The Ohio State-wide Ballot Initiatives: Cheat Sheet

I’m leaning heavily on the Akron Beacon Journal to help guide my decision making here. It’s a newspaper that I know, with an editorial page that endorsed Obama for president, writing:

What appeals about Obama is his tone and understanding about how to advance American interests. John McCain mocks Obama for appearing too eager to engage the likes of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran. Listen carefully, and you won’t hear Obama pushing something careless. He has surveyed the past eight years and recognized that attempting simply to isolate and punish adversaries is counterproductive in today’s complex and interconnected world. You engage to force hard choices. You listen to gain respect and build influence.

So, without further ado, my choices for the state ballot initiatives. Feel free to cut along the dotted lines and take this with you into the voting booth.

1. Proposed Constitutional Amendment To provide for earlier filing deadlines for statewide ballot issues:

Yes.

The Akron Beacon Journal explains:

Issue 1 would standardize the deadline for submitting petitions at 125 days before Election Day instead of the current 90-day deadline, shortened to just 60 days for a referendum. The amendment would set deadlines for checking signatures and making legal challenges and give the Ohio Supreme Court jurisdiction to act quickly.

In recommending a yes vote, the Beacon Journal notes:

Voters have a chance to bring some clarity and predictability to the [election] process. Issue 1 on the statewide ballot, a constitutional amendment proposed by the legislature, would streamline and improve the process, ensuring that all issues appearing are ready for voters to decide.

Anything that brings more clarity and smoother elections in Ohio — while saving taxpayer dollars, as this would do — is a welcome enhancement.

2. Proposed Constitutional Amendment To authorize the state to issue bonds to continue the Clean Ohio program for environmental revitalization and conservation.

Yes

This amendment would authorize the state to issue $400 million worth of bonds to continue the highly successful Clean Ohio program, which has not only improved the environment, it’s attracted investment and created jobs. Endorsing the amendment, the Beacon Journal notes:

Half of the bonds would be targeted for cleaning up abandoned and polluted industrial sites, the urban brownfields. The $200 million spent so far has leveraged some $2.6 billion in public and private investment, creating 15,000 permanent jobs and 100,000 short-term construction jobs …

The other part of the Clean Ohio program provides grants for expanded greenspace. The preservation of farmland and natural areas and the expansion of parks and recreational facilities add in significant ways to the quality of life enjoyed in all parts of the state. Preservation of wild areas improves water quality and provides the habitat necessary to support fish and wildlife. In addition, the improvement of parks and trails adds to the state’s ability to attract and retain talented workers whose knowledge is needed to move the state economy forward.

Moreover, the bonds would be backed by general fund revenues, and so would not increase taxes.

3. Proposed Constitutional Amendment To amend the constitution to protect private property rights in ground water, lakes and other watercourses.

No.

The Beacon Journal says that, while this sounds good, it’s unnecessary, and was “part of a political deal struck quickly and late.” Here’s the nut:

The proposal surfaced as part of a compromise to win legislative approval of the Great Lakes Compact. The Republican majority in the Senate insisted that the ballot issue come with its support.

An argument for the measure holds the amendment merely would restate protections already established by the courts and contained in the compact. The truth is, that contention amounts to an even stronger argument against approval. The amendment is unnecessary.

4. Withdrawn.

5. Referendum on legislation making changes to check cashing lending, sometimes known as ‘payday lending,’ fees, interest rates, and practices.

Yes.

This one’s important — and not readily clear if you are reading it for the first time in the voting booth.

In a “stunning” defeat this summer, payday lenders lost their legislative fight to prevent caps on the interest rates they can charge on small loans. Now, they are tying to implement by referendum what they couldn’t do through legislation. The Beacon Journal writes:

The statewide referendum would be the lenders’ effort to reclaim what they lost: the opportunity to charge interest amounting to a 391 annual percentage rate on small, short-term loans.

Payday lenders would like nothing better than to drive a stake into the heart of the legislation, House Bill 545. They want voters to say ”no” on Issue 5, to reject the section of the law that imposes a 28 percent limit on payday loans.

The Beacon Journal goes on to note:

Republican leaders in the House and Senate, backed by Democrats and an array of civic groups, pushed House Bill 545 to passage. Gov. Ted Strickland swiftly signed the measure. The law slashed the annual percentage interest rate on payday loans from a loan-sharking 391 percent to 28 percent …

A ”no” would give payday lenders the go-ahead to continue business as usual. Business as usual means they can keep fleecing borrowers with astronomical interest rates, with no required minimum 30-day breathing room to repay loans. The fuzzy language on the ballot says a ”no” vote would result in a total loan charge that ”substantially exceeds an equivalent APR of 28 percent.” That means 391 percent.

A ”yes” would prohibit payday lenders from going above 28 percent. It will ensure that borrowers don’t fall victim to the slick business model that is payday lending — dependent on repeated borrowing, one loan leading to another to pay off the previous one.

6. Proposed Constitutional Amendment To amend the constitution by initiative petition for a casino near Wilmington in Southwest Ohio and distribute to all Ohio counties a tax on the casino.

No.

This one has been getting a ton of press here in Ohio. The question boils down to: Should voters allow casino gambling in Ohio? (Which might possibly open the door for Indian gaming in the future.) Proponents are running TV ads pledging that a casino would create 5,000 jobs and generate some $200 million in revenue for the counties. I’ve heard it said that this tax revenue is currently “leaving the state,” as people exit Ohio to gamble elsewhere.

But, as the Beacon Journal notes:

In terms of economic impact, the casino would produce a net loss. Even if 5,000 jobs were created in a casino complex with a hotel, restaurants, golf course and theater, most would be low-wage, dead-end service jobs. More, studies of gambling have shown that for every $1 in economic benefits, there are roughly $3 in costs, most notably in the form of families ruined at the gaming tables.

I’m not averse to gambling on principle. I try to hit Vegas once a year with my high school buddies. But there’s a broader point here, which the Beacon Journal captures in its conclusion:

Issue 6 is a dangerous distraction at a time of economic turmoil. Voters should reject this latest gambling scheme and shift their attention to making long-term investments in education and infrastructure that promise true improvement for Ohio.

Times are tough. The last thing Ohio needs to do is double down on a casino with a dubious economic impact.

That’s my take. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

36 Responses to “The Ohio State-wide Ballot Initiatives: Cheat Sheet”

  1. Bobby says:

    Payday lending amounts to legalized loan sharking, not financial freedom. Vote yes on issue 5! Issue 5 lowers interest rates on predatory payday loans from 391% APR to 28% APR and ends the debt trap for hundreds of thousands of Ohioans. Don’t fall for their deceptive and scary advertisements – they simply want to protect their ability to reap millions on profits off the backs of hardworking Ohioans! Vote YES on ISSUE 5!

    http://www.yesonissue5.com

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  3. CaseyM says:

    Forget if you agree with the idea of pday loans or not- FOCUS on the fact that the Ohio General Assembly thinks they have the right to control what financial products are available to the citizens of Ohio. Big brother style.

    Forget if you have used a PD loan or not– FOCUS on the fact that other consenting adults do and are capable of making their own decisions, based on their individiual situations. Who are we to say no, you can’t use that credit card? Or no you can’t use that bank?

    Forget everything else — FOCUS on the fact that eliminating payday loans DOES NOT eliminate the need for short term financial options. I bet 99.9% of the OGA doesn’t have to worry about the day to day necessities the rest of are dealing with. They have insurance, pensions, well paying jobs.

    Forget about the Pday loan argument — FOCUS on the controlling and spending of our household money by the state. Considering our current economic situation… I vote for less intrusion!! PLEASE let me manage my own darn $$ since the gov’t has shown they are not responsible, accountable or budget conscious. Ohio>> 60M in debt!!

    Forget about the Pday loan side– FOCUS on what else the government is going to decide in the future (under the guise of “paternalism”) that we aren’t capable of handling as adults. Restricting how much can be spent on food? alcohol? cigarettes? housing? gambling? clothes?

    FOCUS on the fact that the OGA is intruding on our personal financial decisions… where does it stop?? Why do they think they know better what will work for us than we do? We live it every day!!!

    The Issue of 5 is waaaay bigger than PD Loans >> its about Financial Freedom of Choice, which I consider to be a BASIC FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT!

    ***NO on ISSUE 5!****

  4. junior says:

    Too bad legislators selfishly railroaded the payday lending bill into law. They paid no attention to 30,000 letters written by constituents or expert testimony given by the industry as to why these short-term loans are needed in Ohio. Now voters are faced with cleaning up the mess the lawmakers made and have the opportunity to make it right. To put it in perspective, a $100 payday loan costs $15, with a 391% APR. A $100 bounced check with a $54 NSF is 1409% APR. A $100 credit card balance with a $37 late fee is 965% APR, and a $100 utility bill with a $46 late/reconnect fee is 1203% APR. The payday loan is the best choice and Ohioans deserve to have that choice. Vote NO on Issue 5!

  5. Neurotic Dem says:

    Bobby, CaseyM, and Junior —
    First — thanks for reading, and posting on the site.
    I’d be curious to hear more about the payday lending initiative. I understand that there is a strong argument to be made that these loans are necessary, and serve as an important stop-gap for some people — as Junior says in the above post.
    I’m open-minded and persuadable on this point. Can anyone explain more about how these loans work, and why Issue 5 would be detrimental?
    -ND

  6. CaseyM says:

    Sure– I work in the Industry and am PROUD of it!!

    A PD loan is intended to be for a short term period. Usually for 2 weeks, but since the term is dependent upon the customer’s pay cycle, occasionally some are 21/30 day loans.

    At a store, a customer presents valid ID, proof of stable current employment (typically most recent paycheck) and they are required to have an active checking account. Based on their income, they can be approved for a loan from $50 to $800. The fee is $15 per $100 borrowed. THAT”S IT!!! There are no additional fees/interest/charges. So if you borrow $200, your payback is $230.

    Lastly, the customer signs a contract stating their intention to repay the loan by X date. We accept 2 checks, each written for 1/2 the loan amount with the fee included. During the loan period, the customer may come in, pay off the loan and we will return their checks to them. If they don’t, we will deposit their checks on the due date.

    That’s it!! How easy, confidential and fast!!
    And cheaper than paying bounced check fees. Which on average are now $28.95, acoording to Bankrate.com release yesterday.

    Customers come to us b/c they need a little additional money for the unexpected happens of life in a household– divorce, accidents, illness, reduction in hours, layoffs, food, gas, car problems, higher than expected utility bills, medicine, etc.

    I don’t want to make this post too long– so stay tuned and I’ll answer why Issue 5 is detrimental to the citizens of Ohio!

    No on 5!!

  7. Bobby says:

    The 30,000 letters “written” were form letters passed out at payday lending storefronts, not from folks at home all of a sudden compelled to write the legislature. Payday lenders locate near low and moderate income neighborhoods because it’s their hope that folks who are desperate will walk in their doors and get trapped in a never ending cycle of debt. It’s their business model and their profits are contingent upon their ability to trap borrowers in debt. Payday loans and alternatives to payday loans exist and will continue to exist after Issue 5 passes. Issue 5 does not ban payday lending, it merely caps interest rates on payday loans at 28% APR and prevents borrowers from getting caught in the debt cycle. Over 1,100 of Ohio’s 1,600 payday loan shops have applied for licenses to operate under the 28% cap and many of them offer a myriad of products other than payday loans, so they’ll no doubt stay in business. There are over 300,000 Ohioans who get wrapped up in this each year and it’s now time to stop predatory lending. For those who get trapped, it becomes much harder for them to meet their other needs like utility bills, medicine, groceries, etc. to the point where Ohio’s food banks have reported an influx of folks who are having trouble making ends meet at the grocery store and are forced to visit their local pantry. Here’s the truth: payday lending is bad for our families, our communities and our economy. VOTE YES ON ISSUE 5!!!

  8. CaseyM says:

    Bobby—- you stated:

    (1) “Their profits are contingent upon their ability to trap borrowers in debt”
    First of all, aren’t all companies business models dependent upon repeat customers? Who forces borrowers to get a loan with a PD lender? Are you saying people need to be protected b/c obviously, in your opinion, they are desperate and are making poor choices?

    (2)”Payday loans and alternatives to payday loans exist and will continue to exist after Issue 5 passes”… Who says? Can you provide examples? B/c NOT ONE Credit Union or Bank in Ohio has stepped up and stated they will assume the risk with similiar PD loans if the bill passes. And just b/c 1100 units have applied for licenses does not automatically mean they will write PD loans at 28%.

    (3) “There are over 300,000 Ohioans who get wrapped up in this each year” Again what’s your source or reference point for this figure?

    (4) “Ohio’s food banks have reported an influx of folks who are having trouble making ends meet at the grocery store and are forced to visit their local pantry.” Unfortunately that is true… HOWEVER this is not a direct correlation to PD loans. In case you haven’t noticed, unemployment is skyrocketing while food and gas prices have also been increasing. This has NOTHING to do with PD loans.

    (5) “payday lending is bad for our families, our communities and our economy.” merely your opinion. If you don’t need to use one then don’t. But don’t tell me that I cant!!

    No on 5!!!

  9. Neurotic Dem says:

    Bobby and CaseyM–
    First of all, thanks for debating this on the site. It’s a service to all those who read it — many of whom live in Ohio, and will be voting on this in a few days. And, thanks for the respectful tone.
    I guess, after reading the arguments, I wonder: What are the statistics on people who get “trapped” in this cycle. My intuition — and, again — I come at this without any prior experience — is that someone who borrows $200 for a payday loan — if they need the money that badly as a stopgap — would have difficulty paying back $230 21 days later. (And so might be forced to take out another payday loan.) I’m sure there are statistics available on this. If, for example, we knew that 95 percent of the people in Ohio who took out payday loans in fact paid them back, in the required time-period, without being forced to take out another loan, I’d say that the system would indeed seem to be working; consumers were availing themselves of a product that was helping them, as a critical stopgap. If, on the other hand, that happened, say, only 75 percent of the time — you start to wonder if, for a lot of people (the other 25 percent), you are not just making matters worse.
    CaseyM — I am also wondering about one part of your post, where you describe the payback methods. You note that the customer leaves two checks, which the lenders cash in the event that the loan is not repaid. But — what if one or both of those checks bounce? Then they get the bounced check hit (about $28.95 X 2, or almost $60), in addition to the $30 fee on the $200 loan. Now they are out an additional $90. If that’s your business model, though, perhaps — more often than not — either the checks don’t bounce, or the loans are repaid on time?
    It seems to me the answers to these questions are manifestly important.
    I will say, CaseyM, as to your last point: “don’t tell me I can’t” — the referendum in question would only cap the interest rate on the loans (the fee); it wouldn’t outlaw them. Are you saying lenders would stop offering the loans if the fees were capped?
    My vote is still up in the air. I’m voting tomorrow, though — so would appreciate any further thoughts!

  10. CaseyM says:

    (1) 90% of our customers pay as agreed, on time. FACT

    (2) The new law makes it impossible to turn a profit for any Business. Which is why NO Bank or Credit Union has stepped in and said “we’ll start writing these loans under the new law.” NOT ONE. So while yes hypothetically businesses can still operate under HB 545, they are essentially been banned and deliberately eliminated.

    (3) The number regarding “trapped in debt” is vague and subjective. Do some people abuse/misuse PD loans?? Absolutely!! Just as some people abuse/misuse credit cards, etc. Are we a nation that has the highest debt level than ever before in our history?? Yes! Is PD lending responsible for that? NO!!

    (4) the Federal Reserve Bank conducted a study of GA and NC’s recent legislation about PD lending…. a few excerpts http://www.newyorkfed.org/research/staff_reports/sr309.pdf

    A few statements from the research…”Compared with households in states where payday lending is permitted, hosueholds in Georgia have ****bounced more checks, complained more to the Federal Trade Commission about lenders and debt collectors, and filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy at a higher rate****. North Carolina households have faired about the same.”

    Hmmmmm, doesn’t sound so promising for Ohio, now does it????!!!

    Some more info
    “A new report has been released that backs up the claim that the payday lending “reform” legislation passed earlier this year will result in significant job loss across the state. Backers of this legislation deny this, but it seems the data doesn’t support their contention.

    The report by William D. Keip, President of Keip Government Solutions, concludes the following:”

    10,308 Total Ohio jobs lost

    6,000 PayDay Lender jobs lost

    $497.2 million Economic Activity

    $218.5 million Total reduced earnings

    $145.6 million Reduced earnings-direct PayDay Lender jobs

    $262.0 million Total reduced spending

    $ 16.7 million Loss of state/local Ohio taxes

    http://www.buckeyeinstitute.org/blog/2008/10/14/ohio-has-enough-jobs-doesnt-it/

    Voting NO on ISSUE 5 keeps jobs, financial options and freedom of choice!!

  11. Neurotic Dem says:

    CaseyM —
    All interesting stuff — especially the buckeyeinstitute report. I wonder if your fourth point, about GA and NC, is causal — ie, they have more bounced checks BECAUSE they don’t have payday loans. (I assume those loans are prohibited in those states?) I’m not sure how you would prove causality. But your points about your customers, and the hardship the rate cap would be on the industry, are well-taken.
    Bobby — or anyone else — any thoughts about all of this?
    I’m voting in less than 24 hours.

  12. CaseyM says:

    Hi again-

    that is the exactly the point, there are *more* bounced checks in NC and GA b/c there are fewer short term loan options. The new legislation in those 2 states has essentially restricted PD lenders right out of business. But guess who is making a killing on their bounced check fees?? The banks!! Yet there is no public outcry about their fees, people just think it’s the cost of doing business. My bank just changed their bounced check fees… they now charge passed on how many you’ve had in the past 12 months. 1st item is $25, 2nd-4th is $33 and 5+ are $37 each. WHAT?? That’s insane!! Plus there’s a daily overdraft fee of $6. Hmmmmm, now would I or anyone else want to ever pay those fees instead of getting a PD loan for less than 1/2?

    There was a significant spike in the months after the legislation and when people don’t have alternatives to bouncing checks and bankruptcy it’s been tied to restrictive payday laws. (only of the state had pday loans and then passed new legislation) Same is true out in western states as well.
    Eliminating an option DOES NOT eliminate the need.

    Ohio is experiencing tough times everywhere you look. Putting 6000 Ohioans out of a job so they have to file unemployment and possibly further gov’t assistance is going to put a HUGE strain. As it is right now, our Unemployment Pool is going to run out in early 2009.

    We need jobs, we need to decide for ourselves what’s best for our family and situation. We need to restrict further govt intrusion.

    We need to overturn HB 545!! Vote NO on Issue 5!!!

  13. Loyal says:

    Sounds to me like we need to have some form of cap on late fees as those are at times the result of misleading information and tricky timing. Also, the bounce fees on checks are exhorbitant and virtually by definition hitting those who cannot afford it. Banks have made fees key parts of their strategic plans for the last dozen or more years. Didn’t used to be that way.

    I urge that we think about what reform would look like across the baord without picking on the small businesses only, but making everyon play, including the banks, utiliities, and credit card companies.

    Loyal.

  14. AskCustomersAbout5 says:

    VOTE NO on Issue 5!!

    Because:

    -The smart customer, though needing help in learning how to better budget money and save(most of us), knows that the occasional payday loan is the least costly alternative…versus bouncing checks, using ‘no bounce checking’, etc. By the way, this credit counseling help is available already.

    -The banking industry’s ‘no bounce checking’ features are essentially a higher cost payday loan….though not in the spotlight due to better lobby efforts of the banking industry. In essence, the banks would love nothing more that to have this law stay on the books, thus eliminating the payday loan, its lowest cost competitor.

    -The ‘interest rate’ comparison is invalid….as others have pointed out when comparing to ATM fees, credit card late fees, shut off/turn on fees charged by utilities, bounced check fees (and the vendor fees that come with them), etc. In essence, most of the amount charged is the equivalent of transaction fees charged by ATM’s, and small lenders, and is necessary to pay the costs of delivery and the risk associated with a ‘no collateral’ loan.

    -Due to full disclosure regs, all customers using this service completely understand what they are choosing in the transaction, and if asked….value the availability of the funds on short notice, if required. ASK THE CUSTOMER HOW THEY FEEL IF THE BUSINESS IS ENDED…AND THEY ARE FORCED, IN ESSENCE, TO USE HIGHER COST ALTERNATIVES….I.E. banks, bounced checks, and other fees.

    -When I operated a chain of cash advance stores in the early part of this decade, in Ohio, the Department of Banking and Finance and Columbus had high praise for the operators in the industry…..with less than 5 customer complaints per year (out of MILLIONS of customers) emanating out of the industry. Their real concern was the mortgage brokerage and origination industry…..imagine that, in these days of ‘credit crises’!!

    -If we want to protect customers, as others before me have noted, cap fees charged by credit card issuers (late fees), cap bounced check and ‘no bounce checking’ charges and fees, cap turn off/turn on fees charged by utilities, etc. This will in essence reduce the need for the loans, and weaken the volume of usage. AGAIN, eliminating the payday loan industry penalizes consumers of the product by eliminating a lowest cost alternative…forcing them into higher cost transactions. Also, it eliminates an industry which has historically employed many single family parents, due to the relatively family friendly work hours, at wages approximating $30,000 or above.

    VOTE NO on Issue 5….in the name of low cost, competition, employment, FREEDOM of choice, and other American Constitutional rights too numerous to continue writing about here.

  15. AskCustomersAbout5 says:

    A Few More Points worth mentioning:

    The 2000 locations in Ohio are all renting space from landlords in commercially rented real estate…at approximately $24,000 per year. These leases would be terminated, making the real estate mess even worse for those landlords and the banks that financed them. Not to mention the decrease in real estate values, and increase in empty store fronts that will follow in Ohio.

    Many of the operators require capital to fund the loans, all of which is earning a return by the banks and captial owners who are lending the funds to the operators….this law would again eliminate this revenue source to the primary lenders to the operators of the industry..further hurting the banking industry in Ohio.

    As you really dive into the effects of this issue….it is apparent that the only vote on this issue…..the vote that would generate the ‘greatest good for the greatest number’…..is a resounding NO VOTE on Issue 5!!!

    Please educate the masses on the issue prior to Tuesday….sorry for all those who voted early, if this has swayed your thoughts.

  16. Neurotic Dem says:

    First, thanks again to everyone who contributed to this string. I’ve directly a number of people here, with questions on this initiative.
    I voted this morning. In the end, after much thought, I did for to cap the interest on payday loans. As Loyal indicated above, what we really need is a systemic approach to this problem. I don’t at all think that, should this pass, the situation will magically improve — and I in fact fear that a black market might arise, to replace the current market, making matters worse.
    Having said all that, I think at the end of the day that the hearts of those who support this cap are in the right place — they want to find a better solution for consumers that one that currently costs too much for too many, and leaves some in a cycle of debt that they can’t break free from. I’m swayed, too, by the fact that this measure has broad bipartisan support in Ohio — from the Democratic governor, to the Republican and Democratic members of the Ohio legislature.
    At the end of the day, I stick with my initial endorsement, and urge voters to vote YES on referendum 5.
    That said — thanks again for this respectful and eye-opening debate — and, by all means, keep it going.

  17. Neurotic Dem says:

    To be clear (there’s a typo above): I voted YES to cap the interest on payday loans.
    -ND

  18. CaseyM says:

    “Here are some details of Fifth Third banks’s payday lending “alternative.”

    TERMS:
    ? Credit limit is based on total of monthly direct deposits (maximum of $500 or half of total monthly direct deposits-whichever is less).
    ? Fee is $1 per $10 borrowed
    The APR varies greatly based on the loan term, ranging anywhere from 3,650% to 104% APR.”

    WHAT?????!!! So now banks are allowed to offer a product that charges MORE than PD loans?? WHY IS THAT OK? 3650 PERCENT? Are you kidding me??? How insane. WOW– this is surely a wonderful alternative to a PD loan— UHHHH NOT SO MUCH!!

    Umm, Bill Faith and COHHIO– where’s the outrage about this?? Where’s the push to eliminate these types of loans and ridiculous APRs? Where’s the proposal to stop this kind of greed?

    Rather ironic but no one seems to really care about how Banks conduct business and what they charge. How incredibly sad for Ohio and it’s citizens…..

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  21. Gayle Blackburn says:

    I certainly hope everyone reading the issues and replies remembers to educate themselves with something other than the Beacon Journal. That’s what I am doing right now; yes, I read the other side too.

    For the love of our country, PLEASE do not vote based on a sound clip, movie bite, actor or comedian opinion, talk show opinion, or anyone else. Educate yourself. You have a set of morals and a sense of right and wrong. Use those to guide your vote. We do not need anyone else (including government) to make decisions FOR us. We are a free people, let’s stay that way.

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