The Ohio Senate begins hearings on the supermajority amendment for the August election

Next Originally published in the Ohio Capital Journal and published on under a content sharing agreement.

Ohio state senators on Tuesday began hearings on a 60% supermajority requirement to pass constitutional amendments. If the proposal passes with the support of three-fifths of the members of both chambers, it goes to a vote.

The resolution’s sponsors also support a bill to revive the August election — just in time for their majority vote. They presented this bill on Tuesday as well.

On the supermajority resolution, SJR 2In Committee, state Sens. Teresa Gavarone, R-Bowling Green, and Rob McCall, R-Napoleon, describe their proposal as an idea whose time has come.

Gavarone recently passed the Ohio General Assembly and, and

While Gavaroni’s Senate resolution sets the same 60% threshold for constitutional amendments that is included in the House version, it does not include any other provisions. The House resolution, HJR 1, requires organizers to collect signatures from all 88 states. Current legislation requires signatures from 44. The measure would also eliminate the “cure period” during which signature gatherers can collect additional petitions if their first attempt doesn’t make the cut.

Democrats on the committee criticized the idea of ​​overturning majority rule. Sen. Bill DeMora, D-Columbus, asked the sponsors if they wanted to use the same standard in the Legislature.

“Are the sponsors okay with 14 members of the Senate or 40 members of the House preventing any bill from passing?” he pressed. “Because that’s what it does. It allows 40% of the population to cut off what the clear majority wants to get.”

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McCauley called it a “false equivalency” because, he said, their resolution changes the constitutional amendment process rather than proposing an initiated statute.

COLUMBUS, OH – FEBRUARY 22: Senate Majority Leader Rob McCauley, R-Napoleon, speaks in favor of SB21 during the Ohio Senate session on February 22, 2023 at the Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Graham Stokes for the Ohio Capital Journal. Republish photo with original story only.) August Election When lawmakers scrapped the August election, they made two arguments for the idea — cost and absurd turnout. In the most recent example, nationwide turnout was only 8%.

Secretary of State Frank LaRose was among those who urged lawmakers to remove August Tuesday from the election calendar. But this Tuesday, LaRose did something else.

“Local municipalities, like local school districts or local sewer districts or whatever, being given a bad bill when nobody’s paying attention is problematic,” LaRose said. “The state issue is a very different issue.”

“There’s going to be very few people in the state who don’t know there’s a constitutional issue on the August ballot,” he asserts. “You’d have to be in a cave not to realize the issue was there.”

In committee, McCauley and Gavarone defended the move. They argued that they are adding only one instance to the eligible list for the August special election.

“What this legislation does is it expands that language that opens the door a little bit more,” McCauley argued, “to specifically include constitutional amendments initiated by the General Assembly.”

“We’re not reinventing the wheel with this legislation,” McCauley added.

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Despite their efforts to minimize change, allowing constitutional changes to go on the August ballot is extremely rare.

The last – and only – it happened in 1926. A measure that would have authorized municipalities to levy assessments to cover the cost of improvements failed.

COLUMBUS, OH – FEBRUARY 08: State Sen. Michael Ruhl, R-Salem, during the Ohio Senate session on February 8, 2023, in the Senate Chamber, Statehouse, in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Graham Stokes for Ohio Capital Journal) Looking aheadSen. Rep. Michael Ruhl, R-Salem, who chairs the committee, is moving quickly: hosting hearings for the supermajority resolution and the August election bill on consecutive days. The committee will hear from proponents on Wednesday. In previous attempts to capture the majority’s request, only one outside group came forward to testify in person in favor of the idea.

Asked if supporters plan to show up this time, Rulli said: “We’ve started to gather them.” He also said he would allow time for supporters and opponents to voice their opinions on the proposals. Rulli pointed to the ongoing hearings on the medical marijuana overhaul as an example.

Ohio House Speaker Steve Stivers, left, speaks with Sen. Michael Rulli, R-Salem, and Secretary of State Frank LaRose. (Photo by Nick Evans for OCJ) “I think I’ve gotten a good handle on how to make sure everyone’s voice is heard,” he said. “We gave them five to eight minutes. If there are 10 we welcome them, if 50 we welcome them. We want everyone’s voice to be heard.”

One organization that is unlikely to offer its support by Wednesday is the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. At a press conference next to Ruhl and LaRose, Chamber President Steve Stivers said he would continue to question members.

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“We appreciate both proposals and have not taken a position on either the August (election) or the 60% threshold as it currently stands,” Stivers said. “But (we’re) talking to our members to find out what’s the right approach for us.”

Amid ongoing criticism of the supermajority resolution — that it’s a thinly veiled attempt to undermine the abortion rights amendment — Stivers argued that the House’s interest is only in business.

“I want to be very clear that we are not taking a stand on social issues,” Stivers said. “Protecting the Ohio Constitution for the Chamber means protecting it from things that would make Ohio less competitive as a place to do business.”

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