Ohio voters will be deciding three ballot issues this November. One proposes a new way to draw districts for Ohio’s General Assembly. The other two are opposing ballot issues that address the ability to add commercial monopolies to the Ohio Constitution and whether marijuana should be legalized in the state. Below are summaries of each issue, with a brief sampling of some of the arguments made by supporters and opponents.
House Joint Resolution 12 was enacted during the last few days of the 130th General Assembly to create a new Ohio Redistricting Commission. It is on the November 2015 ballot as Issue 1. If enacted by Ohio voters, Issue 1 will require a seven-person panel to draw new legislative districts, replacing the existing five-member Apportionment Board. The Ohio Redistricting Commission will consist of the governor, state auditor, secretary of state, one person appointed by the speaker of the House of Representatives, one person appointed by the House Minority Leader, one person appointed by the Senate President and one person appointed by the Senate Minority Leader.
The commission will convene every 10 years — in years ending in the numeral one — for the purpose of drawing new lines for General Assembly districts. The amendment requires the commission to make a draft plan public and to conduct a minimum of three public hearings to hear public input on the proposed plan before adopting it.
The proposal requires the affirmative vote of four members of the commission, including two minority party members, to adopt a new legislative map for the full 10-year term. A plan that is adopted by a simple majority, but fails to garner support from two minority party members of the commission, will become effective “until two general elections for the house of representatives have occurred under the plan.” At that point, the commission will reconvene to redraw the districts.
In addition to detailing the process for the Ohio Redistricting Commission, the amendment also outlines the map-drawing process, including minimizing splits of political subdivisions. The amendment also states that no plan “shall be drawn primarily to favor or disfavor a political party” and that districts shall be compact.
Supporters of Issue 1 say that the proposal will add transparency in the redistricting process and will help eliminate partisan gerrymandering. Opponents say that members of the proposed commission will not be independent from legislators, allowing legislators to still influence the process, and note that third parties and independents are not represented on the commission.
House Joint Resolution 4, passed by the Ohio General Assembly in late June, proposes to amend Article II, §1e of the Ohio Constitution “to prohibit an initiated constitutional amendment that would grant a monopoly, oligopoly, or cartel, specify or determine a tax rate, or confer a commercial interest, right, or license to any person or nonpublic entity.” It has been designated as Issue 2 by the Ohio Ballot Board.
Issue 2 does not bar future initiative efforts but creates a second layer for initiatives deemed by the Ballot Board to conflict with the anti-monopoly provision. In such event, the Ballot Board would place two questions on the ballot: one asking whether the petitioner should be granted an exception to the anti-monopoly provision, and the second describing the proposed constitutional amendment. The proposed constitutional amendment would take effect only if both questions are approved by voters.
Issue 2 also includes language specifically stating that if on the November 3 ballot, voters approve a proposed amendment that conflicts with the anti-monopoly provisions in Issue 2 and creates a monopoly for the sale, distribution or other use of a federal Schedule 1 controlled substance, that amendment shall not take effect. This language seeks to prevent Issue 3 from becoming effective if both Issue 2 and Issue 3 are approved by voters.
Supporters of Issue 2 say that special interests should not be able to secure financial advantages in the Ohio Constitution. Opponents of Issue 2 say that the measure interferes with the constitutional initiative process to block a measure approved by voters.
A proposal from ResponsibleOhio, now Issue 3 on the November 2015 ballot, would allow persons aged 21 or older to use marijuana for medical and recreational purposes and to grow up to four plants for personal use. In addition, the amendment provides for 10 site-specific locations for the commercial growth of marijuana and retail sales of marijuana at approximately 1,100 locations throughout the state. The amendment also creates the Marijuana Control Commission as the regulatory entity over the industry.
Issue 3 would prohibit any state or local law, including zoning laws, from being applied to prohibit marijuana growth, cultivation or extraction facilities, retail stores or medical marijuana dispensaries in an area unless it is zoned exclusively residential on July 1, 2015, or as of the date the application is first filed for a license for a growing, cultivating, extraction, retail or dispensing site.
Under the plan, marijuana would be taxed at 15 percent on the gross revenue of each growth, cultivation and extraction facility and marijuana product manufacturing facility. A tax rate of 5 percent would be applied to gross revenue of each retail marijuana store. Tax revenues are directed to go to a municipal and township government fund, a strong county fund and the Marijuana Control Commission Fund.
Supporters of Issue 3 say that the measure creates a tightly controlled regulatory framework for the marijuana industry and will create jobs in Ohio. Opponents of Issue 3 say that the initiative would prevent competition in the industry and are concerned with the legalization of marijuana-infused products that may appeal to children.