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By 2-to-1 Margin, Voters Disagree with Senator Portman’s Support of Blocking Court Nominee
When it comes to the role of the U.S. Supreme Court, Ohio voters are most concerned about protecting voting rights, the Constitution and ensuring that all Americans are treated fairly – regardless of ethnicity, race, gender or sexual orientation, according to a new national poll released Monday.
No matter what issues drive voters, a strong bipartisan majority wants the U.S. Senate to hold confirmation hearings on President Barack Obama’s nominee to fill the vacant seat on the nation’s highest court. Senator Rob Portman and others who oppose hearings are viewed less favorably, the poll shows.
ProgressOhio hosted a news conference outside Sen. Portman’s Cincinnati office. It featured Common Cause Ohio Board Chair Samuel Gresham Jr. explaining the federal courts vital role in tossing out laws that restrict voting opportunities, and immigration lawyer Jorge Martinez discussing the pending immigration case that many experts fear will generate yet another tie vote.
Ohio House Passes Medical Weed Bill So Narrow That It Would Ban Smoking It
This week the Ohio House of Representatives voted to legalize medical marijuana – though there are many restrictions, including smoking, that pro-weed advocates say is ridiculously restrictive.
WKBN-TV reported that Representative John Boccieri (D-Poland) voted against the bill because it allows employers to fire someone who is using medical marijuana. But Representative Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown) voted to approve it.
“… The proposal, although not perfect, represents a critically important first step toward making the therapeutic benefits of medical marijuana available to patients and doctors in our state,” she said. “I commend the members of the committee, patients, patient advocates and physicians who devoted considerable time and energy to shaping the legislation. I hope that my colleagues in the Senate and Governor Kasich will join the House in approving HB 523 so that Ohioans suffering from chronic pain and illnesses will finally be able to seek relief through medical marijuana.”
The Republican House leadership issued a statement that gives credit to the bill’s sponsor Stephen Huffman (R-Tipp City) and outlines all the restrictions. Of note:
If signed into law, medical marijuana legalization would be phased in within a two-year period: One year to promulgate rules and another year to move forward for implementation.
It’s Early but Donald Trump Has Narrow Lead over Hillary Clinton in Ohio, New Poll Says
U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are still battling for the Democratic Presidential nod. Clinton holds a big lead in the delegate count – but pollsters are already running the numbers on a Trump-Clinton General Election. For those who are anti-Trump, the early numbers are not looking good in Ohio.
On Tuesday Quinnipiac University released the results of their latest poll. It is a toss-up in the key states of Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania.
The poll is the first released in Ohio since Trump effectively clinched the GOP nomination. The university surveyed 1,042 voters, using cell phones and land lines, between April 27 and May 8. That means during some of the poll was conducted before Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich dropped out of the race.
It includes this statement from Quinnipiac’s Peter Brown:
“Six months from Election Day, the presidential races between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in the three most crucial states, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, are too close to call,” Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac Poll, said in a written statement. “At this juncture, Trump is doing better in Pennsylvania than the GOP nominees in 2008 and 2012. And the two candidates are about where their party predecessors were at this point in Ohio and Florida.”
For those who worried about how the Prez race might turn out and are considering a move to Canada, a new online dating site claims it “Will Make Dating Great Again,” according to Salon. The site will match Americans and Canadians.
Former Ohio Budget Director Paolo DeMaria Gets Tapped as Superintendent of Public Instruction
In an unusual and unexpected move the state school board unanimously selected Paolo DeMaria as Ohio’s newest Superintendent of Public Instruction. DeMaria is no stranger to Ohio politics, having served Governor George Voinovich as budget director and Governor Bob Taft’s chief policy advisor.
According to the Plain Dealer DeMaria is a fan of school choice and Common Core.
DeMaria is the rare Superintendent who has never had any classroom experience, something he brags about on his resume.
Senate Panel Opens Hearings on Cafaro Bill for Paid Family Leave
While the GOP leadership is restricting voting rights and upping the alcohol content in craft beer, Democrats are working to give families the assistance they need by pushing for paid family leave. On Wednesday state Senator Capri Cafaro (D-Hubard) offered sponsor testimony for Senate Bill 307, which creates the Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program.
Beginning in 2020, the program would provide 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave benefits allowing an individual to receive leave insurance benefits for: a health condition which makes him/her unable to perform their job duties caring for a new child during and/or after birth, adoption, or foster placement or caring for a child, parent, or spouse who has a serious health condition.
Once established, program benefits would be paid by assessing premiums on employees. Every employer will be required to deduct and withhold premiums from every employee’s wages. However, an employer may opt to pay the contributions on behalf of employees. In short, this bill has no undue burden on the employer and allows employees the flexibility they may need should any of these circumstances arise.
A similar Ohio House bill, also sponsored by Democratic women, has yet to have a hearing.
Outsized Influence of Greedy Utilities Detailed by Professor Suddes
In his column this week, Ohio University Assistant Professor in the School of Journalism and former Statehouse reporter Tom Suddes outlines how the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) is not looking out for the ratepayers of Ohio but is swayed by the “outsized” influence of the big utilities. The column includes this gem:
Four-term Republican Gov. James A. Rhodes is credited with the slogan, “Profit isn’t a dirty word in Ohio.” Today, those words might as well be chiseled on the outer walls of the Statehouse. (And given what goes on inside, “chiseled” is the perfect word, in more ways than one.)
Blunt Advice from Pals, Fear of Being Mocked, Sway Kasich to End Run for Prez and Stay Low Profile Back Home
The final hours of the Governor John Kasich quixotic quest for the GOP Presidential nomination were detailed in stinging report by the Dispatch. The first paragraph bluntly states what many have been saying for weeks:
“You’re not advancing this cause, and you’re looking like an idiot.”
And that’s the advice Kasich received from friends. The New Yorker had this take-away:
The theme of Kasich’s goodbye was that his very Kasich-ness had improved the tone of the enterprise, and that this was contribution enough. One doesn’t want to be ungrateful for small blessings. But maintaining a minimal level of dignity is a starting point, not a triumph. Glorifying politeness can be its own trap, leading to distortions, linguistic and otherwise. Calling Kasich “moderate” became an observation about his unwillingness to discuss his opponents’ body parts, rather than his own policies, which were not all that moderate. (Cruz wanted to defund Planned Parenthood, and compared the organization to a gang of felons; in Ohio, Kasich did defund it.).
One wonders what Governor Kasich is up to and the Dayton Daily News provides this insight:
Ohio Gov. John Kasich has quickly transitioned from being in the public spotlight to keeping a low profile.
Memo to Foot-Draggers in State Legislature: Quit the Games over Congressional Redistricting Reform
In a succinct letter to the editor in the Cincinnati Enquirer Sister Carren Herring offered this advice:
The General Assembly should quit playing games and get to work on congressional redistricting reform now.
National Council of Jewish Women Ohio State Policy Advocate Susan Reis chimed in with her own letter to the Plain Dealer:
So why is it taking so long for our legislative leaders to get to work on congressional redistricting reform? Do they like predictable general elections? Do they like the gridlock in Washington? Are they getting pressure from members of Congress concerned about job security?
Apparently, the committee tasked with congressional redistricting reform for the Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission didn’t get the message. Despite nearly three years of study, the committee continues to be divided by politics.
Commission watchers were optimistic that they’d finally see some progress. However, Thursday afternoon’s meeting ended with Chair Fred Mills describing himself as “miffed” and adjourning the meeting with members at an impasse.
Senator Faber’s Bill to Enhance Access to Public Records Gets Lots of Love from Toledo Blade
Journalists and good government groups have a surprise ally in Ohio Senate President Keith Faber (R-Celina). The Toledo Blade applauds the effort by Faber to enhance access to public records:
Protracted legal battles to obtain public records can cost tens of thousands of dollars — far beyond the means of most citizens.
An innovative plan by state Senate President Keith Faber (R., Celina) would make it easier for taxpayers to collect legal fees from local governments when they file successful open records’ requests. It ought be applauded and embraced by Ohio residents, and the politicians who represent them in the General Assembly.
The bill would preserve the existing right to sue when state and local governments deny records’ requests, but it would also give taxpayers a binding way, other than going to court, to get public records that officials withhold. They could file a complaint with the Ohio Court of Claims in Columbus, with papers filed in local courts for a flat $25 filing fee.
The bill passed out of the Ohio Senate this week and is its way to the Ohio House. Unfortunately, a provision to strengthen reimbursement of legal fees for those seeking public records was not approved. The cost of an attorney can be a real obstacle for those seeking public records.
You can hear Common Cause Ohio’s Catherine Turcer discuss Ohio’s Sunshine Law, including the Faber open records proposal, and a recent Ohio Supreme Court decision on the definition of open meetings on this week’s Plunderbund Podcast.
If You Think Lawmakers Would Make It Easier to Vote During a Presidential Election Year, You’d Be Wrong
This week the Ohio General Assembly moved on two pieces of legislation that impact voting.
The first has been championed by voting rights organizations and would allow online voter registrations. Ohio would join 31 other states that make it easier for their citizens to participate in democracy.
The Ohio House Government Accountability and Oversight Committee, however, decided that Ohioans would have to wait until 2017. Why would the GOP-led House Committee want to wait to make voter registration easier?
Ohio history suggests that when it’s easier to register and vote, more Democrats show up.
Speaking of making it harder for Ohioans to vote, on Wednesday the Senate passed a measure to levy a modern-day poll tax on any individual or group that seeks to keep polls open. The Dispatch reports:
The bill sponsored by Sen. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, was prompted by Hamilton County judges who ordered extended voting hours in both the 2015 general election and the May 15 primary.
“We have an unfortunate, disturbing and growing trend … by which members of the judiciary are trying to extend voting hours beyond those established by the General Assembly,” Seitz said.
The Seitz bill would only cover state courts, not federal ones.
Move to End Alcohol Limit on Craft Beer Has Support in High Places
It is interesting how slowly things move in the Ohio General Assembly when a Democrat introduces a bill compared to the speedy attention when GOP-sponsored legislation arrives. This week, another Republican bill is blazing through the process. The Cincinnati Enquirer highlights the contrast in its coverage of Senator President Keith Faber’s (R-Celina) push for the elimination of alcohol limits on craft beer.
Why is Faber interested? Government should not set artificial regulation on one form of alcohol but not others, the senate president said. Surrounding states, including Kentucky, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Michigan, have no limits on the alcohol content of craft beers. Indiana requires beers with more than 21 percent alcohol by volume to be treated like liquors. West Virginia has a limit of 12 percent alcohol by volume.
“We just thought the limit was archaic and unnecessary,” Faber said. “We don’t have a limit on hard liquor or wines or other spirits.”
Rep. Dan Ramos, D-Lorain, has tried to ditch the limit for several years to no avail. But now, Faber wants to eliminate the cap, adding the change Tuesday to a bipartisan House bill to allow open containers in Findley Market and Columbus’ North Market.
By the way, Faber has his eye on running for state auditor.
Cleveland City Council to Take Up Ordinance to Hike the Minimum Wage
Last week we reported on the efforts in Cleveland to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. City Scene reports that the ordinance will be introduced to Cleveland City Council on May 16.
The move comes after thousands of signatures were gathered by Raise Up Cleveland, an advocacy group backed by the Service Employees International Union. Supporters brought in 28,782 signatures from voters in support of an ordinance from council. 11,900 were valid; only 5,000 valid signatures were required.
If the ordinance is ultimately approved, the minimum wage would be increased on Jan. 1, 2017. (The minimum wage in Cleveland is currently $8.10.)
State Auditor to seek $100,000 from Charters for Over-Billing before Closing
Doing his job of looking out for the tax dollars of Ohio, Auditor David Yost is seeking repayment totaling $109,138 from two defunct charter schools that operated in Akron and Toledo.
“Schools like these tarnish the reputation of the entire charter community,” said a statement from Yost. “The academies may have shut their doors, but they’re not off the hook for the $109,138 owed to the state.”
We couldn’t have said it any better, Mr. Yost. Go get ’em!
Planned Parenthood files Ohio lawsuit to protect patient care
On Wednesday Planned Parenthood filed suit in federal district court in Ohio to protect access to health care and education for tens of thousands of Ohioans, including free HIV tests, cancer screenings, domestic violence education through the Violence Against Women Act, much-needed sex education for youth in foster care and the juvenile detention system, and Planned Parenthood’s Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies program.
“Since July, politicians in 24 states have tried to strip women of basic health care, and several, like Ohio, have done just that. If this isn’t cause for alarm, I don’t know what is. State lawmakers have been waging a political war on care at Planned Parenthood, putting the health and lives of women at risk in the process. We’ll continue to fight in court for our patients in Ohio and across the country. The sad fact is, in 2016, it shouldn’t take a lawsuit to protect every person’s fundamental right to quality health care.” Cecile Richards, President, Planned Parenthood Federation of America
“For our patients, it’s not about politics, it’s about their health and their lives. If you have a lump in your breast or need an HIV test, lawmakers should be making it easier, not harder, to get the care you need. Politicians in Ohio will stop at nothing to ban abortion, and they’re willing to decimate access to preventive care in the process. Rest assured, we will leave no stone unturned to protect access to care for the Ohioans who trust and rely on us.” Jerry Lawson, CEO, Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio
“We are in court because everyone deserves access to quality, affordable, compassionate care no matter who you are or where you are from. Let’s call this what it is, an attack on people who already have the least access to care, all in the name of politics. Lawmakers have gone so far as to claim that women can get cancer screenings at food banks. This goes to show why politicians in Columbus have no business writing laws about women’s health.” Iris E. Harvey, President and CEO, Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio