I’ve actually not fully processed today’s story that it appears several Democrats in the State Senate are now supporting SB 1—the bill that will create the private entity named RobsOhio. But I thought I should at least play devil’s advocate to put the decision into perspective.
First, let’s remember that nobody who runs for office does so with the desire to not make a difference or to be politically irrelevant. And, frankly, there traditionally has been no group treated as more politically irrelevant as the Senate Democrats. During the last few years, it was only until Republicans were unable to work with Strickland on resolving the budget issue (more fairly, Republicans unwillingness to own the hard decisions that needed to be made) that made the Democratic caucus more politically relevant than it had ever been.
With only ten members, the Republicans can do anything they want in the Senate so long as they don’t lose seven of their own in the process. I don’t think RobsOhio is the kind of bill that they were in any danger of that.
So, if you’re a Senate Democrat, what do you do? If you’ve got serious concerns about RobsOhio, you’ve got two choice: 1) No compromise and offer nothing to the Republicans who don’t need you anyways; 2) Try to move the needle by amending the bill to change some of its worst aspects, but know that the GOP won’t even consider your amendments unless you’re willing to back it up with votes for the bill if the amendments are accepted?
You cannot applaud the Senate Democrats for introducing a package of forty amendments to the bill dealing with JobsOhio, unless you expect them to do something to give those amendments a fighting chance to actually make it in the bill. Well, the GOP isn’t going to let the minority Democrats amend a bill significantly, but then give unanimous opposition to it as well. They don’t need the Democrats’ amendments nearly as much as they want (but don’t need) the cover of bipartisanship for what they’re doing. In the horsetrading that is legislating, the Senate Democrats have to offer something to the GOP in return.
(Ironically, it was Skindell who was the only Democrat on the committee to vote no today, though.)
The Senate Democrats got seven of their amendments included in the package of twenty other amendments introduced by the Republicans this morning. The Democrats also got an additional amendment approved today in Committee. I’ve been told there was no horsetrade for amendments for votes, but it does naturally follow why should the majority ever support amendments unless they broaden the bill’s support?
[UPDATE: No sooner did I post it did the roll call from the Senate floor vote broke, 31-2. The House voted 60-35 to approve the Senate changes. Am. Sub. HB 1 as amended by the Senate this morning will head to Governor Kasich for his signature. That would seem to indicate that House Democrats largely voted against HB 1 while the Senate Democrats largely voted in favor. It will be law.]
For the Senate Democrats, it is not as easy choice as some would present. Ideological purity is easy in elections; harder in governing. Adopt a take no prisoners approach, and you lose the ability to take a crappy bill into a slightly less crappy one. However, if you offer compromise, you have to be willing to offer some support for the final product, too.
That being said, I’m largely unimpressed with today’s packages of amendments. Don’t get me wrong. There were substantive improvements to the bill. The Ohio Ethics Commission now has jurisdiction. The conflict-of-interest rules were strengthened. RobsOhio cannot make political donations, nor can elected or state employees can professionally lobby RobsOhio.
Here’s what we didn’t get:
- Anything that opens up RobsOhio on the public records front;
- Audits by the State Auditor is still discretionary, not mandatory;
- No further change from the Ohio House on the limited ability of the Inspector General to investigate; and
- The least restrictive reporting and gift standards under existing ethics laws (although RobsOhio originally would have lowered the bar);
The Senate Democrats last year were outspent $5,956,529.90 to $604,715.59. That’s nearly a 10:1 ratio. Yet, they lost just two seats in very tight races. (The House Democrats actually had roughly a 2:1 fundraising ADVANTAGE and lost proportionally more seats in elections that were by significantly larger margins.) The Senate Democrats need to stop being ignored every election. We simply must start making inroads in the Senate.
On a personal note, I take pride that in my opponent testimony in the House as being the first person to point out that RobsOhio’s Board members, executives, and employees would be immune from state prosecution for bribery.
Senate Amendment 0201 was part of the package. It prohibited bribery of all RobsOhio’s officials.
You read that right. Together, we were able to get bribery outlawed again.