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Published: Sunday, 11/2/2008

Voters to weigh water rights, bonds for cleanup

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

With five issues on the ballot and the last just being officially certified little more than a week ago, it should come as little surprise that one of the ballot issues Tuesday would advance the filing deadlines for future ballot questions.

• Issue 1

This proposed constitutional amendment, Issue 1, was put before voters by the General Assembly after two proposed issues in the last two general elections failed at the last moment to qualify for the ballot.

But by then the proposed repeal of a law restricting strip clubs in 2007 and the repeal of a new law limiting benefits for some injured workers in 2006 had already been printed on ballots and the state had spent taxpayer money advertising them. Any votes ultimately cast were never counted.

Voters will be asked Tuesday to move up the deadlines for filing petitions on constitutional amendments and citizen-initiated laws from the current 90 days before the election to 125 days. This is designed to give county boards of election more time to scrutinize the validity of signatures.

In the case of voter referendums, such as the strip club and workers compensation law repeals, backers of the repeal still would have 90 days from the date the law is signed by the governor to gather the necessary signatures to put it on the ballot.

But if that 90-day period should violate the new 125-day, pre-election window, the vote on the law would be postponed until the following year s election. The law would be placed on hold in the meantime.

The measure has faced no real organized opposition.

• Issue 2

This proposed constitutional amendment to replenish the Clean Ohio Fund to the tune of $400 million has faced some opposition from those opposed to the borrowing involved. Its supporters, however, insist that the bonds would be repaid with existing revenue streams and that the borrowing would not entail new taxes.

The question was put on the ballot by the governor and General Assembly as part of a broader $1.57 billion economic-stimulus package.

Of the funds, $200 million would go toward brownfields, cleaning up abandoned, polluted industrial sites for reuse. The other $200 million would target greenfields, preserving farmland and open space and expanding recreational offerings. The Clean Ohio Fund was originally approved by voters in 2000.

• Issue 3

This amendment would reaffirm existing private property water rights recognized in law, common law, and the Ohio Supreme Court by writing them into the Ohio Constitution.

The language would clarify that private owners have a right to the reasonable use of water on, under, and flowing through their property, but this right would not trump public welfare. As for shoreline property, the amendment would not affect the public s use of Lake Erie or other navigable waters.

The proposed constitutional amendment was approved by the General Assembly as part of a compromise to jump-start the stalled compact between states abutting the Great Lakes to empower them to prevent diversion of lakes water out of the watershed.

Supporters of the plan argue that it would protect private property water rights from the whims of the courts, while critics claim the amendment isn t necessary.

Contact Jim Provance at:jprovance@theblade.comor 614-221-0496.



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