Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Ohio Board Of Tax Appeals Law Changes

Ohio Governor John Kasich back on July 11th. signed HB 138  making changes to the government & operation of the state’s Board of Tax Appeals which included:
authorizing a small claims division within the Board,
requiring the Board to institute measures to manage certain appeals,
requiring the Board to receive notices of appeal and statutory transcripts     electronically,
providing pleading standards for appeals to the Board,
granting the Board authority to grant summary judgments and consider motions,
vesting hearing examiners with the authority to determine credibility of witnesses and issue statements of fact and conclusions of law separately,

authorizing the Board to require parties to engage in mediation,
and to authorize the Tax Commissioner to expedite and issue a final determination for residential property value appeals with written consent of the parties.

  The bill becomes effective October 11, 2013.

  Text of Bill
  Legislative Service’s Analysis

Ohio Tax Commissioner’s Wrong Filing Instructions Creates Ambiguity

 While we’re talking about the Board of Tax Appeals, the Ohio Supreme Court last week, on the 23rd.,ruled that a company can choose how it will appeal a final personal property tax assessment by the State Tax Commissioner to the State Board of Tax Appeals (BTA) when the commissioner issues a final assessment but mistakenly encloses instructions about how to appeal a preliminary assessment.

   After Crown Communications filed its 2006 Ohio property tax return, the Court’s news service background the case, the Ohio Department of Taxation notified it that it had established a preliminary valuation of their property that was higher than they believed was supported by generally accepted valuation standards in the wireless communications industry, and in May 2009, Crown received an official notice of final assessment for the 2006 tax year, instructing it that if it wished to appeal the commissioner’s assessment, it had to follow appeal procedures set forth in a separate instruction sheet that was enclosed. Although a final assessment by the tax commissioner has to be  appealed to the BTA within 60 days, Crown’s tax representative subsequently produced a copy of the instructions that she swore were enclosed with Crown’s May 22, 2009 notice incorrectly instructing Crown to file a petition for reassessment for further review by the commissioner, rather than filing a notice of appeal at the BTA, within 60 days.

   Following those instructions, the tax representative prepared and sent a reassessment petition to the tax commissioner’s office which was stamped as received by the commissioner 11 days before the expiration of the appeal period. Neither Crown nor the tax representative was notified before the expiration of the appeal period that the notice of appeal had been directed to the wrong office. In September 2009, after the expiration of the 60-day appeal period, the commissioner’s office issued a final determination stating that it could not process Crown’s appeal of the final assessment for 2006 because only the BTA had jurisdiction to hear appeals of a final assessment.
  The unanimous decision, authored by Justice Sharon L. Kennedy, determined that the BTA erred when it concluded that Crown Castle GT and Crown Communications Inc made a fatal procedural error by appealing an assessment to the commissioner instead of to the BTA within the required time frame. The Supreme Court reversed the BTA’s decision, remanded the case to the commissioner to address the assessment on the merits, and stated that Crown will still have the right to appeal that decision to the BTA.

Text of Opinion

Cincinnati parking meter controversy

 Cincinnati.com’s Polictics Extra yesterday relayed that the group that sued the City to stop its planned  parking lease scheme has filed an appeal with the Ohio Supreme Court, contending it “goes to the heart of the referendum power, and the vitality of the doctrine that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
Memorandum in support of jurisdiction

Ohio traffic control cameras

    With the bill introduced by Ron Maag and Dale Mallory last April that would prohibit the use of traffic law photo- monitoring devices by municipal corporations, counties, townships, and the State Highway Patrol to detect traffic signal light and speed limit violations except in school zones during recess and while children are going to or leaving school during opening or closing hours,  having been passed by the House last month by a 61-32 vote, not all towns and villages are happy with the idea.

  The Middletown Journal over the weekend carried an article citing “some Ohio cities and villages, already hurting from recent state changes that reduce their funding, will lose millions more if a proposed ban on automated traffic cameras goes through.”

   Kent Scarrett, a lobbyist for the Ohio Municipal League, which represents Ohio villages and cities in the Statehouse, was quoted as saying “the camera ban would amount to yet another funding cut for some communities.

 “The revenue component cannot be denied,” Scarrett said. “Our folks always considered this more of a safety issue… But you know, our demands are not going away for the need to generate revenue. Yet, the state seems to be not quite as supportive of a partner as they’ve been in the past.”

   “Traffic cameras netted around $16.5 million for eight Ohio cities and villages that had them in 2012, according to the Ohio Legislative Service Commission, the state legislature’s research arm,” the Journal’s article said. “That doesn’t count camera revenues in six other communities — including Elmwood Place, the Hamilton County village that inspired the ban after raking in $1.5 million in just six months before a judge shut ordered its cameras shut down — for which the LSC couldn’t obtain 2012 full-year data.”

Monday, July 29, 2013

Ohio cancelling property tax “rollbacks

 “After a tradition of some 40 years of subsidizing local taxes, Gov. John Kasich and Republicans in the Ohio House and Senate have applied the brakes,” the Toledo Blade told its readers this morning. We’re passing that on to those who hadn't gotten the news.

  “Local governments and schools heading for the ballot in November to ask voters to support new or replacement levies will have to tell them that the price tags attached will be higher than they were previously told, and the taxpayer will have to pay the entire tab for any new taxes approved.”

  “As part of a broader tax package in the recently finalized the $62 billion, two-year budget. GOP lawmakers have drawn the line on expansion of the so-called property tax rollback for all local taxpayers as well as the homestead exemption benefiting senior citizen and disabled homeowners,” the article continued. “The provisions approved without a single vote by Democratic lawmakers.”

  “Under the rollback program, the state pays the first 10 percent of the tax bill for all property owners plus 2.5 percent for owner-occupied homes. The state will now continue to pay the tab on existing levies and their renewals, but will not subsidize new levies.

  “In addition, an income limit will be restored to the homestead exemption. The state will continue to pay the bill on the first $25,000 in home market value for those already in the program, but all new senior citizen and disabled homeowners entering the program will have to prove they earn less than $30,000 a year.”

  Along with the Blade's story, we also here note Assistant Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni, a Democrat from Canfield, last week introduced a bill “to extend the 10% and 2.5% partial property tax ‘rollback’ exemptions to new and replacement levies approved at the 2013 general election.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Juvenile Miranda cases

 Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday asking it to step into the legal debate over whether students must be informed of their constitutional  rights before being questioned during an on-campus investigation of school-related activities. The answer could  overturn a Kentucky Supreme Court ruling granting students the right to be Mirandized before questioning by school officials if a resource officer is present.

  The issue arose in 2008, NKy.com backgrounds,  when an assistance principal at Nelson County High School in Bardstown found an empty prescription pill bottle for hydrocodone, a derivative of opium used to treat pain, with the name of N.C. on it on the boy’s bathroom floor. After a short investigation, a student, identified in court records only as N.C., was taken from class to the principal’s office and interviewed behind closed doors.

  After being told about the empty bottle’s having been found, N.C. admitted to having given two pills to a friend who recently had wisdom teeth pulled, whereupon he was told he was subject to school discipline. A school resource officer then informed him he would also be charged  criminally. N.C. was later expelled from school and, because he had turned 18 prior to sentencing in 2010, was sentenced to 45 days in jail, 30 hours of community service, and an additional 27 hours of community service in lieu of court costs. Sentence was stayed pending an appeal in the case.

  The trial court concluded that “the presence of a school resource officer and the prospect of criminal charges meant the student should have been informed of his rights,” and, upon reaching the Kentucky Supreme Court  in April, Justice Mary Noble wrote that “No reasonable student, even the vast majority of 17-year-olds, would have believed that he was at liberty to remain silent, or to leave, of that he was even admitting criminal responsibility under these circumstances… If he had been an adult under these same circumstances, there is no question that the statements would not have been admissible under Miranda.”
 ( Decision )

  “The ruling, issued by a deeply divided court, sets a bright-line rule for school officials pursuing both disciplinary action and possible criminal charges on school grounds,” the article said, with Attorney General Conway urging the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case because state appellate courts are divided over this issue. States that hold Miranda warnings are required include Georgia, North Carolina, and now Kentucky. States that hold Miranda warnings are not required include South Carolina, Virginia, Florida, Texas, Tennessee, New York, New Mexico, and Louisiana.”

  In a somewhat similar Franklin County, Ohio case this past February, though not in a school setting,  the appeals court there held that the subject juvenile “did not have the benefit of consulting with either his mother or an attorney about giving up his constitutional right to remain silent. He was 16 years old with a 9th grade education. He was situated in an environment which the Supreme Court of the United States has recognized as coercive for an adult. See Miranda. Although a juvenile can give an incriminating statement without consulting with a parent or an attorney, the access to a trusted adult or attorney is a factor which can be considered in assessing voluntariness… Given the facts of this case, the juvenile court could reasonably find that (subject) did not knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily give up his right to remain silent. Therefore, the juvenile court correctly suppressed statements made as evidence. “

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Federal Court Funding Hearings

 The National Law Journal yesterday related judges and lawyers from around the country again trying to warn Capital Hill of the dangers of inadequate federal court funding,
   Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals judge and chairwoman of the U.S. Judicial Conference’s budget committee,  Julia Gibbons, told a Senate subcommittee that the nearly $350 million in cuts to the courts this year under the across-the-board government spending reductions called sequestration, have been “devastating” and “painful,” the article said, and that “if funding levels remain flat or decline, it compromises the constitutional mission of the courts.”

   Michael Nachmanoff, federal public defender for the Eastern District of Virginia, said that the nation’s federal public defender's system has lost more than 200 employees and will be even worse off when the new budget starts on October 1, 2013, federal defenders being forced to terminate up to half their employees and close branch offices if funding remained at the same level.

  Some in Washington seem to be listening, the article reported, with .the House Appropriations Committee last week approving a fiscal year 2014 appropriations bill that includes $6.5 billion for the courts, roughly the same level it was in 2013, before sequestration cuts hit, and the  Senate appropriations subcommittee approved $6.7 billion for the courts, an increase of $148 million or 2.2 percent above the fiscal year 2013 level. “It restores severe cuts to Federal Defender offices and ensures that they are adequately staffed,” a bill summary says.

There were still sharp disagreements between other budget priorities for the House, Senate and White House, the article reported Gibbons as saying, and those conflicts could lead to yet another partisan battle in Congress that ends with a continuing resolution that either keeps the sequestration cuts or otherwise keeps the federal courts budget flat.

  The Ohio Supreme Courts news service, too, had additional information about Judge Gibbons’ testimony before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Bankruptcy and the Courts at the hearing titled: “Sequestering Justice: How the Budget Crisis is undermining our Courts (senate.gov).”

D.C. Circuit Court Blocks Import of Lethal Injection Drug

 Law.com’s  Blog of LegalTimes yesterday reported “the U.S. Food and Drug Administration was wrong in allowing states to import a ‘misbranded and unapproved new drug’ used in lethal injection cocktails without first examining it, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled unanimously on July 23rd., upholding a trial judge's order blocking the FDA from allowing continued imports of sodium thiopental. The court found the agency ‘acted in derogation’ of its duty to examine foreign shipments of a drug prepared by a company not registered with the FDA and  rejected the agency's argument that it had discretion in deciding whether to review the shipments and could permit unreviewed imports in deference to law enforcement agencies.”

    District Court Judge Richard Leon had found back in March 2012 that the FDA acted "arbitrarily and capriciously and abused its discretion" in permitting shipments of thiopental without examining it. The federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act is clear that the agency ‘shall’ review and block drugs in violation of the law.” (District Court's ruling)

 “The Food, Drug, & Cosmetic Act imposes mandatory duties upon the agency charged with its enforcement.” the Circuit Court concluded in its ruling. “The FDA acted in derogation of those duties by permitting the importation of thiopental, a conceededly misbranded and unapproved new drug, and by declaring that it would not in the future sample and examine foreign shipments of the drug despite knowing they may have been prepared in an unregistered establishment. The district court could not remedy the FDA’s unlawful actions, however, by imposing upon the interests of non-parties to this suit. The order of the district court pertaining to the thiopental already in the possession of the states, quoted in the paragraph above, is therefore vacated, but the underlying judgment of the district court is affirmed.”

Ohio Southern District Court recognizes same-sex marriage

The University of Pittsburgh’s Jurist Paper Chase yesterday reported on the Southern District of Ohio’s ruling last Monday allowing a  terminally ill gay man who  married legally in Maryland earlier this month and returned to Ohio with his partner where they have resided for nearly 20 years, to show a “married” marital status and carry his partner’s name  as his surviving spouse on his death certificate. (Ruling)

  Ohio law, Jurist recounts, prohibits same-sex marriage but does recognize marriages solemnized outside of the state. Their suit enjoins enforcement of Ohio's same-sex marriage prohibition in their own case alone, but a Washington Post article quotes Al Gerhardstein, the men’s attorney, as saying “This is one more step toward marriage equality in the state of Ohio,” and that he’s gotten calls from other same-sex couples who married in other states and are exploring their options to have their marriage recognized in Ohio.

  The Post article, also from yesterday, quotes Southern District Judge Timothy Black, who wrote the decision, that “historically, Ohio law has recognized out-of-state marriages as valid as long as they were legal where they took place, pointing to marriages between cousins and involving minors. 'How then can Ohio, especially given the historical status of Ohio law, single out same-sex marriages as ones it will not recognize? The short answer is that it cannot.'"

Monday, July 22, 2013

Proposed E-mail privacy legislation

“Given how far the internet has come in the past few years, it might be surprising to find that the most recent law requiring privacy standards for electronic communications is from 1986,”  an article in Law.com’s Law Technology News this morning reports – “Several of the largest technology and internet companies have joinned forces with conservative and liberal organizations in a show of solidarity for a proposed amendment to the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act.

   In a July 12th.  letter to the Senate, the article reported, companies such as Microsoft, Oracle, Intel, Adobe, Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Yahoo urged passage of the amendment, which would modernize the ECPA and increase the level of protection given to emails and electronic communications from the government.

  “Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) and Mike Lee’s (R-Utah) proposed amendment would force government agencies to get a warrant before they could access any emails or electronic  communications stored on third-party servers, regardless of when they were received,” the article continued, quoting the letter’s saying  "American consumers and businesses large and small are increasingly taking advantage of the efficiencies offered by web-based email servers and cloud-based storage and computing. Removing uncertainty about the level of legal protection afforded such information will encourage consumers and companies, including those outside the U.S., to utilize these services."

  The article also says “the letter also expressed opposition to a proposal from the Securities and Exchange Commission granting the agency an exemption from the amendment. In an April 24 letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Leahy, SEC Commissioner Mary Jo White cautioned that the amendment would have a "significant negative impact" on the SEC's enforcement capabilities. White argued that getting a subpoena or warrant for emails every single time was impractical and would encourage individuals or entities under investigation to delete incriminating emails. Instead, White proposed preserving the SEC's ability to get emails directly from third-party providers, "in appropriate circumstances."

Mobile phone hacking potential alert

   NBC/Reuters is relaying a report that the United Nations' Geneva-based International Telecommunications Union, which has reviewed the research and describes as "hugely significant,” a bug, discovered by a German firm, that would let hackers gain remote control and clone certain types of mobile SIM cards, and is planning on issuing “an alert about the significant vulnerabilities in mobile phone technology that could let hackers attack at least half a billion phones.”

   ITU Secretary General Hamadoun TourĂ© told Reuters, “the agency would notify telecommunications regulators and other government agencies in nearly 200 countries about the potential threat, and also reach out to hundreds of mobile companies, academics and other industry experts.,” the article said, further, that “a spokeswoman for the GSMA, which represents nearly 800 mobile operators worldwide, said it also reviewed the research and  have been able to consider the implications and provide guidance to those network operators and SIM vendors that may be impacted.”

  “Nicole Smith, a spokeswoman for Gemalto NV, the world's biggest maker of SIM cards, said her company supported GSMA's response.”

Ohio lawyers' CLE requirement changes

 The Ohio Supreme Court is reminding its attorney base that significant continuing legal education (CLE) changes  that impact attorneys, judges, magistrates, and new lawyers are relatively soon forthcoming., amendments first  applying to attorneys and judges whose last names begin with the letters M through Z and whose biennial compliance period ends December 31, 2014. (Announcement Here)

  A-through-L attorneys and judges still will be required to comply with the current CLE rule and requirements for the biennial compliance period that ends December 31, 2013, with the new rules affecting this group beginning with the 2014/2015 biennial compliance period.

  Last November, the Court adopted changes that double the number of online credit hours attorneys could earn, allow attorneys to earn a portion of their CLE hours by engaging in approved pro bono activities, and eliminate the requirement to file final reporting transcripts. Under those changes, the self-study credit hours an attorney could earn each biennial period will increase from 6 to 12 hours.

  Assistance to Ohio’s legal professionals about what the changes entail, and how to compare what’s required now with what will be required come January, the Office of Attorney Services has compiled several reference guides on its website, where there are separate charts to compare the current and amended rules for attorneys, judges, magistrates, and new lawyers, along with frequently asked questions and answers about the current and amended CLE rules for attorneys, judges, and new lawyers.

Text of CLE changes.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Castle Doctrine & Stand Your Ground…..

 Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman have become almost household names by now as the case centered around whether Zimmerman acted in self defense drew national attention to that portion of Florida law allowing people to defend themselves with force if they feel threatened in their home, business, car, or any other place where they "have a legal right to be." --- and at least 22 states besides Florida have a similar law, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, including Ohio, Kentucky & Indiana.

  “Castle Doctrine,” as it’s popularly become known as, is an idea that’s been around since ancient Rome and derives itself from the historic English common law dictum that "an Englishman's home is his castle." Castle Doctrine and “Stand Your Ground” laws, however, are not the exactly the same, and not all states have “Stand Your Ground Castle Doctrine,” embodying “no duty to retreat, regardless of where attack takes place.” (Check out Wikipedia's article)

  The Zimmerman trial and verdict have renewed focus and controversy on “Stand Your Ground Law,” Articles on Cincinnati.com and NPR  both  noting that while “George Zimmerman's defense team didn't invoke Florida's ‘stand your ground’ defense in winning his acquittal of murder, the specter of the 2005 law loomed, inescapably, over the proceedings… It was inevitable that the racially fraught trial would again catapult Florida's law — which extends protections for the use of deadly force far beyond the traditional bounds of one's home — as well as those in 21-plus states with similar self-defense measures into the nation's consciousness.”

   Florida, in fact, was the first state to enact Stand Your Ground legislation back in 2005, then, last year, a task force specially appointed by Governor Rick Scott issued a report concurring with the core principles of the state's Stand Your Ground Law, but recommending further legislative clarification of the requirement that the person asserting the defense not be engaged in "unlawful activity." The report also recommended legislative standards for recognized neighborhood watch groups.

   Wikipedia ‘s article on Stand Your Ground continued, noting “an independent task force  convened earlier by  Florida senator Chris Smith issued its own report, submitting that to the Governor's Task Force, and that among its recommendations was the unanimous conclusion that claims of self-defense be submitted to a grand jury prior to prosecution. One of the witnesses before the independent task force complained that the law is "confusing,” while a lawyer representing the Florida Prosecuting Attorney's Association went so far as to recommended the law's repeal, feeling that modifying the law would not fix its problems.” Articles appearing this morning on NBCNews and Reuters have that call being renewed with the NBC article saying “Smith spoke with Florida House Democratic leader Perry Thurston with both calling for a special session of the state's Republican-dominated legislature to overhaul the law or consider doing away with it.”

  A CNN article last Wednesday, though, covered the alternative view and that most of the laws nationwide are likely to remain largely unchanged.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Reorganizing aspects of government suggested by study?

  A FoxNews exclusive this morning reports “The Obama administration should dramatically reorganize the relationships between America’s federal departments and agencies, and overcome legal barriers to help install the nebulous principle of 'sustainability'  across government, the economy and society at large, according to a new National Research Council study sponsored by many of the federal departments that would be most affected.

  “The study also calls for installing sustainability in the 'culture of government' and recommends that the U.S. look for inspiration to a number of 'national sustainable development strategies' adopted under the United Nation’s controversial Agenda 21, a highly detailed blueprint for reworking the global economy and environment that was reaffirmed at last year’s Rio + 20 summit on sustainable development. More than 100 nations have adopted such strategies, though the U.S. is not among them…”

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Wisconsin first in nation to impose one long term for top court justices?

 The Baraboo (WI) News Republic  last Monday had an article reporting on a proposal which a Wisconsin Bar Association task force hopes to  introduce in the legislature this fall that would eliminate re-election campaigns for high court justices by limiting candidates to single, 16-year terms  instead of the unlimited 10-year terms now permitted under the state’s constitution. Sixteen years is close to the average tenure of a Wisconsin justice in recent decades.

  The proposal is the result of efforts started 18 months ago by the Bar’s task force in response to ethics complaints and interpersonal turmoil on the Wisconsin Supreme Court that have spilled into public view, and as the flow of money into elections has continued to grow.

  “No state  restricts its supreme court justices to a single term of specific length, according to the American Judicature Society, a nonprofit that advocates for judicial ethics and the appointment of judges whose qualifications have been endorsed their merit panels," the News Republic says. "According to data compiled by the society, three states appoint supreme court justices for life, but the 16 year-term would be longer than any set term of years in any of the other states. Three states have a mandatory retirement age of 70 for top court judges, but none forbid re-election or reappointment." Wisconsin & Kentucky are among 13 states where judicial candidates run for election without official ties to political parties; Ohio is one of nine states in which there are party affiliations involved.
  The article also notes several other states searching for ways to make changes, specifically mentioning Ohio, where the chief justice, Maureen O’Connor in May offered a plan to remove political parties from the selection of judges and lengthen elected terms to restore public confidence that courts are independent.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Ohio Commercial/ Specialized Court Dockets

As of Monday, July 1st. Ohio officially got its first set of commercial docket courts when their permanent rules, adopted Feb. 26, went into effect.

Commercial court dockets evolved from the foresight expressed by late Chief Justice Thomas Moyer in his
April 25, 2007 State of the Judiciary speech where he spoke of the concern all Ohio citizens share regarding the economic realities challenging the state’s businesses. “When making decisions to locate or remain in Ohio,” the Chief Justice then said, “employers assess a number of criteria. Not so obvious, but important to many, is the prospect of civil litigation arising from commercial transactions—costly, time-consuming litigation.

“A number of states have responded to that reality by creating business or complex commercial dockets in courts of general jurisdiction. Such dockets are devoted to litigation between businesses, not consumer transactions. Most business-to-business litigation is different from other litigation in the number of documents and witnesses, the extent of the motion practice, discovery disputes, and increasingly, knowledge of technology. Often such cases benefit from advanced case management techniques and the availability of dispute resolution alternatives… A concurrent resolution adopted by the West Virginia legislature observed that states with a business court system report that they have successfully used business courts to persuade businesses to locate or remain in those states.”

And thus was born the Court’s Task Force on Commercial Dockets pilot program, charged with assessing the best method of establishing commercial civil litigation dockets in Ohio’s courts of common pleas.

By March 2008, the Task Force had reached the point where it had submitted an interim report that included a proposed set of Temporary Rules of Superintendence for Courts of Ohio “designed to establish the framework for the commercial docket pilot project.” Following the Supreme Court’s adoption of the temporary rules later that year, the courts of common pleas in Cuyahoga, Franklin, Hamilton, and Lucas Counties agreed to serve and were designated as the pilot project courts. Commercial dockets in all four counties were in operation by the beginning of March of 2009,

A second interim report was filed in March 2011 containing the results from surveys conducted of each of the eight commercial docket judges and many of the lawyers involved in commercial docket litigation over the preceeding two years, noting the successes of the pilot project while also revealing the biggest challenge to each of the commercial dockets – the burden the docket places on the commercial docket judges.

The Task Force’s final report was submitted that December.

The Task Force recommendation of establishing a commercial docket in any court of common pleas that (1) has six or more general division judges or (2) is located in a county that has a population of 300,000 or more according to the latest federal decennial census has resulted in the state now having three commercial court dockets. An article in The Cleveland Plain Dealer last Monday noted that city’s (Cuyahoga County) judges voting to retain their commercial dockets last month. Of the original four participants in the pilot project, Lucas County judges also voted last month to keep their court as has Hamilton County. Franklin County judges, however, voted 9-8 to disband theirs.

Allied to the commercial courts, the Supreme Court’s news service also announced last Wednesday that the first five specialized docket courts in the state receive final certification today from the Commission on Specialized Dockets. They include Ashtabula County Common Pleas Drug Court, Clermont County Municipal OVI Court, Columbiana County Municipal Mental Health Court—STAR Program, Franklin County Family Drug Court; and Licking County Common Pleas Drug Court—CIA Program.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

New COPPA online child protection rules in effect

“New rules aimed at protecting children using the Internet -- updates making the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) more relevant in the social media and mobile phone age, though placing some additional burdens on companies targeting kids under 13 – went into effect Monday morning over objections from industry groups which had recently requested a postponement," MSNBC.com reports this morning.

“Congress passed the original COPPA law in 1998, long before services like Twitter or Facebook existed,” the article said, “The Federal Trade Commission in charge of keeping it current -- industry groups went sour on the changes from the minute the FTC proposed them last year. The Interactive Advertising Bureau, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and several other groups made a last-ditch attempt this spring to convince the FTC to postpone implementation of the changes for six months in order to prepare for the update, but, in a letter dated May 6, the FTC rejected the request, essentially saying the groups had plenty of time to get ready. It did signaled, however, that it would go easy on enforcement for awhile.”

While the changes might not be enforced immediately, or noticed by users, the Center for Democracy and Technology has already begin a public effort to make sure the new rules have some bite, sending a letter to dozens of partner organizations asking that they police the Web watching for COPPA violations.

The Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection Business Center has a “frequently asked questions” GUIDE FOR BUSINESS, PARENTS & SMALL ENTITY COMPLIANCE” on its website, as well as additional information and copies of the new rules.

[ Wikipedia adds the cautionary note, too, not to confuse the current law, Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), with the now defunct Child Online Protection Act, abbreviated "COPA" ]

Monday, July 01, 2013

2014-15 Ohio Biennial Budget

Cincinnati.com this morning reports that Ohio Gov. John Kasich Sunday night signed the state’s 6,000-page, $62 billion biennial which took effect at 12:01 this morning, using his line-item veto power on 22 items including a provision that would have barred Ohio from preparing to expand Medicaid coverage under the federal Affordable Care Act, but letting abortion restrictions stand that include a requirement for doctors to do external examinations – likely ultrasounds – to search for fetal heartbeats before performing abortions.

“Gov Kasich supports expanding Medicaid coverage to include up to 366,000 uninsured, low-income Ohioans,” the article said, “though many lawmakers in his own party oppose it. Kasich’s veto allows the state to be ready to accept federal money for the expansion Jan. 1, if the General Assembly at some point authorizes it. Discussions on that point continue….. Kasich let abortion restrictions stand as the provision was criticized by abortion-rights advocates for being added to the budget at the last minute, without hearings or debate.”

The budget “includes Kasich’s 50 percent tax cut on the first $250,000 of income for small business owners, his plan to tie aid to state colleges to their graduation rate, a watered-down version of his income-tax cut and a nod to his plan to raise revenue through the sales tax. All Ohioans get a 10 percent income-tax cut.

The General Assembly has a year and a half to seek overrides on any of Kasich’s vetoes, which appears unlikely, the article says, or change the budget’s effects by passing separate laws in the fall or through the mid-biennial budget review.

Ohio Legislative Service Commission Bill Analysis