COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – A controversial proposal to make it harder for Ohioans to amend the state constitution is unlikely to pass by the end of the year.
On Tuesday, House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) said it is “doubtful” that Ohio legislators will hold a vote on the measure, House Joint Resolution 6, before the New Year. If approved by lawmakers, the resolution would require the approval of 60% of voters, as opposed to a simple majority of 50% plus one, to enact constitutional amendments.
“Members have a lot of different opinions about it, and some are trying to figure it out,” Cupp said. “At this point, I don’t see it moving forward this session.”
Secretary of State Frank LaRose, who Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) called the “genesis” of the resolution, urged lawmakers to pass HJR 6 before the year’s end so he could present the question to voters on the May 2023 ballot. To do so, at least 60% of legislators in both the House and Senate must approve the resolution.
The resolution, introduced by Rep. Brian Stewart (R-Asheville), was designed to prevent “special interests and out-of-state activists” from abusing the Ohio Constitution, LaRose said.
“If you don’t think your idea is broadly popular enough to muster 60 percent vote of the people, then really you should not consider bringing it to the ballot,” LaRose said in mid-November, when he and Stewart announced their proposal.
Though HJR 6 was favorably voted out of the House Government Oversight Committee on Monday, Cupp said too many lingering questions remain among lawmakers – signaling a likely postponement of the resolution until the start of the next legislative session in January.
“They’re all thinking it through,” Cupp said.
Opponents of the measure, including members of nearly 200 advocacy groups who flooded the Statehouse to rally against it on Tuesday, have described it as a power grab designed to curtail everyday Ohioans’ stake in politics.
In a letter addressed to Cupp and Huffman, 140 organizations argued the process to amend the state’s constitution is not overused and already poses strict stipulations for citizens, “requiring hundreds of thousands of verified signatures and a strict geographical distribution across at least half of Ohio’s 88 counties.”
“We see no justifiable reason, after over 100 years, to suddenly make this already challenging process harder,” the letter, signed by the League of Women Voters, Ohio Voter Rights Coalition and others, reads.
Huffman said “there’s certainly” enough votes in the Ohio Senate to pass HJR 6. The vote count in the Ohio House – which must approve the resolution before it reaches the Senate floor – remains unclear.
Nine other states require supermajorities to enact constitutional amendments: Massachusetts, Illinois, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Nebraska, Mississippi, Wyoming and Florida, according to the National Conference of State Legislators.