The Ohio Roundtable has accused the state’s House of Representatives of attempting to subvert the state constitution with a proposal that would allow it to pass a school funding tax with only a simple 50-vote majority, rather than a 60-vote supermajority required by law.
“This latest attempt to bypass the clear meaning and historical precedent of the Ohio Constitution further proves how corrupt the entire school-funding debate has become,” said David Zanotti, president of the Ohio Roundtable, on February 4. He charged that the 50-vote plan was “an obvious fabrication” to skirt resistance to Governor George Voinovich’s proposed 1 percent sales tax increase.
The House proposal, backed by Speaker Jo Ann Davidson, would permit the legislature to approve a statewide school funding tax subject to voter approval. The plan hinges on a “creative interpretation” of the term “authority” in Article II Section 26 of the Ohio Constitution which states,
“All laws, of a general nature, shall have a uniform operation throughout the state; nor shall any act, except such as relates to public schools, be passed, to take effect upon the approval of any other authority than the general assembly, except as otherwise provided in this constitution.”
Historically, the provision has permitted legislators to pass education laws that are then implemented by the state school board or local boards of education. The new proposal, however, would essentially allow a public school-related law (the statewide school funding tax) to take effect on the “authority” of the general electorate.
“If the General Assembly attempts to use this creative interpretation to pass this tax increase, then any and every law touching education and tax policy should logically be subject to voter approval,” Zanotti stated. “The General Assembly cannot have it both ways. This attempt to bamboozle the voters is nothing short of creative corruption and should be rejected by all parties and interests in this debate.”
Founded in 1980, the Ohio Roundtable is a statewide education and research organization that has led successful campaigns to amend the Ohio Constitution and pass citizen-initiated legislation. Roundtable initiatives include the successful term limits campaign, campaign finance reform, and the defeat of casino gambling in 1990 and 1996.
George A. Clowes is managing editor of School Reform News. His email address is [email protected].