State Issue 1: Voters will see one state issue on the November ballot, State Issue 1. State Issue 1 is titled “To Reduce Penalties for Crimes of Obtaining, Possessing, and Using Illegal Drugs”, and it would add a new Section 12 to Article XV of the Ohio Constitution designed to reshape the funding and implementation of Ohio’s drug treatment and correctional rehabilitation programming. The Ohio Ballot Board issued the following description of the components of State Issue 11: Require sentence reductions of incarcerated individuals, except individuals incarcerated for murder, rape, or child molestation, by up to 25% if the individual participates in rehabilitative, work, or educational programming; Mandate that criminal offenses of obtaining, possessing, or using any drug such as fentanyl, heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, LSD, and other controlled substances cannot be classified as a felony, but only a misdemeanor; Prohibit jail time as a sentence for obtaining, possessing, or using such drugs until an individual’s third offense within 24 months; Allow an individual convicted of obtaining, possessing, or using any such drug prior to the effective date of the amendment to ask a court to reduce the conviction to a misdemeanor, regardless of whether the individual has completed the sentence; Require any available funding, based on projected savings, to be applied to state-administered rehabilitation programs and crime victim funds, and Require a graduated series of responses, such as community service, drug treatment, or jail time, for minor, non-criminal probation violations. The Issue is very controversial. Opponents say it could decrease the effectiveness of Ohio’s drug courts and that its decriminalization of fentanyl will lead to increased overdoses. Proponents include Former Ohio Attorney General Rich Cordray, the Democrat running for governor; Christian Coalition of Ohio; American Civil Liberties Union and numerous church and social service organizations. Opponents include Ohio Gov. John Kasich; Ohio Attorney/Republican Gubernatorial candidate General Mike DeWine, and the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association and numerous law enforcement agencies in Ohio.
Ohio Legislature: Recent House and Senate Sessions have been sparse, and legislators are in full campaign-mode. However, work has continued in legislative committees.
Gubernatorial Race: With the three scheduled gubernatorial debates completed, most polls show the race between Democratic candidate Richard Cordray and Republican candidate Mike DeWine too close to call. The outcome could well rest on voter turnout.
Early Voting Underway: Early voting for Ohio’s November 6 General Election began October 10 and lasts through November 5. Voters can either vote early by mail (Request a ballot from your county’s board of elections, fill out the form and mail it back or drop it off at your local board of elections headquarters) or in person by going to your county’s Board of Elections with an acceptable form of identification. Hours are as follows: between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays between Oct. 10 and Oct. 26; 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 27; 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. between Oct. 29 and Nov. 2; 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 3; 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 4 and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 5.
Ohio Legislature: Recent House and Senate Sessions have been cancelled, and legislators are in full campaign-mode. However, work has continued in legislative committees. A Senate Session is scheduled for September 25.
Tax Expenditure Review Committee: The Tax Expenditure Review Committee was created in 2016 (HB9, 131st General Assembly) and requires the legislature to evaluate over an eight-year period Ohio’s tax credits and exemptions, including economic development programs that use these tools. The group has met four times, reviewing 15 tax credit/exemption programs, and was legislatively required to issue its first report July 1. That report is now tardy, so watch for the report to come out later this fall.
Lake Erie Executive Order: Controversy continues about Governor Kasich’s Lake Erie Executive Order signed July 11, which attempted to mandate limits on nonpoint source phosphorus, such as that from agricultural operations, which may fuel harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie. Feedback was recently sought by the Ohio Department of Agriculture on proposed rules promulgated under the Order, and concerns were expressed by key legislators as well as the Ohio Soil and Water Conservation Commission. The Legislature plans to form a Study Committee to gather additional constituent input, although members of the Committee have not yet been appointed. The Governor’s Administration has signaled that it still intends to advance the rules through the rulemaking process via the Common Sense Initiative and the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review. The rules would then return to the commission for final approval.
State Political Activity:
Political: Although the results of the August 7 special election to replace U.S. Congressman Pat Tiberi for the remainder of his term in the 12th Congressional District was initially too close to call, it now appears that the winner will be Republican candidate Troy Balderson. As of August 21, Balderson leads Democratic candidate Danny O’Connor by about 1781 votes. All absentee and provisional ballots must be counted and certified by August 24. If the final results show a margin of 0.5 percent or less, state election officials will hold an automatic recount. The race was the subject of intense local and national interest, as it was heralded as a possible predictor of other races on the November ballot. The same two candidates will face each other again in November for a full term representing the 12th District.