Cleveland Plain Dealer. May 21, 2023.
Editorial: Keep affordable housing tax credits in the budget. The need is great
Ohio has a pressing need for more affordable housing for low-income families and mothers with children. A shocking 25% of Ohio renters are “severely cost burdened,” cleveland.com’s Jake Zuckerman reports, citing state data. What that means in plain English is that more than half what they earn goes to put a roof over their heads and pay utilities. Even worse, there are not enough affordable and available rentals for low-income Ohioans -- less than one-third of what’s needed by the state’s extremely low-income renters and slightly more than three-quarters of what low-income renters need.
For those more fortunate, think about what that would mean in your own lives: If, after paying the rent or mortgage, water bills, for electricity and heating, you only had half what you earned left to pay for food, health care, clothing, school supplies for the kids, transportation and other necessities -- forget about emergencies.
Gov. Mike DeWine recognized in his State of the State message that the lack of affordable housing was contributing to Ohio’s high infant mortality rate, promising to use the next two-year budget, which must be finalized soon, to “expand access to safe, stable housing for pregnant and new mothers.”
And the governor’s budget proposal went farther, proposing $100 million in annual tax credits for developers who build low-income housing in Ohio. The Ohio House in its wisdom added to that, raising the annual maximum to $500 million.
DeWine’s budget also proposed a $50 million annual tax credit for affordable single-family housing development, which the House excised - but which merits reconsideration. DeWine pledged in his State of the State to address the affordable housing shortage “holistically.” Incentivizing affordable single-family construction should be part of that plan.
“We started a housing conversation last year in the waning days of the legislative session,” the governor noted in his State of the State. “And at that time, I pledged to the people of Ohio that we would address the issue of housing holistically.”
It’s a promise that he and Ohio need to keep.
That’s why Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman, a Lima Republican, needs to rethink his position that instead of incentivizing the construction of new affordable housing units, Ohio should instead add budget dollars to incentivize homeowner improvements.
“When people can remain in their homes, maintain that value, the people are better off,” Huffman said, according to Zuckerman, who noted that Huffman’s position sets “the stage for a showdown over affordable housing when House and Senate negotiators haggle over the final form of the state’s roughly $88 billion budget before sending it to DeWine for approval.”
The stakes are high -- no less than a proper alignment of priorities for Ohio. Turning the state’s back on struggling families who too often end up in homeless shelters or couch-surfing among family members is an economic drag on the state, and its human capital.
Children can’t learn when their home life is unstable, or poisoned by brain-harming lead paint and other dangerous contamination. Mothers lose babies, and babies die early, because of a lack of affordable, safe housing.
Tax credits will help mobilize the private sector to build the affordable units that Ohio needs not just to shelter families, but to give them the stability they need to do better, and the safety they need so their babies and children can survive and thrive. Affordable housing will help get them back on their feet financially.
That’s worth at least $150 million in tax credits per year, if not more. The Senate should keep the $500 million in low-income tax credits in the budget and restore the governor’s affordable single-family tax credit proposal -- and if it doesn’t, House-Senate conferees need to find their way to do both. Lives are on the line.
Toledo Blade. May 20, 2023.
Editorial: Bring it on
The Ohio General Assembly has put on the ballot for August as Issue 1 a referendum that, if passed, would weaken the people’s power to control their government.
Opponents of the proposal have filed a suit in the Ohio Supreme Court trying to block the planned August election as illegal.
However, it is unlikely that the Republicans in the General Assembly are going to be deterred from their goal to have an election in August, so Ohioans should begin planning to defeat this unwise constitutional amendment by turning out in large numbers to vote.
We say, bring it on.
Who’s in charge in Ohio? The Republican super-majority in the General Assembly, supported by Gov. Mike DeWine and Secretary of State Frank LaRose, want to dramatically reduce the power of citizens by requiring 60 percent of the vote to amend the constitution. For the past 111 years Ohio citizens have been empowered to amend the Constitution through ballot issues with a 50 percent-plus-one requirement. It’s the embodiment of Ohio’s constitutional language asserting all political power is inherent in the people.
That longstanding governing premise is to be tested in an Aug. 8 election, picked in the cynical assumption that Ohioans will be too preoccupied with summer vacations to participate in the most important election of this century. The GOP only a year ago abolished the August election as a waste of money because of historical low turnout.
Now it hopes low turnout will be the key to enacting a constitutional amendment so as to head off passage of an abortion rights amendment through a ballot issue in November. The belief is that a pro-abortion rights amendment might get a simple majority but not 60 percent. That same thinking has been joined by other special interests who fear populist ballot amendments.
The Ohio Chamber of Commerce, National Federation of Independent Business, The Ohio Hotel and Lodging Association, and the Ohio Restaurant Association all fear a minimum-wage ballot amendment. The Buckeye Firearms Association fears that fed-up citizens may impose restrictions on assault weapons. Republican lawmakers fear Ohio voters will try to impose a citizen-controlled redistricting process through a ballot issue.
The immediate fight is over abortion policy, and some will equate a “no” vote in the August election as being pro-abortion rights. The real issue being decided is whose voice ultimately steers Ohio’s ship of state, the people or the politicians.
Statehouse Republicans claim to be motivated by the need to protect the process from “special interests.”
That is a shameless deception from politicians who too often become puppets for the special interests who fund their campaigns.
In some contexts, a supermajority is appropriate and has served this nation well, as for example when the legislature overrides a governor’s veto or Congress confirms a justice to the Supreme Court. The U.S. Constitution has a famously high bar for a new amendment, requiring a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate, followed by ratification of three-fourths of the states.
But as President Theodore Roosevelt — a Republican — pointed out in his 1912 speech to the Ohio Constitutional Convention which established the right of citizen-initiated amendments, checks and balances only apply to the different branches of government to whom the people have delegated certain portions of their power.
“The power is the people’s and only the people’s.”
Mr. Roosevelt’s words in support of establishing citizen-initiated law were prescient: “I protest against any theory that would make the constitution a means of thwarting instead of securing the absolute right of the people to rule themselves.”
Since citizens took the right to amend the state constitution they have enacted law when the General Assembly failed to act and repealed law when the legislature overstepped public opinion.
There is already a complicated process in place in Ohio. Hundreds of thousands of signatures representing at least 44 counties have to be collected and verified. The language of the proposed amendment goes through careful legal review by the attorney general and the state ballot board.
These processes frustrate many proposed ballot amendment drives. And even when they make it to the ballot, passage is far from guaranteed. Since 1912 there have been just 71 ballot issues and only 19 passed.
Now lawmakers want to raise the bar to require a minimum number of signatures in all 88 counties, as if Ohio voters were abusing the electoral process.
There may be a case to be made for setting the bar for an Ohio constitutional amendment higher than it is now, but it should be after a bipartisan conversation and then addressed in an election with a guaranteed high turnout.
The cynical motives that have brought this election into existence render it advisable for defeat.
The only way to do that is for citizens to stand up for their rights to determine their own future and use the many opportunities to vote in the coming election.
Early voting lasts 28 days, and voting by mail is an option available to every registered voter in Ohio.
The Aug. 8 election is an opportunity to send a resounding message the Capitol needs to hear:
You work for us!
Youngstown Vindicator. May 21, 2023.
Editorial: Change Ohio Constitution, but not in Aug.
A proposed Ohio constitutional amendment to require a supermajority of 60 percent voter support to change the state’s defining governing document makes eminently good sense.
But a planned special Aug. 8 election to send that proposal to the electorate for approval or rejection, however, makes absolutely no sense.
Such a rush to judgment on the Ohio Constitution Protection Amendment would throw down the drain an estimated $20 million in taxpayer money and would expose lawmakers who steamrolled it through the Legislature as hypocrites.
After all, it was only five months ago that the same Republican supermajority in the Ohio General Assembly prudently passed legislation to end August special elections. We and many others hailed that move because of the negative cost-benefit ratio of special elections. They cost millions of dollars statewide only to produce a super minority of voters at the polls. Those flimsy outcomes fly in the face of a fiscally responsible and robust participatory democracy.
In addition, if, as some argue, the speed to get the amendment to the ballot is an attempt to torpedo a special-interest reproductive freedom constitutional amendment expected on the November ballot, would not those legislators pushing the August election also be guilty of pandering to the special interests rising up in opposition to a constitutional amendment on abortion?
Fortunately, legal challenges to the misguided resurrection of summer elections already have begun in the courts. Here’s hoping they succeed at the very least in delaying the vote on the 60-percent standard until the regularly scheduled Nov. 8 general election, when little or no additional expenses will be thrust upon state taxpayers.
But despite the hideously poor and politicized timing of the proposed constitutional amendment, the bedrock content of the Ohio Constitution Protection Act has clear merit.
As Ohio’s chief election officer, Secretary of State Frank LaRose, points out in his support for a 60 percent majority, narrow special interests should not be permitted to invade Ohio’s broadly constructed governing document. He points to the 2009 constitutional amendment largely financed by outside gambling interests that passed with a razor-thin 53 percent majority after having failed statewide twice before.
According to LaRose, the Ohio Constitution has been amended successfully almost 200 times since its adoption in 1802. Many of those changes have originated from narrow special and corporate interests.
Contrast that with only 27 amendments added over nearly 250 years to the U.S. Constitution, the model for our state’s document. It, however, requires supermajorities of 66 percent approval in Congress and 75 percent approval among the 50 states to alter. The result has been a more stable governing charter with maximum consensus and strong durability.
Simply put, some decisions are so consequential as to require more than a meager 50 percent plus 1 majority. Juries determining the fate of suspects often require 100 percent unanimity. A two-thirds vote majority is required to override a presidential veto. A three-fifths majority is needed to pass a substantial measure through the United Nations Security Council. A 60 percent voter majority to chisel permanent changes into Ohio’s overarching governing document hardly seems out of place.
Even if the change is enacted, individuals and groups seeking to change language in the Ohio Revised Code still can do so easily enough through the citizen initiative outlined in the state constitution. The ORC, however, is a much more fluid document, having been revised thousands of times. Narrow and targeted changes in state law are best suited for the narrow and targeted nature of the ORC. What’s more, those ballot initiatives require only a simple majority of voter support for passage — and there’s no move afoot to raise that standard.
Clearly the simple majority rule for state constitutional amendments has outlived its usefulness. It was enacted in 1913 by Ohio voters through a statewide ballot initiative. Now, 110 years later, our state’s overly lenient amendment process has attracted more than 11,000 often costly and foolhardy attempts at change. Constitutional amendments, on the state or federal level, should be exceedingly rare — not marketed at a dime a dozen.
Elyria Chronicle-Telegram. May 17, 2023.
Editorial: ‘Workforce Hub’ designation for Columbus should help all of Ohio
There’s something to be said for having Ohio’s capital city being in the geographic middle of the state, particularly when it comes to economic development.
What happens in Columbus can radiate out to the remainder of the state, something we were reminded of Tuesday when the Biden administration announced that Columbus had been named one of five new “Workforce Hubs.”
The idea is for the federal government to partner with community leaders, including state and local officials, “to drive effective place-based workforce development efforts that are essential to building an economy from the bottom up and the middle out.”
That means apprenticeship and other training programs that would help workers gain the skills needed in burgeoning local industries.
Columbus received the designation because it “has emerged as a center of investment across a variety of industries — including in semiconductor manufacturing, clean energy, and transportation,” a White House news release said.
Semiconductor manufacturing is probably the best known of these, thanks to Intel’s $20 billion investment in a chip manufacturing facility outside of Columbus.
It’s a boon not only for the Columbus area, but the rest of the state.
For example, workers will develop skills at institutions around the state, including Lorain County Community College, that will help them land jobs at Intel and the suppliers and other supporting industries which are expected to sprout up across Ohio in support of Intel.
In September, LCCC was named to lead a consortium of 10 colleges and universities, dubbed the Ohio Semiconductor Collaboration Network, to develop a curriculum focused on those working in the semiconductor industry.
The White House news release singled out the network in explaining why Columbus was one of the five cities chosen. The others are Augusta, Ga., Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Phoenix.
The White House said that the hubs, along with other economic development programs announced Tuesday, would build off previously announced projects and laws passed in recent years, including the bipartisan infrastructure law, the CHIPS Act and the Inflation Reduction Act.
The Plain Dealer reported that the “Workforce Hub” designation won’t require new federal funding, although help would be available for communities to find and apply for existing grant dollars.
All five of the hub locations make sense as places where the federal government should be committing resources to expand American manufacturing.
Take Pittsburgh, which the White House described as showing “strong growth in advanced manufacturing, including robotics and biomanufacturing, as well as clean energy, including batteries.”
Given Pittsburgh’s proximity to the Buckeye State, its designation as a hub, too, could help improve the economic fortunes of northern Ohio.
What’s more, the White House said that the hubs would serve as models for additional hubs planned for elsewhere in country. Where those hubs might be wasn’t said.
It also remains to be seen if the hubs will prove effective.
Some of the coverage of the announcement pointed out that the newly named hubs were in “key 2024 battleground states,” as The Hill put it.
Given Republicans’ electoral success in Ohio in recent years, it might be a stretch to call Ohio a “battleground.” Maryland is considered a blue-leaning state these days, although Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania are indeed crucial swing states.
Whether the locations were chosen because of their potential electoral impact or not, finding innovative ways to spur job training, education and economic growth is not just good politics. It’s good governance.