Today's special election in Ohio will determine the fate of Issue 1, a ballot measure meant to make it harder to amend the state's constitution and to get amendments on the state's ballot in the first place. Wrapped up in this battle is a larger fight over abortion rights—and one that could be coming soon to other states.
If Issue 1 passes, Ohio will require proposed constitutional amendments to receive 60 percent of the vote, instead of the current simple majority required. It would also change signature collection rules for groups trying to get amendments on the ballot, requiring the collection of signatures from at least 5 percent of voters in the last gubernatorial election in all counties, instead of the now-required 44 counties. And it would get rid of a 10-day period currently allowed to replace signatures that the secretary of state deems invalid.
Issue 1 is backed by Ohio Republicans, who have promoted it with some interesting rhetoric. One talking point has been that it protects the Ohio Constitution from out-of-state interests. (For instance: "At its core, it's about keeping out-of-state special interest groups from buying their way into our constitution," Protect Women Ohio Press Secretary Amy Natoce told Fox News.) Another has been that it signals trust in elected officials to safeguard citizen interests, rather than letting a random majority of voters decide what's best. (The current simple-majority rule for amending the state constitution "sends the message that if you don't like what the legislature is doing, you can just put it on the ballot, and soon the constitution will be thousands of pages long and be completely meaningless," Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee, told Politico in a prime example of this tack.)
Arguments like these are notable because they go against conservative rhetoric in other realms. One could easily imagine an alternate universe in which Ohio Republicans railed against a measure like Issue One on the grounds that it sought to make it harder for ordinary people to have a voice.
But Republicans have an ulterior motive in making it more difficult for Ohio voters to amend the Constitution: an amendment on the ballot this November stating that "every individual has a right to make and carry out one's own reproductive decisions, including but not limited to decisions on contraception, fertility treatment, continuing one's own pregnancy, miscarriage care, and abortion."
"The State shall not, directly or indirectly, burden, penalize, prohibit, interfere with, or discriminate against either an individual's voluntary exercise of this right or a person or entity that assists an individual exercising this right, unless the State demonstrates that it is using the least restrictive means to advance the individual's health in accordance with widely accepted and evidence-based standards of care," it continues. "Abortion may be prohibited after fetal viability. But in no case may such an abortion be prohibited if in the professional judgement of the pregnant patient's treating physician it is necessary to protect the pregnant patient's life or health."
Because of the upcoming vote on the abortion amendment, the battle over Issue 1 has turned into a proxy battle over Ohio abortion laws. (For instance, in my parents' Catholic parish bulletin in Cincinnati, a section purporting to explain the impact of Issue 1 instead focused almost entirely on the fall abortion measure.)
"Given current polling, Republicans are expected to lose the November vote, so they're trying to change the rules mid-game," writes Politico contributor Joshua Zeitz. "The gambit is so transparent that even two former GOP governors, Robert Taft and John Kasich, have come out in opposition."
The abortion element means Issue 1 has attracted a lot more attention than a battle over ballot procedures and constitutional amendment rules likely otherwise would. As of yesterday, "more than 500,000 voters [had] already voted on Issue 1," reported Politico.
A USA TODAY Network/Suffolk University poll from July suggested that Issue 1 has a wide range of detractors. Fifty-seven percent of the voters polled said they were against it, while just 26 percent were for it. Opponents came from across the political spectrum. "Democrats are more likely to oppose Issue 1, but 41% of Republicans, 60% of independents and 41% of Ohioans who voted for President Donald Trump in 2020 said they're also against it," reported the Cincinnati Enquirer.
Many supporters of Issue 1 have been open about the fact that it's meant to prevent the November abortion initiative from passing. But supporters have also been playing up other conservative fears in an attempt to pass it. For instance, one particularly disingenuous ad that's been running frequently in Ohio in recent weeks suggests that Issue 1 protects against those who would "put trans ideology in classrooms and encourage sex changes for kids."
Measures like Issue 1 may be coming to many more states than just Ohio.
One "trend in the post-Dobbs era has been the use of direct democracy to protect abortion rights," notes The New York Times. "The mechanisms of direct democracy—referendums, initiatives, ballot questions and the like—allow voters to register their preferences directly, bypassing elected officials and other intermediaries." That's made them an appealing target for anti-abortion advocates worried about what will happen when protecting abortion is put to a popular vote.
Kat Rosenfield looks at recent controversies over books and suggests the popular narrative surrounding this surge of "book bans" is wrong. Media coverage has focused largely on right-wing parents with anti-LGBT agendas or qualms about books concerned with race. Conservatives certainly are pushing for certain books to be restricted or excluded from school libraries. But "for every parents' rights group demanding the removal of Gender Queer from the school library, members of the political left have their own, no less ideology-driven ways of restricting access to books," writes Rosenfield for Pirate Wires. What's more, the battle lines haven't been drawn over book bans in any traditional sense of the word but over what books should be stocked in school and public libraries.
The ubiquity of the term, "book ban," elides the fact that book bans as such don't really exist anymore. …
By the time you're talking about limiting its distribution in a library setting, you're not really fighting about the book anymore. You're engaged in a bigger, uglier power struggle for the soul of the library itself. …
This is perhaps the most important context missing from the "book banning" discourse: absolutely none of this is about the books themselves. This is also the good news: despite the efforts of folks on both sides of the political aisle, and despite the enormous amount of ink spilled about the scourge of book bans, the actual content of most school libraries — even the ones in Florida — remains truly and wildly diverse in the original sense of the word. For every explicitly ideological YA book aimed at gender-questioning or LGBT youth, there's a slew of ordinary coming of age novels, faith-based books about troubled Christian teens, and no shortage of deeply unwoke heterosexual smut for the brazen few who are both nerdy and horny enough to go digging through the stacks for Flowers in the Attic or Clan of the Cave Bear (a.k.a. every school library's true, albeit silent constituency).
Instead, this is a conflict centered on the library as a public institution — and more specifically, on what happens when one of those institutions abandons political neutrality as a core value. We've already seen how this has played out in media and academia, how the perception of political partisanship leads to a catastrophic loss of trust. As the columnist Megan McArdle notes, "It turns out that if you treat your profession as an explicitly political project, people will extend your profession the same trust they extend politicians."
In related news:
????In a new report, PEN America warns against the cancellation of books due to online outrage—and calls for a broad recommitment to the freedom to write & the freedom to read.
— PEN America (@PENamerica) August 7, 2023
The trucking company Yellow Corporation has filed for bankruptcy, with plans to lay off 30,000 employees—and default on a $700 million pandemic aid loan. The company "blames the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) trucking union, of which 22,000 of the company's 30,000 employees are members," notes Reason's Joe Lancaster:
Yellow CEO Darren Hawkins criticizes the union for "literally driving our company out of business" due to "nine months of union intransigence, bullying and deliberately destructive tactics." …
But the situation is more complicated than a disagreement between a company's management and its workers. In 2020, as countless companies struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress apportioned trillions of dollars to help both workers and companies survive the sudden economic blow. But hidden in that amount was a $17 billion fund under the Treasury Department's sole control, to be disbursed to companies deemed necessary to national security.
In May 2020, Sen. Jerry Moran (R–Kan.) petitioned then-Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin for help on Yellow's behalf; six weeks later, the company was approved for a $700 million loan, and in exchange, the government took a 29.6 percent stake in the company. The Treasury Department later explained that Yellow was "the leading transportation provider to the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection." But at the same time, the Department of Justice was suing Yellow over allegations that the company overcharged the government by inflating its freight volumes. (The company settled the case in March 2022 for $6.85 million.)
Yellow Company's bankruptcy "underscores criticism" of the loan, notes Axios. "Criticism of the Yellow loan has been bipartisan, beginning when Democrats controlled the House of Representatives and continuing under Republican leadership," and now "taxpayers are about to take a bath on Yellow."
• "I think it is very safe to say at this point that 2023 is the odds-on favorite to be the warmest year on record," climate scientist Zeke Hausfather told The Washington Post. Hausfather previously expected 2023 to be the fifth-hottest year on record. "What's changed is the last two months have been incredibly hot, setting records by a very large margin compared to what we've seen in the past."
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• Texas has appealed a judge's Friday ruling that women with medically complicated pregnancies were exempt from the state's bans on abortion. "The appeal placed a stay on the injunction—meaning that the abortion ban will not change in practice," explains The Dallas Morning News. "The case's fate is now up to the Texas Supreme Court."
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• The Food and Drug Administration has approved zuranolone, the first drug specifically aimed at postpartum depression.