Ohio

"Stand Your Ground" Comes To Ohio

On the same day that George Zimmerman appeared in a Florida court for allegedly pointing a shotgun at his girlfriend during a reported domestic dispute, “stand your ground” laws are reaching new levels of absurdity in Ohio. A state House committee approved sweeping gun legislation which would eliminate the duty to retreat if they are safely able to do so before using deadly force in self-defense. Critics have warned this could lead to a “Wild West” situation, encouraging a “shoot first, ask questions later” approach to self-defense. Given that the law already says the use of deadly force in self-defense is acceptable in one’s own home or car and if a safe retreat is not possible, this law seems designed not to improve safety but instead to further an extreme pro-gun agenda that staunchly refuses to accept anylaw restricting the use of weapons. For these legislators, and groups like the NRA and ALEC that support these types of bills, a person’s right to shoot someone they deem a threat, without even attempting to make a safe retreat, seems to be worth more than a potential increase in homicides.

The bill also relaxes other gun control regulations, including a reduction in the number of training hours needed to obtain a concealed handgun license from twelve to four hours. This would make it eight times easier to carry a concealed deadly weapon than to drive a car, which requires a total of 32 hours of training in Ohio.  It also introduces “reciprocity” on concealed handgun licenses, requiring the state to recognize concealed handgun licenses from any state that recognizes those issued by Ohio. This is especially troubling given that the number of concealed carry licenses issued in Ohio is at a record high: in just the first nine months of 2013, more concealed carry permits were issued than during any calendar year since 2004, when authorities started issuing such permits. 

PFAW

Bad News For Kasich And His Allies - PPP Poll

A poll released Monday by Public Policy Polling has thrown a big bucket of cold water on Ohio governor John Kasich’s rumored White House ambitions—and it’s not great news for others in his administration, either. The poll shows Kasich trailing likely Democratic challenger Ed Fitzgerald by three points, and puts the governor’s disapproval rating at 47%, compared to 42% approval, a significant drop from a June Quinnipiac poll.
 
The poll also shows Secretary of State Jon Husted’s approval rating stagnant at 28% approve/28% disapprove, and barely breaking out ahead of his likely Democratic challenger Nina Turner in a hypothetical race, polling at 37% to her 36%. Husted, famous for his work to make it harder to vote in Ohio, was recently smacked down by a federal judge who ruled against his attempts to block some ballots from being counted.
 
Finally, the poll shows state treasurer Josh Mandel in trouble, with 41% disapproving of his job and only 30% approving, and losing a hypothetical matchup against Democrat Connie Pillich by five points—which might reflect the trouble he’s in over his poor decision-making on pensions, potentially costing Ohio workers millions in fees.
 
It might be tempting for Kasich and his supporters to put this down to a bad poll from PPP, but given PPP’s record as the most accurate pollster of 2012, it seems much more likely it’s the result of a flood of bad news, bad decisions and just plain bad ideas from his administration. The Cleveland Plain Dealer points out that, since the more favorable June poll, Kasich has “signed a state budget that included anti-abortion amendments,” including a medically-unnecessary ultrasound provision – a bill that’s already limiting Ohio women’s access to healthcare they need. On top of that, Kasich has “begun to take more flak for the dealings of the state economic development agency he privatized” – and the criticism is understandable, because six of the nine members of JobsOhio’s board of directors “have direct financial ties to companies that have received tax credits and other assistance from state government.” The newly-created non-profit has also assisted a company at which Kasich spent nine years as a director, and which in the past has paid Kasich personally. It’s hard to feel sorry for Kasich’s tanking approval numbers and dim reelection prospects when these problems are his own fault- his own bad policy decisions, and his own shady dealings with companies that take government money. So… Kasich 2016, anyone? 
PFAW

Ohio Judicial Nominee Demonstrates Bipartisan Support

President Obama has gone out of his way to nominate to the federal bench highly qualified people who have earned the respect of Democrats and Republicans alike. That was clear in yesterday's Judiciary Committee hearing for Jeffrey Helmick to serve as a judge in the Northern District of Ohio.

That Helmick was nominated by Obama and recommended by Ohio's Sen. Sherrod Brown makes clear his support from Democrats. He was originally recommended to Brown and then-Sen. George Voinovich, a Republican, by a bipartisan committee. Rob Portman was elected to replace Voinovich in 2010, he has approved of Helmick’s nomination moving forward.

At the hearing, Sen. Brown discussed the strong support that state Republicans have offered the nominee.  For instance, Jack Zouhary, a 2006 George W. Bush nominee, wrote in support:

You will find no better candidate than Jeff. He possesses the intelligence, the passion for our justice system, and the necessary temperament and people skills to be an outstanding district court judge.

Similar praise has come from Mark Wagoner, the Republican who chairs the Ohio's Senate's Judiciary Committee. Sen. Brown read an excerpt from Wagoner's letter of support:

[Helmick] is someone who has stood for principles, litigated honestly, and ably defended our constitutional system of government. These types of traits would make Mr. Helmick an outstanding federal judge.

Helmick should be confirmed quickly. But if the growing backlog of nominees languishing on the Senate floor isn't cleared up, Ohioans' access to justice will be at risk.

PFAW

Supreme Court Defends Voter Registration In Ohio

In response to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to lift a federal judge's order that would have required Ohio election officials to set up new procedures to verify voter registration across the state in the weeks before Election Day, People For the American Way President Kathryn Kolbert issued the following statement: "This is a good decision for democracy. The facts are clear: there isn't a shred of evidence of organized voter fraud in this country, and GOP efforts to prevent it only risk disenfranchising American citizens who have every right to cast a ballot. The 'voter fraud' fraud has been pushed by the right wing to help justify draconian restrictions on the right to vote."
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