Cupp is ‘doubtful’ change to Ohio constitutional amendments passes this year
House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) is “doubtful” a resolution that requires a ballot issue to receive 60% of the vote to amend the constitution will get a vote out of the House before the end of the year.
The measure, HJR6, seeks to raise the threshold for constitutional amendments. It would require every ballot measure to receive a three-fifths supermajority in order to insert new language into the Ohio constitution.
Republican backers said they want the change to prevent outside special interest groups from coming to Ohio and pumping millions of dollars into an initiative that could carve a beneficial deal into the constitution. They used the 2009 ballot measure to allow for casinos as an example.
Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a Republican, was a vocal supporter of the resolution. He rolled out the proposal during a press conference just a week after the November General Election.
Opponents of the resolution took their message to lawmakers in a unique way Tuesday.
Members of 175 different groups lined the halls of the Ohio Statehouse and, one by one, they walked up to a receptacle made to resemble a drop box, held up a sign showing the number of Ohioans their groups represent, then deposited it into the makeshift ballot box.
Jen Miller, League of Women Voters of Ohio executive director, said it’s meant to show lawmakers there are thousands of voters who don’t like the resolution being considered.
“The ballot issue process is not easy nor is it overused," said Miller.
Miller said, since 1950, only 10 of 44 ballot measures have passed.
She said the ballot initiative process is one way voters can hold lawmakers accountable and is even more important now that the Ohio Legislature has been installed using redistricting maps that have been repeatedly ruled unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court.
Reverend Jack Sullivan Jr. with the Ohio Council of Churches said this resolution being considered is inherently unfair because it allows the minority to rule over the majority.
“There’s a clear and present impediment to the Democratic process as it would permit 40% of Ohioans to block a good idea from being approved and thus give more power to that 40% than to the overwhelming majority who supports it,” Sullivan said.
The resolution seemed to have momentum after getting a vote out of committee Monday. But Cupp said Republican caucus members having lingering questions about the issue.
“Members have a lot of different opinions about it and some are trying to figure it out. So at this point, I don't see any need for it,” said Cupp.
Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) was also a staunch supporter of the measure. He said the resolution has enough votes in the Senate if it were to pass the House.
But time is a factor. The House and Senate plan to finish their legislative work this week and end session for the year.