Issue 2 could change the balance of power in Ohio

Published: Saturday, October 06, 2012 @ 12:00 AM
Updated: Saturday, October 06, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

Helping you understand State Issue 2

Citizens have called and emailed our newsroom and said they are confused about State Issue 2. This issue is important to Ohio and is getting lost in the debate as the focus remains or more high-profile races.

Today, the Dayton Daily News, WHIO-TV Channel 7 and Newstalk Radio WHIO are joining together to help you understand this issue.

Today at 8 a.m. on Newstalk Radio WHIO 95.7 FM and AM 1290: Listen in for a special half-hour broadcast explaining Issue 2.

Today at 10:30 a.m. on WHIO Reports on Channel 7: WHIO’s Jim Otte and our Columbus Bureau reporter Jackie Borchardt ask tough questions to supporters on both sides of Issue 2.

Wednesday at noon: Join us at DaytonDailyNews.com for a live web chat on Issue 2 with Jackie Borchardt. She will answer your questions on the issue.

What is Issue 2?

Issue 2 creates a citizens commission to draw legislative and congressional districts every 10 years following the U.S. Census. If enacted, the new panel would redraw last year’s approved districts in time for the November 2014 election.

Who is behind it?

The Ohio League of Women Voters, Common Cause Ohio and other good-government groups drafted the language but much of the funding has come from labor and teachers’ unions. The NAACP Ohio, the Ohio Libertarian Party and We Are Ohio, the group against Senate Bill 5, have endorsed the plan.

Who are the commissioners?

The 12-member Ohio Citizens Independent Redistricting Commission includes four members from each party and four not registered with any party. Any Ohioan who has voted in two of the previous three even-year general elections could apply to serve on the commission, provided they or an immediate family member have not been elected to federal or state office, worked for lawmakers or state officials or been a paid lobbyist. Applicants could not have made monetary contributions greater than $5,000 per two years to political campaigns or parties in the past five years. Commission members serve 10-year terms, but the actual work is done in 14 months between August of the census year and October of the following year. If boundaries aren’t approved by Oct. 1 of the second year, the Ohio Supreme Court will adopt the plan that most closely meets the constitutional criteria.

How are they chosen?

Eight randomly selected appellate court judges (no more than four of each party) screen the applicants and select the 42 based on relevant abilities including a capacity for impartiality. The speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives and minority leader can eliminate up to three members of the opposite party. From this pool, three Republicans, three Democrats and three non-affiliated with any party are randomly chosen. Those nine members then choose the remaining three.

What will it cost?

The state Office of Budget Management estimates the Issue 2 changes will cost between $10.9 and $15.2 million over eight years. The estimate was based on a redistricting plan proposed in 2005, a similar citizen redistricting commission in California and the cost of the current process. The estimate assumes commission members will be paid $100,000 for the first two years.

Voters First Ohio officials expect the cost to be much less and said the final cost would be determined by state lawmakers.

What will they do?

The commission will likely hire experts and consultants to assist in drawing lines based on four criteria: preserving county boundaries, competitiveness, representational fairness and compactness. All meetings and correspondence will be made public and the commission will give full and fair consideration to plans submitted by the public. Seven members of the commission must vote to adopt a plan.

— Jackie Borchardt and Text of Proposed Amendment

In the fog of a presidential election and hot U.S. Senate race, a ballot issue that could alter the balance of power in the statehouse and the Ohio congressional delegation is taking a back seat.

Many voters, if they’ve heard about state Issue 2 at all, say they are confused by the ballot language and direct mailings that are appearing on doorsteps.

In the Dayton Daily News/Ohio Newspaper Organization Poll released Sept. 24, too few people knew about Issue 2 to provide meaningful results: 35 percent said they had heard “nothing at all” about it.

If approved, Issue 2 would put the responsibility of drawing legislative and congressional districts in the hands of a new citizen panel. Redistricting isn’t a thrilling term, but small changes can move voters around and make districts lean more Republican or Democratic, become more competitive or safe for lawmakers in office.

Voters First Ohio, the group behind Issue 2, says the lines have been drawn for years to favor incumbents and have effectively made hyper-partisan primary elections more important than general elections. Their solution: Remove politicians from the process.

Districts are redrawn every ten years to reflect population changes noted in the once-a-decade Census. State Senate and House districts are mapped and approved by the Ohio Apportionment Board composed of the governor, secretary of state, auditor and one state legislator from each party — all but one were Republicans in 2011. State lawmakers decide the boundaries of Ohio’s 16 U.S. House districts.

Last year, Republicans held the redistricting pen, but politicians on both sides of the aisle have used their majority status to muscle the other into keeping incumbents safe in their districts and stacking more middle-of-the-road districts to lean one way. Politicians against the proposal admit the current system is broken, but say Issue 2 isn’t the answer.

The plan

Issue 2 would create the Ohio Citizens Independent Redistricting Commission, a new panel of 12 members chosen by lot from a candidate pool winnowed by appellate court judges and party officials.

Any Ohioan who has voted in two of the previous three even-year general elections could apply to serve on the commission, provided they or an immediate family member have not been elected to federal or state office, worked for lawmakers or state officials or been a paid lobbyist. Applicants could not have made monetary contributions greater than $5,000 per two years to political campaigns or parties in the past five years.

Local officials such as city councilmen and mayors would be eligible. Jim Slagle, an attorney for the Campaign for Accountable Redistricting, said those officials would likely be cut during the selection process that grants party leaders the opportunity to eliminate candidates.

The commission would meet in public to draft and review publicly submitted plans according to the four criteria from last year’s citizen challenge by the Ohio Campaign for Accountable Redistricting:

* Preserve existing communities such as counties and townships,

* Balance districts based on voting history so they do not lean toward one party by more than 5 percent,

* Balance the number of districts that lean each way,

* Keep districts compact.

“These are the criteria that best capture fundamental values in our democracy,” said Dan Tokaji, a law professor at Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law who helped draft the ballot initiative. “They’re values that will serve the interests of voters rather than the interests of partisan politicians.”

Proponents of Issue 2 say each district should reflect Ohio’s swing-state status.

In the 2010 election, 70 of Ohio’s 99 state representatives won their races by 20 points or more. Only three of the 33 senators elected in 2008 and 2010 won by less than 10 percent of the vote.

Statewide, Ohioans tend to line up on each side in similar numbers. The top statewide races in 2010 were won by 5 or fewer percent. The last five presidential elections were decided by fewer than 10 points in Ohio — George W. Bush won the state in 2004 by just 120,000 votes. More than 5.6 million Ohioans voted in that election.

History

Former Rep. Joan Lawrence, a Republican with the League of Women Voters who supports Issue 2, sponsored several failed redistricting reform bills in the 1980s.

“The process is manipulatable and it was manipulated and it would be no matter which party was in charge,” Lawrence said.

In 2005, voters slammed a Democrat-driven plan known as Issue 4 by a vote of 70 to 30 percent. A Republican-supported plan in 2006 failed to pass the General Assembly without support from Democrats. Democrats turned down another plan in 2010, certain they would sweep statewide offices and control the Apportionment Board. But Republicans won all statewide elected offices and picked up several seats in the House and Senate.

While politicians worked on their maps, the Ohio Campaign for Accountable Redistricting held a public competition to draw fair, competitive districts using the same Census and election data. The competition collected 53 congressional maps and a Republican Illinois state representative won the contest.

Contest sponsors including the Ohio League of Women Voters and Common Cause Ohio drafted constitutional amendment language that has become Issue 2. Meanwhile, a bipartisan panel of state lawmakers claimed they were working on a solution that has yet to materialize.

Politics

Issue 2 is intended to take the politics out of the system, but politicians and political forces are lining up on each side.

Good-government groups drafted Issue 2, but unions, Democrats and left-leaning organizations have since backed the proposal. Getting the issue on the ballot cost upward of $1.3 million, according to state campaign finance reports filed in July, and unions bankrolled the majority of the cost.

The Ohio Republican Party came out strong against the proposal at first, and a new group called Protect Your Vote Ohio formed to serve as the official opposition and sought help early on from Columbus lobbyists. Protect Your Vote’s expenditures won’t be known until after the election.

Nine states use appointed citizen commissions to draw legislative lines, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. California’s 14-member commission, created in 2008, most closely resembles Ohio’s Issue 2 proposal.

The jury is still out there whether the commission worked. Experts say the process wasn’t as skewed toward the majority party — Democrats there — as it would have been had they controlled the process. But reports surfaced last year that showed Democrats hired people to falsely testify before the commissioners to build districts more favorable for incumbents. Tokaji said Ohio’s plan will succeed where California’s faltered because it requires the commission to balance the districts according to past voting records.

The Ohio State Bar Association opposed Issue 2, saying the process inappropriately gives appointment authority to judges and politicizes the judicial branch. Protect Your Vote’s Carlo LoParo said judges, who run in party primaries, could be pressured by party bosses to select their choice applicants for the initial group of 42.

“This is a worse solution than our present system,” LoParo said. “In the present system, there is transparency in the sense you know who’s making the decisions.”

Slagle said politicians will never support a plan that removes them from the process.

“They will mislead the public because that’s the only way they’ll defeat Issue 2,” Slagle said. “If voters understand what Issue 2 is, it will pass overwhelmingly.”

Same income, but not taxes in GOP plans

Published: Sunday, December 10, 2017 @ 3:42 PM
Updated: Sunday, December 10, 2017 @ 3:42 PM


            Same income, but not taxes in GOP plans
Same income, but not taxes in GOP plans

In most places, a dollar is a dollar. But in the tax code envisioned by Republicans, the amount you make may be less important than how you make it.

Consider two chefs working side by side for the same catering company, doing the same job, for the same hours and the same money. The only difference is that one is an employee, the other an independent contractor.

Under the Republican plans, one gets a tax break and the other doesn’t.

That’s because for the first time since the United States adopted an income tax, a higher rate would be applied to employee wages and salaries than to income earned by proprietors, partnerships and closely held corporations.

The House and Senate bills vary in detail, but both end up linking tax rates to a whole new set of characteristics, like ownership, level of involvement, organizational structure or even occupation. These rules, mostly untethered from income level, could raise or lower tax bills by hundreds or thousands of dollars for ordinary taxpayers and millions of dollars for the largest eligible businesses.

“We’ve never had a tax system where wage earners were substantially penalized” relative to other types of income earners, said Adam Looney, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a former Treasury Department official.

So a decorator, an artist or a plumber would have a higher tax rate than an owner of a decorating business, an art shop or a plumbing supply store. A corporate accountant could have a higher rate than a partner in an accounting firm. In the House bill, the head of a family business who works 60-hour weeks would have a higher rate than her brother, who gets an equal share of the profits but spends his days playing “Call of Duty.”

The proposals’ impact rises steeply as paychecks grow. High-income earners — roughly the upper 10 percent — who can take advantage of the new distinctions would be rewarded with substantial gains compared with those who can’t.

Supporters argue that the revised tax regime is an attempt to update the code to reflect changes in the economy. Rather than depend primarily on individual rate cuts to further power the economy, the Republican plans focus on cutting taxes on certain types of business income. The idea is that these businesses will reinvest those higher returns and stimulate growth.

“This is a radically different approach,” said Fred Goldberg, commissioner of internal revenue under President George H.W. Bush.

Corporations and other types of businesses get the biggest cuts. Employees don’t.

“Theoretically, this makes a certain amount of sense in a vacuum,” said Jared Walczak, a senior policy analyst at the conservative Tax Foundation. “It’s just difficult to define what constitutes wage income compared to business income.”

Indeed, economists and tax experts across the political spectrum warn that the proposed system would invite tax avoidance. The more the tax code distinguishes among types of earnings, personal characteristics or economic activities, the greater the incentive to label income artificially, restructure or switch categories in a hunt for lower rates.

Expect the best-paid dentists to turn into corporations so they can take advantage of the new 20 percent corporate tax rate, instead of having to pay a top marginal rate of nearly 40 percent on some of their income. Individual income taxes can be deferred on profits left inside a corporation instead of deposited in a personal account. What’s more, corporations can deduct local and state taxes, which individual filers can’t.

Look for a wave of promotions as staff lawyers on salary suddenly turn into partners to qualify for the 23 percent deduction the Senate bestowed on pass-through businesses.

Pass-throughs, which range from an ice cream stand to multibillion-dollar operations like Georgia-Pacific (a Koch Industries subsidiary) and Fidelity Investments, don’t pay corporate taxes. Instead, they pass through income to their owners or shareholders, who pay taxes at the ordinary rate on their individual returns.

The Republican provisions applying to pass-throughs have been singled out for some of the greatest scorn. Writing about the House version, Dan Shaviro, a professor of taxation at New York University …(Continued on next page)

Law School who worked on the 1986 tax overhaul, said it “might be the single worst proposal ever prominently made in the history of the U.S. federal income tax.”

Uneven treatment is compounded by other rules that unintentionally introduced preferences.

To prevent certain professionals and specialists like investment managers, doctors, athletes, performers and others from reorganizing themselves as pass-throughs, the Senate excluded households with joint incomes of $500,000 or more (and $250,000 for single taxpayers). But the peculiar way the income scale is phased out means that solo practitioners and partners who earn roughly $529,000 to $624,000 could face a tax of up to 85 percent on income between those two thresholds, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.

“Wage income will be the highest taxed income,” said John L. Buckley, a chief of staff for Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation in the 1990s. “I think it’s grossly unfair. Somebody working for a wage gets a higher tax rate than somebody doing the same job under a different legal structure.”

Trump trying to help push Moore across Alabama finish line

Published: Sunday, December 10, 2017 @ 2:19 PM
Updated: Sunday, December 10, 2017 @ 2:19 PM


            PENSACOLA, FL - DECEMBER 08: U.S. President Donald Trump walks on stage as he holds a rally at the Pensacola Bay Center on December 8, 2017 in Pensacola, Florida. Mr. Trump was expected to further endorse Alabama Republican Senatorial candidate Roy Moore who is running against Democratic challenger Doug Jones in the adjacent state. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images) *** BESTPIX ***
            Joe Raedle
PENSACOLA, FL - DECEMBER 08: U.S. President Donald Trump walks on stage as he holds a rally at the Pensacola Bay Center on December 8, 2017 in Pensacola, Florida. Mr. Trump was expected to further endorse Alabama Republican Senatorial candidate Roy Moore who is running against Democratic challenger Doug Jones in the adjacent state. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images) *** BESTPIX ***(Joe Raedle)

President Donald Trump is trying to push embattled GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore across the finish line in Tuesday’s election in Alabama by contending the Democratic nominee would oppose “what we must do” for the nation.

Trump, in a tweet early Saturday, hours after boosting Moore’s campaign during a Florida rally, framed the race as a referendum on his efforts to reshape the country and said Democrat Doug Jones would work in lockstep with his party’s leaders on Capitol Hill to oppose the Trump agenda.

With Moore denying allegations of sexual misconduct that have arisen late in the campaign, Trump basked in what he called “a big contingent of very enthusiastic Roy Moore fans” at the Friday night event in Pensacola, the Florida Panhandle city near the state line with Alabama.

In a rally cry to Alabama voters, the president tweeted that “we can’t have” a liberal in the mold of Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., holding the seat in a Senate where the GOP holds a slim 52-48 edge.

“Need your vote to Make America Great Again! Jones will always vote against what we must do for our Country,” Trump wrote.

At the campaign-style event in Pensacola, Trump claimed Jones was the Democratic leaders’ “total puppet and everybody knows it.”

Trump’s wide-ranging speech also touched on the immigration system and the nation’s economic performance since he took office. As Trump spoke about Moore, the Republican candidate tweeted Trump’s comments to his own followers.

Trump also taunted Beverly Nelson, one of Moore’s accusers, who had presented a yearbook inscription by Moore as a key piece of evidence that the candidate knew his accuser. Nelson said Friday she had added a notation marking the date and place where it was signed.

“Did you see what happened today? You know, the yearbook? Did you see that? There was a little mistake made,” Trump said, shifting to singsong. “She started writing things in the yearbook.”

Nelson’s attorney, Gloria Allred, said a handwriting expert has found Moore’s signature in the 1977 yearbook to be authentic.

Moore, who is 70, is facing multiple allegations of sexual misconduct, including accusations that he molested two teenage girls and pursued romantic relationships with several others while in his 30s. Moore has denied the allegations.

During the rally, Trump also crowed about stock market gains and other upbeat economic indicators. He said he was confident he’d win re-election in 2020, despite his dismal approval rating.

The White House said the rally was a campaign event for Trump. But the location — so close to Alabama and feeding its television markets — stoked speculation that it was a backdoor way for the president to boost Moore’s campaign without actually setting foot in the state.

White House spokesman Raj Shah said the president and White House have made clear that the Moore allegations are “troubling and concerning” and “should be taken seriously.” He also noted that Moore has maintained his innocence, and said that should be considered as well.

“Ultimately his endorsement is about the issues,” Shah said.

Trump, who overcame allegations of sexual misconduct to win last year’s presidential election, looked past the charges against Moore and formally endorsed the former Alabama judge this past week for the seat once held by Jeff Sessions, now U.S. attorney general.

Friday’s campaign rally was Trump’s first since September, when he went to Alabama to campaign for Sen. Luther Strange, who lost the GOP runoff election to Moore.

Republicans step up attacks on FBI officials over handling of Clinton, Trump probes

Published: Sunday, December 10, 2017 @ 9:33 AM

As Special Counsel Robert Mueller continues his probe of Russian interference in the 2016 elections and any ties to the campaign of President Donald Trump, Republicans in the Congress have joined Mr. Trump in stepping up attacks on the FBI, raising questions about political bias inside the top ranks of that agency, an effort that could well form the basis for partisan opposition to the findings of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Those sentiments were on full display last Thursday at the first Congressional oversight hearing for the new FBI Director, as Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee repeatedly pressed Christopher Wray for answers on GOP allegations that partisan bias among top FBI officials had infected both the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails, and the review of any ties between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia.

At the hearing, it didn’t take long for Republican frustration to boil over, as the FBI Director repeatedly refused to give detailed answers about the Clinton and Trump probes, saying – accurately – that the Inspector General of the Justice Department was reviewing how those matters were handled, as Wray sidestepped GOP requests for information.

But that didn’t matter to GOP lawmakers.

“I think you’re walking into a Contempt of Congress,” Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) snapped, criticizing Wray for fending off a variety of questions, as a number of GOP lawmakers all but asserted that the FBI was illegally withholding information from Congress on a number of fronts.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jCJsU39AMQk&w=640&h=390]

Republicans also pressed for more background about two leading FBI officials, who were involved in both the Clinton and Trump probes, demanding more information about Peter Strzok and Andrew Weissman, who GOP lawmakers say expressed anti-Trump feelings to others inside the Justice Department, impacting both of those probes.

Tied into all of this is the contention of some in the GOP that the FBI wrongly used the controversial “dossier” put together about President Trump during the 2016 campaign – which the GOP says was paid for by the Democrats – and possibly funneled to the FBI for its use.

“I mean, there are all kinds of people on Mueller’s team who are pro-Clinton,” said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), as some Republicans suggested a top to bottom review of key people in the Russia investigation to see if they are harboring anti-Trump sentiments.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fR4o_I-NNUQ&w=640&h=390]

During the over five hour hearing, Democrats asked Wray several times about President Trump’s recent assertion that the FBI was in “tatters” after the stewardship of former Director James Comey.

“I am emphasizing in every audience I can inside the bureau, that our decisions need to be made based on nothing other than the facts and the law,” Wray said.

But judging from the reaction at this oversight hearing – which could have covered any subject – the biggest concern for Republicans right now is pursuing allegations that the FBI was too lenient on Hillary Clinton, and too quick to investigate Donald Trump.

President Trump gives boost to Roy Moore at Florida rally

Published: Friday, December 08, 2017 @ 9:21 PM

Just fifteen miles from the Alabama border, President Donald Trump used a campaign rally in Pensacola, Florida on Friday night to make the case for controversial GOP Senate nominee Roy Moore, telling cheering supporters that his administration needs to keep that Senate seat in GOP hands, to insure that Mr. Trump’s agenda can move through the Congress.

“We can’t afford to have a liberal Democrat, who is completely controlled by Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer,” the President said of the special election on Tuesday for U.S. Senate in Alabama.

“Responding to someone in the crowd who was chanting Moore’s name, the President heartily agreed.

“This guy is screaming, ‘We want Roy Moore!’ He’s right,” Mr. Trump said, as he made the case for Moore in a next-door state.

In his rally, the President gave a familiar campaign stump speech, mixing attacks on the news media with a pitch for a variety of proposals, like tougher measures on illegal immigration, and money for his proposed border wall.

But to achieve that, the President said it was imperative that Republicans win in Alabama on Tuesday.

“Get out and vote for Roy Moore!” Mr. Trump said to cheers.