How a Republican (who won't act like one) governor is stalling HB12

Or perhaps a better headline: "How Republican dominance in Columbus is actually preventing the recognition of Ohioans' right to self-defense"

The Ohio House has 62 Republican members, and the Senate has 22. To override a governor's veto, only 60 votes are needed in the House, and 20 in the Senate.

So why is the media reporting that the Senate's Republican leadership is allowing Bob Taft's veto-threat to hold Ohioans' right to self-defense hostage?

A new day?

In the 125th General Assembly, the Senate Republican caucus boasts a new Senate President (Doug White), and a new Judiciary Committee on Criminal Justice chairman (Steve Austria). Thanks, in part, to the efforts of the OFCC PAC, the Senate Republican caucus won a super-majority last November. So many find it hard to understand why HB12 has come to the same impass the Senate created with HB274 just 6 months ago.

Despite frequent warnings and the demise of HB274 for historical reference, the Senate's Republican leadership has done to HB12 exactly what the bill's sponsor warned them not to, on the day the House sent the bill to the Senate, by placing concerns over a veto-threat from Taft ahead of the Constitution.

"I think we have a greater threat and that is the constitutional question of the current law, which we have a duty as legislators to fix," Aslanides said in March, after the House's 69-28 vote.

99.23% of OFCC supporters who responded to a poll told Senators they should not ban CCW in vehicles to appease Taft & the Highway Patrol.

What the meaning of 'is' is.

When Taft announced his willingness to sign HB12 as amended by the Senate, a loud howl arose from anti-self-defense extremists and editorial boards across the state. They accused him of waffling.

But Orest Holubec, spokesman for Taft, said the governor is still relaying the same stance he has all along -- that he will veto any bill not supported by law enforcement.

Taft even wrote a letter to the editor to explain his insistence on the so-called "Car-jacker Protection" provision.

But in this case, the editors had it right - Taft has been anything but consistent in his opposition to concealed carry reform.

It is well-known that he promised support in his first bid for Governor, back in 1998. That promise was crucial at the time, as there was a lot of backlash over Gov. Voinovich's mid-90's veto-threats.

Since his 1998 election, however, Taft has been the key opposition to recognizing Ohioans' right to self-defense. He explains that what he meant by expressing support during his campaign was that he'd support a bill that has "law enforcement support."

On October 9, 2002, the Cleveland Plain Dealer ran what is the most detailed explanation of what Bob Taft means by "law enforcement support" to date:

"I think the governor's position is pretty well articulated," said Chief of Staff Brian Hicks*. "Unless it has the support of major law enforcement - meaning prosecutors, sheriffs, the Highway Patrol and the FOP [Fraternal Order of Police] - those who live day in and day out with the ramifications of this legislation, he will not support it."

Hicks, Gov. Bob Taft's top lieutenant, reiterated that anything short of "a consensus in the law enforcement community" is unlikely to earn the governor's signature on the bill.

The Buckeye State Sheriff's Association has been a vocal supporter of our right to self-defense, and the Fraternal Order of Police labor union does not require the destruction of self-defense in a vehicle as key to it's neutrality. So Taft has been forced to narrow his definition of the "law enforcement community" to the Ohio State Highway Patrol. And judging from the definition his Chief of Staff gave in September, if by some miracle the OSHP dropped it's insistence on the Taft "Car-jacker Protection" provision, it's likely Taft would still not recognize a 'consensus', since not all prosecutors are in favor of passing these reforms (nor would they ever be).

When will the Senate's leaders learn what we have known for years: that the "Taft support target" is ever-moving, and completely unattainable if they want to pass a true improvement which recognizes Ohioans' right to self-defense?

What if the Senate led the way?

On April 30, the Gongwer News Service ran this headline: "WHITE SAYS CHAMBER WON'T LOOK TO TAFT FOR GUIDANCE ON GUN BILL".

In that same week, it appeared as though Taft wavered on his anti-self-defense rhetoric, and was perhaps floating a trial ballon for new-found support for the reform.

"He could support a concealed weapons bill if it includes significant training requirements, background checks and support of law enforcement groups," Holubec said. "Gov. Taft believes it is proper to take his cue from those working the front lines."

This was the first time Taft's office had ever mentioned the "front line", or rank-and-file aspect of law enforcement. "Front-line" law enforcement officers are well-known to be favorable of the right of self-defense for law-abiding citizens.

But something has changed in the weeks since Taft's trial balloon, and Sen. White's tough talk about not looking to Taft for guidance has been turned on it's head. The Taft administration was essentially allowed to write the worst of the worst of the Senate's amendments.

House Speaker Larry Householder, says "There’s no point in talking to the Senate. It’s handed all its lawmaking authority to the governor," Householder said. "It’s highly unusual to hand all your lawmaking authority to the governor."

White doesn’t agree. He says that when the Senate put its bill together it "engaged all parties," including the governor’s office. He has said previously there is no use passing a bill that Taft would veto because there were not the necessary 20 votes in the 33-member Senate to override a veto.

"I don’t think I abdicated to anyone," White said.

Even if we accept that he didn't abdicate his authority, he most certainly did go back on his pledge not to consider Taft when drafting amendments.

Too Much of a Good Thing?

HB12 passed both chambers with enough support for the measure to override the governor's veto. But Senate leaders maintain they do not have the votes for an official override.

When explaining why at least 3 of the 22 votes for HB12 in the Senate would not remain solid if Taft veto'd the bill, Sen. Steve Austria said "It's one thing to vote for a bill. It's another thing to override the governor of Ohio, especially on an issue like this when you have a Republican governor and Republican legislature."

So now we get to the truth.

The Republican caucus in the Senate is large enough to override a veto, if they voted together. Even when losing a few liberal Republicans, there are enough pro-self-defense Democrats to carry the day, and no doubt they would relish the opportunity to veto Taft.

At some point after White's tough talk on ignoring Taft, something changed, and Senate leadership began chasing the "Taft support target". Taft learned this, and became increasingly belligerent as each day passed.

It has now been revealed that, as Republican leadership from the House and Senate met with Taft before summer break, to try and work out a compromise, the only party unwilling to negotiate was Taft.

Orest Holubec, Taft’s spokesman, said Taft was willing to send a representative to the talks, but never meant to negotiate.

"I have been saying it until I’m blue in the face. The governor’s position is non-negotiable."

Related stories:

*Who is Brian K. Hicks?

Burden of Proof: Taft and Highway Patrol have no case against CCW

The evidence OSHP Superintendant Paul McClellan can't find

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