After the unanimous vote late last week by the State Central Committee to support the Protect the Constitution Amendment and the frustration voiced by several members over the delay tactics used by Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill), the Ohio House passed a measure Wednesday to ask voters whether make it more difficult to amend the state constitution.
In a 62-37 vote split the House gave its last-minute stamp of approval to Senate Joint Resolution 2, (SJR 2) which — if passed by Ohio voters in an August 8 special election — would require 60% of voter support to enact a constitutional amendment, as opposed to the existing simple majority threshold of 50% plus one vote.
The amendment would also require petition signatures to be gathered from all 88 counties in Ohio — as opposed to the existing 44-county rule — to place an initiative on the ballot. It also eliminates a 10-day cure period awarded to ballot initiative authors who initially fail to collect the required number of signatures.
Hundreds of supporters and opponents of the measure gathered in the halls of the statehouse prior to the vote in hopes of swaying last-minute decision-makers. After protesters interrupted lawmakers’ consideration of the bill, House Speaker Jason Stephens ordered their removal.
Protect Constitution Amendment allows voters to have voice in the debate
According to State Representative Brian Stewart (R-Ashville), who is credited with leading the effort and ensuring its success, SJR 2 simply allows the voters to weigh in on the debate of whether and under what conditions the Ohio Constitution should be changed.
He said that the state Constitution is a sacred document that special interest groups should not be able to amend so easily. “We have watched repeatedly outside groups making major adjustments to our state constitution. Special interests see Ohio as an easy mark. It’s time for reform.”
According to Stewart, 32 states do not allow any constitutional amendments to be added from outside groups. Stewart noted that SJR 2 does not take away citizens’ rights to propose initiative petitions but includes a guardrail to protect the state constitution. “This is as it should be. Under SJR 2 good ideas will pass,” Stewart said.
5 “Republicans” not willing to let voters decide
All but five Republicans voted to give the voters a voice in this debate. The 5 that sided with Democrats on this vote are:
Jamie Callender (R-Concord)
Jay Edwards (R-Nelsonville)
Brett Hudson Hillyer (R-Uhrichsville)
Jeff LaRe (R-Violet Township)
Tom Patton (R-Strongville)
The last 4 “Republicans” are also members of the Gang 22, the 22 Republican house members who voted with the Democrats to elect Jason Stephens as House Speaker.
Supporters are pleased and praise leadership
Supporters of the amendment say boosting the vote threshold will make it more difficult for out-of-state and special interest groups to permanently alter the state constitution. One upcoming example is the so called “abortion rights” amendment that would enshrine broad abortion and sex-change rights for adults and minors into the Ohio constitution. It would also give third parties more rights than parents and render the legislative branch powerless to make any changes.
Future attempts by wealthy liberal interest groups are already in progress or just down the road. These include legalizing recreational marijuana use, mandating a minimum wage of $15/hr. wage tied to inflation, mandating gun control measures and mandating a redistricting process that would favor Democrats.
Chairman of the Republican Party Alex Triantafilou praised Speaker Stephens and Senate President Mat Huffman for their strong leadership in a tweet and restated his rationale for supporting the amendment.
Ohio Right to Life’s President, Michael Gonidakis told LifeNews.com he was elated by the vote and thanked State Representative Brain Stewart for leading the effort and ensuring its success as well as State Senators Theresa Gaverone and Rob McColley for introducing and sponsoring SJR2 and Senate Bill 92. He added:
“Today is a great day for democracy. Ohioans are grateful that the Ohio House and Ohio Senate trust “we the people” by creating an election for all of us to self-determine what Ohio’s future may look like. Speaker Jason Stephens and House Republicans made the clear statement today that they unequivocally trust Ohio’s voters. Because of their leadership, the future of our state’s constitution now rests completely in the hands of the people—not the political class—to debate amongst ourselves and come to a consensus.
Center for Christian Virtue President Aaron Baer was quoted as saying he applauded the vote and added:
“For too long, Ohio’s Constitution has been up for sale to the highest bidder. From casinos to the drug-legalization pushers to abortionists, special interests with deep pockets put a target on our Constitution because they only needed a simple majority to amend our state’s founding document,” he said. “It’s now time for the voters of Ohio to stand up to support this ballot initiative and protect our Constitution for generations to come.
Opponents vow to defeat amendment in August
As expected, Democrat special interest groups who would like to enshrine their agenda into the state constitution and go-around elected representatives came out against the joint resolution and declared they will fight to defeat the Protect the Constitution Amendment in August.
The group Ohio Democrats were quick to condemn the vote in a tweet and seemed to declare defeat even before the votes are counted on August 8.
Darrel Rowland quoted Ohio AFL-CIO President Tim Burga in a tweet declaring that the labor movement will mobilize their members to defeat the Protect Constitution Amendment.
And not surprising to Ohio gun rights groups who came out in support of the Protect the Constitution amendment, Moms Demand Action lamented in a tweet that they can’t get “good” gun laws now that voters have the chance to increase the vote threshold. According to their website, Moms Demand Action is a grassroots movement fighting for public safety measures that can protect people from gun violence. Their goal is to pass stronger gun laws and work to close the loopholes that jeopardize the safety of our families.