Ohio dispatch: state lawmakers consider next steps after voters approve ballot measures on abortion protections, recreational cannabis Dispatches
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Ohio dispatch: state lawmakers consider next steps after voters approve ballot measures on abortion protections, recreational cannabis

Mackenzie Damon went to college in Ohio and worked in the Ohio House for several years before coming to the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, where she is currently a 1L. 

State legislators in Ohio are contemplating how to respond after voters on Election Day approved two proposed constitutional amendments to protect reproductive rights and to legalize recreational marijuana.

Issue 1, the proposal to enshrine reproductive rights into the state constitution, passed with nearly 57%  of the vote. Issue 2, the proposal to legalize recreational marijuana, also passed by roughly the same percentage of the vote.

These victories come on the heels of an August special election that saw the rejection of a proposed amendment that sought to limit direct democracy in the state by making it more difficult for citizen-initiated proposals to be put on the ballot and raising the threshold to pass such proposals. Had that ballot measure been approved, neither Issue 1 nor Issue 2 would have passed, even though a majority of Ohioans supported them.

“We know Ohioans overwhelmingly support reproductive freedom and abortion rights – and we know the majority of Americans support it, too,” the coalition leading the ‘Yes’ campaign for Issue 1 stated in a Facebook post. “This victory should serve as a clear warning to other extremists who want to pass dangerous abortion bans across the country.”

Despite Issue 1’s decisive victory, Republican lawmakers in the state legislature have already spoken of their intent to combat the implementation of the amendment. Four Ohio House Republicans recently announced their plans to introduce a bill that would give the Ohio General Assembly the “exclusive authority” to implement Issue 1. The proposal would strip jurisdiction from courts which would normally be tasked with reviewing state laws that would violate the new rule—such as the state’s six-week abortion ban.

In response, Statehouse GOP leaders, including Speaker of the House Jason Stephens, have expressed doubts about the seriousness of the legislation, which would contradict the separation of powers between the legislative and judicial branches of government.

Even so, reproductive health advocates and Democratic staffers have expressed disappointment with Statehouse extremists’ repeated attempts to subvert the will of their constituents. This is only the latest in a series of actions taken by the General Assembly that undermine democracy and ignore the concerns of the people that elected these lawmakers to serve them.

The current makeup of the Ohio state legislature is a veto-proof GOP supermajority, thanks to unconstitutional legislative district maps that were implemented despite strong opposition from stakeholders on both sides of the aisle. Because of this supermajority, the GOP-controlled General Assembly has passed countless unpopular bills, and there is no mechanism by which Ohioans can hold them accountable.

With only a handful of legislative session dates remaining prior to the statutes’ effective date on December 7, Statehouse lawmakers have expressed a desire to pass a policy framework for the implementation of Issue 2—however, it is uncertain whether the House and Senate are on the same page.