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Statewide, Child Protection, Zoo Issues on Ballot
By Kevin Milliken for La Prensa


Voters will decide three statewide issues and a number of local tax levies on the Nov. 8 general election ballot. But most ballot issues have received little attention because of the controversy generated across Ohio by a voter referendum on Senate Bill 5, which drastically changes the collective bargaining rights of public employees.


Issue 2, as it is known on the ballot, would repeal legislation passed earlier this year that limits collective bargaining for local and state government workers, such as police officers, firefighters, teachers, and university employees. Such public employees would be forced to pick up more of their health care and pension costs, strikes would be eliminated, and wage increases based on years of service, in some cases, would be replaced with merit pay.


Issue 2 opponents have labeled the bill as “an attack on the middle class,” as well as an effort to weaken or eliminate labor unions in Ohio. Democrats have organized a union-led, grass-roots campaign to save their right to negotiate contracts. Union leaders have touted recent contract concessions by public employees to help balance budgets.


Supporters, on the other hand, have called Issue 2 an effort to save cash-strapped local and state governments from the brink of financial disaster. Backers claim the tax revenue to fund union contracts no longer exists, because levies are falling short of expected collections and property tax delinquencies are causing severe revenue shortages. Some local government leaders, including Toledo Mayor Mike Bell, have warned that layoffs will occur if Issue 2 passes.


A “yes” vote on Issue 2 keeps Senate Bill 5 on the books. A “no” vote rejects the law.


Issue 1


Issue 1 would change the Ohio Constitution to increase from 70 to 75 the maximum age to which a person may be elected or appointed judge.


Supporters believe 70 is an arbitrary age limit for judges. Backers want the age limit raised to encourage more legal experience on the bench and improve the quality of judges who serve.


Democrats, in general, oppose the constitutional amendment and defend the current age limit. Judges in Ohio face election every six years. The Ohio Democratic Party officially opposes the age extension, claiming period elections and the current age limit combine to put fresh faces on the bench and keep judges from becoming entrenched for decades. Democratic leaders also contend a higher age limit would perpetuate a six-to-one Republican majority on the Ohio Supreme Court and “similar imbalances” on lower courts.


A “yes” vote approves Issue 1 and a “no” vote rejects the constitutional amendment.


Issue 3

Issue 3 pertains to the federal healthcare legislation passed last year and would keep Ohio from implementing tenets of the law.

The constitutional amendment reads in part, that no government, neither federal, nor state nor local “shall compel, directly or indirectly, any person, employer, or health care provider to participate in a health care system.”

Four other states have attempted to block the individual mandate of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act that requires everyone to purchase health care. 28 state attorneys general also have banded together to challenge the law before the U.S. Supreme Court. However, Ohio’s Issue 3 is a different kind of action because it was driven entirely by citizens.

Issue 3 supporters claim passage of the constitutional amendment would prevent Ohio from ever implementing a state-run healthcare system with a forced insurance mandate. However, even backers acknowledge the amendment could be little more than symbolism if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the president’s healthcare bill. In that event, federal law would trump state law.

Supporters contend, that even if symbolic, the constitutional amendment represents a statement by Ohioans that they prefer to protect their health care freedom and the right to choose their own doctor and health insurance, as well as keep government out of personal medical decisions.

Democratic opponents mainly object to the wording of the amendment. One of its clauses bans any new healthcare mandates passed after March 2010. Some critics believe that would invalidate many medical regulations and rules made after that date, in addition to the federal healthcare legislation.


Opponents also contend that Issue 3 would leave working families at risk of being denied medical insurance coverage due to a pre-existing condition, and others would be at risk of losing their coverage or being forced into bankruptcy when someone gets sick.


A “yes” vote approves Issue 3 and a “no” vote rejects the constitutional amendment.


Lucas County Issues


Issues 15, 16, and 17 on the Lucas County ballot are county-wide property tax levies. Issue 15 is a tax renewal to fund the county’s 911 operations and to make improvements to its emergency communications system. The five-year levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $21.44 per year and generate $5.56 million annually.


Issue 16 also is a levy renewal for the Lucas County Children Services Board (CSB). The five-year levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $39.26 per year, or 11 cents each day. CSB investigates allegations of child abuse or neglect, as well as places at-risk and vulnerable kids for adoption to qualified families and in foster homes. CSB has seen a 30 percent increase in demand for services in the first six months of this year, serving 7,759 children and 3,348 families through the end of June.


Issue 17 is a tax renewal to fund maintenance and operations of the Toledo Zoo, which tried unsuccessfully earlier this year to put a similar levy on the Wood County ballot. The zoo’s five-year operating levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 home nearly $26 per year, or $2.16 per month.


Zoo officials maintain lower property values have meant a $1.2 million drop in the zoo’s levy revenue from 2007 to 2011. The zoo levy would generate about $6.4 million annually, which represents about 30 percent of its operating budget.


However, zoo officials plan to increase admission fees, raise membership rates and program fees, as well as implement a higher admission and fees structure for non-Lucas County residents to make up for the reduced revenue.


Copyright © 1989 to 2011 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 11/01/11 16:04:05 -0800.





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