Ohio casino one of four proposed amendments

Published 10:41 am Monday, October 27, 2008

Among the state issues on the Nov. 4 ballot are four proposed constitutional amendments and one referendum.

The four amendments are: Issue 1, providing an earlier filing deadline for statewide ballot issues; Issue 2, authorizing the state to issue bonds to continue the Clean Ohio program for environmental revitalization and conservation; Issue 3, amending the constitution to protect private property rights in ground water, lakes and other watercourses; Issue 5, a referendum to make changes on payday lending fees, interest rates and practices; Issue 6, to amend the constitution for a casino in Clinton County and to distribute taxes from the casino to all of Ohio’s 88 counties.

One of the most contested issues is No. 6.

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Proponents say it will create 5,000 jobs and 5,000 construction jobs plus put money into county coffers. Opponents say the casino’s owner owes taxes in at least two states and that the casino could avoid paying any taxes because of a loophole.

On Friday, the Associated Press reported that the developers who back the $600 million casino project sued their opponents, the political action committee “No on 6” on the grounds that it was running false advertisement, saying that casino profits would leave Ohio and it wouldn’t pay taxes.

“No on 6” said the lawsuit “smacks of desperation” and that if another casino opens in Ohio, a provision in the ballot would allow the Wilmington casino to have its taxes lowered.

The language of the ballot says that the casino would have to pay the state 30 percent of gross receipts minus the amount the casino pays out. Those taxes would be used pay for the expenses of regulating and collecting taxes from the casino, fund gambling prevention and treatment programs. Of the amount left after that, 10 percent would go to Clinton County where the casino is located and 90 percent to the other 87 counties in Ohio.

If another casino were built, the tax amount could go to 25 percent.

The ballot also says that the casino be subject to all other Ohio taxes.

Ohio voters have rejected three other measures to allow casinos in the state since 1990.

Issue No. 5 is a battle between payday lenders and the state.

The referendum would put limits on the payday loaning industry in the state including the following provisions, maximum loan amounts would be $500, borrowers would have 30 days to repay and the maximum annual interest rate would be 28 percent. If it doesn’t pass, the maximum loan amount would continue to be $800 with no minimum repayment period.

Supporters of the measure say that the current annual interest rate is 391 percent annually on a two week loan and that it breaks the cycle of credit card debt since they can only take out four loans a year instead of the current 12. They also state that there won’t be a loss of 6,000 jobs since the same companies have already applied for state licenses to offer other types of loans.

Opponents of the bill say the bill takes away options and jobs. They also say it infringes on privacy rights because it requires the name of people taking out the loans will be put on state database. They also say while banks charge $29 dollars for overdrafts, payday lenders charge $15 per $100 borrowed.

Issue 3, if passed, amends the constitution to protect private property rights in ground water, lakes and other watercourses. The amendment would “make explicit that a private property owner has the right to make reasonable use of the ground water that lies beneath the owner’s land, although the right is subordinate to the public welfare” and has access and use of the water and waterways that border their land.

The measure was put together by a bipartisan group in the Ohio General Assembly that said it is necessary to protect citizens’ property rights, safeguard natural resources and maintain the stability of jobs.

Opponents say Issue 3 is an unnecessary addition to the state constitution, that the issue has been settled by court rulings and that it does not give an accurate picture of private property rights.

The opponents say that property owners do not own the water beneath their land although they have a right of reasonable use but the state has always had the power to regulate how it is used and take it for just compensation.

Issue 2 would authorize the state to issue bonds to continue the Clean Ohio Program which among other things helps clean up old industrial sites in the state, funds natural resource programs, preserves farmlands, and other lands for public use.

Two-hundred million dollars in bonds would be issued for environmental revitalization and redevelopment of contaminated areas.

Those for the issue say it would not raise taxes and continue to clean up polluted industrial sites so they can be used for economic development and creating jobs.

Opponents say that with bad economic times, it is time to tighten belts and spend only what is necessary. They say while the projects may be worthwhile, the state shouldn’t be going further into debt.

Issue 1 amends the constitution to provide for earlier filing deadlines for statewide ballot issues.

Those for Issue 1 say that earlier filing dates, 125 days before the election, would save money because the state has to advertise the ballot issues. They cite the statistic that the state had to pay $300,000 to advertise ballot issues that ultimately didn’t make the ballot. With an earlier deadline, litigation would be settled before the ballots are printed.

Opponents say the immediate effect would be delaying issues so that they may not be on the ballot for over a year and that it will be expensive since it would be advertised longer so people know about it.

Issue 4, which dealt with a requirement for paid sick leave for employees in Ohio, was withdrawn on Sept. 4.

To review the full text of the state issues, go to the Ohio Secretary of State’s Web site at www.sos.state.oh.us/SOS/elections/IssueProcBallotBd/BallotBoard.aspx.

The pdf includes the official ballot language and an explanation of the issue.