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Ohio Constitution Network has been updated, and the Court Decisions from 2021 now includes 15 decisions of the Ohio Supreme Court in which the court addressed directly or indirectly issues concerning the Ohio Constitution.  See the Court Decisions menu on the Ohio Constitutional Law and History website.

OCN Is Back

After a period of hiatus, Ohio Constitution News (OCN) is back, and new items will be posted periodically.

 

Ohio Constitution News is a blog that tracks developments relating to the Ohio Constitution, including Ohio Supreme Court cases, ballot initiatives, state legislation, lectures, and seminars. The blog also reports on new material added to the Ohio Constitutional Law and History website. Developed by Dean Emeritus/Professor Emeritus Steven H. Steinglass and maintained by the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law Library, OCN and the website are not affiliated with the Ohio Supreme Court or with the State of Ohio.

 

During the period OCN was down, the website added a number of new items, including (1) the updating and improvement of the Table of Proposed Amendments and the statistical tables; (2) summaries of the Ohio Supreme Court’s leading state constitutional law decisions since 2018; and (3) the posting of selected Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission research and other documents that were not included in the final reports of the OCMC and that had not been widely made available.

 

How to Sign Up

Those who want to keep abreast of developments concerning the Ohio Constitution can follow Ohio Constitution News without any cost by subscribing through email or by signing up on Twitter. Both options are available on the right side of the following linked OCN entry.

 

Ohio Constitution News (OCN)

 

In addition to subscribing to Ohio Constitution News, interested persons can use the Ohio Constitution Law and History website for research on the Ohio Constitution and its history. You can google “Ohio Constitution: Law and History Webpage” or use the following link:

 

Ohio Constitutional Law and History

 

Feel free to contact Professor Steinglass if you have any questions or suggestions about OCN or the website.

 

Steven H. Steinglass
Dean Emeritus & Professor Emeritus
Cleveland-Marshall College of Law
Cleveland State University
s.steinglass@csuohio.edu
(216) 469-6619 (cell)

 

The year 2021 represents the third consecutive year in which Ohio voters were not presented an opportunity to vote on any proposed amendments to the Ohio Constitution.

In the first two decades of the 21st century, Ohio voters approved 18 of 31 proposed amendments to the Ohio Constitution. Of the 31, 16 were proposed by the state’s constitutional initiative, but voters approved only 5 of them and rejected 11. Of the 15 amendments proposed by the General Assembly during this period, the voters approved 13 and rejected 2. Thus, the historic experience of Ohio voters being far more likely to approve amendments proposed by the General Assembly than by the initiative has continued. Statistical tables summarizing the historic pattern of approvals and disapprovals of state constitutional amendments are on the Ohio Constitutional Law and History Webpage

The 5 constitutional amendments proposed by initiative and approved by the voters in the 21st century added provisions to the Ohio Constitution:
• To bar same-sex marriage (2004) (Art. XV, sec. 111)
• To require increases in the state minimum wage
(2006) (Art. II, sec. 34a)
• To permit casino gambling in four locations around
the state (2009) (Art. XV, sec. 6(C))
• To grant a freedom to choose healthcare (2011) (Art.
I, sec. 21)
• To amend the constitutional provision known as
“Marsy’s Law,” which protects the rights of crime
victims (2017) (Art. I. sec. 10a)

In the three years since 2018, there have not been any proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot, thus making this the longest period since the 1912 adoption of the initiative in which the voters have not been presented with any amendments proposed by either the General Assembly or the initiative.

Despite the absence of proposed initiated amendments on the ballot, there have been multiple efforts to place proposed amendments on the ballot. The website of the Ohio Attorney General, which lists amendments proposed by initiative, reports that since the beginning of 2007, a period of almost 15 years, 48 petitions were submitted to the Attorney General with the text of the proposed amendment and a summary of the proposed amendment. If the Attorney General determines that the summary is a “fair and truthful” statement of the proposed amendment, Attorney General forwards the petition to the Ohio Ballot Board for a determination of whether the petition contains only one proposed amendment. Only then may petitioners begin collecting signatures, which they must submit to the Secretary of State.

On Monday, October 7, 2019, in the afternoon, the Ohio State Bar Association will be sponsoring a program on The Importance of the Ohio Constitution.  The program, which was organized by Cleveland-Marshall Dean Emeritus & Professor Emeritus Steven H. Steinglass, will be held in Columbus at OSBA headquarters, and will be simulcast in Cleveland and Fairfield and will be available as a for-credit live webinar program.  A copy of the program brochure is attached.
In addition to Dean Steinglass, featured speakers will include Ohio Supreme Court Justices Judith L. French, Patrick F.  Fischer, and T. Patrick DeWine, Sixth Circuit Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton, Case Western Professor John L. Entin, and Rutgers Professor Robert F. Williams.

The surge in voter turnout for Ohio’s 2018 gubernatorial election will make it more difficult for Ohio voters to use both the constitutional initiative and the statutory initiative. Under Ohio’s direct constitutional initiative, amendment proponents must submit a petition with valid signatures from 10% of the voters in the most recent gubernatorial election. For the 2018 ballot, amendment proponents needed to obtain valid signatures from 305,591 or 10% of the voter turnout in 2014. The fact that more than 4,318,090 (unofficial vote count) voted in the 2018 gubernatorial election will have the effect of increasing to 431,809 the number of valid signatures needed to put proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot.

And the surge in voting will have a similar effect on the Ohio indirect statutory initiative under which proponents of a statute must obtain valid signatures from 3% of the voters in the most recent gubernatorial election. This number has increased from 91,677 to 129,543 (based on the unofficial vote count). And an additional 129,543 valid signatures must be obtained on a supplemental petition in the event the General Assembly does not adopt the proposed statute.

Ohio Issue 1, Congressional Redistricting Procedures Amendment, was approved by Ohio voters in the May 8, 2018 primary election. Official elections results show that the ballot issue was approved by 1,178,468 votes in favor to 395,088 votes against. According to the certified ballot language, available on the Secretary of State’s website:

“The proposed amendment would:

  • End the partisan process for drawing congressional districts, and replace it with a process with the goals of promoting bipartisanship, keeping local communities together, and having district boundaries that are more compact.
  • Ensure a transparent process by requiring public hearings and allowing public submission of proposed plans.
  • Require the General Assembly or the Ohio redistricting Commission to adopt new congressional districts by bipartisan vote for the plan to be effective for the full 10-year period.
  • Require that if a plan is adopted by the General Assembly without significant bipartisan support, it cannot be effective for the entire 10-year period and must comply with explicit anti-gerrymandering requirements.

[…] the amendment will become effective immediately.”

The result is that Section 1 of Article XI, taking effect on January 1, 2021, will be amended, and Sections 1, 2, and 3 of Article XIX will be enacted to establish a process for congressional redistricting. The full text of the amendment is available here: SJR 5 (132nd GA (2018)). Ohio Constitution News blog shared a succinct explanation in this post on February 15, 2018. For additional statements, the certified arguments for and against are still available from the Secretary of State’s website.

 

 

The Ohio General Assembly has approved a proposed amendment, SJR 5 (132nd GA (2018)), to add a new Article, Article XIX, to the Ohio Constitution to address congressional redistricting.  The proposed amendment will be on the May 8, 2018, ballot, and Ohio voters will have to approve this amendment for it to become part of the Ohio Constitution.

In November 2015, Ohio voters approved an amendment proposed by the General Assembly to revise the way in which state legislative district lines are drawn and the standards for drawing these lines.  This process, known as Apportionment, is addressed in Article XI of the Ohio Constitution, and it does not deal with congressional redistricting, which has been left in the hands of the General Assembly.

The 2015 amendment created an Ohio Legislative Districting Commission to address state apportionment, and the proposed amendment would give this Commission the authority to also address congressional redistricting.

Congressional redistricting has become a visible issue given the fact that in this relatively evenly split state, one political party has 12 of the 16 congressional seats.  The need for significant changes in the district lines will become more acute after the 2020 census, since Ohio will likely lose one seat in Congress.

A recent article in the Columbus Dispatch succinctly described the proposal as follows:

The proposed constitutional amendment sets up a bipartisan process to draw a new 10-year map, significantly changing the current map-drawing process that allows the majority to work alone, gerrymandering districts to its benefit. Republicans have held a firm grip on 12 of Ohio’s 16 congressional districts since drawing the map in 2011, and few races have been competitive.

*        *        *

Unlike the current process, which requires no minority-party support and has few rules that need followed, the new proposal initially requires 50 percent of the minority party in each chamber to approve a map for 10 years. It also would limit how often counties can be split into multiple congressional seats, and it would require public hearings and the ability for the public to submit maps.

Under that plan, 65 counties cannot be divided, 18 can be divided once and five can be divided twice into three congressional districts. Currently, many counties are split, such as Cuyahoga and Summit counties in Democrat-rich northeast Ohio that are split into four districts as Republicans sliced them up for partisan advantage.

If the legislature is unable to come to a bipartisan agreement, the multi-step process moves to a seven- member commission consisting of the governor, auditor, secretary of state and four lawmakers, where a 10-year map would require at least two minority-party votes.

If that fails, the process goes back to the legislature, where it would require a three-fifths vote in each chamber, including one-third of each minority caucus, to pass a 10-year map.

If there’s still no deal, the majority can draw a four-year map on its own, but it would be under stricter criteria, including prohibitions against several acts — “unduly” splitting counties and other jurisdictions, drawing a district that favors or disfavors a party, or drawing districts to favor incumbents. That process also would require the majority to formally justify why it decided to draw each district, which advocates say would hold them accountable to the courts and the public.

Any map that is approved would be subject to a potential governor’s veto, or a ballot referendum that attempts to overturn the map.

Jim Siegel, Bipartisan deal finalized, voters to decide congressional redistricting changes (Dispatch) (2-6-2018)

Cleveland-Marshall College of Law Dean Emeritus Steven H. Steinglass has published an op-ed in the December 25, 2017, Akron Beacon Journal, urging the General Assembly to give Ohio voters a chance to vote on proposals made by the Constitutional Revision Commission and its committees.  The online version of the article was also published in paper copy on December 26th under the title “Give voters a say on a trimmer Ohio Constitution.”

In 2011, the General Assembly created the Commission, a 32-person commission (composed of 12 legislators and 20 public members), to provide a comprehensive bipartisan review of the Ohio Constitution and to propose amendments to the General Assembly (which in turn could place proposed amendments on the ballot). In June 2017, the General Assembly moved up the sunset date for the Commission four years, and the Commission closed its doors on June 30, 2017. Though it did not complete its review, the Commission recommended the amendment or repeal of 21 obsolete or inappropriate sections of the Ohio Constitution, but the General Assembly has not acted upon these recommendations; thus, the voters have not had an opportunity to consider any of them.

In this op-ed, Steinglass identifies recommended provisions that are ripe for removal, including provisions involving state debt, the sinking fund commission, services for “the insane and dumb,” “voting by idiots and insane persons, and the use of gender-inappropriate language.

Steinglass concludes his op-ed by noting that if the General Assembly approves these recommendations, it will salvage some of the work of the Commission.  It will also permit the voters to shorten our 57,000-word constitution by more than 20% and relieve Ohio of the dubious distinction of having the tenth longest state constitution in the country.

This op-ed follows up earlier op-eds. In a July 9, 2017, Columbus Dispatch op-ed, Steinglass described the commission, its modest success, and its demise. In a guest column for Cleveland.com on October 9, 2017, he discussed the commission’s unfinished agenda. And in a November 16, 2017, Columbus Dispatch op-ed, he opined that the effort to modernize the Ohio Constitution was undercut by the decision to structure the commission to insure legislative control of it, by a lack of effective leadership, by the absence of a legislative commitment to constitutional revision, and by a corrosive partisan political climate.

On November 7, 2017, more than 82% of Ohio voters supported a proposed initiated constitutional amendment to replace Article I, Sec. 10a of the Ohio Constitution, with a new provision designed to further strengthen the rights of victims in the criminal justice process. The new provision, generally known as Marsy’s Law, seeks to expand the rights of crime victims to privacy and to treatment with respect, fairness and dignity; it further provides that such rights are to be protected as vigorously as the rights of the accused. For the text of the new amendment and the summary that had been submitted to the Secretary of State, click here.

Under Ohio law, the process for initiating a constitutional amendments begins with the filing of a petition (with 1,000 valid signatures) with the Attorney General. The petition must include the text of the proposed amendment and a summary of it, and the Attorney General is required to determine whether the summary is a fair and truthful statement of the proposed amendment. On September 15, 2017, the Attorney General provided the required certification, and the proponent—Stop Ohio Puppy Mills—is free to begin collecting the 305,591 required valid signatures (10% of the votes in the last gubernatorial election). Petitions with signatures must be submitted to the Secretary of State by July 4, 2018. If the requisite number of valid signatures are obtained, the Secretary of State certifies the signatures. Amendments proposed by initiative may only be on the fall general election ballot, and thus the earliest the proposal may appear on the ballot is November 6, 2018.

This detailed proposed amendment seeks to regulate puppy mills in Ohio and to insure that dogs have adequate exercise and socialization, adequate food and water, adequate shelter, and adequate veterinary care. These terms are all defined in the amendment, which also mandates that the General Assembly and the state department of agriculture revise all laws and regulations within 120 days of passage. Finally, the proposed amendment enumerates defenses to actions brought to enforce the amendment and exempts “hobby breeders” from coverage under the amendment.

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