By The Associated Press
Cleveland Plain Dealer. August 13, 2023.
Editorial: Flood of campaign donations creates appearance problem, shakes confidence in General Assembly
Next to the House speakership and Senate presidency, the General Assembly two most powerful offices are the chairs of the Ohio House’s and state Senate’s budget-writing committees — Rep. Jay Edwards, of Athens County’s Nelsonville, and Sen. Matt Dolan, of Chagrin Falls, both Republicans.
And among budget-writers’ biggest responsibilities is Ohio’s federal-state Medicaid health care program. Medicaid is the single most expensive item that Ohio’s budget funds. It costs about $31.6 billion a year in combined state and federal funds, the nonpartisan Legislative Service Commission reports. And Medicaid covers about 3.5 million Ohioans (about 30% of the state’s population), including more than 1.3 million children.
But “while four in five (79%) of (Ohio Medicaid) enrollees are children and adults, more than one-half (59%) of the state’s Medicaid spending is for the elderly and people with disabilities,” the Kaiser Family Foundation reported in 2017. A substantial share of those older Ohioans are nursing home patients whose care Medicaid finances, making Medicaid’s budget crucial to patient care.
Cleveland.com ‘s Jake Zuckerman recently reported that, after June 30’s passage of the 2023-25 state budget, written by a Senate-House conference committee, which Edwards chaired, Edwards “launched a fundraising bonanza powered by nearly half a million dollars from owners and executives of Ohio’s nursing homes.”
During budget debates, Zuckerman said, the Senate and House differed greatly in what they aimed to spend on nursing home care: The House sought to appropriate $715 million a year, the Senate, $301 million.
Because the GOP controls both the Senate and the House, the debate was essentially intramural; Republicans controlled budget-writing conference committee 4-2.
For the line-item “nursing facility base rates,” the LSC reported, the two chambers eventually agreed to an appropriation of $627.6 million in the budget’s first year, then $747.6 million the second year (an average of $688 million, far closer to the House’s initial position than the Senate’s.) In round numbers the final allotment came to $1.4 billion. Republican Gov. Mike DeWine signed the budget on July 4.
And from July 18 to July 27, about 30 nursing home industry executives wrote checks to Edwards’s campaign, with most contributors donating the legal maximum of $15,500, Zuckerman found.
Counting contributions from all sources, Edwards has raised more campaign donations so far this year than the Republican-run legislature’s two leaders, Senate President Matt Huffman, of Lima; House Speaker Jason Stephens, of Lawrence County’s Kitts Hill; or Senate budget chair Dolan, Zuckerman reported.
Assuming all T’s were crossed, and I’s dotted, these donations appear to be perfectly legal. Because of term-limits, Edwards can’t seek re-election to the House next year, but he is assaying a run for the state Senate and a big campaign fund could ward off a primary foe.
Edwards told Zuckerman that the budget (House Bill 33) links the state’s Medicaid nursing home spending to the quality of care a nursing home provides.
A budget analysis by the Legislative Service Commission confirms that the budget bill, as passed by the legislature and signed by DeWine, extends, and adds quality metrics for determining how much Ohio may pay nursing homes for patients’ care. (In mid-July, public radio-TV’s Statehouse News Bureau reported that, all told, the new budget “includes $1.4 billion for nursing homes to provide incentives for increasing quality of care and for more inspectors. And it also increases penalties for facilities that fail to provide quality care.”)
But however legal, the flood of campaign donations flowing Edwards’s way creates an appearance problem for how things seem to work at Ohio’s Statehouse. While Ohioans are unlikely ever to embrace public financing of candidates’ campaigns for the legislature, the status quo shakes confidence in how decisions get made by the General Assembly.
One politically feasible way to spotlight lobbying and interest groups’ contributions is to require fuller information in lobbyists’ official registrations and in the details that Ohio campaign finance reports require. Other states have done so. The only reason Ohio has not is due to the General Assembly’s comfort with the status quo — a comfort voters can’t and don’t share.
Sandusky Register. August 10, 2023.
Editorial: Votes count: Keep protecting democracy
There are great lessons — takeaways — from Tuesday’s special election beyond the overwhelming number of Ohio voters who rejected Issue 1, the brazen attempt by gerrymandered lawmakers to change the state’s constitution with potential consequences that could have serious long-term ramifications.
For progressives, for true conservatives, for individuals, for children, for families, for schools, for organizations, for churches, businesses, industry, charities, nonprofits, sports teams — for everyone — the results are a victory that should not be under-appreciated or understated.
Ohio voters slapped down this irresponsible and expensive challenge to majority rule — to one person, one vote — that we’ve been privileged to have for 111 years.
Republican lawmakers — including state Reps. D.J. Swearingen, R-Huron, Dick Stein, R-Norwalk, Gary Click, R-Vickery and state Sen. Theresa Gavarone, R-Bowling Green — all maneuvered against the will of the people in 2021-22 by ignoring state constitutional mandates requiring fair election maps.
They tried that same kind of sneak attack again by voting with their super-majorities approving this $16 million special election.
But voters, big time, saw the forest through the trees this time. By a 57%-43% margin, this hasty and poorly thought-out initiative got walloped. The dark money lies, misinformation, disinformation and arrogance failed to trick enough voters and went down as a loss.
We saved the rule of law in Ohio. We chose truth over hyperbole and false claims of doomsday, lies told by supporters of Issue 1, to get us to willingly walk the plank and step off it.
It was an irresponsible, dangerous and expensive test for our state, and the gerrymandered Republicans who did this should continue to be held to account. We hope this lopsided vote builds momentum that will carry on into November and into next year’s election, too, so they face competitive races despite the unfair districts they approved for themselves that handicap their opponents.
The goal is to have a cast of politicians who are single-minded in serving their constituents.
Make politicians earn your trust, make them earn your vote.
Youngstown Vindicator. August 10, 2023.
Editorial: Recruitment and solid training are key for all elections
To their credit, poll workers in Ohio managed to pull off an August election despite the shortened timeline and issues ranging from hastily switched polling locations to machine malfunctions. According to a report by the Ohio Capital Journal, those challenges did not turn into serious problems. But election watchers and the workers who held everything together have raised some alarms.
“It’s more indicative of an election that boards of elections were not fully prepared for, and that poll workers were not adequately trained for,” Nazek Hapasha, policy affairs manager for the League of Women Voters of Ohio, told the Capital Journal.
“Every poll worker across the state is practically a new poll worker because of the new voting laws,” Hapasha said.
Election protection advocates received reports of anti-Issue 1 signs being removed from church precinct locations in New Albany and Powell, while pro-Issue 1 signs were left behind, according to Hapasha. Machines jammed at the Church In the Falls in Cuyahoga Falls and had to be replaced. The same problem occurred at other locations, according to board of elections officials in Summit County.
There were reports of voters being turned away without being told they could vote provisionally, or being improperly advised to vote provisionally, though Hapasha told the Capital Journal the problem seemed to stem from a lack of training rather than devious intent.
However, regarding the removal of campaign signs, a report was made to the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office to tell Secretary of State Frank LaRose “we don’t think it’s right for churches to tip the scale in this way,” she said.
As boards of elections across Ohio work to ensure suitable, accessible polling locations are designated for all voters, they will also have a job on their hands recruiting and training the next batch of poll workers. Many of those who steadfastly have served this state for decades — some viewing it as a civic responsibility — are now reaching the point where it is not so easy to handle poll worker duties.
Mistakes — perhaps borne out of lack of training — did not alter the outcome of the election in the way that might have been anticipated by someone who really was trying to “tip the scale.” That must not lull anyone into apathy when it comes to rigorous recruitment and training for those who will do the job next time.
Toledo Blade. August 9, 2023.
Editorial: Voters’ message clear
Ohio voters have spoken clearly with their defeat of state Issue 1, but that doesn’t mean the political class and national pundits have heard the message.
The national media has been near universal in the portrayal of Issue 1 as a referendum on abortion and a precursor to the November ballot issue on that question.
That simplistic conclusion on the meaning of the Issue 1 vote Tuesday distorts the verdict delivered through the single most important ballot issue in Ohio history.
By 57-43 percent, and with a decent turnout for a summer election, the majority vote to maintain Ohio’s process of amending the constitution was quite simply a reaffirmation of the state’s governing premise, “all political power is inherent in the people. Government is instituted for their equal protection and benefit.”
Ohio Republicans crossed the political Rubicon with their plan to make some people more equal than others through a 60 percent supermajority requirement to change the constitution. The proposed barrier to ballot access with an 88-county signature requirement and the elimination of the 10-day cure period proved the intent of this measure was designed to strangle future citizen-initiated amendments.
The abortion issue was the immediate purpose of the timing of the special August election. The GOP hoped it could change the rules and force the pro-choice amendment on the Nov. 7 ballot to need a 60 percent majority to pass. They hoped to weaponize the views of anti-abortion voters in a light turnout election to eliminate the only significant check on their political power, Ohio citizens.
In a tragic break from bedrock conservative philosophy of individual freedom and limited government, Ohio Republicans sought significant expansion of power for government at the expense of the people our constitution assumes as the only acceptable source of legitimate power.
To compound their infraction, Ohio Republicans launched this attack on the state constitution in the immediate aftermath of a statewide election sweep. Secretary of State Frank LaRose, the first to advocate state Issue 1, never mentioned his plan to amend the constitution during his re-election campaign, and he won with nearly 60 percent. Had Mr. LaRose made Ohio voters aware of his plan in a high turnout November election he would have been defeated and become irrelevant.
It will be interesting to see how the Issue 1 debacle affects Mr. LaRose’s effort to win the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Democrat Sherrod Brown in 2024.
One of the most important messages voters sent Tuesday is they want no surprises on big issues like massive change to the Ohio Constitution. You would think the party of the elephant, said to have mystical power of memory, would have gotten the no surprise message from the voter repeal of Senate Bill 5 in 2011.
That ill-fated effort to eliminate collective bargaining rights for public employees came immediately following a statewide election where the issue had not been mentioned. Former Gov. John Kasich tried to tell his party what he had learned from that debacle, but they followed the blind hope that this time is different.
This election was not only about abortion. It was about voters’ recognition that the Republican Party was trying to limit voters’ power, and using deceptive means to accomplish that goal.
The lesson lawmakers should take from this election is, you work for us, not the other way around.