Big Races on Tap for March 15 Primary Election

Ohioans will go to the ballot on Tuesday, March 15 to vote in the primary elections for several big races happening this fall, in particular the presidential election. But there are plenty of Ohio House and Senate primaries on the ballot as well. All 99 House seats are up for election this year and there will be 36 primaries in the House races - 19 Republican and 16 Democrat. The Senate, in which only the even-numbered district seats are up for election, has 11 primaries - 8 Republican and 3 Democrat. There are also a surprisingly large number of incumbent members facing a primary this year - 9 in the House and 3 in the Senate.  

The March 15 primary will also see candidates selected to run to serve out former U.S. House Speaker John Boehner’s term. Over a dozen Republicans have filed along with Democrat Corey Foitser and the Green Party’s James Condit Jr. The Republican candidates include current state Representative Tim Derickson (R-Hanover Township) and Senator Bill Beagle (R-Tipp City). The general election will take place on June 7, 2016. There will still be an election in November for the 2017-2018 term.

Governor John Kasich is also on the ballot in the state’s Republican presidential primary. He faces 10 opponents in that race, including current front runners Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Rocky De La Fuente are on the Democratic ballot. Florida, Illinois, Missouri and North Carolina will also be conducting presidential primaries on March 15.

Ohio House and Senate Exploring Medical Marijuana Legalization

Following the defeat of the marijuana legalization measure on last year’s ballot, both the Speaker of the House and the Senate President have convened efforts to explore legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes. House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger (R-Clarksville) said he heard a lot from Ohioans about medical marijuana during the fall campaign to pass Issue 3 and legalize the drug for personal and medical use. After conversations with a key financial backer of Issue 3, Rosenberger has announced a task force to discuss the medical, legal and business issues that might be involved in legalizing medical marijuana. The task force will be chaired by Representative Kirk Schuring (R-Canton), who said he has no predispositions on medical marijuana and will provide "ample process" to air the issue. Representative Schuring announced seven Statehouse hearing dates through March, all Thursdays, with an if-needed eighth session in April.

Meanwhile, the Senate will be conducting a listening tour around the state to hear from Ohioans about whether the state should move forward with medical marijuana. Senators Dave Burke (R-Marysville) and Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights) will be conducting hearings in Cleveland, Toledo and Cincinnati.  Senator Burke said the events are scheduled to last the full day, and will follow a format similar to budget hearings, with witnesses limited to five minutes of testimony and like-minded witnesses grouped together.

Though using different processes, both House and Senate members have stated that they hope their work will lead to a unified process moving forward.

Drug Pricing Statute Effort Spawns Lawsuits

The backers of the initiated statute proposal, The Ohio Drug Price Relief Act, which would require state programs pay the same or less for prescription medications as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, filed federal and state lawsuits earlier this month after Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted failed to transmit the proposed law to the General Assembly for its consideration. Following questions regarding the validity of signatures on the petitions, in what may be a first of its kind action, Secretary of State Husted asked that the 88 county boards of election review the petitions for a second time for any irregularities. This move meant that the petition was not forwarded to the General Assembly for consideration by the required deadline.

Backers of the proposal, including the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), have argued that the delay could mean legislators get extra time to act on the proposal, which would cut into the time petitioners have to obtain signatures this summer to reach November's ballot.  AHF and others are pursuing a similar measure in California as well.