Ohio Republicans introduced a new resolution on Thursday that would require citizen-led constitutional amendments to gain a 60 percent supermajority at the ballot for passage.
Secretary of State Frank LaRose and State Representative Brian Stewart (R-Ashville) initiated the “Ohio Constitution Protection Amendment,” which they say is designed to help protect the Ohio Constitution from continued misuse by special interest and out-of-state activists.
The pair announced their plans at a news conference on Thursday, to push the proposal through the legislature by the end of this calendar year. If they succeed voters would decide in May whether to adopt the change.
“The Ohio Constitution is supposed to serve as a framework of our state government, not as a tool for special interests. Requiring a broad consensus majority of at least 60% for passing a petition-based constitutional amendment provides a good government solution to promote compromise and to have a historically proven record of passage,” LaRose said.
According to LaRose, there are two ways to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot. One way is through the General Assembly. The General Assembly requires a supermajority of 60 percent consensus in each chamber of the legislature. Once that threshold has been met, voters have to approve those measures by a simple majority of 50 percent.
The other way to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot is through a citizen-led initiative. The proposed changes introduced would not change the signature threshold that groups have to meet in order to place a question for voters on the ballot. However, it would require petition-based amendments to pass with 60% of the vote, instead of a simple majority. A simple majority is 50 percent plus one vote.
“Requiring a 60% supermajority for the passage of a constitutional amendment is a win for good government because it restores the power of popular majorities, bipartisan consensuses and deciding the enormous importance of questions such as amending our state’s constitution,” LaRose said.
The pair believe that the Constitution has been far “too susceptible” to “special interest groups.” According to LaRose, state constitutions are designed 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 permanently change our form of government to their liking.
“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.
Democrats called the resolution a “power grab.”
“Once again, Republicans want to change the rules to increase their own stranglehold on power. This is an attempt to erase the voices of Ohio voters and intentionally create barriers between citizens and their democracy.” House Democratic Leader Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) said in a press release.
LaRose and Stewart rejected the notion that their approach is unfair as lawmakers have to meet a supermajority benchmark too.
“I will tell you this is an idea that I’ve kicked around for a long time, and there’s no time like the present to make a good government improvement to our state system here in Ohio,” LaRose said.
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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 “Frank LaRose” by Frank LaRose. Photo “Brian Stewart” by Brian Stewart, State Representative. Background Photo “Ohio State Capitol” by Jim Bowen. CC BY 2.0.