Resolution requiring supermajority for amendments “doubtful” to pass during Ohio lame duck session
COLUMBUS, OH — DECEMBER 13: Representatives from multiple organizations gathered in opposition to HJR 6 leave the Trinity Episcopal Church and cross Third Street on their way to the Ohio Statehouse, December 13, 2022, in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Graham Stokes for Ohio Capital Journal. Republish photo only with original story.)
Hundreds of demonstrators gathered across the street from the Ohio Statehouse Tuesday morning at Trinity Episcopal Church. The leaders of more than 100 organizations toted signs listing their name and membership.
Crowded press conference at the Ohio Statehouse with representatives of more than 170 organizations who oppose HJR 6. There a progressive, conservative and nonpartisan groups.
This is the resolution to make it harder to amend the constitution.@WEWS @WCPO @OhioCapJournal pic.twitter.com/bnC4PNSwfW
— Morgan Trau (@MorganTrau) December 13, 2022
“Our goal is to make it really clear how unpopular House Joint Resolution 6 is,” Common Cause Ohio’s Catherine Turcer said as she led demonstrators across the street.
By the end of the day, HJR 6 was on life support — at least for this year’s lame duck session. After Tuesday’s session House Speaker Bob Cupp called it “doubtful” the resolution would get a floor vote.
“Members have a lot of different opinions about it, and some are trying to figure it out,” Cupp said. “So, at this point, I don’t see it moving forward.”
The proposal would ask voters to impose a 60% supermajority for all future constitutional amendments. Although to make the ballot, 3/5 of lawmakers would have to approve the resolution, a simple majority on Election Day would be able to install the supermajority threshold going forward.
At an event inside the Statehouse, the group leaders symbolically cast their signs like ballots in opposition to HJR 6. The line of people stretched down the hall, up a flight of stairs and into the rotunda.
Before that procession began organizers spoke out against the resolution. Rev. Jack Sullivan, Jr. from the Ohio Council of Churches called HJR 6 “an affront to God’s expectation for human flourishing” because it reduces direct democracy.
“HJR 6 is not based on the sacred ideas of integrity and fairness,” Sullivan argued. “It is based on a political ideology of power and domination — of one party over another, one set of Ohioans over another, the voices of the few over the voices of the many.”
“People of faith and goodwill are not fooled by the label of good government affixed to this resolution,” he continued. “We know gamesmanship and a blatant misuse of power when we see them, and this resolution is rooted in both.”
Ohio AFL-CIO president Tim Burga argued the resolution is simply unnecessary. He pointed to the 2015 amendment that prohibited any individual or group from using the process to establish a monopoly.
“How many special interests,” Burga asked, “have used the initiative process for their own benefit since the Ohio Constitution was amended in 2015?”
Jen Miller, who heads up the League of Women Voters of Ohio, argued organizers turn to the ballot as a last resort. She added the persistence of gerrymandering insulates GOP lawmakers from accountability “and any need for responsive lawmaking.”
“Making it harder for citizen-led initiatives to pass is the latest attempt to silence Ohioans,” she argued.
The House floor
The House Government Oversight Committee advanced HJR 6 on Monday. But leaders didn’t place the resolution on the House calendar for a vote Tuesday. That didn’t stop organizers from swelling the gallery and interrupting the session for nearly five minutes.
Earlier in the day, the committee which sets the House agenda met to finalize Wednesday’s calendar. Before heading into the hearing, Minority Leader Allison Russo stood in a hallway watching demonstrators flood through security.
Her take on the resolution offered an early glimpse of its dwindling prospects.
“I have certainly heard from some of my colleagues across the aisle that they have deep concerns about this,” Russo remarked. “And really every citizen regardless of your political persuasion, should have deep concerns about a legislature that wants to take away your ability to directly make them accountable.”
When the committee finished its work, HJR 6 didn’t appear on the calendar for Wednesday’s session — likely the last of the year in the House.
Russo said the protestors’ showing wasn’t unprecedented, but it was rare. She could only think of three issues to create similar buzz: redistricting, the six week abortion ban and right to work legislation that was later overturned by referendum.
“I mean, listen, when you ‘poke the bear’ of the citizens, they’re going to growl back,” she said, “and that’s what we’re seeing.”
Follow OCJ Reporter Nick Evans on Twitter.
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