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Published: Thursday, October 19, 2017 @ 9:24 PM
CINCINNATI — Three orphaned male manatees in need of rehabilitation arrived Wednesday at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden.
This is part of a collaborative effort by participants of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership, a program designed to rescue and treat sick, injured and orphaned manatees and release them back into the wild.
“We are extremely proud to be part of this conservation program and excited to welcome Pippen, Miles and Mathew to their new home in Cincinnati,” zoo Director Thane Maynard said.
The manatees at the zoo’s Otto M. Budig Family Foundation Manatee Springs habitat. The space for the three orphans became available after two healthy manatees -- Betsy and BamBam -- were returned to Florida.
BamBam will be the 14th manatee from the zoo to be returned to the wild. He is expected to be released in early 2018.
Betsy, who has been at the zoo since 2010, will return to her birthplace, Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, in time for her 27th birthday. She is not considered a candidate for release and will be cared for at the park.
ABOUT THE NEW MANATEES
Published: Wednesday, February 14, 2018 @ 2:44 PM
— Uber is appealing an order from the Ohio Department of Taxation to pay $1.6 million in sales taxes and penalties.
The ride hailing company is arguing the tax law the state is citing doesn’t apply to the company. A hearing before the Board of Tax Appeals has been set for July.
The case only centers around whether Uber Technologies owes taxes for the third quarter of 2015, but could have larger implications than the $1.6 million it allegedly owes for those three months.
The Ohio Department of Taxation said through a spokesman that it couldn’t comment beyond the final determination it issued to Uber. Uber said in a statement that “While we can’t comment on the specifics of ongoing litigation, we are working closely with the Ohio Department of Taxation on this matter.”
Policy Matters Ohio, a left leaning think tank, said based on the audit for one quarter, Uber would owe $13.5 million in taxes since July 2015 if it had to collect since then, and that figure also does not cover earlier operations or take into account the company’s growth.
The dispute reflects the growing effort to figure out how to tax and regulate the “gig economy,” as companies like AirBnb and Uber are grabbing business from other more heavily taxed industries like taxis and hotels. Regulators are asserting that the states are being cheated on revenue by these startups, which look a lot like businesses the state is already collecting millions in taxes on.
In Uber’s case in Ohio, the company is arguing that it is not a transportation service provider but rather a “transportation network company.” Uber said in its notice of appeal, filed Nov. 6, that its employees don’t provide transportation services, because it is the contracted drivers, not the actual Uber employees, who are doing the transporting.
Uber also argues that collecting a sales tax on the services provided by the drivers violates the Internet Tax Freedom Act.
The state in a Sept. 9, 2016 letter, told Uber that the meets the definition of a vendor of transportation services, which would have to pay the taxes in question. Uber set the prices, controlled the quality and drivers and received payment for services.
Published: Friday, December 08, 2017 @ 12:20 PM
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.
“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.
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.
Published: Thursday, January 25, 2018 @ 6:25 PM
Updated: Friday, January 26, 2018 @ 3:53 PM
DAYTON — Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said “we’re looking at all our options” when asked Friday whether the city was considering taking Premier Health to court to fight the planned closure of Good Samaritan Hospital this year.
The idea was proposed by Democratic governor candidate Dennis Kucinich, who met with University of Dayton students and local Democrats at an event Thursday evening.
“It has a destructive undermining effect to local communities, and never should a hospital close without a fight,” Kucinich said in a telephone interview before the meeting.
Kucinich contacted Dayton city officials Friday to discuss options.
Whaley, who endorsed Richard Cordray for governor when she dropped out of the race this month, questioned Kucinich’s motives in an interview Friday.
“Obviously he’s just trying to make this a political game for his governor’s race. And our interest is what’s in the best interest of our community, not his political game,” she said.
She said the city’s legal department is assessing their options.
Kucinich said lawsuits could be filed in local and federal court arguing Premier is violating the civil rights of the community by closing a hospital that is relied on by a lower-income, largely minority area.
“Sometimes if you move quickly enough there may be a chance to change the outcome,” he said. “Hospitals do have an obligation to serve people in communities where people don’t have a lot of money.”
Kucinich was involved in fighting to prevent hospital closures in Cleveland — efforts that he says delayed the closure of one hospital by three years and kept the other open to this day.
“I’ve always felt there should be state or federal legislation that at a minimum requires broad and detailed advance notice to local officials of the intent to substantially reduce service at hospitals,” he said.
“Citizens have a right to have access to hospital facilities that are truly local and that, in fact, were originally most often built by, and at the expense of, their community.”
Premier Health declined to comment on Kucinich’s comments Friday.
Kucinich earlier this month attended a rally and urged the city of Massillon in northeast Ohio to use eminent domain to stop a planned hospital closure there. In that case, Affinity Medical Center officials announced this month that financial losses will force them to cease operations by Feb. 4.
Massillon Mayor Kathy Catazaro-Perry said Friday that eminent domain was an unlikely option because of how long that process takes.
The city has filed for a temporary restraining order to keep the facility open. Catazaro-Perry said they hope to slow down the closure so that residents can continue to get medical care while they try to find someone else to come in and take over the hospital with the city’s help.
John Palmer, spokesman for the Ohio Hospital Association, said Friday that market pressures and demographic changes are forcing hospitals to change how they do business, and since they are private entities he’s not aware of any legal grounds a city would have to prevent that.
He said 60 hospitals across Ohio are operating at an operating margin of 2 percent or below. And of those, 43 are at a negative operating margin, he said.
Published: Sunday, December 10, 2017 @ 7:57 PM
Updated: Monday, December 11, 2017 @ 6:35 PM
— 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.
Do you think Ohio should legalize recreational marijuana? https://t.co/sccKT7Zn4Z— Ohio Politics (@Ohio_Politics) December 10, 2017
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.
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.
5 things to know about effort to legalize marijuana in Ohio https://t.co/hvTHoGW56w— Ohio Politics (@Ohio_Politics) December 11, 2017
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.
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