Obama group to spend millions on Ohio elections this year

Published: Friday, February 09, 2018 @ 9:39 AM

Former President Barack Obama. Getty Image
Former President Barack Obama. Getty Image

A Democratic group backed by former President Barack Obama said this week it plans to invest millions of dollars in state-level elections in 11 states this year, with its heaviest focus on Ohio.

The National Democratic Redistricting Committee, led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, said this year’s election cycle is critical to affecting the congressional redistricting process. It is the first cycle whose winners will participate in drawing congressional maps for the decade starting in 2021.

RELATED: Who is running for the Ohio House and Senate?

The push comes amid bipartisan national concern that political gerrymandering, the process of drawing maps that benefit one party over another, has led to partisanship, gridlock and incivility in Washington.

“In 2011, Republicans created gerrymandered districts that locked themselves into power and shut out voters from the electoral process,” Holder said in announcing the group’s electoral targets on Wednesday. “By focusing on these state and local races, we can ensure Democrats who will fight for fairness have a seat at the table when new maps are drawn in 2021.”

The group is targeting races in 11 states, including nine gubernatorial races, 18 legislative chambers, two ballot initiatives and two down-ballot races. Eight more states are on the committee’s watch list.

RELATED: DeWine has big lead in governor money race

In Ohio, a perennial political battleground, the committee plans to support Democrats for five offices — governor, auditor, secretary of state, Ohio Senate and Ohio House — as well as pushing a redistricting ballot measure.

Trending - Most Read Stories

Thousands of military civilian jobs in Ohio at risk

Published: Thursday, May 24, 2018 @ 3:51 PM
Updated: Thursday, May 24, 2018 @ 3:51 PM


            If both the House and the Senate include the provision in the final version of the bill, it could have an impact on 6,000 jobs at the Defense Finance and Accounting Service and the Defense Logistics Agency in Whitehall
If both the House and the Senate include the provision in the final version of the bill, it could have an impact on 6,000 jobs at the Defense Finance and Accounting Service and the Defense Logistics Agency in Whitehall

The U.S. House passed a defense spending bill Thursday that could impact nearly 6,000 civilian defense jobs in Columbus and 2,600 in Cleveland.

The impact of the proposal on the Dayton region and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, meanwhile, would be negligible.

Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said the House GOP plan “would not have a direct personnel impact as none of the agencies impacted are headquartered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.”

Michael Gessel of the Dayton Development Coalition said roughly 400 to 500 people in the Dayton region work in the Defense bureaucracy, but only a small subset of that number could be studied if the proposal becomes law.

“In real numbers, we don’t know the effect. The people who have anything connected to do with the jobs changed would be quite small or none,” he said.

The cuts — pushed by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry of Texas — are aimed at saving some $25 billion, which could then be plowed back into other military spending.

The reductions were contained in an amendment to an overall defense bill that passed 351–66. Rep. Joyce Beatty, a Jefferson Township Democrat, was the lone Ohio lawmaker opposing the bill. Beatty said she voted no specifically because of the proposed cuts, which “would not benefit our troops and would put thousands of central Ohio jobs at risk of being eliminated or moved elsewhere.”

While the initial proposal by Thornberry named specific agencies to cut, the final version was more vague, calling instead for the Defense Department to study cuts and target them at specific Defense bureaucratic tasks. Still, the potential cuts to central Ohio defense jobs so alarmed the region’s business community that they flew to Washington last month to personally lobby the Ohio delegation to fight the provision.

The Senate version of the bill is not expected to include the cuts, said Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio. The White House opposes the amendment, which “would create contradictory and conflicting authorities and relationships” within the Department of Defense.

The American Federation of Government Employees, which represents many of the workers whose jobs would be targeted, condemned the proposal as “foolish and shortsighted.” And Brown wrote a letter to Senate Armed Service Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the panel’s ranking Democrat, warning that the proposed cuts “will negatively impact our ability to complete core national security missions.”

“This arbitrary cut is wrong for our national security and wrong for Ohio and I’ll keep fighting to make sure our jobs are protected in the final bill,” Brown said.

Sen. Rob Portman, R–Ohio, meanwhile, vowed to fight to keep the cuts out of the final version of the bill.

“Our defense agency offices in Columbus and Cleveland play very important roles supporting our men and women in uniform, including making sure they get paid, have the repair parts they need for their equipment, and have the information technology systems needed for mission success,” he said. “These aren’t functions we can get rid of.”

If both the House and the Senate include the provision in the final version of the bill, it could have an impact on 6,000 jobs at the Defense Finance and Accounting Service and the Defense Logistics Agency in Whitehall as well as 2,600 jobs at a similar agency in Cleveland.

The Senate was scheduled to consider changed to its version of the bill on Thursday, but it does so in private session.

Trending - Most Read Stories

Senate panel votes to name federal courthouse in Dayton for Judge Rice

Published: Thursday, May 24, 2018 @ 1:49 PM
Updated: Thursday, May 24, 2018 @ 1:49 PM

U.S. District Judge Walter Rice, 78, who moved to Dayton in 1962 and has worked to improve race relations for decades. (GOKAVI)

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has passed a bill to name Dayton’s federal courthouse after Judge Walter H. Rice.

RELATED: Dayton federal building to be named after Judge Rice

The move was the first official action on the designation, and now goes to the full Senate.

The building at 200 W. Second Street has not had a name since it opened.

Rice was appointed to the federal bench in June 1980 by President Jimmy Carter. He served as chief judge of the court from Oct. 13, 1996, to Oct. 12, 2003.

A panel convened by Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, chose to name the building after Rice.

Rep. Mike Turner talks about the Dayton federal building being renamed in honor of Judge Walter Rice.

“The courthouse has served the federal government and the Miami Valley for over 40 years and providing it with a formal designation is long past due,” Turner said last year.

The panel was chaired by Dayton attorney Merle F. Wilberding and included Amanda Wright Lane, a great-grand-niece of the Wright Brothers, Dayton History Chief Executive Brady Kress and eight other members.

Staff Writer Thomas Gnau contributed to this report.

Trending - Most Read Stories

New, updated voting machines could be coming for Ohio voters

Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2018 @ 11:40 AM
Updated: Wednesday, May 23, 2018 @ 11:42 AM


            An electronic touch screen voting machine is set up for testing at the Montgomery County Board of Elections. The paper spool will be enclosed at the polls. LYNN HULSEY/STAFF
An electronic touch screen voting machine is set up for testing at the Montgomery County Board of Elections. The paper spool will be enclosed at the polls. LYNN HULSEY/STAFF

A bill that would provide nearly $115 million to counties to help upgrade aging voting equipment, reimburse election boards for more recent machine purchases and set up a unified purchasing and leasing program through the Secretary of State passed a Statehouse panel Wednesday.

The measure approved by the House Finance Committee already passed the Ohio Senate. It is in limbo for when the full House will take up the issue. House members must first elect a new speaker for legislation to move forward.

TRENDING: FBI agents are at former Ohio House speaker Rosenberger’s house and a storage unit

The 2,300 touch-screen voting machines used by Montgomery County were built in 2003 using “technology from the Blackberry days,” said Jan Kelly, Board of Elections director.

“We’ve been able to recycle parts from old machines onto existing machines, but we’re running out of those parts,” she said earlier this year. “We’re at the end of the life.”

The amount each county would receive will be allocated based on the number of registered voters, according to the bill introduced by state Sen. Frank LaRose, R-Hudson.

Elections officials in Clark County say it could cost roughly $1.2 million to replace current equipment; in Montgomery County, $8 million.

The Montgomery County board calculates it will receive about $4.2 to $4.5 million depending on the final allocation approved by lawmakers, said Steve Harsman, deputy director.

RELATED: Ohioans may have to dig deep to cover cost of new voting machines

State law currently requires one voting machine per 175 registered voters. There are about 362,000 voters registered in Montgomery County, which deployed 2,142 machines at 173 different locations during the recent primary election, according to the elections board.

Ohio purchased most of the current voting machines in 2005 and 2006 with nearly $115 million in federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) money. HAVA passed after the 2000 presidential election exposed a critical need for upgrades.

Trending - Most Read Stories

Ohio closer to allowing dogs on restaurant patios statewide

Published: Tuesday, May 22, 2018 @ 6:31 PM
Updated: Tuesday, May 22, 2018 @ 6:31 PM


            Ohio closer to allowing dogs on restaurant patios statewide. Getty Image
Ohio closer to allowing dogs on restaurant patios statewide. Getty Image

Restaurant owners and not public health officials would decide whether to allow dogs on outdoor patios and porches under a bill that passed an Ohio Senate panel Tuesday.

State Sen. Bill Coley, R-West Chester, sponsored the bill.

Coley, who likes to take his sheepdogs Wilby and Elwood with him on vacations, out to dinner and around town, said last month of the restaurant owners: “They know what will work for their businesses and their customers and what won’t. Some businesses will choose to welcome pets in and some will say, ‘You know what, no, we prefer you leave your pet at home.’…That should be up to the business, not up to somebody in the Ohio Department of Health or some bureaucrat in a city or municipality around the state. Let’s leave it to the owners.”

Related: State may leave it up to restaurant owners to allow dogs on patios

A similar bill is pending in the Ohio House that would block local public health officials from implementing or enforcing bans.

Generally, public health laws prohibit pets on the premises of food service operations or retail food establishments. The ban is to protect against potential food contamination and disease transfer. Coley said restaurants would still have to meet sanitation requirements and would maintain the right to refuse service pets that appear “flea ridden” or unhealthy.

Trending - Most Read Stories