October 9, 2015
For Immediate Release — October 21, 2015
Carla Rautenberg, Move to Amend Ohio Network, 216-932-5618,Carla [at] Simmertildone.net
Greg Coleridge, Northeast Ohio American Friends Service Committee, 216-255-2184, gcoleridge [at] afsc.org
Pro-Democracy Citizen Initiative Groups Oppose State Issue 2
The Move to Amend Ohio Network and Northeast Ohio American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) have joined the growing number of organizations which oppose State Issue 2.
The two organizations, which have helped organize multiple municipal citizen initiatives against corporatization of public assets, and for self-determination and democracy by ending constitutional rights of corporations and money as speech, issued a joint statement today: “10 Reasons to Vote NO on State Issue 2.”
Issue 2 will take power away from citizens to amend the state constitution by making it harder for citizens to pass many types, if not virtually all types, of citizen initiatives. This will likely make it even easier for corporations to control our government.
The Move to Amend Ohio Network is part of the national Move to Amend campaign, which seeks a constitutional amendment to affirm that only human beings, not corporate entities, possess inalienable constitutional rights and that money is not equivalent to political speech and, therefore, can be regulated in elections. The Network is exploring organizing a statewide initiative campaign calling on Congress to end corporate personhood and money as speech. Many of the Network’s local affiliates and supporters have organized successful local citizen initiatives on the same issue, including those in Brecksville, Cleveland Heights, Defiance, Newburgh Heights, Mentor and Chagrin Falls. Kent and Toledo will have similar issues on their ballot in the coming months.
The Northeast Ohio AFSC, a Quaker related social action organization, supports the Move to Amend Network and has helped organize local citizen initiative campaigns in Akron against corporatization/privatization of the city’s sewer system and for campaign finance reform.
10 Reasons to Vote NO on State Issue 2
1. Issue 2 was fast-tracked through the Ohio legislature with limited public discussion, debate and deliberation. While so many other measures take months to work through both chambers of the state legislature, the legislation that became Issue 2 took just two weeks.
2. Issue 2 is advertised as preventing “monopolies” and other economic concentrations of wealth from being created and protected by the Ohio constitution. Besides Robber Barons, who can possibly be for monopolies, oligopolies and cartels? The reality, however, is that the ballot measure will prohibit much more.
3. Issue 2 is linked at the hip with State Issue 3 – the top-down plan to legalize marijuana by the group “Responsible Ohio.” The critique of the “monopoly” plan of Responsible Ohio to create just 10 marijuana growing sites has provided cover to Issue 2 advocates to offer their own top-down plan that would control what citizen initiatives can be voted on by Ohio citizens.
4. Issue 2 would prohibit amendments to the Ohio Constitution that would, "grant or create a monopoly, oligopoly, or cartel, specify or determine a tax rate, or confer a commercial interest, commercial right, or commercial license to any person, nonpublic entity, or group of persons or nonpublic entities, or any combination thereof, however organized, that is not then available to other similarly situated persons or nonpublic entities." This language is undefined, confusing and vague, leaving wide latitude for political and legal interpretation. For example, “commercial” has been defined by courts at the federal level to mean almost anything when interpreting the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause – with virtually all of the interpretations favoring corporations at the expense of citizens, working people, communities and the environment.
5. Issue 2 specifically addresses how to pass citizen initiatives in Ohio, the process permitting citizens to directly create laws or amendments to the state constitution. Citizen initiatives are examples of direct democracy that bypass politicians and the courts. This tool of voter empowerment, dating back to the 1912 Progressive Era, is challenging enough for citizens to wield to create or amend laws or constitutional amendments. Issue 2 would make economic-related, if not all, proposed amendments to the Ohio Constitution much more difficult, time-consuming and expensive to enact by creating a two-step process: (1) asking voters if they want to vote on an amendment deemed “monopolistic,” and then, (2) voting on the actual amendment. Common Cause Ohio calls this a "poison pill for direct democracy in Ohio."
6. The group that would rule on the constitutionality of the first step of the two-step process under Issue 2 would be the Ohio Ballot Board, an appointed 5-member body made up solely of representatives of the two major political parties. The Secretary of State’s political party would be the party with the majority of votes on the Board. There are no third party representatives or independents. Proposed amendments challenging the political duopoly would obviously face extreme opposition. It’s unclear whether decisions could be appealed to the courts. The Board would be its own concentrated “monopoly” in deciding what amendments it deems “monopolistic.”
7. One collective effect of points 3-5 above is a further political consolidation of power and authority toward a small number of state elected officials. It also limits the number of decision-makers that need to be influenced by corporate entities for or against proposed amendments according to their own economic interests.
8. By raising the bar to pass certain citizen initiatives, Issue 2 will deter individuals and groups from even attempting to organize such campaigns. The citizen initiative, an historically important tool of direct democracy and grassroots involvement in the political process, would become much less effective as a counterweight to career politicians and the courts.
9. Issue 2 advocates may be hoping it becomes as ineffective and misapplied as the Sherman (named after Ohio Senator John Sherman) Anti-Trust Act became. The 1890 Sherman Act was supposedly intended to prevent “monopolies and trusts.” While it was somewhat effective in the short term, it become increasingly ineffective in preventing massive corporate mergers in every field — right up to the present time. It was also repeatedly misapplied by corporations in court to attack unions — by claiming people who came together for their own benefit were a “Trust.” Issue 2 advocates may have plans for the same effect given its undefined and vague language — to be used as a corporate battering ram against Ohioans organizing themselves to amend the constitution (including challenging corporate rule) for their own collective betterment.
10. Issue 2 is part of a current broad trend at every level of government by the power elite to strip authority and rights from people – from local efforts to eliminate Home Rule to international efforts like the Trans Pacific Partnership’s “investor-state dispute settlement” (ISDS) process permitting corporations to directly challenge sovereign governments before unelected and unaccountable “Tribunals.” Do not be fooled.