If you're seeking to repeal a state law or amend the Ohio Constitution, a bill heading for passage in the Ohio Senate would shrink your margin for error in placing the issue on the statewide ballot.
If you’re seeking to repeal a state law or amend the Ohio Constitution, a bill heading for passage in the Ohio Senate would shrink your margin for error in placing the issue on the statewide ballot.
A bill sponsored by Republican Sen. Bill Seitz of Cincinnati would leave petition circulators with just 10 days to collect additional signatures if the secretary of state deems they fell short of the minimum. Had Senate Bill 47 been in place over the past two years, the Democrats and liberal-leaning groups who placed referendums of GOP-backed election law changes and congressional districts on the ballot might’ve failed, because they would have had far less time to collect extra signatures.
Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted, who is asking legislators to make other election-law changes, told The Dispatch: “It seems to me what Sen. Seitz is doing is on the right track.”
Opponents who testified against the bill yesterday before the Senate State Government Oversight and Reform Committee called it “punitive” legislation “looking for a problem,” and a law that could weaken “ the right of initiative and referendum.” But the Republicans on the committee who recommended the bill for full passage cited uniformity and fairness, noting it’s taken secretaries of state between 16 and 58 days over the past several years to certify petitions — meaning circulators had different amounts of time to collect more signatures.
Seitz’s bill would force all petitioners to cease collecting signatures until a ruling on the initial petitions is issued.
“When the referee goes to the instant-replay booth, the football game stops until the ref makes the call on the previous play,” Seitz told The Dispatch. “We do not keep playing football while they’re deciding whether the man was inbounds, out-of-bounds. ... We stop.”
Seitz said he’s been working on the provision for three years, noting it was called the “Stop in the Name of Love” provision, and that he had support from then-Secretary of State and Democrat Jennifer Brunner and others at the time. He said all petitioners should have 90 days to submit a first batch of signatures, and the same 10-day period to file more in the event they fell short.
But opponents say by limiting the period in which more signatures could be gathered — and disqualifying valid signatures that had been gathered before original petitions were turned in — the Seitz bill thwarts the will of the people and could be unconstitutional.
“This language ... feels punitive because the citizens were successful in overturning what they perceived to be bad legislation,” said Deidra Reese of the Ohio Unity Coalition during testimony yesterday.
Reese referred to the successful referendum on Senate Bill 5 in 2011, in which labor organizations and Democrats led the charge to overturn GOP-backed limits on collective bargaining for public employees. Opponents of Senate Bill 5 set a state record with 1.3 million signatures — several times more than the 231,000 valid signatures needed to trigger the referendum — and did not need additional time to gather names.
“That’s the point — when something is really, really big, you’ll get your signatures in the first 90 days,” Seitz said. “It’s the dubious ones, the politically motivated ones, that are taking advantage of this loophole.”