National groups push record number of state ballot measures

How local are local ballot initiatives? Not very, according to a new investigation by the Center for Public Integrity, a national, non-profit news organization. Ohioans last year were inundated with ads –costing tens of millions of dollars – in support of or opposed to a controversial ballot measure to legalize marijuana. Much of the support for the measure came from groups or individuals outside of the state. Turns out, state ballot measures across the country often are not either proposed by or promoted financially by “grassroots” citizens wanting to improve their local communities, according to CPI’s findings.

Lawmakers protect title loan firms while borrowers pay sky-high interest rates

 

Ohio is among the nation’s leaders when it comes to the number of title loan companies with local outlets, according to recent data compiled by the Center for Public Integrity, a non-profit investigative news organization based in Washington, D.C.  Read the story at www.cpi.org. The Center, in a new investigation, tracked how much these high-interest lenders have donated to the campaigns of state lawmakers. In Ohio, the contributions have totaled about $158,00 since 2004, according to CPI’s study. Three major lending companies operate in Ohio. Select Management Resources, which operates under the names Loan Star, Loan Max and Midwest Title Loans, is the largest operator with over 100 locations in the state The others are Community Loans of America, which operates about 40 stores, and TMX Finance, with 24 stores.

Ohio: a struggle to obtain public records from state officials

Where did a mysterious amendment come from, Rep. Ron Amstutz was asked after a House Finance Committee meeting in 2014. After some hemming and hawing, the panel’s chairman came up with an answer:

Out of thin air. He later said he was joking. But Ohioans who want to keep track of both their tax money and their public officials don’t find much humor in the Buckeye state’s laws and everyday practices on government accountability, ethics and transparency. In recent years Ohio’s legislature has weakened many of those laws – the same legislature that since 2012 has seen seven members convicted of crimes, including grand theft, bribery, perjury, money laundering and securities fraud.

Ohio leads in TV ad spending on ballot measures because of the battle over pot

If you live in Ohio and own a television, you’ve most likely seen one of the frequent ads promoting passage of Issue 3, the state ballot measure to legalize marijuana. If it passes, Ohio would become the fifth state to legalize recreational and medical marijuana use at the same time. It turns out, the frequency of the ads – and the amount of money being spent on them – make our state a bellweather for advertising expenditures on ballot issues. Ohio accounts for about half of the roughly $6.4 million that’s been spent so far on measures that will appear on 28 state ballots this November. That’s according to the Center for Public Integrity, a non-profit investigative news organization.

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.

VA hasn’t followed own rules on narcotic prescriptions, audit says

Editor’s note: In December, Eye on Ohio reporter Anna Duee told the story of Scott McDonald, a Columbus area veteran who died from an overdose of prescription painkillers.  His story echoed that of many others chronicled by the Center for Investigative Reporting. CIR investigated the sharp rise in opiate prescriptions by the United States Veterans Administration nationally from 2001 to 2012. CIR recently followed up its investigation with a story about a VA audit that shows the agency failed to follow its own rules for the prescribing of addictive narcotic painkillers.

A new pipeline from PA fracking fields stirs controversy in the Bluegrass State

STAMPING GROUND, Ky. — The land agent first came knocking on Vivian and Dean House’s door in July. They sat on the patio of the retired couple’s 85-acre farm in this Central Kentucky town and chatted. The guy was friendly, the kind of guy Dean could talk to about fishing. He put the couple at ease and told them his company was interested in running a pipeline through their land.

Welcome to Eye on Ohio

We’re on our way! Eye on Ohio is a new, non-profit news organization with a mission to serve the public good.  The stories we’re working on will shed light on situations and issues that have powerful impacts, and consequences that cry out for examination. Eye on Ohio’s primary focus is on investigative and in-depth journalism, but occasionally, we will report shorter news stories that aren’t being covered anywhere else.   Our investigations will focus on the environment, healthcare systems, poverty, civil rights and criminal justice, and education (with an emphasis on higher education) – but if we come across a story outside of those areas that warrants investigation, we’ll look into that, too.