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Count on crowded 2014 ballot



Published: Sat, September 7, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

COLUMBUS

Next year’s general election ballot could be pretty crowded.

In addition to the statewide offices and legislative seats, there’s a whole slew of potential referendums, amendments and initiatives that could qualify for inclusion.

You already know about a bunch of them, since they’ve been floating around for months.

There’s right to work, an effort backed by tea party and like-minded groups, to ban mandatory union membership and union-dues payments. Supporters have been collecting signatures for more than a year, with an eye toward next November.

There are several medical marijuana amendments, though a couple of them appear to be extinguished.

Along those lines, there’s a new effort to legalize marijuana use in general, including for recreational purposes. That group’s initial submission to the attorney general was rejected last month, and a new one has not yet been offered.

An attempt to legalize gay marriage also has been seeking petition signatures for more than a year.

There’s also talk of a citizen-initiated effort to reverse abortion-related provisions included in the biennial budget, though those rumblings died down significantly during the summer.

INTERNET CAFES, MEDICAID

There are two more that you should pay close attention to in the coming weeks and months, as they could lead to millions of dollars in campaign spending by proponents and opponents:

Sweepstakes parlors: Just when you thought lawmakers have finally put the kibosh on all of those so-called Internet cafes, a group of owners has turned in more than 433,000 signatures to overturn a new state law set to take effect last week.

The Committee to Protect Ohio Jobs needs about 231,000 valid names, so it’s a safe bet that they’ll qualify for November 2014.

The immediate effect of the referendum is that the law changes — House Bill 7 banned cash payouts, limited prize values, increased registration requirements and likely would lead to the shuttering of most sweepstakes parlors — would be placed on hold until after next year’s general election.

Even if parlor owners ultimately lose, that gives them more than a year of continued operations and profits.

There’s already an opposition group (Ohioans Against Illegal Gambling) formed and actively campaigning against the Internet cafes.

Medicaid: Republican lawmakers have balked at Gov. John Kasich’s proposal to expand Medicaid eligibility, so a new group, Healthy Ohioans Work, hopes to force action, via an initiated statute.

Pending the attorney general’s approval, proponents will circulate initial petitions to collect some 115,000-plus signatures. If they are successful before the end of the year, the proposed law change would be placed before the Legislature, which would have four months to act.

Lawmakers could pass it as proposed, adopt a different version or ignore the issue outright. In the case of the latter two, the petitioners would have the option to gather another 115,000-plus signatures to place the proposed law before voters.

All of this could make for a very long ballot in November 2014, with a lot of complicated issues for voters to try to comprehend.

Marc Kovac is The Vindicator’s Statehouse correspondent. Email him at mkovac@dixcom.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.


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