Cincinnati City Council passes two gun safety ordinances
Cincinnati City Council voted unanimously to pass two gun safety ordinances Feb. 8. The ordinances require safe storage of guns around children and allow for local enforcement of the federal ban on gun ownership by people convicted of domestic violence. “The proposed ordinance cites a 2022 case in which a 6-year-old shot and killed his 3-year-old brother and a 2020 case in which an 8-year-old was shot and killed when he and another child were handling a gun. In both cases, the children found loaded guns in their homes, the ordinance states,” reported Cameron Knight in the Cincinnati Enquirer on Feb. 8.
The Cincinnati Police Department offers free gun locks to city residents, who can request one from their Neighborhood Liaison Officer.
Cincinnati Police Chief Theresa Theetge says that 20 people in Cincinnati were murdered in incidents of domestic violence in 2022. “Violent crime in Cincinnati reached an all-time low last year, with a 17% reduction in homicides compared to the year before,” reported Becca Costello of WVXU. “But although fewer shootings were fatal in 2022, the number of shootings stayed about the same. Domestic disputes, including intimate partner violence, are the top-ranking circumstance for homicides last year.”
Cincinnati’s new ordinances were co-sponsored by Liz Keating, the only Republican member of Council, who encouraged fellow Republicans at all levels of government to pass common sense gun safety laws. “We can’t rely on legislators in Columbus and D.C. to make decisions to keep our children safe,” Keating said. “This is our city. These are our kids. It is our duty to protect them.”
Cincinnati is also suing the State of Ohio. “Cities in Ohio have largely been unsuccessful in passing gun legislation due to a 2006 law that has survived a challenge in the Ohio Supreme Court. Cincinnati’s lawyers want to change that,” wrote Cameron Knight. “Often called the ‘preemption law,’ it bars political subdivisions (like cities and counties) from regulating firearms, their components, ammunition, and knives. Ohio’s gun lobby has successfully sued Cincinnati and other cities in the past to block gun restrictions. In 2018, Cincinnati’s ban on bump stocks was stopped in this way. Last week, the city filed a lawsuit seeking that the “preemption law” be declared unconstitutional.
“Columbus passed similar legislation in December,” Knight continued. “Attorney General Dave Yost sought to block the Columbus law, but a Fairfield County judge allowed the restriction to stand in a ruling last month. … Yost’s office said he plans to appeal the judge’s decision.”
Householder trial spotlights dark money as pervasive threat to democracy
As the federal racketeering trial of former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder continues in Cincinnati, “stakes in the House Bill 6 case go beyond Ohio’s energy generation mix and how much people pay for electricity. The case is shining a light on dark money — funds used to influence the political process in ways the public can’t trace,” wrote investigative reporter Kathiann Kowalski in an Eye on Ohio newsletter Feb. 14.
“Under the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling, organizations can spend unlimited amounts on political causes, as long as they don’t coordinate with a candidate’s campaign. Common forms of dark money groups include nonprofits set up under Section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code and nonpublic companies known as limited liability corporations.
“501(c)(4) groups are particularly ripe for abuse as a money laundering tool, said former U.S. Attorney David DeVillers at a Jan. 18 Columbus Metropolitan Club panel. (see video) A lack of disclosure requirements raises the potential for bribery, which is among the alleged underlying crimes for the racketeering charges in the case against Householder, Borges and others.
“Corruption claims affect the perceived legitimacy of Ohio’s state government,” Kowalski continues. “Multiple levels of dark money groups also undermine the spending limits and donor disclosure requirements of campaign finance laws. That’s especially so when there’s coordination with a candidate’s campaign, as shown by some trial exhibits in the Householder case.
“Ohioans’ constitutional rights are also at issue,” she adds. The Ohio Constitution allows citizens to initiate a referendum to challenge laws passed by the General Assembly, but the prosecution is presenting extensive evidence connecting the defendants and FirstEnergy to an ad and direct mail campaign filled with misinformation, and intimidation and bribery of referendum signature collectors.
First look at provisions to watch in the evolving state budget
The Ohio Legislature is starting the intense negotiations that will culminate in the next biennial budget, which must be passed by June 30. Here are some of the proposals of greatest importance to people of faith working to overcome poverty:
Despite significant inflation in food costs which hit households and emergency food providers alike, the Governor’s budget does not increase funding for foodbanks. The timing is bad. In March families will lose the extra SNAP benefits – at least $95 per household – which Congress authorized during the pandemic. Also, the Governor’s budget says nothing about continuing the pandemic policy of universal free meals in K-12 schools, despite research published by Children’s Defense Fund Ohio showing this program improves attendance, academic achievement, and test scores. The state still has over $400 million in unspent federal Covid grants and could allocate some for food security.
Increased eligibility for childcare benefits
Child care takes a huge chunk of the income of working parents, who now lose eligibility if their wages climb above 142% of the federal poverty level. This can trap people in low-wage jobs because their child care expenses overwhelm their income if they lose the benefit. The Governor proposes to raise the eligibility limit to 160% of FPL, but the Hunger Network in Ohio recommends it go up to 200%.
Affordable housing development
The governor is proposing the creation of a Low Income Housing Construction Tax Credit. “One proposal involves a new tax credit for the development and rehabilitation of low-income multifamily rental housing in this state. The program would be administered by the Ohio Housing Finance Agency and would reserve up to $100 million per year to developers of qualifying projects, over a total of four years. Total credits allowed under the program would amount to $400 million,” reports Leading Age Ohio. “Another proposal involves a tax credit for the development of affordable single-family housing. A total of $50 million in annual credits would be reserved for developers of qualifying projects, provided over four years.”
Child tax deduction instead of a credit
The governor is proposing a tax deduction for parents, but most low-income families do not owe state income tax so this would do them no good. The expanded, refundable Child Tax Credit of the pandemic had an incredibly powerful impact in lifting families above the poverty level, but was not extended by Congress.
“The Governor should target this $135 million annual expenditure toward low and middle income families with a refundable Earned Income Tax Credit, writes the Hunger Network in Ohio, citing a brief by Policy Matters Ohio. Refundable credits go to eligible households even if they do not owe tax.
“A 10% refundable credit would cost the state not much more than the Governor’s proposal, but would be laser focused on families that need the assistance the most,” adds Hunger Network.
SNAP benefits will drop in March
SNAP – the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – formerly called “food stamps,” helps prevent hunger for millions of households. SNAP is vital for low-income families with children and elderly people on fixed incomes. The expanded pandemic benefits, which helped counteract this year’s inflation, will end in March. The Ohio Association of Foodbanks and Advocates for Ohio’s Future compiled key information to share with people who you serve through pantries or community meals.
- All SNAP households have been receiving the maximum benefit amount possible for their household size. Every SNAP household has been receiving at least $95 more per month. On average, households have been receiving $90 per person, per month more in benefits.
- Ohio SNAP households have been receiving these benefits in two separate issuances – one toward the beginning of the month and one toward the end of the month. SNAP benefits will drop for all SNAP households in Ohio starting in March, and households will only receive the benefit amount that is issued toward the beginning of the month.
- SNAP participants can call 1-866-386-3071 to check their benefit amount and their balance or use this website to check that information online. They can also go to JoinProviders.com to download a free smart phone app to track their benefits. If a SNAP participant would like further help navigating their benefits, or to connect to other benefits that can help stretch household income, they can find help here. They can also find other help with food from the Ohio Association of Foodbanks network.
You can learn more about how these additional benefits helped prevent far worse rates of hunger and food insecurity here. To stay connected to other ways that the Public Health Emergency unwinding will impact Ohioans and their access to public benefits, sign up for the Advocates for Ohio’s Future newsletter and follow them on Twitter and Facebook.
Faith and Advocacy in Youth Ministry
Youth, young adults, and adult leaders are invited to attend Hunger Network in Ohio’s conversation about faith and advocacy in youth ministry on Monday, Feb. 27 at 7 p.m. on Zoom. Register here.
Advocacy briefings are compiled by Ariel Miller, a longtime community advocate and member of Ascension & Holy Trinity, Wyoming. Connect with her at email@example.com