Ohio’s electoral votes for president should go to popular vote winner, state lawmakers say

By Jackie Borchardt, cleveland.com 
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on December 06, 2016 at 1:35 PM, updated December 06, 2016

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A pair of Democrat state lawmakers are proposing Ohio’s electoral votes should go to the winner of the national popular vote, regardless of who won the state — not that the idea is likely to go anywhere.

A bill introduced this week in the Ohio House would sign Ohio on to the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, a group of states that pledge their Electoral College votes to the national popular vote winner. But it’s unlikely to pass before the legislative session ends this week.

The compact was formed in 2006, and the idea has gained steam in the weeks since this year’s presidential election. Republican Donald Trump won enough states on Election Night to earn the required 270 electoral votes. But Democrat Hillary Clinton will likely win the popular vote by more than 2.5 million votes when all election results are certified.

“The best and fairest time to change a presidential system is the day after,” Rep. Dan Ramos, a Lorain Democrat and bill sponsor, said in a statement.

Trump won Ohio with 51.7 percent of the vote to Clinton’s 43.6 percent, according to final results.

Ohio and other states prohibit electors from voting for other candidates. The bill specifies that Ohio’s electors will be those chosen by the national popular vote winner. The agreement would only go into effect once states totaling 270 electoral votes participate. Ten states and the District of Columbia have signed on, a total of 165 electoral votes. Ohio would add another 18 votes.

Clinton is the second presidential candidate in the last five contests to win the popular vote and lose the Electoral College.

“The majority of the Presidents elected to their first term in my adult life weren’t elected by the people,” Ramos said. “This isn’t some obscure thing from the 19th century, it’s the majority of presidents this century. I’m proud to present, with Rep. David Leland, a 21st century solution.”

Leland, a Columbus Democrat, said the will of the American people was “hijacked” this year by the Electoral College.

“Enough is enough,” Leland said. “This National Popular Vote legislation will add Ohio to the compact of states that believe, in a true Democracy, the candidate with the most votes wins.”

Three states that have voted for the compact were controlled by Republicans. But the GOP-led Ohio General Assembly has shown no interest in the change.

Lawmakers plan to adjourn sine die Thursday. Any bills that don’t pass before then must start over in the next two-year session, which begins in January.

Ramos said he would reintroduce the bill next year.

Ohio employers’ ability to fire medical marijuana users irks some legislators

May 11, 2016

The Ohio House of Representatives on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a medical marijuana bill and the next morning, a Quinnipiac University poll showed 9 in 10 Ohioans support marijuana as medicine.

Marijuana has momentum, and the House addressed some of the issues legislators have had with legalization, including whether medical marijuana could be smoked (no) and if it could be grown by sick patients (no).

But some House Democrats made clear their displeasure with a portion of the bill that would allow employers to maintain drug testing programs and to fire workers who fail, even if prescribed marijuana by a doctor. Workers wouldn’t be eligible for unemployment benefits, either.

It’s not an easily solvable problem.

“We’re punishing the people that are going to be using the very substance we’re going to make legal,” Rep. David Leland, D-Columbus, said Tuesday before the vote, adding that he was unsure if he would end up voting for the bill (he did). Leland told his peers it’s up to the Senate to “cure this particular ill.”

Rep. Teresa Fedor, D-Toledo, voted against the bill, and said the workplace aspect would become a bigger issue. She said she could not support the bill as written.

The legislation, House Bill 523, got its first hearing Wednesday morning at the Senate’s Government Oversight and Reform Committee. Sen. Troy Balderson of Zanesville, one of nine Republicans on the 12-member committee, said before the hearing that the Senate was in “tough terrain,” and would have to do more homework.

Business groups support continued drug testing because many companies don’t want employees working while under the influence. That makes sense to nearly everyone. The complicating issue lies with marijuana’s longevity in users’ bodies.

A sick patient might use legally prescribed marijuana on Saturday, be tested on Wednesday and fired by Friday, all without ever coming to work under the influence of marijuana.

While the Ohio Chamber of Commerce has so far not officially endorsed the bill, a group representing it and other local chambers testified that maintaining a company’s human resources policy, including drug screening, should be a core tenant of legalization. The group, the Ohio Metro Chambers of Commerce, also wants to make sure employees fired because of policy violations can’t get unemployment benefits.

Rep. Kirk Schuring, R-Canton, who has studied medical marijuana as part of a legislative committee, said Tuesday the part of the bill simply matches what’s already law that permits employers to fire workers over failed drug tests.

THC, the part of marijuana that employers test for, is traceable for longer than most drugs. Occasional users may fail a urine drug test after three or four days. But regular users can still test positive more than two weeks after going cold turkey, according to a study in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence. Other studies show positive tests even longer after users stopped using the drug, and failed drug test timelines can differ because of a variety of factors.

Tom Knox covers Ohio State University, public policy, energy and manufacturing.