0 Comments · Wednesday, January 22, 2014
State Rep. Alicia Reece and other
activists are mobilizing a campaign to get a “Voter Bill of Rights” on
the Ohio ballot this November.
0 Comments · Wednesday, January 22, 2014
The ACLU asked Gov. John Kasich to halt the use of the death
penalty, following the botched execution of convicted killer Dennis
McGuire that reportedly lasted 26 minutes.
1 Comment · Wednesday, January 22, 2014
With Ohio's latest botched execution, the death penalty continues costing the state more than it solves.
by German Lopez
Board debates moving early voting, Winburn shelves rail sale, abortion clinic could close
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.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
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.
by German Lopez
The civil rights icon embraced many progressive causes
If his speeches and other comments are any indication,
Martin Luther King Jr. would likely stand in sharp opposition to modern
Ohio Republicans and many of their proposed policies.
In reviewing King’s work, speeches and quotes, it’s clear
he was a progressive on a wide range of issues — from voting rights to collective bargaining rights to
reproductive rights. In contrast, modern Republicans are doing their
best to dilute such rights and scale back progressive causes on a host
of other issues.
Given that it’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day, what
better time to look back at some of King’s positions and analyze what
they could mean in terms of today’s politics? Warning: The results might upset some Republicans.
On voting rights:
“So long as I do not firmly and irrevocably possess the
right to vote, I do not possess myself,” King said, according to PBS. “I
cannot make up my mind — it is made up for me. I cannot live as a
democratic citizen, observing the laws I have helped to enact — I can
only submit to the edict of others.”King and other civil rights activists saw the right
to vote as the most crucial stepping stone to equality. In fact, one of the defining accomplishments of the Civil Rights
Movement was the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which attempted to ban discrimination
in the voting booth.
“Give us the ballot and we will transform the salient
misdeeds of blood-thirsty mobs into calculated good deeds of orderly
citizens,” King said.
More specifically, the Voting Rights Act helped undo
several voting restrictions taken up against minority voters in the South. The restrictions rarely outright banned black voters; instead,
Southerners took up backhanded standards, such as literacy tests and
poll taxes, that many black voters couldn’t meet.
If that sounds familiar, it’s because, by at least one top
Ohio Republican’s admission, growing restrictions on early voting also
help curtail black voters — who, by the way, happen to vote for Democrats in
“I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the
voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American —
voter-turnout machine,” said Doug Preisse, chairman of the Franklin
County Republican Party and close adviser to Gov. John Kasich, in an
email to The Columbus Dispatch.
In other states, Republicans are taking similarly restrictive approaches
and passing stringent voter ID laws, even though one study found it discriminates against young, minority voters.Especially given Preisse’s comments, it’s clear King would not approve of Republican actions. King saw enough oppression in Southern voting booths to know better.On labor unions and “right to work”:
“In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard
against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right to work.’ It is a
law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights. Its purpose is to
destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which
unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone,” King
said, according to the Economic Policy Institute. “Wherever these laws
have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there
are no civil rights. We do not intend to let them do this to us. We
demand this fraud be stopped. Our weapon is our vote.”In this statement, King unequivocally disavows restrictions on unions and collective bargaining rights.
Meanwhile, Gov. Kasich and top Ohio Republicans remain mum
on whether they support anti-union laws like “right to work,” much to
the chagrin of tea party groups that strongly support such efforts.
But it’s clear Kasich and Ohio Republicans support some
restrictions on unions and collective bargaining. In 2011, the
Republican-controlled legislature and governor approved Senate Bill 5, a
bill that significantly curtailed public unions and their collective
Almost immediately, labor unions rallied in opposition to
the effort and took the issue to referendum. Voters overwhelmingly
rejected S.B. 5 the following November, dealing a major blow to Republicans and a huge
political boost to unions and Democrats.Despite the rejection, some conservatives continue pushing anti-union causes. The
tea party-backed group Ohioans for Workplace Freedom aims to get an
anti-union “right to work” initiative on the ballot in 2014.Considering King’s strong pro-union statements, it’s clear he would stand against Ohio Republicans’ and the tea party’s anti-union efforts if he lived today. On the death penalty:
“I do not think God approves the death penalty for any
crime — rape and murder included,” King said, according to Stanford
University. “Capital punishment is against the best judgment of modern
criminology and, above all, against the highest expression of love in
the nature of God.”King’s comment clearly disavows the death penalty, even
for the gravest crimes, based on his religious perspective and
study of criminology.
Perhaps more than any other issue on this list, King’s stance on the death penalty could upset some Democrats as much as some Republicans. But even though support for the death penalty crosses partisan lines, it’s much more pronounced on the Republican side of the spectrum.
In recent days, the debate over the death penalty reignited in Ohio after Gov. Kasich’s administration took 26 minutes to execute a gasping, grunting convicted killer with a new cocktail of drugs that was never tried before in the United States.
The prolonged execution, the longest since Ohio resumed
use of the death penalty in 1999, led some legislative Democrats to push
new limits or even an outright ban on capital punishment. It’s expected
the Republican majority will ignore the bills.Based on his claims, King would oppose the state-sanctioned killing of a convicted killer, and he certainly would reject any defense that touts vengeance as a justification for killing another human being.On health care:
“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care
is the most shocking and inhuman,” King said, according to Dr. Quentin
Young, who attended King’s speech at the 1966 convention of the Medical
Committee for Human Rights.
Whether King’s quote indicates support for Democrat-backed
legislation like Obamacare or other measures, such as a single-payer
system, is completely unclear. But King’s rhetoric certainly comes
closer to Democrats’ support for universal access to health care than Republicans’
opposition to governmental incursions into the U.S. health care
To Gov. Kasich’s credit, he helped alleviate the
“inequality” and “injustice in health care” King referred to by
aggressively pursuing the federally funded Medicaid expansion.But Kasich was in the minority of the Ohio Republican
Party in his pursuit. The state legislature’s Republican majority
refused to approve the Medicaid expansion in the two-year state budget
and later bills. When Kasich finally got the Medicaid expansion done
through the seven-member Controlling Board, several legislative
Republicans joined an unsuccessful lawsuit to reverse the decision.Accordingly, King would probably praise Kasich for opening up access to health care, and it’s doubtful he would support Republicans in their attempts to block health care for the poor.On reproductive rights:
“For the Negro, therefore, intelligent guides of family
planning are a profoundly important ingredient in his quest for security
and a decent life,” King said, according to Planned Parenthood. “There
are mountainous obstacles still separating Negroes from a normal
existence. Yet one element in stabilizing his life would be an
understanding of and easy access to the means to develop a family
related in size to his community environment and to the income potential
he can command.”King’s comments on reproductive rights came as he accepted the first round of the Margaret Sanger Awards from Planned Parenthood, an organization now demonized by Republicans for its support for abortion and reproductive rights.
Now, nothing in King’s comments implies he supported
abortion rights, even though some historians believe King, a strong Christian,
accepted a more liberal interpretation of the Bible.But King’s comments — and even his mere acceptance of the
Planned Parenthood award — show strong support for reproductive
rights for low-income men and women. In that respect, King is clearly
going against Ohio Republicans’ pursuits.
In the 2014-2015 state budget, a Republican majority
passed new funding restrictions on Planned Parenthood and other
comprehensive family planning centers. Some of the restrictions hit
family planning clinics that don’t offer abortions.
Even though King’s stance on abortion is unclear, his
comments clearly contradict efforts to restrict access to family
planning clinics and reproductive rights. Once again, he would not approve of the Republican agenda.
by German Lopez
Tea party lands school board seats, death penalty scrutinized, AG campaigns spar over role
Fiscal conservatives and tea party activists won more
seats on local school boards last year, putting them in the awkward
position of supposedly looking out for the school’s best interests while
rejecting property tax levies that could boost schools’ resources and outcomes. As one example, a member of the Coalition
Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) now sits on the board for Kings Schools in Warren County that she once sued for public records.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio on Sunday
called on Gov. John Kasich to immediately halt the death penalty across
the state, following the botched, 26-minute execution of convicted
killer Dennis McGuire. The execution, the longest since Ohio restarted using
capital punishment again in 1999, utilized a new cocktail of drugs that had
never been tried before in the United States. It’s unclear whether
state officials will use the same drugs for the five other executions
planned for the year.David Pepper, the Democratic candidate for attorney
general, says Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine should stop
defending court-rejected, unconstitutional voting and ballot restrictions. DeWine argues that it’s the attorney general’s job to
defend Ohio and its laws, regardless of his opinion on constitutionality. But
DeWine actually stepped aside and assigned a separate attorney to a case
involving restrictions on “false statements” in political campaigns
because, according to him, the law’s constitutionality is questionable.Martin Luther King Jr. and modern Republicans would likely
stand in opposition on numerous issues, including voting rights, the
death penalty and reproductive rights.A top policy aide for Gov. Kasich says local
governments should share more services. But some municipal officials argue the Kasich
administration is just trying to deflect criticisms regarding local government
funding cuts carried out by his Republican administration and the
Republican-controlled legislature over the past few years.The Justice Department is investigating a former chief
judge of Cincinnati’s federal appeals court for nearly $140,000 in
travel expenses he took during his four and a half years on the bench.Fewer Ohio students need remedial college classes following high school graduation.U.S. House Speaker John Boehner called a fellow Republican an asshole, according to Democratic U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro.Seven out of 10 people will live in cities by 2050, according to Popular Science.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
Letter to governor points to new cocktail of drugs as culprit
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio on
Sunday asked Gov. John Kasich to halt the death penalty across the
state, following the botched execution of convicted killer Dennis McGuire
that reportedly lasted 26 minutes.McGuire’s prolonged execution, the longest since Ohio
resumed capital punishment in 1999, was carried out on Jan. 16 with a
new cocktail of drugs that had never been tried before in the United
States. The use of the new drugs came about after Ohio ran out of its
previous supplies.With its letter, the ACLU joined other groups, including
Ohioans to Stop Executions, in calling for an end or pause to
state-sanctioned killing.“This is not about Dennis McGuire, his terrible crimes, or
the crimes of others who await execution on death row,” reads the ACLU
letter. “It is about our duty as a society that sits in judgment of
those who are convicted of crimes to treat them humanely and ensure
their punishment does not violate the Constitution.”The letter adds, “We are mere months away from new
recommendations from the Ohio Supreme Court Taskforce on the
Administration of the Death Penalty that could alter our system for the
better. On the eve of monumental changes, along with increasing problems
with lethal injection, is not now the time to step back and pause?”McGuire’s family also announced on Friday it would file a lawsuit claiming his death constituted “cruel and unusual punishment.”Five more people await execution in Ohio this year, according to the ACLU. It’s
unclear whether the state will use the same cocktail of drugs following
by German Lopez
FitzGerald picks running mate, Cranley opposes double dipping, Hunter pleads not guilty
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald on Friday announced his new running mate: Sharen Neuhardt, a Dayton-area business
attorney and twice-failed candidate for Congress. The choice boosts the
ticket’s credentials with women and abortion-rights advocates, but it
also reinforces support for pro-choice policies that upset many Republicans and
conservatives. FitzGerald originally picked State Sen. Eric Kearney as
his running mate, but Kearney dropped out of the race after multiple
media reports uncovered he owed more than $800,000 in tax debt. CityBeat covered the gubernatorial race and how the economy could play into it in further detail here.Mayor John Cranley on Friday reiterated his opposition to double dipping, even though he supports hiring an assistant city
manager who will take advantage of the practice. Because Bill Moller is a
city retiree, he will be eligible to double dip — simultaneously take a
salary ($147,000 a year) and pension — when the city hires him in
February. Cranley called the practice “abusive” on the campaign trail,
but he says it’s up to City Council to pass legislation that prevents it.Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Tracie Hunter on
Friday pleaded not guilty to nine felony charges, including accusations
of backdating court documents, theft in office and misusing her county
credit card. The Ohio Supreme Court on Jan. 10 replaced Hunter until her case is decided. The felony charges are just the latest for the judge, who has been mired in controversy
after controversy since before she won her election.State Rep. Alicia Reece and other activists are pushing an initiative for the November ballot that would embed “voter rights”
into the Ohio Constitution. The Democrat-backed constitutional amendment is in direct
response to Republican-led attempts to shrink early voting periods and
restrict access to the ballot.A propane gas shortage in some parts of the state led Gov.
John Kasich to suspend state and federal laws that keep propane
suppliers off the roads on weekends.State Treasurer Josh Mandel’s failed Senate campaign sold
an SUV totaled in March — effectively averting an insurance review that
might have clarified the vehicle’s use and insurance status — shortly after
questions arose over the continued use of the vehicle months after
Mandel’s Senate campaign ended.Secondhand smoke increases the odds of hospital
readmission for children with asthma, according to a study from
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and Penn State Milton S.
Hershey Children’s Hospital.Google’s smart contact lens could help diabetics.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
0 Comments · Wednesday, January 15, 2014
The Ohio Supreme Court
appointed a retired judge to replace Hamilton County’s embattled
juvenile judge while she fights multiple felony counts.