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Category Archive for 'Legislation'

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)

The Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission, created in 2011 by HB 188, was scheduled to wrap up in 2021. However, the Commission has been eliminated early by the recent budget bill, HB 49 passed on June 28, 2017. The final meeting of the Commission occurred on June 8, 2017, and the final reports of the Commission were published on its website on June 30, 2017. Commission documents will be transferred to the Legislative Service Commission. Click here for the full press release.

Image of broken chain links Ohio House Joint Resolution No. 8 was introduced on May 25, 2016. The resolution proposes to amend Article 1, Section 6 of the Ohio Constitution, to prohibit slavery or involuntary servitude from being used as a punishment for committing a crime. Currently, Section 6 of Article 1 states “There shall be no slavery in this state; nor involuntary servitude, unless for the punishment of crime.” The resolution proposes to remove the phrase “unless for the punishment of crime.” The resolution was introduced by Representatives Reece and Sykes, and if approved by three-fifths of the members of both the House and Senate, it will then be placed on the general election ballot in November for vote by Ohio citizens.

Proposed Amendment

ohiostatehouse Senator Sandra Williams has recently introduced a Senate Joint Resolution proposing an amendment to the Ohio Constitution. Senate Joint Resolution 6 would “amend Section 10 of Article I of the Constitution of the State of Ohio to allow the prosecutor in a felony case to elect to prosecute upon a finding of probable cause by a court following a hearing rather than upon indictment by a grand jury.” For the full text of the resolution, click here.

If you are interested in learning more about this resolution, or in conducting other legislative history research, check out C|M|LAW Library’s Legislative History Research Guide.

Ohio’s budget act, HB 64, requires that municipalities operating traffic cameras in violation of state restrictions lose local government funding from the state in the amount equal to the fines collected from the cameras.  The Ohio legislature recently enacted restrictions on traffic cameras, such as requiring police officers to be present, and other restrictions. See SB 342.  Several county courts held these traffic camera restrictions in violation of the Ohio Constitution’s home rule provisions.  See our prior post:  State Restrictions on Traffic Cameras Violate Home Rule, Says Lucas County Court.  These cases are pending on appeal.

Former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Andy Douglas testified that because the HB 64 provisions rely upon an unconstitutional law (SB 342), the traffic camera provisions of HB 64 fail of their own weight .Douglas Testimony.  Justice Douglas also warned that the traffic camera provisions of HB 64 set a dangerous precedent that the legislature could use in the future to undermine or even eliminate municipal home rule powers.   Also see Cleveland.com:  Punishing cities that defy traffic-camera rules could cause ‘constitutional crisis,’ ex-Supreme Court justice warns.

The budget bill passed by the Ohio House and Senate, 131st General Assembly Amended Substitute HB 64, will terminate the Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission (OCMC) on January 1, 2018.    It will repeal sections 103.61, 103.62, 103.63, 103.64, 103.65, 103.66, and 103.67 of the Revised Code on that date.   Am. Sub. H.B. 64 awaits signature by Governor Kasich.

According to the Columbus Dispatch, Constitution-reform panel must be preserved:

The commission, created in 2011, was charged with researching and debating whether and how the Ohio Constitution could be changed to address longstanding flaws in state government. It was given 10 years to do so — it is set to expire in July 2021 — but didn’t really get off the ground for two years, thanks largely to legislators’ neglect.

It was intended to perform the same function as a similar commission empanelled in the 1970s.

Even so, in less than a year and a half of focused work, led by some sterling volunteers, committees of the bipartisan commission have reached consensus on thorny issues that a hopelessly partisan and short-sighted legislature has proved incapable of addressing.

The Ohio Senate Finance Committee previously proposed eliminating the OCMC as of January 1, 2016.  See our prior post Ohio Senate Finance Committee Wants to Eliminate the Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission.


House Joint Resolution 4,  introduced yesterday, would amend the Ohio Constitution to restrict amendments  to the Ohio Constitution that create economic benefits in favor of certain individuals.  Initiatives by the General Assembly would not face these restrictions, only initiatives by individuals.  An individual or group wanting to amend the Ohio Constitution to create an economic benefit would have to get voters to pass a Constitutional amendment allowing deviation from the “no special interests rule” for that particular special  interest.  Then the next year, the actual amendment creating the special interest could go on the ballot.

The impetus for House Joint Resolution 4 was Responsible Ohio’s marijuana legalization amendment that will likely go on the ballot this November.  ResponsibleOhio’s amendment creates ten grow sites which will be owned by ballot campaign investors.  The legislature would have to act fast in order to get their proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot this November.  The deadline for the General Assembly to get initatives on the ballot is August 3, but the General Assembly leaves for the summer at the end of June.

See Columbus Dispatch, Legislators move to block marijuana monopoly.  Representative Kathleen Clyde expressed concern that the language of HJR 4 is too broad and may have unintended consequences in inhibiting initiatives.   Professor Douglas Berman , Ohio State College of Law, wondered if it was even constitutional to have a constitutional amendment restricting initiatives.  Dean Emeritus Steven H. Steinglass , Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, spoke to what would happen if BOTH the no special interest amendment and the ResponsibleOhio amendment pass in November.  Steinglass thinks a court could rule that marijuana is legal, but the provisions creating the monopoly must be stricken.

The Ohio Senate Finance Committee wants to sunset the Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission (O.C.M.C.) on Jan 1, 2016.  See the Committee’s report on the budget bill, Amended Substitute HB 64.   The Ohio Legislature created the Commission in 2011 to make recommendations to the General Assembly as to Constitutional revision. See  HB 188 (129th General Assembly).  The Commission was set to expire in 2021.

According to Cleveland.com:

… The Senate’s budget calls for ending the commission at the end of this year, a move that would save $950,000 in appropriations during the next two years.

“It’s been going long enough,” Oelslager [Senate Finance Chairman Scott Oelslager] said when asked why the Senate is seeking the change. “It’s time to wrap up.”

See Cleveland.com Ohio Senate’s budget looks to kill education fund, constitutional study group

The budget proposal must be approved by the full Ohio Senate, approved by a conference committee and signed by the Governor.

A similar bipartisan commission was created in 1969, called the Ohio Constitutional Revision Commission. The Ohio Constitutional Revision Commission issued its final report in 1977.  Ohio voters approved 16 of the 20 amendments that had their origins in recommendations made to the General Assembly by the Commission.

The O.C.M.C. has approved some recommendations, but has not yet submitted any recommendations to the General Assembly.  See  Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission Recommends Deleting Two Unused Sections Pertaining to Courts.   The Commission played a significant role in recent Ohio legislative redistricting reform efforts, which culminated in the passage of HJR 12.   HJR 12 puts redistricting reform measures on the ballot which would make the redistricting process more nonpartisan.

The Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission is addressing important questions concerning the state’s main governing document, including:

  • How to eliminate defects in the debt provisions of the Ohio Constitution.  These provisions require passing frequent constitutional amendments because of an antiquated $750,000 debt limitation.
  • Whether to amend the initiative process to prohibit special interest groups from hijacking the Ohio Constitution.
  • Whether to modify the initiative process in favor of a system that would encourage members of the public wishing to effect change to pursue statutory enactment rather than the adoption of constitutional amendments.  This may include making the seldom-used statutory initiative process easier.
  • How to amend Congressional redistricting provisions to make the redistricting process more nonpartisan.
  • Whether to amend Ohio’s current method of electing judges.
  • A provision to revise the current constitution which denies the right to vote to “idiot[s and insane persons”.
  • The repeal of numerous obsolete provisions of the constitution.

When HB 188 (129th General Assembly) was under consideration by the legislature, committee testimony included:

  • Ohio State University President Gordon Gee:

Gee said there is an “absolutely clear and compelling” case for convening a constitutional commission, noting the number of useful reforms from a previous commission, including the linking of the elections of governor and lieutenant governor. He said the commission format would be “bipartisan,” “thoughtful” and “broad-based” and would grant sufficient time to consider all the issues. 

Hannah News, House State Government and Elections, Jun. 7, 2011.

  • Dennis Hetzel, executive director of the Ohio Newspaper Association:

“We will leave it up to our individual members to report and editorialize upon the deliberations and outcomes of this commission, but the concept makes sense and will provide Ohio’s citizens a foundation for an important discussion.”

Hannah News, House State Government and Elections, May 24, 2011

  • Beth Vanderkooi, Ohio Farm Bureau:

 [the bill is] an “excellent mechanism to review the Ohio Constitution in a manner that, while not immune from partisan politics, is consistent with a bipartisan approach.”

Hannah News, House State Government and Elections, May 24, 2011

According to the Montgomery County Common Pleas Court, the Ohio law requiring a police officer to be present during operation of traffic cameras, SB 342 , violates the Home Rule provision of the Ohio Constitution.  The Court granted a permanent injunction in favor of the City of Dayton to stop the state law from going into effect.  See City of Dayton v. State, Montgomery Case No. 2015-CV-1457, Decision, Order and Entry Sustaining in Part the Motion for Summary Judgment of Plaintiff City of Dayton, Ohio and Overruling Defendant State of Ohio’s Motion for Summary Judgment,  (Apr. 2, 2015).

Other cities have also filed suit claiming SB 342 is unconstitutional.  See Toledo Granted Preliminary Injunction to Halt State Traffic Camera Restrictions.  The Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas is the first court to grant a permanent injunction to halt the state law.


Recently enacted Ohio legislation, H.B. 5, imposes numerous changes on municipal taxes, including:

  • Employers do not have to withhold municipal tax for an employee until the employee has worked 20 days in the municipality (it used to be 12).
  • For municipal tax purposes, companies can carry forward net operating losses for five years to offset taxes on future profits.
  • A uniform definition of taxable income applies to all municipalities, as well as standards for determining who is a resident of a municipality
  • All municipalities must follow a uniform tax return filing schedule, and certain rules for refunds and assessments.

These changes take effect in 2016. See Porter-Wright article, Ohio Municipal Tax Reform Bill – H.B.5 – Passes the Legislature and Legislative Service Commission Final Analysis of HB 5.

The law is intended to streamline the municipal tax system, make it more uniform, to benefit small business and make compliance easier for employers.  The Ohio Municipal League objects to HB 5, not only because municipalities will lose a lot of tax revenue, but because the Act unduly takes away municipalities’ Home Rule authority to administer taxes, as granted by the Ohio Constitution.  See Akron Legal News, Advocates and opponents weigh in on HB 5.

As stated in the Legislative Service Commission Final Analysis of HB 5:

Municipal corporations’ authority to levy taxes is an aspect of their home rule powers conferred by Article XVIII, Section 3, Ohio Constitution.  Although the General Assembly does not grant municipal corporations the authority to tax, it may limit their taxing authority or prohibit municipal taxes by express acts;(Article XVIII, Section 13 …Laws may be passed to limit the power of municipalities to levy taxes and incur debts for local purposes…) however, it cannot command a municipal corporation to impose a tax when the municipal corporation chooses not to do so.  The limits on municipal income taxes are codified in Chapter 718.
There is authority that:
While there do exist provisions allowing the General Assembly to limit the exercise of municipal taxing power, Cincinnati Bell Co., 81 Ohio St.3d at 605, 693 N.E.2d 212, those provisions must be interpreted in a manner consistent with the purpose of home rule. Id.
S.B. Carts, Inc. v. Put-in-Bay, 2005-Ohio-3065, ¶ 11, 161 Ohio App. 3d 691, 694, 831 N.E.2d 1052, 1055
Future litigation is anticipated to discern whether any of the provisions of this Act impinge on municipalities’ home rule authority.

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