Ohio House passes reforms to civil asset forfeiture

COLUMBUS — Yesterday Ohio’s House of Representatives passed reforms to civil asset forfeiture, which, under current law, allows government to take property from individuals who have not been charged with crimes. The Buckeye Institute, Ohio’s free-market think tank, applauded the reforms.

House Bill 347 eliminates civil asset forfeiture in most cases involving property worth less than $25,000, and strengthens what the government must prove for property to be forfeited. The measure, also supported by the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, passed the House 67-24.

“This policy is a significant step forward in protecting property rights,” Daniel Dew, The Buckeye Institute’s Criminal Justice Fellow, said. “At the same time this reform preserves the ability of the government to seize property from those actually convicted of crimes.”

The Buckeye Institute testified before the Ohio House Judiciary Committee about cases in which property was wrongly seized by the government costing innocent citizens thousands of dollars.

“Government exists to protect private property of the innocent, not to confiscate it,” Robert Alt, president and CEO of The Buckeye Institute, said. “More can and should be done to protect the property rights of innocent Ohioans. Buckeye will continue to champion additional reforms to protect these rights.”

House Bill 347 will next go to the Senate, where it will likely be reviewed after the November election.

# # #

Founded in 1989, The Buckeye Institute is an independent research and educational institution–a think tank–whose mission is to advance free-market public policy in the states.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Buckeye Institute celebrates legislative win for cosmetologists

COLUMBUS — Cosmetologists aspiring to become store managers will have a clearer career path in Ohio, should a newly approved piece of legislation be signed into law by Gov. Kasich. Ohio’s free-market think tank, The Buckeye Institute, applauded the General Assembly’s move.

Today, the Ohio Senate concurred with minor House changes to Senate Bill 213, sponsored by Sen. Kris Jordan (R-Ostrander), ending Ohio’s requirement that cosmetologists get a special state license to be promoted to store manager. The bill, which will now go to Gov. Kasich’s desk, cleared the House last week 96-0 after initially passing the Senate 32-0.

“More Ohio cosmetologists will now have the opportunity to advance professionally, earn higher incomes, and take on leadership roles in their careers,” Rea S. Hederman Jr., Buckeye’s executive vice president, said. “Excessive government licensing is a barrier to many Ohioans, particularly to low- and middle-income residents.”

Under current Ohio law, cosmetologists must undergo an additional 300 hours of training to obtain a government-issued salon-manager license, on top of the 1,200 training hours they already spent receiving their cosmetology license. For years, the reform has stalled because of opposition from private cosmetology schools, which sell trainings for the licenses.

“More Ohioans now have the opportunity to move up in their careers, and in life, by removing this harmful government licensing barrier,” Sen. Jordan said. “This would not have been possible without our broad coalition of supporters, including The Buckeye Institute, which raised this issue among state residents and provided valuable research to policymakers on Capitol Square.”

Jordan’s measure was cosponsored by Sen. Charleta Tavares (D-Columbus). A companion bill was introduced in the House by Representatives by Kristina Roegner (R-Hudson) and Alicia Reece (D-Cincinnati) that facilitated Senate Bill 213’s eventual passage.

“Getting rid of the salon manager’s license is particularly gratifying, but there are many other licenses we should be examining,” Rep. Roegner, a long-time advocate against over-licensure, said.

The Buckeye Institute brought increased scrutiny to Ohio’s cosmetology requirements in Forbidden to Succeed: How Licensure Laws Hold Ohioans Back. The study, released in November 2015 at a statehouse event with lawmakers, details over-licensed and over-regulated modest-income professions. Hederman said The Buckeye Institute will bring a similar focus to other licensing requirements.

“If Ohio is to grow its economy and create opportunity for its residents, policymakers must take a close look at other government-mandated licensing requirements,” Hederman said. “Cosmetologists and other licensed professionals want to move ahead. Ohio should let them.”

# # #

Founded in 1989, The Buckeye Institute is an independent research and educational institution – a think tank – whose mission is to advance free-market public policy in the states.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Ohio Jobs Tracker: What caused Ohio’s increase in labor force participation?

Something strange is happening in Ohio. In recent years, the Ohio economy has been mediocre to dead-last when it comes to most economic metrics. But lately, the Buckeye State has led the country in one of the most important economic indicators.

Specifically, Ohio’s labor force participation rate is growing faster than the national average, which the state’s April jobs report recently showed. This metric tracks the number of people who are working or actively looking for a job relative to the total number of working-age people. A high labor force participation rate means the economy is healthy and people are optimistic about their opportunities in the workforce.

After the Great Recession, labor force participation plummeted across the country and has yet to return. Many people lost their jobs and either retired early, gave up after failing to get a new job, or just never felt good enough about their prospects to even try. It’s one of the biggest and most persistent problems in our economy today. Economist Casey Mulligan has shown that policies intended to relieve the unemployed, such as expanded Medicaid and unemployment insurance, only served to exacerbate the problem.

Labor Force Participation Plummeted After the Recession

Fortunately, that’s starting to turn around at the national level, and Ohio has curiously become one of the juggernauts driving this trend. The Buckeye State jumped a full percentage point in the last 12 months, while the U.S. remained flat.

In the Last Year Ohio Has Blown Past the U.S. Average

Best of all, this change is happening for all the right reasons. The labor force participation rate can increase because of more people working or searching for a job, or because the working-age population is declining as people retire or leave the state. Ohio’s working-age population is relatively flat, but people are surging into the labor market in recent months. This is cause for optimism and, if the trend continues, might be a harbinger of real recovery (at last).

Ohio Labor Force Outpaced Population Over Last Year

In the weeks ahead, we will break down the national average at the state level and take a closer look at who else is doing well (and who isn’t).

Posted in Labor, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Buckeye Institute concerned by April job losses, but sees signs of long-term recovery

COLUMBUS — Ohio’s free-market think tank found an encouraging sign in the state’s April jobs report released Friday morning. Although The Buckeye Institute’s Rea S. Hederman Jr. is concerned by the loss of 13,600 jobs, he said the new report shows continued record growth in labor force participation.

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services’ latest employment report shows Ohio’s unemployment rate increased slightly to 5.2 percent in April from 5.1 percent in March. Labor force participation, however, increased to 63.5 percent from 63.3 percent, which suggests a strong recovery is underway, according to Hederman.

“Ohio’s April jobs report indicates that potential workers continue to enter the labor force to find work,” Hederman, The Buckeye Institute’s executive vice president and director of its Economic Research Center, said. “The bad news is new job opportunities did not grow as fast in April and the unemployment rate grew as a result.”

Over the last year, Ohio has surpassed the national average in terms of potential workers entering the labor force. The United States labor force participation has remained virtually flat at 62.8 percent and actually declined over the last month. By comparison, Ohio’s labor force has grown nearly 1 percent over the last year.

“Ohio does have a slightly higher unemployment rate than the national average, but that is because of the increase in the state’s labor force participation rate,” Hederman said. “Ohio’s tax cuts have generated growth and opportunity, but more needs to be done. Policymakers should look at Ohio’s regulations that can restrict opportunities for both businesses and workers.”

The April report shows the construction industry gained 900 jobs last month. Still, that increase did not make up for losses in manufacturing (-2,700) or business and professional services (-5,100). Jobs in real estate increased by 2,400 in April, making that sector the fastest-growing one over the last year, increasing by 9.7 percent.

Local government also declined by 6,100 jobs. Mining and logging continues to shed jobs, losing one out of every five jobs over the last month.

The Buckeye Institute analyzes Ohio’s unemployment rate to identify policy solutions for increasing job opportunities and strengthening the state economy.

# # #

Founded in 1989, The Buckeye Institute is an independent research and educational institution – a think tank – whose mission is to advance free-market public policy in the states.

Posted in Labor | Leave a comment

What a recent court ruling means for President Obama’s climate change plan

President Obama’s landmark climate change regulation continues to be on hold until the U.S. Supreme Court offers a ruling on his “Clean Power Plan.” Yesterday, however, a major decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit fast-tracked the much anticipated decision.

On Tuesday, the D.C. Circuit Court announced its full slate of judges (two of whom recused themselves) will review the president’s Clean Power Plan. Typically just three judges are randomly selected to hear such a case, after which either party can appeal the decision to an “en banc” review by the full court.

But with Tuesday’s announcement, the Clean Power Plan will bypass the three-judge review and go directly to en banc review. (Notably, President Obama’s nominee to fill Justice Scalia’s seat, Merrick Garland, is one of the two recused Appeals Court judges in the Clean Power Plan case.) Still, however, the D.C. Circuit’s ruling will matter only if the U.S. Supreme Court declines to take up the case or reviews it and offers an opinion in line with the lower court.

The Buckeye Institute and the state of Ohio have joined more than 100 entities across the country in the litigation to stop the Clean Power Plan, given its harmful effects on Ohio’s (and the country’s) economy. According to various studies, President Obama’s Clean Power Plan would:

  • destroy an estimated 32,000 manufacturing jobs in Ohio
  • raise Ohioans’ electricity prices by 15 percent per year, on average, over a decade
  • implement a costly “cap and trade” scheme—that Congress already rejected—through an unaccountable federal bureaucracy

This case over the Clean Power Plan has been as unpredictable as the weather: Late in 2015, the D.C. Circuit court declined the request from the Buckeye Institute and others to issue a “stay” order that would stop the EPA from implementing the regulation while the lawsuit is ongoing. In an unprecedented move, several parties appealed the request to the Supreme Court, which overturned the D.C. Circuit’s 5-4 decision in February and granted the stay. Less than a week later, Justice Antonin Scalia’s death cast doubt on the Clean Power Plan’s future.

The D.C. Circuit’s surprising move to fast-track their review underscores the importance of the case. Now, all eyes are on the nomination for the next justice, who will likely cast the decisive vote as to whether the regulation will stand.

Posted in energy, Regulation | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Ending the Mandatory Use of Project Labor Agreements Will Save Taxpayer Dollars

Ohio needs many different labor reforms.  Ending the mandatory use of labor agreements (PLAs) in public projects will save Ohio taxpayers money.  PLAs pick winners and losers. Among those losers are the millions of Ohio taxpayers, businesses, and non-union employees that continue to pay more for less.

Estimates show that projects with PLAs can increase construction costs by as much as 15% – providing Ohio with less bang for the buck.  PLAs make taxpayers pay more for public projects such as roads, infrastructure, and repairs that could be done better, faster, and more efficiently.

new policy brief based on a Buckeye Institute report explains how PLAs:

  • Increase costs for taxpayers;
  • Decrease competition among contractors on public projects by adding burdensome red-tape and requirements;
  • Force non-union workers on PLA projects to pay for union benefits they will likely never see.
Posted in Economy, Government, Labor | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Thumbs down: Read our bad review of Ohio’s plan to give tax breaks to Hollywood movie producers

Have you ever heard of View from the Top? It was a 2003 movie featuring actress Gwyneth Paltrow, Christina Applegate, Mark Ruffalo, and Rob Lowe. What about Rebound (2005) or Summer Catch (2001)?

These films have a few things in common: They were filmed in Ohio, busts at the box office, and losers both for investors and Ohio taxpayers.

Ohio is a sucker for subsidizing the production of Hollywood movies. Filmmakers who spend at least $300,000 filming in Ohio get motion picture tax credits – in other words, the ability to legally avoid taxes that everyone else pays.

It may sound appealing to have movie producers consider Ohio as the place to film their next “hit,” but in reality Ohio businesses and residents are footing the bill for Hollywood.

The state gives special tax breaks to appear more hospitable to Hollywood producers. But Ohio businesses and workers are not awarded this same luxury. Ultimately, Buckeye State residents will pay more in taxes to make up for what visiting filmmakers don’t pay.

Some well-respected hits like The Shawshank Redemption (1994) and Rain Man (1988) have been filmed in Ohio. But it isn’t the job of state taxpayers to prop-up Hollywood hits or box office busts.

However, Senate Bill 289, sponsored by Senator Tom Patton (R-Cuyahoga), proposes substantially increasing tax credits for movie producers shooting in Ohio. The motion picture tax credit cap is currently $40 million for every two-year budget period. In other words, the state cuts off the tax credit faucet at $40 million.

The proposed bill would raise the cap to $100 million for the current biennium (two year period) and $160 million for all subsequent biennium.

We propose an alternative ending to the Hollywood financier’s script. The rewrite is one word, stolen from every Hollywood director: “Cut!” As in cut the tax break to $20 million next year, then cut it to zero in the next.

Our pitch has an unsexy title: Good Tax Policy, starring Ohio legislators dedicated to low rates applied neutrally and fairly.

It is time Ohio businesses stop picking up the tab for Hollywood.  Paying the same taxes as everyone else is a cost of doing business, for Ohioans and Hollywood financiers.

Sure, it’s fun to see a movie being made in Cleveland or Cincinnati.  In 2015, the Cincinnati area was home to such would-be classics as The Funhouse Massacre (“Six of the world’s scariest psychopaths escape from a local Asylum…”) and Marauders (“An untraceable group of elite bank robbers is chased by a suicidal FBI agent…”).

Admittedly, those artistic opportunities are hard to turn down. But sometimes being a legislator means making tough decisions about how to tax, how to spend, and where to film movies about six of the world’s scariest psychopaths.

— By A.J. Beam

Posted in Government, State Government, Taxes | Leave a comment