As the chief sponsor of the petition process reform bill recently passed by the Ohio Senate, I make three points to demonstrate the fatuous nature of your criticism of the bill in your March 12 editorial “Sign here.”
First, your assertion that the bill “appears to reflect some residual pique among GOP lawmakers over voters’ repeal” of Senate Bill 5 — which would have changed public-employee collective-bargaining rights — is untrue. I opposed SB5 and signed the petition in favor of its repeal by referendum.
Second, the bill would not have affected the SB5 referendum had it been effective in 2011. The petitioners collected such an overwhelming number of referendum petition signatures during the first 90 days that the issue was certified to the ballot without any need for submitting more signatures during the supplemental 10-day period allowed for filing additional signatures.
Third, your claim that the bill poses a special hardship for “grass-roots groups that often operate on small, tight budgets” and “rely largely on volunteer petition circulators” is laughable. Of all the successful referendum and initiative campaigns since 1997, every one was bankrolled by big money — whether corporate or labor.
The Blade can point to no successful referendum or initiative in the past 15 years that was brought to Ohio voters by grass-roots groups that relied largely on volunteer petition circulators. And that is under the current law that gives petitioners time to keep collecting signatures while the veracity of the initial number is determined.
Rather, the bill imposes a uniform set of rules on all ballot campaigns, so that each has the exact same amount of time to gather signatures if the initial filing is insufficient — the 10 days guaranteed by the Constitution, no more and no less.
These rules will apply equally to payday lenders seeking to overturn legislative restrictions on them, to casino interests seeking to write their monopolies into the state constitution, to big tobacco (and big anti-tobacco) seeking to restrict or liberalize smokers’ rights, to organized labor and the Democrat Party seeking to overturn legislative redistricting decisions, and to business and conservative groups seeking to write right-to-work into our constitution. Not a “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” among ’em.
Ohio Senate District 8