Daily Court Reporter - News Lawmaker wants to limit out-of-state election influence
Lawmaker wants to limit out-of-state election influence
KEITH ARNOLD, Daily Reporter Staff Writer
A southwest Ohio lawmaker is hopeful to end what he describes as a near-constant stream of out-of-state initiatives flooding statewide elections.
Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg, has championed House Joint Resolution 5 which would increase the number of signatures needed for both initiated statute and constitutional amendments, increase the vote total needed for passage to 60 percent and ban the paying of petition gatherers.
Most recently, "we dealt with Issues 1 and 2, both conceived and funded by Californians," Antani said during testimony before members of the Government Accountability and Oversight Committee in the Ohio House of Representatives. "We need to stop them from coming into Ohio again and spending millions of dollars to try to add ill-conceived measures to the Ohio Constitution and Revised Code."
He said he believes it's now time for citizens of the state to take back the initiative process.
"And stop well-funded, out-of-state special interests from coming into our state and wreaking havoc," he added.
As is, Antani said the state's constitution and body of laws remains for sale to any source with deep enough pockets.
Specifically, the resolution calls for increasing the number of signatures required for an initiative petition to propose a constitutional amendment from 10 percent to 12.5 percent and for an initiative petition to propose a law from 3 percent to 3.75 percent of the total vote cast for the office of governor at the last gubernatorial election.
Beyond the greater number of signatures require, HJR 5 would increase the affirmative vote required to pass a proposed constitutional amendment or law submitted to the electors from a majority of the electors to 60 percent of the electors voting on it.
"Ohio's initiative process is a progressive era reform, intended to empower the citizenry to go directly to the electorate to pass a law or amendment if the General Assembly is derelict in our duty," Antani told his peers. "It was not intended for out-of-state, well funded special interests to come into our state and buy their way into the constitution or Revised Code.
"Unfortunately, every single initiative in recent memory has been the latter. Our initiative process is broken. It is hurting the citizens of Ohio. It's time to fix this problem before it gets completely out of hand."
HJR 5 also addresses petition circulators.
According to the Ohio Legislative Service Commission's analysis of the measure, it would prohibit the use of paid initiative and referendum petition circulators.
Current law makes no prohibition against an initiative petition or referendum petition circulator receiving compensation.
"A reviewing court might overturn part of the resolution that prohibits a petition circulator from receiving compensation on the ground that it violates the First Amendment," Abby McMahon wrote for the commission. "In 1988, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled a similar Colorado law unconstitutional for that reason.
"The court held that the circulation of an initiative petition involves core political speech and that the law imposed an impermissible burden on political expression."
Similarly, in 2008, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit overturned an Ohio law that prohibited paying petition circulators on any basis other than time worked, the analysis noted.
The resolution specifies that the proposal would appear on Ohio's Primary ballot in May if approved in time.
A second hearing of the resolution had not been scheduled at time of publication.
Date Published: April 20, 2018