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Resolution raising the threshold for constitutional amendments passes Ohio House committee

Daniel Konik
Statehouse News Bureau

The resolution to require ballot measures to receive 60% of the vote in order to amend the state constitution has cleared a House committee and is ready for a possible vote on the House floor.

The resolution would take the form of an issue on the May ballot if it passes the House and Senate by the end of the year.

Republican supporters said the measure — which would raise the standard from a simple majority — will help prevent outside special interest groups from coming to Ohio and carving out their own policy.

More than 140 groups oppose the measure.

Catherine Turcer, Common Cause Ohio’s executive director, is among the opponents of the resolution. She said voters should be trusted to be the backstop to bad amendments.

“These citizen-led measures are all about the public, the voters having the say. And the message here is, we don’t trust the voters,” said Turcer.

A ballot measure in 2009 enshrined casinos into the state constitution, after casino operators spent millions of dollars in support of the measure.

Since then, several other groups have mounted costly campaigns, such as an issue to legalize marijuana for personal use and an issue to lower prescription drug costs. However, those measures failed to gain the approval of more than 50% of the state.

Opponents of the resolution have questioned the timing of the measure. Abortion rights advocates have discussed putting a measure on the ballot to protect reproductive rights in the constitution. There are other potential issues as well, including a possible attempt to once again amend the constitution’s process for redistricting.

Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a Republican, insists that the issue is not political.

“If this is about one specific issue, then somebody's not really focused on what we're trying to accomplish here. This is about trying to make the Ohio Constitution less susceptible to special interests. And if something has 60% of support, then it will pass,” said LaRose.

The resolution needs a three-fifths vote in the House in order to pass. It would be placed on the May ballot if it also passes the Senate by the end of the year.

Contact Andy at achow@statehousenews.org.