Republicans try to go around Ohio speaker to force vote on constitutional amendment plan
Some Republicans in the Ohio House are going around the leader of that body to try to force a floor vote on the resolution that would ask voters to make it harder to pass constitutional amendments.
Republican Rep. Derek Merrin (R-Monclova) said he believes there is enough support among his party’s members for the discharge petition to force the floor vote.
“We believe this is a very important issue and it deserves a vote and a hearing," Merrin said.
Merrin said this is a way to go around House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill), who’s shown no signs of wanting to fast-track the idea. Merrin, who lost the vote for speaker to Stephens earlier this year, said he’s optimistic a majority of House members will approve this resolution if it makes it to the floor.
"Unfortunately our speaker has, three times, has helped stop this from going to the ballot. He's helped stop it in December. He helped scuttle it in January. And he said he opposes it for the August election. So we have worked the process for many months and we are going to try to get the majority of the members of the House to bring this to the floor and to put this to the voters," Merrin said.
If this discharge petition forces the resolution to the floor in the coming weeks, Ohio lawmakers would still need to pass another bill in the House that's just been introduced that would create a special August election statewide for voters to weigh in on the issue.
Just moments before the discharge petition was filed this afternoon, Stephens explained he opposes an August election because he and other lawmakers just months voted for a new law that goes into effect April 7 that bans special August elections. But Stephens said Wednesday there is a possibility there could be one.
"I think, however, you know, the legislature does set the date and time and place of the elections. So, you know that that is always a possibility," Stephens said.
After the discharge petition was filed, Stephens noted the resolution hasn't had enough support to pass out of the committee considering it.
"HJR1 has been in the Constitutional Resolutions Committee for a month and a half, and it has only had one hearing," Stephens said.
The head of that special committee hearing the bill is Rep Scott Wiggam (R-Wayne County), a Republican who supported Merrin in his bid for House Speaker earlier this year. The committee has had the bill for a month now. And during that time, it has had one hearing with only testimony from the sponsor of the bill.
Republicans who support this resolution say they want it on the ballot in August, before the November election. Polls show the proposed abortion amendment would be harder to pass if a 60% threshold is needed.
Democrats have been adamantly opposed to the 60% voter approval idea, saying it’s already hard to amend the constitution, and making it harder takes away the power of voters whose voices have been diminished because of unconstitutional gerrymandering. House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington), who along with all of the Democrats in that chamber supported Stephens as speaker, blasted those behind the discharge petition.
“By ramming this undemocratic, unpopular, and unfair resolution through the process without public input, some House Republicans are, once again, orchestrating a direct attack on the fundamental freedom to make decisions that affect our lives,” said Russo.
Those who back the resolution say it's needed to keep "special interests" out of Ohio's constitution. Russo said it is special interests that are driving the effort to make it harder for citizens to amend the constitution.
“Ohioans deserve to know the truth that there are some out-of-touch, extremist politicians who are beholden to special interest groups behind this petition. They will do whatever it takes, including rewriting the rules, so they can get what they want instead of what the people of Ohio want," Russo said.