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With driver’s license suspensions soaring, lawmakers seek solutions

Published: Saturday, December 02, 2017 @ 7:00 AM


            State Rep. Jim Butler, R-Oakwood. CHRIS STEWART/STAFF
            Chris Stewart
State Rep. Jim Butler, R-Oakwood. CHRIS STEWART/STAFF(Chris Stewart)

Ohio lawmakers seem ready to relax some restrictions on the driving privileges of those who have lost their licenses and have little means to pay the reinstatement fees.

At least three bills related to license suspensions are pending in the Ohio legislature.

In one, co-sponsored by Jim Butler, R-Ohio, limited driving privileges would be restored for those whose driver’s licenses were suspended for issues unrelated to driving or using a vehicle for criminal purposes.

In Ohio, there are at least 32 ways people can lose their driver’s license, including dropping out of high school.

In another measure, co-sponsored by Sen. Matt Huffman, R-Lima, judges would be allowed to impose community service in lieu of paying reinstatement fees.

The proposed reforms come as license suspensions soar in Ohio. Last year, 1.1 million Ohioans had their driver’s license suspended for one or more reasons — nearly 12 percent of those old enough to drive in the state.

“There’s this permanent underclass that we’ve created,” Huffman said. “If you’re $4,000 or $5,000 down and that’s what it takes to get your driver’s license, you just don’t do it.”

LGBT bill picks up support in Ohio

Published: Wednesday, January 17, 2018 @ 4:05 PM


            State Rep. Nickie Antonio, D-Lakewood, says advocates for gay rights have pushed bills for nearly a decade to protect LGBT Ohioans against discrimination in housing and jobs. She thinks a bill this session may stand a chance. LAURA A. BISCHOFF/PHOTO
            Laura A. Bischoff
State Rep. Nickie Antonio, D-Lakewood, says advocates for gay rights have pushed bills for nearly a decade to protect LGBT Ohioans against discrimination in housing and jobs. She thinks a bill this session may stand a chance. LAURA A. BISCHOFF/PHOTO(Laura A. Bischoff)

For nearly 10 years, advocates for gay rights have pushed for legal changes that would protect LGBT Ohioans from discrimination in housing, jobs and places of public accommodation, but in each legislative session the efforts have stalled.

State Rep. Nickie Antonio, D-Lakewood, said this time around, though, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce is backing the bill, giving her hope that it’s an idea whose time has come.

“Ohio should join the 21st century. It’s time, more than time — and protect all of her people, including those from the LBGT community. Passing House Bill 160 would be a great step forward. It would be good for business, Ohio’s economy and also, it’s the right thing to do,” said Antonio.

Related: Kasich to GOP: Get out of the 1980’s

She noted that the Ohio Chamber of Commerce and businesses have pledged to testify in favor of the bill later this month.

The push for House Bill 160 comes at the same time the Human Rights Campaign released a state-by-state report on laws and policies that affect individuals who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.

Sarah Warbelow, legal director for HRC, said the report grades states on what basic protections it provides residents and visitors when it comes to employment, housing, hate crimes, services to youths in foster care, bans on conversion therapy and other issues.

Ohio is among 28 states lacking non-discrimination protections for LGBT people in housing, employment and places of public accommodation, the report says. House Bill 160 would change the Ohio Civil Rights Law to add these protections and preserve all religious exemptions in current law, Antonio said.

Related: Does Ohio need a law protecting religious freedom?

The bill is backed by Ohio Business Competes, a coalition of some 300 businesses that support the changes.

While some employers and local communities have non-discrimination policies, Antonio said it’s time for a statewide law.

“Your ZIP Code should not determine whether you have equal rights and protections,” she said. “We should live in a state where someone can work in one community but decide to buy a home in another community and not look into their policies to find out whether or not their family will be welcome there. Come on, we can do better.”

Kucinich launches governor bid; is in area today

Published: Wednesday, January 17, 2018 @ 11:36 AM
Updated: Wednesday, January 17, 2018 @ 1:24 PM

Former U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich speaks during a news conference announcing his run for Ohio governor, Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Middleburg Heights, Ohio. Kucinich said he would muster state resources to fight poverty and violence, boost arts and education and expand economic opportunity. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Tony Dejak/AP
Former U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich speaks during a news conference announcing his run for Ohio governor, Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Middleburg Heights, Ohio. Kucinich said he would muster state resources to fight poverty and violence, boost arts and education and expand economic opportunity. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)(Tony Dejak/AP)

Former U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich today announced he will join the crowded Democratic field in the 2018 race for Ohio governor.

Kucinich, a former mayor of Cleveland, made it official

at noon today at a rally in Middleburg Heights in Cuyahoga County.

He pledged to focus on fighting poverty and violence and to promote economic opportunity the arts and education, according to the Associated Press.

Later today he will travel to Columbus and Miami Twp. in southern Montgomery County to meet with the media.

He’ll continue the launch tour Thursday with stops in Cincinnati and Toledo.

Kucinich, who ran unsuccessfully for president in 2004 and 2008, appeared this morning on Fox News’ “Fox & Friends,” and said he believes he can attract people who voted for President Donald Trump.

RELATED: Ex-Congressman Dennis Kucinich to launch bid for governor

“I can reach out to the people who voted for President Trump,” he said. “I can show them that there are Democrats who stand solidly for economic progress, who want to protect our markets, who want to stand up for everyday Americans.”

Kucinich, 71, lost his congressional seat in 2012 to U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo, after the Republican redistricting of 2011 put the two Democrats in the same district. He enters the governor’s race relatively late but has been traveling the state over the last year denouncing public funding for charter schools and in support of state Issue 2, the prescription drug ballot issue that failed in November.

RELATED: Kucinich goes after charter schools in Dayton area visit

With the Feb. 7 filing deadline for the May 8 primary approaching, the Democratic and Republican fields are solidifying.

Last week Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley withdrew from the Democratic primary and threw her support behind Richard Cordray, former director of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and a former Ohio treasurer and attorney general. Cordray’s running mate is former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton of Akron.

Richard Cordray and Betty Sutton

RELATED: Dayton Mayor Whaley drops out of governor’s race

Also in the race are former state representative Connie Pillich of Cincinnati, who has not picked a running mate; state Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Boardman, who is running with Ohio Board of Education member Stephanie Dodd; and Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O’Neill, whose running mate is Chantelle E. Lewis, a Lorain elementary school principal.

RELATED: O’Neill’s boast of sexual liaisons brings calls for his resignation

Mike DeWine and Jon Husted

The ballot is less crowded on the Republican side where Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and his running mate, Secretary of State Jon Husted, are opposed by Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor and running mate Nathan Estruth, a Cincinnati businessman.

See more stories by Lynn Hulsey

U.S. Senate candidates Renacci and Brown spar over Trump’s comment about immigrants

Ohio Republican Senate race battle of multimillionaires

Ohio could have two redistricting proposals on ballots this year 

Jordan: Clinton, not Trump, sought Russia help to influence election

Published: Monday, January 15, 2018 @ 11:50 AM
Updated: Monday, January 15, 2018 @ 11:50 AM

Jim Jordan on WHIO

Rep. Jim Jordan has emerged as a top defender of President Donald Trump as the Justice Department’s Russia investigation continues, leading some to wonder if the GOP insurgent known for causing heartburn to the party establishment has become a surrogate for the president.

For Jordan, it’s very straightforward: He says it was the Hillary Clinton campaign — not the Trump campaign — that worked with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election, namely by paying for the compilation of a dossier meant to embarrass Trump. Former FBI director James Comey testified in June that some of the information in that dossier was “salacious and unverified,” but Jordan argues that the FBI nonetheless used it to obtain warrants to spy on Trump campaign officials.

RELATED: Jordan, Davidson at odds with GOP over spy bill

He began questioning the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller last month, spurring headlines when he told Fox News that “everything points to the fact that there was an orchestrated plan to try to prevent Donald Trump from becoming the next president of the United States.”

He amplified those comments in January, publishing a piece with Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., in the Washington Examiner that urged Attorney General Jeff Sessions to step down because of Justice Department leaks regarding the case.

Jordan has been so upfront with his criticism of the Russia investigation that CNN host John Berman, in a recent interview with Jordan, asked him if he was coordinating talking points with the White House.

“Of course not,” Jordan said.

‘Key moment in history’

Whether Jordan is motivated by the dedication of a dogged true believer or whether he’s doing it to get in good graces with the Trump administration has stirred plenty of debate.

A Capitol Hill Republican who declined to be named so he could speak candidly said Jordan’s criticism of the investigation is part of a larger effort aimed at positioning the Freedom Caucus, led by Jordan, for a leadership role in the next Congress.

“This whole mop-up duty for the president is jockeying for the next Congress and leadership,” he said.

REALTED: Ex Speaker Boehner goes off on Jordan

But others say Jordan’s full-throated criticism of the investigation comes from sincerity.

“If I know anything about Jim Jordan, it’s that he sticks to his guns, sticks to his principles,” said former Ohio GOP chairman Matt Borges, who has been a critic of Trump. “I think he says that stuff because he believes it.”

Democrats accuse Jordan of serving as a surrogate for Trump.

“This will be his legacy,” Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper said. “This is a key moment in history. We know another government interfered with our election and he was one of the congressmen working to stop the American people from knowing what happened…we all should want answers to what happened.”

Jordan: ‘You cannot do that in America’

In an interview, Jordan defending his recent statements, saying the Russia investigation was started under flawed circumstances. He has worked to point out problems with the investigation, including the fact that the FBI began its investigation based on a dossier compiled out of research paid for by the Clinton campaign.

“If the FBI took an opposition research document that was unsubstantiated, that was paid for by the Clinton campaign and dressed it up like legitimate intelligence — you cannot do that in America,” he said.

Jordan said he is also concerned about text messages exchanged by two top FBI officers who were having an extramarital affair. One of the officers, Peter Strzock, ran both the investigation of whether Clinton downloaded classified information on her personal email server as well as the investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the campaign.

Strzock last year was removed from the Russia probe over the text messages, one of which called the possibility of a Trump victory “terrifying” and another referring to an “insurance policy” in case he was elected.

Jordan said he thinks the “insurance policy” Strzock referred to was the dossier.

Sounding much like Trump himself, who accused Strzock of treason last week, Jordan said: “To date, we have not one bit of evidence that shows there was coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia to influence the election. But we have hard facts that say the Clinton campaign paid Russia to do what? Influence the election — to gather material to influence the election” in Clinton’s favor.

Frequent critic

This is far from the first time Jordan has become entrenched in a controversial congressional investigation, or fired spears at the opposition party. He was a key critic of accusations that the IRS unfairly denied tax-exempt status to tea party organizations, and he was among the most vocal on the 2015 House investigation of 2012 attacks on an embassy in Benghazi, Libya.

Rep. Warren Davidson, a Troy Republican who is a close ally of Jordan’s, dismisses the notion that Jordan’s investigations are partisan, saying he has been equally hard on GOP Attorney General Jeff Sessions as he was on Obama attorney generals Loretta Lynch and Eric Holder.

“It seems like that this is an investigation about Trump, and in reality, the purpose of this investigation is to understand how Russia tried to influence our elections,” Davidson said.

Meadows, chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, which Jordan helped found, said Jordan “believes the government should be there to serve the people but not pick winners and losers…he’s been consistent with trying to make sure he holds the government accountable.”

But Pepper described a different Jordan, one who “is literally buying into the most extreme of the conspiracy theories.”

“It’s one thing just to have that opinion,” he said. “But that’s not just his opinion. He’s actively involved in very concrete ways to being a roadblock to an investigation of something serious.”

Local Republicans Jordan, Davidson at odds with party over spy bill

Published: Friday, January 12, 2018 @ 7:05 PM
Updated: Friday, January 12, 2018 @ 7:05 PM

Congressmen Warren Davidson and Jim Jordan
Congressmen Warren Davidson and Jim Jordan

When the Republican-controlled U.S. House this week approved an extension of a National Security Agency program that permits the agency to monitor phone calls and e-mails between foreigners abroad and Americans, local Republicans Warren Davidson of Troy and Jim Jordan of Urbana were among the 164 lawmakers to vote no.

RELATED: House OKs spy program after conflicting Trump tweets

They were also the only two Ohio Republicans to oppose the measure. That put Jordan and Davidson in unusual company, aligned with liberal Democrats.

The bill, which now goes to the Senate where passage is expected..

Opponents say the measure risks the civil liberties of Americans while backers insist the NSA needs the authority to prevent future terrorist attacks. The bill extends a law originally approved in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York and suburban Washington.

In a floor speech during the debate, Davidson said “the foreign enemies of our country are not subject to the protections of our Constitution. American citizens, however are.”

He accused the bill’s backers of ignoring the Fourth Amendment, which protects Americans against unreasonable searches and seizures. “It is your data that is at subject here,” Davidson said. “The Fourth Amendment does not change when communications shift from postal service … to a data base.”

The two Ohio Republicans supported an amendment that would have forced the federal government to seek a warrant before searching data for information on Americans. Fifty-six other Republicans joined Jordan and Davidson, but a coalition of 178 Republicans and 55 Democrats defeated the amendment.

The House then voted 256-to-164 to pass the overall bill.