Fall Session - The Ohio Legislature
The legislature continues to be quiet since the budget bills were enacted in July.
A couple of committees have started to meet during the last week, but the schedule is very light. This is common for summer recess and after a rush of action the first part of the year to pass multiple budget bills. The plan for fall session likely will take greater shape here in the next couple of weeks with members making their way back to Columbus and leadership continuing to meet to discuss which issues will become priorities.
Energy For and Against Ohio’s HB 6
The bill was passed by both Houses and later signed by the Governor in late July. For most bills, that is the end of the process. For this highly publicized bill, the debate continues. Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts (OACB) formed in attempt to repeal HB 6. The goal is to place a referendum before voters on the 2020 ballot.
After a first attempt at ballot access failed, the group was successful in having the Ohio Attorney General certify its summary of the proposed referendum. The Ohio Secretary of State then verified the initial 1,000 signatures. These administrative actions allow the group and its petitioners to begin collecting the nearly 265,000 signatures from registered voters needed to put the measure on the ballot. Those signatures must reach a threshold in at least 44 of Ohio's 88 counties equal to or greater than 3 percent of the total vote cast in the county for the office of governor at the last gubernatorial election. The deadline for submitting the signatures is Oct. 21st.
To combat a possible ballot vote, a pro HB 6 group, Ohioans for Energy Security (OES), aired its first ad on television, cable and radio stations all over Ohio. The ad focuses attention on what it said are funding repeal efforts of HB6, which gives subsidies to Ohio's two nuclear power plants. The ad mentions the Chinese government.
In more action, FirstEnergy Solutions sued asking the Ohio Supreme Court to block the referendum attempt because HB 6 in their eyes is a tax levy and cannot constitutionally be up for a referendum. Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts fought back against this line of argument. Some elected officials that voted for HB 6 echoed the idea that it is not a tax and were upset that this argument is being made. The debate continues.
Changes to Ohio’s Constitutional Amendment Process Proposed
HJR 1 (Constitutional Amendments) was introduced by Rep. Kyle Koehler (R-Springfield) the resolution would modify certain citizen signature requirements for a proposed constitutional amendment by initiative petition. Part of the argument for this type of amendment is that out of state groups have continued efforts in multiple elections to access Ohio’s ballot. The resolution resides in the House Civil Justice Committee. The plan would require signatures from at least 10% of the electors from each of 53 counties. Opponents say this will only make it harder to achieve citizen-led change to the Ohio Constitution. The current process, in contrast, requires signatures obtained from 44 counties with those totaling at least 5% the total vote cast for governor in each county. The sponsor believes a hearing will occur in the next couple of weeks. There were proposals on this issue last session which failed to gain enough traction to pass.