Ohio GOP lawmaker unveils alternative $15 minimum wage proposal in light of ballot measure: Capitol Letter

Rotunda rumble

Fight for $15: With a possible ballot referendum on the horizon, a Republican in the Ohio Senate is proposing a compromise on Ohio's minimum wage. As Jake Zuckerman reports, the bill includes a comparatively slower increase to $15 an hour that only applies to non-tipped workers. But the bill also includes a tax credit for working-class workers. Liberals are cautious about the idea, but restaurant owners support it.

Pot luck: Ohio medical marijuana dispensaries recorded $54 million in product sales in March, Laura Hancock reports. This is up from February or March 2023, although medical sales will likely decline as recreational programming expands. Flowers, e-cigarette oils, lotions and creams, and food products recorded the highest sales in March.

Bonding experience: Lawmakers are debating when to seek a renewal of a longstanding state program through which the state has borrowed money to finance $2 billion in municipal infrastructure projects over the past decade. Andrew Tobias writes that the State Capital Improvement Program is expiring after voters last extended it in 2014. While talks have not progressed far, House Speaker Jason Stephens said lawmakers are considering whether to put it up for a vote next year. Voters first approved the program in 1987 and have renewed it three times since then.

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The purge: Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose has directed county boards of elections to prepare for the process the state will use to cancel the registrations of voters who have moved and then become inactive. According to Tobias, a directive from LaRose on Thursday sets a timeline for clearing those voter registrations in counties, including determining which registrations meet the criteria by May 21.

Employment as a non-citizen: U.S. Sen. JD Vance of Cincinnati joined two of his GOP colleagues in a letter to the Justice Department on Wednesday expressing concern that it is failing to protect U.S. workers from employment practices that harm asylum seekers, parolees and favor other foreigners over American citizens. “A long list of American employers have begun blatantly discriminating on the basis of citizenship and immigration status, even committing to numerical hiring quotas,” says the letter, which asks the Justice Department whether it is investigating companies that Illegally using hiring quotas for refugees Among other things, it is legal to only grant employment benefits to employees without citizenship.

Serious Matters: The U.S. Senate this week passed legislation called the Keeping Military Families Together Act of 2023, co-sponsored by Democrat Sherrod Brown of Cleveland, that would strengthen the Department of Veteran Affairs' (VA) authority to bury the spouses and dependent children of Active military members would permanently expand VA national cemeteries where the service member would ultimately be buried if the family member predeceases the service member. It passed a separate bill called “The Mark our Place Act,” which he co-sponsored, which would allow the VA to provide a headstone, marker or medallion for the graves of all Medal of Honor recipients. Current law makes the markings available only to Medal of Honor recipients who served after 1917. “We will never forget the debt we owe to our veterans,” Brown said in a statement.

Worst boss: Vance sparred with CNN's Kaitlan Collins on Wednesday when asked whether former President Donald Trump's treatment of Vice President Mike Pence on Jan. 6 might make him consider joining Trump's candidacy. “I am extremely skeptical that Mike Pence’s life was ever in danger,” Vance responded, adding that “people in politics like to exaggerate things from time to time.” She also questioned whether it was a “double standard” when he called for the prosecution of student protesters who break into and vandalized buildings while supporting Trump's calls for amnesty for the Jan. 6 protesters. “I think what the president has said is that people who are subjected to this double standard should be pardoned and that the Justice Department should not let violent criminals get away scot-free, and then we have a trespassing case from January,” 6, that This person’s life is ruined.”

Curved state: According to the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, Ohio's 6th Congressional District — which includes Youngstown, Steubenville, Marietta and much of the rest of eastern Ohio — has seen the greatest political change of any congressional district in the country since 2008. The district went from being “slightly left” compared to the rest of the country in 2008, when Barack Obama was elected president, to giving Donald Trump a 29-point lead in 2020.

Game show: According to Bloomberg, Trump is taking a similar approach to choosing his vice president as he did on the television show “The Apprentice.” Similar to what he did on television with candidates who wanted to work for his company, Trump will lead campaign aides and potential vice presidential candidates through a fundraiser in Palm Beach this week. Among the candidates: U.S. Sen. JD Vance of Ohio.

Buckeye brain tease

Ask: The inventor of a famous Ohio lollipop brand came up with the name because he thought it would be easy for children to pronounce. What is the brand?

Email your response to [email protected]. The first real respondent will be mentioned in next week's newsletter. Plus, you'll be a lot prouder of winning if you don't have to google the answer!

Thank you to everyone who answered the quiz question last week:

Where are the largest drumsticks in the world?

Answer from last week: There is an outdoor art exhibit at Dave Grohl Alley in Warren, Ohio that features a pair of 900-pound drumsticks. The alley is named for Grohl, who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as the drummer for both Nirvana, the 1990s grunge band, and Foo Fighters, which began as a Grohl solo project. Grohl was born in Warren and still has family there, despite moving away as a child.

Capitol Letter readers Tom Grohla Warren resident who happens to be Dave Grohl's uncle was the first to give the correct answer.

On the way

U.S. Rep. Emilia Sykes, a Democrat from Akron, will host a telephone town hall with constituents on mental health on Tuesday, May 7, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Participants can register here.


Friday, March 5th: Derek Friend, legislative aide to state Rep. Brian Lampton; State Representative Melanie Miller;

Kim Murnieks, Director of the Office of Budget and Management

Saturday, April 5th: John Fortney, press secretary/senior communications adviser for the Ohio Senate Republicans; Tori Jester, Democratic Citizenship Coordinator in the Ohio House of Representatives; Jack Mounts, legislative aide to state Rep. Derek Merrin; Dustin Rosselit, Ohio House IT Help Desk Technician; Jason Warner, director of strategic engagement, Greater Ohio Policy Center; Jake Zuckerman, government/politics reporter

Sunday, May 5th: Mark Everhart, legislative aide to Rep. Melanie Miller; Logan Kolas, economic policy analyst, Economic Research Center at the Buckeye Institute; Amanda Magoteaux, legislative aide to Rep. Angela King; McKenzie Pickrell, special assistant to Ohio House of Representatives Speaker Jason Stephens

Straight from the source

“My condolences to all the groups out there working on an issue more complex than a street naming law. This was already the most unproductive house in decades – now it’s going to get worse.”

– State Rep. Brian Stewart, a Republican from Asheville, react to X to the news that Ohio House Speaker Jason Stephens had stripped committee chairmanships from a handful of GOP state representatives who worked against incumbent Republican members in the March primary. Republicans in the Ohio House of Representatives have been embroiled in an internal dispute for more than a year since Stephens became speaker with the help of Democratic votes.

Capitol Letter is a daily briefing that provides concise, timely information for those who care about state government decisions. Subscribe to receive the Capitol Letter free in your email inbox every weekday.

Anna Harden

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