FEC releases coordinated party expenditure limits for 2020

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) has adjusted coordinated party expenditure limits for 2020. For presidential nominees, the limit is $26,464,700. For Senate nominees, the limits range from $103,700 to $3,175,100, based on their state’s voting age population. Limits for House nominees are $103,700 (states with only one U.S. House Representative) or $51,900 (state with more than one U.S. House Representative).

The limits “are calculated according to a statutory formula that accounts for the annual cost-of-living adjustment,” according to the FEC’s news release. For more, read the full release.

Campaign Finance, General News

Want to honor a public official? Make sure you're in compliance

Recently, the Ohio Ethics Commission, in Advisory Opinion Number 2019-01, provided additional guidance on ceremonial gifts for public officials and employees. Public officials are often honored by groups for longstanding service or advocacy and may receive personalized items reflecting their contributions. Ohio law forbids public officials and employees from accepting a gift of substantial value from a party that is interested in matters before, regulated by, or doing or seeking to do business with the public employee or official’s agency. This creates a dilemma for both the public official and the group providing the ceremonial gift. For more, read the full story

General News

Legislative review and 2020 legislative and electoral preview

With the start of a new decade, our team wants to share an overview of the past year and a look ahead to the coming months. Please click the link below for a review of relevant legislation that the General Assembly passed in 2019, a summary of predictions for 2020 legislative priorities and a political preview of the 2020 statewide election. Read more >>

General News

Federal judge rules Ohio law restricting prisoners’ right to vote is unconstitutional

Prisoners awaiting trial “must be given same voting rights as other citizens,” U.S. District Court Judge Michael H. Watson recently found, ruling on a case filed by two men incarcerated in Montgomery County last year, The Columbus Dispatch reports. Lawyers for the men argued that Ohio law “violates the Equal Protection clause of the U.S. Constitution by treating prisoners differently than other voters,” according to the article. State law grants voters “confined in hospitals by unforeseen medical emergencies until 3 p.m. on Election Day to submit an absentee ballot application,” while voters held in jail “face a noon deadline on the Saturday before an election.” Watson wrote in his opinion, “[t]he legislature cannot simply grant one class of voters more favorable terms . . . (that) is exactly what the Equal Protection clause forbids.” For more, read the full article.

General News

Amendment introduced to prohibit foreign ownership in critical infrastructure in Ohio

Introduced on October 26, 2019, House Joint Resolution 2 (HJR 2), titled the “Ohio Critical Infrastructure Protection Amendment,” seeks to place a constitutional amendment before Ohio voters prohibiting foreign businesses and individuals from having a majority ownership interest in critical infrastructure located in Ohio. Read more >>

General News

Ohio Supreme Court rejects use of secret ballots by public bodies

On August 14, 2019, the Ohio Supreme Court unanimously struck down the use of secret ballots during a public meeting in its decision in State ex rel. MORE Bratenahl v. Bratenahl (Slip Opinion 2019-Ohio-3233).

In 2015, Bratenahl Village Council voted, in an open meeting but by secret ballot, to fill the position of president pro tempore. Patricia Meade, publisher of the village’s community newspaper MORE Bratenahl, sought an injunction and declaratory judgment in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, arguing that by conducting the vote by secret ballot, the Village of Bratenahl violated the Open Meetings Act, R.C. 121.22. The village argued that the Open Meetings Act did not establish a method of voting but only required that the vote take place in an open meeting, which did occur in this instance. The Court of Common Pleas and 8th District Court of Appeals both ruled in favor of the village and upheld the village’s discretion to use the voting method of its choice. Meade then appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court.

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled for Meade and found that while the term “open” is not defined in R.C. 121.22, the law requires that any “resolution, rule, or formal action of any kind is invalid unless adopted in an open meeting of the public body.” The purpose of the Open Meetings Act, as construed by the Court, is to “require public business to be conducted in a manner that is accessible to the public” (emphasis added). The fact that the village did not have a particular voting procedure does not allow for secret ballots, because secret ballots are not accessible to the public. The Court concluded that the village violated the Open Meetings Act and remanded the case to the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas to issue an injunction.

Election Law, General News

One vote claims victory for Athens County school district

The state-mandated recount of the Alexander Local School District's May levy vote confirms that the issue has passed by one vote, with 1,184 votes for and 1,183 votes against, reports the Athens News. This is the district's sixth vote on the 1 percent earned income tax levy. Administrators say that the new levy will keep the district from a $1.5 million budget deficit and fund operating expenses. Read the full story.

General News

Campaign contribution fraud ends with county executive’s indictment

A yearlong investigation involving the FBI, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the IRS resulted in the indictment of Steve Stenger, St. Louis County Executive. According to prosecutors, Stenger and others defrauded citizens “through bribery and concealment of material information.” The investigation, which has been ongoing since 2014, revealed that Stenger solicited and accepted campaign contributions in return for “favorable official action.” These favors included awards to donors of county contracts worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Stenger then lied in public statements in an attempt to cover up his crimes. He has forfeited his law license and could spend several years in prison. For more, read the full story.

Campaign Finance, Ethics, General News

Ohio Ethics Commission's education and training opportunities

The Ohio Ethics Commission’s educational outreach initiatives, including live seminars, webinars and online courses, are designed to help public officials and employees comply with the law. The offerings are popular and well-received. In 2018 nearly 55,000 people took advantage of training across all three platforms, and participants praised the clear instruction and engaging presenters.

The Ohio Ethics Commission is offering several options for ethics law training throughout 2019, including available onsite training, an e-course entitled “The Ohio Ethics Law: Good Government in Action,” a webinar offered monthly entitled “Overview of Ohio Ethics Law,” and six at-large regional live training sessions. The e-course is approved for 1.0 general CLE hour and the regional sessions are approved for 1.5 general CLE hours.

In addition, the Ohio Ethics Commission joins with the Ohio Board of Professional Conduct each year to offer a 2.5-hour professional conduct CLE course. Three sessions are available, two in Columbus and one in Richfield, Ohio. As of this post, seats are still available for the June 5 and October 10 sessions.

All courses and training sessions are free. Onsite trainings may have a minimum attendee requirement. Please contact Susan Willeke at susan.willeke@ethics.ohio.gov with any questions or to schedule a training.

 

Ethics, General News

Governor DeWine delivers his first State of the State address

On March 5, 2019, Governor Mike DeWine (R) delivered his first State of the State address during a joint House and Senate session. Governor DeWine returned to past tradition and spoke from the Ohio House chamber in the Statehouse. For more, read the full story

General News
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