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.”

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao coming to region Monday

Published: Saturday, April 22, 2017 @ 3:53 PM

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao will visit the region Monday, touring the Transportation Research Center (TRC) Inc. in East Liberty with U.S. Sen. Rob Portman.

She will tour the facility, which is the country’s largest independent vehicle test facility and proving grounds.

Chao is the wife of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Jr. of Kentucky. Her visit is scheduled for 11:30 a.m.

“She is coming here because Ohio is quickly becoming a model for the rest of the country on how to use smart transportation to help create economic growth and expand opportunity,” Portman said in a news release. “TRC Ohio is playing a big role in that.”

Ohio wants to fund smart highways, variable speed limits

The 40-year-old, 4,500-acre facility, located near Honda, is used by governments and companies to test vehicles under a variety of road conditions, terrain and situations.

Earlier this year Ohio Gov. John Kasich, JobsOhio and Ohio State University announced they will partner on a $45 million first phase of a “state of the art hub” for testing automated and autonomous vehicle technology to be built at the TRC.

The new 450-acre Smart Mobility Advanced Research and Test Center would be built on the grounds of the existing facility.

Related

Trump teases tax plan release, but it may not be a complete plan

Published: Saturday, April 22, 2017 @ 8:44 AM
Updated: Saturday, April 22, 2017 @ 8:47 AM

President Donald Trump on Friday promised a “big announcement” next week on his plans for major tax reform, but soon after, top administration officials were tempering expectations, indicating that the White House would be releasing broad goals of a tax plan, not the details in full legislative text.

“We’ll be having a big announcement on Wednesday having to do with tax reform,” Mr. Trump said as he signed several executive orders dealing with financial matters at the Treasury Department.

“The process has begun long ago, but it really formally begins on Wednesday,” the President added, with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin – his chief tax reform architect – standing beside him.

Mr. Trump has talked for months about acting on tax reform, but after three months in office, the President has not sent any formal plan to the Congress, where many GOP lawmakers are waiting to see some details.

Reports on Friday night seemed to indicate that the announcement next week will be on the broad brush side – not the nitty gritty details of major tax changes.

In an hour long interview with the Associated Press, the President also hyped his own tax reform announcement for next week, saying the tax cuts he will propose would be “massive.”

“Bigger, I believe than any tax cut ever,” Mr. Trump said.

But his goal to get it out next week – just days before the 100 day mark of his presidency – evidently wasn’t what top aides had been envisioning.

“Trump Vows to Unveil Tax-Cut Plan Next Week, Surprising Staff,” was the headline in the New York Times.

Capitol Hill still trying to figure out departure of Rep. Jason Chaffetz

Published: Friday, April 21, 2017 @ 11:27 AM
Updated: Friday, April 21, 2017 @ 11:27 AM

Capitol Hill is still trying to digest the biggest news of the week from the halls of Congress, as the decision of Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) to not run for re-election in 2018 – and maybe resign his seat in Congress before the end of his term – could open up a fight for the chairmanship of a key House committee, even as many wonder why Chaffetz would just walk away from that powerful post.

Here is a look from Capitol Hill:

1. Chaffetz giving up a prime committee chairmanship. The House Oversight Committee has a broad charter, allowing its leader to conduct reviews on all sorts of possible wrongdoing in the federal government. In 2015 and 2016, Chaffetz used some of that spotlight to zero in on the Hillary Clinton email server matter from her time as Secretary of State, as he vowed that if Clinton became President, those investigations would continue. Obviously, things changed when Donald Trump won the White House instead of Clinton. But did that somehow make this committee chairmanship less attractive? Imagine the oversight you could do – with a friendly Trump Administration – that might then translate into major legislative and bureaucratic changes in the operations of Uncle Sam.

2. Chaffetz denies there is any scandal involved. The sudden announcement on Wednesday that Chaffetz would not run in 2018 clearly caught many by surprise on the Hill. Words like “odd” and “strange” were frequently heard in the hallways, as many reporters and lawmakers tried to figure out why the Chairman of the House Oversight Committee would head for the exits, just a few months after his party took charge of both houses of Congress and the White House. Like many Republicans in the Congress, Chaffetz had never served with a Republican President until January 20 of this year. Three months later, the Utah Republican has decided the grass is greener away from Capitol Hill and the Congress.

3. Most lawmakers don’t leave by choice between elections.Let’s take Chaffetz at his word, that he is not leaving early for any reason other than he wants to spend more time with his family and stop the political grind. Experience though shows that is not usually the way things go for House members. In the last Congress for example, four members left because of ethics or criminal investigations (Schock, Whitfield, Grimm and Fattah); Two members died during their terms (Takai and Nunelee); Two left early because they were elected to another office (Hahn, Miller). The sole House member to leave on his own was Speaker John Boehner – and only when it became apparent he might be booted out of that post by his own party.

4. It’s rare, but some do leave Congress for another job. Let’s be fair – while it doesn’t happen very often, there are members who just decide they want to do something else, and leave Capitol Hill during their term. A few recent examples come to mind from early 2013: Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO) left to run the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association; Rep. Jo Bonner (R-AL) took a job in the University of Alabama education system; Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) left to run the Heritage Foundation. Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) left for the Woodrow Wilson International Center. This type of move though is a recent phenomena. When I first started working in the halls of Congress in 1980, you pretty much only left the House or Senate before the next election if you died, ran afoul of the law, or moved to another elected office.

5. Reading the social media tea leaves. When Chaffetz announced his decision on Wednesday, he thanked supporters on Twitter and Facebook for their praise. “Many thanks for all the kind comments…. Thank you!” he wrote on Twitter. “Thank you very much. Very kind,” he answered to one well-wisher on Facebook, a few hours after announcing he would not run again in 2018. But by Thursday, as Chaffetz confirmed that he might leave Congress before his term ended, the Utah Republican posted only one thing on his Twitter and Facebook accounts, a web story that was about his wife. “Julie Chaffetz, Jason’s Wife: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know.”

6. Is this more about the future of Republicans? Some wondered whether Chaffetz simply looked ahead in his own future, and saw political challengers barreling at him on a number of fronts – and decided it might be best to step aside now, before being roughed up in 2018. Democrats were ready to fund a candidate against him. Some Republicans were already pushing for the mayor of Provo to primary Chaffetz. And Chaffetz was already feeling the heat locally and nationally over his reluctance to probe any links between the Trump Administration and Russia.

Trump tax reform plan coming “very soon”

Published: Thursday, April 20, 2017 @ 10:38 PM
Updated: Thursday, April 20, 2017 @ 10:38 PM

A week before the 100 day mark of President Donald Trump’s time in office, top administration officials say they are on the verge of releasing a sweeping plan to reform the nation’s tax system, waving off questions about whether legislative troubles with a GOP health care proposal would foreshadow tax troubles as well.

Asked when the details of the plan would be released, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said, “Soon, very soon.”

“We’re very focused on it,” Mnuchin said at a Washington, D.C. event sponsored by the Institute of International Finance.

“Big priority for the President – we will get tax reform done,” Mnuchin added.

https://twitter.com/trish_regan/status/855123852657123330

Earlier in the week, Mnuchin had backed off his vow to get tax reform through the Congress by the summer break that lawmakers take in August – his latest prediction is just a few months after that, at the end of the year.

Without giving away many details, Mnuchin did say the Trump tax plan would have either three or four tax brackets – there are currently seven – along with a streamlined tax system.

“Fundamentally, fewer brackets, less deductions, simpler tax code,” said Mnuchin.

“This will be the most significant change to the tax code since Reagan,” the Treasury Secretary added.

But nothing is on the schedule right now in the Congress on taxes, as when lawmakers return next week after an over two week break, they will have to immediately turn their focus to a funding measure to avoid a government shutdown next Friday night.