On Friday, Ohio House Bill 194 is slated to go into effect and would shorten the absentee-voting period as early as this November’s elections. However, if Fair Elections Ohio’s referendum is validated today, the bill would be shelved and eventually decided upon in 2012.
The Ohio Apportionment Board voted 4-1 along party lines yesterday to approve a new set of Ohio House and Senate districts that have been called “highly gerrymandered” by state Democrats but “fair and constitutional” by state Republicans.
— A bill that will bring lesser penalties to fourth- and fifth-degree felons will go into effect this week with the intention of saving money on state prison costs. Despite these intentions, Athens County officials believe the change will only cause harm at the local level. House Bill 86 will take effect Friday, Sept. 30 and change felony sentencing laws to one year of community control for fourth- and fifth-degree felonies, fifth being the lowest degree. Prior to the change fourth-degree felonies could earn up to 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine, and fifth-degree warranting up to 12 months and a $2,500 fine. The law could save the state $60 million in jail costs, said Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn, adding the law could cause more harm than benefit. “The fallacy to the argument is that it will save money,” said Blackburn. “Now local government will have to provide more money. It’s like we are giving felonies away.” Though the law assumes money would be saved on the state level with the release of prisoners from state correctional facilities, Southeastern Ohio Regional Jail Warden Jeremy Tolson said this would simply put financial strain on both Athens County and local prisons. “A lot of people reoffend, as we tend to see a lot of people over again,” Tolson said. “There will be some of these guys back on the street.” Fourth- and fifth-degree felonies typically consist of theft, domestic crimes, possession and trafficking of illegal drugs, according to the Ohio Revised Code. Starting Friday, people committing these felonies will be sentenced to community control for a year, instead of state-run jails, said Tolson. Also, offenders currently in jail for these crimes will begin to be released back into society, taking power away from local judges, said Blackburn. “The new administration in Columbus is turning the state upside down,” said Athens County Sheriff Pat Kelly, adding he was displeased with the fact local sheriffs and police chiefs were not consulted before the change. Though Tolson said the offenders who do not have to serve prison terms will be funneled into community control programs, that will still not control the number of prisoners being added to the local jails, he said. In terms of the lenient change, Kelly said Athens County law enforcement will continue to do the job they’ve always done. “Criminals are criminals to begin with, and this won’t change that,” Kelly said. “Some may feel this is a free pass to commit a crime, but this will be dealt with as harshly as before. We will continue doing the job at the local level, and we will provide peace for our citizens,” said Kelly. “I encourage all citizens to contact our state senators,” he added. email@example.com
A nearly full house of residents, students and local business owners packed last night’s Athens City Council meeting to speak out about hydraulic fracturing and help Council explore avenues to regulate the drilling method.
With more than a full month left until Athens’ mayoral race, both candidates are already making their platforms known and are reaching out to student voters — an electoral demographic that recycles every four years.
The Alexander Local School Board chose an elementary school principal to fill a veteran’s shoes after the current superintendent retires at the end of the year.
Vinton County is set to receive $50,000 to conduct a housing research project that will span 32 counties in Appalachia and conclude in February 2013.
Ohio legislators passed a bill establishing new congressional districts yesterday, raising concerns from local politicians about gerrymandering that could dilute Athens County’s liberal voting habits.
NELSONVILLE — Distracted driving is one of the biggest scourges of the road, but Hocking College is looking to beat back distracted driving.
A The Plains man charged with molesting two children in 2009 has been transferred to Athens Behavioral Health Center for court-ordered treatment.
A 60-day reconstruction of the Oxbow Bridge on Richland Avenue is scheduled for this summer, which, if the project falls behind schedule, could keep a major campus road closed during the start of the fall 2012 semester.
Though past long-term city council initiatives have produced community centers and youth soccer fields in Athens, the latest aims to bring in grant money rather than create new infrastructure.
Athens County residents are hoping to bring a meeting to the surface in order to keep coal mining under the surface.