Over 200 + bipartisan groups, 4 former Ohio Governors, 5 former Ohio AGs and Ohio Building Trades blasted plan to make it harder to amend constitution. State Senator Theresa Gavarone (R-Bowling Green) co-sponsored SJR2: legislation to make it harder for Ohioans to have a voice to amend the Ohio Constitution. The Ohio State Senate passed SJR2. It now goes to the State House as HJR1. Call your State House Representative to vote NO on HJR1. Link available to contact State Representative to email or leave a message – scripts also available.
Former Governors Bob Taft (R), John Kasich (R), Dick Celeste (D) and Ted Strickland (D), former AGs Richard A. Cordray (D), Lee I. Fisher (D), Betty D. Montgomery (R), James M. Petro (R) and Nancy H. Rogers (R) all come out saying the 60% proposal to make it harder to amend Ohio’s Constitution is bad for Ohio and the General Assembly should not place this proposal on the ballot. If this proposal does end up on the August 2023 Special Election – costing Ohioans another $25 million: “Ohio voters should reject this effort to change a fundamental element of our state constitution that has been in effect for more than 100 years.” Citizen-led amendments represent instances in which Ohio citizens have had a means for amending the constitution to meet our concerns.
Saying no to August: Local elections officials around the state have a clear message for statehouse Republicans: do not schedule an August election after you just got rid of them. Jake Zuckerman reports, after calling boards of elections around the state, that virtually all locals he spoke to from both parties said August elections are a bad idea for a fatigued state elections system.
Ohio Senate Republicans voted Wednesday to place a controversial ballot question before voters in August that, if passed, would make it harder to amend the state constitution.
Under the resolution, known as Senate Joint Resolution 2, Ohio voters would decide if the state should require 60% of the vote to enact proposed amendments, instead of a simple majority of 50% plus one. Separate legislation – HB92 – would create a special August election solely for this issue, just months after lawmakers voted to limit August elections and Governor DeWine signed HB458 into law.
All Republicans supported the resolution, but Sen. Nathan Manning, R-North Ridgeville, was the sole GOP senator to vote no on the election bill.
“I don’t think spending $20 million on a low turnout election was the right decision,” Manning said.
KEY POINTS OF SJR2/HJR1:
- The Ohio Senate voted last week to place a ballot question before voters that, if passed, would require 60% plus one of the vote to enact proposed amendments, instead of 50% plus one. In addition, it would require all 88 counties to gather a percentage of registered voters signatures on a petition, instead of the current 44 counties.
- The debate comes as advocates collect signatures on a proposed November ballot question to enshrine abortion access in Ohio.
- The Ohio House still needs to consider the resolution (SJR2/HJR1) and election bill (HB92), and it’s unclear whether there’s enough Republican support.
- At the end of the House Constitutional Resolutions Committee hearing, 7 of the 8 republicans on the committee voted in favor of SJR2/HJR1.
- Speaker Jason Stephens has canceled the May 3drd session; the vote has been delayed – again.
- To have an August 2, 2023 Special Election with the only issue on the ballot being SJR2/HJR1, the House must pass the legislation no later than May 10, 2023.
The debate over the constitution comes as advocates collect signatures on a proposed amendment for the November ballot that would expand abortion access in Ohio. Proponents say raising the voter threshold will keep special interests from co-opting the constitution, often citing a 2009 ballot initiative that established casinos in Ohio.
The resolution, itself a proposed amendment, would require petitioners to get signatures of support from all 88 Ohio counties, instead of just half. It also eliminates a rule that gives petitioners 10 days to gather more signatures if the secretary of state determines any are invalid.
“The constitution is not meant to be a policy document,” State Senator Rob McColley, R-Napoleon. “The constitution is meant to inform us as to how the government is supposed to be run and to enshrine rights for all Ohioans.”
Democrats called the measure undemocratic and arrogant and believe it will erode the ability of Ohioans to make their voices heard. Critics have also noted that Republicans, including Secretary of State Frank LaRose, advocated for the law to limit August elections because of cost and low turnout.
“At face value, this sounds pretty good. Who wouldn’t want to curtail the power of rogue politicians, of special interest groups?” Senate Minority Leader Nickie Antonio, D-Lakewood, said. “I think we could all agree we would certainly want to stop those kinds of nefarious activities from going on. But I still don’t believe, after listening to the debate, that this is the way forward.”
What happens next?
Now, all eyes are on the Ohio House.
They must take up both the resolution and the election bill, and the resolution needs support from 60 members, which is a supermajority. The proposed amendment does not require Gov. Mike DeWine’s support, but he’ll need to sign off on the August election.
An Ohio House committee passed its version of the resolution Wednesday despite opposition from one Republican and all Democrats on the panel. The committee’s chairman, Rep. Phil Plummer, R-Dayton, stopped public comment after three hours and called for the vote, even though several people didn’t get the chance to testify.
The move prompted chants of “Shame!” from the audience.
“To force this to a vote in a way that you are doing is undemocratic, it is unfair, and frankly it is a slap in the face not only to democracy, but to the people who we represent and the people who have taken the time to come to this statehouse and have their voice heard,” Minority Leader Allison Russo, D-Upper Arlington, said. “This is absolutely outrageous.”
Andrea Yagoda said she waited over three hours to testify but never got the chance.
“What we’re seeing today is why we need citizens initiative,” she said. “They don’t want to hear from us. They don’t need to hear from us. There’s no accountability because they gerrymandered themselves a supermajority.”
The clock is ticking. LaRose recently told legislative leaders that election officials need 90 days to prepare, putting the deadline at May 10.
But it’s unclear whether the proposal has enough GOP support to clear the House. Rep. Brett Hillyer, the only Republican to oppose Wednesday’s committee vote, said the measure still needs work. And House Speaker Jason Stephens, R-Kitts Hill, didn’t commit to a date for the House vote.
“You want to make sure you have the votes before you put something like that on the floor,” Stephens said. “There’s a lot of counting noses going on.”
USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau reporter Jessie Balmert contributed.
Haley BeMiller is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau,
which serves the Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Akron Beacon Journal
and 18 other affiliated news organizations across Ohio.