by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 09:44 AM | Permalink
Parking plan targets budget, GOP could restrict early voting, e-cigarette bill advances
Mayor John Cranley says his parking plan intends to
alleviate Cincinnati’s ongoing budget woes by increasing parking
revenue, but the plan will need approval from a majority of City Council
to become law. The plan wouldn’t increase parking meter
rates downtown, but it would increase neighborhood rates by 25 cents to
75 cents an hour. The plan would also increase enforcement at parking
meters, which could lead to more tickets, and extend enforcement hours
to 9 p.m. around the University of Cincinnati, Short Vine in Corryville,
Over-the-Rhine and downtown. But the plan would not give control of the city’s parking meter rates and hours to outside entities, like
the parking privatization plan did. Cranley plans to send the proposal
to the Neighborhood Committee, with a full council vote possible in two
weeks.An Ohio House committee yesterday cleared a pair of
controversial election bills that would reduce the state’s early voting
period by one week — effectively eliminating a “Golden Week” in which
voters can register and vote at the same time — and restrict counties’
abilities to mail out absentee ballot applications. The bills wouldn’t
go into effect until after the May 6 primary. Democrats say the bills
are blatant attempts at voter suppression, but Republicans, some of whom
acknowledge they politically benefit from reduced access to voting,
say the reform is necessary to eliminate voting disparities between
urban and rural counties. The bills still need approval from the
Republican-controlled Ohio House and Republican Gov. John Kasich to
become law.A bill placing age requirements on electronic cigarettes
yesterday passed an Ohio Senate committee. Critics of the bill argue it
doesn’t go far enough because it puts e-cigarettes in a different
category than tobacco, which exempts e-cigarettes from higher taxes and
stricter regulations even though they contain addictive substances and
potential health risks. Kasich and the rest of the legislature need to OK the proposal before it becomes law.Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center reopened
three school-based health clinics closed after Neighborhood Health
Care’s abrupt shutdown.A poll worker in Avondale allegedly voted twice, according to the Hamilton County Board of Elections.The Ohio Department of Education plans to increase the
number of weeks schools can administer state tests to alleviate time
concerns brought on by excessive snow days.Meanwhile, the Ohio House plans to vote on a bill that would let schools take on more snow days this year.A Christian university located south of Columbus gets public dollars to teach “biblical truth,” an Akron Beacon Journal investigation found. And the school’s president and lobbyist just happen to sit on the Ohio Board of Education.NBC correspondent Tom Brokaw revealed he has cancer.RoboCop isn’t that far off from reality.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopezGot any news tips? Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
by German Lopez
City to add more cops, evolution “debate” today, Winburn considers State Senate race
Mayor John Cranley, Chief Jeffrey Blackwell and other city
officials yesterday announced a police plan to put more cops on the
streets, focus on “hot spots” of crime, restart the gang unit and reach
out to youth. Blackwell acknowledged more cops alone won’t solve or
prevent the city’s heightened levels of violent crimes and homicides,
but he said changing the level of enforcement through new tactics, such
as hot spot policing, could help. A lot of research supports hot spot
policing, although the practice can sometimes backfire, as “stop and
frisk” did in New York City, if it targets minorities.Bill Nye the Science Guy today will debate Creation Museum
owner Ken Ham. The debate will focus on evolution, which is
overwhelmingly supported by science, and biblical creationism, which has
no scientific evidence to support it. The debate will be streamed live
here.Republican Councilman Charlie Winburn is considering a run
for the Ohio Senate. Winburn would run in the heavily Democratic 9th
Senate District. So far, there are two likely Democratic opponents:
former Councilman Cecil Thomas and State Rep. Dale Mallory. The seat is
open because State Sen. Eric Kearney, the Democratic incumbent, is term
limited.Republican Hamilton County Commissioner Chris Monzel might
get two Democratic opponents in this year’s election: Sean Feeney, a
North College Hill resident who already filed, and potentially Paul
Komerak, a member of the Hamilton County Democratic Party’s executive
committee. If both Komerak and Feeney run, they could face off in a
Democratic primary.City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee unanimously
approved tax credits for Tom + Chee to entice the grilled cheese and
tomato soup chain to keep its headquarters downtown as it expands
nationally. Councilman Kevin Flynn questioned whether tax breaks
should be given so leniently, but other council members argued the tax
deals keep jobs in the city.City Council might structurally balance the budget and fix the underfunded pension system to stabilize Cincinnati’s bond rating.The Ohio Senate is still mulling over ways to repeal Ohio’s renewable energy and efficiency standards. CityBeat covered the standards in greater detail here and here.Democratic attorney general candidate David Pepper wants
to reform how the state picks outside law firms to avoid appearances of
pay-to-play that have mired Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine. A
previous Dayton Daily News investigation found firms lobbying for state assignments contributed $1.3 million to DeWine’s campaign.Attorneys for the Ohio inmate next scheduled for execution
asked for a stay to avoid a “lingering death” similar to the 26-minute,
seemingly painful execution of Dennis McGuire. CityBeat covered McGuire’s execution and the concerns it raised in further detail here.Enrollment in Ohio’s public colleges and universities dropped by 2 percent in the latest fall semester.Ohio gas prices ticked up at the start of the week, but the lowest average was in Cincinnati.Scientists claim space-grown vegetables are safe to eat.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopezGot any news tips? Email them to email@example.com.
by German Lopez
Posted In: Budget
at 10:13 AM | Permalink
Reform may come later this year
Politicians and economists often talk favorably about simplifying the tax code, but a June 17 report from Policy Matters Ohio found Ohio’s tax code will remain complicated under the budget plan being discussed in the Ohio House and Senate.Meanwhile, a spokesperson for House Republicans says reform will come through separate bills later this year.
The Policy Matters report, titled “Breaking Bad: Ohio tax breaks escape
scrutiny,” found the state’s tax code will include 129 tax exemptions,
deductions and credits if the Senate’s 2014-2015 budget is approved —
one more tax break than the previous biennium. Altogether, the Ohio
Department of Taxation estimates the tax breaks will cost Ohio nearly $8
billion in fiscal year 2015.
The Senate budget repealed two tax breaks, but it
simultaneously added or expanded a dozen, according to the report. Among
the additions was a 50-percent income tax deduction for business owners worth up to $375,000 of annual income, which Policy Matters says will
largely benefit passive investors, one-man firms and partnerships that
will not add jobs.
Policy Matters found 44 tax breaks have been eliminated
since 2003 because of the elimination of corporate franchise and estate
taxes. But in that time frame elected officials have added and expanded
so many new tax breaks that there are now only nine less tax breaks than
there were in 2003.
The report claims many of the tax breaks are wasteful. One
example: An almost $20 million a year exemption for pollution-control
equipment purchased by utility companies. The report says most of the
purchases are already mandated by the state government, which means the
state is effectively paying companies to follow the law and regulations.
The report ultimately calls for thorough, regular reviews of the state’s tax breaks.
“It is time for the General Assembly to scrutinize
spending through the tax code as it does other state expenditures,” said
Zach Schiller, report author and research director at Policy Matters
Ohio, in a statement.
At the beginning of the 2014-2015 budget process, House
Speaker William Batchelder (R-Medina) and Senate President Keith Faber
(R-Celina) said one of their goals was to simplify the tax code. Mike
Dittoe, spokesperson for Batchelder and Ohio House Republicans, says
such reform will now be pursued in separate bills, probably later in the
summer or fall.
“The budget is obviously a very labor-intensive process
and there’s lots of moving parts,” he says. “A lot of members of the
House and Senate just want to make sure that things get done right.”
Instead of simplifying the tax code in the budget,
Republican legislators are focused on passing tax cuts. The House and
Senate are currently working on reconciling their separate tax plans by
merging and downsizing them. The joint plan is “likely to be unveiled in
its entirety here over the next few days,” Dittoe says.
The House approved a 7-percent across-the-board income tax
cut in its budget plan. But the Senate cut the House’s tax proposal and
approved a tax deduction for business owners instead. Supporters say the tax cuts will spur the economy and create jobs, while opponents claim the plans are misguided and will fail to lift the lower and middle classes.
0 Comments · Tuesday, November 26, 2013
The American Civil Liberties Union of
Ohio says it opposes Senate Bill 238, which would reduce Ohio’s
in-person early voting period from 35 to 29 days.
0 Comments · Tuesday, November 26, 2013
The Ohio House on Nov. 20 passed sweeping gun legislation
that would impose a stand-your-ground law in the state.
by German Lopez
As Ohio legislators advance law, studies cast doubt on claims of improved public safety
Supporters of a stand-your-ground law claim
the measure would make the public safer by making it easier for people to defend themselves from criminals, but the
research so far shows the law might weaken public safety in a few key areas and actually increase the amount of homicides.
On Wednesday, the Republican-controlled Ohio House passed sweeping gun legislation
that would impose a stand-your-ground law in the state. The bill now requires approval from the Republican-controlled Ohio Senate and
Republican Gov. John Kasich to become law.
Stand-your-ground laws remove the duty to retreat before
using deadly force in self-defense in places in which a person is
lawfully allowed. Current Ohio law only maintains a traditional “castle
doctrine,” which removes the duty to retreat only at a person’s home or
The laws have grown particularly controversial following
the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman in Florida, where a
stand-your-ground law exists but supposedly played a minor role in the
trial that allowed Zimmerman to go free.
Regardless of what drove Zimmerman to his actions or
allowed him to go free, three major studies found stand-your-ground laws
might increase violence and widen racial disparities in the U.S.
A June 2012 paper
from National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) and Texas A&M
University researchers concluded, “Results indicate (castle doctrine and
stand-your-ground) laws do not deter burglary, robbery, or aggravated
assault. In contrast, they lead to a statistically significant 8 percent
net increase in the number of reported murders and non-negligent
manslaughters.” The study looked at FBI Uniform Crime Reports from 2000
to 2010 for 21 states, including 17 states with stand-your-ground laws
and four states, including Ohio, with castle doctrine laws that only
apply to a person’s home and vehicle.
Another June 2012 paper
from NBER stated, “Our results indicate that Stand Your Ground laws are
associated with a significant increase in the number of homicides among
whites, especially white males. According to our estimates, between 28
and 33 additional white males are killed each month as a result of these
laws. We find no consistent evidence to suggest that these laws
increase homicides among blacks.” The study looked at monthly data from
U.S. Vital Statistics to gauge the effect of stand-your-ground laws on
homicides and firearm injuries, with supplemental analysis of data from
FBI Supplementary Homicide Reports and the Health Care Utilization
A July 2013 study
from the left-leaning Urban Institute found “homicides with a white
perpetrator and a black victim are ten times more likely to be ruled
justified than cases with a black perpetrator and a white victim, and
the gap is larger in states with Stand Your Ground laws.” According to
the findings, stand-your-ground states are more likely to legally
justify white-on-white, white-on-black and black-on-black homicides but
not black-on-white homicides. For the study, the Urban Institute used
FBI Supplementary Homicide Report data for all 50 states and Washington,
D.C., dated between 2005 and 2010.
When confronted with such statistics, supporters of
stand-your-ground laws typically note that violent crime rates dropped in the states that adopted the laws. But, as PolitiFact Florida pointed out in response to Florida Rep. Dennis Baxley, violent crime began dropping before stand-your-ground laws were passed.
The nationwide violent crime rate dropped from 757.7 to
386.3 between 1992 and 2011, with more than half of the drop occurring
between 1992 and 1999, according to FBI crime data.
The June 2012 paper from NBER found more than 20 states passed
traditional castle doctrine or stand-your-ground laws between 2000 and
2010, after the violent crime rate began to drop.The research could show correlation instead of causation. Perhaps some unnamed factor in states that adopted stand-your-ground laws makes it more likely that they’ll see increases in homicides or racial disparities, even as violent crime declines. But, at the very least, it doesn’t seem supporters of stand-your-ground laws have the empirical evidence on their side.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 10:08 AM | Permalink
Poverty skews school funding, "stand your ground" advances, tax-free weekend proposed
Urban schools spend less on basic education for a typical student
than previously assumed after accounting for the cost of poverty,
according to a Nov. 19 report from three school advocacy groups. After
weighing the extra cost of educating an impoverished student, the report
finds major urban school districts lose more than 39 percent in
per-pupil education spending and poor rural school districts lose nearly
24 percent, while wealthy suburban schools lose slightly more than 14
percent. In the report, Cincinnati Public Schools drop from a
pre-weighted rank of No. 17 most per-pupil education funding out of 605
school districts in the state to No. 55, while Indian Hills Schools
actually rise from No. 11 to No. 4.
An Ohio House committee approved sweeping gun legislation
that would enact “stand your ground” in the state and automatically
recognize concealed-carry licenses from other states. The “stand your
ground” portion of the bill would remove a duty to retreat before using
deadly force in self-defense in all areas in which a person is lawfully
allowed; current Ohio law only removes the duty to retreat in a person’s
home or vehicle. The proposal is particularly controversial following
Trayvon Martin’s death to George Zimmerman in Florida, where a “stand
your ground” law exists but supposedly played a minor role in the trial
that let Zimmerman go free. To become law, the proposal still needs to
make it through the full House, Senate and governor.A state senator is proposing a sales-tax-free weekend for back-to-school shopping
to encourage a shot of spending in a stagnant economy and lure shoppers
from outside the state. Eighteen states have similar policies, but none
border Ohio, according to University of Cincinnati’s Economics Center.
Michael Jones of UC’s Economics Center says the idea is to use tax-free school supplies to lure out-of-state shoppers, who are then more likely to buy other items that aren’t tax exempt while they visit Ohio.
An Ohio Senate committee approved new limits on the Controlling Board,
a seven-member legislative panel that has grown controversial following its approval of the federally funded Medicaid expansion
despite disapproval from the Ohio legislature. Gov. John Kasich went through the Controlling Board
after he failed to persuade his fellow Republicans in the legislature
to back the expansion for much of the year. The proposal now must make
it through the full Senate, House and governor to become law.
Cincinnati’s Metro bus service plans to adopt more routes similar to bus rapid transit (BRT)
following the success of a new route established this year. Traditional
BRT lines involve bus-only lanes, but Metro’s downsized version only
makes less stops in a more straightforward route. CityBeat covered the lite BRT route in further detail here.
Cincinnati obtained a 90 out of 100 in the 2013 Municipal Equality Index from the Human Rights Campaign, giving the city a 13-point bump compared to 2012’s mixed score.
A bill approved by U.S. Congress last week could direct millions in federal research dollars to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
A UC study found a higher minimum wage doesn’t lead to less crime.
Gov. Kasich will deliver UC’s commencement address this year.
The new owner of the Ingalls Building in downtown Cincinnati plans to convert some of the office space to condominiums.
Here are some images of the Cincinnati that never was.
Someone invented a hand-cranked GIF player.
Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy• News: @CityBeat_News• Music: @CityBeatMusic• German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 03:51 PM | Permalink
Republican legislators claim they’re protecting “sanctity of human life”
Republican state legislators are using the two-year state
budget to pass sweeping anti-abortion measures — and they’re proud to
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
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
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
“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
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 03:28 PM | Permalink
Tax plan also creates earned income tax credit, changes property taxes
Republican state legislators today rolled out a major tax overhaul
that would cut Ohio income taxes, but the plan would also increase and
expand sales and property taxes.
Legislators plan to add the tax changes to the $61.7
billion two-year budget. The final plan is being touted as a
merger of the original proposals from the Ohio House and Senate, but
none of the proposed tax hikes in the revised plan were included in the
original tax proposals from either chamber.
Relative to rates today, the new plan would cut state
income taxes across the board by 8.5 percent in the first year of the
budget’s implementation, 9 percent in the second year and 10 percent in
the third year. That’s a bump up from the House plan, which only included a
7-percent across-the-board income tax cut.
The Senate’s 50-percent tax deduction for business owners
would be reduced to apply to up to $250,000 of annual net
income, down from $750,000 in the original plan. Under the
revised plan, a business owner making a net income of $250,000 a year
would be able to exempt $125,000 from taxes.
The plan would also create an earned income tax credit that would give a tax refund to low- and moderate-income working Ohioans.
To balance the cuts, the plan would hike the sales tax
from 5.5 percent to 5.75 percent. Some sales tax exemptions would be
eliminated, including exemptions for digital goods such as e-books and iTunes
The plan would also make two major changes to property taxes:
First, the state would not pay a 12.5-percent property tax rollback on new property tax levies, which means future levies for schools, museums and other services would be 12.5 percent more expensive for local homeowners.
Second, the homestead tax exemption,
which allows disabled, senior and widowed Ohioans to shield up to
$25,000 of property value from taxes, would be graduated over time to be
based on need. In other words, lower-income seniors would still qualify
for the exemption, while higher-income seniors wouldn’t. Current
exemptions would remain untouched, according to House Finance and
Appropriations Committee Chairman Ron Amstutz.
The final tax plan is a lot closer to Gov. John Kasich’s
original budget proposal, which left-leaning Policy Matters Ohio
criticized for disproportionately favoring the wealthy (“Smoke and Mirrors,” issue of Feb. 20).
The budget must now be approved by the conference committee, House, Senate and Gov. John Kasich in time for a June 30 deadline.
by German Lopez
Court refuses delay on parking, interchange needs city support, final budget mixes tax cuts
The Hamilton County Court of Appeals refused to delay enforcement
of its earlier ruling on the city’s plan to lease its parking meters,
lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, which will
allow the city administration to sign the lease as soon as a lower court
rescinds its original injunction on the plan. Six out of nine City
Council members say they want to repeal or rework the deal, but City
Solicitor John Curp says Mayor Mark Mallory, who supports the plan, has
the power to hold any repeal attempts until Nov. 30, which means he can
effectively stop any repeal attempts until the end of his final term as
City Manager Milton Dohoney told City Council yesterday that the state government will not pay for the I-71/MLK Interchange
if the city doesn’t pick up some of the cost. Dohoney made the
statement when explaining how he would use the $92 million upfront money
from the parking plan. The interchange project has long been sought out by city and state officials to create jobs and better connect uptown businesses to the rest of the area and state.
State officials told The Cincinnati Enquirer the final budget plan may include downsized versions of the tax cut plans
in the Ohio House and Senate budget bills. The House bill
included a 7-percent across-the-board income tax cut, while the Senate bill included a 50-percent income tax deduction for business
owners worth up to $375,000 worth of income. Democrats have criticized the
across-the-board income tax cut for cutting taxes for the wealthy and the
business tax cut for giving a tax cut to passive
investors, single-person firms and partnerships that are unlikely to add
jobs. Republicans claim both tax cuts will spur the economy and create jobs.
Ohio ranked No. 46 out of the 50 states for job creation
in the past year, according to an infographic from Pew Charitable
Trusts. Both Ohio and Alaska increased their employment levels by 0.1
percent. The three states below Ohio and Alaska — Wisconsin, Maine and
Wyoming — had a drop in employment ranging from 0.2 percent to 0.5
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted announced 8,229 new entities filed to do business in Ohio in May, up from 7,687 the year before.StateImpact Ohio has an ongoing series about “value-added,” a state-sanctioned method of measuring teacher performance, here. The investigation has already raised questions
about whether value-added is the “great equalizer” it was originally
made out to be — or whether it largely benefits affluent school
districts.The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency awarded $5,690 to the Cincinnati Nature Center
for its teacher training program Nature in the Classroom. The grant
will help continue the program’s goals of training first through
eighth grade teachers about local natural history, how to implement a
science-based nature curriculum and how to engage students in exploring
and investigating nature.
Controversial Cincinnati attorney Stan Chesley yesterday was suspended from arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Kings Island and Cedar Point were among the top 15 most visited amusement parks in the nation in 2012 — after the obvious hotspots in California and Florida.
Meet NASA’s astronaut class of 2013.
Google is launching balloon-based Internet in New Zealand.
Got questions for CityBeat about anything related to Cincinnati? Submit your questions here and we’ll try to get back to you in our first Answers Issue.
CityBeat is looking to talk to convicted drug offenders
from Ohio for an upcoming cover story. If you’d like to participate or
know anyone willing to participate, email firstname.lastname@example.org.