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Ohio Senate passes major changes to congressional redistricting

Published: Monday, February 05, 2018 @ 5:07 PM
Updated: Monday, February 05, 2018 @ 7:35 PM


            Ohio lawmakers near deal on changing congressional redistricting
Ohio lawmakers near deal on changing congressional redistricting

State lawmakers and a coalition of good government groups are on the verge of remaking the way Ohio draws its congressional district maps, after weeks of furious and fitful behind-the-scenes negotiations.

The Ohio Senate voted 31-0 on the plan which now heads to the Ohio House, which is planning a Tuesday vote.

The Senate Government Oversight Committee voted 11-0 in favor of the deal struck Monday afternoon.

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“It’s nice we’re finally putting this to bed after 150 years of fighting about it, particularly over the last 40 years,” said state Sen. Matt Huffman, R-Lima, a chief player in the negotiations.

Ohio Environmental Council Director Heather Taylor-Miesle, a lead negotiator for a coalition of good government groups seeking reforms, said the new system will lead to more responsive representatives in Congress. “I think in 2022, you’ll see a lot more competitive districts. People are not going to be able to take their citizens for granted anymore.”

The Ohio General Assembly will retain control over the map making but the majority party will no longer be able to push through a map without any support from the minority party. The latest plan calls for a three-stage process for drawing Ohio’s congressional maps following the U.S. census every 10 years.

The General Assembly would be able to pass a 10-year congressional district map provided they have three-fifths vote, including at least half of the minority and majority party members, in each chamber.

If they fail to do so by September 30 of the year following the census, the seven-member Ohio Redistricting Commission would take over map making. If the commission fails to agree on a 10-year map by Oct. 31, the responsibility goes back to the General Assembly, which can pass 10-year or 4-year maps, by Nov. 30.

The four-year maps would face restrictions: no unduly favoring or disfavoring a political party or incumbents; limiting splits of counties; and a public explanation for why the map was drawn in a particular way.

“I think in general the concept of having a four-year map is undesirable to most folks because it creates a lot of chaos,” Huffman said. “I think for the public, having changes in congressional districts and who their representative is is generally not a good idea….That’s why we wanted plenty of opportunity to get a 10-year map somewhere along the line.”

Any map would be subject to voter referenda and a governor’s veto.

If lawmakers agree by Wednesday, the proposed state constitutional amendment will be placed on the May 8 primary ballot.

Taylor-Miesle said Fair Districts = Fair Elections, the coalition of reform seekers, isn’t necessarily abandoning its effort to collect more than 300,000 valid voter signatures by July 4 to place a different constitutional amendment before voters in November. She noted that effort may continue as a back-stop in case the Huffman plan doesn’t win voter approval in May.

Related: Ohio may change the way congressional lines are drawn

“I don’t know what we’ll do. We just have to make the call. We have not had that discussion at this point,” she said.

Taylor-Miesle said the negotiations at times took an unusual path. “This is the first time in my career I’ve ever had to negotiate via text sometimes in the middle of a Super Bowl and all that kind of fun stuff.”

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Brown takes shot at Renacci in negative ad

Published: Friday, May 18, 2018 @ 2:36 PM

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, during a Senate Banking Committee hearing on Capitol Hill. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Susan Walsh
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, during a Senate Banking Committee hearing on Capitol Hill. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)(Susan Walsh)

THE AD: A 30-second television commercial for Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.

WHERE TO SEE IT: State broadcast television and here 

VIDEO: Unflattering images of Renacci. Then it concludes with Sherrod Brown chatting with industrial workers.

SCRIPT: Voice of a narrator: The U.S. Congress. There’s 68 teachers, 15 farmers, four pilots, but only one lobbyist. That’s right. Jim Renacci’s been a lobbyist even while in Congress. And what’s he done? He voted to make it easier for lobbyists to hold key government positions and harder to investigate conflicts of interest. And now he’s running for Senate? Jim Renacci. He’s always looked out for himself.”

VOICE OF SHERROD BROWN: “I’m Sherrod Brown and I approved this message.”

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ANALYSIS: The commercial is technically accurate, but the implication that Renacci lobbied Congress is not accurate. After first being elected to the House in the 2010, Renacci filed to terminate his status as a registered lobbyist for Smokerise International Group Limited, an Ohio company Renacci controlled. According to an Associated Press story on March 28 of this year, Renacci’s attorney did not file the de-activation papers until May of 2011, four months into Renacci’s first term. AP also reported “Renacci continued to file and digitally sign lobbyist disclosure reports … through mid-2011, as an active lobbyist would. His campaign refused to specify why he filed the reports if, as it contended, they were not required or to address the inaccurate reporting of his contributions.” But Renacci’s staff has consistently asserted the congressman never lobbied anyone at any time during his career in Congress although anyone viewing the commercial would assume Renacci has been a registered lobbyist through his congressional career.

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Brown’s commercial is an effort to define Renacci as an untrustworthy lobbyist. But it is something of surprise for a two-term incumbent senator to open his campaign with such a negative commercial against his opponent. The commercial does not mention any of Brown’s accomplishments during his two terms. And it is a sign that the Brown/Renacci race will be unusually negative.

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Ohio drivers will licenses will get a new look, and come in the mail starting this summer

Published: Wednesday, February 28, 2018 @ 9:47 AM
Updated: Wednesday, February 28, 2018 @ 9:47 AM

Ohio drivers will get license by mail starting July 2

Ohio is ending the same-day issuing of Ohio driver's licenses and will mail them instead to save money and increase security.

Licenses will arrive about 10 days after they're issued once the change takes effect July 2, the Department of Public Safety said. Drivers will be issued temporary licenses and ID cards in the meantime.

RELATED: Driver’s license suspensions soaring

The agency says the temporary cards will be valid for proof of identity and residence when voting.

Drivers can also request driver's licenses or ID cards that meet federal regulations for travel. Travel restrictions taking effect in October 2020 will require federally compliant driver's licenses to pass through airport security. There's no extra cost for these licenses.

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A star in the upper right-hand corner of licenses will designate those compliant with federal regulations. Obtaining that credential will require documents such as birth certificates or passports, copies of social security cards and utility bills showing people's address.

Ohio joins 41 other states that provide licenses and ID cards through the mail.
The change announced Wednesday will prevent loss and theft of secure material from motor vehicle bureaus, provide a centralized and more secure printing facility and save money in the form of the cost of upgrading security measures at individual bureaus, the Public Safety department said.

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New restrictions may be coming for some drivers

Ohio lawmakers seem ready to relax some restrictions on the driving privileges of those who have lost their licenses and have little means to pay the reinstatement fees.  

At least three bills related to license suspensions are pending in the Ohio legislature.  In one, co-sponsored by Jim Butler, R-Ohio, limited driving privileges would be restored for those whose driver’s licenses were suspended for issues unrelated to driving or using a vehicle for criminal purposes.  

In Ohio, there are at least 32 ways people can lose their driver’s license, including dropping out of high school.  

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In another measure, co-sponsored by Sen. Matt Huffman, R-Lima, judges would be allowed to impose community service in lieu of paying reinstatement fees.

The proposed reforms come as license suspensions soar in Ohio. Last year, 1.1 million Ohioans had their driver’s license suspended for one or more reasons — nearly 12 percent of those old enough to drive in the state.

“There’s this permanent underclass that we’ve created,” Huffman said. “If you’re $4,000 or $5,000 down and that’s what it takes to get your driver’s license, you just don’t do it.”

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Should people work for Medicaid? Here’s how to weigh in.

Published: Friday, May 18, 2018 @ 9:16 AM


            FILE
FILE

The clock has started for the next round of public comment on Ohio’s proposal to create the state’s first ever work requirements associated with Medicaid.

The new rules would add requirements to work or go to school at least 20 hours per week to remain eligible for benefits under the health insurance program for low-income Ohioans, which is jointly funded by the state and federal government.

The request needs to be approved by the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which opened a 30-day public comment period on May 15.

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On May 1 the Ohio Department of Medicaid officially submitted the request to create the work requirements.

The Republican-majority Ohio General Assembly put the language into the budget last year that required the Ohio Department of Medicaid to seek permission to add the job requirements for those covered through Medicaid expansion.

Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Medina, has said the work requirements exempt the neediest while driving those with the ability to work toward self sufficiency.

But opponents, including dozens of health care lobbying groups, have pushed back against the proposed rules, saying the changes will make health outcomes worse and the state will waste money on the administration costs of the new program rules.

RELATED: Kasich vs. lawmakers in Medicaid fight: ‘If you break it, you own it’

The state’s request for work requirements states that the majority of Ohioans covered by Medicaid expansion will be exempted. The proposal estimates about 36,000 will not meet the work requirements and won’t be exempt, and out of those enrollees about 18,000 will ultimately lose their Medicaid eligibility.

But some opponents to the proposal, including Cleveland-based Center for Community Solutions, have questioned that math because the state also underestimated how many people would lose SNAP benefits when Ohio added work requirements for the food assistance program.

Public comment on the work requirement can be submitted online.

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Recreational marijuana closer to Ohio ballot — but lots of work ahead

Published: Thursday, May 17, 2018 @ 3:03 PM


            A marijuana user attempts to light an oversized joint during a 420 Day celebration on “Hippie Hill” in Golden Gate Park on April 20, 2018 in San Francisco, California. In the first year that marijuana is legal for recreational use in California, thousands of marijuana enthusiasts gathered in Golden Gate Park to celebrate 420 day, the de facto holiday for marijuana advocates, with large gatherings and “smoke outs” in many parts of the United States. JUSTIN SULLIVAN / GETTY IMAGES
A marijuana user attempts to light an oversized joint during a 420 Day celebration on “Hippie Hill” in Golden Gate Park on April 20, 2018 in San Francisco, California. In the first year that marijuana is legal for recreational use in California, thousands of marijuana enthusiasts gathered in Golden Gate Park to celebrate 420 day, the de facto holiday for marijuana advocates, with large gatherings and “smoke outs” in many parts of the United States. JUSTIN SULLIVAN / GETTY IMAGES

Legalized recreational marijuana is one small step closer to appearing on Ohio ballots in 2019.

The Ohio Ballot Board certified a proposed constitutional amendment Thursday, according to Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted’s office. The amendment was previously certified earlier this month by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.

Ohio Families for Change is behind the effort to bring the matter to Ohio’s 2019 ballot.

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The group now faces the large task of collecting 305,591 valid signatures — equal to 10 percent of the total vote cast for governor in the most recent gubernatorial election in 2014. Signatures from at least 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties must be collected, and within each county the group must collect enough signatures equal to five percent of the vote total cast for governor.

The group’s proposal:

• Would allow Ohioans older than 21 to possess, grow, use, sell and share marijuana;

• Would not change the already approved medical marijuana program starting this year;

• Has a residency requirement for business licences;

• Calls for protections for landlords and employers who want to prohibit marijuana activities on their property.

The Ohio General Assembly would have authority to write laws governing impairment, uses in public and restrictions for minors.

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Getting on the statewide ballot is a heavy lift, requiring organizational skills and millions of dollars. Eight petitions to legalize marijuana have been certified over the past five years but only one — ResponsibleOhio’s November 2015 effort — made it to the ballot. That year, Ohio voters soundly rejected a proposal to legalize marijuana for recreational and medical use.

In June 2016, Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed into law a plan to legalize and regulate medical marijuana. State officials are writing regulations, reviewing applications and inspecting operations for the new industry, which is expected to kick off Sept. 8.

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