A Message from Mike: Don’t Let Statehouse Politicians Take Away Our Rights

Mike Curtin has a message for Ohio: Don’t Let Statehouse Politicians Take Away Our Rights! Mike is strongly opposed to Issue 1 and the August Special Election, designed to make ballot measures almost impossibly challenging. He has been busy making his views known in op-eds across the state. 

Curtin retired from The Dispatch Printing Company after a 38-year career. Following his retirement from The Dispatch, he served two terms (2013-2016) in the Ohio House of Representatives. Curtin also served on the Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission and co-authored The Ohio Politics Almanac.

Mike Curtin at a press conference on the passage of bond issues.

Here are  some excerpts of his recent op-eds in Ohio newspapers where he lays out the many reasons we should oppose HJR 1 and SJR2:

“We must learn from history. History is our best teacher. In 1953, the Ohio Constitution still proclaimed that the Ohio National Guard was open to white males only. The General Assembly placed an amendment on the November 1953 ballot to remove the word ‘white’ from the qualifications. That amendment passed with 58.2% of the vote. Eight years later, in November 1961, Ohioans voted on an amendment to remove the males-only language. Ohioans approved the amendment, with 50.1% of the vote. Many essential reforms, in any era, do not reach 60%.” From home rule to the initiative itself, Ohio would have never won many reforms under a 60% rule, column by Mike Curtin in the Ohio Capital Journal, July 31, 2023

Ohio has a proud political heritage, which voters must protect and uphold on Aug. 8 by soundly defeating State Issue 1. The crown jewel of Ohio’s 220-year experiment in democracy is the constitutional initiative – the power of average citizens to propose and pass amendments to our state’s 1851 constitution.” Issue 1 aims at the heart of Ohioans’ citizen initiative powers. Here’s how we won them, op-ed by Mike Curtin in the Plain Dealer/Cleveland.com, July 9, 2023.

“Because of our constitution’s archaic (1851) debt limit of $750,000, over the decades the legislature has sought funding for dozens of worthy programs – including bonus programs for Ohio’s military veterans – through voter-approved bond issues in the form of constitutional amendments. If Peterson and other lawmakers ever get serious about trimming the length of the Ohio Constitution, they could start with a proposal to delete all defunct language in it…But our leading Statehouse politicians are not being honest with us. Their whole game plan is to amass more power, by taking it from us. That requires a lot of smoke.Lawmaker’s excuse to emasculate a 111-year-old right the most gaseous, Columbus Dispatch, May 22, 2023.

“In 1912, Nebraska and Ohio became the 12th and 13th states to embrace constitutional direct democracy. Ohio’s constitutional initiative is the crown jewel of our state’s political heritage. As intended, it reminds elected officials who ultimately is in charge — who owns the constitution. Now, some Statehouse politicians plot to embezzle that inheritance. They devise an unprecedented August election, hoping to catch most Ohioans sleeping, while getting enough of their supporters to the polls to pull off the heist.” Ohio GOP forgets state’s history as it seeks to upend democracy, Akron Beacon Journal, April 27, 2023

“Throughout 220 years of statehood, the Ohio General Assembly has never scheduled an August special election to rush to the statewide ballot a seismic, history-changing amendment to the Ohio Constitution. Not during the Great Depression. Not during war. Not ever.” Forcing a major constitutional change onto a low-turnout ballot violates centuries of Ohio norms, Cleveland.com, April 23, 2023 

“State constitutional specificity, (Former Speaker and Judge Bill) Batchelder said, is essential to limit government power. ‘We’ve been able to tie down government more’ than many other states because of the length of Ohio’s constitution, Batchelder observed in a 2008 interview. ‘While many provisions are detailed,’ he said, ‘they reflect our experience as a people and the spirit of the times.‘” VOICES: Ohio constitutional amendment proposal runs counter to Founders’ intent, Dayton Daily News, April 4, 2023 

“In the 20th century, Ohio voters approved many amendments to reform government and improve their quality of life — amendments that won with less than 60% of the vote. Among them: civil service reform, a 10-mill limit on unvoted property taxes, bond issues for roads, buildings and other infrastructure, county home rule, a minimum wage, eliminating straight-ticket voting, anti-monopoly safeguards and more.”  Mike Curtin: Proposed barrier would halt key changes in Ohio, Lima News, March 10, 2023

“Ohioans have been judicious in using the initiative. In 1933, they adopted an amendment establishing a 10-mil limit on unvoted property taxes. In 1949, they eliminated straight-ticket voting. More recently, in 2006, Ohioans raised the minimum wage and pegged it to inflation. Over the decades, Ohioans have approved only 19 of 71 amendments proposed via the citizen initiative– a record of careful discernment.” Higher Threshold Insults Voters’ Good Judgment, Youngstown Vindicator, March 5, 2023 

“Today is ideal for reviewing Ohioans’ long and hard-won fight to win the initiative power. This is the 111th anniversary of Theodore Roosevelt’s address to Ohio’s 1912 state constitutional convention. Roosevelt, the nation’s 26th president (1901-09), was a vigorous champion of the initiative and referendum. He considered them essential to enable ordinary citizens to fight the control monied interest had on elected officials.”  ‘Brazen crookedness’ that lead to constitutional right LaRose wants to seize, Columbus Dispatch, Feb. 20, 2023

“Today, it’s nearly impossible to use the initiative for a proposed amendment like the casino plan − one providing exclusive economic benefits to a group of investors. That’s because, in 2015, Ohioans approved an amendment outlawing it. To overcome that barrier, a special interest would have to persuade Ohio voters to set it aside. That’s why LaRose − to be charitable − is incorrect when he says his proposal ‘is designed to help protect the Ohio Constitution from continued abuse by special interests and out-of-state activists’ No, it’s not. It’s designed for something else entirely. The LaRose proposal aims to take power from Ohio’s citizens − majority-rule power they’ve used judiciously for 111 years − and hand that power over to Statehouse pols.”  Ohio voters won’t be duped by proposed Statehouse power grab, Cincinnati Enquirer, Feb. 16, 2023

“Over the decades, from time to time, Ohioans have decided to use their constitutional rights of direct democracy to make major and minor corrections on tax policy, overriding a General Assembly too beholden to monied interests. It’s highly unlike Ohio’s pragmatic electorate will choose to forfeit that power.”  Demolish any proposal making it harder to amend constitution, Morning-Journal, Feb. 9, 2023

In 1912, Ohioans embraced the initiative and referendum by a landslide – 57.5% of the vote. They did so to check the power of corrupt Statehouse politicians… The Stewart proposal ignores – and insults – Ohioans’ record of good judgment. It would debilitate Ohioans’ 111-year-old right to check Statehouse politicians. It would empower and insulate special interests.”  Flawed effort to make it harder to amend Ohio Constitution will be back, Cleveland.com/Plain Dealer, Feb.3, 2023

“Ohioans adopted the initiative in 1912 to give themselves the power to override Statehouse politicians who, at best, were inattentive to their interests. Or, at worst, corrupt. Today’s Ohioans will not look kindly on Mr. LaRose and Mr. Stewart or any others who try to strip them of their most fundamental constitutional power.” LaRose proposal doubles down in the wrong way, Toledo Blade, Jan. 28, 2023 

“The challenge for Statehouse leaders today, considering proposals for constitutional change to put before Ohio voters, is to understand and honor that heritage, not debase it for short-term partisan advantage.”  Ohioans ‘tie down government more’ than most states and we like it that way, Columbus Dispatch, Jan. 10, 2023