Special interest groups say they’re trying to protect Ohio Constitution from special interest groups
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.
Special interest groups say they are trying to protect Ohio’s constitution from special interest groups, special interest groups are saying.
That may be a confusing sentence, so let’s break it down.
House Joint Resolution 1 is the revived resolution to make it harder to amend the Ohio constitution. Previously called H.J.R. 6 in the previous General Assembly (the 134th, for those keeping count), it would require those petitions to receive a 60% supermajority vote to pass, instead of the simple 50% +1. This means that about 40% of the state would get to choose the law.
Special interest groups and irony
The supporters of the resolution say the current system is easily influenced by special interest groups and outside organizations, but so far, critics argue that only special interest groups – some not even from Ohio – are pushing for the legislation.
“We must protect our Constitution from being bought and sold by out-of-state wealthy interests,” said Rob Sexton, lobbyist for Buckeye Firearm Association.
Sexton joined Ohio Right to Life, the Center for Christian Virtue and the conservative Washington D.C.-based organization American Center for Law & Justice in testifying in favor of S.J.R. 2, the Ohio Senate version of the proposal.
Catherine Turcer with Common Cause Ohio — which could itself be considered a special interest group — argued that the fear of outside special interests coming in and editing the constitution isn’t real.
“They’re redistricting reformers or they’re folks that are worried about reproductive rights,” Turcer said. “They are folks who live in Ohio and want to have a good life in Ohio that want to change the Ohio Constitution.”
She says Ohio already has guard rails against people meddling in the constitution, and there are rarely any citizen-led amendments because of how difficult it is to meet all the requirements.
“The only people who are concerned about changing the Ohio Constitution are special interests themselves and the state legislature who want to take power away from voters by diluting their ability to change the Ohio Constitution,” she added.
Senate President Matt Huffman argued that any organization can be considered a special interest, including the large groups who are funding the push for a constitutional amendment to make and keep abortion legal.
“Everybody wants to call somebody they don’t like a special interest group… Nearly everything we vote on here, whether it’s for the nurses, whether it’s for public schools, whether it is for veterans, as we did today, someone could define as a special interest group,” Huffman said.
Ohioans may get to vote this November if abortion should be legal, and anti-abortion groups have been helping lawmakers try to convince other organizations to support the resolution.
So, in theory, everyone is a special interest group, right?
As mentioned in the previous News 5 article, Speaker Jason Stephens is facing backlash from his detractors for not being a fan of the resolution and for not liking the bill to reinstate August special elections after just getting rid of them a couple of months ago.
But to reporters on Wednesday, Stephens admitted that it is possible the Legislature will find a way to get an August election — since they set the dates and times. His opinion on it, however, remains unchanged.
“It doesn’t mean I like it, but it still means it’s a possibility,” the speaker said.
Within the hour, the anti-Stephens faction of the House GOP started gathering signatures to take away Stephens’ powers in regard to the resolution.
The group moved to discharge the resolution. With enough signatures, the legislation would move immediately to a full House vote. This supersedes Stephens’ role in deciding when bills hit the floor. And it could be considered ironic that the group needs 50% of the House, not 60%, to get the amendment on the floor.
As of 6:45 p.m. on Wednesday, there were 26 signatures out of 50 needed.