Commentary & Community

Ohio, Indiana, Minnesota Mandate Masks

This week, two more states enacted a mask mandate as coronavirus cases continue growing across the nation.


On Wednesday, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz mandated that anyone eating indoors at a restaurant or in a business must wear a mask. He said it was the cheapest and most efficient way to stop the spread of the coronavirus and that it would help lead to a situation where schools could re-open.


That same day, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb also issued a mask order. His requires that anyone in public indoor spaces, on public transportation, or outdoors while not socially distanced must be wearing a mask. It covers anyone who is 8 or older. Ohio Gov. Mike Dewine issued a similar order on Wednesday, too.


There are now 31 states where face masks are mandatory. Governors from both parties have issued such mandates, seeing them as part of a public health strategy to stop the spread of the coronavirus.


Critics of the mandate argue that this is an infringement of individual liberty. They say that businesses should be free to require masks, but that government should not mandate their use. Some also say the science is not strong enough to warrant such a mandate.


While President Trump has lately encouraged the wearing of masks, he has said he does not support a federal mask mandate.

Do you think state government should mandate the wearing of masks?

Ohio Legislature Considers Death Penalty for Abortion Doctors

If Ohio Republicans have their way, abortion will soon be banned in Ohio.


A third of the House GOP caucus in the Buckeye State have cosponsored a bill that would impose a total ban on abortion in the state. Under the legislation, there would be two new crimes in the state: abortion murder and aggravated abortion murder. The penalty for these crimes could be the death penalty.


This legislation would go far beyond Ohio’s current abortion law, which restricts abortions after six weeks of viability. This legislation, also known as the fetal heartbeat bill, has been stopped from going into effect by a federal judge.


Some pro-life leaders in the state, as well as Gov. Mike DeWine, are slow to embrace a total abortion ban. They note that this legislation will certainly face legal challenge. Unless the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, the law would not be constitutional.


 Supporters of the bill say that the time has come for a legal challenge to Roe v. Wade, the decision that legalized abortion nationwide. They argue that this bill could be the vehicle under which the Supreme Court reverses precedent and allows states to once again have the authority to allow or ban abortion.


Do you support an abortion ban? Should doctors who perform abortions face the death penalty?

Kasich, Legislators Clash over Gun Self-Defense Bill

Gun control is once again proving to be a divisive issue between Ohio Governor John Kasich and his fellow Republicans in the legislature.


Lawmakers recently passed a bill that would change a key aspect of the state’s self-defense law. Under this legislation, a prosecutor in a case where a shooter is claiming self-defense would have the burden of proving that the shooter did not act in self-defense. Under current law, this burden is on the shooter.


Governor Kasich has said that he is not comfortable with this legislation, though he has not yet decided whether to sign the bill or veto it. The governor had also pushed for this measure to include a provision that would have allowed the government to seize the guns of people who are accused of being a danger to themselves or others. Other states have passed similar “red flag” bills, but Ohio legislators did not include such language in their bill.


While Gov. Kasich wanted a “red flag” provision but did not get it, legislators did follow his lead in opposing language that would have allowed someone to use deadly force in public to defend himself. Also known as a “stand your ground” law, many states have such measures, although they are controversial. Some legislators pushed for such a law in Ohio, but the governor’s opposition helped doom these efforts this year.


This self-defense legislation passed last week. Governor Kasich has 10 days to decide whether to sign it or veto the bill.


Do you think that Ohio should make it easier for people to use self-defense as a justification in shootings? Should the state adopt a “stand your ground” law that allows people to use deadly force if threatened in public?

Ohio Voters Could Reduce Drug Penalties

The purchase and possession of illegal drugs in Ohio may soon be a misdemeanor in Ohio if Issue 1 becomes law. Its passage would reduce drug crime penalties and take other steps that would shrink the state’s prison population.


Under Issue 1, the uses, possession, or obtainment of any illegal drug could not be classified as a felony. Sentences for a first or second offense could not be anything harsher than probation. It would not change the penalties for the sale or distribution of drugs, however. The measure would also prohibit the revocation of probation for non-violent offenses. In addition, Issue 1 would require that inmates in work, rehabilitation, or educational programs receive a half-day reduction in their sentence for every day they participate.


Supporters of this ballot measure say that non-violent offenders should not be in prison. They argue that it will save the state millions of dollars if these offenders are not put in jail and would lead to better outcomes for those caught up in the criminal justice system. Law enforcement groups have come out strongly against Issue 1, saying it undercuts the authority of police and prosecutors to punish crime. They argue that not only will Issue 1 make the public less safe, it will send the wrong message about drug use to children.


The Democratic candidate for governor, Richard Cordray, supports Issue 1, while his Republican opponent, Mike DeWine, opposes it.


Do you think that the possession and use of drugs should be a felony? Or should states relax punishments for drug possession?

Ohio Governor Vetoes Regulatory Reform Bill


A bipartisan coalition of legislators passed a bill that would give the Ohio General Assembly more say over state regulations. Business groups backed the bill as a much-needed reform. Governor John Kasich did not agree, however. He recently vetoed this bill, saying that it would cause too much uncertainty. This may not be the end of the issue, though, since there may be enough votes to override the governor’s veto.


The bill in question, SB 221, would reform how state agencies finalize regulations. Among other things, the bill imposes greater publication requirements for rules and mandates that agencies must also consider whether rules would reduce revenue to private businesses. The provision of the bill that garnered Gov. Kasich’s ire its section that provides legislators with an opportunity to review rules that are challenged by the public if a rule has an unintended impact on business.


Gov. Kasich’s veto message argued that this would prevent any state regulation from ever being final. If the rule can be challenged at any time, he said, there would be considerable uncertainty over whether the rule should be followed. That, he argued, would lead to greater disruption and cost. He pointed out that he and legislators agreed on a regulatory reform measure in 2012 that has led to significant rule revision since its implementation.


Legislators who support this bill say that it is needed to ensure that agencies do not enact rules that unintentionally cause harm to businesses. They contend that elected officials in the legislature should be able to review these rules they are indeed hurting businesses. They point out that this proposal had bipartisan support as a way to reform the state’s regulatory process.


Legislators are now considering whether or not they will override the governor’s veto.


Do you think that legislators should be able to review regulations if these rules have unintended negative consequences for businesses?


Sherrod Brown Pushing for Federal Loans to Prop up Pensions


Many pension plans are facing an uncertain future. Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio has a plan to help them out – federal loans.


Senator Brown has introduced S. 2147, which would create the Pension Rehabilitation Administration. This new government agency would make loans to multi-employer pension plans that are declining, in critical status, or are insolvent. These loans would be for a 30-year term. To qualify, pension plans could not increase benefits over this 30-year term or allow for a reduction in contributions to the plan.


The pension plans that would be covered by this legislation are indeed facing an insolvency crisis. Some estimates put their unfunded liabilities at as much as $68 billion. Roughly 1.5 million Americans have retirement benefits that come or could come from these pensions.


Under Sen. Brown’s bill, aid to the pension plans would be in the form of loans that are supposed to be paid back to the government. However, there is no guarantee that such loans would be repaid. The Congressional Budget Office looked at the bill’s details and concluded that it could cost as much as $100 billion in federal dollars to support these plans. That number would be less if the pension plans were able to repay their loans.


Sen. Brown says this legislation is necessary to ensure that Americans can have access to the pensions they worked for and that were promised to them. Opponents of the legislation say that is a taxpayer bailout of union pension funds that made irresponsible financial decisions with workers’ money.


While Senator Brown’s bill has 22 co-sponsors, none of them are Republicans. That means it is unlikely that his proposal will be acted upon by the Senate this year.


Do you agree with Senator Sherrod Brown that the federal government should make loans to pension plans to guarantee workers’ retirement money? Or is it wrong for taxpayers to bail out union pension plans?


“Stand Your Ground” May Be Coming to Ohio


There is a difference of opinion on gun laws in Ohio between the executive and legislative branches of government. Governor John Kasich is pushing for legislators to approve a package of gun control bills. Instead, legislators are getting ready to vote on a bill that would expand the ability of Ohioans to use deadly force if they felt threatened.


When they return from their summer recess, members of the state House of Representatives will consider a bill that would remove legal liability in some cases where people use lethal force to defend themselves outside their homes or cars. This bill would allow someone to use such force if they felt threatened, and would remove that person’s duty to retreat in the face of such a threat. Similar bills have been passed in other states, and are known as “stand your ground” laws.


This stands in stark contrast to the firearms agenda being pushed by Gov. Kasich. In the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, Gov. Kasich sent a set of bills to legislators that would impose new limits on gun owners. One of these bills would allow law enforcement to seize weapons from someone they consider a threat.


Those opposed to “stand your ground” bills say they make shootings more likely. They point to the incident where George Zimmerman shot teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida. Supporters of such bills counter that they are necessary to allow people to defend their lives when confronted by criminals. In these cases, say supporters, the law should not punish people who think their lives are being threatened.


Gov. Kasich has said he would veto the “stand your ground” bill, but legislative leaders may have the votes to override such a veto.


Do you support “stand your ground” legislation that would make it easier for people to use deadly force if they think they are in danger?


Democrats Pushing for $15 Minimum Wage in Ohio


If Ohio Democrats have their way, it will soon be illegal for businesses in the state to pay their workers less than $15 an hour.


Advocacy groups and legislators are pushing to change the state’s minimum wage. Under their proposal, it would increase to $12 per hour in 2019. Then it will go up by 50 cents a year until it reaches $15 an hour in 2025.


Currently, the state’s minimum wage is $8.30 ($4.15 for tipped workers). The state’s voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2006 that ties the minimum wage to inflation, so it increases every year. Smaller businesses are allowed to pay $7.15 an hour, and businesses can pay that rate to workers who are 14- or 15-years-old.


Advocates of this proposal contend that this increase will help working families and boost consumer spending. They say that no one should work full-time and still live in poverty.


Opponents of the measure say that it will hurt businesses who cannot afford to pay dramatically higher wages. This will lead to workers either losing their jobs or not being hired.


With the Ohio General Assembly controlled by Republicans, a minimum wage hike is unlikely to pass. Some legislators have said that the voters made their decision on this issue in the 2006 vote, so the state should stick with the formula outlined in that constitutional amendment. Democrats are likely to use this as an issue in this year’s elections, however. One of the leading sponsors is a Democratic state senator who is running for governor.


Do you think that workers will be helped with a higher minimum wage? Or will a higher minimum wage kill jobs?

Ohio Drug Price Fight on November’s Ballot


In November, Ohio voters will decide how much the state government should pay for drugs. They will be faced with Issue 2, entitled the “Drug Price Standards Initiative,” which is generating significant controversy. Passage of this initiative could either be great news for state taxpayers, or a boondoggle that will drive up drug prices for other Ohioans. Or perhaps it will be unenforceable. Those are a few of the competing claims being made about this initiative.


Issue 2 would prohibit the state from paying higher prices for drugs than the federal Veterans Administration (VA) pays. This would include not only the state Medicaid program, but also programs such as the Ohio Best Rx Program and the Ohio HIV Drug Assistance Program. The VA pays prices for prescription drugs that are around 20% less than other agencies.


Supporters of this initiative say that it has obvious benefits – the state will save significant amounts of money on its prescription drug payments. They also talk about the initiative as a way to curb the greed of pharmaceutical companies. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) as well as a variety of Democratic state politicians and a few AIDS associations are the main supporters of the initiative.


There are a wide variety of groups opposing Issue 2, ranging from the national drug company trade association to groups of doctors and nurses to the Columbus NAACP to veterans’ organizations. They contend that drug companies will be forced to raise prices on other consumers, such as seniors and veterans, to make up for the lower prices dictated by the state.


Some critics also point out that if voters approve the initiative, then the state will be forced to spend money to defend it. A section in the measure gives private organizations the right to intervene if such suits occur and to be given taxpayer funding if they do. That also raises opponents’ ire.


The Ohio initiative is similar to one considered by California voters in 2016. That proposal, Proposition 61, went down to defeat by a margin of 53% to 47%.


Do you think that Issue 2 is a good way to control drug prices? Or will this approach lead to problems for other Ohio prescription drug consumers?


Ohio House Bill 132


Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in Ohio, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!


Ohio House Bill 132, Regulate Fantasy Sports Betting: Passed 82 to 15 in the state House on May 24, 2017. 


To require the Ohio Casino Control Commission to investigate, license, penalize, and regulate anyone conducting or participating in a fantasy sports league.


Comment below to share what you think of Ohio House Bill 132!



Ohio House Bill 233


Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in Ohio, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!


House Bill 233, Limit "Gun Free Zone" Enforcement Measures: Passed 65 to 31 in the state House on July 7, 2016.


To allow a concealed handgun licensee who is discovered carrying their weapon in a place where this is prohibited or restricted to leave the property upon request, while making clear that they are not
guilty of violating a carried weapon prohibition or subject to seizure of their weapon.


Comment below to share what you think of Ohio House Bill 233!



Ohio Senate Bill 2


Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in Ohio, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!


Senate Bill 2, Cleanup of Landfill Facilities and Properties: Passed 33 to 0 in the state Senate on March 15, 2017.


To authorize the Director of Environmental Protection to take actions to abate pollution or contamination at a location where hazardous waste was disposed, and to create processes to work with property owners and responsible parties to fund and complete such remediation projects.


Comment below to share what you think of Ohio Senate Bill 2!



Ohio House Bill 111


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House Bill 111, Allow Nurses to Involuntarily Commit Patients for Mental Health Assessment: Passed 96 to 0 in the state House on March 30, 2017.


To allow certain clinical nurse specialists and certified nurse practitioners to have a person involuntarily committed for a mental health examination.


Comment below to share what you think of Ohio House Bill 111!



Ohio Senate Bill 1


Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in Ohio, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!


Senate Bill 1, Increased Penalties for Drug Trafficking: Passed 27 to 6 in the state Senate on March 29, 2017.


Increases the penalties for drug trafficking and aggravated funding of drug trafficking convictions and, in most cases, drug possession convictions, when the drug involved is a fentanyl-related compound, included expanded mandatory minimum sentences.


Comment below to share what you think of Ohio Senate Bill 1!



Ohio House Bill 80


Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in Ohio, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!


House Bill 80, Allow nonprofits to run summer school food programs: Passed 89 to 4 in the state House on March 15, 2017


To permit non-profit organizations to operate summer school food service programs for students eligible for free or reduced school meals in districts that can't afford to run the programs themselves.


Comment below to share what you think of Ohio House Bill 80!


Ohio Senate Bill 44


Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in Ohio, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!


Senate Bill 44, Expand access to electronic filing for campaign finance reports: Passed 33 to 9 in the state Senate on March 15, 2017


Expands the categories of political entities that are permitted to file their campaign finance statements electronically to include candidates for the State Board of Education and certain local candidates and political entities.


Comment below to share what you think of Ohio Senate Bill 44!


Ohio House Bill 114


Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in Ohio, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!


House Bill 114, Reduce renewable energy mandates: Passed 65 to 31 in the state House on March 30, 2017


To limit and reduce previous government mandates for "renewable" energy purchasing by utilities.


Comment below to share what you think of Ohio House Bill 114!


Ohio Senate Bill 29


Check out this key bill passed by elected officials in Ohio, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!


Senate Bill 29, Simplify banking regulation system: Passed 32 to 0 in the state Senate on March 8, 2017


To create a single system for regulation of banks, savings and loan associations, and savings banks in the state.


Comment below to share what you think of Ohio Senate Bill 29!


Ohio Senate Bill 10: Cancel more uncontested primaries


Check out this key bill passed by elected officials in Ohio, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!


Senate Bill 10, Cancel more uncontested primaries: Passed 32 to 0 in the state Senate on March 8, 2017


To expand the circumstances under which a board of elections or the secretary of state is not required to hold a primary election, and to address the death, withdrawal, or disqualification of candidates in primary races.


Comment below to share what you think of Ohio Senate Bill 10!


Ohio Governor Pushes to Preserve Medicaid


A major part of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, is expanding the Medicaid program. As Republicans in Congress consider their plans to repeal Obamacare, one Republican governor is asking them to preserve this Medicaid expansion: Governor John Kasich of Ohio.


In mid-January, he urged Congress not to eliminate Medicaid expansion during an Obamacare repeal. Medicaid is the joint state/federal program that provides health care coverage to lower-income individuals. In the traditional Medicaid program, the federal government generally pays 43% of the total cost (rates vary by state). Under Obamacare, states would receive federal funds covering 90% of the cost of expanding coverage to childless, able-bodied adults with incomes up to 133% of the federal poverty level.


According to Gov. Kasich, “Thirty-one states — more than half of them with Republican governors — extended Medicaid coverage. Those that did are experiencing significant positive benefits.”


The majority of people who received coverage under Obamacare have done so through Medicaid. Preserving Medicaid expansion would mean preserving this aspect of Obamacare, which troubles some Republicans in Congress. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who has been pushing Congress to replace Obamacare at the same time it repeals the law, said:


A lot of these people actually qualified for Medicaid already so the interesting thing is they thought they were getting something new and they already qualified. My main point is we have to take care of those who can't take care of themselves. But it should be paid for. If we need to expand Medicaid every state needs to decide how much they're going to raise taxes to pay for Medicaid.


If Congress did not preserve the Medicaid expansion, states would still be free to design their programs to continue covering those eligible under Obamacare. However, states would not receive the 90% federal match, but would instead receive the lower matching rate for the traditional Medicaid program.


Supporters of Medicaid expansion worry about what will happen to enrollees if Congress does not preserve the higher federal matching rate. Those who want to end the expansion point to the long-term budget issues that could result from Medicaid spending.


Do you think that Congress should preserve Medicaid expansion as it debates repealing Obamacare?


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