BOARDMAN — A few leading Ohio Republicans are urging residents to vote for a measure that promises to have a major impact on altering the state constitution.
“We’re here today to fight for a yes on Issue 1,” Alex Triantafilou, Ohio Republican Party chairman, told a crowd of 50 to 60 who attended a rally Saturday morning at the Mahoning County Republican Party headquarters, 8381 Market St., to garner support for the measure.
Issue 1 is on the Aug. 8 special election ballot.
Last month, the Ohio Ballot Board approved added language for the controversial measure, which would make it more difficult to amend the Ohio Constitution by requiring a 60 percent supermajority of state voters. The current standard for passing constitutional amendments is a 50 percent plus 1 simple majority.
Dan Lusheck, the state party’s communications director, said Issue 1 will go a long way toward counteracting special interest groups “from pushing their policy agendas into the constitution.” The measure does not eliminate citizens’ ability to place referendums on the ballot to undo certain pieces of unpopular legislation.
He cited the example of the controversial Ohio Senate Bill 5, commonly known as the collective-bargaining bill, which the Ohio House of Representatives passed March 30, 2011, and restricted the state’s public workers’ ability to strike and collectively bargain. SB5 was repealed, however, via the Ohio Revised Code by referendum — something that still would have been possible if Issue 1 had been in place, Lusheck argued.
Issue 1 merely elevates the standards for all constitutional amendments “across the board” and holds lawmakers to the same standards as ordinary citizens, he explained.
During his presentation, Triantafilou said Issue 1 would repair the problem of what he contended was special interest groups being able to spend millions of dollars in the state and bypass the normal legislative channels for amending the constitution.
In more than 240 years, the U.S. Constitution has been amended only 27 times; by contrast, the Ohio document has been amended more than 150 times, which makes another case for raising the standards, Triantafilou continued.
He also urged attendees to take advantage of early voting to cast their ballots. The voter registration deadline is July 10; early voting starts July 11.
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose noted that Florida, along with some blue states, already has adopted the 60 percent supermajority threshold for amending their constitutions.
LaRose said the Ohio constitution wasn’t written to include “day-to-day legislation,” such as raising the state minimum wage to $15 per hour or dealing with the abortion issue.
Despite claims that Issue 1 would reduce special interest groups’ ability to amend the constitution to fit their agendas, Senate Joint Resolution 2, which placed the issue on the ballot, was funded largely by an Illinois billionaire, countered Christopher Anderson, the Mahoning County Democratic Party chairman.
Instead, the measure is the Republicans’ latest effort “to ensure they’re accountable to absolutely no one,” opens the door wider for extreme pieces of legislation to pass and shows the party does not care about what most Ohioans want, he said.
In addition, it’s already difficult for citizens to lead a ballot effort to change the state constitution — something that requires a specific formula to be met, is a very expensive endeavor and needs hundreds of thousands of signatures, Anderson explained.
The vast majority of the more than 150 amendments to the Ohio Constitution were made by the General Assembly, not ordinary residents, Anderson said. He added that making a comparison between the number of amendments to the U.S. Constitution versus the Ohio one “is like comparing apples to bowling balls.”
“(Issue 1) is taking away one person, one vote and citizens’ say in what happens in Ohio,” state Rep. Lauren McNally, D-Youngstown, said.
The issue also exacerbates how difficult it already is to give momentum to grassroots, citizen-led initiatives in Ohio, something that’s “only done when the Legislature doesn’t do what people ask the Legislature to do,” she continued.
McNally added that Issue 1 also will make passing constitutional amendments harder by expanding signature requirements from 44 of Ohio’s counties to all 88.