Protecting our state constitution from monopolistic special interests

SPONSOR TESTIMONY - H.J.R. 4

Senate Rules Committee 
June 29, 2015

President and Chairman Faber, Vice Chair Widener, Ranking Member Schiavoni and members of the committee, thank you for this opportunity to join Representative Curtin for the purpose of introducing you to Substitute House Joint Resolution 4.

This resolution calls for a constitutional amendment to be placed on the ballot in the general election being held on November 3, 2015 that would ask the voters of the State of Ohio to prohibit the creation of monopolistic advantage through the use of citizen-initiated constitutional amendments.

In recent months, many leaders from across the state have expressed concern for the very real risk that an individual, group of individuals, or business entity will exploit the citizen-initiated amendment process in order to achieve personal financial gain. I, too, share that concern. Eight-one members of the House voted to recommend these amendments to the Senate and to the voters.

In order to prevent these self-serving monopolistic provisions from making their way into our Ohio Constitution, House Joint Resolution 4 proposes the following guardrails specific to the initiative constitutional amendment process:

  1.   Prohibits initiated creation of a monopoly or special interest, privilege, benefit, right, or license of an economic nature for any individual, group of individuals, or business entity that is otherwise not made available to similarly situated individuals or entities.
  2.   Requires an individual or group of individuals that wish to make an exception to this constitutional amendment to follow this two-step process:
  • As step one, an individual or group of individuals must use the citizen-initiated amendment process to ask the voters of Ohio for explicit permission to make a specific exception to this amendment.
  • If the electors of this state vote to support such an exception, that individual or group individuals will then be permitted to advance to step two and place on the ballot an amendment that seeks to enshrine in the constitution the exception approved in step one.
  1. Places into the constitution the process already outlined in statute that is used by the Attorney General of Ohio to certify the fairness and truthfulness of a petition summary; and also places into the constitution language that is currently spelled out in the Ohio Revised Code regarding the judicial review process granted to aggrieved petitioners who seek to challenge the decision of the Attorney General as it relates to the lack of certification of a petition summary.
  2. In addition to the existing language that is already established in the Ohio Revised Code regarding the Attorney General's petition review process, this amendment would also require the Attorney General to examine whether or not any part of a citizen-initiated petition summary would unlawfully create a monopoly or other unconstitutional economic benefit that would be prohibited under this amendment. In such a case, the petition summary would be rejected in the same manner as any other petition summary that the Attorney General deems to be lacking in fairness and truthfulness.

The language contained in this resolution applies only to attempted use of the citizen-initiated amendment process to profiteer. In no way will it infringe upon the right of Ohio's citizens to place measures on the ballot that seek to promote the well-being of all Ohioans.

I believe that, as elected members of this government, we are all called upon to protect our constitution from being exploited for personal profit. Further, as elected officials, we have the moral duty to lead our citizens to protect our constitution from self-serving financial interests.