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State’s Witness in Favor of Execution Protocols Steps Down

The expert witness who testified on behalf of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (ODRC) will no longer be defending problematic drug protocols used in executions.

A press release in April by ODRC implied the witness, Dr. Mark Dershwitz, played a role in developing the State’s current protocol. Because the American Board of Anesthesiology prohibits its members from participating in lethal injection, the announcement forced the licensed anesthesiologist to step down from his role as expert witness.

Dr. Dershwitz testified for 21 other states besides Ohio.

Via New Republic.

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Medical Expert: McGuire’s Execution Certainly “Not Humane”

Following the execution of Dennis McGuire in January, the children of Mr. McGuire filed a lawsuit against the State of Ohio alleging that their father was tortured during the administering of the death penalty. While prison officials claimed “the process worked very well,” an expert witness is now stepping forward with troubling revelations.

Dr. Kent Diveley, an anesthesiologist who has attended more than 20,000 patients undergoing anesthetics for a wide range of procedures, laid out the facts that show “to a degree of medical certainty this was not a humane execution.”

Via OTSE.org.

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Federal Judge Halts Ohio Executions until 2015

In May, U.S. District Judge Gregory L. Frost issued a moratorium on executions in Ohio, in the wake of Dennis McGuire’s troubling January execution.

Judge Frost urged attorneys defending inmates, as well as the state, to “work together to coordinate efforts so that the court can set necessary deadlines following expiration of the stay.”

As the expiration neared, Judge Frost found it necessary to extend the moratorium. No new executions will be carried out until after January 15, 2015; this order by the federal judge effectively acts to postpone the executions of Ronald R. Phillip, Raymond Tibbetts, and Gregory Lott, which were set to take place later this year.

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Republicans Pick Cleveland for 2016 Convention

On Tuesday, the Republican National Committee (RNC) announced that it had chosen heavily Democratic Cleveland to host its 2016 national convention. A meeting of the full RNC will ratify the choice next month in Chicago.

The RNC had narrowed the field to Cleveland and Dallas, both of which aggressively courted party officials.

Republicans believe that holding the convention in a swing state will help them win the Presidential race. They also know that no Republican has ever won the White House without carrying Ohio. (Thus, as they say, “as Ohio goes, so goes the nation!”) An Ohio convention also allows the party to project a more moderate image than a convention in Texas.

Committee staff, however, played off the choice as merely a business decision. Cleveland promised the party access to Quicken Loans Area and six new downtown hotels that would total more than 20,000 rooms within twenty-five miles.

The committee forecasts 35,000 visitors and $200 million in revenue.

According to Ed FitzGerald, the Cuyahoga County executive and Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Cleveland has already raised over $30 million to pay for the convention.

“The Republican convention is going to happen somewhere, and if there’s going to be an economic impact, I want that to be in my community,” FitzGerald said. “Cleveland has had a lot of disappointments over the years. This is going to be a very high-profile opportunity for us to introduce the country and the world to what this city really is.”

Via The New York Times.

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Charter School Details Under Scrutiny

Horizon Science Academy

An Akron Beacon Journal report has revealed disturbing details surrounding a chain of nineteen publicly funded charter schools.

The Horizon and Noble Academies were founded by Turkish immigrants under the name “Concept Schools.”  The schools hired“325 educators almost exclusively from Turkey” and “as early as 2002, state audits found thousands of public dollars ‘illegally expended’ to finance the U.S. citizenship process for Turkish employees.”  The report highlighted another early state audit found “as many as 20 percent of teachers at one school were not licensed.”

Democratic Auditor of State candidate and State Representative John Patrick Carney (D-Clintonville) pointed out that, despite repeated media reports of problems and many requests from parents and others for more oversight, the problems at the Horizon and Noble Academies persist:

What good is an audit if nothing further is done to prevent the misuse of public tax dollars?  It’s alarming that an organization that is meant to educate our children is grossly taking advantage of Ohioans’ hard earned money.  It’s even more alarming that the current State Auditor is not doing everything possible to prevent it. It’s crucial for students, their families, and all Ohio taxpayers that we make sure our schools are providing our children with the best education and environment possible to allow them to succeed.

Via votecarney.com.

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Ohio Republicans Trying to Restrict Voting – Again

Ohio Republicans are poised to pass a new round of restrictive voting laws this week. The measures could limit access to the ballot in this year’s midterms and the 2016 presidential race and revive the long lines at the polls that plagued the Buckeye State in 2004.

No Republican has ever won the White House without winning Ohio, and it remains the most pivotal state in presidential elections.

The Ohio House could vote as soon as Wednesday on two bills. One would cut early voting from thirty-five to twenty-eight days. It would end the “Golden Week,” when Ohioans can register and vote on the same day. The other bill would limit the state’s successful absentee ballot program, forcing election officials to get approval from lawmakers before mailing out absentee ballots. Both bills are scheduled for hearings on Tuesday and have already passed the Senate.

A third bill already passed by the Senate would make it harder for provisional ballots to be counted. A full vote on that measure isn’t expected this week.

Republicans say cutting early voting and ending the Golden Week would cut the chances for fraud, though an investigation by Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, turned up almost no evidence of fraud.

State Sen. Nina Turner, a Democrat and voting rights champion running for secretary of state, pushed back. “Despite the fact that cases of voter fraud are exceptionally rare, many legislators persist in curbing voting opportunities in its name,” Turner told msnbc in an email, in reference to the early voting cuts. “They are determined to make it harder for thousands of Ohioans to cast a ballot in order to stamp out an almost miniscule amount of fraud.”

As for the absentee ballot restrictions: “Uniformity has too often meant a uniform lack of access,” said Turner, who is an msnbc contributor. “Local boards of elections know their voters best and should, within certain parameters, have the flexibility to craft a system that works for them. Ohio’s largest county has 95-times the population of the smallest – these differences need to be accounted for.”

The new bills would be the strictest voting laws passed by Ohio’s Republican-controlled legislature yet. Last year, lawmakers approved a bill that makes it easier for the secretary of state to remove voters’ names from the rolls and reduces the number of voting machines that counties must have on hand for Election Day.

It’s the combined effect of all these measures that has Buckeye State voting-rights advocates worried: Cutting early voting and ending same-day registration are both likely to mean more voters show up on Election Day. Making it harder to vote absentee—something 1.3 million Ohioans did in 2012, when the state sent absentee ballots to all registered voters—will have the same effect. Now throw in the reduction in the number of voting machines that counties must provide, and you could see a return to 2004.

That year, some voters in minority and student-heavy areas waited as long as ten hours to cast a ballot. A study estimated that 174,000 people left before voting because of the lines. President George W. Bush won Ohio, and the election, by 119,000 votes. After reforms were instituted, voting went far more smoothly in 2008 and in 2012.

In a report released last month, a bipartisan panel of experts appointed by President Obama recommended early voting opportunities, including no-excuse absentee ballots.

Via MSNBC.

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Kasich: Right to Work “Not on My Agenda”

Republican Governor John Kasich said last week that “right-to-work” legislation, which weakens labor unions, isn’t on his agenda.

That’s not the same as saying he would fight or veto it.

The divisive measure should not be enacted. Putting aside the likely partisan explosion, Ohio’s voters signaled as recently as 2011 that they do not favor such measures.

Democrats fret over a “December surprise” — the possible passage by a lame-duck, Republican-dominated legislature, after this November’s statewide election, of a right-to-work measure. That’s what happened in Michigan 1 ½ years ago.

Two Republican right-to-work bills are pending in the Ohio General Assembly – House Bill 151, sponsored by Rep. Kristina Roegner of Hudson, and House Bill 152, sponsored by Rep. Ron Maag of Lebanon.

Via Cleveland.com.

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HHS Agrees to Help Low-Income Americans with Cold Temperatures

Hours after a request by Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and two other Senators, the federal government agreed to assist millions of low-income people dealing with bitterly cold temperatures.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will release the remaining federal dollars in what is called the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, known as LIHEAP.

Sens. Brown, Jack Reed (D-RI) and Susan Collins (R-ME) urged Sec. Sebelius to release the money, writing that “access to affordable home energy is a matter of health and safety. We ask that you expedite the release of all remaining LIHEAP funds to the states at this time of critical need.’’

In a statement, Sen. Brown said that “with temperatures falling to around zero degrees and rising propane prices, it’s essential that working families and Ohio senior citizens have the resources they need to heat their homes.”

See more at: http://dispatchpolitics.dispatch.com/content/blogs/the-daily-briefing/2014/01/brown-1-30-2014.html#sthash.TkBh7DXw.dpuf

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State of the State Puts Education Funding on Display

Governor John Kasich has chosen Medina as the site of his State of the State address in February. As he prepares for this event, it is helpful to understand what his two state budgets have done to schools in Medina City and County.

Children in Medina County schools will have $13.7 million less state revenue in the next two school years than they had in the two years before Gov. Kasich took office. The Medina City school district alone saw its state funding decline by $4.4 million, or 9.6%.

While state funding declines, school districts in the county are losing more to private and charter schools. Charter School payments are up about one-third under Gov. Kasich to $4.37 million. That money is not funding success. In the 2011-2012 school year, every dollar transferred from a Medina County school to a charter went to one that performed worse on both the performance index score and state report card ranking.

As a result of the state’s focus on school choice, Medina County schools receive 5.2% less state revenue per student than the state’s funding formula says they need.

Meanwhile, Gov. Kasich and his legislative allies — led by Medina’s own Ohio House Speaker Bill Batchelder — have cut so much revenue to Batchelder’s home county schools that Medina County districts have put $70.8 million in property and income tax levies before voters since May 2011.

Via Innovation Ohio.

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Study: Ohio 36th in Nation for Financial Security

Financial security eludes almost half of Ohio households, which often are one crisis away from plunging into poverty, according to a report from the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CED).

Many working-class families face the threat of tumbling into destitution because they lack sufficient savings to withstand a significant loss of income, and economic insecurity is getting worse for Ohioans.

The state lags the rest of the nation in some important economic measures, which contribute to many families living perilously close to financial catastrophe.

The CED, a D.C.-based nonprofit, last week released its 2014 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard, which evaluates and grades states based on sixty-six financial, employment, housing, education and health care measures.

Ohio scored poorly in many areas, and the state ranked thirty-sixth in the nation for financial security.

About 8.8% of Ohio households lack a bank account, compared to 8.2% of U.S. households. Ohioans had a higher bankruptcy rate (4.3 per 1,000 people) than the U.S. population (3.7 per 1,000 people). Almost 4% of borrowers in Ohio were delinquent, compared to 3.6% nationwide. People in Ohio are less likely than their U.S. peers to create new businesses, and the state’s home ownership rates are significant lower than the national average.

One of the report’s most grim revelations is that about 45% of Ohio households lack savings to survive for three months at the federal poverty level if they experience a loss of income. These households are “liquid asset poor,” meaning residents may own a home or car, but have no cash, or accounts that can be liquidated in case of crisis. The share of Ohio households in this group has increased 1.5% from last year’s report, and it’s up from less than 40% in 2006.

Most households below the poverty line of $23,550 for a family of four are liquid asset poor. But almost one in four households with annual incomes between $50,881 and $80,952 also have less than three months of savings to sustain at the poverty level ($5,887 for a family of four).

Via Norwalk Reflector.

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