Wages, voting, vouchers and public utilities

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    Catching Our Eye:

    Wages and voting. The Toledo Blade’s Jim Provance is reporting, “Ballot issues would hike minimum wage, expand voting.

    “Voters could get the opportunity in November to write a new $13-an-hour minimum wage and expanded voting opportunities into the Ohio Constitution.

    “Attorney General Dave Yost must decide by Monday whether proposed petition language submitted to his office accurately reflects what the proposal from a group calling itself Ohioans for Raising the Wage would do.

    “A separate proposal to lock in early voting, allow someone to register and vote on the spot right up to Election Day, and enact automatic voter registration was first filed with his office on Wednesday. That measure is being pursued by the American Civil Liberties Union, among others.”

    Is the fix in? Jessie Balmert is reporting in the Coshocton Tribune, “Tax dollar use for private school tuition initiative coming under fire.

    “Students in 1,228 public schools will soon be eligible for a taxpayer-funded scholarship to private schools – all because the state says their public schools failed them. Without a fix, Ohio taxpayers will owe private schools a hefty check to educate those students. And a recent change would allow private school students who have never set foot in a public school to claim that money, too.

    “Starting Feb. 1, those students can apply for up to $6,000 in taxpayer money to attend a private school instead. A recent change allows private school students to claim that money even if they never attended a public school.

    “Students are eligible for this money because their public schools are considered failing or on the verge of failing, say standards set by Ohio law. But the list of eligible schools has ballooned in recent years, leaving lawmakers and school officials wondering: Are nearly 4 in 10 public schools really not up to snuff?”

    Public utility. Thomas Suddes is writing about how the Ohio Statehouse structure is the muscle behind electric utilities’ political power.

    “The biggest planets in the Statehouse solar system are banks, electric utilities and insurance companies. Just a coincidence, electric utilities and insurance companies are mostly state-regulated, and the banks — well, some things are eternal…

    “Successful passage of HB 6 demonstrated some stark Statehouse realities. First, House Speaker Larry Householder, a Republican from Perry County’s Glenford, delivers. He promised the right people that he’d move heaven and earth to pass the bill, and he did. Mr. Speaker has become Mr. Results. Results are what keep a speaker and his or her caucus in power.

    “Second, Ohio’s machinery for regulating public utilities appears to have succumbed to “regulatory capture.” That is, the legislature and Public Utilities Commission of Ohio seem to protect the utility status quo. If you’re a consumer, the nine letters in ‘status quo’ spell ‘you lose.'”

    David C. DeWitt
    David C. DeWitt is an award-winning journalist with over 15 years experience covering Ohio politics and policy. He has worked for the National Journal, The New York Observer, The Athens NEWS and Plunderbund.com covering topics such as education, health care, crime and courts, poverty, government, business, labor, energy, environment and social issues. His work has also appeared in Government Executive, the Columbus Dispatch, Girlfriends magazine, Bleacher Report and the Ashtabula Star Beacon, among others.