Bipartisan Group of Representatives Introduce Bill After Eye on Ohio Investigation into Property Tax Loophole

This story was funded by a grant from the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting. 

Ohio lawmakers reached across the aisle to introduce a new bill that would close a property tax loophole on commercial property sales in the state. 

Reps. Mike Skindell (D-13) and Doug Green (R-66) co-sponsored HB449 in late December. The proposed law would not allow businesses to avoid conveyance taxes by spinning off commercial properties into shell companies. 

“We have been seeing a loss of revenue because of companies being placed in these LLCs. So when the property is transferred, it’s in the LLC and that [conveyance] fee is avoided. So what you have is a situation where the counties have less revenue on these, then they have to raise it on other people,” Skindell said.

How Have Deregulation and Extra Fees Affected Your Energy Bill?

This calculator provides cost and/or savings estimates of how much money you may have paid (or saved) each month following retail electric deregulation. It’s based on data shared with Eye on Ohio and the Energy News Network from a study that looked at how extra fees and more competition have impacted utility bills. (Note, however, that it doesn’t account for the expected costs of House Bill 6, passed in July 2019.)

What’s a cross-subsidy effect? A cross-subsidy exists when one group pays a higher cost in order to allow another group to pay less. 

Two types of cross subsidies appear on Ohio electric bills. The first type (Type I) is when residential or commercial customers pay a higher rate (cents/KWh) than industrial customers (e.g., Amazon or Honda). 

The second type (Type II) of cross-subsidy is when non-regulated utility costs are passed through to regulated customers.

Sidebar: Can an officer's perception of you alter your ticket? Biracial man's 'white' tickets dismissed, 'black' tickets sustained

Reporters from the nonprofit newsroom Eye on Ohio, The Cincinnati Enquirer and researchers from Stanford University’s Big Local News program examined police stops to assess how the three largest communities in Ohio use public safety resources and to identify possible bias in policing. Jermiah Miller, a biracial man with self-described pale skin, said he feels like he has a foot in two worlds: one in which cops view him as white, the other as black. He believes he’s treated better when he’s perceived to be white. Miller, 26, was ticketed for driving with a suspended license and other charges four times last year. Twice cops listed his race as white, and twice as black. 

In the two instances in which he was listed as white, Miller’s charges were ultimately dismissed, according to court records.

How has Ohio Stepped Up Measures to Combat Sexual Violence?

For one Ohio trafficking victim, the opening of the accredited rape crisis center at the YWCA Dayton last year proved crucial to quelling her inner demons, which lingered long after the physical pain subsided. For years, her abuser raped and beat her daily. She must never tell anyone, he threatened, because it would “open Pandora’s box.” Discussing her ordeal in counseling made her feel like it would open that box of monsters and shadows. Her counselor, however, reminded her that the bottom or Pandora’s box held the light of hope. In her private sessions, he taught her to visualize walking down a hallway and opening doors to seek that light and the letters to spell the word “hope” in each room she imagined.

Surprise Supreme Court Reaction to Ohio Controversy Prompts More Campaign Disclosures Nationally Right Before the Election

A look at the 12 groups who haven't disclosed their donors in state elections; The 501(c)(4) with no trace
The identities of many political donors can no longer be hidden behind a nonprofit shield, a D.C. Circuit judge recently ruled, in a case that started in Ohio. The Supreme Court’s decision not to issue an emergency stay on that ruling sent election groups around the country scrambling to comply with new disclosure rules just weeks before Nov. 6. After Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown faced a $6 million attack campaign funded by anonymous donors in 2012, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington complained to the FEC that Crossroads GPS, an major conservative nonprofit, should have to disclose their donors. When the FEC dismissed their complaint, they sued in 2016.

Ohio nuclear plants get stricter scrutiny after safety system problems

Federal regulators are watching the Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear plants in Ohio more closely after problems with backup systems surfaced at both sites within the last year. Speaking at a meeting about the Davis-Besse plant last month, Nuclear Regulatory Commission representatives seemed satisfied that appropriate measures had been taken and said oversight would continue while FirstEnergy’s generation subsidiaries are in bankruptcy. However, some critics worry about the plants’ ongoing attitudes towards safety. “The years-long uncertainty and financial pressure on reactor operations have already had a powerful impact, and the bankruptcy proceeding has only amplified that,” said Tim Judson, executive director of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), a Maryland-based anti-nuclear group. Other watchdog groups agreed that safety issues should not be dismissed lightly but had more confidence in regulators to manage the risks.