House Joint Resolution 13

“A (not so) Super majority”

2010is becoming a year where many significant changes are happening in ourpolitical environment, both in the country at large and here in Ohio as well.  Voters are re-embracing the historic notion that our civic arenais a place where “consent of the governed” is a paramount rule.

We see it every day, from rallies at our state capitols against runawayspending, intrusive government and social engineering, to active engagement in placing people and issues on the ballot for the majority of the public to support.

However, some of our elected officials don’t see this participatory government as being a positive.  Two members of the Ohio House of Representatives, Democrat John Domenickand Republican Margaret Ann Ruhl have introduced House Joint Resolution 13, which would place in Ohio’s Constitution a requirement for a super majority of voters to pass citizen initiated ballot issues or referendum efforts.

Under the changes proposed by HJR 13, a ballot issue or referendum effort would have to obtain sixty seven percent (67%) of the vote in order to be adopted. This is a very high hurdle for any issue, much less one that is an effort of citizens and citizen groups.

The irony of this is that it would only require a three-fifths vote (60%) of each chamber of Ohio’s General Assembly to bring this issue to the ballot.  Additionally, this proposal would only require a simple majority of fifty percent (50%) plus one in order to become a part of our Constitution.

Granted,this proposed change would also affect ballot issues proposed by the General Assembly as well, but this may not be as big a hurdle for our elected officials as it certainly would be for citizens and community groups.   Just a short look at previous ballot issues can testify to this.

Last year’s ballot issues would have gone this direction under HJR 13 requirements:  Issue 1 to create bonds for veteran bonuspayouts (initiated by the General Assembly)—adopted with 72% of the vote; Issue 2 to create a livestock care board (initiated by the General Assembly on request by agricultural groups)—failing with 63% ofthe vote; and Issue 3 (casinos, proposed by gambling companies)—failing with 53% of the vote.   Chillingly, if this proposal had been in place in our Constitution earlier, the 2004 Ohio Marriage Amendment would have failed with its 64 percent of the vote.  Overall, a supermajority proposal would prevent many good citizen initiatives from being adopted, while only preventing a small number of “problem“ issues from becoming law.

HJR 13 received its first hearing in front of the House Elections and Ethics Committee, chaired by Rep.  Dan Stewart on Tuesday, February 2nd.   The committee has not scheduled further hearings as of this writing.

Please contact your representative today to ask them to oppose this slap in the face to the voters of Ohio, and that you oppose a super majority requirement on our right to directly engage in the making of our laws.