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News Recap: Week Ending March 9, 2024

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We understand life gets busy for everyone. To help you catch up, here's a quick recap of the news highlights from the past week that you might not have had the chance to see. Ohio is set to bolster safety in work zones with increased fines, while also proposing a removal of fees for medical marijuana cards and introducing a Cannabis Social Equity Program. Meanwhile, Senate Republicans push a bill to ban foreign contributions in ballot issue campaigns, amid revelations of Ohio lawmakers receiving foreign lobbying funds. The financial pressures on Donald Trump escalate as he posts a $91.6 million bond in the E. Jean Carroll defamation lawsuit, raising questions about his liquidity amid numerous legal battles. President Biden delivers a fiery State of the Union, attacking Donald Trump and setting the stage for a contentious 2024 election cycle. Finally, the demotion of Dr. Ronny Jackson following a Pentagon inspector general's report reveals deeper issues of misconduct within the Trump administration, amidst concerns over a White House "pill mill" culture during Trump's term.

Ohio News Recap

Ohio Introduces Stricter Penalties for Speeding in Construction Zones to Enhance Worker Safety

As the annual road construction season commences, Ohio is taking a significant step toward bolstering safety within these work zones with the introduction of House Bill 429. This legislation aims to deter reckless driving by substantially increasing fines for speeding in construction areas. Under this new bill, offenders will face a $400 fine and mandatory driver safety training for their first offense, escalating to an $800 fine and a 90-day license suspension for a second violation. Those brazen enough to offend three or more times will incur a hefty $1,200 fine and a one-year suspension of their driving privileges. The urgency of this measure is underscored by the alarming statistics from Ohio's Department of Transportation (ODOT), revealing 56 work zone accidents involving road crews last year, with this year already witnessing 34 such incidents. As construction activity ramps up with the arrival of warmer weather, particularly with high-profile projects like the Norwood Lateral work set to begin, ODOT is calling for heightened public vigilance.

In light of these developments, it's crucial to recognize that while increased fines are a step in the right direction, they may not suffice to deter individuals with ample disposable income, for whom such penalties could merely represent a minor inconvenience. This underscores the necessity for robust enforcement of these penalties to ensure they serve their intended purpose of safeguarding workers. Without stringent enforcement, the effectiveness of these measures in preventing reckless behavior in construction zones could be significantly undermined, making them less of a deterrent and more of an ineffectual formal requirement.

Read more from WLWT

Ohio Division of Cannabis Control Announces Major Changes to MMJ Card Fees and Introduces Cannabis Social Equity Program

The Ohio Division of Cannabis Control (DCC) is making significant strides in cannabis regulation, starting with the elimination of state fees for medical marijuana (MMJ) cards. In a move that prioritizes patient and caregiver access, the DCC has announced that starting March 4, the fees for MMJ card registration and renewal will be reduced to a symbolic one cent until system updates allow for their complete removal. This decision aligns with Ohio’s broader efforts to integrate a voter-approved adult-use legalization law, further highlighted by a proposal to cut processor license renewal fees in half to $50,000. Alongside these changes, the DCC is also laying the groundwork for the Cannabis Social Equity and Jobs Program (CSEJ), seeking to enhance equity in the cannabis industry. Stakeholders have until March 13, 2024, to submit their comments on these proposals, demonstrating Ohio’s commitment to thoughtful and inclusive cannabis regulation.

Read more from Medicate Ohio

Ohio's Bid to Ban Foreign Ballot Contributions Spotlights GOP Hypocrisy Amidst Out-of-State Funding

Ohio is embarking on a legislative effort to stem foreign influence in state ballot initiatives with Senate Bill 215, proposed by Republican state Senators Theresa Gavorone and Rob McColley. This move to ban foreign nationals from contributing to ballot campaigns is shadowed by an ironic twist: campaign finance records reveal that Ohio's Congressional delegation, including Republicans, have accepted contributions from lobbyists for foreign governments, highlighting a stark hypocrisy. The legislation, which cleared the Ohio Senate, emerges in the wake of the Issue 1 amendment, with Republicans citing concerns over "foreign election interference," despite a lack of evidence supporting election fraud claims.

This unfolding scenario underscores a troubling double standard, particularly among Republicans who have rallied behind the bill. Notably, contributions from lobbyists representing interests of foreign entities like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and China have found their way into the campaign coffers of Ohio's federal representatives. Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Carey and House Rep. Jim Jordan are among those who have benefited from such funds, raising questions about the sincerity of their stance on foreign influence in domestic affairs. The bill's critics, primarily Democrats, argue it could unduly impact grassroots movements, further complicating the landscape of campaign finance with unintended consequences.

While Senate Bill 215 aims to close a loophole in Ohio's campaign finance law, the broader issue of dark money and the transparency of political contributions remains a pressing concern. The revelations about foreign lobbyist contributions to Ohio Republicans amplify the critique that efforts like Senate Bill 215 might not only be insufficient but also hypocritically targeted, failing to address the pervasive influence of undisclosed, out-of-state, and foreign money in American politics. This situation calls for a more comprehensive approach to campaign finance reform, one that ensures accountability and transparency across the board, to truly safeguard the integrity of Ohio's, and indeed America's, electoral processes.

Read more from Ohio Capital Journal

Ohio's New Educational Savings Account Bill: A Step Back for Public Education Equity

Ohio's latest legislative proposal, House Bill 339, sponsored by State Rep. Gary Click, aims to establish taxpayer-funded educational savings accounts for families choosing certain private schools. This initiative, projected to cost the state $239 million annually, is the newest development in an ongoing debate about the allocation of public funds to private education. Rep. Click, a pastor with personal ties to a school benefiting from this bill, asserts no financial gain for himself or the school's modestly compensated staff. However, this move raises substantial concerns regarding the long-term sustainability of both public and private educational systems, given finite state funding.

HB 339 seeks to channel public dollars to "non-chartered, non-public schools" through these accounts, offering funding levels even higher than existing vouchers for pre-high school students. This effort follows increased state scholarship funding for private schools, despite public school advocates warning that such redirection of funds undermines public education. Scott DiMauro, president of the Ohio Education Association, criticizes the bill for essentially repackaging vouchers and diverting crucial resources from the nearly 90% of Ohio children attending public schools. The lack of accountability and oversight in non-chartered private schools only exacerbates these concerns, posing risks to educational quality and transparency.

This legislative move is particularly troubling as it further entrenches the financial barriers facing families without the means to consider private education. By allocating taxpayer dollars to educational savings accounts for private school attendees, the bill exacerbates the inequity between those who can afford to navigate these options and students reliant on public education. This disparity undermines the foundation of public schooling as a universally accessible system, risking the widening of educational gaps and reinforcing socioeconomic divisions. As Ohio navigates this contentious issue, the implications for public school funding and the principle of equitable education for all remain deeply concerning.

Read more from Cleveland

National Recap

Biden's Fiery State of the Union: A Prelude to a Contentious 2024 Election Cycle

In a State of the Union address that deviated significantly from tradition, President Joe Biden launched a pointed critique of his predecessor, Donald Trump, covering a wide array of issues including the COVID-19 response, immigration policies, gun control measures, and diplomatic relations with China. Leveraging this high-profile platform, potentially the largest audience he'll address this election cycle, Biden initiated what appears to be the groundwork for a heated rematch in the 2024 presidential race. Remarkably, this political gambit cost his campaign nothing, even as he starts with a financial advantage over Trump.

Throughout the approximately 67-minute speech, Biden invoked "my predecessor" numerous times, drawing visible reactions from Speaker Mike Johnson and audible dissent from Republican members, which Biden met with pointed retorts. His unreserved condemnation of Trump's tenure, particularly the management of the pandemic, underscored a central message of negligence and indifference, labeling it as a fundamental failure of presidential duty.

Trump's swift backlash on social media, along with critical echoes from Republican figures like Senator Mike Lee, signals the onset of an intensively polarized pre-election period. Biden's address, while primarily targeting Trump, also served as a defiant message to adversaries like Putin, asserting a steadfast U.S. stance. This strategic maneuver not only sets the tone for Biden's campaign narrative but also highlights the widening chasm in American politics as both sides brace for a tumultuous road to the 2024 election. Read more from Business Insider and watch the State of the Union Address on CSPAN

Trump's Financial Tightrope: Posting a $91.6 Million Bond Amidst Legal and Financial Turmoil

Donald Trump's financial resilience was put to the test this Friday as he managed to post a staggering $91.6 million bond in the defamation lawsuit brought against him by E. Jean Carroll. This bond, which includes the $83.3 million awarded in damages to Carroll plus interest for delayed payment, raises eyebrows and questions about Trump's liquidity amidst widespread speculation about his financial health. Despite attempts to delay payment and reduce the total amount, the presiding judge consistently denied Trump's requests, pushing him to the brink of the deadline.

The funding source for this substantial bond is particularly intriguing, with court records revealing that the Chubb Corporation, backed by CEO Evan Greenberg—who Trump appointed to a White House advisory committee in 2018—guaranteed the bond. This move barely kept Trump within the deadline to prevent Carroll’s lawyers from initiating the collection of damages, highlighting the precarious state of Trump’s financial obligations.

Beyond the Carroll lawsuit, Trump faces a mountain of legal and financial challenges, including a pending $5 million payment from a previous lawsuit by Carroll, a $466 million real estate fraud fine in New York accruing daily interest, and additional fines owed to The New York Times and for gag-order violations across various lawsuits. Moreover, Trump's recent order to pay $382,000 in legal fees to Orbis Business Intelligence adds another layer to his financial duress.

This sequence of financial and legal setbacks paints a picture of a former president navigating a complex web of financial obligations, leveraging high-profile connections to stay afloat. The implications of these developments are vast, not only shedding light on Trump's current financial standing but also raising questions about the sustainability of his legal and financial strategies moving forward.

Read more from New Republic

Trump's White House Pill Mill

The demotion of Dr. Ronny Jackson to Navy captain from admiral in July 2022 highlights deeper issues within the highest echelons of American politics, particularly under former President Donald Trump's administration. While the focus has been on Jackson's misconduct, including substance misuse and inappropriate behavior, the broader narrative reveals a White House Medical Unit caught in a whirlwind of ethical lapses, seemingly under the pressures of serving an unpredictable leader.

Reports suggest an environment where senior staff resorted to mixing prescription drugs with alcohol to cope with the intense demands of their roles. This paints a troubling picture of the Trump administration's inner workings, where the stress of governance led to dangerous coping mechanisms. The scandal not only questions individual accountability but also the systemic pressures that enabled such a culture to flourish, pointing to a need for structural changes to ensure the health and integrity of those serving at the nation's helm.

Read more from Esquire


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