State ballot issues will have big impact

Published 10:08 am Thursday, October 15, 2009

When Ohio voters step into the poll booth on Nov. 3, they will be asked to decide the fate of several key issues, including three statewide proposals that could have a significant impact on our state’s veterans, the future of our agriculture industry and the proliferation of gambling in our local communities.

Earlier this year, the General Assembly approved Senate Joint Resolution 1, a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow the state to issue $200 million in bonds to provide cash bonuses for Ohio veterans who fought in the Persian Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan wars, as well as soldiers who served in other regions of the world during these conflicts.

The amendment will appear on Ohioans’ ballots as Issue 1.

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Specifically, under Issue 1, Ohioans who served in the Persian Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan could receive a bonus of $100 per month of service, up to $1,000, while members of the armed forces who were stationed elsewhere during that time could receive $50 per month of service, not to exceed $500.

In addition, the plan would provide a $5,000 death benefit to the families of soldiers killed in the line of duty.

Supporters of Issue 1 cite that since 1921, Ohio voters have approved similar measures to give bonuses to soldiers returning home from World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, and we should continue this important recognition of our veterans.

In addition, they argue that these bonuses would help our servicemen and women transition from the military back to civilian life once their tours of duty are complete.

Opponents of Issue 1, on the other hand, point out that the state will have to pay back the $200 million in bonds over the next several years, and at a time when state leaders are struggling to balance the budget, it is not prudent to take on this additional debt.

Ohioans will also have an opportunity to weigh-in on a proposal that could have a major impact on Ohio’s farmers and our state’s agriculture industry.

In July, the House and Senate voted to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would create the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board to establish and implement guidelines for the care of livestock and poultry in the state.

The amendment will appear as Issue 2 on the November ballot.

The Livestock Care Standards Board would be comprised of 13 members with experience in animal care and food safety, including three family farmers, two veterinarians, a food safety expert, a representative of a local humane society, two members from statewide farm organizations, the dean of an Ohio agriculture college and two members representing Ohio consumers.

The Ohio Director of Agriculture would serve ex officio as the 13th member and as chair of the Board.

Issue 2 grew out of concerns from agriculture organizations about campaigns in several states to outlaw current farming practices.

For example, the Humane Society of the United States won support for a ballot initiative in California last year, which, beginning in 2015, would make it a criminal offense if farmers in the state do not follow certain rules for confining pigs, calves and hens.

Many in Ohio’s agriculture industry claim that if a similar effort is successful in Ohio it could increase costs for Ohio farmers and consumers and reduce the availability of locally-produced food.

They say Issue 2 would ensure that future decisions about livestock and poultry care in Ohio are made by an experienced group of veterinarians, food safety experts and agriculture professionals in Ohio, as opposed to out-of-state interests.

However, opponents argue that Issue 2 is a rushed attempt by agribusiness to block meaningful improvements to the agriculture industry in Ohio, and the Livestock Care Standards Board should not be put in our state’s constitution.

Finally, Ohio voters will once again be asked to decide if casino gambling should be allowed in the state.

Issue 3, which is primarily backed by Penn National Gaming and Dan Gilbert, owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, would amend Ohio’s constitution to authorize four full-service, 24-hour casinos to be built in Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland and Toledo.

The plan would earmark 33 percent of gambling profits from each casino for Ohio’s 88 counties based on population, as well as public school districts, law enforcement training, the state racing commission and addiction services.

In addition, each casino operator would be required to pay a $50 million license fee and make an initial investment in their facility of $250 million.

Backers of the Vote Yes on Issue 3 campaign claim that these casino facilities would generate $651 million per year for the state, create thousands of jobs and provide a boost to Ohio’s economy. However, opponents argue that casinos would destroy more jobs than they would create, and gambling is not the long-term solution to turn around Ohio’s economy. They also warn that expanded gambling would breed addiction, crime, divorce, drug abuse and other social ills.

All of these ballot issues could have a major impact on our state’s future, so it is important that Ohioans take the time to study each proposal closely. But, no matter which side you’re on, I encourage all voters in the 17th Senate District and across the state to head to the polls on November 3.

John A. Carey is a member of the Ohio Senate and represents the 17th District. He can be reached at Ohio Senate, Statehouse, Columbus, Ohio 43215 or by phone at (614) 466-8156.