Does Ohio need a Constitutional Convention?

That question will be put before voters in the November election in the form of State Issue 1.

If a majority of voters approve, the general assembly, at its next session, shall provide for the election of delegates and the assembling of such a convention to reform and amend the Ohio Constitution.

The call for a Constitutional Convention in Ohio is not new. In fact, the state Constitution requires the question be put before voters every 20 years and that is why the question is on November’s ballot. However, voters have not said yes to the question since 1912.

If voters look more favorably on Issue 1 than they have in past years, elections will be held in each of Ohio’s 88 counties to select the delegates who will form the convention to tinker with the laws in our state’s basic governing document.

However, even if voters reject the call for a convention, Ohio’s constitution is scheduled for a thorough review because last year the state legislature voted overwhelmingly in favor of a measure to establish the Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission.

The Modernization Commission is a bipartisan group of 12 legislative members and 20 non-legislative members who will serve two years unless reappointed. The commission will meet in November and offer a report of recommendations to the legislature in January on ways to improve the constitution. Any changes would have to be approved later by voters.

Medina’s own Bill Batchelder believes the Constitution is due for a tune-up, but thinks the best vehicle to do so is the Modernization Commission which he helped establish through his role as speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives.

Legislative members of the commission were chosen by party caucus leaders, and non-legislative members were chosen via an application and review process by the legislative members. Former Republican Gov. Bob Taft and former Republican House Speakers Jo Ann Davidson and Charles Kurfess are non-legislative members. Members do not receive compensation.

Steven Steinglass, an expert on the Ohio Constitution and dean emeritus at the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, agrees with Batchelder on the subject of constitutional conventions. When the issue last came up in 2006, he told The Plain Dealer that electing delegates in each county would be a costly and messy process. He also said that other means have already been used successfully to update the constitution including the amendment process and another Modernization Commission which met in 1976 when it had most of its recommendations adopted.

Questions which may be dealt with by the Modernization Commission and possibly a Constitutional Convention include voting rights, redistricting, home rule, term limits, tort reform, judicial selection and gay marriage.

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