Ohio governor to announce proposed gas tax increase
By ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS
Tuesday, February 19
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Gov. Mike DeWine will announce Thursday his proposed recommendation for increasing the state gas tax to address a chronic shortfall in spending on road renovations, the governor said at an annual forum sponsored by The Associated Press.
DeWine, a Republican, said there are no other solutions outside a gas tax increase, while warning that any increase simply keeps Ohio from falling behind. He wouldn’t provide details or say what the proposed increase would be.
“This is only status quo,” DeWine said. “It is just to keep us where we are today and with the ability to do some safety projects that absolutely need to be done.”
Ohio’s road maintenance and infrastructure are facing an “impending crisis” unless more funding is provided for those types of projects, Jack Marchbanks, Ohio Department of Transportation director, said earlier this year.
Contracts for road maintenance that totaled $2.4 billion in 2014 may drop to $1.5 billion in 2020, and a $1 billion gap remains in the department budget, Marchbanks said.
DeWine also stood by his decision earlier this year to postpone an Ohio execution because of a federal judge’s ruling that inmates could suffer severe pain under the state’s current lethal injection method.
He has ordered the state prisons system to come up with a new three-drug method, and acknowledged that that system —whatever it is — will then face court challenges.
DeWine, Ohio’s four statewide elected officials, and leaders of the House and Senate gathered Tuesday at the annual AP event.
Earlier Tuesday, GOP Attorney General David Yost said Ohio was not approached to join a new lawsuit challenging President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration to build a U.S.-Mexico border wall. Yost was joined by Secretary of State Frank LaRose, Treasurer Robert Sprague and Auditor Keith Faber. All are Republicans.
The statewide elected officials all say they support Trump, but don’t agree with him on every issue. LaRose called Trump’s characterization of the media as the enemy of the people as “dangerous.”
During an afternoon session, state GOP chairwoman Jane Timken said she believes Ohio will remain a battleground state, despite recent solid Republican sweeps. Democratic chairman David Pepper, answering a question about brain drain, said investments in urban areas to create “really attractive cities” are key to retaining and attracting young people.
Also Tuesday, House Speaker Larry Householder and Senate President Larry Obhof, both Republicans, and House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes and Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko, both Democrats, discussed legislative priorities for the year.
The lawmakers agreed that additional spending is needed to deal with problems with the condition of Ohio roads, including potholes on thoroughfares across the state. They disagreed about whether a gas tax was the best approach. Householder said he wants to study infrastructure needs first and wait on considering a tax. Yuko said Ohioans are already spending thousands of dollars repairing cars instead of roads.
The legislative leaders also:
— Backed the general idea of changes to the criminal justice system as Ohio struggles with overcrowded prisons. Obhof said he wants to see the prison population reduced. Sykes, who is black, said she’s concerned about the overrepresentation of minorities in the incarcerated population.
— Signaled little support for any proposals to reduce the use of labor-scale wages on some public construction projects. Householder called it the “wrong direction at this time.” Sykes said the idea would set the state back.
— Predicted sports wagering will come to Ohio following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that opened the option for states. Householder predicted wagering will come to Ohio but doesn’t know what it will look like. Yuko agreed, but warned it won’t be the “cash cow” some people expect for state revenue. Obhof said he remains skeptical of allowing sports wagering.
Impacts to Traffic on SmartLane Project
Ohio Department of Transportation
Thu 2/21/2019 8:35 AM
Daytime lane restrictions today and tomorrow
Having trouble viewing this email? View it as a Web page.
I-670 Between I-71 and I-270 (East Side)
THURSDAY, FEB. 21 & FRIDAY, FEB. 22
9 AM: I-270 north will be reduced to four lanes between I-670 and Easton Way for concrete barrier installation
3 PM: All lanes open
All work is weather dependent; it may be postponed or cancelled without prior notice.
Remember to Shovel Your Sidewalks
One of the best things about living in Westerville is the access to miles of walkable sidewalks and trails. Many residents rely on neighborhood sidewalks to get to work, shopping, appointment and for exercise.
After snow falls, remember to shovel your sidewalks. Not only is it the neighborly thing to do, it is also the law (Westerville Codified Ordinance 529.05). Please also consider helping neighbors who may not be able to shovel their own sidewalks and ensure all fire hydrants are uncovered and visible.
Find more information about snow removal in Westerville at www.westerville.org/snow.
Track Your Westerville Road Warriors
The Westerville Public Service Department has been hard at work clearing City streets after this morning’s icy snowfall.
Keep track of their progress on the Westerville Road Warrior portal.
Snow Day Fire, Carbon Monoxide Safety
While families are enjoying the winter weather, the Westerville Division of Fire (WFD) encouraged them to remain safe while staying warm.
Half of all home heating fires occur during the months of December, January and February. Be vigilant against in-home fire risks, especially when using electronic heating devices (maintain a three-foot clearance around all space heaters and never leave them unattended).
Find more important safety tips from WFD on the City’s website at www.westerville.org/fire.
Expect a single-lane closure along Cooper Road beginning 7 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 21 while crews repair a water line. Work is expected to last one day.
Student abducted, killed had complained to police about man
Wednesday, February 20
MANSFIELD, Ohio (AP) — A woman abducted from an Ohio college campus and later fatally shot in Kentucky had complained to police about her ex-boyfriend abusing her, police records show.
The Mansfield News Journal reports that the records include allegations of sexual assault, stalking, harassment and domestic violence between Skylar Williams and Ty’Rell Pounds.
Williams was a student at Ohio State University’s Mansfield campus where authorities said she was forced into a car at gunpoint last week.
Kentucky State Police said Pounds later shot and killed the 20-year-old Williams and a trooper fatally shot Pounds after a chase in Oldham County, Kentucky.
Ohio Highway Patrol said Pounds and Williams’ child was safe with family at the time of the abduction.
Records from the Richland County Sheriff’s Office in Ohio show Williams told authorities the pair had dated three years until October. She said she broke up with him because he couldn’t provide food for her and their baby.
Williams said Pounds followed her in different vehicles from his workplace and sent law enforcement to her home for well-being checks.
The sheriff’s report said Williams was told how to file for a civil protection order, but she didn’t file one.
Authorities had interviewed Pounds about sexual abuse allegations made against him in January.
Pounds denied the allegations and said he retained an attorney.
Detective Pat Smith said in the report that Williams did not have an exam after any of the alleged sexual assaults or schedule an appointment with her gynecologist.
The case was considered closed/inactive in February due to lack of evidence.
Information from: News Journal, http://www.mansfieldnewsjournal.com
PUCO approves Duke Energy Ohio tax cut electric rate reductions
Duke Energy Ohio reduces rates by approx. $260 million
COLUMBUS, OHIO (Feb. 20, 2019) – The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) today authorized Duke Energy Ohio to establish a credit on electric customer bills to reflect the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2017 into its rates.
“The Commission is pleased to approve the reduction in bills for Duke’s electric customers,” stated PUCO Chairman Asim Z. Haque. “The Commission has been pursuing rate reductions from the day the TCJA went into effect, and today’s action settles the issue for three out of four of Ohio’s regulated-electric utilities, while the fourth is in the settlement process.”
Duke will credit customers the amount it has over collected, plus interest, since Jan. 1, 2018 under the high tax rate. The $8.1 million credit will be passed back to all electric customers over a 12-month period.
Duke will return to customers annually approximately $4.7 million, which reflects the remaining tax savings not currently accounted for in rates, on a going-forward basis, until the Commission approves updated rates through a distribution rate case. Duke is expected to file an application with the PUCO for its next distribution rate case in 2024.
Duke will return to customers normalized accumulated deferred income tax (ADIT), estimated by the utility to be approximately $149.4 million, over a federally prescribed time period of approximately 25 years.
Duke will credit customers non-normalized excess deferred income tax (EDIT), estimated by the utility to be approximately $74.9 million, over approximately a 10-year period.
A residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) per month would see a reduction of approximately $2.13 in their monthly bill.
On Jan. 10, 2018, the Commission ordered an investigation to study the impacts of the TCJA on PUCO-regulated utilities and how best to pass on the benefits to customers, and directed utilities to set aside money in excess of the reduced tax rate to later be returned to customers.
The TCJA was signed into law on Dec. 22, 2017, which among other things, reduced the federal corporate income tax rate from 35 to 21 percent, effective Jan. 1, 2018.
On April 25, 2018, the Commission denied legal arguments jointly filed by Ohio’s electric distribution utilities challenging the PUCO’s January order directing utilities to set aside money in excess of the reduced corporate tax rate during the pendency of the Commission’s investigation.
On July 25, 2018, Duke filed an application to adopt a new tariff to pass to customers the savings due to the TCJA.
On Dec. 17, 2018, PUCO staff filed its review and recommendations.
A copy of today’s finding and order can be found on the PUCO website by clicking the link for Docketing Information System (DIS) and searching for case 18-1186-EL-ATA and 18-47-AU-COI.
The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) is the sole agency charged with regulating public utility service. The role of the PUCO is to assure all residential, business and industrial consumers have access to adequate, safe and reliable utility services at fair prices while facilitating an environment that provides competitive choices. Consumers with utility-related questions or concerns can call the PUCO Call Center at (800) 686-PUCO (7826) and speak with a representative.
Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame Seeking Applications
COLUMBUS – The Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame is accepting nominations to recognize those who served in the U.S. Armed Forces and continue to contribute to our communities, state and nation through exceptional acts of volunteerism, advocacy, professional distinction, public service or philanthropy.
Each year, the Hall of Fame inducts up to 20 veterans based on recommendations from an Executive Committee of veterans from throughout the state and approval from the Governor of Ohio.
To be considered, the veteran must meet the following criteria:
• Be a past or current Ohio resident
• Have received an honorable discharge
• Be of good moral character
This Hall of Fame sets the standard for recognizing Ohio’s veterans for accomplishments beyond their military service. In addition, it is a fitting way to say “thank you for your service to our nation and thank you for your continued service to our communities.” Chances are you know a veteran who deserves to be inducted into the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame. You are encouraged to nominate that deserving veteran today.
Nomination deadline is June 1, 2019. Guidelines, a sample nomination and more information are available at http://dvs.ohio.gov/main/veterans-hall-of-fame.html.
MORPC Recognizes Members Leading on Sustainability
Blendon Township, Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks, Grove City and Whitehall Certified as Sustainable2050 Communities
(Columbus – February 20, 2019) The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) has certified four local governments as Sustainable2050 communities that have achieved an elevated status for their actions to promote sustainability.
Sustainable2050 is a program that supports communities’ sustainability efforts through direct technical assistance, collaboration, and recognition. Each member’s tier status is determined by the number of eligible activities it carries out in five categories corresponding to MORPC’s Regional Sustainability Agenda.
“These communities are dedicated to improving the quality of life of Central Ohio residents in sustainable ways, and that should be celebrated,” MORPC Planning & Sustainability Director Kerstin Carr said. “Through Sustainable2050, we are not only recognizing their commitment to sustainability, but ultimately assisting them, through access to resources, to do even more.”
Blendon Township, Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks, Grove City and Whitehall comprise the four certified Sustainable2050 members, with each being designated as Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum status.
Blendon Township completed 11 eligible activities across four categories, achieving the Silver designation. Highlights from Blendon Township include:
A comprehensive plan focused on reducing the number of vehicle miles traveled, including creating a complete bike and pedestrian network throughout the township and ensuring connections to transit routes.
A commitment to minimizing Greenfield development.
Increasing enforcement and improvements to the signals and signage at the intersection of State Route 161 and Buenos Aires Boulevard to reduce the number of fatal and serious crashes in our region. This location – previously on MORPC’s Top 100 High Crash Locations list – is no longer on the list.
Metro Parks completed 37 eligible activities in four categories, achieving the Gold designation. Highlights from Metro Parks include:
Reducing vehicle emissions through a staff carpool program that incentivizes employees to commute together to work and to meetings.
A green purchasing policy and incentives that encourage their contractors to use green purchasing policies.
A dedication to Central Ohio Greenways. As funders and maintainers of the greenways system, Metro Parks helps to increase the number of miles traveled on this network every year.
Grove City has completed 28 eligible activities across all five categories, achieving the Gold designation. Highlights from Grove City include:
A commitment to increasing the percentage of vehicles using alternative fuels. The city was among the first communities in Central Ohio to provide public electric vehicle charging stations.
The adoption of an Idle-Free policy.
The city’s annual EcoFest, which celebrates the community’s commitment to public and environmental health and wellbeing. EcoFest helps to increase awareness of various programs, including MORPC’s home weatherization services, and programs offered through AEP, Columbia Gas and other providers.
Whitehall completed 21 eligible activities in four categories, earning the Silver designation. Highlights from Whitehall include:
Prioritizing infrastructure projects using a Fix-it-First strategy, reducing the number of vehicle miles traveled in the region.
The city’s multi-phase Broad Street Beautification Project, which allocates capital dollars toward prioritizing multi-modal infrastructure improvements along a key transit corridor.
More than 30 local communities committed to work toward more sustainable practices through MORPC’s Sustainable2050 initiative. More communities will be certified in the near future.
Additional information on the Sustainable2050 program can be found at morpc.org/sustainable2050.
The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) serves as a resource for local officials as they make decisions about economic growth, development, transportation, energy, and environmental sustainability. Through a variety of transformative programs and services, we work to improve the lives of all Central Ohio residents and make the region stand out on the world stage. For more information, please visit www.morpc.org.
Central Ohio Symphony Receives National Endowment for the Arts Grant
National Endowment for the Arts Acting Chairman Mary Anne Carter has approved more than $27 million in grants as part of the Arts Endowment’s first major funding announcement for fiscal year 2019. The Central Ohio Symphony received a Challenge America grant of $10,000 for its upcoming “Local Focus” concert on April 27. Challenge America grants support projects that extend the reach of the arts to underserved populations — those whose opportunities to experience the arts are limited by geography, ethnicity, economics, or disability.
“The arts enhance our communities and our lives, and we look forward to seeing these projects take place throughout the country, giving Americans opportunities to learn, to create, to heal, and to celebrate,” said Carter in making the awards.
Local Focus will cap the Symphony’s 40th season and feature guest artists and composers with Delaware ties.
“We are excited to have received NEA funding for Local Focus,” said Warren W. Hyer, Executive Director of the Symphony. “This will support more fully our community engagement activities already in place for this program.”
Hyer noted that this is the second time the Symphony has received an NEA grant in the last four years. “Receiving a second NEA grant shows the significance and vitality of our programming and our efforts to reach the community beyond the concert hall.”
Among the community engagement activities planned for the week of the concert are projects with students at Dempsey Middle School and Hayes High School in Delaware as well as Delaware County Preservation Parks.
More information about the Local Focus concert and related community projects will be available in the coming weeks on the Symphony website, www.centralohiosymphony.org.
Rep. Brown introduces bipartisan bill to modernize Ohio school bus camera law
COLUMBUS—State Reps. Richard Brown (D-Canal Winchester) and Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster) today (Feb. 19) introduced House Bill 83 to codify current Ohio Department of Public Safety policy and allow districts to install safety cameras on their school buses. The cameras, to be installed on the exterior of the school buses, are intended to assist in catching motorists who illegally pass stopped buses.
“I am excited to work with Rep. Shaffer on this important bipartisan effort to make our roads safer for everyone, particularly our school children,” said Rep. Brown. “This bill will help ensure the safety of our students by making it clear that exterior school bus safety cameras are allowed both on our roadways and in Ohio’s courtrooms.”
House Bill 83 would also ensure that school bus cameras can be used to gather evidence against a driver who illegally passes a stopped bus. Current Ohio law uses only accounts from school bus drivers to report drivers who violate the law by passing a stopped bus. The new legislation will help support bus drivers, keep children safe and provide additional information to help identify offending motorists.