Morning News and Stuff

Medicaid expansion challenged, jails go uninspected, local senator's energy bill criticized

Ohio Statehouse
Ohio Statehouse

Republican legislators

filed a lawsuit against Ohio’s two-year, federally funded Medicaid expansion

after Republican Gov. John Kasich went through the Controlling Board, an obscure seven-member legislative panel, instead of the Republican-controlled Ohio House and Senate to get approval for the expansion. The lawsuit, filed to the Ohio Supreme Court, claims, “Each representative is disenfranchised in his legislative capacity through the Controlling Board’s exercise of legislative authority.” Kasich

put his request to the Controlling Board

to bypass the legislature after months of unsuccessfully wrangling legislators in his own party to approve the expansion. The Health Policy Institute of Ohio

previously found

the expansion would insure between 300,000 and 400,000 Ohioans through fiscal year 2015; if legislators approve the expansion beyond that, the institute says it would generate $1.8 billion for Ohio and insure nearly half a million Ohioans over the next decade.

Meanwhile, some state senators

plan to use the savings from the Medicaid expansion to cut taxes

. For Ohioans making up to $50,000 a year, the 4-percent income tax cut would mean annual savings of less than $50.

State officials

haven’t inspected southwest Ohio jails for five years

, which means the jails could be breaking minimum standards set by the state without anyone knowing. The inspections were supposed to occur each year, but a lack of resources, which left only one inspector in the department, forced the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) to stop the practice and instead ask jails to inspect themselves — with limited checks on jails fabricating claims. The inspections are starting back up now that ODRC has a second jail inspector on its staff, but the inspections are announced beforehand, meaning jails can plan for them, and the punishment for failing to meet standards is historically unenforced.

State Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican, says he will

introduce two amendments

to walk back controversial provisions of an even more controversial bill that weakens Ohio’s renewable energy and efficiency standards. Critics say the bill would water down and effectively eliminate Ohio’s cost-saving energy standards, but Seitz, who

has ties to a national conservative group that opposes energy standards

, argues the rules impose too many costs on utility companies. A previous study from Ohio State University and Ohio Advanced Energy Economy found repealing the standards would increase Ohioans’ electricity bills by $3.65 billion over the next 12 years. CityBeat covered Seitz’s proposal and the controversy surrounding it in further detail

here

.

City Solicitor John Curp and Ohio Ethics Commission Executive Director Paul Nick

said in an Oct. 22 email exchange

that it was ethically OK for Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls to retain her job as a realtor and vote in support of the streetcar project, even though the project could indirectly benefit Qualls by increasing property values — and therefore her compensation as a realtor — along the route. The exchange was provided to CityBeat and various media outlets after mayoral candidate John Cranley criticized Qualls, who is also running for mayor, for the alleged ethical violation at an Oct. 22 press conference. But Curp and Nick, who cited two previous opinions from the Ohio Ethics Commission, agreed that Qualls’ financial connection to property values was too indirect and speculative because she only picks up a flat fee for the “arms-length transactions between private parties.” Curp also noted that Qualls had asked about the potential ethical conflict two times before.

A state prison in Toledo is

no longer accepting new inmates

after reports of increasing violence. The goal is to cut down on the amount of prisoners sharing a cell, ODRC spokeswoman JoEllen Smith told The Associated Press. Smith said the change was already in the works before a recent bout of killings. The facility holds roughly 1,300 prisoners, which is close to capacity.

Former Ohio State University President Gordon Gee is

heading a state committee

created by Gov. Kasich that’s trying to figure out how to curb college costs while improving quality.

Gallup says a majority of Americans

now favor legalizing marijuana

. CityBeat previously covered legalization and how it could affect Ohio in further detail

here

.

Women’s breasts

apparently age more quickly

than the rest of their bodies, according to a new study.

Early voting for the 2013 City Council and mayoral elections is now underway. Find your voting location

here

. Normal voting hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days are extended.

On Oct. 29, local residents will be able to

give feedback

to Cincinnati officials about the city budget — and also nab some free pizza. The open budgeting event is from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 29 at

1115 Bates Ave.

, Cincinnati.

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