Archive for September, 2011

Dispatch supports texting while driving ban, tells lawmakers to “send a message”

The Columbus Dispatch recently came out in support of State Rep. Nancy Garland’s texting will driving bill saying, “texting while driving can be deadly and [the] state should make it illegal.”  Rep. Garland’s proposed legislation that would do just that. House Bill 99 passed the House with overwhelming bi-partisan support in late June, and it awaits action in the Senate. 

HB 99 would make texting while driving a primary offense in Ohio, meaning that law enforcement personnel could stop drivers they observe in the act of texting while operating a motor vehicle. The offense would be a minor misdemeanor and could carry a penalty of up to 150 dollars.

HB 99 has been received positively from virtually every corner: insurance companies, automotive associations, law enforcement officials, and opinion pieces have all come out in favor of the ban.

“The dangers of texting while driving have been well-documented,” Rep. Garland said at a recent press conference urging Senate passage of the bill.  “I urge the Senate to take immediate action on HB 99 to keep our roads safe for drivers, bikers and pedestrians.”

The Dispatch editorial reiterates safety concerns of texting while driving and says for those who won’t listen to reason, “…it’s time for the Ohio legislature to mandate some real consequences to get their attention.”

The editorial goes on to say, “AAA reports that of its 2 million Ohio members, 93 percent support a statewide ban. And if this bill passes, Ohio will join 34 other states that already have banned texting for drivers.

“Attitudes evolve and behavior tends to change when citizens are aware that a law exists. For example, drunken driving used to be much more accepted in society than it is today, but harsher penalties and social disapproval have changed that attitude.

“In 2008, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that drivers were 23 times more likely to cause a crash or a near-crash while texting; texters diverted their attention from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, long enough at 55 mph to travel the length of a football field…

…”

Read the full editorial here.

Ohio gerrymander another GOP overreach

The Toledo Blade’s weekend editorial “Ohio gerrymandering another GOP overreach” is exactly what is happening here in Ohio.   The Republicans have rammed through countless extreme bills with Gov. Kasich at the helm and there is no sign of them slowing down. 

The new congressional redistricting map introduced and passed through the House in less than 48 hours and the proposed GOP drawn legislative maps will likely only further the political dysfunction we see in Columbus and Washington.  Blade Editor Dave Kushma wrote, “…The Republican elected officials in the Statehouse who are redrawing the districts for Ohio’s U.S. House delegation and General Assembly have made clear that their priority is making their party even more dominant. Promoting fair, competitive, and effective representation of Ohio voters for the next decade — especially in our part of the state — isn’t their concern.”

Democratic voters are being quarantined into roughly a third of the legislative districts and four congressional seats.  The result being some group votes will count significantly more than others.   In this broad and diverse state this kind of gerrymandering “turns the notion of proportional representation into a sick joke.”

Kushma continues writing, “On this issue and too many others, Gov. John Kasich and GOP lawmakers have adopted an “in your face — we’ve got the votes” approach that defies opponents to do anything about their overreaching.

“They identified worthwhile changes to the state’s collective-bargaining process for public employees and included them in Senate Bill 5. But then, because they could, they larded the law with union-busting provisions that have nothing to do with saving money or running government more efficiently. That generated a ballot challenge in November.

“Similarly, GOP lawmakers passed an election “reform” law this year aimed at voter fraud that doesn’t exist. The real intent of the measure is to make it harder for folks who generally don’t vote Republican to vote at all.

“And now the map flap. Although the controversy over the new congressional districts has dominated the debate in Columbus, the state Apportionment Board plans to vote this week on new legislative districts.

…”

Read the full editorial here.

Districts that GOP Once Admitted Hurt Ohioans, Now Becoming Reality

Ohio House Democratic Leader Armond Budish (D-Beachwood) said  that congressional districts that Republican leaders once said would ‘hurt Ohioans’ are now becoming a reality under the GOP’s new congressional redistricting plan (HB 319). In an effort to defeat a non-partisan redistricting reform ballot measure in 2005, Republican leaders decried districts that snaked across the state and broke apart communities.

“By their own admission, the Republican’s new partisan gerrymandered congressional districts will hurt Ohioans,” said Budish.  “In 2005, Republican leaders said that districts that ‘snake’ from one end of the state to the other do not serve the interest of Ohio voters, yet that is exactly what they are creating in their new congressional districts.”

In an effort to defeat State Issue 4 in 2005, then-State Rep. Kevin DeWine published a map to demonstrate what could happen under the proposed redistricting reform plan. In a press release titled, “DeWine Explains it All: New Proposal Would Hurt Ohioans,” he said that the reform plan would “break apart communities and neighborhoods, dilute the voting power of minorities and disenfranchise voters all across the state.”

Under the new GOP redistricting plan (HB 319), the 9th Congressional District snakes from Toledo to Cleveland along a narrow stretch of land, and sometimes water.  DeWine mocked the possibility of such districts in 2005: “I don’t think districts that snake from one end of the state to another serve the interests of the voters of Ohio.” (Gongwer, 9/29/2005).

“The map that DeWine and Republicans devised six years ago to scare voters out of nonpartisan redistricting reform has a remarkable resemblance to the new redistricting map Republicans have produced.  It carves up communities and snakes districts all across the state, allowing politicians to choose their voters,” Budish said.

In 2005, Republicans made an all out effort to stop a non-partisan plan for redistricting supported by the League of Women Voters and a coalition of “good government” groups.  As part of their effort to protect partisan redistricting, they created a scare tactic map which sliced and diced political subdivisions around the state.  However, the new partisan gerrymandered congressional map (HB 319) MORE egregiously splits apart counties (68) compared to the current district maps (44).  The new gerrymander is closer to the county splits proposed (89) in the scare-tactic map used to defeat Reform Ohio Now.

DeWine is now the Ohio Republican Party chairman.  His 2005 press release can be seen here, and the scare-tactic map used to defeat Reform Ohio Now can be seen here.

Click here to see House Bill 319, the proposed GOP congressional redistricting map.

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MUST READ: Beacon-Journal “Here’s a map”

Over the weekend, the Akron Beacon-Journal published this editorial on the unfair, uncompetitive, politics-driven redistricting map rammed through the Ohio House by Republican leadership. Excerpts from the editorial follow:

“After holding multiple hearings on congressional redistricting, the job requiring a reduction in the number of Ohio seats from 18 to 16, Republicans last week sprung their plan, never before seen by Democrats, let alone voters. Introduced Tuesday in the House, the redistricting bill passed two days later, along party lines, Republicans using their majority to hustle it through.

“An independent group called the Ohio Campaign for Accountable Redistricting put forward several [alternative] versions, a winning map generated through an open competition that awarded points for compactness and competition.

“How different the results were.

“Under the group’s formula, just six of the current 18 districts are considered competitive. The measure is a generous one, requiring no more than a 10-point spread between the parties. Most challengers would find that difficult. Still, under the right circumstances, one could break through.

“The plan passed by the Ohio House would make matters worse, even though presidential elections in the state swing back and forth. Just two districts met even the broad definition of competitive.

“Then consider the winning plan from the Ohio Campaign for Accountable Redistricting. Drafted by Mike Fortner, a Republican state representative from Illinois, it resulted in 11 competitive districts, all well within the 10-point spread.

“Over 50 maps were submitted to the competition won by Fortner. If House Republicans had submitted theirs, it would have scored dead last, testimony to the triumph of raw partisanship.”

Read the full article here.

New maps create more dysfunction, says Leader Budish

Ohio House Democratic Leader Armond Budish released the following statement on the passage of House Bill 319, the Congressional Redistricting bill.

“These new districts split up communities, carve up counties and drown out the voices of middle class Ohioans who want pragmatic solutions, not partisan politics.  When a Democrat cannot credibly challenge a Republican or a Republican cannot credibly challenge a Democrat, and the only real challenge can come in a primary from an extreme wing of the same party then the system drives politicians to the fringes.  Extremist policies are not good for Ohio or the nation.” Budish said.

Yesterday, Leader Budish and members of the State Government and Elections Committee held press conferences re-iterating the need to slow down this process, now that a map has been made public, and allow for meaningful public input amongst the more than 200 county, city and township splits that make up this map. The bill was passed through committee along party lines 26 hours after being introduced and placed in front of the full General Assembly for a vote today.

“I am deeply disturbed by the House’s passage of new Congressional districts without the openness and accountability that Ohioans deserve. After introducing a proposed map a mere 48 hours ago it has been railroaded through the legislature without adequate time for discussion and public input. Sadly, this has become common practice in this legislature. The Republican majority has irresponsibly rushed this bill through the legislature – in direct violation of their pledge to conduct the process in a fair and transparent way,” Leader Budish said. 

Earlier this week, in light of the partisan, secretive method of redistricting that Republican House leadership has chose, and previously promised to avoid, Leader Budish decided to withdraw Democratic support for HB 318 which would change the primary date from March to May.  The agreement to move the primary was originally reached to allow time for public input on Redistricting maps, which the Republicans have clearly ignored.

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Dems Call for Slow Down of Redistricting Process

State Rep. Kathleen Clyde sent a letter to Rep. Matt Huffman, Chairman of the State Government and Elections Subcommittee on Redistricting, calling for a slow down on the process to pass a new congressional redistricting map.  In the letter Rep. Clyde states, “We need to step back and take the time to do this right with bipartisan support for whatever plan the legislature adopts.  We’ll need an emergency clause to act no matter our course of action, so there is no reason why we cannot take additional time for hearings and discussion.  Failure to do so ensures protracted legal battles, public confusion and uncertainty for voters and candidates across the state.”

A copy of the full letter appears below.

Dear Chairman Huffman,

I write to call your attention to the legal chaos that we are heading for at high speed.  With success looking more and more likely on the effort to referendum HB 194, we are almost certain to have a big problem with the timeline of upcoming election deadlines.  Without bipartisan cooperation, we will hit the December 7 candidate filing deadline for next year’s elections without first having the new congressional district lines in place.  Candidates will be required to file their candidate petitions by December 7 under the old congressional district plan and there is no provision in law to prevent this paradox. 

The primary is scheduled for March 6, 2012.  HB 194 would have moved the primary to May but that bill is likely to be on hold until November 2010.  The candidate filing deadline will be December 7, 2011, only 86 days away and within the typical 90-day waiting period before bills take effect.  Only a bipartisan vote of 66 members of the House can make a law take effect immediately and avoid the legal chaos that will ensue if changes are not made in time. 

Redistricting is moving fast and, despite the pleas of the public that we all heard when we traveled the state for regional hearings, the map under consideration has not been released to the public nor to members of the State Government and Elections committee.  Meanwhile, we have a possible vote scheduled for less than 48 hours from now. 

We need to step back and take the time to do this right with bipartisan support for whatever plan the legislature adopts.  We’ll need an emergency clause to act no matter our course of action, so there is no reason why we cannot take additional time for hearings and discussion.  Failure to do so ensures protracted legal battles, public confusion and uncertainty for voters and candidates across the state.  Politicians’ drawing the lines for maximum political advantage is not fair and has delivered extreme policies in Ohio and partisan posturing in Washington.  We can do better. 

Respectfully,

Kathleen Clyde
State Representative
House District 68

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MUST READ: Plain Dealer “Democratic Ohio lawmakers defend their middle class constituents”

Over the weekend, State Rep. Kenny Yuko and State Sen. Nina Turner, both of Cleveland, responded to Plain Dealer columnist Kevin O’Brien’s assertion that Ohio’s middle class will not be harmed by Senate Bill 5. Excerpts from the op-ed follow:

“In his Thursday column, “ ‘Middle class’ will be fine, thanks,’” Kevin O’Brien seems to ignore some basic realities. He claims that the middle class will be fine, but that won’t be the case as long as Gov. John Kasich continues to attack the middle class by making devastating cuts to education, police and fire protection, mental health services and long-term care for seniors, while giving huge tax cuts to the wealthiest Ohioans and to special interests.

“The middle class is the nurse who takes care of your parent in the assisted living facility. It is the police officer who chases down and arrests the burglar who broke into your home. It is the teacher who helps your child learn, grow and become successful. The middle class is the firefighter who rescues the family home from total destruction. None of these individuals is amassing great wealth from these public service careers. They do it because they want to serve the communities in which they live and make them better places to be.

“O’Brien further fails to acknowledge the fact that, while supposedly allowing communities to “decide how best to allocate public resources,” Gov. Kasich also cut local government funds from the state by 50 percent and took away huge chunks of state education assistance, putting the burden on cities and school districts.

“We have no doubt in the ability, industriousness or the willingness of our public servants to support themselves; they prove this day in and day out. We do, however, believe that this hard work deserves to be fairly compensated, and that they, like everyone else, deserve a fair shot at the American Dream.”

Read the full article here.


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