Ohio Farmer Sues After Lake Erie Bill of Rights Easily Passes

Toledo voters overwhelmingly approved of the controversial Lake Erie Bill of Rights during a special election Tuesday night, but a local former has already filed a lawsuit against it.

According to the Toledo Blade, voters approved of the referendum by a 61-39 margin. As The Ohio Star reported Tuesday, the measure extends legal rights guaranteed under the Ohio State Constitution to the body of water.

“Since all power of governance is inherent in the people, we, the people of the City of Toledo, declare and enact this Lake Erie Bill of Rights, which establishes irrevocable rights for the Lake Erie Ecosystem to exist, flourish and naturally evolve,” the referendum states.

University of Toledo law professor Ken Kilbert called the referendum “unprecedented,” but predicted that it “may well suffer the fate of defeat in the court.”

On Wednesday morning, not even 24 hours after the referendum passed, Wood County farmer Mark Drewes filed suit against the Lake Erie Bill of Rights. The lawsuit argues that the Lake Erie Bill of Rights “violates federal constitutional rights, including equal protection, freedom of speech, and is unenforceable for its vagueness,” according to a press release from the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation.

“Mark’s farm is an example of the right way of doing things,” said Adam Sharp, executive vice president of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation. “He’s employing a variety of conservation practices, water monitoring systems, water control structures and uses variable rate enabled equipment and yet he’s vulnerable to frivolous lawsuits. We are proud that our member has stood up against this overreach, and his efforts will benefit all Farm Bureau members, farmers and protect jobs in Ohio.”

Drewes is represented by the law firm Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP. Thomas Fusonie, a partner with the law firm and legal counsel for Drewes, called the referendum an “unconstitutional and unlawful assault on the fundamental rights of family farms in the Lake Erie Watershed—like the Drewes’ fifth-generation family farm.”

“The lawsuit seeks to protect the Drewes’ family farm from this unconstitutional assault,” he added.

Along with the lawsuit, Drewes’ lawyers submit a request for preliminary and permanent injunction, which would prevent enforcement of the bill.

“Farmers want and are working toward improving water quality, but this new Toledo law hurts those efforts,” Sharp added. “Mark Drewes understand this, and it’s Farm Bureau’s job to back his important actions on behalf of Ohio farmers.”

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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].








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