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Ohio House passes resolution to require 60-percent constitutional amendment threshold

The Highland County Press - Staff Photo - Create Article
Protestors packed the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio on Wednesday as the House took up a resolution that could potentially change how citizens can amendment the state constitution. (Photo courtesy of Ohio Rep. Anita Somali’s, D-Dublin, Twitter account.)

By J.D. Davidson
The Center Square

The Ohio House passed by two votes legislation Wednesday that would make it more difficult for citizens to change the state’s constitution while protestors packed the House gallery and statehouse rotunda before and during the vote.

Voters will get a chance Aug. 8 to reject or approve the proposed constitutional amendment that would require a 60% vote of the people to pass any citizen-led constitutional amendment.

Needing 60 votes to pass and after a long debate interrupted by protesters inside the House chamber that forced the gallery to be cleared and the live stream cut off, the House voted 62-37 for the resolution.

After the House Rules and Reference Committee on Tuesday removed language from the resolution that called for an Aug. 8 special election, Republican supporters offered an amendment putting it back in place that passed 56-42. The other option was to wait until the November general election.

Bob Patterson, R-Sabina, told House members the House would budget the additional $20 million of taxpayer money needed for the special election.

Following that vote, House Speaker Jason Stephens, R-Kitts Hill, asked the sergeant of arms to remove the gallery, which began chanting “one person, one vote,” causing the House to briefly recess.

Protestors remained in the halls and rotunda outside the chamber, chanting “we vote no” and other things as the debate resumed.

Rep. Brian Stewart, R-Ashville, said from the House floor the state constitution has been amended 172 times and contains 67,000 words. He also said 14 of the 21 constitutional amendments that have passed recently have done so by a 60% or more vote.

“Ohio’s constitution has become far too susceptible to outside groups. It is time for reform. Putting this issue in front of Ohioans, that is Democratic,” Ashville said.

Rep. Bride Rose Sweeney, D-Westlake, said the resolution removes power from the people of Ohio, who established the amendment threshold by a vote in 1912.

“What I hear is [supporters] do not trust the people of this state. They do not trust the people who give them their power. This resolution is so unpopular and so unfair it has drawn opposition from all former living governors and attorney generals,” Sweeney said.

Rep. Richard Brown, D-Canal Winchester, called the potential change minority rule, allowing 40.1% of the people to control possible constitutional amendments.

Secretary of State Frank LaRose told legislative leaders the deadline to pass the resolution for a possible Aug. 8 election was Wednesday. The Senate passed its version in early April that called for an August election.

Late last year, lawmakers approved and Gov. Mike DeWine signed into law a bill that ended August special elections. That vote came around the same time a similar attempt to change the vote requirement for constitutional amendments failed.

However, the potential November vote on a constitutional amendment that would add a right to abortion in the state constitution pushed lawmakers to reinstate an August special election.

Currently, a constitutional amendment needs a 50%-plus-one majority to pass. The proposal to change to 60% would only need a simple majority to pass.

As previously reported by The Center Square, the House was slowed by GOP controversy that included an attempt to bypass the committee process and removal of the committee chairman.

It passed the committee on a 7-6 vote, with seven of its eight Republicans voting to move it to the entire House. Rep. Brett Hudson Hillyer, R-Uhrichsville, was the only Republican to vote with the committee’s Democrats.

Two other citizen-driven proposed amendment are working their way through the process to make it to the ballot. One would legalize recreational marijuana, while the other would raise the minimum wage. The marijuana vote likely would not take place this year.


Jim Thompson (not verified)

11 May 2023

If you want to see the result of easy constitutional change, look at California.

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