Ohio Statehouse News Bureau
August 2, 2023
Major business lobbying groups back Issue 1. Some small Ohio businesses are speaking out against it
By Jo Ingles
Some small businesses gather in Ohio Statehouse on Wednesday, Aug. 2, to explain why they oppose Issue 1.
The Ohio Chamber of Commerce, the Ohio Chapter of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, and the Ohio Restaurant Association have all come out in favor of Issue 1, the proposal on the August ballot that could make it harder to change the state constitution in the future. But some small businesses say those organizations don’t speak for them. And they are holding news conferences in different cities throughout Ohio to make sure voters know that.
Frank Knapp, the director of Business for Democracy Campaign of the American Sustainable Business Network, said the needs of Ohio’s small businesses are different than bigger companies that often have a louder voice.
“In Ohio, over 96% of all businesses have fewer than 20 employees. So we are here to tell you that what is in the best interests of big business may not be in the best interest of small business,” Knapp said.
Knapp said more than 350 businesses in Ohio are part of the Ohio Sustainable Business Council and he said many of them oppose Issue 1.
Olivera Bratich, owner of Wildcat Gift and Party in Columbus, said small businesses like hers are often overlooked by powerful politicians and large lobby groups.
“I don’t have time to wine and dine my state representative. Take them out on golf trips like the big corporations and their lobbyists do. I don’t have money to make big donations to their political campaigns, so they remember me when it’s time to vote on legislation that affects small businesses like mine,” Bratich said.
Vote No on Issue 1 sign outside one of Katalina’s locations in Columbus
Kathleen Day, the owner of Katalina’s in Columbus, said she’s a member of the Ohio Restaurant Association, a group that supports Issue 1. One of the concerns expressed by the ORA is a possible future constitutional amendment that would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
“I understand why that is their position. But I have always paid my employees well above minimum wage. And I feel that restaurant workers deserve that and everything else that any other employee deserves. So that does not concern me personally,” Day said.
Issue 1 would raise the threshold for passing future constitutional amendments from the current 50% plus one to 60%. And it would make it harder for citizen-led efforts to amend the constitution by requiring signatures from all 88 counties instead of the current 44 and by wiping out the ten-day period when petitioners who fall short can gather more signatures to make a ballot. Ohioans will decide the issue on August 8. Early in person voting and mail in absentee voting is happening now. Some early vote centers have experienced lines – something that’ s uncommon in August elections when turnouts have traditionally been low.