The referendum process has been available to Ohioans since 1912, serving as an important check on legislative power. The rejection by voters of Senate Bill 5, a bill that would have changed Ohio’s collective bargaining laws, is the most recent example. The initiative process, by which citizens can propose changes to Ohio law or the state Constitution, brought us the statewide smoking ban and an increase in the state’s minimum wage.
New legislation in the Ohio Senate (Senate Bill 47) will change the referendum and initiative process, limiting signature collection while the Secretary of State and local Boards of Elections review signatures for validity. In instances where insufficient signatures are found to have been presented, ten days remain for organizers to submit more valid signatures. SB47 would prohibit the collection of additional signatures during the initial review, allowing just ten days for additional signatures to be gathered.
Sen. Bill Seitz, SB 47’s sponsor, claims Ohio’s Constitution does not allow signature collection while initial petitions are reviewed. In fact, the Constitution merely the limits the time for filing more signatures — it is silent regarding the time period for collecting them:
§ 2.01g: If the petitions or signatures are determined to be insufficient, ten additional days shall be allowed for the filing of additional signatures to such petition.
There has been no public debate about the current practice. Limiting the signature collection process will only make it more difficult for everyday Ohioans to have a voice through the referendum and initiative process.
Senate Bill 47 will be considered for its third committee hearing tomorrow, Tuesday March 5 in the State Government Oversight & Reform Committee, at 4pm, and is expected for a full vote by the Senate on Wednesday.
You can use this web form to contact your State Senator to urge changes to SB47.