COLUMBUS — Two proposed ballot issues that supporters say would restore Ohio communities’ rights to challenge corporate incursions have been cleared for signature-gathering.
The Ohio Ballot Board certified the Ohio Community Rights Amendment and a companion measure extending initiative and referendum rights to counties and townships on Tuesday, each as a single issue.
Backers now must collect roughly 306,000 valid signatures to place each issue on the ballot.
The push stems from mounting frustration among environmental groups that have failed for years to push fracking bans onto local ballots. Activist groups now want to make it easier to pass local regulations on predatory lending, puppy mills, wireless equipment location, minimum wages and a host of other issues.
Leading Ohio business groups oppose the measures as overly broad impediments to economic development.
The Ohio Community Rights Amendment codifies the right to local community self-government, enabling local governments to protect and expand fundamental rights and prohibit corporate activities that violate those rights. It also secures the authority of communities to put in place stronger environmental rights and protections than those recognized at the state, federal, or international level, according to a news release from the nonprofit Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, which helped to draft the measures and review them.
The companion Initiative and Referendum Amendment for Counties and Townships amendment extends the right to initiative and referendum to residents living in townships and counties. Today, only city and village residents can exercise their inalienable right to propose and repeal laws, the release said.
On the local level, a Medina County citizens group’s third attempt to place a charter government issue on the ballot was unsuccessful when the Ohio Supreme Court denied Sustainable Medina County’s appeal in September.
The charter would have allowed voters to have local control over environmental issues concerning land, air, water and private property, including the $2.1 billion NEXUS Gas Transmission pipeline.