by German Lopez
Qualls asks for quick chief search, Ohio highway rank drops, Dems OKed abortion "gag"
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls is calling for a quick police
chief search following a bout of local violence during the past few
weeks. In a memo to City Manager Milton Dohoney, Qualls argues a police
chief replacement is necessary to clamp down on crime, particularly gun
and gang-related violence. She asks the city manager to report to City
Council on the hiring search in early August and have a full replacement
ready by the end of the summer. Former Police Chief James Craig
recently left Cincinnati to take the police chief job in Detroit, his
Ohio dropped from No. 13 to No. 25
in a state-by-state ranking of highways. The report from the Reason
Foundation, a libertarian think tank, looked at highway conditions and cost
effectiveness. Among the findings: About 22.73 percent of Ohio’s bridges
were deemed deficient in 2009, down from 24.51 percent in 2007. Twenty
states reported more than one in four bridges as deficient — a threshold
Ohio barely missed. Despite Ohio being relatively worse off, the nation
as a whole improved in major categories, according to the report: “Six
of the seven key indicators of system condition showed improvement,
including large gains in rural interstate and urban interstate
condition, and a reduction in the fatality rate.”
Ohio Democrats now criticizing the state budget’s rape counselor restriction voted for the measure in a separate House bill on June 16.
The “gag,” as Democrats now call it, prevents publicly funded rape
counselors from discussing abortion as a viable medical option for rape
victims. “Democrats supported the bill to fund rape crisis centers and
we were led to believe that this offensive language gagging rape
counselors would be fixed in the budget,” Ohio Democratic Party Chairman
Chris Redfern told the Associated Press through a spokesperson. “It was
not.” Democrats voted against the state budget that actually encoded
the measure into law.
On July 11 at Fountain Square, anti-abortion group Created Equal plans to use a jumbo screen to show a graphic video containing footage of aborted fetuses and their separated limbs.
Three more statewide online schools — known as “e-schools” — are coming to Ohio
following approval from the Department of Education. Proponents of
e-schools call them a “valuable alternative” to traditional schooling.
But some education experts and studies have found e-schools often perform poorly.
Mason is having some success using private-public partnerships to attract high-tech companies.
The Ohio State Highway Patrol says “pilot error” caused the stunt airplane crash that killed two at last month’s Dayton Air Show.
BBC explains why phones sometimes feel like they’re vibrating when they’re not.
New contact lenses give telescopic vision.
Fireworks would likely look boring in space.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 12:14 PM | Permalink
Top 1 percent to get $6,083 tax cut
released June 26 found Ohio’s top 1 percent would get the biggest breaks from
the tax plan included in the final version of the two-year state budget, while the
state’s poorest would pay more under the plan.The analysis, conducted by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy for public policy think tank Policy Matters Ohio, shows the tax plan’s slew of tax cuts and hikes balance out to disproportionately favor the wealthy in terms of dollars and percents.On average, the top 1 percent would see their taxes fall
by $6,083, or 0.7 percent, under the plan. The next 4 percent would pay
$983, or 0.5 percent, less in taxes.
Meanwhile, the bottom 20 percent would pay about $12, or
0.1 percent, more in taxes. The second-lowest 20 percent would see their
taxes go down by $5, rounded to 0 percent. The middle 20 percent would
see a tax cut of $9, which is also rounded to 0 percent.
Policy Matters criticizes the tax plan, claiming the revenue should go to other programs, not tax cuts.
“Rather than approving a tax plan that will further shift
Ohio’s tax load from the most affluent to low- and middle-income
residents, we should direct those dollars into needed public services,”
said Zach Schiller, Policy Matters Ohio research director, in a
statement. “That includes restoring support for local governments and
schools, and bolstering human services, from foodbanks to child care.”
Michael Dittoe, spokesperson for Ohio House Republicans,
says the tax plan is supposed to provide an economic boost to almost everyone,
not any specific group.
“The tax plan is going to provide an overall tax cut for
nearly all Ohioans,” he says. “What this plan intends to do is not
disproportionately favor the wealthy at all.”
The broad tax cuts, Republicans claim, should provide a boost to Ohio’s economy that will spur further job growth.
But Schiller argues the tax cut ultimately won’t create
jobs: “A 21-percent cut that was approved in 2005 has not kept Ohio’s
job market from underperforming that of the country as a whole during
and after the last recession.”The tax plan cuts income taxes for all Ohioans and
particularly business owners, but it balances the cuts by hiking sales and property taxes.
Specifically, the budget cuts income taxes for all Ohioans
by 10 percent over three years, gives business owners a 50-percent tax
break on up to $250,000 of annual net income and creates a small
earned income tax credit for low- and middle-income working Ohioans based on the federal credit.
To balance the cuts, the plan raises the sales tax from
5.5 percent to 5.75 percent, increases future property taxes by 12.5
percent and graduates the homestead tax exemption to be based on need,
meaning the lowest-income seniors, disabled and widowed Ohioans will get
the most out of the exemption in the future.
Most recently, the conference committee added two
safeguards for low-income Ohioans: a credit that wipes out income-tax
liability for Ohioans making $10,000 or less a year and another $20
credit for those making $30,000 or less a year.
The Policy Matters analysis doesn’t take into account the
two changes to property taxes and several other, smaller changes to
income and sales taxes, but the rest of the changes, including the conference
committee’s recent adjustments, are considered.
The tax plan is part of the $62 billion state budget for
fiscal years 2014 and 2015, which passed the Republican-controlled General Assembly today. It's expected Republican Gov. John Kasich will sign it into law this weekend.Update: Budget bill passed by General Assembly.Check out all of CityBeat’s state budget coverage:• State Budget's Education Increases Fall Short of Past Funding
• State Budget Rejects Medicaid Expansion• State Budget to Limit Access to Abortion
by German Lopez
U.S. Supreme Court strikes down federal ban on same-sex marriage
The U.S. Supreme Court today struck down the federal
Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in a ruling that effectively requires the
federal government to recognize same-sex marriages for couples who
reside in states where same-sex marriage is legal.
The DOMA ruling also sets a powerful historical precedent by extending equal protection rights to gay and lesbian individuals.In another ruling, the Supreme Court vacated a case on California’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in that state, and effectively sent the case back down to a lower court that deemed Proposition 8 unconstitutional. The ruling means California will likely begin giving marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but the ruling’s effects will not go beyond California’s borders.
For gay and lesbian Ohioans, the DOMA ruling adds yet another incentive to legalize same-sex marriage in the state. If FreedomOhio’s efforts to get the issue on the ballot in 2014 are successful, Ohio’s gay couples will have their marriages recognized at all levels of government. (The group previously aimed for 2013, but it now says it needs more time.)
So far, it remains unclear whether the ruling will extend
to same-sex couples who get married in other states but live in Ohio. If so, Ohio gay couples could get married in Massachusetts, return to Ohio and be eligible for federal marriage benefits — but not state marriage benefits. Legal experts and federal officials will surely debate the
issue in the coming months to develop a clearer answer.
Still, there’s been a lot of cheering and jubilation about
the historical rulings, which are widely seen as victories for LGBT rights. Below are some of
those reactions from local and state leaders, gathered through
interviews and statements.Also, make sure to check out CityBeat's Pride Issue for more coverage on LGBT issues.
Councilman Chris Seelbach, Cincinnati’s first openly gay council member:
“It’s pretty amazing. Just as President Obama when he
announced his support for marriage equality, this feels like just as
much of a milestone, if not more because of the legal significance of
the rulings. This is proof that the tides have turned and the laws are
changing. We are realizing full equality for LGBT people across this
“The fact that they used the equal protection clause means
this case will be used across the country for every type of law that
has an impact on LGBT people. The Supreme Court just set a new precedent for
the rights of any government to discriminate against gays and lesbians.
It’s far broader than just the repeal of DOMA, which in itself is an
incredible feat. But the precedent that it’s setting for scrutiny on the
basis of sexual orientation will have an effect on laws throughout this
country for decades to come.”
Ian James, co-founder of FreedomOhio:
“We are elated that the Supreme Court has repealed DOMA
and in effect rejected Proposition 8. These decisions are proof that the
tide of acceptance for all couples is turning in this country, and we
have taken two more important steps toward true equality.
“This important moment, however, does not change the
reality that Ohio still has a constitutional amendment banning
same-gender marriage. Ohio voters can address the civil rights issue of
our generation by voting for the Freedom to Marry and Religious Freedom
amendment. We are elated and our resolve has been doubled to collect
signatures. The journey continues. We will bring marriage equality to
Ohio in November, 2014.”
Chris Redfern, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party:“I’m
deeply thankful that the Defense of Marriage Act has finally been
struck from our country’s books, and that millions across the nation and
Ohio are one step closer to equal and fair treatment under the law.
DOMA implemented discrimination into the highest law of the land, and
it’s a great day that this ugly reminder of a different time is finally
gone. “Ohio Democrats are honored to stand with our LGBT brothers and sisters
in the fight to earn marriage equality for all, and continue our march
to overcome the prejudice of the past. But despite our victories across
the nation, Ohio Republicans in the Statehouse and Governor’s office
remain committed to keeping prejudice enshrined in law.” John Boehner, U.S. Speaker of the House and Republican from West Chester, Ohio:
“Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act on an
overwhelmingly bipartisan basis and President (Bill) Clinton signed it into
law. The House intervened in this case because the constitutionality of a
law should be judged by the Court, not by the president unilaterally.
While I am obviously disappointed in the ruling, it is always critical
that we protect our system of checks and balances. A robust national
debate over marriage will continue in the public square, and it is my
hope that states will define marriage as the union between one man and
German Lopez, gay staff writer at CityBeat:
“Cool.”Danny Cross, CityBeat editor: “DOMA was a real horseshit piece of legislation, and we're happy those old bastards in the Supreme Court did the right thing.”Update (1:47 p.m.): Added more reactions.
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
Kasich to block full JobsOhio audit, Senate to vote on budget, Democrats endorse no mayor
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald called on
Republican Gov. John Kasich, who’s running for re-election in 2014, to veto a bill that will prevent a full audit on JobsOhio, but Kasich spokesperson Rob Nichols says the governor will sign the bill.
The bill will define JobsOhio’s liquor profits, which the agency gets
from a lease deal with the state government, as private funds, closing
the profits to an audit. The bill will also prevent State Auditor Dave
Yost, a Republican who’s been pursuing an audit of JobsOhio, from
looking into private funds in publicly funded agencies. The new limits
on state audits could have repercussions beyond JobsOhio, making it more
difficult to hold publicly funded agencies accountable. JobsOhio is a
private nonprofit entity established by Kasich and Republican
legislators in 2011 to replace the Ohio Department of Development.
The Ohio Senate will vote on a budget bill
Thursday that continues to push conservative stances on social
issues and aims to cut taxes for small businesses. The bill will
potentially allow Ohio’s health director to shut down abortion clinics,
effectively defund Planned Parenthood, fund anti-abortion crisis
pregnancy centers and forgo the Medicaid expansion. The bill does not
cut taxes for most Ohioans, unlike the Ohio House budget bill that cut
income taxes for all Ohioans by 7 percent.
Local Democrats are unlikely to endorse a candidate
in this year’s mayoral race, which will likely be against Democrats
Roxanne Qualls and John Cranley. Even though both candidates are
Democrats, they have two major policy differences: Qualls supports the streetcar project, while Cranley opposes it. Qualls also supports the city’s plan to semi-privatize its parking assets, which Cranley opposes. CityBeat previously did Q&As with Cranley and Qualls.
The parties’ slates of City Council candidates are mostly set.
This year, Democrats are running 10 candidates — more than the nine
seats available in City Council. Meanwhile, Republicans are running four
candidates and the Charter Committee is looking at three potential
Cincinnati already has some of the cleanest water in the nation, but Water Works is making improvements to its treatments. One new treatment will use an ultraviolet process to kill 99.9 percent of germs.
It’s National Internet Safety Month, and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is asking Ohioans to be safe out there.
A 131-year-old historic building in the West End collapsed after a car crashed into it. The driver’s whereabouts are currently unknown.
Ohio State’s president, who’s a Mormon, is in trouble for making fun of Catholics.
Mason and Sophia are Ohio’s most popular baby names.
Dogs are currently the best bomb detectors, but scientists are aiming to do better.
by German Lopez
Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati hosting event on May 29
A "phone-a-thon" is seeking to address one of the main issues public officials have faced when trying to provide health coverage to low-income Americans: awareness. The event could help reach some of the estimated 15,000 children in southwest Ohio who are uninsured but qualify for Medicaid.The event, which is being hosted by WCPO and the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati on May 29, will reach out to families with uninsured children who qualify for Medicaid. It's part of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Connecting Kids to Coverage National Campaign, a nationwide effort to enroll more children into free and low-cost health insurance programs."Medicaid provides eligible children the coverage they need to address
asthma and allergies, as well other benefits to keep children healthy," the event's release said.
"Children in a family of four earning up to $47,100 a year may qualify
for free or low-cost health insurance. Medicaid not only covers allergy and asthma treatment, but also regular check-ups, immunizations, doctor and dentist visits, hospital care, mental health services, prescriptions and more."For public officials, raising awareness has been one of the biggest hurdles to ensuring widespread health coverage. As the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare") kicks in, the problem is becoming even more pronounced as state and federal governments attempt to inform Americans of new insurance options, including health exchanges and expanded Medicaid programs."There's a segment of the population that hasn't interacted with these programs in the past," says Trey Daly, senior attorney at the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati. "Those folks don't typically know they're eligible."Daly says there's also a segment of the population that has used Medicaid services but stopped after "bad experiences." For those situations, the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati explains the benefits of Medicaid coverage, but it also files forms and applications for participants to help them avoid the bureaucracy and paperwork required for enrolling into Medicaid.The Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati's efforts are funded by a federal grant. Since the program began in 2009, the seven counties in southwest Ohio covered by the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati — Hamilton, Butler, Warren, Clermont, Clinton, Brown and Highland — have increased their Medicaid enrollment of children by 12 percent. The rest of the state has increased enrollment by 4 percent.At the legislative level, there is currently a bill in the Ohio House that would expand the state's Medicaid program with federal funds provided through Obamacare. Republican Gov. John Kasich originally proposed the expansion in his budget plan, but Republican legislators opposed the measure and took it out of their own budget bill.Still, Kasich has continued pushing the expansion, along with Democratic support. A March report from the Health Policy Institute of Ohio found the expansion would save the state money and insure half a million Ohioans in the next decade. To participate in the "phone-a-thon," call 513-749-9400. The event will be on Wednesday, May 29, between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.
1 Comment · Wednesday, May 8, 2013
If you can’t beat them, make it so they
can’t play to begin with. That’s been the mentality of the Ohio
Republican Party time and time again, and the latest budget bill from
the Republican-controlled Ohio House continues the trend.
0 Comments · Wednesday, May 8, 2013
An amendment in the budget bill approved by the Republican-controlled Ohio House could make voting more difficult for out-of-state college and university students.
by German Lopez
Posted In: Health
at 10:51 AM | Permalink
Researchers find no short-term improvements in physical health
As Ohio debates the Medicaid expansion, a new study from Harvard researchers revealed access to Medicaid in Oregon led to better mental health outcomes and reduced financial strain, but no short-term gains were found in physical health outcomes.The study, which was released Wednesday by The New England Journal of Medicine, had its most positive findings in mental health outcomes, with Medicaid recipients showing 30 percent lower rates of depression in comparison to people without health coverage. Medicaid recipients had a rate of depression of 21 percent, while those without coverage had a rate of 30 percent.But the gains did not apply to physical health outcomes. When looking at cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar levels, there was no significant difference between Medicaid recipients and people without coverage. The three measures were chosen because they typically reveal better health results within two years and they're easy to obtain.Still, the study doesn't rule out the possibility of long-term gains. The study found increased rates of diabetes detection and management, which could lead to better physical health outcomes in the future.Medicaid enrollment also reduced financial strain, allowed patients to use more preventive services and nearly eliminated catastrophic out-of-pocket medical expenses, according to the study.The study was conducted by looking at Medicaid recipients in Oregon, which enrolled 10,000 people into Medicaid out of nearly 90,000 applicants through a lottery approximately two years ago, giving researchers the first major randomized pool of Medicaid recipients to study.A previous study
from Harvard researchers, including the lead author of the Oregon
study, found that Medicaid expansions improved mortality rates,
coverage, access to care and self-reported health. That study looked at
three states that expanded Medicaid and compared them to neighboring states that did not.The Oregon study comes at a time when legislators are debating whether Ohio should use federal funds to expand its Medicaid program. Even though Republican Gov. John Kasich supports the expansion, Republican legislators say they're concerned the federal funds will eventually dry up, leaving the state to find a solution for hundreds of thousands of new Medicaid enrollees. Democrats are joining Kasich in supporting the expansion, with Ohio Senate Minority Leader Eric Kearney recently calling it a "no-brainer." The Health Policy Institute of Ohio found the Medicaid expansion would insure nearly half a million Ohioans and save the state money in the next decade.The budget bill that recently passed the Republican-controlled Ohio House would forgo the Medicaid expansion while leaving room to consider further Medicaid reforms down the line ("The Chastity Bunch," issue of April 24).
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 09:21 AM | Permalink
'Right to work' returns; memo details streetcar funding; more money, less mowing
Two Ohio House Republicans are preparing to introduce so-called "right to work" (RTW) legislation, a deceptively named type of law that would ban collective bargaining agreements between unions and employers that require union membership to be hired at a job. Since states began adopting the anti-union laws, union membership has dropped dramatically. Democrats, including gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald, were quick to condemn the bills, invoking 2011's voter rejection of S.B. 5, a bill backed by Gov. John Kasich and Ohio Republicans that would have limited collective bargaining rights for public employees and hindered public sector unions' political power.The city released a memo yesterday outlining how the streetcar project's $17.4 million budget gap will be funded. The memo emphasizes that the capital funds being used for the streetcar project can't be used to balance the city's $35 million operating budget deficit because of state law, so the streetcar project is not being saved at the expense of cops, firefighters and other public employees being laid off to balance the operating budget. CityBeat will have a more thorough analysis of the memo shortly after this article is published.The state auditor released an audit yesterday that shows the Ohio Department of Transportation could save $7.4 million in taxpayer money by mowing the lawn less often. "We need to cut back by
mowing less," State Auditor Dave Yost said in a statement. "Sometimes, it’s the simplest
solutions that have the greatest impact."A Policy Matters Ohio survey confirmed Ohio schools are making cuts as a result of Kasich's education funding cuts. In total, 70 percent of schools slashed budgets for the 2012-2013 school year.The mayor and city manager held a roundtable with the press yesterday explaining the merits of the city's plan to lease its parking assets to the Port Authority. The city officials made the same arguments heard before about how it would help balance the budget and bring economic development to the city, which CityBeat covered in further detail here.If estimates are correct, this year's Flying Pig Marathon will bring $9.5 million into Greater Cincinnati's economy.In light of grim drug addiction and overdose statistics recently released, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman says it's time to call the "war on drugs" something else. The most recent data found one Ohioan died of a drug overdose every five hours on average in 2011.Next Tuesday is primary election day in Ohio, but there isn't much to vote on in southwest Ohio.Steve Smith, who admitted to raping and killing a six-month-old in Mansfield, Ohio, will be executed by the state today, but his relatives insist he didn't do it.Gladys, the unfortunately named gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo, recently got a look at her new home.Antimatter is the opposite of matter, but it's unclear whether it falls up or down.