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Ballot Access Group Says Referendum Roadblock Reflects National Trend

Dan Konik

A national group that advocates for citizens' access to the ballot is urging Ohio officials to not stand in the way of a potential referendum issue, it would ask voters to reject the new energy law that bails out nuclear power and subsidizes coal and solar. 

Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts, opponents of the new laws implemented through HB6, want voters to reject the measure but are facing roadblocks in getting it to the ballot. The Ballot Initiative Strategy Center says that’s part of a larger trend.

Chris Melody Fields Figueredo, BISC executive director, says state legislatures have introduced more than 120 bills that make it harder to put issues on the ballot and harder to pass them.

"That is your voice, it's actually an opportunity for people to say what they want for their families, for their communities. It's so important to have a democracy that thrives, it's supposed to represent us," says Fields.

The referendum group is rewriting its language after the attorney general rejected the first draft, which isn’t unusual for a first try. But a law firm argues that the subsidies are a tax increase, which would not be allowed on the ballot.

HB6 created up to $2.35 in new charges on monthly electric bills. Of those new fees, $0.85 a month will be collected to generate $170 million, $150 million of which will go to nuclear power plants, which allows them to avoid shutting down. The new law also allows utilities to charge up to $1.50 a month to subsidize two coal plants owned by the Ohio Valley Electric Corporation.

Supporters of HB6, such as Gov. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio), said it was important to retain the non-carbon emitting energy generation that comes from the state's two nuclear power plants. FirstEnergy Solutions owns the Davis-Besse and Perry plants, which make up 15% of the state's energy generation. 

However, opponents fought the bill saying it was an unfair bailout for FirstEnergy Solutions and that it props up OVEC's struggling coal plants, Kyger Creek Plant (Gallia Co.) and Clifty Creek Plant (Madison, IN). Environmental advocates also fought the provisions that weakened the state's renewable energy standards and eliminated the efficiency standards altogether. 

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