Feud could be a factor as Republicans try to make it harder to amend the Ohio constitution
There's a question around the Statehouse for which an answer seems elusive - would Republican members of the Ohio House who are trying to pass a resolution to make it harder to pass amendments need 59 or 60 votes to send it to the ballot?
Since the beginning of this year, there’s been friction between Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) and Republican Caucus Leader Derek Merrin (R-Monclova Township). Merrin lost the bid for speaker to Stephens who enlisted the help of Democrats in getting elected to that position.
Since that time, the allegiances of Republican members have been divided between Merrin and Stephens. It's made it challenging at times to govern. And one of the things that hasn’t been happening is the filling of two vacant seats. Former Rep. Brian Baldridge (R-Winchester) was named director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture in January, and Rep. Kris Jordan (R-Ostrander) passed away in February.
Some lawmakers say those two empty seats mean 59, not 60, votes are needed to pass the controversial resolution. A separate bill would create an August election for voters to decide it. That bill only needs a simple majority and the signature of Gov. Mike DeWine, who says he will sign it.
Steve Steinglass, dean emeritus of the Cleveland State University College of Law, said he doesn't know if backers of the plan need 59 or 60 votes, and he says it would be hard to get a definitive answer on it because the situation is pretty rare.
“These days we have what appears to be a fairly dysfunctional operation in the General Assembly so the seats aren’t being filled so that could change the mathematics," Steinglass said.
The resolution has passed in the Senate, but is still in a House committee and hasn’t come up for a vote on the House floor yet. Lawmakers in House must pass it and the August special election bill by May 10, to get the issue in front of voters this summer, ahead of a planned November vote to put abortion access and reproductive rights in the Ohio constitution.