The 2017 elections are sneaking up on us with two proposed state constitutional amendments and two levies seeking renewal. Polls open October 11 for early voting and they close on election day, November 7, when polls will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Issue 4 is the levy renewal for Sinclair Community College’s existing $3.2 million levy, purposed for operating and capital expenses. Voting for Issue 4 will not raise taxes according to Citizens for Sinclair. A vote against Issue 4 is a vote to cut 20% of Sinclair’s budget, effectively forcing our college to make cuts to programs, faculty and staff.
The rest of the 2017 ballot is less relevant to students, but still important to Ohioans. Ballot Issue 1 concerns constitutional victims rights, Issue 2 addresses prescription costs for state run agencies and programs, and Issue 3 is a levy renewal for Montgomery County health, human and social services.
Issue 1 is an effort to repeal existing language regarding victims rights from the Ohio Constitution, and replace it with what’s commonly referred to as Marsy’s Law. The current language in Section 10a of Article I is guaranteed by the 1994 voter passed Ohio Amendment 2. Both Amendment 2 and the proposed Marsy’s Law provide victims of crime with constitutional rights.
The Marsy’s Law influenced Issue 1 goes beyond current law. Current law requires that crime victims are given “reasonable and appropriate notice, information, access, and protection and to a meaningful role in the criminal justice process.” Marsy’s Law takes the interpretation of words like “reasonable and appropriate” from the hands of state legislatures, and writes more specific rules into the constitution.
Marsy’s Law measures have yet to be defeated as ballot initiatives, and have become law in five states beginning with California in 2008. The law is named after the UC Santa Barbara student Marsy Nicholas, who was stalked and murdered by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. Nicholas was the sister of tech billionaire Henry Nicholas, who is seen as the driving force behind Marsy’s Law.
Issue 2 is a proposal to require that state agencies not pay more than the Department of Veterans Affairs for prescription drugs. Veterans Affairs pays roughly 24% less than other customers for prescriptions, after negotiating with drug companies. Advocates of Issue 2 claim the measure would save Ohioans hundreds of millions of tax dollars, freeing that money to be redirected to other needs.
Opponents of Issue 2 claim the issue will increase drug prices and restrict access to prescriptions for many Ohioans. Critics claim the measure will cause a “ripple effect” in Ohio’s prescription marketplace, raising prescription costs for consumers who do not benefit from the state mandate.
Ohio’s Issue 2 is nearly identical to California’s Proposition 61, which failed to win in the polls in 2016 after becoming the most expensive ballot measure of the year. Opponents of Proposition 61 spent over $109 million to defeat the measure, and supporters raised $19 million.
Supporters of Ohio’s issue 2 include Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, NAACP of Cleveland and VoteVets.org. Opponents have made a coalition of Ohio and national organizations opposed to the measure, that is largely represented by medical, veterans, and business organizations.
Issue 3 is the renewal of the $6.03 million levy for health and human or social services for Montgomery County residents. Montgomery social services provide children services, child abuse services, job and family services, WIC program and many more programs and services designed to assure the wellbeing of Montgomery County residents. Because it’s a renewal, voting for Issue 3 will not raise taxes.
Polling locations, online voter registration, and further ballot information can be found at www.ohio.gov/government/elections/.
“Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.” –Abraham Lincoln