have been some cuts in specific states, but these cuts have not typically been as large or affected as many people as what will occur this November,” the report reads. The reductions could also have a broader economic impact: Every $1 increase in food aid generates about $1.70 in economic activity, according to progressive think tank Policy Matters Ohio. “Ohio’s foodbanks and hunger charities cannot respond to increasing hunger on their own,” said Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, in a statement released by Policy Matters. “SNAP takes Ohioans out of our food pantry lines and puts them into grocery store checkout lines. It provides supplemental food to the most vulnerable among us. Now is not the time to further reduce this already modest assistance to struggling families.” About 48 percent of Cincinnati children are in poverty, according to a 2011 study from the National Center for Children in Poverty. Despite that, city funding to human services that benefits low-income families has been cut throughout the past decade. CityBeat covered that issue in greater detail here. The cut to the federal food stamp program kicks in automatically in November instead of the original April 2014 sunset date as a result of laws passed in 2010 by President Barack Obama and Congress. Obama and congressional Democrats are now urging legislation that would remedy the situation, but it’s unlikely anything will pass the gridlocked Congress. Republicans are preparing a bill that would further cut the food stamp program, which they see as too generous and expensive. From Fox News: “Reps. Marlin Stutzman of Indiana and Kristi Noem of South Dakota, two Republicans who helped design the bill, said the legislation would find the savings by tightening eligibility standards and imposing new work requirements. It would also likely try to reduce the rolls by requiring drug testing and barring convicted murderers, rapists and pedophiles from receiving food stamps.”
 
 
by German Lopez 04.15.2013
Posted In: Economy, Budget, News at 04:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Federal Sequestration Cuts Hurt Ohio

Cuts affecting education, housing, environment

Policy Matters Ohio released a report Monday that gives a hint of how federal sequestration, a series of across-the-board federal budget cuts that kicked in March 1, will affect Ohio. The impact of sequestration is already being felt in various areas, including education, housing and the environment. In Cincinnati, the Cincinnati-Hamilton County Community Action Agency plans to carry out $1 million in cuts by dropping 200 kids from the Head Start program, which helps low-income families get their children into preschool and other early education programs. Cuts will be spread out all around the state, leading to cuts in tax incentives for renewable energy and energy efficiency, reduced research programs at major universities and the elimination of military jet flyovers at certain events. Wendy Patton, a senior project director at Policy Matters, says the cuts are only the beginning. “We’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg now,” Patton says, citing cuts in Chillicothe that will force the Chillicothe Metropolitan Housing Authority to serve 47 less families through the housing voucher program. “We will see this kind of information come out across Ohio’s 88 counties as the months roll by.” In February, the White House outlined how sequestration cuts will affect Ohio in its efforts to convince Congress to stop the cuts. The White House estimated about 26,000 civilian defense department employees would have to be furloughed, nearly $6.9 million in funding to clean air and water would have to be cut and 350 teacher and aide jobs would be put at risk, among other cuts. Even the unemployed will be hurt through cuts to unemployment insurance benefits — bad news in an already weak economy. In Ohio, about $5.3 million in federal grant money going toward unemployment insurance will be cut in a way that particularly affects the long-term unemployed, according to Pew Charitable Trusts. “We already have a problem with the long-term unemployed,” says Zach Schiller, research director at Policy Matters. “This just makes it worse for these folks.”An analysis from The Washington Post found employers often discriminate against anyone who has been unemployed for a considerable time during the hiring process.
 
 
by German Lopez 01.04.2013
Posted In: Economy, News, John Boehner, Streetcar, Budget at 10:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
streetcar

Morning News and Stuff

Streetcar delayed to 2016, unemployment steady, Boehner re-elected speaker

The Cincinnati Enquirer reports the Cincinnati streetcar is being delayed until 2016. The streetcar has been delayed time and time again, much to the cheer of opponents. Some opponents have taken the delay as yet another chance to take shots at the streetcar, but the city says a lot of the delays have been due to factors out of the city’s control, including ballot initiatives, the state pulling out a massive $52 million in funding and a dispute with Duke Energy.The U.S. unemployment rate remained at 7.8 percent in December, with November’s rate being revised upward to 7.8 percent as well. Employers reported adding about 155,000 jobs last month, but about 192,000 entered the labor force, meaning the amount of people joining the labor force outmatched the newly employed. The unemployment rate looks at the amount of unemployed people in the civilian labor force, which includes anyone working or looking for work. U.S. Speaker John Boehner was re-elected U.S. House speaker. Just moments after securing the top House seat, Boehner said he will make the U.S. debt a top priority. But continuing to make the debt and deficit top issues could hurt the economy, as the fiscal cliff and recent developments in Europe have shown. Uncle Sam is helping out Cincinnati firefighters. The Cincinnati Fire Department will be getting $6 million in federal grant money to hire 40 additional firefighters. The money will be enough to fund salaries for two years. Cincinnati’s biggest cable provider dropped Current TV after it was sold to Qatar-based Al Jazeera. The Pan-Arab news network has had a difficult time establishing a foothold in American markets, largely because of the perception that it’s anti-American. But Al Jazeera has put out some great news stories, and some of the stories won awards in 2012. If anyone is planning a trip through New York City’s LaGuardia Airport, Dayton International Airport now has that covered.A small town in Ohio is being accused of covering up an alleged gang rape to protect a local football team. But KnightSec, a hacking group affiliated with the organization Anonymous, is fighting back by releasing evidence related to the case. Despite a solved fiscal cliff deal extending emergency unemployment benefits, Ohio’s unemployed will soon be getting less aid. The decrease was automatically triggered by the state’s declining unemployment rate. Ohio’s universities are adopting more uniform standards for remedial classes. The newest Congress is a little more diverse. In what might be the worst news of the century, the Blue Wisp Jazz Club could close down. The club, which has the greatest spinach-and-artichoke dip in the universe, is facing financial problems. People who recently obtained gift cards for Rave Motion Pictures may want to get a move on. The theater is being sold to AMC Theatres. A new theory suggest Earth should have been a snowball in its early days, but it wasn’t due to greenhouse gases.
 
 
by German Lopez 01.03.2013
Posted In: News, Economy, Budget, John Boehner at 03:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
john boehner

Boehner Re-Elected Speaker of the House

West Chester lawmaker promises to tackle debt, jobs

In news that will surprise almost no one, John Boehner was re-elected to the U.S. House of Representative’s top spot today. Boehner, a Republican from West Chester, will now act as U.S. House speaker for the 113th Congress. Just moments after his re-election, Boehner pledged to tackle the U.S. debt and deficit. The line is nothing new. When President Barack Obama stepped into the Oval Office, the debt and deficit became top concerns for Republicans after eight years of binge spending and tax cutting under former president George W. Bush. But focusing on the debt could hurt an already slow economy. In recent years, many economists, including Nobel laureate Paul Krugman, have criticized budget austerity measures for dampening economic growth.In fact, Republicans recently embraced the economic fact by joining the rest of the country in freaking out about the fiscal cliff. The primary concern with the fiscal cliff was that it would have cut spending and raised taxes so much and so quickly that it would have thrown the country back into recession. The Congressional Budget Office estimated the wave of austerity would have spiked the U.S. unemployment rate to 9.1 percent by the end of 2013, up from November’s rate of 7.7 percent. In Europe, governments have learned the lessons of austerity all too well. Last year, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was pushing Europe to balance its books. Now, top IMF economists are releasing papers admitting the IMF greatly underestimated the negative impact austerity has on the economy. In other words, if Republicans continue focusing on austerity measures to fix the immediate deficit, the economy could get worse. Boehner regained the top seat in the U.S. House largely thanks to redistricting. As CityBeat covered in this week’s issue, redistricting helped Republicans win the House despite losing the popular vote to Democrats.
 
 
by German Lopez 01.03.2013
Posted In: Budget, News, Congress, Gun Violence, Energy, Education, Economy at 10:09 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
capitol hill

Morning News and Stuff

Fiscal cliff averted despite local politicians, defense cuts delayed, wind tax credit renewed

The fiscal cliff was averted, but some Greater Cincinnati politicians didn’t do much to help. U.S. Speaker John Boehner voted for the final fiscal cliff deal, but Republican U.S. Reps. Steve Chabot, Jean Schmidt and Mike Turner voted against the deal. Ohio’s U.S. Sens. Rob Portman, a Republican, and Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, voted in favor of the deal. U.S. Congress may have averted the fiscal cliff, but the spending cuts were only delayed for two months. For jobs at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, that means another congressional showdown in March could decide the fate of thousands of jobs. On the other hand, no one is surprised Congress reacted to a crisis by kicking the can down the road. As part of the fiscal cliff deal, Ohio’s wind industry should feel a little safer thanks to the extension of wind energy tax credits. Still, advocates are frustrated funding for wind energy is part of a “stop-and-start policy” that can suddenly continue or end depending on last-minute congressional deals. The Buckeye Firearms Association is training and arming 24 teachers through a pilot program in the spring. A previous CityBeat analysis found no evidence that arming teachers would help stop gun violence; in fact, armed people tend to be in greater danger of violence. Ohio and Kentucky are still in the bottom half of Forbes’ ranking for businesses, but they’re showing improvement. The Ohio Liberty Coalition, a tea party group, is not happy with Gov. John Kasich. The group is upset Kasich supposedly violated the state’s Health Care Freedom Amendment by signing legislation that compels all Ohioans with health care insurance to buy autism coverage. If even conservatives are angry at Kasich, who’s happy with him? Cincinnati-based Macy’s is closing six stores, but none of them are in the Cincinnati area. Surprise! Research has linked being overweight (but not obese) with lower risk of mortality. During her final days as commander, Sunita Williams of NASA recorded a tour of the International Space Station.  A new study found newborn babies know the difference between their native language and a foreign one.
 
 

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