Businesses divided over making it tougher to amend Ohio constitution

The Blade
Toledo, Ohio
August 2, 2023

Watch entire press conference video here

Businesses divided over making it tougher to amend
Ohio constitution


COLUMBUS — A group of small business owners on Wednesday said the Ohio Chamber of Commerce doesn’t speak for them when it supports passage of Issue 1 on Tuesday to make it tougher for voters to amend the state constitution.

“The Ohio Chamber, much like other state chambers around the country, really represents the big corporations that pay the most dues to them…,” said Frank Knapp, director of the Washington-based Business for Democracy.

“In Ohio, 96 percent of all businesses have fewer than 20 employees, so…what’s in the best interest of big business may not be in the best interest of small businesses.”

He was joined at the Statehouse by owners of about a dozen Ohio small businesses who oppose Issue 1 during next week’s rare statewide special election.

Placed on the ballot by legislative Republicans, the question asks voters to:

  • Raise the threshold for passage of all future constitutional amendments from a simple majority to 60 percent.
  • Require petitioners to gather signatures equivalent to at least 5 percent of those who voted in the last gubernatorial election in all 88 counties, up from 44, in order to access the ballot. This would be in addition to the statewide signature requirement of 10 percent.
  • Eliminate the existing 10-day “cure” period allowing petitioners to gather more signatures if county boards of election find they initially came up short.

If approved, the 60 percent vote threshold would take effect immediately and be in place for the Nov. 7 election when voters will be asked to insert reproductive rights, including a right to abortion access, into the constitution. The latter two provisions would apply to proposals initiated beginning in 2024.

During the final week of early voting through Tuesday, a total of 202,073 Ohioans had cast ballots — 70,340 via absentee ballot and 96,424 in person. In all, more than 492,000 have voted since early voting began on July 11.

The numbers pale in comparison to primary and general elections when voters are used to going to the polls, but Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose has noted that the numbers have been running well ahead of what was seen in August, 2022.

Court fights over redistricting led last year to the primary election for state legislative races being delayed to coincide with local August special elections. But even then, not every county had a competitive race or tax levy on the ballot to bring out voters.

Between July 26 and Aug. 1, voters in Lucas County had cast ballots early, 1,454 via absentee ballot and 5,913 in person. In Wood, 2,454 had voted during that time with 670 either mailing or dropping off absentee ballots and 1,784 in person.

The upcoming weekend marks the only weekend with early voting hours. Mailed absentee ballots must be postmarked by Monday.

Large business organizations like the chamber, the National Federation of Independent Business, the Ohio Restaurant Association, and the Ohio Hotel & Lodging Association are part of the coalition supporting Issue 1. That’s in part because of a potential proposed amendment next year that could raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025 and, for the first time, bring usually lower wages for tipped employees in line with that.

“Our industry is solely focused on countering anti-business movements like a fast-tracked and massive change to the state’s starting entry-level wage rate, which is already indexed to inflation, and elimination of a tipped wage that enables restaurant servers to earn excellent compensation,” the restaurant association’s CEO, John Barker, said it joined the pro-Issue 1 campaign.

“A policy change on these two topics would drive up overall inflation, limit employment opportunities for 500,000-plus Ohioans who work in our industry and increase costs for small business owners in every county in Ohio,” he said.

Kathleen Day, an owner of Katalina’s cafes in Columbus, is an Ohio Restaurant Association member, yet she urges a “no” vote on Issue 1.

“I respect everything they do, and I understand why that is their position, but I have always paid my employees well above minimum wage and feel restaurant workers deserve that,” she said.



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