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.”

Federal appeals court keeps Trump travel and refugee order on hold

Published: Thursday, May 25, 2017 @ 2:37 PM
Updated: Thursday, May 25, 2017 @ 2:37 PM

In another legal setback for President Donald Trump, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals refused on Thursday to lift an injunction against his revised travel and refugee order, preventing the White House from suspending new visas for people from six Muslim-majority countries, as this decision took another step on the way to a likely showdown on the matter at the U.S. Supreme Court.

As in earlier rulings, the judges cited the President’s own words calling for a “Muslim ban,” ruling that the order was basically an effort to target “Muslims for exclusion from the United States.”

“These statements, taken together, provide direct specific evidence” of what spurred the executive orders, the court’s majority wrote in a 202 page decision.

“President Trump’s desire to exclude Muslims from the United States,” the opinion read.

Not only did the ruling quote Mr. Trump, but also some of his top aides and advisers, like White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, and others.

The judges rejected an argument by the Trump Administration that the order was done in the name of national security, saying the record shows Mr. Trump belatedly consulted agencies that deal with that matter, and only after his first travel order had been derailed in the courts.

The President’s order would impact people coming into the United States from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – Iraq had been on the original order, but was taken off when that first plan was revised.

The ruling was the first of two from federal appellate courts – the Ninth Circuit also must pass judgment on the plan.

“The Muslim ban continues to be 100% blocked from going into effect nationwide, by an overwhelming vote,” said lawyer Neal Katyal, who argued this same issue before the Ninth Circuit for the state of Hawaii.

Kasich wants ‘voice’ in 2020; tunes it up now with book, West Palm talk

Published: Wednesday, May 24, 2017 @ 2:15 PM


            Ohio Gov. John Kasich in Orlando for the Republican Party of Florida’s Sunshine Summit in November 2015. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who was the last Republican standing against Donald Trump in 2016 and refused to endorse him in the general election, says in a new book that it’s time for “thinking, feeling Americans to come together in support of the Trump administration.”

But Kasich — who will appear in West Palm Beach at a Forum Club of the Palm Beaches lunch on Friday to promote the book — also writes that Trump won’t get a “free pass.”

The book is titled Two Paths: America Divided or United, and Kasich spoke to The Palm Beach Post this week about it and his upcoming speech, as well as his 2016 presidential run and 2020 plans, such as they are.

“I have no clue what I’m doing in 2020,” said Kasich, who faces term limits as Ohio governor in January 2019. “I’m wondering what I’m going to be doing in the next 20 minutes. I don’t know. I really don’t. I’d like to have a voice, whether it’s through public office or whether it’s not. I think that’s going to be left to a higher power than me.”

Trump orders investigation of leaks related to Manchester terror attack

Published: Thursday, May 25, 2017 @ 10:59 AM
Updated: Thursday, May 25, 2017 @ 11:00 AM

After an outcry from the British government, President Donald Trump on Thursday ordered an internal investigation by the U.S. Justice Department, to find out who leaked information about the probe into this week’s terrorist attack in England, saying those responsible for the leaks should be “prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

“The alleged leaks coming out of government agencies are deeply troubling,” the President said in a statement issued in Belgium, his latest stop on a nine day overseas trip.

“These leaks have been going on for a long time and my Administration will get to the bottom of this. The leaks of sensitive information pose a grave threat to our national security,” Mr. Trump added.

Mr. Trump, who has voiced his frustration with intelligence leaks throughout his first four months in office, made clear he wants to find the source of the leak, as photos of evidence from the scene made their way on to the front page of the New York Times, angering British investigators.

“I am asking the Department of Justice and other relevant agencies to launch a complete review of this matter, and if appropriate, the culprit should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” the President said.

“There is no relationship we cherish more than the Special Relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom,” Mr. Trump added in his statement.

Earlier in the day, the President did not answer questions from reporters about the leak, which involved forensic evidence from the bombing scene.

After CBO, what’s next on GOP health care plan in Congress

Published: Thursday, May 25, 2017 @ 4:15 AM
Updated: Thursday, May 25, 2017 @ 4:15 AM

Now that the Congressional Budget Office has weighed in on a House-passed GOP health care bill, Republicans must still do a lot of work to not only forge a plan in the Senate, but also figure out how to get it to the President’s desk for his signature.

The CBO report found the revised GOP plan, which was approved earlier this month, would save $119 billion over ten years, and would result in 23 million fewer people having health insurance by 2026, than under Obamacare.

The report also raised questions about coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, and found that low income Americans between ages 50 to 64 would be hit with large price hikes.

Here’s where we stand on GOP efforts to overhaul the Obama health law:

1. Senate Republicans still searching for a deal. The CBO score didn’t change anything for Republicans, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Wednesday that he’s still looking for fifty votes to advance a health care plan in the Senate. GOP Senators have been talking regularly behind closed doors, floating a variety of plans, but they don’t seem to be near an agreement. Complicating matters is that Republicans can only lose two votes and keep things on track.

2. For now, it’s only Republicans at the table. While there have been some bipartisan meetings, the official GOP effort is not reaching across the aisle on health care. Senate Majority Leader McConnell has made that clear that he is not interested in bringing Democrats aboard to cut a health care deal, arguing that they won’t even acknowledge the problems that exist in Obamacare right now. Again, with such a small margin for error, not having any Democratic votes make life difficult for the GOP.

3. There still is the option of not passing anything. Senate GOP leaders have indicated to reporters that a vote will occur in coming months, even if that plan gets rejected by the Senate. That could result in something that President Trump had floated months ago, just letting troubles mount in the Obamacare system until it creates enough blowback from the public to force action in the Congress. Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) yesterday raised that as a possibility.

4. It’s easier to be against than for something on health care. Democrats have been much more organized in recent weeks in terms of arguing against GOP plans, while Republicans have struggled to forge a unified public message for their health care overhaul effort. It is the exact opposite of where we were for the last seven years, when Republicans were the ones taking pot shots at the Obama health law, and Democrats were acting skittish. And even the poll numbers have flipped as well – this is a Fox News poll:

5. $1,000 a month for maternity coverage? In its report, the Congressional Budget Office said if states decide to allow for lower cost plans that have less coverage, then people should expect extras, like maternity coverage, would not be cheap. “Insurers would expect most purchasers to use the benefits and would therefore price that rider at close to the average cost of maternity coverage, which could be more than $1,000 per month,” the CBO wrote. Let’s just say that example didn’t play too well with female Democrats in the Congress

6. Who are the 23 million more who won’t have coverage?This is an interesting figure from the CBO, because it is immediately challenged by opponents of Obamacare, who argue that people should have the right to *not* buy health insurance, and that most of those going without insurance will fall into that category. But that’s not what the CBO found. The report says 14 million people who are currently covered by Medicaid would go uninsured – presumably because they couldn’t afford insurance. Another six million would stop having coverage with changes in the state and federal exchanges.

7. Will health care derail a GOP seat in Montana? A few hours after the CBO report was issued on the House-passed health plan, the story turned into a WWE event, as a reporter claimed a Montana Republican candidate for Congress body slammed him after being asked about the CBO numbers. We’ll see if the dispute causes any aftershocks at the polls in the Big Sky State tonight.

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