(Columbus, OH)—Today, Rachael Belz, CEO of Ohio Citizen Action, issued the following statement in response to the 26-7 passage of Senate Joint Resolution 2 on the floor of the Ohio Senate:
“Since 1912, Ohioans from across the political spectrum have utilized the right to amend our Constitution via the petition process. We have the power of citizen-led constitutional amendments, initiated statutes, and referenda. These tools of direct democracy equip us with the ability to check the power of our state government. They should never be taken for granted or seen as tactics that can be modified on a whim.
Yet, under the guise of good-government reform, members of the Ohio Senate voted today to pass Senate Joint Resolution 2, a proposed Constitutional Amendment to increase the percentage of the vote required to pass a Constitutional ballot initiative from a simple majority to 60 percent. In addition, SJR 2 would create further hurdles to Ohioans changing or creating their own laws by making it even more difficult to place issues on the ballot through petition signature collection. The proposal would require a percentage of signatures to come from all 88 Ohio counties rather than the current 44 county requirement. It would also eliminate the 10-day "cure period" for petitioners to make up deficits in any counties where the number of valid signatures might fall short.
It has been repeatedly suggested by members of the General Assembly that this Resolution is necessary to put a stop to the influence of special interest groups to “disturb” the Ohio Constitution. Making the ballot initiative process even harder for citizen groups to access will have the opposite of this stated desired effect. It will make it almost impossible for anyone except special interests with deep pockets to successfully pass a ballot initiative in Ohio. Special interests do not need ballot initiatives to forward their agendas, House Bill 6 proved that to us. But citizens need a way to take action when our lawmakers won’t act in our best interests.
Many have said that SJR 2 is a solution in search of a problem. But supporters of the Resolution do see a problem. Their proposed policies are out of step with what Ohioans want. When you struggle to control the agenda, you must change the rules—even to the detriment of the basic rights of Ohioans.
Why else would lawmakers not only propose increasing the threshold necessary to pass a Constitutional Amendment but also making it more difficult to even get those issues on the ballot for consideration? This either reflects a lack of trust in Ohio voters to understand issues or a disingenuous argument meant to distract from the real motivation behind SJR 2 – a blatant attempt to control both the policy agenda and the process of direct democracy. There are simply no other reasons for it.
In addition to SJR 2, the Senate today passed Senate Bill 92, legislation authorizing an August election specifically to consider SJR 2. If the measure were to pass during an August special election, it would be in place for the November 2023 statewide election where the Ohio Reproductive Freedom Amendment is likely to be on the ballot. Ohio lawmakers are playing fast and loose with $20 million of our taxpayer money to give them an advantage in defeating an amendment designed to guarantee reproductive freedom to Ohioans. Apparently, in Ohio, if your political priorities don’t reflect the will of the people, just change the rules to suit your agenda.
The House Constitutional Resolutions Committee today also reported out companion measure HRJ 1. Ohio House members will now have the opportunity to vote on this issue as SJR 2 makes its way to that chamber. We see no justifiable reason, after over 100 years, to suddenly make this already challenging process even harder. Supporters of this resolution assert that our Constitution should be protected from the whims of those who want to change it for their own benefit and gain. Yet this is exactly what Ohio lawmakers are doing with SJR 2.”