Ohio State Amendments FAQs
What are the Ohio Community Rights Amendments?
The Community Rights Amendments are proposed amendments to Ohio’s constitution that empower people and their local governments throughout the state with the authority to enact local laws that protect the rights of people, communities, and their natural environments at the municipal, township, and county level. The amendments would specifically recognize the right of local community self-government by adding Sections 22 and 23 to Article I of the Ohio Constitution.
How will the Ohio Community Rights Amendments get on the ballot?
Ohio citizens will use the initiative process to put the Amendments on the ballot.
Ohio is one out of 18 states that allows voters the right to amend their constitution through the ballot initiative process. The Ohio General Assembly also has the power to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot via a joint resolution
Are there other states proposing a Community Rights Amendment?
Yes. New Hampshire, Colorado, and Oregon have proposed Community Rights Amendments to their state constitutions. Pennsylvania is preparing a Community Rights Amendment as well. Similar to Ohio - Colorado and Oregon proposed their amendments through the initiative process by collecting signatures of a certain number of citizens in order to place their constitutional amendments on the ballot.
Why is a state constitutional amendment necessary?
Our current system of law elevates the rights of private corporations over the rights of people who live in Ohio communities. Private corporations regularly invoke these rights and privileges when their interests conflict with communities’ attempts to protect the local environment, economy, workforce, and residents’ health, safety and welfare. The Community Rights Amendments would empower people and their local governments with the authority to enact local laws that protect the rights of people, communities, and their natural environments over the interests of private corporations.
Wouldn’t it be easier to elect the right people to the state legislature to do this work for us?
Ohio’s 132-member legislature is routinely subjected to corporate lobbyists, who encourage legislation that is friendly to their interests.
The people need to guarantee their right to legislate directly as a check and balance on a legislature representing corporate interests. This was the intent behind the original initiative and referendum constitutional amendments passed by the people of Ohio in 1912.
Can the OH Community Rights Amendments be used to create the healthy, just, sustainable communities we envision for our children?
Yes. These amendments will authorize the people of Ohio to pass local laws in ALL the places where we live to protect and create healthy, safe, sustainable communities now and for future generations. These amendments will authorize Ohioans to pass local laws for social justice such as paying a living wage to employees, requiring police officers to live in the communities where they serve, limiting predatory lenders, and so on, for creating the vibrant, just communities we envision. Also these amendments will authorize Ohioans to pass local laws banning harmful corporate projects such as factory farms, fracking, pipelines, toxic waste injection wells, and so on, to create healthy, safe, sustainable communities.
Will the OH Community Rights Amendments undermine current rights and protections?
No. The proposed Community Rights Amendments include two provisions that limit their scope in this regard. Local laws enacted under the amendment cannot restrict or weaken the fundamental rights of natural persons, communities, or nature secured by local, state or federal constitutions or international law. These provisions ensure that the floor of rights and protections already established by state or federal governments can be built upon but not eroded.
Will the Ohio Community Rights Amendments ban all corporate projects?
No. Under existing law, corporations can use state and federal laws to override a community’s attempt to protect themselves from corporate projects within their boundaries regardless of local opposition, public or environmental harm. The Community Rights Amendments confront this structure of corporate legal privilege by asserting the community’s right of local self-government. Under the Community Rights Amendments, a community can create local laws that prohibit such projects without interference from corporations, or “preempted” by government.
If a community chooses not to use their authority under the Community Rights Amendment, nothing in its local codes, laws or charter will change.
What is the “Rights of Nature” language in the OH Community Rights Amendment?
Nature, according to law, is mere property of the landowner. Responsibility to protect community wetlands, rivers, streams, bogs, forests and watersheds rests with the landowner. A growing number of communities across the nation have enacted local laws designed to better protect their natural environments, where the whole community is empowered to protect nature for the benefit of the whole community. The proposed Community Rights Amendment would enable communities to enact local laws that recognize the right of nature to exist and flourish as nature comprises the life support systems we depend upon for our survival.
Has this ever been done before?
The revolutionary work of changing government has been done by persons who were considered slaves during the civil rights struggle and by suffragists who sought the right to vote as persons. Work to end child labor and to create an 8-hour day for workers also followed patterns of resistance used by civil rights workers and activists.
Will the OH Community Rights Amendments affect economic stability?
Corporate domination destroys stable local/regional economics and forces economic instability. The Community Rights Amendment places local economic control into the hands of local people which improves every measure of environmental and human well-being, leading to a long-term economic stimulus. When corporate exploitation of individuals, communities and nature lessens, it will create more room for more diverse, localized small business enterprises to take hold in ways that make them directly accountable to the communities they serve, increasing economic welfare, diversity, and sustainability of communities.
What obstacles should we expect?
State-chartered corporations who are currently licensed in the state that seek to use the communities of Ohio as for-profit resource colonies against their will are likely to speak against the Community Rights Amendments because they benefit from the way the corporate structure is currently operating.
Anyone who benefits from this current structure will likely resist changes that do not favor them. We need to stay focused on the fact that this proposed amendment expands fundamental rights and protections for individuals, communities, and their natural environments.
Who is behind these initiatives?
Ohio Community Rights Action is a grassroots coalition of people from around the state who have worked together to introduce two rights-based local self-governance initiatives designed to protect the rights of people above destructive corporate threats for profit.