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Former Ohio lawmaker floats alternative to keep 'special interests' out of Ohio's constitution

Statehouse News Bureau

As Ohio lawmakers consider a proposal that would make it harder to pass constitutional amendments at the ballot box by requiring the issue get a 60% vote, one former legislator thinks there’s another option that should be considered.

GOP lawmakers sponsoring the proposal said they want to make sure special interests are not injected into Ohio’s constitution.

Former House Representative Mike Curtin said he is not a big fan of putting things in the constitution that would be better suited in Ohio law instead. But he says majority Republicans sponsoring this bill are going about it the wrong way.

“It’s a monumental abuse of power for the supermajority that controls the legislature in lame-duck session to rush something to the May primary ballot in an odd-numbered year, without full public participation and full public debate," Curtin said.

Curtin said the resolution being considered now is an example of "monumental bad faith and abuse of power."

If this bill passes now, voters could be asked to approve the change in the process could appear on the May 2023 ballot, which Curtin said is unusual.

"We have not had a General Assembly sponsor proposed amendments to our constitution on a primary ballot in an odd-numbered year for 50 years, a half-century. The last time we had that was May of 1973 when Ohioans were asked to approve the Ohio Lottery," Curtin said.

Curtin said there is no way this proposal shouldn’t happen during lame duck — the time between elections and the end of a General Assembly. He said if lawmakers want to raise the threshold for passing a constitutional amendment, they should take steps to make it easier for groups to put policy into state law, through the initiated statute process.

Right now, he said it’s just as hard to do an initiated statute and if it passes, there’s nothing to protect the General Assembly from immediately changing it.

Curtin was a member of the former Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission. That panel looked at this issue as part of its deliberations but did not come up with a formal policy amendment to address it.

Copyright 2022 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment.