Brazen power grab to make amending Ohio’s constitution harder stalled — for now: Thomas Suddes

Brazen power grab to make amending Ohio’s constitution harder stalled — for now: Thomas Suddes

Ohio House Republicans have blocked, albeit temporarily, a plan (House Joint Resolution 6) to make it harder for Ohioans to change the state constitution.

The plan to hobble voters, backed by GOP Secretary of State Frank LaRose, could still come to a vote on May 2 if the new General Assembly, which meets on January 3, approves it fast enough.

If voters approved the HJR 6 plan – by a vote of at least 50% plus one “yes” (the current requirement for constitutional amendments) – then future amendments would require a vote of at least 60% yes. The sponsor of HJR 6 is Republican Congressman Brian Stewart of Ashville, Pickaway County.

Simply put, HJR 6 could make it extraordinarily difficult for pro-choice pro-choice or manipulative enemies to win statewide polls addressing both issues. Just as clearly, HJR 6 implies that Statehouse insiders know what’s best for Ohio.

Thomas Suddes

Thomas Suddes, member of the editorial board, writes from Athens.

This is how Republicans run the Ohio General Assembly. Republicans run the Ohio Supreme Court. Republicans head the Ohio executive branch from the governorate down. The next agenda item, obviously, is to choke the Ohio voters who pay for the GOP’s antics.

The proposed 60% requirement is arguably the most brazen attempt to seize power in the Statehouse since a previous GOP-led legislature and then Republican administration. James A. Rhodes (on another May 2 – 1967) proposed an Ohio Bond Commission.

The Bond Commission — had voters not voted “No” against it by a 67% vote — could have increased Ohio’s general bond debt without voter approval, which was then prohibited, is still prohibited — one reason Ohio’s credit rating is as strong as it is is.

Republican members of the Ohio House Government Oversight Committee recommended passage of HJR 6 through the House of Representatives. The committee’s pro-HJR-6 septet: Rep. Cindy Abrams of suburban Cincinnati; Timothy Ginter of Salem; Don Jones of Harrison County Freeport; Kevin D. Miller of Newark; William G. Seitz of Cincinnati; Huron’s DJ Swearingen; and its chairman, Rep. Shane Wilkin, of Hillsboro.

Committee members who voted ‘no’ to HJR 6 were Democratic MP Richard Brown of Canal Winchester; Dontavius ​​Jarrells of Columbus; Elgin Rogers Jr. of Toledo; Michael Skindell of Lakewood; and bride Rose Sweeney of Westlake.

(House Committee Chairman Wilkin was a key co-sponsor of House Bill 6 of 2019 to force electricity consumers to salvage money losing nuclear plants then owned by Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp.; the other main co-sponsor of the rescue was Rep. Jamie Callender of Concord)

Thursday morning’s failure to act on HJR 6 came after a coalition of opponents flooded the statehouse on Tuesday with protesters demanding that the General Assembly toss HJR 6 in the nearest trash can – where it belongs.

Also, when the 2023-24 General Assembly begins its session on January 3rd, its main objective will be to write a state budget for the two years beginning on July 1st. All budgets are political because they signify what an official actually prefers to how he or she invests the public’s money.

There is one additional factor that will help fuel Ohio State’s 2023-24 budget debate: continue funding (or not) for the Fair School Funding Plan, which the General Assembly began funding in the current budget.

The expectation (or at least the implication) was that the state Senate and Ohio House would continue spending the Fair School Funding Plan in the 2023-24 budget. But there is one complicating factor. A significant portion of General Assembly Republicans advocate so-called school choice “backpack” plans — in effect, regardless of a family’s income or school district, a universal school voucher program to help families pay private K-12 tuition.

This idea has widespread support among Statehouse conservatives, and just as predictably, the Ohio Education Association opposes it over the threat to public school funding.

There’s no telling if the idea will come to a vote in 2023 or 2024, but people on both sides of the issue should remember that since Ohio introduced school voucher programs (for students in Cleveland’s schools) 27 years ago, in 1995, The legislature has steadily expanded school choices in Ohio, sometimes slowly, yes — but steadily.

Thomas Suddes, member of the editorial board, writes from Athens.

How to reach Thomas Suddes: [email protected], 216-408-9474

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