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After bipartisan backlash, Ohio GOP tweaks legislation that makes it harder to amend Constitution

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After bipartisan backlash, Ohio GOP tweaks legislation that makes it harder to amend Constitution

Dec 02, 2022 | 4:55 am ET
By Morgan Trau
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After bipartisan backlash, Ohio GOP tweaks legislation that makes it harder to amend Constitution
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Ballot petition signature collection. Photo by WEWS.

The following article was originally published on News5Cleveland.com and is published in the Ohio Capital Journal under a content-sharing agreement. Unlike other OCJ articles, it is not available for free republication by other news outlets as it is owned by WEWS in Cleveland.

 

The resolution to make it harder for voters to amend the Ohio Constitution got an update Thursday after facing immense backlash from advocacy, union and religious groups on each side.

The process to get an issue on the ballot is a long one, requiring hundreds of thousands of dollars and signatures from all over the state.

“It, frankly, should be a bit more difficult,” state Rep. Brian Stewart (R-Ashville) said.

Stewart put forward the “Ohio Constitution Protection Amendment,” which is “designed to help protect the Ohio Constitution from continued abuse by special interests and out-of-state activists.”

In the last few weeks, before the current session is finished, Stewart introduced and had the first hearing on a proposed ballot initiative, one that would require citizen-led petitions to receive a 60% supermajority vote instead of the simple 50 plus one majority vote.

RELATED: Ohio Republicans introduce legislation to make it more difficult for citizens to amend Constitution

“Certain interest groups raise money around the country to go fund ballot initiatives and try to see what they can get done and individual states,” the lawmaker said.

More than 140 bipartisan groups argue that isn’t true — fighting against the resolution.

“They say this is about stopping special interests. But the only folks that will have the ability to do an initiative to get to 60% are the truly wealthy,” Catherine Turcer with Common Cause Ohio said.

Money is the most important aspect when it comes to getting a message across to the largest audience, she added.

One of the biggest points of concern for her and other organizations was that the proposal only applied to citizen-led initiatives. After receiving feedback, the amendment was changed to also require 60% support for lawmaker-led issues.

“I think if we’re gonna go to the ballot, it’s just frankly a simpler argument to say 60% across the board,” Stewart said.

Turcer and other advocates were glad to see this change.

But the timing of it was suspicious for many democratic organizations, like the ACLU of Ohio and Pro-Choice Ohio, whose leaders wonder if abortion and redistricting amendments in the works had anything to do with this.

“We’re not gonna be able to control conspiracy theory or, you know, folks that want to imply, you know, impure motives to everything that we do here,” Stewart said.

He believes he has the support for the legislation to move quickly and pass before the year ends.

Follow WEWS statehouse reporter Morgan Trau on Twitter and Facebook.