SUDDES: Aug. 8 amendment has nothing to do with “protecting” Ohio constitution

In 64 days — in about nine weeks from now, on Tuesday, Aug. 8 — Ohioans will decide who should run their state: A simple majority of its voters, or a Statehouse clique.

State Issue 1 would require a proposed Ohio Constitution amendment to draw the backing of at least 60% of those voting on it. Since 1912, proposed amendments have had to draw the backing of 50% plus 1 of those voting on them.

The reason Republicans are calling for a 60% margin is because they fear that otherwise Ohioans — using the 50% plus 1 standard — might succeed in constitutionally guaranteeing Ohio women’s right to seek an abortion.

The Republicans calling for a 60% winning margin also fear that otherwise Ohioans may vote to outlaw GOP gerrymandering.

The Aug. 8 amendment has nothing to with “protecting” Ohio’s constitution, and everything to do with protecting the status quo. The last thing the General Assembly wants is empowered Ohio voters. A closer look suggests one reason why:

In 1958, per capita personal income in Ohio equaled 101.59% of the national average; in 2022, it approximated 88.47%. That is, Ohio has fallen behind.

That’s evidently OK with a legislature more concerned about where schoolkids go to the bathroom than with whether Mom and Dad get paid enough to put food on the supper table.

What keeps the hand faster the eye in these Capitol Square games is classic divide-and-conquer: Stir up human differences — race is a good example, sexuality is, too — so voters won’t notice the game’s real stakes, such as who the legislature is subsidizing, and why.

All else equal, which Statehouse speech will draw more eyeballs and ears? A tax break, or a denunciation of transgender athletes? That’s the formula: Divide. Deflect. Win.

And that’s why General Assembly Republicans have their Dockers in a bunch over the prospect that Ohioans — the source of all political power, the state constitution says — might use ballot issues to stymie the legislature’s antics.

It’s called democracy. And that’s what State Issue 1 would kill.

MEANWHILE: June should be the wind-up month for Ohio’s proposed 2023-25 budget, now pending in the state Senate Finance Committee.

Once the Senate passes its version of the House-passed budget, a conference committee composed of three House members (two Republicans, one Democrat) two senators (also two Republicans, one Democrat) will meld the House and Senate plans into a compromise. That’s what the civics books says, anyway. In fact, the budget’s quarterbacks will be Senate President Matt Huffman, a Lima Republican, and House Speaker Jason Stephens, a Republican from Lawrence County’s Kitts Hill.

The House-passed version has 5,559 pages. Its major expenditures are (a) state aid to K-12 schools; (b) the costs of state prisons, which held 43,690 inmates in February; and (c) the federal-state Medicaid program for low income Ohioans. It covered 3.59 million Ohioans in April — about 30% of the state’s population.

Each of those three programs will draw attention, as money always does in the Statehouse bazaar. But likely the biggest fight will come over state aid to local public school districts. At issue is whether legislators will fully fund Years 3 and 4 of the six-year (“Cupp-Patterson”) Fair School Funding Plan.

The current budget funded the plan’s Years 1 and 2. But the Senate especially wants to expand school vouchers — which help parents pay private school tuition. Sure, there’ll be headlines over other aspects of the budget. But school funding will be June’s main event. And it’ll also help determine Ohio’s future.

Thomas Suddes is a former legislative reporter with The Plain Dealer in Cleveland and writes from Ohio University. You can reach him at

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