Editor’s note: In preparation for the May 8 Primary, the Urbana Daily Citizen is profiling each candidate seeking the Republican nomination for the Ohio House of Representatives 85th District. Each candidate was queried on topics that affect the residents of the district. Candidates profiled are Rochiel Foulk on April 4; Justin Griffis on April 5; Joe Ratermann on April 6; and Nino Vitale on April 7.
SIDNEY — Sidney native Justin Griffis, 29, is seeking his first elected office in the political world.
Griffis is a 2007 graduate of Sidney High School, a 2011 graduate of the University of Dayton with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, and a 2015 graduate of the University of Dayton School of Law with a Juris Doctor.
He is a partner at the law firm of Kerrigan, Boller, Griffis & Link Co., L.P.A. in Sidney. He is licensed as an attorney in the state of Ohio and the U.S. Federal District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. His primary area of practice is criminal defense and he handles both felony and misdemeanor criminal cases. He also practices within the areas of civil litigation, probate and family law.
Prior to becoming a Partner at Kerrigan, Boller, Griffis & Link Co., L.P.A., Griffis was a law clerk and an associate attorney for Roberts, Kelly & Bucio LLP from 2013 to 2016.
He is a member of the Rotary Club of Sidney and the legal adviser to the Sidney High School Mock Trial Team.
Griffis is the son of Greg and Shelly Griffis, and Sharon Forney, of Sidney; brother to four sisters, Brittany Griffis, Jessica Griffis, Elizabeth Griffis, and Chelsae Wise; and uncle to two nieces, Avery Price and Azalea Barlow.
How should school security be addressed with the rising tide of gun incidents in public schools? Does the state have a role in this?
“Yes, the state should have a role in addressing school safety. I have friends who are teachers. I also have a sibling who is a teacher. These people went to college to become educators, not bodyguards. I do not think teachers should be armed in the classroom; however, they should have access to firearms. The state should provide the tools and training that will enable schools to protect themselves. I would like to see the State implement programs in each school district that mirror the safety measures currently in place at Sidney City Schools. Those measures would include: (1) biometric gun safes in the schools that are accessible by a select group of teachers that have received enhanced concealed carry training; (2) each district staff member receiving active-shooter response training from law enforcement; (3) an armed sheriff’s deputy at each school; (4) each school building having a panic button to the police; (5) surveillance cameras covering the hallways and entrances of the school buildings; and (6) having all doors locked to outsiders except for the school’s main entrance. As an alumnus of Sidney City Schools, I am proud to see the School District’s security measures gaining national attention. We are leading the way right now and I think it is a practicable solution to the school security issue.”
Do you think the current concerns of mayors and other local officials regarding the reductions to Local Government Funds are valid ones?
“Yes, the concerns surrounding the local government fund are valid. The local government fund is an annual subsidy to counties and communities that has been around since the 1930s, which was when the State enacted its sales tax. Cuts in local government funds and tax changes were made at the State level in an effort to balance the State’s Budget. However, this cost Ohio counties and communities nearly $1.2 billion in 2017, as compared to 2010.
“As a conservative, I am all for tax cuts, but the problem is that local governments are the only ones that have gotten “lean and mean.” The revenues generated from tax dollars are being bogarted in Columbus as the State replenishes its own coffers. The State government has expanded and bureaucracy has continued to grow at the State level. When bureaucracy grows, the government becomes more and more inefficient with its spending.
“I am a proponent of small government. As State Representative, I would work to reduce the bureaucracy and reduce government spending in order to create a smaller, more efficient State Government. I believe that local governments are best suited to deal with local challenges and to address local needs. Therefore, I would work with the county commissioners, township trustees, and municipal governments to get tax money out of Columbus and into their hands so those funds could be used to financially support local projects and programs. Just take a look at our roads here in Sidney. The potholes are so bad on some roads that you need an all-terrain vehicle to get from one place to another. The township trustees and the municipal government know about those potholes, but do not have adequate funding to fix them because of the reductions made to the local government fund. I can guarantee to you that a bureaucrat in Columbus does not care about those potholes.
“The money that could be used to address local problems exists, but it is in Columbus and is being tightly gripped by the hands of the State government. Representative Vitale has failed miserably at assisting our local governments. He does not know how to work with people to help get tax money out of Columbus and allocated to our local governments. He does not know when to pick and choose his battles. Instead, he constantly digs in his heels and is unwilling to reach a compromise. This type of attitude is why he has been ineffective as our State Representative and why our local governments have struggled to get additional funding from the State government.
“As an attorney, I negotiate and advocate on behalf of my clients on a daily basis. The legendary OSU Football Coach, Woody Hayes, once said “You win with people.” That is one of the mottos that I live by and those words ring especially true during negotiations. There has to be a give-and-take in order to work out a reasonable resolution amongst adversarial parties. I believe that my skills as a negotiator and advocate would be beneficial when trying to get additional funding out of Columbus and into the hands of our local governments where it can be best utilized.”
What can lawmakers at the state level do to help combat the opioid crisis? Is this a problem of over-prescribing physicians or a problem with foreign-sourced contraband (fentanyl) from south of the border and from China? Do you favor using less-dangerous drugs in rehab settings to help wean addicts? And to what extent should the state government help fund any of this?
“Lawmakers at the state level can do a lot of things to combat the opioid crisis; however, Rep. Vitale has not put forth any meaningful solutions that would be within the power of his office. One of his “solutions” is to strengthen border security, which is an issue wholly within the control of the Federal Government, not legislators in Columbus.
“As state representative, I would do three things right away to combat this epidemic. First, I would amend the Ohio Revised Code to increase statutory minimum sentences for individuals that traffick opiate-based drugs. Second, I would amend the Ohio Revised Code so that opiate traffickers would receive mandatory prison sentences. Third, I would completely overhaul the 911 Good Samaritan Law so that people who overdose on opiate-based drugs get charged with a newly created unclassified misdemeanor (punishable by up to $1,000 fine and 500 hours of community service) and they would have to successfully complete drug abuse counseling. The unclassified misdemeanor charge would remain pending until they complete treatment. After completion of treatment, they would be convicted and perform their court-ordered community service in order to work off the cost of the Narcan that was administered to them and paid for by taxpayer dollars. However, if the person fails to successfully complete drug treatment, the unclassified misdemeanor would be dismissed and the case would be submitted to grand jury for felony prosecution.
“Although well intended, the 911 Good Samaritan Law, as currently enacted, simply does not work. If anything, it provides addicts with a security blanket because all they have to do is merely get a referral for treatment within 30 days of their overdose in order to avoid prosecution. It does not make the person follow through and complete treatment. The bottom line is that these individuals should be charged with a crime because they have committed a crime. They should not be given preferential treatment. Meth users, marijuana users, drunk drivers are not given the same type of treatment, so why should opiate users be treated any different?
“There are a lot of different moving parts to the opioid epidemic. Over-prescribing physicians and foreign-sourced contraband from south of the border and from China are all variables in this equation. In regards to contraband from Central America and China, that problem pertains to border security, which is not an issue that I would get to vote on because that is a function of the Federal Government. However, I do believe in strengthening our borders for purposes of national security.
“In regards to the types of drugs being used in rehab settings, I do not know what the solution is at this moment. Both Vivitrol and Suboxone tend to work; however, the problem is that recovering addicts tend to use those substances as a psychological crutch. They become too dependent on the drugs and fear they will relapse if they are not given the drugs. I am skeptical of rehabilitation because, as a criminal defense attorney, a lot of my clients have told me something along the lines of: “I know I can get clean because I’ve done it before.” This tells me that rehabilitation often times does not stick. Often times we, as humans, treat the symptoms and not the root cause. I think these drugs combined with mental health counseling is the best solution at the moment.
“Taxpayer dollars are already being used to pay for the cost associated with the Narcan administered to individuals who overdose. Most of the time, multiple doses of Narcan have to be administered to reverse the overdose. Taxpayer dollars are also being used to fund court-ordered drug treatment. The Vivitrol shot costs roughly $1,500 per injection. The reality is that the State government is going to have to continue to fund the Narcan and the drug treatment, but I do not believe that taxpayers should bear this burden alone. I am of the belief that Big Pharma should be held accountable because they are complicit in creating this epidemic. Big Pharma created these medications, flooded our state with them, and fraudulently marketed the medications in order to make huge profits. I applaud Attorney General Mike DeWine’s current effort to hold these companies’ feet to the fire. They should bear the majority of the financial burden associated with this epidemic. I look at it as a form of criminal restitution. Big Pharma helped create the problem, so they should be responsible for funding the costs associated with treatment.”
Do you favor completely outlawing surgical abortion access in Ohio? Why? What about access to pharmaceutical/chemical abortions?
“I am pro-life, however I do believe in exceptions. This issue, like most things in life, is not clear-cut or black-and-white, but rather gray. I believe that a woman should be able to choose whether she wants to have an abortion when she is a victim of rape or incest. That is a personal decision for her to make and the government should not be able to dictate what she can and cannot do under those tragic circumstances. A woman should not be forced to go through a pregnancy when the child is conceived in that manner. A woman who is a victim of rape or incest has already been through a traumatic experience that will in all likelihood cause emotional and/or psychological scarring. To force her to bear the child is simply cruel, in my opinion, and could lead to further mental and emotional anguish. I am a brother to four sisters and an uncle to two nieces. If one of them was raped, I would want them to be able to have the option of having an abortion. I could not look them in the eye and tell them ‘No, you are having the baby.’ It should be the woman’s decision to make when a child is conceived under those circumstances.
“I also believe that a woman should have a choice when her life is in danger due to the pregnancy. Again, the government should not dictate what a woman can and cannot do under that type of circumstance. To deny a woman access to an abortion in that situation is to basically give her a death sentence.
“Personally, I believe that abortions should not be used as a means of contraceptive. However, Roe v. Wade is the law of the land and pharmaceutical/chemical abortions are legal. I believe that decisions like this should be left up to the individuals as long as taxpayer dollars are not being used to fund it. If that is the case, then the government should not have a say in the matter. It should be between the individuals and God. As a Christian, I firmly believe that you reap what you sow. People are capable of making their own decisions and living with the consequences of their actions.
“The new Conception Bill sponsored by Representative Vitale is unlikely to pass the legislature. Under the bill, all abortions will be banned. This means that the bill would block women from receiving abortions even when the mother’s life is in danger and when the child is conceived through rape or incest. Furthermore, under the bill, a woman who gets an abortion could be charged with a crime. To me, banning all abortions without exception and criminally charging a woman for having an abortion is just asinine. Representative Vitale was quoted as saying “Life isn’t always giving us things by our choice and I don’t want to put a woman through a second trauma after she’s been through such an awful first one.” Representative Vitale does not realize the contradictory nature of his own statement. He will be putting a victim of rape or incest through a second trauma by forcing her to bear the child. Representative Vitale has five sons. I would think he would have a different stance on the issue if he had five daughters. I do not think any father could look his daughter in the eyes and say “I’m sorry you have been raped, but you are going to have this baby.”
“Rep. Vitale’s Conception Bill is merely political posturing to obtain the pro-life vote in this election. The truth of the matter is that if it is enacted into law, it will end up in litigation. Taxpayer dollars will be wasted defending it in court. As an attorney, I can tell you that the bill will be found inconsistent with the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade, which would render it unconstitutional.”
How can the state work with locals to retain college graduates in Ohio with new businesses, jobs and entertainment opportunities? And how do we attract people from outside Ohio to settle here to fill the vacancies at industries that currently go unfilled?
“In the United States, one of our great freedoms is the freedom of mobility. Citizens can freely move and establish residence in any town, city, or area that they want. So in order to retain college graduates and attract people from out-of-state, Ohio has to become a more attractive destination. This can be done by creating more jobs and lowering taxes. As a pro-business candidate, I believe that the government should not be involved in the creation of new businesses and jobs. I believe that the economy works best when the government gets out of the way of businesses. The State can retain local graduates and attract people from out-of-state by creating a more vibrant economic environment. This can be achieved through deregulation and reducing commercial taxes on business entities.
“As state representative, I would work on reducing and repealing job-killing regulations and would propose a bill to have the Commercial Activity Tax abolished. Deregulation and lower commercial taxes would lead to more innovation and business expansion, which would lead to the creation more jobs. More jobs means more opportunities for high school and college graduates. These new job opportunities would also attract people from out-of-state.
“Additionally, lower state income taxes would make Ohio a more attractive place to live. I believe that hardworking Ohioans should keep more of what they earn. I have worked at the Honda Engine Plant. I have worked at Plastipak in Jackson Center. I know what it is like to wear steel-toe boots and stand on your feet for eight hours a day. It’s not easy and it’s definitely not fun. To me it’s pretty simple – you worked hard and earned that money, therefore, it’s your money and you should get as much as possible. New job opportunities and lower taxes would make Ohio a more popular destination to live and work.”
Do you favor work requirements for able-bodied Medicaid recipients?
“Yes, I favor work requirements for able-bodied Medicaid recipients. Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) made Medicaid available to healthy, able-bodied people, which fundamentally shifted the program from focusing on truly needy people to an entitlement program. This incentivized some people to drop out of the labor market in order to receive Medicaid. According to the Ohio Department of Medicaid, nearly 60 percent of Obamacare expansion enrollees are not employed at all. Governor Kasich’s unilateral expansion of Medicaid in 2013 has resulted in the program running roughly $7.1 billion over budget. The State’s share of costs has already cost more than twice what was projected. Nearly half of the State’s budget goes to Medicaid right now.
“Like any other entitlement program, this is being abused by some people. Able-bodied people who are healthy are perfectly capable of working and should be required to work. Work requirements are a powerful tool to help people become self-sufficient and less dependent upon the government for a handout. When people work, they earn a sense of self worth. Getting able-bodied people back to work would free up millions of tax dollars that could go to other critical priorities like education and public safety. Also, work requirements are a common-sense reform that will lead to less government dependency, higher incomes for those able-bodied individuals, and more economic growth in the state of Ohio.
Do you support expanding Ohio’s renewable energy favorability to companies like wind and solar developers, or do you think such projects are an unnecessary threat to property values of nearby residents?
“I am a free-market guy, but I do not support expanding Ohio’s renewable energy favorability to companies. This a pretty big issue right now in Logan and Champaign County. I think energy efficiency is a good thing; however, alternative energy sources, especially wind turbines, have more cons than pros.
“First, each turbine assembly requires dozens of acres of clearance, which alters the rural landscape in which it is located. Second, wind turbines are highly intrusive because they are big structures with rotating blades that generate noise and vibration. The noise and vibration affects the wildlife in the area, often times causing the animals to relocate, and is a nuisance to neighboring property owners.
“Third, wind developers often times try to get neighboring property owners to sign ‘Good Neighbor Agreements.’ If a neighboring property owner signs the agreement, they lose their right to sue the developer over any past, present, and future claims of action that may arise. They also lose the right to sue for any compensatory or punitive damages. The neighboring property owners are paid a small sum not to interfere with the construction, installation, maintenance, and operation of the wind turbine and also have to sign a non-disclosure agreement.
“Fourth, these projects definitely cause property values to decrease for nearby residents. Wind turbines are unsightly, have constant noise and vibration, and have strobe lighting that operates both day and night.
“Currently, alternative energy sources are not cost effective. Wind turbines and solar panels do not produce significant amounts of energy and cost lots of money to install, maintain, and operate. Again, I believe that there are more cons than pros associated with these alternative energy sources. Therefore, I do not support expanding Ohio’s renewable energy favorability to companies like wind and solar developers.”
What is your position on the latest redistricting proposal? Is it fair or unfair compared to the current system? Why or why not?
“I think that the current redistricting proposal is fair compared to the current system. There is no way to ensure that congressional maps will not have some flaws, so there is no guarantee that gerrymandering will not occur at some point. However, I think the current proposal has enough safety nets in place to at least stymie partisan gerrymandering.
”The current proposal requires three-fifths support of the entire legislature to pass a map for use over a 10 year period. The three-fifths vote must also include 50 percent of the minority party. If a proposed map does not receive the requisite amount of votes, then a seven-member bipartisan commission is tasked with drawing a map. The Commission’s map must win support of at least two of the minority party members of the Commission for the adoption process to continue. If the Commission’s map fails, then there are two contingency plans. First, the legislature can draft another 10 year map and will only have to secure one-third of the minority party’s vote for approval. Second, the legislature could create a four year map, but it will have stricter guidelines in regards to compactness. The four year map would only require a simple majority for approval.
“Overall, I think this bi-partisan redistricting proposal is fair, but I do have two issues with it. The proposal requires that 65 of Ohio’s counties to be undivided, which is good; but, it also allows for 18 counties to be divided once and another five counties to be divided as many as three times. Forty percent of Ohio’s population is concentrated in its five most populous counties, so I think this leaves some room for the parties to get politically creative when drawing up congressional lines.
“Second, the bi-partisan proposal did not include a citizen referendum. It does allow for the public to submit plans for the Commission and/or legislature to consider. However, submitting a plan does not guarantee that it will actually be seriously considered by members of the legislature. I believe that government should be of the people, for the people, and by the people. Therefore, I think the people of Ohio should be able to have the final say in the process. Luckily, we the people will get to vote on this proposal on the May ballot.”
Reach the writer at 937-538-4822.