The Columbus Dispatch

Ohio: Becker, Hagan unite

Thu, Jan 23 2014 — Source: The Columbus Dispatch

Two Ohio House Reps. pushed forward today on their proposal to implement statewide recall elections but openly acknowledged they are facing an uphill battle.

Rep. John Becker, a Republican from suburban Cincinnati, and Rep. Robert F. Hagan, a Democrat from Youngstown, held a press conference this morning to highlight a recently introduced House resolution that would allow for recall elections of all officials elected in Ohio — “from dogcatcher to governor” in Becker’s words.

The Dispatch first reported last week that the representatives were considering submitting the resolution, which was submitted to the House on Jan. 15.

Despite pleas to slow down and reconsider portions of a bill that would limit how long signatures can be collected for ballot initiatives, the House will vote this week on the measure that already has Senate approval.

Senate Bill 47 was voted out of the House Policy and Legislative Oversight Committee yesterday afternoon on a 9-5 vote after former Democratic Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner advised the committee members, “If you pass this lickety-split, it’s going to make you look bad.”

No one testified at yesterday’s hearing in favor of the petition part of the bill, though a representative from the Ohio Association of Election Officials spoke in support of other parts of the bill.

A bill making it tougher to get an issue on the ballot by restricting when signatures could be collected passed the Senate [Wednesday, March 6] along party lines, 23-10.

Supporters say the bill will bring uniformity to the process of getting an issue on the general election ballot. Under current law, if a group turns in signatures, but it is determined that not enough have been verified to qualify for the ballot, the group gets another 10 days to collect signatures.

However, the law also allows the group to continue to collect signatures during the process of verifying that initial batch of petitions – a process that, over 30 issues since 1997, has varied from 16 to 58 days.

Leaders of tea party groups say they have collected enough signatures to qualify a constitutional amendment for the Nov. 8 ballot that would exempt Ohio from a key provision of last year’s federal health-care overhaul. If the Ohio Health Care Freedom Amendment is enacted, it will forbid the federal, state and local governments from mandating that Ohio residents buy health insurance. This mandate was a major part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, frequently derided as “Obamacare” by critics.

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House committee hearings on Senate Bill 5 will kick off next week as the GOP-controlled chamber prepares to debate and pass a sweeping collective-bargaining bill. The proposal, which would eliminate the ability of public-employee unions to strike and limit their negotiating power, will be heard by the House Insurance and Labor Committee, which normally meets at 7 p.m. on Wednesdays but could get a schedule adjustment.

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A proposed Ohio constitutional amendment in response to the federal health-care overhaul must be treated as a single issue and not two, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled yesterday. The ruling will give proponents of the measure the green light to collect signatures to put the issue on the statewide ballot. The proposal would prohibit requiring Ohioans to participate in a health-care system and buy health insurance.

Ohio has 18 members of the U.S. House of Representatives. Yet even in what is expected to be a volatile political year, more than a dozen shouldn’t have a care in the world about the November elections. As most Ohio congressional incumbents cruise to re-election this year, they can thank the relatively safe congressional districts drawn up in 2002 by the Republicans when they controlled the governor’s office, the Ohio Senate and the Ohio House.

Another effort is under way to kill what critics call Ohio’s “death tax.” The state chapter of Americans for Prosperity is leading a push for an initiated statute to repeal Ohio’s estate tax, which is paid on residents’ estates that are valued at $338,333 or more after they die. The tax isn’t needed and causes individuals and businesses to relocate to other states that do not have an estate tax, said John F. Boyle Jr., president of the group’s Ohio chapter. “This drives jobs out of Ohio, bottom line,” he said.

State officials began tallying signatures yesterday on a petition to bring casinos to Ohio’s four largest cities, but the effort could face legal challenges even if it meets the 402,275-signature minimum. Opponents of the casino effort — led by a rival gambling company — are sharpening their pens for a possible lawsuit alleging that the petition process was marred by numerous irregularities, including felons gathering signatures, signatures submitted from deceased people and petition circulators telling lies.

Former Columbus Mayor Dana G. “Buck” Rinehart said today that he supports the Aug. 4 ballot proposal to raise the city income tax. Rinehart is the first high-profile Republican to come out in favor of the tax increase.

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The Ohio farm lobby and the Humane Society of the United States are girding for a fight over the confinement of farm animals.

The Washington-based society says it is confident that voters will side with animals, while farmers say the group’s real goal is to reduce consumption of animal products.

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