May 23, 2023
Ohio Chamber and Other Ohio Business Associations Declare Support for Issue 1
The Ohio Chamber of Commerce, following a vote by its Board of Directors, has formally endorsed Issue 1, a constitutional amendment to increase the thresholds both for placing a citizen-initiated constitutional amendment on the ballot and for the votes required for passage. The Ohio General Assembly passed this measure, which has since cleared the Ohio Ballot Board and will be placed on the statewide ballot for consideration at an August 8 special election. Specifically, Issue 1 will do the following:
 
  • Require a 60% supermajority in a statewide vote to approve future amendments to the Ohio Constitution, as opposed to the current requirement of a simple majority (50% + 1)

  • Require any petitions submitted to initiate a constitutional amendment to be signed by at least 5% of eligible voters in each of Ohio’s 88 counties, as opposed to the current requirement of 44 counties.

  • Specify that additional signatures can’t be added to a petition submitted to the state after Jan. 1, 2024, thereby eliminating the current 10-day “cure period”. This provision would treat the filing of signatures for constitutional amendments more similar to those for candidates for office, who do not have a cure period.
 
The Chamber also joined with NFIB-Ohio, the Ohio Restaurant Association, and the Ohio Hotel and Lodging Association, to issue the following public statement:
 
“The Ohio Chamber, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), the Ohio Restaurant Association, and the Ohio Hotel & Lodging Association stand together in favor of the constitutional amendment on the ballot in August. Ohio’s Constitution is the bedrock of our system of government and should not be subject to changes based on fleeting public opinion. For far too long, the Ohio Constitution has been an easy target for those seeking to enact anti-business policies or further narrow special interest initiatives outside of the traditional legislative process. Currently, there is an effort to massively increase Ohio’s minimum wage and eliminate the tipped wage, which is the latest example. Ironically, Ohio already has a minimum wage that is indexed for inflation.
 
As business organizations, we are singularly focused on business issues and growing Ohio’s economy. Our organizations have long held the position that Ohio should safeguard its Constitution by requiring broader public support for proposed amendments. We further agree with the amendment’s requirement that initiative petitions gather signatures from at least 5% of electors in each of Ohio’s 88 counties.
 
If a constitutional issue is significant enough to impact all 11.8 million Ohioans, then it should have to garner and demonstrate broad statewide backing for consideration. Eliminating the cure period for signature gathering will ensure that we hold ballot measures to the same standards that we apply to candidates for public office. These combined reforms will yield more judicious constitutional measures, with more robust and widespread campaign efforts that elicit appropriately broad support from Ohioans.”
 
The Chamber’s decision to support Issue 1 aligns with its longtime historical stance to safeguard the Ohio Constitution by requiring broader public support for proposed amendments. Ohio is one of just 18 states that permit citizen-initiated constitutional amendments. 16 of those 18 states (including Ohio) allow for “direct constitutional initiatives” where a proposed amendment goes to voters on the statewide ballot, and 2 states having “indirect constitutional initiative” where a proposed amendment goes instead to the state legislature for consideration.
 
Following the Board of Directors vote to endorse Issue 1, Ohio Chamber President and CEO Steve Stivers released this further statement: “The Ohio Chamber Board voted today to take no position on the November election’s reproductive rights issue. The Ohio Chamber is a business association and takes positions on business issues, not social issues. While we support protecting our constitution in August, this has everything to do with subjects like minimum wage, employment at-will and other business issues.”
Ohio Chamber Supports Pro-Business Reforms to Ohio’s Unemployment System  
Before the Ohio Senate Insurance Committee, the Ohio Chamber testified in favor of Senate Bill 116. This legislation makes pro-business reforms to Ohio’s unemployment compensation system – which is entirely funded by employer payroll taxes – by eliminating certain supplementary benefits for high wage earners and tying the maximum duration of unemployment benefits to the state’s unemployment rate. 

Ohio’s unemployment compensation system also known as unemployment insurance, is an employer paid benefit provided to Ohioans who find themselves without a job through no fault of their own. Currently, Ohioans receive a weekly benefit up to $1,122 for a maximum of 26 weeks, and Ohioans with dependents making more than $58,344 a year are eligible to receive an additional weekly allowance of up to $196.

Under the legislation, Ohio’s current 6 month cap on receiving unemployment benefits will move to a sliding scale between 12-20 weeks. When the unemployment rate is below 5.5 percent, an individual is eligible for 12 weeks of benefits and a person is eligible for 20 weeks of benefits when the unemployment rate exceeds 9 percent. By tying the duration of unemployment benefits to the state’s unemployment rate, Senate Bill 116 seeks to account for the job market a person will experience when looking for a job. 

Senate Bill 116 also eliminates the supplementary benefits available to high wage earners with dependents. Eliminating this dependency benefit aligns Ohio’s unemployment benefits with the majority of other states since we are currently one of 13 states to provide this type of benefit. 

As stated by the fiscal note drafted by the non-partisan Legislative Service Commission, Senate Bill 116 will improve the financial position of the Ohio’s unemployment system versus the status quo by more than $2 billion over a 13 year period. 

Improving the financial strength of the state’s unemployment system can help Ohio employers from higher payroll taxes at the next economic downturn since employers are on the hook for paying the principal and interest on any loan taken by the state to cover benefits for unemployed Ohioans. 

You can read the Ohio Chamber’s testimony by clicking here or you can watch our testimony by clicking here (https://www.ohiochannel.org/video/ohio-senate-insurance-committee-5-17-2023).