Ohio House Joint Resolution Amended to Include Increasing Threshold to Legislative Ballot Initiatives

The Committee of Government Oversight amended a resolution Thursday to require all proposed ballot issues to receive 60 percent of the vote in order to amend the state constitution, not just citizen-led amendments.

State Representative Brian Stewart (R-Ashville) requested the committee to adopt an amendment to his resolution, House Joint Resolution (HJR) 6, to include legislative ballot initiatives to also require 60 percent of the vote on Election Day in order to be enacted.

“I think if we’re gonna go to the ballot it’s just frankly a simpler argument to say 60 percent across the board and so that was actually a change I requested and I appreciate the chairman for getting it added promptly today,” Stewart said.

The original proposal only changed the threshold for citizen initiatives. Stewart said he started with just citizen-led initiatives because legislative-led initiatives must receive a three-fifths majority in the House and Senate for lawmakers to place them on the ballot.

Republican Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose is a vocal supporter of the resolution. According to LaRose, lawmakers design state constitutions to serve as a “statement of basic principles and highest laws of a state.” Instead, because of the ease of amending Ohio’s founding document, the Ohio Constitution has become a tool used by special interests to change our form of government to their liking permanently.

“If a special interest group can’t afford to pay, you know, million dollars to hire people with clipboards. They can afford to pay a million and a half dollars to hire more people with more clipboards,” LaRose said.

Opponents say this resolution is politically motivated to block future controversial citizen-led ballot issues.

Common Cause Ohio, among a group of 140 voter rights and left-leaning organizations, has sent a letter to LaRose, House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima), and Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) asking them to halt their efforts to pass the resolution.

“This is not a good-government reform. Making the ballot initiative process even harder for citizen groups will have the opposite of the desired effect. It will make it almost impossible for anyone except big money special interests to successfully pass a ballot initiative in Ohio,” the letter reads.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Ohio is one of 18 states where citizens can attempt to amend the state constitution through an “initiated amendment,” though Mississippi’s supreme court has invalidated its law. The Virgin Islands also allow for an initiated constitutional amendment.

“We aren’t trying to make amending the constitution impossible we are simply trying to require that you in a diverse state of 11 plus million people that you get more than 50 percent of the 25 percent that might show up to vote,” Stewart said.

The resolution would have to pass the State House and State Senate with a three-fifths majority by the end of the year to put it on the May 2023 ballot.

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Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Brian Stewart” by The Ohio House of Representatives. Background Photo “Election Day 2022” by Phil Roeder. CC BY 2.0.

 

 

 

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