Ohio’s Issue 2 would legalize recreational marijuana, but silent on criminal-justice reforms: Capitol Letter

Rotunda Rumblings

Weed whacking: Issue 2, the recreational marijuana legalization proposal, is supported in part because it offers a path toward criminal justice reform. However, the actual 41-page proposed bill says nothing about automatic expungements or resentencing marijuana convictions – reforms that have been paired with other states’ adult-use programs. Laura Hancock looks at what other states are doing for criminal justice reform, what the Ohio General Assembly can consider and a provision in Issue 2 to provide financial assistance to groups that have been adversely affected by the war on drugs.

Split: Of the 58% of voters expected by pollsters to back a proposed constitutional amendment on abortion, an estimated one in four of them will vote against recreational marijuana. Jake Zuckerman looks at the poll data and talks to some of the ticket splitters, including the anti-abortion right that sees marijuana as a “freedom issue,” and the abortion-rights supporting left that sees pot as a threat to public health.

deMOCracy: Former Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, now a central spokeswoman for the effort to create an independent redistricting system in Ohio, sounded off Friday on anti-democratic laws in the U.S. and her home state. Zuckerman reports she cited onerous voter ID laws and “voter purges” from registration rolls, all serving a dubious purpose besides restricting who gets to vote.

Hail Mary: Republican state Reps. Jay Edwards and Justin Pizzulli introduced a bill Friday, the first day of Ohio high school football playoffs, limiting the amount students can be charged for tickets, including requiring free entrance under some circumstances, Hancock reports. This comes as the Ohio High School Athletic Association announced it raised ticket prices due to the need for more security, and more time for accounting and auditing.

Greenbacks: The backers of the proposal to legalize recreational marijuana in Ohio corrected a campaign finance report filed Thursday. The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which is supporting state Issue 2, said that a $275,000 contribution came from the Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington, D.C., advocacy group. Previously, the coalition had not disclosed the source of the money.

Taking a look: Rob Portman, the former Republican U.S. senator, said Friday that his new academic center at the University of Cincinnati will study ranked-choice voting as a possible solution as it aims to promote bipartisanship and reduce political polarization. Per Andrew Tobias, Portman during Friday remarks at Ohio State University also expressed interest in California’s primary election system, in which all candidates, regardless of party, appear on the ballot together, with the top two vote-getters advancing to the general election in November.

Issues of the day: Asked about state Issue 1, the abortion-rights amendment, Portman declined to share his thoughts, beyond saying he’s “pro-life.” But Portman was less tight-lipped in sharing his concerns over Issue 2. Portman said Ohio has an existing opioid addiction problem that he thinks could be exacerbated by legal marijuana, which he described as a gateway drug for some. “I’m concerned that the more lenient approach to the drug culture will lead to more people finding their lives and their futures ruined,” he said.

Women’s shelter grant: U.S. Representative Emilia Sykes, an Akron Democrat, announced that the U.S. Department of Justice awarded a $399,570 grant to the Battered Women’s Shelter of Summit and Medina Counties (BWS). This funding will provide essential services, including emergency shelter and transitional housing to survivors of domestic violence, with a special focus on those who have companion animals, said Sykes.

Fighting child labor: U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown of Cleveland last week joined with Democratic colleagues in the House of Representatives and Senate to introduce legislation called the “Children Harmed in Life-threatening or Dangerous (CHILD) Labor Act,” that would crack down on employers who violate child labor laws with stronger penalties and allowing children who have been seriously injured to sue their employers. Its supporters say there’s been an 88% increase in child labor violations since 2019, with some dying or being seriously injured, including of migrant children who come to the United States without their parents. “We should not have child labor in the United States of America, in the year 2023,” said a statement from Brown.

CHIPs are down: A bipartisan group of legislators including Brown and U.S. Sen. JD Vance, a Cincinnati Republican, are urging Senate and House Armed Services Committees leaders to preserve the language based on the “Building Chips in America Act” in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), to prevent delays in projects like Intel’s investment in central Ohio. The chips permitting bill passed with overwhelming bipartisan support as an amendment to the Senate NDAA in July, and the group wrote a letter urging that it be included in a final version of the bill being hammered out by House and Senate negotiators. “Interruptions and delays to semiconductor manufacturing projects would undermine the goals of the CHIPS Act and exacerbate risks to our economic and national security, without providing additional benefits for environmental protection,” their letter concludes.

Every city needs a hype man: Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb, during a lunchtime Q&A at an Ohio State University leadership forum Friday, said that “for generations,” Cleveland city leaders have “been terrible” at selling the city to others around the world. As an example, Bibb said that when he visited the White House shortly after his election in 2021, President Joe Biden told him, “I haven’t seen Cleveland here in nearly two decades.” Bibb said he has been working to help Cleveland compete not only with other U.S. cities like Chicago and Austin, but international cities like London and Rio de Janeiro.

Mis-guided: Someone put anti-Issue 1 leaflets inside this year’s voting guide issued by the nonpartisan League of Women Voters of the Canton area. As Charita M. Goshay of the Canton Repository reports, the inserts found inside the free guides — available at libraries, churches and other public locations – accuse some local candidates of supporting “the slaughter of innocent children.” Phone numbers listed in the inserts suggest they’re connected to Naphtali Ministries Services, which has affiliates in 19 states.

Tick Tock

The countdown is on for the November election, when Ohio voters will decide whether to enshrine a right to abortion in the state constitution and whether to legalize recreational marijuana. Here’s the key dates to remember.

Election Day… 8 days (Nov. 7)

Here’s how you can get more information on in-person early voting and absentee voting.

Full Disclosure

Five things we learned from the May 12, 2023 financial disclosure form submitted by state Rep. Andrea White, a Dayton-area Republican.

1. Besides her legislative salary of $75,424.20 last year, White made somewhere between $1,000 and $9,999 each in dividends from investment accounts from TD Ameritrade, Charles Schwab and Vanguard, respectively.

2. Her travel reimbursements in 2022 include $3,266.48 in mileage from the Ohio House for travel between her home and Columbus, $65 from the House for lodging, a total of $3,107.93 from the National Conference of State Legislatures, and $990.41 from the Council of State Governments.

3. The only things that lobbyists or their employers spent money on for White’s benefit last year was a total of $75 from Ohio State University for White to register and eat at a Women of POWER networking reception on May 26.

4. In two attachments to her ethics report, White listed dozens of investments that she and her husband own, including stock in the Walt Disney Company, Loews Corp., Johnson & Johnson, General Electric, Lockheed Martin, and Google’s parent company.

5.White reported that she neither owed nor was owed more than $1,000 at any time in 2022.

Birthdays

Kimberly McConville, executive director of the Ohio Beverage Association

Bria Meisse, legislative aide to state Rep. Scott Oelslager

Jen Miller, president of the Ohio League of Women Voters

Straight From The Source

“I’m actually going to go to Washington, D.C., to do the things that I just said I was going to do.”

– Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bernie Moreno, when asked at a candidate forum in Akron on Thursday how he would work across the aisle if elected, according to the Akron Beacon Journal. Moreno, a Cleveland businessman, said he rejected the premise of the question.

Capitol Letter is a daily briefing providing succinct, timely information for those who care deeply about the decisions made by state government. Subscribe to get Capitol Letter in your email box each weekday for free.

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