The Ohio Constitution Protection Amendment Will Require the Same Broad Consensus Majorities Required of Other Major Decisions

(11-18-22) Today, in partnership with State Representative Brian Stewart (R-Ashville), Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose endorsed the Ohio Constitution Protection Amendment. The amendment is designed to help protect the Ohio Constitution from continued abuse by special interests and out-of-state activists. Since 2000, 16 petition-based amendments have been proposed, with five passing and 11 failing. The new amendment would require petition-based amendments to pass with 60% of the vote, instead of a simple majority.

“The Ohio Constitution is supposed to serve as a framework of our state government, not as a tool for special interests,” said LaRose. “If you have a good idea and feel it deserves to be within the framework of our government, it should require the same standard for passage that we see in both our United States Constitution and here in our own state legislature. Requiring a broad consensus majority of at least 60% for passing a petition-based constitutional amendment provides a good-government solution to promote compromise.”

Constitutions are meant to serve as a framework for state government, not tools for special interests. State constitutions are designed to serve as a “statement of basic principles and highest laws of a state.(opens in a new window)” Instead, because of the ease of amending Ohio’s founding document, the Ohio Constitution has become a tool used by special interests to permanently change our form of government to their liking. The bloat is evidenced in the size of the document itself: the United States Constitution includes 7,591 words while the Ohio Constitution has over 67,000, including topics ranging from the development of casinos to bond consolidation to how people select their health care. In just the past three petition-based amendment campaigns, special interests have spent more than $50 million on media advertising, political consultants, and more to support their passage, failing on two of them.

Broad consensus majorities for constitutional amendments won’t impede the ability for Ohioans to bring change. Ohioans must maintain their ability to be heard, and initiated statutes provide a fair and accessible process to pass laws that the people feel necessary, but Ohio’s constitution was not intended to serve as a host for pet issues pushed by special interests. Instead, requiring a 60 percent supermajority for the passage of a constitutional amendment is a win for good government because it restores the power of popular majorities in deciding the enormous importance of amending the state Constitution.

Supermajorities are already required to make big decisions in the General Assembly. Currently, there is no component of passing a petition-based constitutional amendment that requires a supermajority. Meanwhile, a 2/3 supermajority is already required to pass changes to appropriation limitations, override vetoes, pass emergency clauses, or put a constitutional amendment on the ballot. If issues such as these must win a supermajority for passage, so should petition-based constitutional amendments. Additionally, without any supermajority component required for passage of a petition-based constitutional amendment, there is less motivation for the kind of compromise and consensus-building worthy of big changes to the state constitution.

Both Blue and Red States Have Already Established Supermajorities for Constitutional Amendments. Massachusetts, Illinois, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Nebraska, Mississippi, Wyoming, and Florida all require a supermajority to pass petition-based constitutional amendments. Additionally, the U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that a supermajority requirement helps states prevent special interests from abusing the system. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures:

The supermajority requirement was challenged in 1997 by the proponents of an initiative that received a simple majority but failed to reach the supermajority requirement (Brady vs. Ohman, 105 F.3d 726 (1998)). The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the challenge and wrote that Wyoming had the right to prevent “… abuse of the initiated process and make it difficult for a relatively small special-interest group to enact its views into law.” The case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld the Circuit Court ruling.

OUTCOME: The Ohio Constitution is supposed to serve as a framework of our state government, not as a tool for special interests. Requiring a broad consensus majority of at least 60% for passing a petition-based constitutional amendment provides a good-government solution to promote compromise and have a historically proven record of passage.

BY THE NUMBERS:

Petition-based Constitutional Amendments:

  • 16 proposed since 2000
  • 11 proposed amendments failed
  • 5 proposed amendments passed
  • Of those 5 that passed, 3 of the 5 had 60% or more of the vote

General Assembly-Initiated Constitutional Amendments:

  • 17 proposed since 2000
  • 2 proposed amendments failed
  • 15 proposed amendments passed
  • Of those 15 amendments that passed, 12 of the 15 had 60% or more of the vote

ANALYSIS: General Assembly-Initiated constitutional amendments, which require a supermajority to reach the ballot, already incorporate the compromise necessary to improve chances for passage. Petition-based constitutional amendments, without any supermajority component, have a far higher failure rate.

Below is the response from the Ohio House Democratic Caucus