0 Comments · Wednesday, June 12, 2013
In a bizarre turn of events, the latest versions of the budget passed by the Ohio House and Senate focus largely on abortion rights.
0 Comments · Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Republican-controlled Ohio Senate passed a budget that takes multiple measures against legal
abortions and makes sweeping changes to taxes and education.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 10:07 AM | Permalink
Kasich: “I’m pro-life...”
Speaking at Bowling Green State University in northwestern Ohio yesterday, Gov. John Kasich was unclear on whether he’d use his line-item veto powers to remove anti-abortion provisions from a budget bill.
When asked about the issue by a student from the
University of Toledo Medical Center, Kasich responded, “First of all,
I’m pro-life.” He added, “We’ll have to see how this proceeds through
the House and the Senate conference committee and have just got to wait
and see how it goes, then I’ll make a decision as to whether I think it
goes too far or doesn’t, but keep in mind that I’m pro-life.”
The Ohio House and Senate recently passed budget bills
that would defund Planned Parenthood and fund anti-abortion crisis
pregnancy centers with federal funds. The Ohio Senate, which goes second
in the legislative budget process, also added a provision that could be used by the
state health director to shut down abortion clinics.
Under the Ohio Senate budget’s new rules, abortion clinics
would be unable to set transfer agreements with public hospitals, and established agreements could be revoked at any time and without cause by the state health director. At the same time, if a clinic can’t establish a transfer
agreement, it could be shut down with no further explanation by the
state health director.
The rules allow abortion clinics to set agreements with
private hospitals, but abortion rights advocates argue that’s much more
difficult because private hospitals tend to be religious.
State regulations already require transfer agreements
between ambulatory surgical facilities, including abortion
clinics, and hospitals,
but the Ohio Senate budget encodes the regulations into law and adds
further restrictions.Transfer agreements are typically used to provide emergency or urgent care to patients with sudden complications.
Opponents of abortion rights, including Denise Leipold of Right to Life of Northeast Ohio, have praised the budget measures for promoting “chastity” and “abstinence.”
During budget hearings, several Republican legislators said Planned Parenthood is being defunded in part because it provides abortion services.
Planned Parenthood is legally forbidden from using public
funds for abortions. It currently provides the services through private
Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice
Ohio, criticized the budget bills and Kasich’s lack of clarity in a
statement: “This appalling agenda is out of touch with Ohio values and
we need Gov. Kasich to pledge to keep it from becoming law.”The Ohio House and Senate must reconcile their budgets through conference committee before a final version reaches Kasich’s desk. At that point, Kasich could veto the entire bill, reject specific portions with his line-item veto powers or sign the bill in its entirety.
by German Lopez
Downtown grocery advances, city pension in trouble, county to investigate “double voters”
Got questions for CityBeat about, well, anything? Submit them here, and we’ll try to get back to you in our first Answers Issue.City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee approved a development plan for Fourth and Race streets to build a downtown grocery store, a luxury apartment tower and a garage that will replace Pogue’s Garage. The project will cost $80 million, with the city paying
$12 million through a five-year forgivable loan and private financing paying for the remaining $68 million. The city’s loan is being financed through urban renewal
funds, which are generated through downtown taxes and can only be used
for capital investment projects downtown. The project was originally attached to the city’s plan to semi-privatize its parking assets, but the city administration says the urban renewal funds opened up after a hotel-convention center deal collapsed.
The city’s pension fund saw a return of 12 percent in
fiscal year 2012, but the amount of money the city owes and should
contribute to the pension fund continues to go up.
The higher costs will likely force City Council to put more money
toward the pension, which means less money for other services. City Council has underfunded the pension system by varying
degrees since 2003 — a problem that was further exacerbated by the
economic downturn of 2008, which cost the city’s pension fund $102
million. Consultants suggested City Council view the pension fund
as “not being of good health” and make changes that would help make the
pension fund more “robust” and less volatile.As county and state officials move to investigate and potentially prosecute 39 “double voter” cases, local groups are pushing back with warnings that the investigations could cause a chilling effect among voters. Most of the cases cover voters who mailed in an absentee
ballot then showed up to vote on Election Day. Although the voters voted
twice, their votes were only counted once. Critics of the investigations, including Hamilton County Democrats, cite Ohio Revised Code Section 3509.09(B)(2),
which says voters who show up to vote on Election Day after filing an
absentee ballot should be given a provisional ballot. Hamilton County
Republicans say they’re not prejudging anyone and just want an
Following a report that found Ohio’s juvenile correction facilities are among the worst in the nation for rape and other sexual assaults against incarcerated youths, the state is assigning assessors to the facilities to ensure proper protections and improvements are being put in place.The Greater Cincinnati Port Authority is looking to expand its coverage to better market the region. The Port Authority’s plans call for enlisting 18 counties across Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky.
A derailed train hit a local electrical tower yesterday, temporarily shutting down power for part of the region.
Fatal collisions between cars and trains at public railroad crossings increased in 2012 to the highest level since 2008.
The former Terrace Plaza Hotel was sold, but it’s not clear what will come next for the building.An experimental form of male birth control involves injecting gold into testes and zapping them with infrared light.
Another one of Saturn’s moons may contain an underground ocean.
by German Lopez
City advances without parking plan, Kasich on budget defense, Seelbach questions Cranley
Got questions for CityBeat about, well, anything? Submit them here, and we’ll try to get back to you in our first Answers Issue.Even without the parking plan, the city passed a budget with no public safety layoffs and is moving forward
with plans for the Uptown interchange project, a downtown grocery store, a new garage to replace Pogue’s Garage, Wasson Way and the Smale Riverfront Park. The turnaround has
prompted some critics to question whether city officials were being
honest when they cited a list of potential problems if the city failed
to semi-privatize its parking assets to raise funds, but Mayor Mark
Mallory and supporters say a lot changed between the time the threats
were made and now, including tax revenues coming in at $4.5 million
better than projected.
The Columbus Dispatch says Gov. John Kasich has found himself “playing defense”
in the current budget cycle — a sharp contrast to the budget cycle in
2011. Both the Ohio House and Senate have greatly changed Kasich’s original budget plan. Instead of
taking up Kasich on his plan to expand the sales tax while lowering the
rate, cut income taxes by 20 percent across the board and cut small
business taxes, the House approved a 7-percent across-the-board income tax
cut and the Senate replaced the House plan with a tax cut aimed at small businesses. Both
chambers also rejected the Kasich-backed, federally funded Medicaid
expansion and the governor’s education funding plan.
Democratic Councilman Chris Seelbach says he was yelled and sworn at for several minutes
by Democratic mayoral candidate John Cranley’s campaign manager
following open questions about whether Cranley is still a Democrat.
Cranley has long opposed the city’s streetcar project and parking plan, which have both received support from a majority of Democrats in City Council, and tacitly supports Amy Murray, a Republican City Council candidate.
Estimates for Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino improved last month,
coming in at $2 million more than April’s estimates. The $20 million
estimate is still nearly $2 million less than the casino received on
Former mayor Eugene Ruehlman died Saturday night at the age of 88.
Ohio gas prices remain at nearly $4 this week, above the national average.
The self-proclaimed “whistleblower” who leaked details about two NSA surveillance programs has revealed himself in Hong Kong.
Apparently Kings Island is open, and Adventure Express was evacuated due to a “mechanical problem.”
The latest design for skateboard wheels is a square.
Cold War-era radiation apparently has the answer for whether adults keep making new brain cells.
by German Lopez
Plan also cuts taxes for businesses, restores some education funding
In a party line 23-10 vote today, the Republican-controlled Ohio Senate approved a $61 billion budget plan for fiscal years
2014 and 2015 that takes multiple measures against legal
abortions, aims to cut taxes for small businesses and partly restores education funding cut in the previous 2012-2013 budget.
The budget plan gives a large amount of attention to
social issues, particularly abortion. Most recently, the Ohio Senate added an amendment that could be used by the director of the Ohio Department of Health to close down abortion clinics.The amendment bans abortion clinics from establishing transfer agreements with public hospitals, forcing the clinics to make such agreements with private hospitals,
which are often religious and could refuse to deal with abortion clinics. Under the amendment, if the clinics can’t reach a transfer agreement, the state health director is given the power to shut them down.
Abortion rights groups claim the amendment will likely be used to shut down abortion clinics or force them to dissolve their abortion services.
The bill also makes changes to family services funding
that effectively defund Planned Parenthood, a family planning services
provider that is often criticized by conservatives for offering abortion
services, even though it does so exclusively through private donations.
The bill also redirects some federal Temporary
Assistance for Needy Families funds to crisis pregnancy centers, which
effectively act as the anti-abortion alternative to comprehensive family
planning service providers like Planned Parenthood.
The changes continue a conservative push on social issues that began in the Ohio House budget (“The Chastity Bunch,” issue of April 24).Supporters praise the bill for “protecting life” and promoting “chastity” and “abstinence,” but critics are pushing back.
“Today the Ohio Senate turned its back on the health care needs of Ohio’s women and paved the way for family planning centers and abortion clinics to be closed across the state. If Gov. (John) Kasich doesn’t remove these provisions from the budget, the unintended pregnancy rate will rise, cancer will go undetected and women who need abortion care will not have safe, legal facilities to turn to in some communities,” said
Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, in a
statement. “This budget will put the lives of thousands of Ohio women at risk if Gov. Kasich fails to line-item veto these dangerous measures.”The Ohio Senate plan also scraps Ohio House plans to
cut income taxes for all Ohioans by 7 percent and instead aims to cut
taxes for small businesses by 50 percent.
Republicans claim the tax cut will help small businesses,
which they call the state’s “job creators.” But conservative and liberal
groups have criticized the plan.
In an analysis, Policy Matters Ohio,
a left-leaning policy think tank, claimed the tax cut will
inadvertently benefit “affluent passive investors” and “partners in law
firms and other partnerships.”
Given that, Zach Schiller, research director at Policy Matters, says the plan will do little for Ohio’s economy.
“The fastest growing small businesses are not making money
because they’re investing heavily in their operations — in marketing,
research and sales,” Schiller says. “So if they’re making anything,
they’re investing it by and large in the business, so they’re not likely
to be able to benefit very much from this.”
He adds, “Meanwhile, you’re going to have passive
investors who have no role in adding employees and partners in law
firms, architecture firms, accounting firms and other kinds of
professional organizations who will personally benefit from this in a
way that I think is unlikely to generate more employment.”
Instead of focusing on tax cuts, Schiller argues the state
should be increasing direct investments, particularly in education
and human services.
The conservative Tax Foundation echoed some of Schiller’s criticisms in a blog post.
“This is bad policy, and many supporters are errantly
pushing it under the guise of putting more money in the hands of
‘job-creators.’ But this is based on a flawed understanding of what
creates jobs,” wrote Scott Drenkard of the Tax Foundation. “The
businesses that actually create jobs are not small businesses or big
businesses; they are businesses that are growing. And that type of
business is virtually impossible to target with a tax incentive.”
The budget plan restores about $717 million in
education funding, but that’s not enough to outweigh the $1.8 billion in education funding
that was cut in the 2012-2013 budget, which Kasich and the
Republican-controlled legislature approved in 2011.
The education funding increases will disproportionately favor the state’s property-wealthiest districts —
effectively giving the biggest funding increases to school districts
that can already afford to raise more money by leveraging high local
Stephen Dyer, an education policy fellow at the left-leaning Innovation Ohio, captured the disproportionate funding increases in chart form in a blog post:The chart shows only 15 percent of funding increases will go to the property-poorest one-third of school districts, while a vast majority of the increases will go to the property-wealthiest one-third.Health care advocates were also disappointed to see the
Ohio Senate pass on a federally funded Medicaid expansion, which would
allow anyone at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level —
$15,856 for a single-person household and $32,499 for a family of four — to enroll in the government-backed health care program.
Kasich proposed expanding Medicaid in his original budget plan (“Smoke and Mirrors,” issue of Feb. 20), but Ohio legislators are skeptical of the expansion’s consequences.
As part of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), the
Medicaid expansion would be fully financed by the federal government for
the first three years. After that, federal payments would be phased
down to capture 90 percent of the expansion, where federal funding would
Republican legislators, backed by Republican State
Treasurer Josh Mandel, are skeptical the federal government can afford
the expansion. There’s no historical precedent for the federal
government failing to meet its obligations to Medicaid, but
Republican legislators argue there’s also no historical precedent for
the federal government backing such large Medicaid expansions across the
A Health Policy Institute of Ohio study found the Medicaid expansion would save the state $1.8 billion and insure nearly half a million Ohioans over the next decade.The budget also fails to restore local government funding cuts that have been carried out during Kasich’s time in office. In comparison to fiscal years 2010 and 2011, local governments are receiving about 50 percent less aid from the state, leading to $22.2 million less funds for Cincinnati on an annual basis (“Enemy of the State,” issue of March 20).When asked to explain the various cuts to education and local government funding in the 2012-2013 budget, Kasich spokesperson Rob Nichols told CityBeat in September 2012, “The reality is we walked into an $8 billion budget deficit. … We had to fix that.”The Ohio legislature and Kasich must agree on a budget plan in time for a June 30 deadline.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 11:09 AM | Permalink
Video provides best break for budget hearings
Here at CityBeat, we cover a lot of budget hearings, and they can very easily wear us down with their partisan squabbles and monotonous focus on details that everyone will forget about in a week or so. Right now, we're watching the Ohio Senate budget hearings, which have so far involved Democrats repeatedly bringing up amendments only to get them shot down by the Republican majority. Very repetitive, very boring.Thankfully, the Internet has given us the chance to take what we like to call "cat breaks." This video — arguably the greatest thing in the entire Internet — is the latest example:We encourage you to do the same while you're at work. If your employer ever questions the practice, just point him or her to the study that found looking at cute animals actually boosts productivity.
by German Lopez
City, county clash over law; Senate restores some school funding; Jim Berns misleads public
Got questions for CityBeat about, well, anything? Submit them here, and we’ll try to get back to you in our first Answers Issue.Also, take our texting while driving survey here.With a $3.2 billion price tag and 15- to 20-year time
scale, Cincinnati’s plan to retrofit and replace its sewers is one of
the largest infrastructure projects in the city’s history, but the
program is experiencing hurdles
as the city and county clash over how to reward contracts and whether
the government should have a say in training employees. Cincinnati
recently passed and modified a “responsible bidder” law that sets rules
for apprenticeship programs and a fund for pre-apprenticeship programs,
which Councilman Chris Seelbach says help promote local jobs and job
training. But critics, backed by county officials and business
organizations, say the law puts too much of a burden on contractors.
The Ohio Senate budget bill would restore $717 million in education funding, but it wouldn’t be enough
to overcome $1.8 billion in education funding cuts carried out in the
last biennium budget. The funding increase also disproportionately
favors the wealthy, with the property-poorest one-third of school
districts getting 15 percent of the funding increases and the top
one-third getting the vast majority. The Senate is expected to vote on
the bill today.
Libertarian mayoral candidate Jim Berns didn’t hand out “free marijuana plants”
at a campaign event Wednesday, instead admitting to multiple media
outlets that he was misleading the public to raise awareness of his
campaign and marijuana legalization platform. Berns handed out tomato
plants instead, which look similar to marijuana plants.
Commentary: “JobsOhio: Something to Hide, Something to Fear?”
With 8-0 support from City Council, Mayor Mark Mallory appointed Stan Chesley
to the city’s Human Relations Commission yesterday. Chesley retired
from practicing law after he was disbarred in Kentucky for allegedly
keeping millions of dollars that should have gone to clients involved in
a lawsuit about phen-fen, a diet drug. Mallory and Chesley have worked
together in the past, particularly to raise money for the city’s
Ohio lawmakers are considering two laws
that would tighten rules about who can carry guns in schools and
encourage religious education. The changes related to guns would involve
local law enforcement in deciding who can carry guns, but it would also
allow schools to conceal the names of who can carry a firearm and
protect those individuals from liability for accidents unless there was
“reckless and wanton conduct.” The changes for religious education would
allow public high schools to give credit to students who take religious
courses outside of school.
Ohio senators scrapped a plan that would have raised vehicle registration fees.
Ohio gas prices jumped above $4 this week.
NASA is building an intergalactic GPS.
Sleep-deprived men are apparently really bad at judging who wants to sleep with them.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 02:04 PM | Permalink
Wealthy schools see best gains in budget plan
The Ohio Senate's budget plan for fiscal years 2014 and 2015 would restore about $717 million in education funding, but the gains wouldn't be enough to outweigh $1.8 billion in education cuts from the 2012-2013 budget, which was approved by the Republican-controlled Ohio legislature and signed into law by Gov. John Kasich in 2011.The bill would also favor the state's property-wealthiest districts, which can already raise more money for local schools by leveraging their massive local property values. About 85 percent of the wealthiest school districts will get funding increases, while 40 percent of the poorest rural districts receive no increases, according to Stephen Dyer, a former Democratic state representative and an education policy fellow at Innovation Ohio.Dyer put the regressive breakdown in chart form in a blog post:The chart shows the bottom one-third of school districts only get about 15 percent of the increases, while the top one-third are getting a vast majority of the increases.Still, Dyer points out that the budget is increasing funding for urban, high-poverty areas, while rural areas are generally getting the smallest increases.The budget would also include $250 million in one-time money for the Straight A Fund, which is supposed to entice innovation at schools around the state. When the program was first proposed in Kasich's budget plan, the Kasich administration asked for $300 million.Even with the Straight A Fund, the funding increases wouldn't be enough to overcome $1.8 billion in cuts in the last biennium budget, which is a previous estimate
from progressive think tanks Policy Matters Ohio and Innovation Ohio that includes tax reimbursements for tangible personal property and
public utility property, federal stimulus funds and state aid to
schools.Many school districts have coped with the cuts through local tax levies, which Innovation Ohio previously compared to a $1.1 billion tax increase across the state. In 2012, Cincinnati Public Schools was one of the many school districts to successfully pass a levy after dealing with years of cuts from multiple levels of government ("Battered But Not Broken," issue of Oct. 3).The changes proposed by the Ohio legislature are the latest in a chain of attempts to reform the state's school funding formula, which has a history of legal and political problems. Between 1997 and 2002, the Ohio Supreme Court issued four decisions that found the state's school funding formula unconstitutional because it relied too much on property taxes and failed to provide "a thorough and efficient system of common schools."But 16 years later, critics argue the system still relies too much on property taxes. According to them, the reliance on property taxes drives inequality because property-wealthy areas can more easily leverage their high property values to fund good schools, while property-poor areas are generally left behind.Kasich attempted to address the issues with his own rework of the education funding formula, but the rework was dismissed by the Ohio House and Senate — a victory for critics who deemed Kasich's plan regressive ("Smoke and Mirrors," issue of Feb. 20).The Ohio legislature and Kasich must approve a budget plan by June 30.
by German Lopez
Another anti-abortion amendment, Kasich prevents JobsOhio audit, streetcar funds remain
Got questions for CityBeat about, well, anything? Submit them here, and we’ll try to get back to you in our first Answers Issue.Also, take our texting while driving survey here.The Ohio Senate proposed a budget amendment
yesterday that would ban abortion providers from transferring
patients to public hospitals. The rule continues a series of
conservative pushes on social issues in the ongoing budget process that began in the Ohio House. The
Ohio House budget bill effectively defunded Planned Parenthood and funded anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers, while the Ohio Senate accepted those measures and added another rule that potentially allows the health director to shut down abortion clinics.
Republican Gov. John Kasich signed a bill
that will prevent a full public audit of JobsOhio, the private
nonprofit entity established by Kasich and Republican legislators to
replace the Ohio Department of Development. The bill defines liquor
profits, which were public funds before JobsOhio, and private funds in a
way that bars the state auditor from looking into any funding sources
that aren’t owed to the state. Last week, Democratic gubernatorial
candidate Ed FitzGerald called on Kasich to veto the bill,
claiming, “The people’s money is the people’s business, and this bill,
which slams shut the door on accountability, is simply unacceptable.”
The Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI) says the $4 million going to the streetcar is a done deal.
Republican county commissioners Chris Monzel and Greg Hartmann tried to
get OKI to pull the funds, but there now seems to be a general
consensus that the money is contractually tied to the Southwest Ohio
Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) and, therefore, the streetcar
project. City Council is likely to consider a plan to plug the streetcar project’s budget gap later this month.
Libertarian mayoral candidate Jim Berns is handing out marijuana plants
at a campaign event today, even though the event may run foul of state
law. Democratic candidates John Cranley and Roxanne Qualls are generally
considered the top contenders in this year’s mayoral race, but Berns
has differentiated himself by putting marijuana legalization in his
platform. While drug prohibition policies are generally dictated at
state and federal levels, cities can decriminalize or legalize certain
drugs and force police departments to give prohibition enforcement lower priority.
Ohio State University President Gordon Gee is retiring July 1
following controversial remarks about “those damn Catholics,” the
University of Notre Dame and others. Gee, a Mormon, says he has regrets,
but the gaffes didn’t compel him to retire. In a statement, OSU
credited Gee with helping the school build an academic profile of a
“highly selective, top-tier public research institution.”
Local officials cut the ribbon yesterday for the Roebling Bridge, the latest piece of infrastructure to debut at The Banks.
Fort Hamilton Hospital has a new president.
Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bank has loaned more than any other big bank in the country, according to a new study.
How do mosquitoes survive storms? Popular Science has the answer.
Researchers unveiled a drone that can be controlled by thoughts. Next stop: the Iron Man suit.