Ohio Ballot Issues
Steiner PR is an established leader in managing and providing strategic communications counsel to statewide ballot issue campaigns.
In 2017, Steiner PR organized and managed the campaign to defeat State Issue 2, a populist proposal to limit the price the State of Ohio pays for prescription drugs.
Working on behalf of the pharmaceutical industry (PhRMA), Steiner PR led a bipartisan team and directed all facets of the strategy, communications and operations of the campaign. Ultimately, Issue 2 was opposed by the state’s leading medical groups, military veterans organizations, business and labor leaders and the lion’s share of Ohio newspaper editorial boards.
On Election Day, a stunning 79 percent of Ohioans who cast ballots voted against Issue 2, setting an all-time Ohio record of voter opposition to a proposed initiated statute.
In 2015, Steiner PR led a bipartisan coalition in opposition to another citizen’s initiative, this one to legalize the production, sale and consumption of recreational and medical marijuana in Ohio. The pro-marijuana campaign had a big early lead in the polls and outspent the under-funded opposition by 10 to 1. However, the proposal was defeated by nearly two-to-one at the ballot box.
Ohio Transportation Funding (2019)
On behalf of Ohio highway contractors and engineers, roadway users, local governments, businesses and other stakeholders, Steiner PR led a third-party advocacy effort for a substantial increase in Ohio’s motor fuel user fee. Steiner PR developed strategy and messaging, commissioned opinion research, produced communications, and built a diverse statewide coalition focused on bringing awareness of the issue to the public and to state legislators and policy makers.
The state transportation budget was facing a massive structural deficit beginning in CY 2019. For the state ground transportation system, the budget hole would have caused deferral of critical new construction projects and routine maintenance. And it would have crippled already underfunded municipal, township and county jurisdictions that rely heavily on their share of state motor fuel user fee to build and maintain local roads and bridges.
ODOT and its allies and constituents were aware of the deficit, but the problem was not well-known by the public or understood by legislators, and the budget hole was a critical new issue for the administration of incoming Governor Mike DeWine.
Steiner PR initially worked behind the scenes to secure high profile stories in Ohio’s most influential media outlets to expose the issue and provide independent validation for the size and scope of the problem. A large and active statewide coalition of transportation interests, local governments and local Chambers of Commerce united behind a solution proposed by Governor DeWine.
Ultimately, most legislators acknowledged the problem and, with strong bipartisan support, adopted a balanced and robust transportation budget with a significant increase in the motor fee user fees, which included increases in taxes on gasoline and diesel fuels as well as new annual fees on electric vehicles.
Columbus State Community College Capital Funding (2020)
Steiner PR provided senior strategic counsel and communications support as Columbus State Community College secured the support of Franklin County voters for a first-ever bond issue for capital improvements funded by a property tax increase.
The bond issue faced numerous obstacles, the first of which was a need for authorizing language in Ohio law. Steiner PR worked with the college and its lobbying team to persuade the Ohio General Assembly to provide legislative authority for a local vote.
Once legal authority was secured, the college faced the complex challenge of introducing a new concept to a community of voters who were already experiencing “tax fatigue” in the wake of two controversial and ultimately unsuccessful tax proposal campaigns. Additionally, key community stakeholders were wary of Franklin County voters bearing the full weight of a tax increase for an institution with a multi-county service area.
Steiner PR worked with a public opinion research firm to ascertain the most positive messaging for the college and the most effective arguments for a new property tax increase for capital improvements. The research also helped determine a viable threshold for the level of the increase.
Steiner PR guided the college through a series of meetings with key community leaders to gain acceptance and support for the proposal.
In the spring of 2020, Franklin County voters, with a 60% majority, approved the bond issue requested by Columbus State Trustees—a mechanism that will generate $300 million new dollars for much-needed improvements to the educational facilities at Columbus State.
Media Relations is a core offering of Steiner Public Relations. The Steiner PR team has decades of experience handling media outreach for many high profile enterprises. As a result, organizations and people often turn to Steiner PR when making a special announcement. One such example is Hillel International. Hillel engaged Steiner PR to globally deliver the message of its new President. Working on an expedited timetable and with a team of consultants in Washington DC, Steiner PR helped garner national and international attention across multiple communications channels.
Key work included media strategy and planning, sourcing multi-media production and distribution and reaching out to key media and opinion leader targets.
Benefits of Shale Development (API)
The Steiner Public Relations team has years of experience creating effective communications strategies for statewide initiatives. The American Petroleum Institute engaged Steiner PR to launch an educational campaign about the economic benefits of shale oil and gas exploration to Ohio.
Steiner PR directed an effort to connect industry leaders with major metropolitan newspapers as well as those in communities where shale development is happening. We also developed and launched an educational website and weekly e-newsletter, and coordinated a grass tops letter-to-the-editor campaign to demonstrate third party support for shale oil and gas development in Ohio.
Higher Priority for Higher Education
For years, public higher education issues were a low priority at the Statehouse. Elevating higher education on the state’s public policy agenda required a sustained effort.
We made direct and consistent contacts with elected officials, editorial boards and opinion leaders to emphasize the contributions of universities to the state’s economy and quality of life. We also focused attention on the growing collaborations among public and private universities and between universities and business.
In addition, we recommended a structural change that would allow the Chancellor to be in a stronger position to articulate the needs of public higher education as a member of the Governor’s Cabinet. House Bill 2, which passed unanimously in the Senate and with only two negative votes in the House, did just that. Higher education has risen on the public policy agenda, the state higher education funding formula has been revised and tuition increases have slowed dramatically.
Construction Law Reform
For decades, Ohio’s public universities complained that state-mandated restrictions on capital construction projects were costly and inefficient. Years of effort with media and policymakers finally broke through the government’s resistance to change. In 2009, we won the opportunity to institute construction reform as a pilot project in association with Ohio State’s billion-dollar Medical Center expansion. Then in 2011, Steiner PR helped finish the job. Our firm worked with the contracting industry and state administration to convince the legislature to permanently apply reforms to all state-associated projects.
PhRMA (Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America)
When the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs began an initiative petition drive to put prescription drug price control legislation before the Ohio General Assembly, we were retained by PhRMA to help manage strategy, execution and communications. The project involved a legal effort to challenge petition signatures. It also included outreach to media and key healthcare stakeholders on the impact of price controls on the development of new drugs. We created a 40-member statewide healthcare access coalition in three months and launched a patient clearinghouse of information about drug assistance programs already offered by the drug industry. Ultimately, these efforts were key to the successful negotiation between the Coalition and PhRMA, which resulted in new legislation and the launch in 2004 of Ohio’s BestRx, a widely available drug discount card program.
Flexible Pavements of Ohio
The asphalt pavement association industry in Ohio retained us to help them maintain their market share of the paving industry and counter an aggressive campaign by the concrete industry to reverse market trends. We organized the roll-out of a next-generation asphalt paving process. “Perpetual Pavement,” by releasing an interactive CD-ROM and video news release, attracting media coverage of roadside news events and garnering follow-up coverage at the regional and national levels. We also produced facts and secured media that emphasized the superiority of asphalt over concrete as a paving material. Flexible Pavements celebrated its 40th anniversary with the achievement of its market goals, while the concrete campaign quietly faded.