"Opting-out" of Ohio’s Constitution Is Not An Option

On most issues I understand arguments for and against.  But I’m having a hard time on an issue that’s come up recently:  Some elected officials and others argue that because Franklin County voted against the casino amendment, developers should not be allowed to build a casino in Columbus’s Arena District.  We’ve been hearing the argument since the day after the election, but it took a letter to the editor in The Columbus Dispatch to make me fully understand my lack of understanding.

To summarize, William Fitzgibbon suggests that if Franklin County is allowed to get out of the casino amendment because it voted against it Ohio counties that voted against the 2006 smoking ban amendment should be able to puff away in bars and restaurants – in their respective counties, of course.

Bingo. Like it or not, when Ohio voters change the constitution, they change it for all of Ohio, not just a few select counties. If counties could “opt-out” of constitutional amendments 16 Ohio counties could allow smoking in bars, restaurants and other public spaces.  That’s because 16 Ohio counties rejected the smoking ban in 2006.

Also, in 2006, Ohio voters changed the constitution to increase the state’s minimum wage.  If counties were allowed to “opt out,” 21 of them (nearly a fourth of the state’s counties) would be exempt from enforcing the minimum wage.

Yet another example: Last year Ohio voters in 87 out of 88 counties put pay-day lenders out of business (or tried to), but Adams County voted against that change in the constitution.  So, under the above argument businesses in the southern Ohio county should still be allowed to charge 487% annual interest.

The irony is that while the majority of Ohio counties rejected the 2008 casino amendment, the county where it was slated to be located approved it.  Clinton county voters approved a casino in Wilmington by a margin of 57% to 43%, but the statewide vote kept them from what they wanted – a casino in their county.

This is not an argument for building a casino in the Arena District.  There are many valid and well worn cases for and against it.  But the bottom line is: Ohio voters changed the constitution allowing for a casino to be built in Columbus.

They approved very specific constitutional language: “The Casino in Columbus, Ohio will be located on approximately 18.312 acres currently known as 560 Nationwide Blvd., located on the north side of Nationwide Blvd., west of the railroad overpass and west of the new Franklin County ballpark facility.”

This is what Ohio and Franklin County voters and lawmakers get when they let special interest groups write the constitution.  So if Franklin County doesn’t want a casino, they have to get permission from the rest of Ohio.

- Mike Thompson

Join The Conversation

  • Jen

    Thank you for putting the wording of what we voted on- I wish more people had read that before voting!

  • http://elephantsonbicycles.com Andrew

    Very well stated (unfortunately). I’ll support blocking the casino here however I can but I realize that unless there is some amazing lawyering (I’m sure that isn’t technically a word) there is no way that casino won’t be built. Maybe it will finally be the impedus to get Ohio to move away from the current system of constitutional amendments. Who knows.

  • http://bikecolumbus.blogspot.com Jamie Fellrath

    This is a great point to be made. And it definitely goes a long way toward pointing out that Ohioans need to stop writing things into the Constitution like it was a grocery list.

  • Rob Mautz

    I was adamantly opposed to the approval of this amendment to the Ohio constitution for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was the fact that the proponents had so specifically incorporated such precise detail. Rather than simply campaigning for the constitutional right to establish casino gambling within the context of a principled framework, these interests proscribed into law (perhaps to the absolute greatest possible extent) their individually fantasized self interests. In doing so, these heavily moneyed interests have displayed a blatant disdain of, an abject disregard for, and have “thumbed” a mocking dismissal at, prevailing community interests.

    That was then; this is now.

    Can any readers share insight as to what (if any) grass roots organizational steps are developing with the intent of:
    a.) challenging and delaying this now constitutionally sanctioned monopolistic money grab, until such time as we are able to
    b.) bring to the next “even year” general election a countervailing constitutional amendment designed to establish, at the very least, a reasonable framework that mandates equitable guidelines and open market competition

    Since our duly elected statehouse representatives are seemingly incapable and/or incompetent, it appears that all we can do is “fight grocery lists with grocery lists”! Perhaps we can at least go shopping instead of being relegated to schlepping slop to the trough of the swine.