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Former Ohio Attorneys General oppose resolution to make it harder to pass constitutional amendments

A bipartisan group of former Ohio attorneys general is echoing concerns expressed last week by bipartisan former governors over the proposed resolution to make it harder to pass future constitutional amendments.

Former Republican and Democratic attorneys general are united when it comes to opposing the resolution that would allow voters to make it harder to pass future constitutional amendments by requiring a 60% majority. Former A.G.'s Betty Montgomery, Jim Petro, Nancy Rogers, Lee Fisher and Richard Cordray have sent a letter to Ohio lawmakers, urging them to abandon the controversial change. Ohio's four living ex-governors have also come out against the resolution.

The attorneys general say a proposal to make such an important change in the constitution should not be on the ballot during a special August election when few voters will likely participate.

"Constitutions are designed to endure, and major changes in fundamental constitutional arrangements should not be made unless the changes are supported by a careful understanding of the policies being changed and the consequences of the proposed changes. Such changes should not be made without the opportunity for participation of those most intimately affected by the constitution—the people. Clearly, that has not happened in this rush to revise our constitution," the letter read.

The attorneys general also noted it's not easy to pass a constitutional amendment and there are safeguards already in place to make sure issues that go on the ballot have been properly vetted. The AGs echoed a sentiment former Republican Gov. Bob Taft made last week - that important issues similar to those that have passed before would be hard, if not impossible, to pass with a 60% approval threshold.

"If the increase in the passing percentage had been in effect, many important amendments that are part of our political heritage would have failed, including the initiative and referendum, home rule, civil service reform, the Clean Ohio Fund, the Third Frontier Project, and other important bond issues to support economic development, conservation, and housing," the attorneys general said.

The Ohio Senate has already passed its version of the resolution and a bill to create an August election. All of the Democrats in the Ohio House are against the resolution but many Republican legislators are backing it and the question is if there are enough lawmakers to pass it. And lawmakers in the House will also have to pass a bill to create an August election.

In December, the legislature banned August special elections in most cases and Gov. Mike DeWine signed that measure into law in January. The lawmakers who supported that new law noted the August 2022 election cost more than $20 million and fewer than nine percent of voters cast ballots in it. But before the law went into effect in April, some lawmakers had already introduced a bill to create an August election this year.

If the resolution goes to the ballot, voters could decide that change with a simple 50% plus one majority. Majority Republicans have until May 10 to pass both the resolution and the August special election if they want to get ahead of a planned vote on abortion rights this November.

Contact Jo Ingles at jingles@statehousenews.org.