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Lawmakers pushing for Columbus to get national veterans museum

Published: Thursday, September 14, 2017 @ 12:13 PM
Updated: Thursday, September 14, 2017 @ 12:13 PM


            Lawmakers pushing for Columbus to get national veterans museum
Lawmakers pushing for Columbus to get national veterans museum

To hear Reps. Joyce Beatty and Steve Stivers tell it, Columbus is an ideal place to host the National Veterans Memorial and Museum.

The state, they said hosts the 6th largest veterans population in the U.S. If that’s not enough, it’s within an eight–hour car ride of almost half of the nation’s veterans.

Speaking before a House panel Wednesday, Stivers and Beatty argued that a memorial to the nation’s veterans was long overdue — and that Columbus was all too happy to change that. The site, argued Stivers, “will serve as a civic landmark to honor, inspire and educate all Americans about the service and sacrifice of more than 22 million veterans in this country.”

Under construction and scheduled to open next summer, the site started as a replacement for Columbus’ previous veterans memorial and then blossomed into something far more sweeping and ambitious, said Stivers. Now, he, Beatty and Rep. Pat Tiberi, R–Genoa Township are pushing a bill that would designate it a national museum.

It wouldn’t be the state’s only museum honoring the armed services or those who have served: Roughly an hour’s drive away, Dayton hosts the National Museum of the United States Air Force.

During a hearing on the bill Wednesday, Matthew Sullivan, deputy undersecretary for finance and planning and CFO for the National Cemetery Administration for the Department of Veterans Affairs, said the department neither supported nor opposed locating the museum in Columbus. “VA respectfully expresses no view on the proposed bill, which does not apply to VA or to VA’s core mission,” he testified.

But Alex Zhang, assistant director of National Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation for the American Legion, said his organization backs the bill. He said the bill would “represent American veterans with profound respect, connecting them with the civilian population, possibly inspiring others to serve and most importantly, educating youth about what these fine men and women have done for America.”

The organization, he said, “wholeheartedly supports” the “beautiful, thoughtful” memorial’s designation, he said.

Veterans of Foreign Wars also backed the legislation, with John Towles, deputy director of national legislative service for the organization, telling the House Veterans Affairs Committee’s subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs “our country currently lacks a museum specifically dedicated to honoring and preserving the collective sacrifices made by this nation’s veterans.”

“This museum would serve to fill that gap,” he said.

Groundbreaking for the 50,000 square foot museum and memorial began in 2015, and more than $75 million was raised for design and construction. It’s located at 300 West Broad St. in Columbus, site of the former Franklin County Veterans Memorial.

The entire Ohio congressional delegation is cosponsoring the bill, and Stivers said he hopes to tuck it into a larger legislative package in the months ahead. Sens. Sherrod Brown, D–Ohio, and Rob Portman, R–Ohio, are working on a similar measure in the Senate.

Beatty said the museum was in part the brainchild of former Ohio Sen. John Glenn, who died last year.

“If he were here today, he would highlight this museum and memorial,” she said. “He would talk about the 300 foot reflecting pool. He would talk about the memorial wall. He would talk about the sanctuary where veterans families and others could go.

“It’s a tremendous idea,” she told the panel. “And we ask for your support.”

Silicon Valley fighting Portman’s efforts to end sex trafficking

Published: Tuesday, September 19, 2017 @ 4:12 PM
Updated: Tuesday, September 19, 2017 @ 4:12 PM

Portman For Digital

Sen. Rob Portman’s fight to keep websites from selling children and women online for sex is being met with resistance by Silicon Valley.

Portman, R–Ohio, who along with a small group of senators has waged a years-long battle against Backpage, a classified site infamous for being the leading online market to purchase children for sex, is trying to amend a 1996 law in order to make it harder to sell people for sex online.

The 1996 Communications Decency Act, meant to regulate pornography on the Internet, included a provision that aimed to protect website operators from third parties that might post harmful or illegal material on their site.

Backpage, Portman said, used that 26-word provision in the law to protect themselves from litigation, even as victim after victim tried to sue the site for selling them online. Portman’s bill would change that, allowing sex trafficking victims to sue websites that knowingly allow sex trafficking on their site. His bill would also allow state and local law enforcement to prosecute sites that violate federal sex trafficking laws.

But his effort is being fought by internet companies who fear the law would subject them to unnecessary litigation and would limit their freedom of speech. One organization has been posting online ads on Facebook and Twitter arguing against his bill, and the Internet Association, which represents Google, Facebook and Microsoft, have been among those to oppose the bill.

But at a hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee Tuesday, Portman said his bill is crafted narrowly to protect sites that inadvertently publish illegal or harmful content and aim, instead, at those who are knowingly selling people for sex, as he said Backpage did. The site shut down its “adult” section in January, but still posts “dating” ads online.

He said three-fourths of sexual trafficking victims are exploited online. Many times, he said, predators make their first connection to the victim online. And sex trafficking, he said, is increasing.

He recently visited Youngstown, where he met with a girl whose father began selling her for sex at age nine, bringing her from city to city to sell her at sporting events. She was raped as often as 20 times a day.

The fact that this occurs, Portman said, is “an outrage. It’s a disgrace. And I believe history is going to judge us on how we respond to it.”

But on the other end of the spectrum is Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who wrote the provision now being targeted in Portman’s bill.

He argues Portman’s bill would stifle free speech as well as the very innovation that has caused the Internet to thrive. While he opposes sex trafficking, “I just believe the legislation being considered…is the wrong answer to an important question. “

Eric Goldman, Professor, Santa Clara University School of Law, said the bill would inadvertently hurt the companies that try to moderate harmful or illegal content on their sites. The bill, he said, “doesn’t limit itself to bad actors; it applies to the entire Internet and force services doing moderation to comprehensively review all content they receive.”

RELATED: What’s really going on with Portman sex trafficking bill?

Supporters of the bill, however, found a powerful voice in Yvonne Ambrose, whose daughter, Desiree Robinson, died late last year at the age of 16.

Desiree, said Yvonne Ambrose, “was the light of my life, my firstborn, my only daughter, my heart, my world. And Desiree made me a better person, because she was a beautiful person. She had the brightest smile that could light up a room.”

Desiree had been smart, kind and loving, but searched for love and acceptance beyond her family and friends. An adult man found her on social media, preyed on her and pressured her to sell herself online. On Dec. 23, 2016, a 32-year-old man named Antonio Rosales looked her up through Backpage. The pimp drove her to meet Rosales. One day later, Rosales beat her, raped her, strangled her, and then slit her throat.

If she had not been sold on Backpage, her mother said, she might still be alive today.

“It could be your child,” she said, in tears, surveying the senators on the dais. “Your niece, your nephew, your cousins, your friend’s children next, if you don’t stop this…if you’re going fix this problem, fix it.”

Ohio Patrol cracking down on distracted driving; state considering higher fines

Published: Wednesday, June 21, 2017 @ 3:08 PM
Updated: Tuesday, September 19, 2017 @ 3:25 PM

Distracted driving

The Ohio State Highway Patrol is cracking down on distracting driving with a special effort through July 22.

This is part of a six-state project which includes all of the states that border Ohio. 

“Distracted driving is a reckless and dangerous behavior,” said Colonel Paul A. Pride in a statement. “If you’re behind the wheel, you need to be completely focused on driving. The Ohio State Highway Patrol and our law enforcement partners in our neighboring states know the devastating effects of distracted driving.”

RELATED: Ohio considering major changes for teen drivers

Driving while distracted could cost you an extra $100 if you are pulled over for speeding or another moving violation under a bill the Ohio House of Representatives approved last month.

The law goes beyond driving while texting and State Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg, says it goes too far because it also covers talking on the phone, switching radio stations and other distractions beyond texting.

“To me, its overly expansive. Its not just texting while driving. It’s everything,” Antani said.

“While cracking down on distracted driving is important, this bill will criminalize talking on the phone while driving which is terrible government overreach.”

The bill passed 71-10 but would not become law unless approved by the Ohio Senate and signed by the governor.

The bill is co-sponsored by State Rep. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, and State Rep. Jim Hughes, R-Upper Arlington. It covers moving violations such as speeding, running red lights, disobeying any traffic devices, driving too slowly, improper lane changes and other offenses.

RELATED: Teens involved in more crashes in summer months

“Inspired from previous efforts to bring attention to the dangers of distracted driving, Rep. Hughes worked in coordination with the Ohio Department of Public Safety to draft legislation to create this enhanced penalty, which would not add points to an individual’s driver’s license and would not go on their driving record,” according to a news release on Hughes’ website.

“The enhanced penalty for distracted driving as proposed in House Bill 95 will help provide a deterrent to this reckless and dangerous activity,” Hughes said. “Ultimately, the goal is to save lives by making our roadways safer.”

A person could only be cited for “distracted driving” if the law enforcement officer witnesses the offense while the moving violation is occurring, according to the bill.

In lieu of the fine an offender may instead attend distracted driving safety courses, according to a summary of the bill by the Ohio Legislative Service Commission.

The bill defines “distracted” as:

- Using a handheld electronic wireless communications device - including phones, tablets and computers - except when it is on speakerphone or otherwise hands-free.

- Any activity “that is not necessary to the operation of a vehicle” and could or does impair the driver.

Ohio Supreme Court to decide on new abortion laws

Published: Tuesday, September 19, 2017 @ 10:38 AM
Updated: Tuesday, September 19, 2017 @ 10:38 AM

Demonstrators at the Right to Life Rally in Washington on Jan. 27, 2017.  
AL DRAGO/NYT
Demonstrators at the Right to Life Rally in Washington on Jan. 27, 2017. (AL DRAGO/NYT)

By all accounts, abortion opponents have been racking up win after win in the Ohio Statehouse over the last six years, making it more difficult for women to terminate unwanted pregnancies.

Now the Ohio Supreme Court could cement or unravel those wins, depending on how it decides two pending legal challenges.

The high court heard arguments on Capital Care Network of Toledo versus the Ohio Department of Health on Sept. 12 and will hear Preterm-Cleveland, Inc. versus Gov. John Kasich on Sept. 26. Both cases challenge relatively recent restrictions placed on abortion providers.

Preterm is challenging the constitutionality of including abortion policy in a budget bill, saying the maneuver violates the Ohio Constitution’s single-subject rule.

The restrictions being challenged include: mandating abortion clinics to have written transfer agreements with local hospitals; barring public hospitals on providing transfer agreements; and requiring doctors to inform patients about a detectable heartbeat before performing an abortion.

Capital Care Network is challenging the Ohio Department of Health’s decision to revoke its license when the clinic failed to arrange a transfer agreement with a local hospital.

Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life and a member of the state Medical Board of Ohio, said the cases come down to whether abortion clinics have to follow health and safety regulations imposed on other outpatient surgical centers. Ohio Right to Life calls the Capital Care lawsuit “arguably the most significant abortion case in the history of Ohio.”

“If we lose, the abortion facilities are arguably free from any government oversight,” Gonidakis said.

Kellie Copeland of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio said: “When clinics are forced to close, women must travel long distances and incur even greater out-of-pocket expenses to access care. Women of financial means will be able to go through those extra barriers to access abortion, but many others will not. Those women will be forced to continue pregnancies against their will, or to take matters into their own hands. Ohio is a medical destination state; women should not be denied access to needed health care, or be forced to flee our borders to access care.”

Capital Care Network, the only abortion clinic in the Toledo area, is at risk of closing because it doesn’t have a transfer agreement with a local hospital. The clinic lost its agreement with University of Toledo Hospital and arranged a new one with the University of Michigan 52 miles away. But the state health department determined that Ann Arbor isn’t local and revoked the clinic’s license.

Transfer agreements have been required by administrative rule since 1996 but in 2013, lawmakers embedded the mandate into state law, added the word “local,” and prohibited publicly owned hospitals from providing such agreements. A law adopted later specified 30-miles as the maximum distanced to qualify as local.

Related: Abortion case goes before Ohio Supreme Court

Stephen Carney, deputy solicitor for the Ohio Attorney General’s office, said if Capital Care Network were to close, women would have to drive to Detroit or Ann Arbor for abortion services.

That prompted Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O’Neill to say: “Counsel, surely you didn’t just say that the undue burden is met if we tell women you can’t have an abortion in Ohio but you can certainly go to Michigan.”

States may regulate abortion as long as the restrictions don’t place an undue burden on a woman’s access to abortion.

Related: Ohio key battleground in abortion fight

On Jan. 22, 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in Roe v Wade that women have the constitutional right to terminate their pregnancies. The ruling came in a case that challenged a Texas law that outlawed abortion except when the life of the mother was in danger. It also gave the state the power to regulate abortion to protect the health of the mother and that authority increased as a pregnancy progressed. Once a fetus is viable outside the womb, the state has an interest in protecting that potential life with restrictions on abortions.

NARAL ProChoice Ohio lists 18 items signed by Kasich that restricts access to abortion or reproductive care, including: defunding Planned Parenthood, requiring abortion clinics to have transfer agreements with hospitals within a 30-mile radius, the new ban on abortions after 20 weeks gestation, a prohibition on public hospitals performing abortions or holding transfer agreements with clinics, stricter standards for juveniles seeking judicial bypass instead of parental consent to terminate their pregnancies, and requiring physicians to perform an ultrasound to detect a fetal heartbeat 24 hours before performing an abortion.

Since these new restrictions have been in place, half of the clinics in Ohio have closed.

“If the Supreme Court of Ohio overturns the lower court rulings, it could result in Toledo losing its only abortion provider, and it could jeopardize access across Ohio,” Copeland said. “If hospitals in Dayton, Cincinnati, Akron, Columbus and Cleveland turn their backs on women the way hospitals in Toledo turned their back on Capital Care, clinics could be forced to close in those cities as well.”

The Ohio Supreme Court typically decides cases within six months of oral arguments.

While current abortion restrictions face legal challenges, state lawmakers are considering more:

House Bill 149: Penalties for receiving payment for aborted fetal tissue would be stiffer.

House Bill 214 & Senate Bill 164: Abortions would be prohibited based on the diagnosis that the fetus may have Down Syndrome.

House Bill 258: Abortions would be prohibited once a fetal heartbeat can be detected.

Senate Bill 28: Fetal remains from surgical abortions would have to be cremated or buried.

Senate Bill 145: Performing a dialation and evacuation abortion would be a felony offense.

What questions do you have about Issue 2?

Published: Sunday, September 17, 2017 @ 12:07 PM
Updated: Sunday, September 17, 2017 @ 12:07 PM


            Prescription bottle with pills
Prescription bottle with pills

You’ve probably seen commercials from both sides of Ohio’s prescription drug ballot issue. This campaign could be the most expensive in state history with millions spent on both sides already.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Making sense of Issue 2

We’re committed to helping voters understand Issue 2 before early voting begins in October and we’re taking your questions.

Any questions you have about this ballot issue, you can post them on our Ohio Politics Facebook page or send them to reporter Katie Wedell at kwedell@coxohio.com.

We’ll find the answers and publish them so you can be informed at the polls before early voting starts in October.