Challenging presidential year looming

With the November 2011 election behind us, the voters have spoken and left Belmont County and the State of Ohio with some interesting results and decisions.

We too now, very quickly after the holiday season, will face a very unusual and challenging 2012 presidential election year.

First, a brief overview of the November 8 election statewide finds that Ohio voters were not in favor of permitting Judges to be elected or appointed after reaching the age of 70. Issue 1 was defeated by the Ohio electorate, and as a result, Ohio’s constitution will not be changed in this regard. As expected, Issue 2 , the statewide referendum of Senate Bill 5, was overwhelmingly approved and Ohio’s current collective bargaining laws relative to certain state employees shall remain in effect. Issue 3, the amendment to Ohio’s constitution relative to the new federal health care law, did pass but should have little or no effect as there is no precedent where a state law can override a federal law unless that federal law is overturned in the courts.

On a local level, voters chose township trustees, fiscal officers, mayors and village council persons while too staying on course on what has become an ‘anti-levy’ sentiment throughout Belmont County. It has become inherently apparent that it will continue to be very difficult for schools and local governments to have any levy passed unless it is a renewal levy and even some of those found themselves with close votes. With local government revenue continuing to decline throughout the state, they will continue to decrease services to their residents for the electorate simply does not want to pay more taxes. Eastern Ohio schools face the toughest challenges ahead but even public safety issues seem not to be immune either, with the rejection of the Belmont County 911 levy for new operating equipment. From my years of experience in local government, public officials and employees face daunting tasks of maintaining services to residents and students with less dollars. Until Ohio’s economy returns to pre 2008 days, all of us should be prepared for major changes in the way our schools and local governments operate. It is now time to think proactively on how to save taxpayer dollars or if not, be prepared to make major cuts and changes in the way governments do business.

With that said, it is now time to turn to the upcoming 2012 elections, one in which will see us electing a president, congressional and senate candidates, state representatives and senators and many countywide offices.

As of the date of this article, Ohioans will see two(2) primaries next year along with its general election on November 6, 2012. Because of the results of the 2010 census numbers and that the Republicans now have control of the General Assembly, they have written new Congressional districts that the Democrats are challenging as being unfair. As of today, Democrats are circulating petitions to have the congressional district issue to be on the November 6, 2012, ballot. With that said, the General Assembly had already previously moved Ohio’s primaries to March during a presidential election year and this upcoming one will be on March 6, 2012. On that date, Ohioans will vote on its U. S. Senate candidates, state legislature candidates and all countywide offices except one county commissioner and the county auditor seat. Because of the partisan position in the General Assembly and a potential compromise yet to be had, Ohioans will then vote on June 12, 2012, for president and the U.S. House of Representative offices. If this June date stands, Ohio will be the next to last state to hold its presidential primary and a likely GOP candidate will have already won the nomination.

From the taxpayer prospective, this additional June primary may cost Ohioans up to $15 million dollars and most importantly, local county Election Board budgets, already tightened to extremes, will need extra funding from the county commissioners to hold the additional election. At a time when Ohio’s budget is at its worst and at all times in my mind, it seems to make little sense to have partisan politics play any type of role in increasing taxpayer monies to be used on an additional election. Nevertheless, that is what is on the plate until and unless the legislature reaches and eleventh hour resolution as the filing deadline for the March 6 ballot is Dec. 7.