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Voters should approve Issue 1

October 20, 2012
Salem News

Issue 1 asks Ohio voters whether the state should play host to a constitutional convention to review the document and propose amendments or write a new one. The question has been posed to voters every 20 years since 1932, as the constitution requires, and it has never been approved.

A "yes" vote would force a convention to review the constitution and offer recommendations, which would have to be OKd by voters.

A "no" vote would block the convention.

A review of the state constitution already is under way because of legislation that lawmakers approved earlier this year. The Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission, with 12 lawmakers and 20 public members, is required to offer an initial report early next year and subsequent reports at least every two years through mid-2021.

Lawmakers established a comparable commission in 1969. It recommended more than 40 constitutional changes. Voters adopted many of them.

This year should be different.

A flaw in the document has surfaced many times since 1992, when Ohioans last had the opportunity to order a constitutional convention. Sometimes, when the legislature does not have the belly to pass difficult laws, special interest groups have written over-reaching amendments that received voter approval. Sometimes, just to further their self-interests or to attempt to sway a presidential election, special interest groups have written amendments that received approval.

An example of the former is Ohio's minimum wage law. After the legislature stalled for years, labor groups were able to win voter approval to write a minimum wage formula into the constitution. The formula unnecessarily hurts business and employment, but it's not likely to change again because of the cost and difficulty in approving an amendment.

Other examples of the former is a gay marriage amendment proposal to compel conservative voters to the polls for a presidential election, and a sick and family leave amendment proposal to compel liberal voters to the polls for a president election.

Examples of the latter involve an isolated group - casino owners - winning an amendment that allows them to operate monopolies around the state.

Ohio held a constitutional convention in 1912. This resulted in allowing voters to enact and repeal laws directly and proposed allowing women the right to vote, the right to run for more offices, and for nonwhites to have more access to voting.

Again next year many important issues can and should be reviewed.

If the convention is approved, one of the first charges should be to eliminate or make more difficult the ability for groups to willy-nilly put amendments on the ballot. This California-like legislation by amendment is not the right way to run a government.

We advise approving Issue I to give Ohio's basic law a thorough, systematic review by a broad and diverse cross-section of citizens.



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