Ohio Republicans change resolution to make it harder to pass future constitutional amendments
Up to now, the Ohio Senate's proposed resolution to make it harder to pass constitutional amendments has been less restrictive than the House version. But members of the Ohio Senate General Government Committee have approved a change to that body's resolution.
Sen. Rob McColley (R-Napoleon) said the changes “harmonize” the Senate version of the resolution to make it more in line with the one being considered in the House Constitutional Resolutions Committee. He said now both the House and Senate versions would require a 60% passage rate on future constitutional amendments, require petition signatures from all 88 counties, and eliminate the period of time to gather more signatures to "cure" petitions if they fall short.
But McColley said parts of the amendment that affects signature gathering rules would go into effect on January 1, 2024 – after voters are likely to decide an expected ballot issue this November that could enshrine abortion rights into the state constitution.
“This would, in large part, be because we don’t want to violate or create any retroactivity argument on the signatures or the petitions that have already cleared to gather signatures for the constitutional amendment,” McColley said.
Many Republican state lawmakers say they want a 60% passage rate for constitutional amendments instead of the current simple majority of 50% plus one. The reason commonly given is to keep "special interests" out of the state constitution. But Sen. Bill DeMora (D-Columbus) said this resolution would do the opposite.
“Having to get all 88 counties is going to make more money involved. People who want to change the constitution are going to spend more and more money and now they will spend more money to get more signatures to get all of the counties,” Demora said. “So if we are trying to get big money out of this, instead of expanding it to 88 counties, why wouldn’t we put prohibitions on how the money is raised or how much they can spend it which I think the legislature could do if it wanted to do, could pass rules like that, but making it tougher for ordinary citizens and making it more expensive.”
He added: “I don’t think, at least from testimony I’ve heard from here, the last committee we had on this bill and everything else about taking big money out of this, I think this adds to the problem of having big money.”
Both the House and Senate committees heard from people who testified for and against the bill - though far more groups oppose it. Some supporters said it was crucial to put it on an August special ballot so the 60% provision would apply to the possible abortion rights vote in November.
Secretary of State Frank LaRose has said lawmakers would need to pass the resolution by May 10 to make that happen.
Lawmakers would also need to pass a companion bill that would create a special August election for a vote on changes to the constitutional amendment process. In December, Republican lawmakers passed a law to eliminate August special elections, saying they were too expensive, too confusing and had low voter turnout. But before that law went into effect earlier this month, many of those same lawmakers have signaled they support re-creating August special elections for situations including voting on constitutional amendments proposed by lawmakers.