America’s Vanishing Worker Protections

Since 2003, more than 30 states – including Ohio – either have cut workers’ compensation benefits or made it harder for injured workers to qualify for benefits. That’s according to a just-released series of stories by ProPublica non-profit investigative news organization and National Public Radio. The story was published just as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a report saying that, on average, workers comp pays only 20% of the cost of workers’ injuries and illnesses in the United States. Workers pay half the cost out -of-pocket and the rest is paid by private insurance and other government funding sources. In Ohio, workers’ comp benefit cuts came in the mid-2000s, when laws were passed raising the burden of proof for employees when an injury aggravated an existing condition, and lowering the “life” of claims to automatically close cases five years after the last medical treatment, making it difficult to receive payment if an injury recurs.

National donors pick the winners in state elections, including Ohio’s

The biggest donor to state elections in November was the Republic Governors Association, which spent $68.6 million, according to a data compiled by the Center for Public Integrity. The Ohio Republican Party got $9 million of that pot, with $3 million directed to Gov. Kasich’s re-election campaign. Mike DeWine, who won re-election as Ohio’s Attorney General, received $1.3 million from the RGA. In contrast the Democratic Governors’ Association spent $32 million on state races in November. Kasich’s opponent, former Cuyahoga County executive, did not receive donations from the Democratic association.

The Great Ohio Death Drug Mystery

On Monday, Jan. 20, four death-row inmates in Ohio filed a motion in U.S. District Court in Columbus challenging the law that shields the names of companies that provide lethal injection drugs to the state in death penalty cases.  This comes at a time when Ohio is changing the drugs it uses after a botched execution in 2014. The Marshall Project, a non-profit news organization that covers criminal justice issues, reports that an alternative drug that Ohio is considering is hard to come by – and its source may never be known under the state’s secrecy law. The piece was reported and written by Maurice Chammah. You can follow the Marshall Project on Facebook or Twitter.

Military “gifts” to Ohio cities total $73 million

Mine-resistant,  ambush-protected military vehicles: not your ordinary community police cars, but equipment several small towns in Ohio now own, thanks to the Unites States military. Local police departments for the past 20 years have been obtaining military equipment under a Pentagon surplus give-away program called 1033. Ohio cities such as Brimfield, Canton, Brunswick and Barberton are among the 600 municipalities across the country that have acquired so-called MRAP’s , designed to detect improved explosive devises,  valued at around $733,000 each, from the U.S. Department of Defense. That’s according to the Marshall Project, a non-profit news organization that has compiled a data base of 1033 recipients from the DOD’s quiet release of the information last month. Ohio cities, county sheriff’s department, campus police departments and local offices of the FBI have received more than $73 million under the 1033 Program.

Pennsylvania’s local fracking powers create tension

Issues similar to Ohio’s battle over home rule
Rich in oil and gas, poor in regulatory powers.  That describes a dilemma faced by many small towns in eastern Ohio as the fracking boom continues. The Marcellus and Utica shale beds span large swaths of Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and New York. The beds are ripe for drilling and hydraulic fracturing to remove oil and gas deposits and have proved a boon for energy companies – and some residents who have sold or leased their land to oil and gas producers.  According to a Dec. 5 report issued by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Ohio’s horizontal shale wells produced 3 million barrels of oil and 132 billion cubic feet of gas in the third quarter of 2014; that’s more than twice as much oil and nearly four times as much gas than during the same period last year.

Gun violence takes its toll on families in the inner city

R.I.P.s are scrawled on the shell of a burned-out brick building, pockmarked by bullet holes. Overgrown with vines, its dilapidated outer walls recall the ruins of a fortress, a monument to a long-finished battle. But a war still courses through the streets of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In the past decade, it’s claimed the lives of hundreds of people — most of whom were black and barely into adulthood. In Flint, Michigan, swing-sets in Mott Park are empty as drug dealers and gang members claim the turf as their own, guns tucked in their wastebands.

 Evolution of public-carry laws expands gun rights

Number of states that prohibited concealed carry in 1981: 19
States that prohibit it today: 0
Number of states that do not require a concealed carry permit: 5
An open-carry permit : 25 
WICKENBURG, Ariz. — More Americans can carry guns in more places than ever before. In a majority of states, law-abiding gun owners can walk into bars, restaurants and churches with their guns without fear of legal ramifications, a News 21 review of all 50 states found. “It’s a situation just like getting up in the morning and putting your shoes on or your boots on. For me it’s putting (my gun) onto my side,” said Lee Bird, owner of Twin Birds Saddlery in Wickenburg, Arizona, 60 miles northwest of Phoenix.

Children and gun violence: worse than war

Editor’s note: Eye on Ohio is presenting a series of reports on gun violence in the United States produced by News21, which brings together outstanding journalism students from across the country to work with professional journalists on investigative projects. It is based at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Arizona. Today’s story focuses on the number of children and youth who are killed by guns. Ohio has experienced such tragedy – not just in the well-known school shooting in Chardon in February 2012 – but in every-day street violence, teen suicides and accidental deaths, such as incidents in which a child gets hold of a gun and thinks it’s a toy. In 2009, the Ohio Department of Health, Violence and Injury Prevention received funding to become part of the National Violent Death Reporting System of the National Centers for Disease Control.

Mysterious Ohio nonprofit backs winning campaigns in Illinois and Georgia

Bruce Rauner is a Chicago billionaire who has never held political office, yet this spring he mowed down a crowd of rivals and claimed the GOP nomination to be Illinois’ next governor. David Perdue is a wealthy former executive who also has never been elected to public office, yet he too knocked off a string of far more experienced Republican opponents to win the party’s Senate nomination in Georgia. Read the full story at Opensecrets.org.

Wilberforce University faces loss of accreditation

Wilberforce University, one of the nation’s oldest historically black universities, will lose its accreditation if it is unable to demonstrate within six months its fiscal and administrative fitness to the regional accrediting agency for Midwestern and Southwestern schools. The university, near Xenia, Ohio, has received a “show cause” decision from the Higher Learning Commission which accredits more than 1,000 colleges and universities in 19 states from West Virginia to Arizona. Losing accreditation would make Wilberforce ineligible to receive Pell Grants, Perkins loans and other federal loans and grants that its students use to finance their education. That loss could be devastating to the struggling institution that depends on tuition to make ends meet. In 2011, for example, tuition and fees totaled $9.3 million – about 64 percent of the school’s $14.5 million in revenues.