An overwhelmingly number of Buckeye lawmakers, virtually all them Republican, voted last Tuesday to fast forward a proposal to the fall ballot that would monkey-wrench an amendment that would carve out real estate in the Ohio Constitution for ten commercial marijuana growers in the same way four casino owners got their real estate in 2009, by winning a statewide vote.
There’s suddenly an out cry from certain quarters to protect the Ohio Constitution from certain invasive interest groups whose causes are deemed too crass to be in the people’s founding operations manual. Long overdue, polls show an amendment to legalize marijuana as other states have done with great success can win in Ohio. Certain quarters fear that Ohio voters will be motivated to make the effort to vote this fall because they know the retread stories depicting ResponsibleOhio’s amendment as a bad moral and economic decision has long been conjured and calculated to produce a bogey man that doesn’t exist in real life.
The anti-monopoly resolution that sped like greased lighting through the Republican-dominated legislature last week was co-sponsored by Republican House Finance Chairman Ryan Smith and Democrat State Rep. Michael Curtin. Mr. Curtin, it should be remembered, rose from the ranks of statehouse reporter for The Columbus Dispatch to retire in 2007 as its associate publisher.
Coincidentally, the capital city’s mainstream print newspaper, owned by the Wolfe family for the last 110 years, announced in June that it had been purchased for a fire-sale price of $47 million, compared to a value hundreds of millions more not too long ago, informed sources note. Mr. Curtin led the charge on behalf of the Dispatch and certain members of the Columbus business community in opposing Issue 3 [casinos] in 2009. Issue 3 passed, but to accommodate private interests who saw the casino threatening their investments in the Arena District, among them the Dispatch and Nationwide Insurance, another amendment to the constitution allowing a change in real estate location from downtown’s entertainment district to Columbus’ west side was presented to Ohio voters who obligingly approved switching locations.
The new statehouse proposal would revise Ohio’s constitution to prohibit amendments that deliver commercial economic benefits to individuals or monopolies. Ten marijuana-growing sites contained in ResponsibleOhio’s campaign to legalize marijuana in Ohio are the target of the Smith-Curtin proposal. Smith and Curtin’s memo, the AP reported, said by targeting benefits of a “commercial economic nature … the measure safely avoids affecting issues of women’s rights, voting rights, marital status, wages and unionization.”
Technicality Frees Kasich
The people who need to protect the constitution are the voters of Ohio, not their elected representatives, who seem to see it as Swiss Cheese now but who had little concern for invading its sanctity when the Defense of Marriage Act [DOMA] hit the statewide ballot in 2004. Many of these same people feel asleep again as constitution-defender sentinels, when lawmakers played midwife by birthing JobsOhio at the command of Gov. John Kasich in 2011. Kasich’s brainchild, sold as a group of business savvy leaders he would head, was wholly unconstitutional. A private and secret job group, with a board he would handpick and lead until the state constitution said he couldn’t do that, won a giant victory by Ohio’s high court who didn’t pursue it based on a technicality. Meanwhile, JobsOhio continues its expensive and poor performing work as if it’s constitutional when it isn’t.
Unconstitutional, JobsOhio Lives
All the alarmed legislators now, many of whom have been around since the days of DOMA and who voted to create Mr. Kasich’s privately run group fueled entirely by taxpayer dollars and bonded out for decades to come, have to explain why they fell asleep in 2004 and 2011, the years, respectively, when special religious interests bought a lot in the constitution and JobsOhio proceeded forward even though it’s in clear violation of state constitution?
JobsOhio would be declared unconstitutional if the Ohio Supreme Court would allow a lawsuit challenging it to reach move forward. It had such a chance to tackle this very important question, but to protect Gov. Kasich and his signature pet project that continues to underwhelm, the GOP-controlled court dismissed a lawsuit in June of last year challenging JobsOhio. The lawsuit was brought by ProgressOhio and Michael J. Skindell, a member of the Ohio Senate, and Dennis E. Murray, a former member of the Ohio House of Representatives.
One Plunderbund legal voice reporting on the decision at the time said, “The bottom line: even though JobsOhio is likely unconstitutional, nobody in Ohio is permitted to bring a lawsuit which could bring this issue before the court.
Putting it even more succinctly in his decision, Justice Pfeiffer, a Republican, said this: “Today, this court ends all doubt about when it will determine the constitutionality of the JobsOhio legislation, essentially responding, ‘Not ever.’ Not here. Not now. Not ever.”
French Kissing Kasich
When Judy French ran her election campaign last year, she told voters that to elect her was to protect all the work done by other Republicans, especially Gov. Kasich. Now term limited, rumors have it that Mr. Kasich, who appointed French to the bench, would look to French as a potential nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court should he perform his own Ohio Miracle of being elected President of the United States in 2016.
Legal scholars have assessed the legal underpinnings of JobsOhio, and there is some hefty consensus that JobsOhio violates the Ohio Constitution. When voters, as expected, ignore Gov. Kasich and most Members of the General Assembly and pass ResponsibleOhio’s amendment this fall, while simultaneously voting no on the Smith-Curtain proposal, they will have exercised a most fundamental right cemented in the constitution by deciding for themselves what should and should not be in this hallowed document.
Collectively, Ohio voters could drive their bus over Ohio’s current crop of elected leaders, which includes the supermajority of Republicans that fiercely control the direction and actions of the Ohio legislature. The 132 members would have much to lose if voters were to wake up, understand their power and apply it to changing the constitution to meet their ends, not the privileged special interests of people who cry foul about government at every turn but who will do anything and everything in their power to cash-in by remaining in it.
Many years have passed since the birth of JobsOhio, yet it continues to operate in spite of being unconstitutional. There is no date in site for another run at the Ohio Supreme Court to resolve the issue. JobsOhio should stand as Exhibit A on how to violate the constitution and get away with it. The political leanings of the court has guaranteed no one with legal standing can have a say in it.
It’s unlikely that national reporters who are often lazy and repeat crafted but bogus Kasichlore others in their social media circle write, would know enough to ask the governor who would be president why he would propose such an patently unconstitutional group?