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Butler County creating new Veterans Treatment Court

Published: Saturday, November 26, 2016 @ 12:00 PM

The Butler County Common Pleas Court is about to expand its specialty dockets to include a new Veterans Treatment Court.

The emphasis on the court will be treatment and diversion, according to officials, and will connect veterans with services and a military support network that they may have lost when they returned to civilian life.

Butler County Common Please Court Judge Michael Oster Jr. has visited other local Veterans Treatment Courts, or VTCs, and said they are designed to break down barriers such as unemployment or under employment, homelessness, drug problems and other issues that may have contributed to veterans ending up on the wrong side of the law.

“We really want to make that camaraderie of bringing them together and not only the court holding them accountable, but themselves,” he said. “These are men and women who are disciplined … we want to add that (camaraderie) as well to really make them successful.”

The municipal judges in Hamilton and Middletown have been operating VTCs for several years.

Middletown Municipal Court Judge Mark Wall has been keeping statistics on his VTC since its inception in 2011 and those numbers show a 78 percent success rate overall, he said.

By far the biggest misdemeanor crime veterans committed was drunk driving (38 percent), he said. Domestic incidents involving substance abuse came in second with 34 cases, and there were 17 drug cases.

Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor said the VTCs have had a great deal of success. The recidivism rate is what is key in any court case, and she said the VTCs appear to have that issue in check.

“The long term effect is what is important, where are they a year later, where are they two years later, is there a rate of recidivism…,” O’Connor said. “My understanding is the veterans courts have the lowest rate of recidivism amongst their population. I think it is a very worthwhile endeavor.”

The chief justice also told the Journal-News that veterans courts have produced not only veterans who don’t offend again, but people whose problems have been solved through all the various services they have received under the court’s supervision.

“By the time they get out they’ve got a high level of employment amongst their ranks, a stable living situation which they didn’t have, chances are when they came in there. Chances are they weren’t employed or they were marginally employed,” O’Connor said. “They have other indicators of stability.”

Wall said his veterans are hooked up with the Dayton VA, its social workers and myriad of services and the Butler County vet board. He said they are in the program for a year and the strict oversight the court provides is another success factor.

“Some of them are reporting back to me as soon as two weeks,” he said. “Then we can drop it off to a month and then six months…,” he said. “We keep bringing them back and they’ve got to verify they are in the program and they are doing what we recommend.”

For the county common pleas court to add a VTC, no additional funds are needed because adequate staffing is already in place. Unlike the other specialty courts, veterans don’t have to live in the county to get on the VTC docket, but they do have to have a felony case from the county.

Veterans who are already in the court system won’t be switched over, especially if they are already doing well under their current probation terms. But parole violators would likely move to Oster’s court.

“I don’t anticipate it being an overwhelming number (of veterans), but we’re not going to restrict it either,” said Rob Menke, manager of court administration. “We’re not going to say ‘we’re at capacity now so this veteran is not appropriate.’ We’re going to continue to offer services and if we need expansion with additional supervision officers or additional veterans justice outreach, maybe from the VA, maybe that’s something to look at.”

Butler County Court Administrator Wayne Gilkison said there are no leniency provisions in the program, and the veterans will be treated according to the law.

“It’ll be no different than any other offender that comes through,” he said. “They would be eligible (to have their felony record expunged) according to the time frames prescribed by Ohio Revised Court.”

Oster said he and the other common pleas judges felt this was a worthy cause.

“The reality is if we can’t make time to help our veterans then I don’t think there is really time for anything,” he said. “These are men and women who have given us the abilities and the freedoms to even have our jobs and our freedom and the liberties that we have. If we can’t make time to help them, then there’s something wrong.”

Power restored to thousands, hundreds remain without following severe storms

Published: Saturday, July 22, 2017 @ 6:45 AM

DP&L/Provided
DP&L/Provided

UPDATE @ 8:27 a.m.

Power has been restored to all but 5 homes in Preble County while over 700 remain without electricity in Montgomery County, according to a DP&L outage map. 

A series of strong storms that moved through the West Alexandria area in Preble County are responsible for the outages, according to DP&L Director of Operations Kevin Hall.

Downed trees and wind damage have caused similar outages in Miami, Greene and Clark Counties. 

“We have crews continuing to clean up from storms since yesterday,” Hall said. “We’ve been in storms operation mode attempting to restore power.”

Ohio Edison reports 751 homes are without power in Clark County as a result of storm damage.

Hall did not advise when crews would have all power restored.

A downed tree can be seen in the 2900 block of Brewster Court in Springfield Saturday morning. (Angie Hess/Contributed)

UPDATE @ 7:24 a.m.

Another 120 homes in Clark County are without power, according to an Ohio Edison outage map. 

Downed tree limbs and wind damage have been reported in Springfield near Providence Road. 

Additional power outages have been reported in Montgomery County with DP&L reporting 561 outages. 

1,600 homes remain in the dark in Preble County. 

We are working to learn what power crews are doing to restore service following Saturday morning's severe weather.

A mangled shed can be seen in the front yard of this Springfield home near Providence Road. (Robert Yontz/Contributed)

INITIAL REPORT

Nearly 1,600 Preble County homes are without power following severe weather Saturday morning, according to a DP&L outage map. 

A DP&L representative could not be reached for comment, but multiple downed trees have been reported in the county. 

Another 570 outages are reported in Clark County, according to Ohio Edison. 

141 DP&L customers living in Montgomery County are without power, while another 208 are without in Miami County. 

RELATED: Stormy start to weekend 

We are continuing to monitor power outages and damage reports as severe weather makes its way through the Miami Valley Saturday morning.

Prince George marks his fourth birthday with official photo

Published: Saturday, July 22, 2017 @ 6:45 AM

Prince George  smiles for his fourth birthday pictures.
Chris Jackson/Getty Images
Prince George smiles for his fourth birthday pictures.(Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

Prince George celebrates his fourth birthday on Saturday, and the royal family released photographs of the beaming child, the Independent reported.

>> Read more trending news

The son of Prince William and his wife Kate is third in line to the British throne.

In a statement, Kensington Palace said that "The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are delighted to share a new official portrait of Prince George to mark His Royal Highness's fourth birthday tomorrow.

"The Duke and Duchess are very pleased to share this lovely picture as they celebrate Prince George's fourth birthday, and would like to thank everyone for all of the kind messages they have received."

Over 500 cars checked, no arrests made during OVI checkpoint in Sidney

Published: Saturday, July 22, 2017 @ 6:25 AM

Thinkstock
Thinkstock

No arrests were made during a Friday night OVI checkpoint in Sidney, according to the Piqua post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

506 cars were stopped and checked during the 3 hour checkpoint on Wapakoneta Avenue near Pinehurst Street. 

Sidney officers assisted troopers with the traffic stops and arrested a person with an active warrant during saturation patrols. 

“At the end of the evening, our ultimate goal is just to educate motorists to do the right thing and make other arrangements if they are going to consume alcohol”, Lieutenant Joseph Gebhart said. 

“There is no place for impaired driving on our roadways and the public supports the efforts of these men and women out here tonight making their community safer."

Republican tax reform plan may be limited by GOP budget

Published: Saturday, July 22, 2017 @ 6:17 AM

Republican plans for tax reform could be less sweeping than originally envisioned by the White House and GOP leaders in Congress, as a provision in a House GOP budget blueprint would require any tax bill to be ‘budget neutral,’ which would force lawmakers to offset any tax cuts with revenue increases that could be difficult in some cases to gain approval.

Deep in the fine print of the budget resolution for next year, the Republican plan allows for a tax reform bill under budget reconciliation, “if such measure would not increase the deficit for the total of fiscal years 2018 through 2027.”

In other words, you can’t just cut taxes – which technically deprive the federal treasury of revenue, and therefore increase the budget deficit – you have to find revenue to pay for those tax cuts.

And Republicans on the House Budget Committee were actively trumpeting that message.

On Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan was touting tax reform during a trip to a New Balance factory in Massachusetts.

“First and foremost, we’re going to cut your taxes,” the Speaker said.

But when a tax plan is deficit neutral – a cut for one person means that revenue must be found somewhere else to offset that reduction – in other words, some other tax increase, mainly one would assume by taking away deductions in the tax code.

And many veterans of Capitol Hill say that’s not going to be easy.

“I spent much of 2011-16 negotiating tax reform proposals in the Senate,” said Brian Reidl, a Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, who used to work for Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH).

“Revenue-neutral tax reform will make health care look easy,” Riedl said in a post on Twitter.

Key Republicans have made clear that they want to put together a proposal that dramatically simplifies the current tax system.

“So 96% of the people can do their tax return on a single postcard size,” said House Budget Committee Chair Rep. Diane Black (R-TN).

To do that, you would lower tax rates, and then most likely eliminate or reduce tax deductions – and that’s where things get tricky.

Do you get rid of the deduction for mortgage insurance? Lots of people talk about that, but it always goes nowhere.

What about the deduction for state and local taxes? That has bipartisan opposition in and around big cities on the East Coast.

The tax break on employer provided health care benefits? That went nowhere fast in the negotiations over the GOP bill to overhaul the Obama health law.

End or restrict the business interest deduction? Hard to imagine.

Deficit neutral tax reform – it sounds wonky. But it’s a pretty important development that may rein in the scope of a GOP tax plan.