Proposal to make future amendments more difficult to pass will return next year, sponsor indicates
Rep. Brian Stewart, R-Ashville, speaking in committee. Photo by Nick Evans, OCJ.
A last-minute bid to make it harder to amend the Ohio Constitution ran out of steam during the lame duck session, but the measure’s sponsor has already signaled plans to re-file the resolution in the coming year.
The proposal would raise the threshold from a simple majority to a 60% supermajority for any future state constitutional amendments to pass. The initial language applied that higher threshold only to citizen-led amendments. Later amendments extended it to amendments that originate in the General Assembly as well.
State Rep. Brian Stewart, R-Ashville, and Secretary of State Frank LaRose announced the effort just over a month ago. Last Tuesday, after hundreds of demonstrators flooded the Statehouse in opposition, House Speaker Bob Cupp said he was “doubtful” the resolution had enough support to pass. The resolution did not come to the floor for a vote, and Cupp has cancelled the only remaining “if-needed” session of this general assembly.
This week we had exactly 60 GOP members in attendance for an #HJR6 that needed 60 votes to pass. That math was unworkable this week, but I appreciate the support it has received from an overwhelming majority of our caucus. Looking forward to January. https://t.co/iOyiSjdUaX
— Brian Stewart (@BrianStewartOH) December 16, 2022
On Twitter, Stewart acknowledged the setback and chalked it up to lack of attendance.
“This week we had exactly 60 GOP members in attendance for an #HJR6 that needed 60 votes to pass,” he wrote. “That math was unworkable this week, but I appreciate the support it has received from an overwhelming majority of our caucus.”
“Looking forward to January,” he added.
In an interview earlier this month, Stewart himself predicted the margin for error was narrow enough his resolution might not pass.
“If you look at the board, we haven’t had 60 votes here for a few days. So I think the Senate is supportive. I think that we have enough support in the caucus sentiment-wise to get this done,” Stewart said after introducing the measure in committee.
“It’ll simply be a question of bodies, and hope cars don’t break down and hope we don’t have too many folks passing around COVID to each other, candidly,” he said.
As time grew short, Stewart made one final bid to bring skeptics on board. Cleveland.com’s Andrew Tobias reported Stewart sent around a memo urging fellow Republicans to back the resolution.
The two issues he raised in that memo were abortion and redistricting. He and LaRose had repeatedly dismissed suggestions that their resolution was an attempt to thwart such measures.
In his memo, Stewart listed special interest supporters of the resolution including the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, the Ohio Business Roundtable, Ohio Right to Life, and the Center for Christian Virtue.
Although Stewart has insisted all along that he will present the same resolution next year, his support outside the building may not be guaranteed. Secretary LaRose’s office declined to weigh in on the matter Monday. Gov. Mike DeWine’s signature isn’t necessary for the proposal to make the ballot, but speaking to reporters after this year’s overnight lame duck session, he begged off as well.
“Again, something I’ve not taken a position on, but I’m sure I will if it comes back,” DeWine said.
Pressed on whether the proposal should be introduced again, DeWine declined to comment.
Follow OCJ Reporter Nick Evans on Twitter.
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