Ohio ballot initiative news archives, 2008

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Here you can find past articles from Ohio ballot initiative news.

Service Employees International Union District 1199, a labor union at the forefront of the ballot initiative, said Sept. 4, 2008, that it will ask Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner to pull the measure. The union was the leader of Ohioans for Healthy Families, the coalition that worked place the measure on the November 2008 ballot.[1][2]

Becky Williams, president of the District 1199 union, said the coalition would be withdrawing the measure in favor of supporting a federal sick-leave mandate. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, is a co-sponsor of a sick-leave bill pending in Congress, a measure being supporting by Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama.[1]

WIlliams acknowledged that the Ohio ballot proposition had become divisive and unproductive. "We decided it was a fight that didn't make sense for Ohio workers," she said.[1]

On August 6, 2008, the state's petition filing deadline, proponents submitted 241,739 signatures against a requirement of 120,683 signatures. The measure was awaiting the Secretary of State's certification when the decision was made to withdraw the measure.[3][4]

Employers may cut benefits while they still can


Some Ohioans may need to brace for cuts to vacation days or other benefits if business owners decide to pre-empt a controversial statewide sick-day initiative with changes of their own.

On Nov. 4, voters are expected to decide the fate of the Ohio Healthy Families Act. If passed, the act would require businesses with 25 or more employees to provide seven paid sick days for full-time workers and a prorated number for part-timers.

Many employers are now on high alert, reviewing their benefits packages and considering revisions that could lessen the blow. The ballot proposal, if it is enacted, would prohibit changes to existing leave policies to meet the mandate.[5]

More details here from The Plain Dealer

Request for payday initiative languages changes rejected


Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner won’t review the approved ballot language for a proposed referendum on the state’s new payday lending law, a spokesman from Brunner’s office said.

Ohio Ballot Board members William Morgan and state Sen. Keith Faber, R-Celina, Thursday had asked that Brunner convene an emergency meeting to review the ballot language. In a letter, Morgan and Faber complained that the ballot language adopted for Issue 5 could mislead or deceive voters.

Requests to hold emergency meetings require a request from at least three board members or a call from the board’s chairman, said Jeff Ortega, a spokesman for Brunner’s office. Thursday was the last day to certify ballot language because the state Constitution calls such approval no fewer than 75 days before the election, he said.

Rivals in the payday lending issue have been arguing over how the referendum was to be worded on the November ballot initiative, which will be put before voters if industry proponent Ohioans for Financial Freedom submits enough valid signatures to the state by the end of the month.

The OK’d ballot language asks: “Shall Section 3 of H.B. 545 be approved?” A yes vote keeps intact a provision of the law that caps annualized interest rates on payday loans at 28 percent, down from 391 percent, while limiting the maximum loan amount to $500 from $800. A no vote resets the maximum loan amount to $800 and allows payday lenders to levy a total charge on a loan that the referendum language says only “substantially exceeds” 28 percent.

Kim Norris, a spokeswoman for Ohioans For Financial Freedom, said Morgan and Faber’s request changes nothing.

“They had a every opportunity to waive it on the spot last week, and they did not,” she said. “The process happened last week; today is the filing.”

Bill Faith, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio, which is fighting the payday lenders, told Columbus Business First he found it unclear whether a no vote would repeal or reaffirm House Bill 545.[6]

Congratulations for two governors


This week, Governor Ted Strickland and Lt. Governor Lee Fisher announced their opposition to Issue 4, the mandatory sick leave measure. Both men committed to work toward the defeat of the measure on the November ballot.

David Zanotti, President and CEO of the Ohio Roundtable, stated in response, "Both the Governor and Lt. Governor should be congratulated for coming to the right position on this measure. Everyone wants a better workplace in Ohio with the best possible care for employees. The key is to go about it in a way that protects everyone's constitutional rights and inspires Ohio to greater prosperity. We welcome the Governor and the Lt. Governor as they join Senate President Harris and House Speaker Husted in a unified front urging all Ohioans to vote no on Issue 4."

The Ohio Roundtable founded in 1980 is a nonpartisan, non-profit education and research organization. The Roundtable has been actively involved in ballot issue campaigns in Ohio and nationwide since 1988.[7]

Strickland gives up on Sick-day compromise;administration turns to another initiative


While Gov. Ted Strickland went to bat for businesses in a last-ditch effort to keep a labor-sponsored sick-days initiative off the ballot, administration officials acknowledged Tuesday they're working on another initiative sure to upset those same businesses: changes in wage rules on construction projects.

The issues underscore the balancing act Democrats face as they weigh the dinner table concerns of working Ohioans against sorely needed business development for the state's reeling economy.

Administration officials Tuesday downplayed the impact of changes they're contemplating in prevailing wage rules, saying they're merely trying to clarify when union rates must be paid.

But business leaders see an expansion of government-mandated pay rates and they worry that the new rules could hurt businesses just as much as the push to require companies to provide workers with seven paid sick days a year.

"They will both be red flags that are going to make people stop, think twice and say: 'Whoa. Is Ohio the place we want to go?' " said Andrew Doehrel, president of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.[8]

Marion County levy will appear on ballot


Marion County Commissioners voted to place a 10-year replacement levy to fund Marion County Children Services at their regular meeting Thursday, Aug. 14.

The 2.5 mill replacement levy will appear on the Nov. 4 general election ballot.

Children Services Executive Director Eric Bush said the levy, which would generate bout $2.8 million a year, would only provide about half of the agency’s funding for all the services it provides.

“This levy will help support all of what children’s services does,” he said, including paying for the placement of children in foster homes and the investigations by the 43-person staff into incidents of neglect and abuse.

The agency’s current levy expires in 2009.

John Garnes, a board member and foster parent, said, “It isn’t easy to request a levy this day,” noting that he recognizes that people are struggling economically.

Marion resident Ralph Hill asked why, at the cost of $600 to place a child in a foster home, children weren’t instead cared for in a group institution.

Bush said the care options of the past have changed and that state and local governments support children living with foster families with more individual attention.

One of the goals of the agency is to take preventative measures as well. To do that, the money produced from the levy is needed, he said.[9]


Backers of a ballot issue requiring many Ohio employers to provide paid sick days to their workers delivered 240,000-plus petition signatures to the Secretary of State's Office Aug. 5 to place the matter before voters in November.

"What we have here (and) what more than half a million Ohioans have signed, is a fair and reasonable bill," said Brian Dunn, manager of the Paid Sick Days campaign. "It's fair to business, it's fair to employees, it's fair to families, and it does what we need it to do -- and that's give over 2.2 million workers in this state who can't earn a single paid sick day today the ability to earn that day in a hard day's work."

And both proponents and opponents of the issue are jockeying for position with Gov. Ted Strickland, asking that the state's chief elected official back their side.

For his part, Strickland continued his attempts to bring about a compromise, with hopes of stopping the ballot issue from reaching voters.

"The governor is focused on compromise," said spokeswoman Amanda Wurst.

But the outcome of those efforts remains in question, since lawmakers have not indicated a willingness to return to Columbus to act on the matter prior to the September deadline for removing the language from the ballot.

Nor are opponents wavering in their opposition to any type of sick time mandate.

The Ohio Paid Sick Days campaign (online at www.sickdaysohio.org) last year initiated legislation, called the Ohio Healthy Families Act, that would require businesses with 25 or more workers to allow full-time employees to earn seven paid sick days per year.

The group collected about 275,000 signatures to place the issue before lawmakers as initiated legislation. But Republicans made it clear that they did not support the measure and did not act on the legislation.

Proponents subsequently began collecting additional signatures required to place the issue before voters. On Aug. 5, they delivered upward of 240,000 signatures to the Secretary of State's Office, about double the number required.

Opponents, including the Ohio Chamber of Commerce and other business groups, have called the measure an "anti-job creation proposal" that would burden employers with additional regulations and mandates, increase their costs and restrict companies' flexibility in their employee benefit plans.

"The premise of this proposal -- to require a costly state-imposed employee benefit that no other state now requires -- is unacceptable on its face," John C. Mahaney Jr., president and chief executive of the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants and head of the Protect Jobs and Fair Benefits campaign against the issue, said in a released statement.

"It's bad for small businesses, many of whom are already struggling to provide their employees with good pay and flexible benefits," he added. "It's bad for large businesses, many of whom have developed benefits packages that meet the unique needs of their workers. But it will be devastating for the Ohio economy, which is already bleeding thousands of jobs to other states."

But Dale Butland, spokesman for the campaign, countered those assertions, saying there is no evidence from independent studies that offering paid sick days is more costly to employers. And he said about half of Ohio workers who currently are offered paid sick time off don't use them.[10]

Referendum filed in Mercer County


Opponents of a change in the zoning code that loosened a maximum height restriction in industrial zones have filed petitions to place a referendum challenging the measure on the November ballot.

The referendum seeks to overturn a unanimous decision late last month by Mercer County commissioners raising the maximum height restriction from 45 feet to 125 feet. The petitions were filed with the Mercer County Board of Elections on Wednesday, more than a week before they were due.[11]

Read the full story here from LimaOhio.com

Homeless say they were paid for their signatures on payday loan petition


Residents of a Butler County homeless shelter said they were paid $1 apiece this summer to sign a petition seeking to repeal a new state law regulating payday lenders.

If true, people who paid for their signatures can be charged with a fifth-degree felony under Ohio law, punishable by a fine of $2,500 and up to 12 months in prison for each instance.

But proving and prosecuting such offenses is rare – no one could recall a case in recent history.

Groups backing the petition drive said if there were violations, they want to see the evidence – and promised to take action if it were true.

In a conference call with Statehouse reporters Tuesday, Charlie Schirmer and Connie Smithers – residents of the Chosen shelter in Hamilton – said they would press charges in cooperation with the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio, which helped sponsor the news conference.

Schirmer and Smithers were among 15 shelter residents who said they were sitting outside at picnic tables when they were approached by petitioners in June and offered $1 apiece to sign. The signature-gatherers told them they were about to lose their jobs as payday-lending workers. Everyone said, “For a dollar, sure, here you go,” according to Schirmer – even residents unsure if they were registered to vote.

If not registered to vote, their petition signature would not count to get the repeal on the Nov. 4 ballot. But the petition circulator could still be charged with a crime, said Sandy Theis, a former Statehouse reporter hired by the campaign to preserve Ohio’s payday reforms.

Theis said nine of 12 signature-gatherers who asked her to sign petitions this summer made false statements, saying that the goal of the referendum is to lower interest rates for payday customers.

The payday lending issue pits social advocacy groups like COHHIO against major lenders, who say 6,000 jobs will be lost in Ohio by reining in short-term lenders who were charging up to 391 percent interest a year on two-week loans. The new law, House Bill 545, takes effect on Labor Day, when it caps annual interest and related fees at 28 percent. The law won’t take effect, however, if payday lenders collect enough signatures to repeal parts of the law, with voter approval on Nov. 4.

Kim Norris, a spokeswoman for Ohioans for Financial Freedom, which seeks the payday lending law repeal, said, “We have hundreds of circulators working statewide each day and every single employee is provided extensive training on their task and what they can and cannot say.”

Norris, and William M. Todd, a Columbus attorney representing the Reject House Bill 545 Committee, said that if there is evidence that something was said incorrectly, payday lenders will take swift action to investigate and remove the petition circulator if necessary.

“If anyone has evidence they should make it available as soon as possible, Norris said. “Vague allegations of election law violations serve only to undermine the entire electoral process.”[12]

Payday lenders and opponents begin the fight for "no"


The big, expensive fight to get rid of one of the nation's toughest payday lending laws may not get decided until Nov. 4, but a major preliminary battle will take place on Thursday, Aug. 14.

The two sides that day will go head to head over which one of them gets to ask voters to just say No.

In May, the General Assembly passed a law that slashes the permitted annual interest rate on short-term payday loans to 28 percent, down from 391 percent.

If the payday lenders don't get 241,365 valid signatures from Ohio voters by Aug. 31, the law takes effect the next day. The industry has already spent more than $800,000 and launched a statewide TV ad in a push for signatures.

In anticipation that they'll get on the ballot, the payday lenders will go before the Ohio Ballot Board on Thursday, Aug. 14, to try to craft the wording to their advantage and to get the coveted "No" side.

The anti-payday lending forces — a coalition of political leaders and advocates for the poor – will do the same.

Both sides want No because when it comes to statewide ballot issues, if voters are confused, they usually say "No thanks."

In a referendum, voters are asked if a law passed by the General Assembly should be approved.

Ballot Board member Paul Tipps, a Democrat, said the No side may not matter as much this year because the board is emphasizing clarity and brevity in how issues will be worded.

"I think a lot of the angling going on right now won't matter when they get to the board. It's gotta be clear, it's gotta be brief," Tipps said.

Voters may see as many as six statewide issues on the November ballot but the payday lending law is the only referendum. Ohioans have voted on only 11 referendums since 1857. The last was in 1997 on whether changes in the workers compensation law should be adopted.

The No side won.[13]

Village would rather disband than pay extra tax


Outraged villagers in Amelia, Ohio, say they are considering whether to wipe their hamlet off the map after officials there proposed a 1 percent earnings tax.

The tax proposal will be decided at the Village Council meeting next week, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported Sunday.

Opponents are collecting the 316 valid signatures needed to put a measure on the November 4 ballot that would dissolve the community of about 4,000 residents.

"It's the only way we know of to have a voice in what happens in our village," said Pam Barker, chairwoman of Amelia Residents for Fiscal Responsibility, which opposes the tax plan.

About 250 signatures have been collected so far, Barker said.

If the village is declared to be no more, the land would be absorbed by neighboring Pierce Township and

Batavia Township, the newspaper reported.

Amelia has an annual budget of about $2.8 million. Officials say a 1 percent earnings tax could raise about

$560,000 a year for the village.

Amelia Administrator Mark Menz said the earnings tax is needed to replace an expiring waste collection levy and to bankroll some road repairs.[14]

Language approved on three initiatives


Language for three issues headed to the November ballot has been approved by the Ohio Ballot Board.

Issue 1 asks voters to decide whether deadlines for statewide ballot issues in the future should be earlier, giving election officials more time to prepare and print ballots. Voters will also be asked to continue the Clean Ohio program with $400 million in bonds to revitalize contaminated property, preserve farmland and save green space.

Approval of the third issue approved Thursday would clarify wording of the Great Lakes Compact to ensure private property owners retain control over their groundwater.

Language for all three ballot issues was approved unanimously.[15]

Sick day initiative reaches signature goal


Ohioans for Healthy Families, the 229-member coalition of organizations trying to bring paid sick days to the 2.2 million Ohio workers without them, has submitted over 240,000 voter signatures in support of the measure to Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner.

To place the issue on the November ballot, the Coalition needed to submit at least 120,683 valid signatures by August 6, as well as meet specific numbers in at least 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties. The Coalition says it has met the target numbers in at least 66 counties.

Once the requisite number of signatures has been validated by the Secretary of State, the Ohio Healthy Families Act will appear on the fall ballot and be voted up or down. Public opinion polls conducted by the Columbus Dispatch, Quinnipiac University and others have consistently found over 70% support for the measure across party lines.[16]

My Ohio Now delivers 800,000 signatures for casino measure.


On Tuesday, August 5th, the organization My Ohio Now went well over the minimum number 402,275 petitioners and will likely have more than enough votes to put the measure on the ballot on November 4th.

The organization released a statement today that stated, in part:

"This has been an exciting opportunity to reach out to Ohio voters in all 88 counties. The response has been overwhelmingly favorable. We are very appreciative of the effort of hundreds of Ohioans who have helped us in this effort to place this issue on the November 4th ballot. Ohioans are excited for this positive economic news. The prospect of up to 5000 new jobs is a bright spot in a year in which we have faced so much financial adversity and challenges. We look forward to a positive and honest campaign to get the support of Ohio voters. We look towards our opposition to come from casinos in states that neighbor Ohio, as they have enjoyed the economic benefits from Ohioans for many years. When this issue passes, their free lunch will end," said Rick Lertzman, co-founder of MyOhioNow.com.[17]

Casino proponents ready to submit signatures


Proponents of a $600 million casino and resort to be built in Clinton County say they have gathered more than twice the number of signatures needed to put the measure before voters in November.

If voters approve the referendum, the casino would be Ohio's first. Proponents needed 402,275 signatures, including 5 percent from each of half of the state's 88 counties. The petition will be presented to the Ohio secretary of state's office.

The proposed casino would be built near Wilmington, between Columbus and Cincinnati, an area that faces losing up to 8,000 jobs with the closing of the DHL package delivery plant.

Three previous casino proposals have failed at the polls.

"I'm excited to know we will be on the ballot in November," said Rick Lertzman, of Beachwood, co-founder of MyOhioNow.Com, a minority partner in the proposed casino. "I know it will be an uphill fight."

Lertzman said the difference between the current proposal and previous ones is that some money will go directly from the casinos into the coffers of all 88 counties.

The casino is a joint venture between MyOhioNow.com and Lakes Entertainment of Minnesota, which operates the Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Mich., and is building a casino near Sacramento, California.[18]

Payday lender supporters challenge Ohio law in court


The Committee of Ohioans fighting to allow consumers to have lending options in the state said today its arguments will be heard by the 10th District Court of Appeals on August 7, 2008. The group says that Ohio law could prevent Ohioans from their Constitutional right to repeal a law. The lawsuit, originally filed in Franklin County Common Pleas Court, says State law cannot limit or restrict the power of the people to repeal a state law.

“Ohioans have an absolute democratic right to have their voice heard in this process. No law or office holder can impede that right,” said Kim Norris, spokesperson for Ohioans For Financial Freedom. “This is important not only for this issue, but for any other efforts by Ohioans to repeal any state law.”

Ohioans For Financial Freedom is currently circulating petitions in Ohio with summary language approved by the Attorney General. It:

Repeals section (3) of H.B. 545 offering consumers more lending options Allows for short-terms loans to be made under H.B. 545

Repealing Section 3 of H.B. 545 means protecting 6,000 good-paying jobs with benefits, protecting Ohioans’ financial freedom and protecting consumers’ rights to privacy about their personal financial choices.

The lawsuit argues there is nothing in the Ohio Constitution that allows any Attorney General to review a summary language of any proposed ballot issue.

Under Ohio law, the Attorney General may take up to 10 days to issue her certification, or her refusal to certify, the required summary of the law to be referred. Petitioners are given only 90 days from the Governor’s filing of the law with the Secretary of State of Ohio within which to submit a referendum petition containing nearly 250,000 valid signatures, which, in itself is a daunting task. Significantly reducing the time within which those signatures may be collected, therefore, limits and restricts the reserved power of referendum. Even if Respondent certifies petitioners’ summary of the law, section of law, or item in any law appropriating money on the first attempt, the 10-day-plus process eliminates approximately 15% of the time within which such petitioners must collect sufficient valid signatures.[19]

Strickland continues to work on Paid Sick Days compromise


Gov. Ted Strickland has sent letters to 500 business leaders and organizations inviting them to help find a compromise to keep a paid sick days mandate off the November ballot.

Strickland is trying to bring business leaders and labor groups together by Sept. 5, the last day that an initiative can be taken off the November ballot.

A labor coalition is close to getting a measure on the ballot that would require businesses with 25 or more employees to provide at least seven paid sick days a year to full-time workers.

Strickland is concerned that the measure as currently written will hurt Ohio's economy.

He encouraged businesses in a letter Tuesday to work with backers of the sick-day initiative to work toward an agreement on a less rigid policy.[20]

Opposing views clash over Paid Sick Leave measure


A business group accused Ohio's governor of "trying to create a very dangerous compromise" on a proposed mandatory sick-leave referendum scheduled for the November ballot.

David Zanotti, president and chief executive officer of the Ohio Roundtable, said there should be no compromise.

"It's out of the question," he said Tuesday.

The measure would require employers of 25 or more people to provide seven paid sick-leave days per year. Supporters are expected to turn in enough petition signatures next week to place the issue on the ballot.


Zanotti said Democratic leaders, including Gov. Ted Strickland, are using the measure to generate voter turnout so they also will vote for Democratic candidates on the ballot.

"We disagree with that characterization," said Keith Dailey, the governor's press secretary.

"The state Democratic Party's No. 1 goal in this election is to take control of the Ohio Legislature," Zanotti said. "They believe this mandatory sick-leave measure will help them reach their goal."

A gay-marriage ban on the 2004 Ohio ballot helped turnout voters for President Bush and other Republican candidates.

House Democrats need to pick up four seats to take control of the 99-member House.

"The governor is seeking a common sense compromise," Dailey said, "that effectively balances employee interests in paid time off when they are sick or ill with what businesses have indicated, which is to efficiently manage their work force."

Dale Butland, communications director of Ohioans for Healthy Families, called Zanotti's opposition "hardly surprising. He's been virtually against any legislative policy that would help average people, including raising the minimum wage."

Proponents of the issue sent it to the Legislature in January as proposed legislation, but it has gone nowhere.


Zanotti calls the referendum "Play Sick Ohio," but Butland said that is a "gross insult to the millions of hardworking Ohioans who want to take an occasional day off when they're sick. He thinks Ohioans are closet liars and cheaters."

Zanotti said the measure would prevent business owners and workers from negotiating benefits and it would increase job loss in the state, while Butland said it would save employers money.

The Ohio Roundtable is sending a brochure to more than 12,000 community leaders, business people and clergy across the state spelling out its opposition. It's encouraging them to call Strickland to dissuade him from reaching a compromise.

"There is no room here for a deal because this measure is dishonest and unconstitutional from the start," Zanotti said.

"We're happy to leave this in the hands of the voters," Butland said.[21]

Fremont school board approves bond issue for ballot


This week, Fremont city school board members approved an $18 million bond issue and a 1.35 mill permanent improvement levy to be on the November election ballot.

the $18 million bond is outside the 10-mill tax limitation and will need to be OK'd by Sandusky County Auditor William Farrell. The bonds will be dated Dec. 1 with a 5 percent interest rate per year over the next 28 years.

The bond issue and permanent improvement levy come from the need to construct a new middle school under the State of Ohio Exceptional Needs Program. The project is estimated to cost $27.5 million. The ENP award, valued at $8.8 million, is earmarked to replace the existing middle school which was built in 1891. The city's middle school was ranked first on a list of buildings most in need. At a June school board meeting, Fremont Superintendent Traci McCaudy said the district has one year to raise local funds, which is estimated to be about $18.7 million.

In addition, the board also approved ceasing collections of the current permanent improvement levy if the $18 million bond issue and 1.35 mill permanent improvement levy are approved by voters.[22]

Group comes out against paid sick leave


A group of Ohio businesses and trade associations this week joined together to fight a proposal mandating paid sick leave for Ohio employees.

Columbus-based Ohioans to Protect Jobs and Fair Benefits called the proposed Ohio Healthy Families Act a "job-killer" that threatens the state economy.

"This proposal will make Ohio the only state in the union with a mandated paid sick leave law," John C. Mahaney, Jr., treasurer of Ohioans to Protect Jobs, said in a release. "It will significantly drive up the cost of doing business when we can least afford it, and it will kill our job-development efforts."

Ohio's unemployment rate grew to 6.6 percent in June, up from 6.3 percent in May, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services said this week.

Mahaney contended that Ohio businesses, particularly small enterprises, could not withstand the proposals' provisions that "threaten pay, benefits and jobs." If passed as a statewide initiative Nov. 4, the Healthy Families proposal would create a law that requires employers with 25 or more workers to provide seven days of paid sick leave annually for employees working 30 hours or more a week. There would also be prorated paid sick leave for part-time workers. Sick leave could be used for a physical or mental illness, doctor appointments and care of children, parents or spouse with a medical need.

Ohioans for Healthy Families , the coalition leading the ballot drive, is composed of labor, community and health-care groups. It hoped state lawmakers would pass a sick leave bill, but the Republican-controlled legislature never took up the proposal.

To date, the group has collected more than 200,000 signatures to be submitted by the August deadline to get the measure on the November ballot, said Dale Butland, communications director for the coalition.

"People understand this is a matter of basic fairness," he said. "People should not lose a job or a paycheck" over sick leave.

The coalition cites government findings that show 2.2 million Ohio workers are unable to take a paid sick day when they are ill. That hurts workers, families, communities and businesses, Butland told Business First in May.

Mahaney said in a release the employers worry the cost to implement the initiative would require businesses to make up the difference by shifting money away from other benefits, such as health care, curtailing raises or cutting jobs.

Ohioans to Protect Jobs and Fair Benefits said it would wage a "vigorous grassroots campaign" throughout Ohio to defeat the proposal at the polls.[23]

Mayor proposes his own sewer ballot measure


Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic says he wants residents to vote on his plan to lease the city's sewer system.

The proposal would help Akron's high school graduates pay for the cost of going to the University of Akron or a trade school in the city. The mayor says leasing the city's sewers would bring in at least $200 million.

Plusquellic said at a news conference Tuesday that he'll ask City Council to place the idea on the November ballot.

Opponents of the plan have filed petitions for their own ballot measure which would require any sale or lease of a city utility to first be approved by voters.

The mayor first proposed leasing the system in his state-of-the-city address in January.[24]

Local levy renewal should appear on ballot


The Fayette County Health Department plans to put a 10-year, 1.75-mill renewal levy on the November ballot.

At Monday afternoon's Board of Health meeting, Deputy Health Commissioner Karen Lowe said that the Health Department has done what is necessary to get the measure a vote. The issue has been sent to Fayette County Prosecuting Attorney David Bender so that the proper ballot language can be written.

The levy was first put on the ballot in 1999, Lowe said.

A renewal levy allows a taxing district to keep a current levy on the books and collect the same amount of money as the original, according to the Ohio Secretary of State's Office.[25]

Akron sewer petitions rejected


Akron officials have returned the petitions of a grass-roots group seeking a ballot issue over a proposal to lease the city's sewers.

Citizens to Save Our Sewers and Water (SOS) submitted 149 petitions bearing 5,293 signatures to the clerk of Akron City Council last week. The group is seeking to amend the city's charter to require that any action to sell, lease or transfer a public utility be approved by a majority of the voters.

Those petitions were back in the possession of the group on Saturday, along with a letter from Akron Law Director Max Rothal stating that the petitions hadn't been submitted in the proper form.

Rothal's letter said that each petition needed a signed and notarized affidavit attesting that the circulator of the petition followed the law in collecting signatures.

It is a procedural requirement, Rothal said.

That's so petty, said Willie Smith, with Save Our Sewers. He said that each petition included the notarized signature of the petition circulator, along with language swearing that election laws were followed in collecting the signatures.

It was part of the petition. What the city wants is a separate affidavit stapled to the petition. That's petty, Smith said.

He called the move by Rothal a delay tactic to thwart the will of the people.

This is what the people want. It's the wish of the people to put this issue to a vote, Smith said. He said the city clearly is trying to block the amendment from the November ballot.

The group formed after Mayor Don Plusquellic announced in February that he wanted to sell or lease the sewer system to a private company and use the money for University of Akron or trade-school scholarships for Akron's public high school graduates.

Plusquellic has called the group's petition drive a scheme to try to kill our effort to provide scholarships.

SOS counters that the mayor's sewer proposal will mean higher rates for customers and will eliminate city jobs.

Rothal said that once the proper affidavits are attached to the SOS petitions, they can be resubmitted to the clerk.[26]

Local payday lenders close despite petition drive


Despite a push to repeal a statewide crackdown on payday lenders in Ohio, some local companies are still closing. The Ohio attorney general approved language proposed in a petition drive that would let voters decide if the new cap on lenders should be abolished.

Gov. Ted Strickland signed a bill last month that put restrictions on payday lending companies. The new law caps annual interest rates at 28 percent, significantly less than the current rates, which are close to 400 percent.

Anthony Riccadonna manages the America Check Exchange in Steubenville. Riccadonna said that despite the petition drive, he is still forced to close his Steubenville store this week, putting nine employees out of work.

“It’s going to help the bigger corporations to possibly keep their doors open. As far as us, it’s not got to help because we’re so small,” said Riccadonna.

The new law takes effect on Sept. 1. The state Legislature passed the bill over the objections of industry leaders.

Strickland and some lawmakers said high interest rates have trapped customers in a cycle of debt.

The payday loans industry and supporters of the repeal must collect 240,000 signatures by Aug. 31 to get the referendum on the ballot.[27]

Payday lenders finally get the 'ok' to gather signatures


Ohio payday lenders can start collecting signatures for a ballot referendum that, if approved in November, would let them continue charging the same interest rate as they do today.

Attorney General Nancy H. Rogers certified a petition summary that calls for a partial repeal of Ohio's new payday-lending law, now slated to take effect Sept. 1. But at the same time, she and others are warning that the effort could cause legal confusion by leaving two contrasting statutes in Ohio law.

Two laws "will be inherently confusing to prospective petition signers," Rogers wrote in a letter to the Reject HB 545 Committee, adding that her concerns did not give her standing to reject the petition summary as not fair or truthful.

In a second petition, the committee proposed repealing the entire bill. But for a second time Rogers rejected that petition summary, calling the 17-page submission "far too lengthy."

That leaves Ohio payday lenders with one option: asking voters to repeal only Section 3 of the bill, the portion that would eliminate current law related to the loan amount and interest rates.

If approved in November, one part of the law would say payday lenders could charge a 391 percent annual interest rate ($15 per $100 on a two-week loan), while another part would say the limit is 28 percent.

Sen. Jeff Jacobson, R-Vandalia, said the referendum "makes a mockery of Ohio law."

"You can't have a law that says you can't do it and you can," he said. "Of course, their campaign is not going to be based on an explanation that says, 'Please let us continue to gouge people in Ohio.' Instead, it's going to be: 'Give people choices.' "

The committee needs 241,365 valid signatures to qualify for the November ballot -- a process it must complete by Sept. 1, 90 days after the bill was signed by Gov. Ted Strickland.

The law would not take effect until after the November election if enough signatures are collected.

Ohio's 1,600 payday lenders have argued that a 28 percent interest rate would put most of them out of business, eliminating a vital source of credit for those with nowhere else to turn. Payday opponents have argued the businesses prey on the poor and push too many people into a cycle of debt, where they repeatedly need new loans to pay off old ones.

Regardless of what happens to the referendum, Ohio's existing Small Loan Act still allows lenders to offer loans at a 28 percent interest rate and a $15 origination fee: about $18 for a $300 two-week loan, compared with the $45 for payday loans.[28]

Referendum proposed in West Chester Township


Several West Chester Twp. residents plan to help launch a referendum petition drive this weekend in Liberty Twp. in an attempt to let residents there vote on a 111-acre mixed-use development.

The move follows a decision by Liberty Twp. trustees Monday, July 7, to approve a preliminary plan for Liberty Town Square, which calls for retail, residential, entertainment and office use, as well as a conference center, cinema, health club and a hotel along the north side of Hamilton-Mason Road between Cincinnati-Dayton Road and Interstate 75.

To include the issue on the ballot, residents must obtain the signatures of 957 registered Liberty Twp. voters in the 30 days following Monday's meeting, said Jonathan Cooksey, one of the West Chester Twp. residents helping organize the drive.[29]

Akron voters may decide on city sewers


Akron voters are one step closer to having a say in deciding whether the city's sewers will be sold or leased.

Petitions bearing 5,293 signatures were presented Thursday morning to the clerk of Akron City Council by members of Citizens to Save Our Sewers and Water.

The group — a grass-roots coalition of union workers and concerned citizens — is seeking to amend the city's charter to require that any action to sell, lease or transfer a public utility be approved by a majority of the voters.[30]

House blocks proposal for veteran compensation


The Ohio House has blocked a plan to give bonuses to veterans of the Persian Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

The measure would have provided bonuses of up to $1,000 for military personnel and up to $5,000 for families of those killed in action.

The state Senate had approved a November ballot issue calling for $200 million in bonds to pay for the bonuses.

But a spokeswoman for House Speaker Jon Husted says the Kettering Republican objected to taking on addition state debt to pay for the plan.

Ohio Treasurer Richard Cordray, who proposed the plan, says he hasn't given up and will continue pushing for bonuses to make a future ballot.

In the past, Ohio voters have approved constitutional amendments to provide such assistance to veterans of World Wars I and II and the Korean and Vietnam Wars.The Ohio House has blocked a plan to give bonuses to veterans of the Persian Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan wars.[31]

Payday Loan group sues state over ballot language


As the clock ticks for a proposed ballot referendum aiming to repeal the state's payday lending law, the measure's proponents are taking state officials to court, alleging a required step before signature collection can begin violates the Ohio Constitution.

The Reject H.B. 545 Committee on Monday said it filed a lawsuit in Franklin County Common Pleas Court asking for a temporary restraining order to "halt the Ohio attorney general and secretary of state from limiting and restricting the power of the people to repeal a state law."

Proposed ballot language for the referendum is tied up in the approval process and has been rejected once by Attorney General Nancy Rogers. Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner is included in the suit because she is required to verify the 1,000 signatures needed for each submitted version of the bill summary.

Each time language is rejected, an Ohio Revised Code provision allows the attorney general a 10-day window to review revisions, and without an OK of the language, proponents can't begin collecting the more than 241,000 signatures needed to bring the initiative to the November ballot.

The group, which has less than two months to collect the signatures, is alleging nothing in the state constitution allows the attorney general to review summary language and the subsequent state law imposes an unconstitutional constraint on the process. Each 10-day window takes up more than 10 percent of the 90 days allowed for signature collection.

The committee is seeking to have the state law declared unenforceable, recover legal fees associated with the suit and have the 90-day signature-collection window begin the day after the court decision.

Jim Gravelle, a spokesman for Rogers' office, said the attorney general is reviewing the suit and preparing for a hearing at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

The committee has two other summaries under review at the attorney general's office in response to its first rejection. Rogers has until July 14 to reply to the most recently submitted language.

The law, which takes effect in September, caps the annual percentage rate on payday loans in the state at 28 percent, down from the 391 percent maximum currently permitted. Among other provisions, the bill also limits consumer borrowing at $500 or 25 percent of base monthly pay per loan, restricts borrowing to four times per calendar year and extends the term of a loan to 31 days from 14 days.[32]

Casino measure reaches signature goal


MyOhioNow.com, the group planning a casino in Clinton County, said it has enough signatures to put the issue on the November ballot, the Columbus Dispatch reported Friday.

Beachwood-based MyOhio, owned by Brad Pressman and Rick Lertzman, had to collect more than 400,000 signatures to put the casino issue on the ballot for a statewide vote. If it passes, as an amendment to the Ohio Constitution, revenues from the casino would be shared with all 88 counties in the state.

The issue would be the latest to go before Ohio voters - who have sent various gambling issues down to defeat in 2006, 1996 and 1990.

The project, proposed in partnership with Minneapolis-based Lakes Entertainment Inc. would feature a 220,000-square-foot casino, with up to 5,000 slot machines, 100 table games and a 20-table poker room. It would also include a 1,500-room suite hotel, restaurants, bars, retail shops, a spa, entertainment complex and golf course.

Clinton County officials are in favor of the plan and hope it will replace some of the more than 6,000 jobs expected to be lost if DHL Express U.S. goes through with its plan to switch its North American air shipment services to UPS from Wilmington-based ABX Air.

But other organizations are gearing up to oppose the issue, including religious and political leaders being mobilized by the conservative public policy group Ohio Roundtable.[33]

See also: Ohio Casino Measure (2008)

Sick leave initiative may appear on ballot as-is


Despite Gov. Ted Strickland's intervention, a compromise on a proposed statewide ballot issue making paid sick days mandatory in Ohio appears unlikely.

The Democratic governor said yesterday that he has serious concerns about the Ohio Healthy Families Act and wants a compromise that avoids putting the issue as drafted on the November ballot.

But both sides appear to be dug in. When Strickland was asked whether he would oppose a ballot issue if no agreement is reached, he said he would "obviously accept" whatever decision voters make.

"But I don't think that's the most desirable outcome," said the governor, who is being heavily lobbied by business leaders, who label the issue a "job killer."

Sick workers should be able to get time off without fear of losing their jobs or pay, Strickland said, but some provisions in the proposal are "troublesome for the business community."

The governor said a provision that could allow workers to take sick time in one-hour increments is a problem. He said the issue as drafted would have an especially negative impact on companies such as Whirlpool that require a reliable, highly skilled work force for mass production.

The governor's top staffers discussed the issue last week with representatives of the Ohio Healthy Families Act coalition and, separately, with Ohio manufacturing and business leaders. In interviews yesterday, neither side reported any progress toward Strickland's stated goal of a mediated agreement.

"I think right now the odds are overwhelming that this is going to go to the ballot," said Dale Butland, spokesman for the union-led sick-days coalition. He said supporters have collected 160,000 signatures to place the issue on the fall ballot; 120,583 valid signatures of registered voters are needed. Supporters must submit the petition to the secretary of state by Aug. 6.

Butland acknowledged that the bill would allow some employees to take off small increments of sick leave, in some cases an hour at a time.

"We don't want people to think they have to use a full day if they have a doctor's appointment that only lasts a couple hours," he added.

A 2004 study by the Harvard Business School indicated that it actually costs companies more to have workers come in sick than to give them time off.

Tony Fiore, head of labor and human-resources policy for the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, said, "We gave the proponents a compromise over two months ago. They clearly want this to be on the ballot for political reasons. It's not about public policy."

The measure could prove a magnet in the Nov. 4 elections to low-income workers more likely to support Democrat Barack Obama, who backs mandatory sick-leave proposals.

The business proposal called for unpaid leave, similar to the family leave available to federal employees.

Fiore said with Ohio's economy already in a slump, "We cannot afford a compromise. … Ohio's small businesses will be hardest hit."

Opponents of the sick-days proposal cite a report by the Inspector General of Tax Administration that found 27 percent of the sick days used by Internal Revenue Service employees came on a Tuesday after a Monday holiday.

The report said the 97,000 employees cost the IRS $450 million in salaries and lost productivity by taking 15 million hours of sick leave in 2005-06. Federal employees get 13 sick days a year.[34]

Voters to decide on initiative filing extention


Voters in Ohio will decide whether to change the filing deadline for statewide ballot issues — just one more decision on the November ballot already full of key races for national, state and local offices.

Extending the filing deadline for 90 to 125 days would be beneficial for election officials by giving them more time to get approval on ballot language, explained Mary Beth Leep, county board of elections deputy director.[35]

Big Box ban headed for ballot in Powell

A group of residents is hoping a ballot initiative will keep future "big-box" stores out of Powell, but city officials have doubts about its feasibility. The initiative language was filed last week by Citizens Action Protecting the Greater Powell, or CAPP, and petition circulators John Crowder, Sharee Dugic and Jill O'Reilly were expected to begin gathering signatures this week...... (dead link)

Payday loan petition must be rewritten before moving forward

6/22/2008: Attorney General Nancy H. Rogers decided yesterday that a group of payday lending supporters were not being truthful in how they described a law they want voters to overturn.

The committee must now rewrite its petition summary and submit it again for review before it can begin collecting the 241,365 valid signatures needed to get the referendum on the November ballot.

"After reviewing your submission, I am unable to certify your summary as a fair and truthful statement of the measure to be referred," Rogers wrote in a letter to leaders of the Reject House Bill 545 Committee.

Payday lenders have said the new law, which lowers the annualized interest rate from 391 percent to 28 percent, would put most of their 1,600 Ohio stores out of business. Law supporters say the short-term loans drive too many borrowers into a debt cycle where they repeatedly need new loans to pay off old ones.

Rogers said that some parts of the committee's petition language should mention that the new law caps interest rates for payday loans at 28 percent.

"Otherwise, the most fundamental change that HB 545 brought about is not stated for the potential petition-signer," she wrote, agreeing with arguments made Wednesday by law supporters, who asked Rogers to reject the language.

Rogers also said the language included an inflammatory use of the phrase "personal information" and drastically overstated the impact of the law on credit union loans.

"It is common for the attorney general to make suggestions for petition language," said Kim Norris, spokeswoman for the Reject Committee, adding that the group will provide updated language.[36]

Red light cameras may not see the light of day


Voter outrage over a red light camera proposal may have stopped Cincinnati, Ohio's photo ticketing plans in their tracks. On Monday, officials postponed city council consideration of an ordinance authorizing photo enforcement until the deadline for a voter referendum on the issue has passed. Yesterday, Mayor Mark Mallory announced his intention to veto that ordinance should it come up for a vote, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.

The reluctance to enact the ordinance comes as an initiative to force a vote of the public on the camera issue gathers momentum. Earlier this year, a group of citizen activists from all ends of the political spectrum banded together as the "We Demand a Vote" coalition to propose an amendment to the city charter that would ban the use of red light cameras and speed cameras. Coalition members include regional chapters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Republican Party, the Green Party, the Libertarian Party, and others.

"These cameras have not proven to be effective in limiting accidents," Price Hill Civic Club Vice President Pete Witte said in a statement. "But they have proven to be a money grab by both governmental jurisdictions as well as the companies that own and operate the cameras."

By May, the group had gathered 2000 signatures. A month later, they had 5500. They will need another 3400 valid signatures by August to qualify for the November ballot.[37]

Payday Loan issue heats up over ballot language


The sparring over a proposed ballot referendum that would prevent a revamp of Ohio’s current payday lending law is heating up already.

Before the pro-payday lending REJECT House Bill 545 Committee can get the referendum on the November ballot, it must collect 241,365 valid signatures. Before it can collect signatures, it must get the summary language on its petitions approved by Attorney General Nancy H. Rogers.

Supporters of the new law have asked Rogers to reject the petition summary, arguing it is “unfair, inaccurate and fails to communicate the most significant changes contained in Ohio's new payday lending reform law.”

The major beef is that the petition summary makes no mention of the fact that the law would reduce the current 391 percent annual percentage rate on the two-week loans to 28 percent. Bill Faith, Executive Director of the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio, said the summary also incorrectly states that the new law “prohibits credit unions from making short-term loans to their members.”

“This is patently false,” Faith said in his letter. “Many credit union officials have stated that they expect the reforms will result in an increased volume in small, short-term credit union loans.”

Rep. Christopher R. Widener, R-Springfield, the sponsor of House Bill 545, also sent Rogers a letter asking that the petition language be revised because it “intentionally misleads voters and purposely buries important information within a wordy and ambiguous narrative.”

“I designed House Bill 545 to protect Ohioans from a dangerous product that has been sold at an egregious price,” Widener continued. “Sadly, the REJECT House Bill 545 Committee would prefer to prey on Ohio consumers than agree to the terms of the new legislation.”

Kim Norris, spokeswoman for the REJECT Committee, offered no comment on the validity of the complaints. “We are confident the attorney general will provide a thorough and fair review of the summary language,” she said.

The deadline for certifying the petition language is Thursday.[38]

Strickland goes against party and opposes paid sick leave measure


Governor Strickland, a Democrat, began speaking out publicly against the so-called Healthy Families Act last week, urging business and labor to get together and work out a compromise that would keep it off the ballot. His motivations could be both practical and political.... From a practical standpoint, Strickland clearly is concerned about the measure's economic costs. Like the coalition of business interests that is opposing the issue, he has noted how expensive it would be for companies to provide such a benefit.... Despite the concerns of employers, voters love the idea. Therein lies Strickland's political headache.

Voters of both parties support the proposal, but it is especially popular among Strickland's fellow Democrats. It has been predicted to drive Democratic turnout in this fall's presidential race in much the same way a proposed gay marriage ban did with Republican turnout in 2004. As with that issue, the sick-day proposal has national scope: it has been proposed in a dozen states and two cities, and is supported by presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama.[39]

School funding initiative fails

6/13/2008: After more than fifteen months of an all-volunteer effort to collect petition signatures and qualify a comprehensive school funding constitutional amendment for the statewide ballot, the Getting It Right Consortium is suspending its signature gathering campaign. In so doing, the Consortium points out that its volunteers collected approximately 200,000 signatures, significantly more than any other all-volunteer petition campaign in recent Ohio history.[40]

Agreement finally reached on water compact;sent to Governor


After three years of rough seas, a landmark agreement binding eight states in their protection of Great Lakes waters sailed through the Ohio Senate and House yesterday on its way to Gov. Ted Strickland's signature.

"This has been a long road, but well worth the effort," said Mike Eckhardt, policy director of the Ohio League of Conservation. "Ohio has finally joined with the other Great Lakes States and is committed to protecting Lake Erie."

Ohio is the seventh state whose legislatures have voted to ratify the landmark agreement designed, in cooperation with the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec, to dramatically reduce the chances that the lakes' water could be diverted in the future to thirstier regions of the nation or globe.

"If people want our water, they are more than welcome to bring their jobs and families here to Ohio. Only then will we be happy to share our water," said Sen. Mark Wagoner (R., Ottawa Hills)

The dam that had been holding back the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact in the Ohio Senate finally broke when House Democrats agreed to a compromise constitutional amendment protecting landowners' right to the "reasonable use" of water on or running under their property. That question will appear on the Nov. 4 ballot.

The compact will take effect regardless of what voters decide on the amendment on Nov. 4.[41]

Payday loan companies fight back with referendum on interest cap law


Payday lenders have begun a petition drive designed to let Ohio voters decide whether a law setting a 28 percent cap on the short-term, high-interest loans should stand.

Just one day after Gov. Ted Strickland signed the cap into law, the industry began an effort to repeal the measure by having paperwork filed Tuesday with the Ohio secretary of state's office indicating petitions will be circulated to bring the issue before voters this November.[42]

A letter from a payday loan operator to the people of Ohio has surfaced since the interest rate cap was passed.

"Some [customers] are shocked, some are mad and some are upset because not only do they depend on us, but they also have formed a great friendship with my employees and me. Oh, yes, did I also mention that I recently gave money to three individuals, out of my pocket, because they needed a little to hold them over until payday? Yes, we payday lenders really do such things. My customers will have nowhere to go unless our legislators are going to make these short-term loans."

Some Ohioans have expressed their support for the legislation. The Connie on the ConnieTalk.com blog says the passage of the law "is a chance for Ohio to continue to set an example in standing up against big money to protect the little guy" and believes banks should be held to the same standards.[44]

Dave Paragas, a Columbus attorney hired by the Commercial Financial Services Association, a payday lending industry group, said Wednesday that the formal process of gathering the 241,365 valid signatures has begun.[45]

U.S. District Court rules against Ohio requirement that petitioners be registered voters


A U.S. District Court judge ruled June 2, 2008, in favor of Socialist Party presidential candidate Brian Moore in his lawsuit against Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner. Moore's lawsuit was challenging the laws governing petition circulators in Ohio; specifically, the rule that in order to legally ask people to sign petitions, a circulator must be a registered voter in the state. The judge granted Moore's petition for an injunction against the law.

Although the law has not yet been declared unconstitutional, while that part of the case is pending, any adult may circulate an independent candidate petition in Ohio. Ohio tried to persuade the judge that even if he issued an injunction against the registration requirement, he should still let the state bar out-of-state residents from circulating an independent candidate petition. But the judge rejected the state’s plea. Although a theoretical in-state residency requirement might be constitutional, the judge said, Ohio has no such law on the books. It only has the law requiring registration for circulators.[46]

House fails to pass amendment; Senate says 'not so fast' on Water Compact


A plan to remove Ohio as the last roadblock to finishing an agreement among the Great Lakes states to protect their water ran into a barrier on Thursday -- again.

The Ohio House fell short by two votes of passing a plan to ask voters to approve protections for property owners regarding the use of water on their land. The Senate feels the protections are crucial to joining seven other states and two Canadian provinces in a pact to try to keep arid states from siphoning water from the Great Lakes.

After the deal fell apart in the House, the Senate refused to consider a bill authorizing Ohio to join the coalition.

The House has twice in the last four years voted to OK the deal, only to see it fail in the Senate. Lawmakers left open the possibility of another vote on June 10.

Five states have joined the coalition and legislation is pending in Michigan and Pennsylvania. State Rep. Matthew Dolan, the Cleveland-area Republican whose bill is stalled in the Senate, predicted that Ohio eventually will join the others.

The House and Senate have feuded for two years over a provision in the multistate agreement declaring waters within the Great Lakes basin "precious public natural resources shared and held in trust by the states."

Sen. Tim Grendell, another Cleveland-area Republican and the property-rights resolution's sponsor, contends that would trample private property rights by designating groundwater as publicly owned. The resolution that would go before Ohio voters affirms that property owners have a "property interest" in the use of water on their land.

House Democratic Leader Rep. Joyce Beatty of Columbus led the move against adoption of the ballot issue resolution. She said she wasn't certain the property-rights protections belonged in the constitution, where passage by voters would place it, and that Grendell was trying to strong-arm lawmakers. The resolution cleared the Senate without opposition.

Both House Speaker Jon Husted and Senate President Bill Harris were optimistic that another, successful vote would be taken by the House. Husted said he called for the vote, which he figured would fall short, because it was time for House members to take a stand on the issue.[47]

Cuyahoga County government reform blocked by Senate


An Ohio Senate committee Tuesday, May 27, blocked a proposed state law that would have allowed Cuyahoga County voters a crack at revamping the structure of county government.

As part of a package of changes moved without debate, the Senate Finance Committee stripped out a county government restructuring plan that the Ohio House attached to the state's bricks and mortar construction legislation last week.

Senate President Bill Harris, an Ashland Republican, said senators on both sides of the aisle were concerned that the proposal hadn't gone through the normal committee process, instead landing in the state capital bill through an amendment.

"We think this needs to have a lot more study," said Harris. "This needs to go through the bill process where it is fully debated by the public."

Sen. Bob Spada, a North Royalton Republican, said at least a "half-dozen" state senators were firmly opposed to the idea of restructuring without more debate and deliberation first.

The county-reform language approved by the House would allow Cuyahoga County commissioners to put a government restructuring plan on the ballot as soon as November. Two of the county's three commissioners would need to vote in favor of placing the plan before voters.

Across the aisle, Sen. Capri Cafaro, a Youngstown-area Democrat and the ranking minority member on the finance committee, echoed the Republican concerns Tuesday, saying "it's necessary to have extensive hearings" on the issue.

The legislation was pushed by House Speaker Jon Husted, a Republican, after Cuyahoga County Commissioner Tim Hagan, a Democrat, proposed eliminating the elected offices of county auditor, recorder and treasurer and consolidating their duties under an appointed county assessor. Hagan also suggested making the coroner, engineer, sheriff and clerk of courts appointed posts.

The full Senate is expected to vote today on the bill. After that, the House will either have to accept the version of the capital bill without the county-reform measure or the bill will head to a conference committee to resolve the dispute.

A spokesman for Gov. Ted Strickland said the Democrat will not veto the reform measure if it makes it to his desk.[48]

Casino measure backers keep lining up


The Ohio State Building and Construction Trades Council has formally voted to back the My Ohio Now Resort and Casino Initiative which will be on the statewide ballot this Fall.

My Ohio Now is currently Ohio signature requirements collecting signatures for the November ballot.[49]

See also: Ohio Casino Measure (2008)

A hearing for paid sick days initiative...now?


Nearly three weeks after a deadline passed for state lawmakers to act on a mandatory sick days proposal, an Ohio House committee will hold a hearing on the measure Wednesday, May 28.

The question is: why?

No one seems to know for sure, including the sponsor of the bill, Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Columbus, the House minority leader.

Rep. Tom Brinkman Jr., R-Cincinnati, chairman of the House Commerce & Labor Committee that will hear House Bill 536 at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the Statehouse, said he wanted to hold a hearing weeks ago but couldn’t fit it into the schedule. He said House Speaker Jon Husted, R-Kettering, gave him the green light.

“We question why this hearing is being held,” said Dale Butland, spokesman for Ohioans for Healthy Families, the union-led coalition of 190 organizations that collected signatures last fall to send the initiated statute to the General Assembly.

“We suspect it’s more game-playing by the legislative leadership.” Butland said coalition members will skip the hearing.

“We are reluctant to divert our energies from the signature-gathering effort,” he said. “We have no doubt whatsoever we’ll gather enough to put it on the November ballot.”

If passed in November, the measure would require all Ohio businesses with 25 or more employees to give workers a minimum of seven paid sick days each year. Part-time workers would receive a pro-rated amount.

The coalition began gathering signatures on May 9, the day after the 120-day deadline passed for legislators to act on the sick-days measure. Butland said more than 50,000 signatures have already been gathered, nearly half of the 120,583 names of registered voters needed to put the issue to a statewide vote.

Karen Stivers, spokeswoman for House Speaker Jon Husted, R-Kettering, said there was nothing unusual about holding a second hearing (the first was April 15). She said Brinkman asked Husted if he could hold the hearing. Brinkman’s office said the speaker requested it.

“They both want to ensure everyone who wanted to could have the opportunity to testify,” Stivers said.

There is no indication that the Republicans, who control both houses of the legislature, are fast-tracking legislation to undercut the potential ballot issue.

In 2006, Republicans hurriedly pushed through a bill increasing the state minimum wage in advance of fall ballot. The ballot issue went ahead anyway, winning handily.

Ty R. Pine, legislative director for the National Federation of Independent Business-Ohio, said he knows of no plan to move ahead with legislation.

“Anything that requires employers to pay sick days, were opposed to,” Pine said.[50]

Cuyahoga County voters may see government reform on November ballot


The Ohio House voted late Thursday to let the Cuyahoga County commissioners place a government restructuring measure on the ballot Nov. 4. The House's action came in the form of an amendment to the state capital bill, which the Senate must yet consider before wrapping up business for the summer.

The House was quick to heed Cuyahoga County Commissioner Tim Hagan's call for eliminating the elected offices of county auditor, recorder and treasurer and consolidating their duties under one appointed position. Hagan also suggested making the coroner, engineer, sheriff and clerk of courts appointed posts.

Cuyahoga County is one that many people feel is one of Ohio's most "politcally dysfunctional" counties.

Before voters can have their say on this, a majority of the three county commissioners must vote to place it on the ballot.[51]

Great Lakes water compact passes; constitutional amendment to appear on ballot


Ohio senators agreed Wednesday to pass the Great Lakes Water Compact and a constitutional amendment that will protect Ohioans' rights to groundwater next week, an official said.

The compact, an agreement between the eight Great Lakes States that would keep lake water from being diverted to drier parts of the country, would become effective Dec. 8, said Sen. Mark Wagoner, R-Ottawa Hills.

The House, which has already passed the compact, and the Senate then would approve the constitutional amendment and put it on the Nov. 4 ballot for Ohio voters' approval, said Wagoner, who represents Ottawa County.

"Regardless of whether the constitutional amendment passes or not, the compact will become effective," he said.

This comes after Sen. Tim Grendell, the compact's leading opponent, introduced the amendment last week to resolve concerns that the compact's language left property owners open to losing rights to wells and groundwater. Grendell, R-Chesterland has said he wants voters to approve the amendment before the Senate passes the compact.

Wagoner said he does not want to wait until after the election to approve the compact. As a former state representative who co-sponsored the compact when it passed the House and a supporter of Grendell's amendment, he said he has tried to reach a compromise that will approve the compact and protect groundwater rights.

"I'm proud of both sides being able to work through the issues," he said. "I think it's a win for everybody. Today is a good day for the Great Lakes."

Ohio and Pennsylvania are the only Great Lakes states that have not approved the compact. All of them must pass it before sending it to Congress for approval to become federal law.[52]

Legislature miss deadline, paid sick leave initiative turns to voters


In November, Ohio voters might decide whether to require employers to give workers paid sick days — a benefit that is not required by state law.

The Ohioans for Healthy Families Coalition is collecting signatures starting Friday to get a proposed law on the ballot. The law would require public and private businesses with at least 25 employees to allow full-time employees to earn seven sick days during the first year of work, said campaign manager Brian Dunn. The law would also allow part-time employees a pro-rated number of days, he said.

The initiated statute has been before the Ohio General Assembly since January; the assembly had 120 days to vote on and enact the bill, said campaign spokesman Dale Butland.

Since then, there has only been one hearing in the Ohio House of Representatives, Dunn said. Starting Friday, the coalition will have 90 days to collect enough signatures to place the initiative on the ballot.

Policy Matters Ohio, a non-profit research organization, completed a study in October finding that 2.2 million Ohio workers can’t take a paid day off, and 3.2 million can’t take a paid day off to take care of a sick family member, said Amy Hanauer, executive director for the organization. She said the initiative would prevent sick people from coming in to work and would ensure that people can take time off. A uniform standard would protect young workers, she said.

Dunn said that the coalition believes the proposed law would give Ohio a competitive advantage, encouraging graduates to stay in or move to Ohio. He also said it prevented parents and caregivers from making the hard choice of getting paid or taking care of sick family members and would protect consumers from being exposed to sick employees.

Some organizations, such as the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, are critical of the proposal. Tony Fiore, director of labor and human resources policy for the chamber, said that mandatory sick leave would prevent businesses from working with their employees to provide flexible leave plans and creates a one-size-fits-all plan that might not work for every company. He also said that the proposal does not indicate how many of the 2.2 million Ohioans that can’t take paid sick leave would benefit from the proposed law.

The coalition will kick off its signature drive on Friday and must collect 120,683 certified signatures by Aug. 6 to be placed on the ballot. The petition will be circulated out of the Athens County Democratic party offices. People can also access the petition on the campaign’s Web site, Dunn said. He said the coalition is confident that it will get enough signatures and enough votes in November to make paid sick days required by law.[53]

Liquidation of tobacco money approved and lawsuit may be dropped


Gov. Ted Strickland on Tuesday signed House Bill 544, introduced a week ago by Rep. Jay Hottinger, R-Newark. The bill liquidates all $270 million of the foundation's funding and dissolves its board, allocating $230 million for a $1.57 billion state economic stimulus plan.

The remaining $40 million will be directed to the Ohio Department of Health to pay off the foundation's outstanding obligations and fund tobacco-cessation initiatives with what's left over.

The money has been frozen in litigation after the foundation asked for a restraining order when a similar bill in the Senate was passed. But attorneys for the state late Tuesday filed papers asking the lawsuit be dismissed because the bill had received the governor's approval, Strickland spokesman Keith Dailey said.

The tug-of-war over the tobacco money began in April when Strickland declared the endowment dollars would be used to fund the jobs plan. The foundation's board responded by voting to transfer $170 million of the endowment to three state organizations.

Lawmakers called the move an attempt to hide the money, and they swiftly passed the first round of legislation that sparked the request for a restraining order against Treasurer Richard Cordray, who was directed to liquidate the Tobacco Use Prevention and Control Foundation Endowment Fund.[54]

Lakes Entertainment Inc. Joins Casino Effort


Lakes Entertainment Inc. and their Chief Executive, Lyle Berman, have joined an effort to bring a new casino to Ohio. The group is joining MyOhioNow.com, and is hoping to secure the necessary votes to bring a new casino to the state.

Lakes Entertainment Inc. is based out of Minneapolis, and together with Rick A. Lertzman and Brad A. Pressman, is hoping their combined efforts will bring positive results. The group is looking to bring a casino to a site off I-71.

November will be the month that the group will be targeting. That is the month that voters will decide whether or not to allow for the new casino. In order for the casino to be built, a constitutional amendment will have to be in place to allow the gambling.

If approved, Lertzman and Pressman will help operate the facility, which will be run by Lakes Entertainment. The group seems to be a good match, according to Lertzman.

"They fit hand in hand with what we're looking for, which is that Midwestern look," he said. Berman is expanding his gambling interests. He started out as a poker player, then moved on to opening casinos.

He has casinos already operating in California and Michigan. His two partners in the Ohio project are both from Cleveland.[55]

Anti-tobacco foundation fights to protect funds


As a court date approaches in a case that may determine the future of smoking-prevention efforts in Ohio, the anti-tobacco group challenging the governor might find itself wondering where all its friends have gone.

The anti-smoking movement won supporters among health-care organizations and gained unprecedented political clout in recent years, culminating in a voter-approved workplace smoking ban in 2006.

But the unified front was shaken after Gov. Ted Strickland and legislative leaders announced this month a $1.5 billion jobs program that would drain most of the Ohio Tobacco Prevention Foundation's bank account.

While the foundation board bucked, some of its statewide partners moved cautiously to the sidelines.

Some say health organizations that have worked with the foundation on smoking prevention have too much to lose by alienating the state's top political leaders (the governor's plan includes $100 million for the biomedical industry).

The Cleveland Clinic unequivocally backed the jobs initiative last week, after its celebrity wellness guru, Dr. Michael Roizen, called the governor "stupid" at a public forum.

The Ohio Hospital Association has declined to take a stand. Ohio Health Director Dr. Alvin Jackson, a Strickland appointee and a member of the Tobacco Prevention Foundation's board, supported the cash grab.

Meanwhile, some anti-smoking advocates have complained privately about political strong-arming after the foundation board defied Strickland and voted April 4 to transfer $190 million to outside groups for anti-smoking programs.

The governor's office put on a full-court press to dissuade partners from helping the foundation stash the money.

And within hours of the vote, the attorney general's office sent emails ordering foundation officials to "cease and desist." The email warned that board members could be held personally liable if they followed through with the transfer.

Strickland's chief lawyer, Kent Marcus, placed phone calls to the three charities that the board identified as possible recipients of the cash stash, including an arm of the hospital association.

A public-policy official with one health group said, "They've got everybody scared. They don't want a debate on this. They want everybody to shut up." She spoke confidentially because she had been told not to comment publicly.

Strickland spokesman Keith Dailey said the purpose of the phone calls "was to ask them not to participate in what we deemed to be an inappropriate action by the foundation."

The foundation's attempt to hide anti-smoking money from the governor was trumped the next day by hastily passed legislation ordering the state treasurer to seize $230 million from the foundation.

The foundation sued, asking the Franklin County court to block state government from taking most of its endowment.

On Thursday, the two sides will appear before a judge. The foundation received help Monday, when the American Legacy Foundation - a Washington anti-smoking group created from the tobacco settlement - joined the case against the state. Legacy was among the three groups the foundation had identified as possible recipients of its money. It claims to have a legal contract to receive the $190 million.[56]

See also:Ohio Job Stimulus Plan (2008)

New Constitutional amendment may affect outcome of Water Resources Compact


Wisconsin legislators yesterday took major steps toward settling a proposed interstate agreement designed to set up a blockade in the legal system for Great Lakes water.

An Ohio lawmaker who has opposed the compact in its present form indicated a willingness to seek a compromise.

The proposed Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact is the most aggressive water-rights legislation the region has considered to thwart threats from the Southwest and other parched areas.

It was presented to state legislative bodies by the region's governors in December, 2005.

Wisconsin legislators are expected to ratify it April 17 during a special legislative session.

In Ohio, the plan's fate appears to depend on either its current level of support in the state Senate, or an amendment to the state Constitution that voters might be asked to approve in November.

State Sen. Tim Grendell (R., Chesterfield), the leader of Ohio's opposition movement, told Toledo newspaper The Blade that he and state Sen. Mark Wagoner (R., Ottawa Hills) will seek a constitutional amendment that would declare groundwater and other nonnavigable water, from isolated wetlands to inland ponds, the property of respective landowners and not subject to the public trust of the state.

He said he and Mr. Wagoner will finalize wording over the next three weeks before asking the Ohio General Assembly to place the question on the November ballot. A three-fifths majority is required from each legislative chamber to do that.

Mr. Grendell said he would drop a bill he recently introduced in the Ohio Senate to revise the proposed compact if voters pass his proposed amendment. He also said he would throw his support behind original compact language the Ohio House passed by a 90-3 vote in February.[57]


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See also