On the issues

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

As many predicted back in January, the ballot for voters in Franklin County is very, very long. That's bad news for waiting times at the polls. Your best bet is to get familiar with a sample ballot -- which could have many district-specific issues and candidates not mentioned here -- at your county board of elections. Here's a brief primer on the statewide ballot issues appearing before Ohioans.

Issue 1: Filing deadlines amendment

In short: Would set the filing deadline for statewide ballot initiatives and referendums initiated by citizens at 125 days before an election. (Currently, citizen-initiated amendments must be filed 90 days before an election, referendums 60 days before an election.) Would also create new deadlines for verifying these issues and give the Ohio Supreme Court sole authority to deal with legal challenges.

What it would change: Would amend four sections of the Ohio constitution that deal with election protocol.

Who sponsored it: Ohio General Assembly

Issue 2: Clean Ohio Program amendment

In short: Would allow the state to issue up to $200 million in bonds to preserve or conserve natural areas, farmland and public parks. Would allow the state to issue an additional $200 million for revitalization and other environmental cleanup projects. Limits amount that can be borrowed for conservation or preservation to $50 million per year. This would continue a program approved by voters in 2000.

What it would change: Would add a section to the Ohio constitution that allows the state to issue bonds for specific public-improvement projects.

Who sponsored it: Ohio General Assembly

Issue 3: Private property rights amendment

In short: Affirms that property owners have rights to "reasonable use" of groundwater flowing beneath their land and water that flows through it. Would allow owners to give or sell these interests. Doesn't affect public use of Ohio waterways. Would affirm that public welfare supersedes property rights.

What it would change: Adopts a section of the Ohio constitution to clarify eminent-domain rights in question after Ohio adopted the Great Lakes Water Compact in June.

Who sponsored it: Ohio General Assembly

Issue 4: Mandatory sick days amendment

The coalition that sponsored this ballot issue withdrew it Sept. 4 after meeting with opposition from Gov. Ted Strickland and Ohio business leaders.

Issue 5: Payday lending referendum

In short: Would enact one section of a payday lending bill, limiting short-term loans to $500, allowing 30 days for borrowers to repay them and capping the annual interest rate at 28 percent. If the referendum is rejected, check-cashers would be allowed to issue loans up to $800 and charge much higher interest rates.

What it would change: Would enact Section 3 of House Bill 545, which was passed earlier this year by the Ohio General Assembly and signed by Gov. Ted Strickland.

Who sponsored it: Committee to Reject H.B. 545

Issue 6: Casino gambling amendment

In short: Would allow the construction of one private casino in Southwestern Ohio offering any game legal in Las Vegas, except race and sports betting. Would enact a gross-receipts tax of 30 percent that would be distributed to all Ohio counties, based on population, after payouts and expenses.

What it would change: Would adopt a new section to the Ohio constitution, which currently prohibits gambling except in state lotteries and charitable bingo.

Who sponsored it: My Ohio Now PAC

Columbus Bond Package

Since January, you've been hearing about the 2008 Voted Bond Package, a comprehensive public-improvement initiative pushed by Mayor Michael Coleman to revamp Columbus.

On the ballot, you will see six separate bond issues (Nos. 14-19) that you can support in piecemeal fashion: safety and health ($86.1 million); streets and highways ($345.6 million); water ($524.7 million); refuse collection ($32.2 million); sanitary sewers ($551.9 million); and recreation and parks ($124.2 million).

In short, the package includes $1.1 billion for public utilities, $432 million for neighborhood projects and $124 million for economic development. Bond issues are not tax levies; they allow the city to borrow money to pay for various projects.

Web: columbusbondpackage.org

Sources: Franklin County Board of Elections, League of Women Voters, Columbus Dispatch, MyOhioNow.com, Ohioans4FinancialFreedom.com

Franklin County Board of Elections