Trump EPA head praises Great Lakes program administration plans to eliminate

Published: Thursday, June 15, 2017 @ 9:14 PM

FILE - In this Aug. 3, 2014, file photo, an algae bloom covers Lake Erie near the City of Toledo water intake crib about 2.5 miles off the shore of Curtice, Ohio. Several environmental groups in Ohio and Michigan are suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, saying the agency isn’t doing enough to protect Lake Erie from toxic algae. The federal lawsuit filed Tuesday, April 25, 2017, said the EPA needs to step in and take action under the Clean Water Act. Algae blooms in the shallowest of the Great Lakes have fouled drinking water in recent years and are a threat to wildlife and water quality. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari, File)
Washington Bureau
FILE - In this Aug. 3, 2014, file photo, an algae bloom covers Lake Erie near the City of Toledo water intake crib about 2.5 miles off the shore of Curtice, Ohio. Several environmental groups in Ohio and Michigan are suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, saying the agency isn’t doing enough to protect Lake Erie from toxic algae. The federal lawsuit filed Tuesday, April 25, 2017, said the EPA needs to step in and take action under the Clean Water Act. Algae blooms in the shallowest of the Great Lakes have fouled drinking water in recent years and are a threat to wildlife and water quality. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari, File)(Washington Bureau)

Environmental Protection Agency director Scott Pruitt may not be on board with White House plans to cut programs that directly affect the Great Lakes.

Pruitt defended the program before the House Appropriations Committee on Thursday, in a report from the Detroit Free Press. Pruitt said cuts to the restoration program may cripple efforts to halt the invasive Asian carp, algae blooms that have become more problematic as agriculture has grown in the state, and efforts to protect drinking water.

STAY UPDATED: DDN’s Ohio Politics Blog

The Trump administration has proposed a 30 percent cut to the agencies budget along with eliminating 3,800 jobs. The budget isn’t expected to pass. 

Congressman Mary Kaptur and David Joyce of Ohio questioned Pruitt on whether there would be room for the program with the cut the administration planned. Both parties have been critical of the budget, which in early planning would cut funding to any geographically centered projects. That would affect funding for the  Great Lakes as well as other areas in Ohio.

Pruitt said he looked forward to working with Congress to make sure the funding remains in the budget for the Great Lakes. Kaptur invited Pruitt for a tour of the lakes. 

Should Ohio legalize recreational marijuana? Voters may decide in 2018.

Published: Sunday, December 10, 2017 @ 7:57 PM
Updated: Monday, December 11, 2017 @ 6:35 PM

What to know about the legalization of medical marijuana in Ohio

Ohio voters could decide in 2018 to legalize marijuana for recreational use if supporters of a constitutional amendment are able to get the issue on the November ballot.

Cincinnati businessman Jimmy Gould and his business partner Ian James of Coumbus, the driving force behind the 2015 marijuana legalization issue that voters rejected by nearly a 2-to-1 margin, are behind a very different plan for 2018.

TAKE OUR POLL:Should Ohio legalize marijuana?

Gould and James are crafting ballot language for a constitutional amendment that would create a free market system for adult consumption of marijuana.

Highlights of the plan:

* Ohioans age 21 and older would be allowed to grow and use marijuana in private;

* commercial growers and sellers would be regulated similar to businesses that produce and sell alcohol;

* using marijuana in public would be prohibited;

* employers would retain the right to have drug free workplace policies and landlords would be allowed to prohibit its production and use on their property;

* operating a vehicle under the influence of marijuana would be prohibited;

* local governments would control how many marijuana businesses operate in their community and voter approval would be required for dispensaries in their precincts.

To get on the November ballot, Gould and James need approval of their ballot issue from the attorney general and Ohio Ballot Board and then they’d have to collect 305,592 valid voter signatures by the July 4 deadline.

“Here is what I can assure you: this will be on the ballot. We will get the signatures and we will spend whatever is necessary to spend to get it on the ballot,” Gould said. “We will get the 305,000 signatures, no matter what it costs.

He noted that he and James are the only ones in Ohio to put a marijuana legalization question to the voters.

The two men failed to convince voters in 2015 that their “ResponsibleOhio” plan to grant 10 growing licenses to the investors bankrolling the multi-million dollar campaign was a good idea. But the issue did convince lawmakers that they’d rather adopt a highly regulated medical marijuana program — and write the rules — rather than risk it going to the ballot again.

Criticism of medical marijuana program

On Monday, Gould delivered a broadside of the Kasich administration over the state’s new medical marijuana program.

Gould and James less than two weeks ago learned their company had been passed over by the Ohio Department of Commerce for one of 12 coveted large-scale cultivator licenses for medical marijuana.

“If we lost in a fair and balanced process then we would accept that. That’s not what happened,” Gould said during an hour-long press conference in downtown Columbus.

Related: Springfield, Yellow Springs to get large scale marijuana operations

In June 2016, Gov. John Kasich signed a bill into law that authorizes marijuana use by patients with 21 conditions, including cancer or chronic pain, in the form of edibles, oils, patches and vaporizing. Patients and their caregivers will be allowed to possess up to a 90-day supply. Smoking or home growing it is barred.

Gould denies that the ballot proposal they are pushing for 2018 is sour grapes for not getting a medical marijuana license.

Still, Gould said that parallel to the ballot issue effort will be a full-scale legal challenge to the commerce department program. He called on Commerce Department Director Jacqueline Williams to step down and he pinned problems with the medical marijuana program on Kasich, who Gould described as an absentee governor.

“This thing has gotten to the point of the obnoxious, disgusting way governments get out of control when there is nobody at home watching the farm. No one,” he said.

Commerce Department spokeswoman Kerry Francis said she isn’t aware of any plans for Williams to resign.

Commerce officials have said they were unaware that Trevor Bozeman, whose company was hired to help score the applications, had been convicted of drug dealing in 2005. Bozeman could not be reached for comment. Applicants were required to undergo extensive background checks — a standard that Gould said should have also been applied to those scoring the proposals.

The 97 applicants who did not win one of the dozen licenses will be notified this week of the appeals process.

Related: Ohio announces first set of marijuana grower licenses

The Medical Marijuana Control Program is managed by the commerce department, pharmacy board and state medical board.

Regulators have been busy writing rules and guidelines for growers, processors, testing labs, dispensaries, patients and caregivers as well as reviewing and scoring applications for licenses. It is expected to be fully operational by September 2018.

Marijuana remains an illegal drug under federal law.

Related: Marijuana campaign admits mistakes

How will Ohio know gun owners don’t use medical pot? The honor system

Published: Friday, December 08, 2017 @ 12:20 PM


            John Thyne, owner of Peabody Sports in Clearcreek Twp., Warren County, is a federally licensed dealer. Here, he discusses gun background checks and internet sales of firearms. CHRIS STEWART / STAFF
John Thyne, owner of Peabody Sports in Clearcreek Twp., Warren County, is a federally licensed dealer. Here, he discusses gun background checks and internet sales of firearms. CHRIS STEWART / STAFF

Once Ohio’s medical marijuana program gets off the ground, the state will rely on the honor system to ensure those seeking concealed-carry permits aren’t also licensed to use pot for medical reasons.

Federal law prohibits cannabis users from possessing a gun or getting a CCW, but background checks conducted before Ohioans buy firearms or get a concealed-carry permit won’t indicate whether or not someone is registered as a medical marijuana user.

The medical marijuana patient registry will be accessible only to qualified doctors, Ohio Board of Pharmacy spokesman Cameron McNamee said.

RELATED: No guns: Ohio’s medical marijuana users won’t be able to have firearms

“The patient registry itself is protected information and only those doctors who are certified will be able to access the patient registry,” he said.

If someone purchases medical cannabis from a licensed dispensary, that information will be entered into the Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System to make sure someone doesn’t buy more than the legal limit of a 90-day supply. But access to OARRS is limited to doctors and pharmacists.

“It’s locked down pretty tight,” McNamee said.

Law enforcement and heathcare regulators – such as medical board or board of pharmacy investigators — only have access to these systems if they have an active drug investigation, McNamee said. They can’t take the data in bulk or go fishing for names.

RELATED: Next step taken in Ohio medical marijuana: 5 things you should know

This means the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) won’t have that information. NICS is the system used by licensed gun dealers and law enforcement agencies that issue concealed-carry permits to make sure someone is legally allowed to possess a gun.

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office this week confirmed that Ohioans who use marijuana – even legally under state law – are prohibited from obtaining a concealed carry permit.

“Ohio CCW law requires persons to follow federal law,” spokesman Dan Tierney said. “Federal law prohibits you from having a firearm if you use marijuana because it’s a Schedule 1 drug.”

Gun buyers who purchase from a licensed dealer must sign a form attesting they don’t use marijuana, even medically. Lying on the form is a felony under federal law, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

But Ohio law doesn’t require a background check or federal form for same-state private firearm transactions, including many guns sold online or at gun shows, as long as the seller has no reason to believe the buyer is prohibited from possessing a gun.

Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer to run for Ohio House

Published: Thursday, November 30, 2017 @ 5:19 PM
Updated: Friday, December 01, 2017 @ 4:20 PM

Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer to run for Ohio House

Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer is running for the 40th Ohio House seat now held by term-limited state Rep. Mike Henne, R-Clayton, but plans to remain sheriff throughout the 2018 campaign.  

House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger introduced and endorsed Plummer at a Dayton Country Club press conference Friday morning, saying the Republican sheriff’s experience gives him valuable insight on the opioid crisis.  

“I can’t remember the last time we had a sheriff coming to the general assembly,” said Rosenberger, R-Clarksville. 

 Plummer’s term ends in December 2020 and the Montgomery County Republican Party Central Committee would select his successor if Plummer wins the statehouse seat. Plummer said if he wins he wants Chief Deputy Rob Streck to take over as sheriff.  

Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer announced on Friday that he will run in the Republican primary for the 40th Ohio House of Representatives seat now held by State Rep. Mike Henne, R-Clayton. Henne is term limited.

“I’d be glad and proud to be the sheriff of Montgomery County,” Streck said in an interview after the press conference.  

At this point Plummer is the only declared Republican candidate for the 40th district seat, which includes Huber Heights, Englewood, Riverside, Butler Twp. Clay Twp. and parts of Dayton and Clayton.  

Former Dayton School Board member Adil Baguirov had previously announced he was running as a Republican for the seat but now says he will not.

RELATED: Baguirov steps down from Dayton School Board

“I’ve met with Sheriff Plummer and decided to endorse him. So I’m not going to run for this position,” said Baguirov.

Mark Owens, chairman of the Montgomery County Democratic Party, said Don Shaffer of Montgomery County has taken out petitions to run for Henne’s seat. Shaffer could not be reached for comment. 

Plummer is also chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Party and plans to remain in that job.

He said his focus in the Statehouse would be battling the opioid crisis and trying to stop the unfunded mandates from the state that make it difficult for counties to provide services.

Plummer, who as sheriff runs the county jail, has been faced with multiple lawsuits over allegations of mistreatment of prisoners. Asked about that, Plummer said, “people make mistakes. None of us are perfect.”

RELATED: Montgomery County voting to settle another lawsuit against jail

He said he has “an outdated jail that’s overcrowded, 30 percent of the people are suffering from mental illnesses, 50 percent of the people are on drugs” and he has too few staff to manage the jail. He said it is more evidence of the need for better funding for law enforcement.

Plummer, 53, has been sheriff since he was appointed in to take over for former Sheriff Dave Vore, who retired in July 2008. Plummer was elected that November and has served ever since.

He began his career as a corrections officer in the jail 30 years ago and rose through the ranks to become Vore’s chief deputy.

“I love my job. I have the best job in the world,” Plummer said. “(But) after 30 years it can take a toll on you.”

Rosenberger said the 40th District is one of more than 20 seats he’s recruiting candidates to fill as term limits take out a relatively large number of house members in 2018.

“Yes, it’s going to be a pretty large class of a turnover for the Ohio House,” Rosenberger said. “I’m trying to go out and support good candidates that I think will bring the right kind of quality of experience to the general assembly.”

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RTA to buy 26 electric trolley buses — at $1.2 million each

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It’s the largest bus contract in RTA’s history: Here's what you need to know

Published: Friday, October 20, 2017 @ 12:13 PM
Updated: Friday, October 20, 2017 @ 1:01 PM

After nearly three years of testing the NexGen electric trolley Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority is buying 26 of the buses at a cost of about $1.2 million each and will put the first production model on the street by early 2019.

The new NexGen battery-electric trolley buses Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority is purchasing might leave people wondering how a bus with trolley poles can be motoring down the road on its own power without a trolley wire in sight. Here are five things to know about the new buses:

The cost: RTA will buy 26 of the buses for about $1.2 million now and 15 more when federal funding can be lined up. The $57.4 million contract with Kiepe Electric of Georgia for buses and parts is the largest bus contract in RTA history.

The battery:This is not your grandfather’s battery. The NexGen has a 3,000-pound Lithium Titanate Oxide battery with a 12-year lifespan that can power a fully loaded bus at full speed for 15 miles off wire.

A 3,000 pound battery powers the NexGen electric trolley that Greater Dayton RTA will buy to replace its current fleet of ETI trolleys.

Bang for buck:The NexGen trolley bus has a lifespan of 18 to 20 years and 800,000 miles. It costs 63 percent more than a standard diesel bus but lasts longer, is cheaper to operate, is better for the environment and quieter, said Mark Donaghy, RTA executive director.

RELATED: RTA to buy 26 electric trolley buses — at $1.2 million each

Testing: RTA tested four prototypes of the NexGen — which is short for Next Generation —before deciding on the electric-battery version. The first production bus arrives in about 15 months and then RTA hopes to get two a month after that.

Old bus retirement: RTA will eventually retire its fleet of Electric Trolley Inc. buses, which have been on the road since 1998 and plagued by multiple problems over the years.

This aging ETI electric trolley is part of the Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority trolley fleet that will be replaced by NexGen battery-electric trolleys. TY GREENLEES / STAFF(File Photo)

RELATED: A High-cost Laboratory

Other vehicle technology stories by Lynn Hulsey

The newest frontier for hackers: your car

Would you ride in a car with a brain?

‘Smart car’ technology may make roads safer, but some fear data hacks