When state lawmakers gather for a lame-duck session, Ohioans have reason to be wary, mischief and worse a distinct possibility. Already, Republicans in charge of the House have pushed forward with legislation designed to punish Planned Parenthood. The majority has cast aside an opportunity to reflect on election results that show women and minorities played a decisive role in delivering the state to President Obama.
A moment of thought might allow Republican leaders to conclude this isn’t the time to reaffirm what many voters found off-putting about the party. Planned Parenthood long has enjoyed bipartisan support, many applauding, especially, its role in ensuring women have access to preventive health services, such as cancer screenings.
A lame-duck session can be valuable for tying up loose ends and advancing bills with broad support. State Rep. David Hall, the chairman of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, pressed for completing much-discussed legislation that would bring tougher regulation to dog-breeding operations. On Wednesday, the House acted, moving Ohio to join other states in cracking down on puppy mills.
What a lame-duck session should resist is taking up measures likely to be half-baked, the hurried pace opening the way for sloppiness and unintended consequences. Consider the current discussion in the Ohio Senate about crafting an elections bill. Tom Niehaus, the Senate president, told the Gongwer News Service last week that it was “wide open” as to what would be in such legislation.
There has been speculation about the Republican majority advancing a bill that would reduce the number of days for early voting, return to the question of voter identification and end voting on weekends. These and other items stirred much controversy during the campaign, at least one lawsuit still pending concerning provisional ballots. Leap to act quickly, and Republicans will do little but trigger mistrust, eroding public confidence.
What is the rush? The next big election is two years away. Niehaus noted that even with early voting, many Ohioans still faced long lines to vote. Those lines actually point to the problems that remain for the state, problems that require thoughtful consideration, building consensus rather launching a quick, partisan strike.
Let’s take a collective breath, even recall that in the wake of the 2004 election, the state suffering a national embarrassment, Republicans and Democrats came together to address the problems, setting in motion such steps as early voting and voting centers. More recently, Republicans have aimed to undo advances, all but ensuring the legal and other challenges launched by Democrats.
Now is a moment for encouraging cooler heads. Both sides must drop the excesses, for Republicans, their fix on the phantom problem of voter fraud, for Democrats, the loose talk about voter suppression, it remaining easier to vote in Ohio than in many other states. The worry is, an elections bill rammed through a lame-duck session will do little other than escalate the battle.
Let’s wait, and do it right.