Connecting state and local government leaders
STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Indiana mayor indicted … Hunting on Sundays may become legal in Pennsylvania … City council in Michigan gives themselves lifetime healthcare.
Republican lawmakers in Ohio have introduced a bill that would implement a total ban on abortions and create criminal penalties for doctors who perform them. The penalties for doctors would be under new criminal offenses known as “abortion murder” and “aggravated abortion murder” and carry the death penalty as a punishment. The bill does not make exemptions on its abortion ban for rape or murder. State Rep. Candice Keller, a Republican, is the bill’s primary sponsor. “The time for regulating evil and compromise is over. The time has come to abolish abortion in its entirety and recognize that each individual has the inviolable and inalienable right to life,” she said. Jaime Miracle of NARAL ProChoice Ohio said that the bill shows “how extreme abortion opponents” have become in the state. Chrisse France, the executive director of Preterm, Ohio’s largest aboriton provider, said she thinks the bill is a stunt. “Instead of making Ohio a safe place for women, children and families, Ohio politicians are focused on outlawing safe medical procedures and punishing people for seeking abortion care. If this dangerous proposal becomes law, doctors and pregnant people could be charged with murder for abortion care, birth control, help during their miscarriage and fertility treatments,” France said. A similar bill was introduced in the state last year, and was not supported by Ohio Right to Life, the state’s largest anti-abortion group. Mike Gonidakis, the organization’s president, questioned its ability to become law. “If you’re not careful in crafting good pro-life legislation, you are ultimately going to lose and when you lose in the federal court system, it has ramifications,” he said. Ohio Gov. Mike Dewine, a Republican, signed into law a six-week abortion ban, known as a heartbeat bill, earlier this year, but that law has been halted by a federal court. DeWine would not say whether he would support a total ban. “I think we should stay focused on what the legislature has passed. The Heartbeat Bill, if that bill is going to be upheld, it will only be upheld in the U.S. Supreme Court. We knew that when it was passed. We knew that when I signed it. We should let that play out and see what the U.S. Supreme Court does in that case or a similar case,” he said. [WKSU; Dayton Daily News; Washington Post]
MAYOR INDICTED | The mayor of Muncie, Indiana was indicted this week for allegedly using his influence to award contracts to those who gave him illegal cash payments. If convicted, Dennis Tyler could receive up to a 10-year prison sentence and a $250,000 fine. Tyler, who was arrested at his home on Monday, pleaded not guilty in federal court. U.S. Attorney Josh J. Minkler, the prosecutor on the case, said that Tyler betrayed his community’s trust. “Public officials are entrusted to perform a public service and to legitimately conduct business in the best interest of the community that they represent,” he said. Tyler’s term is set to end on December 31, and Councilmember Doug Marshall may serve as interim mayor until Mayor-elect Dan Ridenour assumes office. Marshall said he was shocked by the news. “You always hear the rumors, but I never expected the mayor to get arrested,” he said. Councilman Brad Polk said the indictment was disappointing. “It’s a black eye, that’s for sure. It doesn’t make the city look very good even though we are hard working and 99.9 percent of us do good every day,” he said. [Indianapolis Star; New York Times]
SUNDAY HUNTING | The Pennsylvania state legislature passed a bill that would allow hunting on up to three Sundays per year. The bill is intended to repeal antiquated state statutes based on religious activity bans. The bill had bipartisan cosponsors, Republican Sen. Dan Laughlin and Democratic Sen. Jim Brewster. “This bill is a result of collaborative effort of the major stakeholders that had an interest in Sunday hunting. It will not only create opportunities for hunters—men and women, young and old—to get out into Pennsylvania’s great outdoors, also it will generate additional revenue that we can hopefully use to solve CWD, which is fatal to deer and elk,” said Brewster, referring to chronic wasting disease, a contagious condition that has become a growing problem for the state’s deer population. Laughlin said that weekends are often the only days hunters have free. “Those two days are essentially the only time that most working men and women can get out into the woods. Lifting the ban will give them increased opportunities to pursue the activity that they love,” he said. Gov. Tom Wolf has not said whether he will sign the bill. [York Daily Record; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]
LIFETIME HEALTHCARE | The city council of Warren, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit, passed a law in September giving all current and former city councilmembers lifetime health coverage. Mayor Jim Fouts had 72 hours to issue a veto, but now says he was not made aware of the bill’s passage until after the deadline. Although he missed the veto window, Fouts is vowing to overturn the decision. “If [the councilmembers] want to sue me, they can sue me. I’m still going to send them a veto message. The bottom line is this unconscionable, unthinkable beyond my wildest imagination that they would come up with something like this,” he said. City Councilmember Ron Papandrea voted for the measure, but says he now regrets it. “I never read this thing myself. I made a mistake. I want to do whatever I can to correct it,” he said. Since the vote, the city had an election, and new council president Patrick Green said that he will address the issue. “We did not create this mess but we will absolutely see it resolved.” Robert Boccomino, the former council member who introduced the bill said that city employees get lifetime coverage after 25 years, but city council members are term-limited and therefore could never reach that level of service. “This was done to the best of our ability at the time and wasn’t an attempt to sneak it through,” he said. [Detroit Free Press; Click On Detroit]
NEWSSTANDS | A bill in the Philadelphia City Council aims to provide a lifeline to newsstands as print newspaper sales dwindle. The bill, sponsored by councilor Bill Greenlee would allow newsstands to expand their sales offerings to include tickets to tourist attractions and museums, and would allow owners to process payments for utility bills. "(Are they) going to make tremendous money out of this? No, but I think every little bit helps. These folks, mostly, they're immigrants, and they basically spend 10 hours a day in a hut. They're trying to make money, you know, they're not asking for money from the government or anything like that. They're trying to earn a living," said Greenlee. There are 171 active newsstand licenses in the city and most locations are owner operated. [KYW]
Emma Coleman is the assistant editor for Route Fifty.