The so-called billionaire from New York City, Donald Trump, won Ohio and the White House last year because poor rural counties, of which there are many among the state’s 88, voted in droves for him, hoping he would bring good jobs and prosperity where little of neither exist today.
The great divide between populated counties with dense cities and sparsely populated rural counties that haven’t seen good times for decades has again reared its ugly head in partisanship. Republican lawmakers in Columbus are continuing their attack on the Ohio Constitution and its Home Rule Authority amendment, enacted in 1912 that gives municipalities discretion to craft their own laws as long as local laws don’t trump general state laws.
GOP Beat Against Cities Goes On
One example of GOP distemper against cities arose last year when Columbus legislators and Gov. John Kasich conspired to prohibit the City of Cleveland from enacting local hiring laws, as happened when HB 180 became law. Legislators from more rural parts of Ohio who sponsored and pushed the bill, arguing that local hiring laws stand between their constituents and construction jobs in big cities. Reports said that Cleveland’s lawsuit challenging the law argued that the city’s hiring requirement “narrowly applies to city-funded projects and does not impinge upon matters of a statewide interest.
Another one came with Cleveland’s attempt to incrementally raise the minimum wage workers would earn inside its borders to $15-hour. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine argued in a legal opinion opposing the local effort that Ohio’s constitution precludes city-by-city adoption of individual minimum wages. Last December, Gov. Kasich signed a bill Republicans sent him that prohibited municipalities from raising the minimum wage beyond the state’s current rate of $8.15 per hour. State law to keep the measure off the spring ballot, reports said, came at the behest of Cleveland city officials and others who wanted preempt the issue off the May ballot. .
Home rule once applied to firearms regulation, until 2006, when state lawmakers took that power away from cities and villages. A 5-2 decision by the Ohio Supreme in 2010 upheld the change.
Thirteen years ago, in 2004, a Cincinnati Republican who would go on to become President of the Ohio Senate prohibited cities and villages from regulating oil and gas drilling.
Never say die GOP lawmaker like GOP state Rep. Candice Keller [53rd District] of Middletown think it’s good politics to prohibit municipalities from adopting “sanctuary cities” protections for immigrants in the country illegally. Freshman Rep. Keller’s bill would hold liable in criminal and civil courts those city officials responsible for the protections should any crimes be committed by such immigrants.
Josh Mandel Readies Assault Against Sherrod Brown
In a clear sign of the coming war between sitting U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown and State Treasurer Josh Mandel, the man who wants to challenge him again in two years, Mandel’s coordination with Rep. Keller on the rollout of her bill signals game on.
“I believe that sanctuary cities are an out of touch, misguided policy that snubs their nose at our nation’s laws and undermines the security of our communities. Whether it is radical Islam or other threats, sanctuary cities will only empower our enemies, not deter them,” Mandel said, The Dayton Daily News reported. In 2012, Mandel made a run at Sen. Brown, but after $40 million or more was spent attacking the incumbent Democratic senator, the state treasurer went back to Columbus instead of going to Washington.
With the rise of Donald Trump-brand politics, Mandel hopes to use the Donald’s playbook that worked so well last year when the Big Orange Machine ground Hillary Clinton down by beating her by more than 446 thousand votes. The AP reported last Friday that Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther signed an executive order that both welcomed immigrants and declared that the city would not use its offices and employees to detain people based solely on immigration status. Mayor Ginther said immigrants and refugees would be provided similar services as other residents receive. He also said he would “vigorously oppose” use of local taxpayer resources to enforce federal immigration policy, which flies in the face of what President Trump, who vowed to eliminate sanctuary cities, wants to do.
Rep. Keller, a freshman House Member, is drafting her bill to ban “any local law, rule, policy or plan that prohibits an elected official, employee or law enforcement officer from communicating or cooperating with a federal official, employee or law enforcement officer on an individual’s immigration status.” Providing assistance in this way, the bill says, would be a 4th degree felony under the proposal, punishable by six to 18 months in prison and fines up to $5,000.
The legislation that Mandel is will try to use to his political advantage also allows victims of crimes by immigrants in the country illegally who have established residency in the sanctuary city to file for compensatory damages against both the city and the official responsible for creating the policy. Compensatory damage caps for injuries are reported to be set at $1 million per individual or $3 million for groups of two or more. For property damages, caps are set at $500,000 per individual or $1 million for groups of two or more. It’s unclear whether Keller will retain this clause in her bill’s final version.
Will City Voters Rise To Meet The Challenge?
The war on cities by Republicans in Ohio and in Washington isn’t new, but it will become more furious as the Trump Administration bulldozes its way forward on promises to force cities like Columbus and Cincinnati, among others around the nation, to give up trying to protect immigrants and refugees, who by virtue of their religion or country or origin find themselves in Donald Trump’s crosshairs.
As poor rural areas with an abundance of non-college educated whites continue to lag the nation as cities are where the jobs are created, the attack by Ohio legislators who disproportionately represent those lagging areas may become a partisan strategy that finds a point of diminishing returns as urban voters grow weary of what they lose when they don’t vote, and wise to the power of their numbers when they do.