Sunday, February 04, 2007

GOP Suing Jennifer Brunner

From yesterday's CD:

    Republican legislative leaders sued Secretary of State Jennifer L. Brunner yesterday in an attempt to overturn Gov. Ted Strickland’s veto of a controversial bill his predecessor wanted enacted into law.
    * * *
    But instead of suing Strickland for his veto on his first day in office, Jan. 8, House Speaker Jon A. Husted and Senate President Bill M. Harris took on Brunner, arguing that she did not have the power to return the bill to him after former Gov. Bob Taft filed it with the secretary of state’s office Jan. 5.
If you need a reminder of what this is all about:
    The lawsuit, filed directly with the Ohio Supreme Court, seeks to overturn Strickland’s veto of Senate Bill 117, a businessbacked measure passed by the GOPcontrolled legislature in a lame-duck session at the end of last year. It would limit damages in consumer lawsuits and block cities from suing lead-pigment manufacturers.
The ABJ actually carries two editorials about this today. Dennis Willard has a nice process piece about how the Repubs’ suit gives Strickland a winning issue in the court of public opinion and Michael Douglas has an interesting piece about what’s at stake in the bill itself.

I disagree with the Douglas piece. The lead paint manufacturers in fact followed the playbook written tobacco industry – or at least the Asbestos industry. They lobbied against lead paint regulations for decades after the stuff was banned in Europe, leaving much of American’s inner city residential stock toxic.

The CD story is the sort of thing I generally expect to see on other blogs, but everyone seems to be having a peaceful, easy weekend, so I’ll pick us up. I’ll try to do a little research to prognosticate on the merits of the suit later. For now a couple of from-the-hip takes.

First, the choice to sue Brunner is pretty much a legal strategy. The suit seeks a special kind of judicial relief compelling a public official to perform a certain act. At least it looks from the CD description like a suit seeking a writ of mandamus. In other words, don’t read too much into the decision to go after Brunner.

If the Republicans are successful, they will crow about it, and may well make noise about Strickland and Brunner “violating the law.” Bollocks. There’s a difference between not following procedure (the allegation in the suit) and “breaking the law.” Let’s agree now not to let them get away with the latter.

Finally, the whole controversy is the perfect coda for the Taft era. If he had shown a modicum of leadership – like say either vetoing or signing the bill – we wouldn’t be going through a divisive legal fight. Taft’s great failing wasn’t his politics. He was a moderate Republican, meaning that I agreed with him maybe 30% of the time. I can live with that in a purple state that was red back in the day. Taft’s real problem was his utter lack of leadership ability. With his last non-act in office, he made sure we wouldn’t forget his legacy any time soon.


redhorse said...

That's the thing about this suit that drives me nuts: Taft could have prevented it easily. But he didn't have the courage.