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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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Gov. John Kasich to address graduates of Harvard Kennedy School

Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2018 @ 11:36 AM


            Ohio Governor John Kasich (Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images)
Ohio Governor John Kasich (Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images)

Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich is delivering the spring graduation address at the Harvard Kennedy School.

The former presidential candidate addresses the school of government’s class of 2018 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Wednesday.

Kasich’s focus on national policy issues since losing his 2016 presidential bid has fueled speculation that he’s positioning himself to challenge President Donald Trump again in 2020, either as a Republican or as an independent. Kasich says he’s weighing his options.

As a vocal Trump detractor, the term-limited governor is a frequent cable news guest.

Beyond that, he’s preached civility alongside former Democratic Vice President Joe Biden; proposed a series of what he calls pragmatic bipartisan policy solutions on health care, immigration and gun issues; and joined former Republican California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s fight for redistricting reform.

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ACLU sues over Ohio’s congressional districts

Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2018 @ 11:27 AM
Updated: Wednesday, May 23, 2018 @ 11:27 AM


            ACLU sues over Ohio’s congressional districts. Getty Image
ACLU sues over Ohio’s congressional districts. Getty Image

The ACLU has filed a constitutional challenge to Ohio’s congressional map, using Republican Gov. John Kasich’s statements opposing gerrymandering as ammunition.

A suit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati challenges district maps in effect through 2020 for “an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander” that violates voters’ rights to democratically select their representatives.

The suit names Kasich, Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted and leaders of the GOP-controlled state Legislature.

ACLU of Ohio Legal Director Freda Levinson said the suit hits the “sweet spot” in the life of the 10-year map, because data is available to show how the maps routinely deliver 75 percent of Ohio’s congressional seats to Republicans with only about half Ohio’s votes.

Kasich’s amicus brief against gerrymandering in a federal redistricting case is cited.

By JULIE CARR SMYTH, Associated Press

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