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Why 2012's Election Day matters

Published: Saturday, November 03, 2012 @ 9:27 PM
Updated: Saturday, November 03, 2012 @ 9:27 PM

The 2008 election saw the highest national turnout since 1968, but voting numbers and voter knowledge both decrease the further people go down the ballot. While 5.71 million Ohioans voted for president in 2008, only 5.37 million voted in their congressional race, and 4.42 million voted in the top state Supreme Court race.

According to an August Pew Research study, that could be due to a lack of understanding of what each political body does. In the study, only 40 percent of respondents knew which political party has a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives (the Republicans).

Here’s a summary of the top offices on the Nov. 6 ballot and how they affect everyday Ohioans.

President

The president nominates the leaders of federal departments, setting the tone for U.S. policy in education, defense, transportation, human services and much more. He serves as the nation’s military commander in chief and diplomatic leader to the world.

The president nominates Supreme Court justices, who can change how laws are interpreted for decades to come. Miami University political science professor Bryan Marshall said the health care reform bill likely would have been overturned if not for the vote of Chief Justice John Roberts, who was appointed by George W. Bush.

There are other ways presidents can affect policy. Miami University lecturer Chris Kelley brought up executive orders, such as the one issued by President Barack Obama this year to partially implement the Dream Act on immigration. Marshall mentioned the use of the presidential veto, which Bush used on a Medicaid spending bill in 2007.

In this year’s presidential race, Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney differ significantly on tax policy, energy policy and budget priorities.

U.S. House of Representatives

The House votes on federal legislation. Marshall said a two-year Congress usually passes about 400 bills, but the current Congress has passed 176, with 20 percent of those bills merely renaming post offices.

Some of the inaction is because Republicans control the House (242-193), while Democrats control the Senate (51-47-2), only the second two-year term since 1987 that the houses have been split.

Marshall pointed to the unpassed Farm Bill as an example of gridlock that could affect fuel and grocery prices. He said party tensions also have caused legislators to fund the government via temporary continuing resolutions, rather compromising on full-year budgets.

When one party controls both houses of Congress, more legislation gets passed, but the bills are often more contentious, such as Republicans’ 2003 tax cuts, or the Democrats’ 2009 stimulus and health-care reform bills.

Republicans currently represent all of Southwest Ohio’s districts. Barring a major surprise nationwide, the House is likely to stay under Republican control.

U.S. Senate

The Senate also votes on federal laws, but has some responsibilities the House does not. The Senate alone has the power to confirm or reject the president’s nominations of federal judges – from the Supreme Court to federal district judges in Ohio. The Senate also confirms or rejects cabinet secretaries like the secretary of state or the cirector of FEMA.

Ohio’s Republican senator, Rob Portman, is not yet up for re-election. Ohio’s Democratic senator, Sherrod Brown, is being challenged by Republican state Treasurer Josh Mandel.

If Democrats retain control of the Senate, more gridlock is likely, as each party would control half of Congress. Even if Republicans gain control, gridlock might remain, unless they change a Senate rule that requires a 60-vote supermajority to move a bill forward.

Ohio legislature

The General Assembly passes laws on everything from crime and punishment to taxes and regulation. Examples include when they decided to cut Ohioans’ income tax rates last decade and voted to limit public workers’ collective bargaining rights last year.

University of Dayton political science professor Nancy Martorano Miller said the biggest job of the state legislature is to pass a budget every two years, deciding how $28 billion per year gets divvied up between education, public safety, social welfare, transportation and other issues.

Republicans have firm control of the State House (59-40) and the State Senate (23-10). All House seats are up for election, as are half of the Senate seats.

Issue 2 — Redistricting

Voting rights groups and unions support a constitutional amendment to put congressional and statehouse redistricting in the hands of a politically balanced citizens board, instead of in elected politicians’ hands.

Backers say the new system will create more logical, competitive districts, which would reduce hyper-partisanship. Republicans, who currently control the map drawing process, are opposed and say the backers are liberals cloaked as good-government groups.

Miller says the current system all but assures that whichever party gets to draw the map will control the state legislature the next 10 years, regardless of who runs for office. She also said the amendment presents a complex system that could be difficult to implement.

Learn more about the Ohio Supreme Court races, county races and other issues on your ballot in our interactive voters guide at DaytonDailyNews.com/go/vote

A job for voters – get yourself ready for the details of tax reform

Published: Saturday, October 21, 2017 @ 5:50 PM

As the Congress gets moving in coming weeks on the first serious effort at tax reform since the mid-1980’s, it is important for the folks back home to remember one thing – while the focus for many Americans will be on the individual tax rates and changes that impact every day taxpayers, this package is likely to be about so much more than just that, as a look back at the big tax bills of the Reagan Administration so easily demonstrates.

“I will tell you, our country needs tax cuts,” the President said in recent days, making the case that tax reform will spur economic growth in the United States.

“We’re fighting for lower taxes, big tax cuts, the biggest tax cuts in the history of our nation. We’re fighting for tax reform, as part of that,” Mr. Trump said.

And so, the voters have a bit of a homework assignment, because tax reform is about a lot more than just cutting the tax rate that Joe Six Pack and his wife pay to Uncle Sam.

The 1980’s were an active time for the House Ways and Means Committee, and the Senate Finance Committee – those are the panels in charge of writing tax measures in the Congress.

During the Reagan Administration, we had three major tax bills become law:

+ The Reagan tax cuts of 1981, the “Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981.”

+ The next year, there was a major bill to increase taxes, the “Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982.”

+ Then, both parties came together for major changes to the Internal Revenue Code with the 1986 Tax Reform Act.

If you look at the 1986 Act, it starts with something that may end up being a prime focus in 2017:

Sec. 101. Rate Reductions
Sec. 102. Increase in standard deduction

But there is so much more that is involved in that 879 page bill, just as there was so much more than individual matters in the 1981 and 1982 tax bills.

The 1986 bill had provisions on capital gains, real estate, business tax credits, investment tax credit, depreciation, energy, agriculture, limits on certain tax shelters, provisions affecting life insurance, pensions, foreign tax provisions, and on, and on, and on.

Lots of people have told me in recent years of how lawmakers should “read the bill.”

Well, the last three big tax measures from the 1980’s are all linked on this page.

Read the bills.

And start realizing just how complicated this can be on tax reform.

North Carolina politician sparks controversy with tweet comparing Trump to Hitler

Published: Saturday, October 21, 2017 @ 12:45 PM

Charlotte councilwoman LaWana Mayfield posted a controversial tweet.
WSOCTV.com
Charlotte councilwoman LaWana Mayfield posted a controversial tweet.(WSOCTV.com)

A Charlotte city councilwoman is under scrutiny for a controversial tweet she posted comparing President Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler.

Councilwoman LaWana Mayfield posted the tweet Friday morning, which reads in part: “For All who read about Hitler you are Now Living how he reigned in #45."

WSOC spoke with members of the community for reactions to Mayfield’s statement.

"I don't think it's appropriate,” Charlotte resident Ulga Mazets said. 

Mazets is from eastern Europe and said her family was impacted by Hitler’s reign.

“My grandfather was in (a) concentration camp, so I feel it's a very harsh comparison,” she said.

>> Read more trending news

Others felt the comparison was inappropriate but said Mayfield had the right to make it.

“Everybody got their own opinion,” a Charlotte resident said.

Earlier this year, one of Mayfield’s fellow council members, Dimple Ajmera, landed in hot water when she said Trump supporters have no place leading Charlotte government.

[READ MORE: Councilwoman receives death threats following Trump comments]

Ironically, Mayfield just called for an investigation into a Charlotte Housing Authority worker who allegedly posted a tweet on Facebook applauding the death of Keith Lamont Scott, who was shot by police during an incident that sparked a nationwide debate.

University of North Carolina - Charlotte professor Anita Blanchard said these types of comments on social media are becoming more common.

She said leaders and those who use social media platforms should learn to be more media savvy.

“Finding a way to say something that’s not rude that still gets your point across,” she said.

Mayfield didn’t immediately respond to Channel 9’s calls about the tweet, but she tweeted again Friday afternoon saying, “I wish the media would question #45 about why we were in Niger.”

Mayfield is up for re-election. Her Republican opponent Daniel Herrera sent WSOC the following statement:

"I have heard of my opponent's divisive, and inflammatory tweet of political rhetoric comparing the President of the United States to Hitler, pure evil and everything President Trump and I stand to oppose. 

While LaWana Mayfield only wishes to divide our community by using the power of fear to distract from her failures. I stand to change and unite District Three. I will move us forward with policies that support safer streets that allow mail to be delivered and not canceled because of street violence. I have a real plan to promote affordable housing rather than subsidized soccer stadiums that only support the developers who own her vote. I will always represent my faith and never write a policy like her devastating bathroom bill, the one she spearheaded and forced upon our Queen City and which brought so much distrain to our community.

Shame on Mayfield for her continuation of divisive political tactics. Shame on her for disrespecting the over 400,000 Defenders of Freedom who fell beneath our flag to defeat Hitler." 

Mayfield's statement in response to the backlash:

"The Constitutional right of "Free Speech" is a precious and uniquely beloved gift among Americans. With this gift of free speech comes great responsibility. To some, I did not express that responsibly within the limited characters of my earlier tweet. I apologize for the brevity of my statement due to being limited to 140 characters. Many times, we cannot fully express intent or emotion through this limited platform."

"I do not want to diminish the heinous treatment and genocide that our Jewish brothers and sisters experienced at the hands of this dictator nor do I want to further create a dialogue that does not focus on the facts at hand."

"Today, we read about history as a story in a book and sometimes disassociate from the realities of lives impacted. Our communities must unite and realize that at this intersectionality of both conservative and liberal, white and people of color, gay or straight, young and seniors, these variances and diverse populations have strength when they unite in one voice."

"My anger and passion when tweeting was directed to those that continue to make excuses for a man who is leading our Nation in a divisive direction. His policies, the creation of the 'Birther movement,' executive orders and continual mistreatment of marginalized communities has quickly eroded the landscape of civility and civil discourse in our society. 

"I value the diversity of my community, work to be inclusive and give voice to those that are not at the table and bring equity to this city that I love.""While my words chosen have offended some, my intent was to bring attention to the continued crisis that we face each day while this president is leading us. My post angered some and I stay in a state of anger every day I watch the news and this like many posts was shared to shine a light on hypocrisy and the discourse rising in our nation."

House aims for quick final budget vote next week to accelerate tax reform

Published: Friday, October 20, 2017 @ 7:33 PM

A day after Senate approval of a budget outline for 2018 that authorizes expedited work on a tax reform plan- without the threat of a Senate filibuster – House GOP leaders set the table for a vote next week on the budget measure, instead of engaging in House-Senate negotiations that could take several weeks, as Republicans look to generate more momentum for the first major tax reforms since 1986.

Friday afternoon, House GOP leaders signaled their plan to simply accept the budget plan passed 51-49 by the Senate, setting a Tuesday meeting of the House Rules Committee, which sets the ground rules for bills on the floor of the House.

“We want Americans to wake up in the new year with a new tax code, one that is simple and fair,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan. “Now it is time to meet this moment and deliver real relief to hardworking people.”

Approval of the Senate-passed plan would allow tax-writing committees in both the House and Senate to get to work on the actual details of tax reform; what’s been released so far is an outline, but not the fine print.

“This is another important milestone for tax reform, and sets the stage for us to pass major tax cuts that will deliver more jobs and higher wages for hardworking Americans all over the country,” said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

As for Democrats, some feel like they are being set up by the GOP, predicting that Republicans will unveil their tax reform bill, and then demand a vote on it days later.

“I am perfectly willing to negotiate,” said Sen. Clare McCaskill (D-MO). “I can’t do it in a vacuum.”

“It doesn’t work that way,” McCaskill told reporters. “Why can’t we have a bill?”

When you look back at the 1986 Tax Reform Act – that took months to make its way through the House and Senate, and then a conference committee for final negotiations.

Need some weekend reading? Here is the link to the explanation of the 1986 Tax Reform Act – it’s only a little under 1,400 pages.

It’s a gentle reminder that if you do ‘real’ tax reform – it is a very complicated endeavor.

Senate approves budget outline, as GOP takes next step for tax reform

Published: Thursday, October 19, 2017 @ 9:52 PM

The GOP push for a major tax reform bill in Congress took an important step forward on Thursday night, as the Senate approved a Republican budget outline for 2018, authorizing work on a tax reform bill that cannot be derailed by a filibuster, as President Donald Trump urged Congress to move quickly on a tax package.

“Tonight we completed the first step to replacing our broken tax code,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The Senate vote was 51-49, with only Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) breaking ranks, as he voted against the plan, saying he was standing up for “fiscal responsibility.”

The vote was welcome news at the White House.

“I will tell you, our country needs tax cuts,” the President said at the White House on Thursday afternoon, arguing tax relief would spur new economic growth in the United States on a large scale.

“If we get this done, it will be historic,” the President said. “It will be bigger than any plan ever approved or – ever. It will be the biggest tax cuts in the history of our country.”

That point was repeated on almost an endless loop by GOP Senators during Senate debate on the budget outline for 2018.

“This is the first step to getting us to pro-growth tax reform,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX).

“It’s been more than 30 years since we reformed the tax code,” said Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ). “We have more preferences and loopholes and deductions than we know what to do with.”

“If we don’t get that done, then I don’t think we have another opportunity to pass a tax bill in the next four years,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO).

“This budget allows us to cut taxes,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), as few Senators dwelled on the fact that the GOP plan would allow their party’s tax plan to create $1.5 trillion in extra deficits over 10 years.

For some, that wasn’t enough.

“We should cut everyone’s taxes, to make sure we cut taxes for the middle class,” said Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who offered an amendment to allow for deficits to go up by $2.5 trillion over ten years.

Paul’s change was soundly defeated on a vote of 93-7.

While Republicans rallied around the budget plan, critics of President Trump denounced it during Senate debate, in no uncertain terms.

“This is not a bad budget bill, this is a horrific budget bill,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

GOP Congressional leaders must still sort out the differences between the budget outlines approved in the House and Senate, before starting on their effort for the first major tax reform plan since 1986.

Some late changes made in the plan by Senate Republicans could pave the way for the House to simply accept the Senate version of the budget as early as next week, which would speed up the effort to begin debate on tax reform.

As of now, the fine print of the GOP tax reform package remain a secret. Republicans want that to change in the next few weeks.