Ohio constitution overhaul faces deadline, backlash

May 8, 2023, 11:05 PM

Members of the Ohio House Constitutional Resolutions Committee hear opponent testimony Tuesday, May...

Members of the Ohio House Constitutional Resolutions Committee hear opponent testimony Tuesday, May 2, 2023, at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio, on a resolution that would seek voter approval for requiring a 60% supermajority vote on all future amendments to the Ohio Constitution. (AP Photo/Julie Carr Smyth)

(AP Photo/Julie Carr Smyth)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — An effort by a Republican faction in Ohio to make it harder to change the politically fractured Ohio House where the undertaking has so far stalled.

Wednesday is the last day to get the job done if lawmakers mean to put a related ballot measure before voters on Aug. 8, according to the timeline determined by Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose, the state’s elections chief. However, scenarios could emerge among the plan’s anxious GOP backers to blow past the cutoff without the plan’s proponents relenting.

The conflict comes amid similar Republican efforts to restrict direct democracy in Missouri, North Dakota and Mississippi, according to Fairness Project, a Washington-based group that pushes ballot measures across the U.S.

In Ohio, a escalate.

Potentially at stake are the vaccine mandates. All are subjects of burgeoning constitutional amendment campaigns.

All eyes are on the House, which has yet to vote on a proposal to require 60% of the Ohio electorate to pass all future constitutional changes. Passage of the proposal, ironically, would require merely the same 50%-plus-one simple majority that has been in place since 1912.

Abortion is legal in Ohio up to 20 weeks’ gestation because a working to put forward a ballot measure in November that would permanently enshrine a right to abortion in the state constitution.

Certain GOP lawmakers are working to set a special election in August where voters could choose to curtail their own rights to bypass lawmakers on that and other subjects. Its backers argue publicly that the supermajority requirement will prevent deep-pocketed interest groups from targeting Ohio’s founding document, but documents and other evidence have made clear that the push is aimed at tanking the abortion measure. AP VoteCast, an expansive survey of over 90,000 midterm election voters across the country, found 59% of Ohio voters say abortion should generally be legal.

So excruciating, convoluted and time-consuming has been an election bill he just signed in January — if lawmakers would just get it to his desk.

“This just needs to move forward and be over with,” he recently told reporters, “so we can be more focused on the state.”

Every day seems to bring another round of gamesmanship so complex that even those well versed in legislative rules are challenged to keep up. Can a chair really participate in an effort to defy his own committee? (Answer: The chair got the boot.) How many House votes are actually needed to send the 60% question to voters, given one lawmaker has died since the last election and another left for a new job? (Answer: Depends who you ask.)

The latest example was a proposal to cut $20 million in funding for local election boards from legislation setting the August special election. For arcane procedural reasons, stripping the funding would have simplified the bill’s trip to the House floor — though it also might have left already stressed local election offices without money to pay for the extra election. After days of behind-the-scenes wrangling, two committee hearings were canceled and the bill went nowhere.

Without the money, the legislation technically may not be needed. Both the House and Senate resolutions advancing the 60% question to the ballot have the Aug. 8 election embedded in their wording. Such lawmaker-initiated ballot issues bypass the governor and go straight to the ballot.

Some of the state’s most powerful anti-abortion and pro-gun rights groups — including Ohio Right to Life and the Buckeye Firearms Association — have tried to push the two measures through by linking the complicated web of related votes to their election-season scorecards. That means voting “no” on either measure threatens a Republican lawmaker’s important “pro-life” and “pro-gun” voting records. Gun groups are involved because they fear a future constitutional amendment on gun control.

Besides that effort, the newly formed Save Our Constitution PAC is running attack ads against Republican House Speaker Jason Stephens and allied GOP lawmakers who have balked at one or both elements of the plan. The political action committee received $1.1 million from billionaire Richard Uihlein, a GOP megadonor from Illinois, an heir to the Schlitz Brewing Co. fortune and the PAC’s only donor so far, The Columbus Dispatch argument among its proponents has been to keep “out-of-state special interests” from accessing Ohio’s founding document.

The campaign against raising the constitutional amendment threshold has grown to include every living former state attorneys general and the Ohio Libertarian Party. A large bipartisan coalition of grassroots voting rights, labor, police, faith, civil rights and community organizations staged a protest last week, featuring hundreds of protesters marching around the Statehouse. They plan to return Wednesday.

LaRose, the highest-profile supporter of the supermajority threshold and a potential 2024 U.S. Senate candidate, says Wednesday is the deadline for legislative action. That’s once state legal and constitutional requirements are applied to the envisioned August 8 election date, his spokesperson said.

Even Republican Senate President Matt Huffman, who also supports raising the threshold and spearheaded the August election idea, said last week that he cannot predict the House. “I really don’t know what’s going to happen,” he told reporters.

United States News

FiLE - Linda Jincks and her husband Rodger talk with driller Shane Harris as his crew drills a new ...

Associated Press

Oregon to crack down on illegal pot growers by holding landowners responsible

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon has long been known as a mecca for high-quality marijuana, but that reputation has come with a downside: illegal growers who offer huge amounts of cash to lease or buy land and then leave behind pollution, garbage and a drained water table. Now, a bill passed by the Oregon Legislature […]

22 hours ago

A passenger rides a mostly empty Muni streetcar in San Francisco, Tuesday, June 6, 2023. California...

Associated Press

Car-obsessed California seeks to follow New York’s lead and save public transit

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Sadaf Zahoor has bucked California’s car culture by never owning one, yet she and other residents who rely on public transit worry its bleak financial outlook could soon leave them standing at empty train stations and bus stops. The agencies running the public transit systems, particularly in San Francisco and Oakland, […]

22 hours ago

FILE - African Methodist Episcopal Church Bishop Reginald Jackson announces a boycott of Coca-Cola ...

Associated Press

Supreme Court voting rights ruling stuns minority voters, who hope it expands their representation

WASHINGTON (AP) — This week’s Supreme Court decision ordering Alabama to redraw its congressional districts was seen by many minority lawmakers and voting rights activists as a stunning victory with the potential to become a major stepping stone for undoing political maps that dilute the strength of communities of color. Hank Sanders, a former Alabama […]

22 hours ago

Associated Press

Delayed justice: 3 states remove all time limits on child sex abuse lawsuits

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Ann Allen loved going to church and the after-school social group led by a dynamic priest back in the 1960s. The giggling fun with friends always ended with a game of hide and seek. Each week, the Rev. Lawrence Sabatino chose one girl to hide with him. Allen said when it […]

22 hours ago

FILE - Bryan Kohberger enters the courtroom for his arraignment hearing in Latah County District Co...

Associated Press

Judge weighs challenge to gag order in University of Idaho killings

A judge overseeing the case against Bryan Kohberger, charged with killing four University of Idaho students last fall, is set to hear arguments Friday over a gag order that largely bars attorneys and other parties in the case from speaking with news reporters. A coalition of more than 30 media organizations has challenged the order, […]

22 hours ago

FILE - House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of Calif., speaks at a news conference after the House passed t...

Associated Press

Speaker McCarthy eyes new commission to tackle nation’s debt, but many Democrats are wary

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is studying the history books and considering the appointment of a mix of lawmakers and business leaders as he lays the groundwork for a new commission to tackle the nation’s growing debt. McCarthy is fresh off his biggest political victory since becoming speaker in January. He got the […]

22 hours ago

Sponsored Articles



Why drug-free weight loss still matters

Wanting to lose weight is a common goal for many people as they progress throughout life, but choosing between a holistic approach or to take medicine can be a tough decision.


OCD & Anxiety Treatment Center

How to identify the symptoms of 3 common anxiety disorders

Living with an anxiety disorder can be debilitating and cause significant stress for those who suffer from the condition.

(Photo by Michael Matthey/picture alliance via Getty Images)...

Cox Communications

Valley Boys & Girls Club uses esports to help kids make healthy choices

KTAR’s Community Spotlight focuses on the Boys & Girls Club of the Valley and the work to incorporate esports into children's lives.

Ohio constitution overhaul faces deadline, backlash