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Bill to Limit The People's Right to Referendum Clears House

Senate Bill 47 infringes on constitutional guarantees, ensures Republican- controlled state government is tougher to challenge
March 20, 2013
Democrat Newsroom

COLUMBUS- The Ohio House voted 56 to 37 today in favor of Senate Bill 47, a piece of legislation designed to reduce the number of days people will have to collect signatures for a ballot referendum.  The bill already passed the Senate on a party-line 23-10 vote.

 “This is a poorly crafted solution in search of a mythical problem,” said Representative Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent). “Not one supporter of these controversial provisions came forward in committee to tell us why we need to restrict Ohioans’ right to referendum.  Not one supporter. This bill is a direct attack on one of our most sacred constitutional rights: the right to petition our government, and in the case of the referendum, the right to check overreaching laws passed by the legislature.” 

 Rep. Clyde offered an amendment to strip the controversial provisions from the bill dealing with Ohioans' rights to referendum and initiative. Ultimately, the amendments were rejected by House Republican leadership.

 “This is very unfortunate,” Rep. Clyde continued. “There is no basis in law or otherwise that would suggest these limits are needed. What we saw today is a political power grab. This is bad for our democracy.”

 For over 100 years, Ohioans have had the ability to collect signatures and go directly to the voters when state lawmakers have overstepped their boundaries and ignored the will of the people. Under SB 47, Ohioans would have a much smaller window in which to gather enough signatures to challenge laws passed by the General Assembly. The bill moved fairly hastily through the Senate and the House, receiving only two hearings in the House Policy and Legislative Oversight Committee on March 13th and March 19th.

 Since Governor Kasich took office, Ohioans have exercised their referendum rights on policy overreaches by the Republican dominated state government. Senate Bill 5, of the 129th General Assembly, sought to effectively kill collective bargaining rights for public employees, and was ultimately overturned through the will of the people via the referendum process. Similarly, HB 194, of the 129th General Assembly, severely limited Ohioans’ right to vote. Ultimately, when it became clear that HB 194 would face referendum, Republican leaders of Ohio’s state government made an unprecedented move to repeal the law.

 Senate Bill 47 has no known supporters of its referendum limiting provisions.