Ohioans, pay attention to legislation happening

Ohio lawmakers are floating some ideas Buckeye State residents might want to watch.

Last week, House Joint Resolution 19 was introduced, which would make it more difficult to approve proposed constitutional amendments on the statewide ballot. Rather than a simple majority needed for an amendment to take effect, HJR19 would require 60 percent approval. It would also move up the deadline for submitting petition signatures to get a measure on the ballot; and place an expiration date on those signatures — they would be good for only180 days.

HJR19 would require signatures from 5 percent of the previous gubernatorial vote count, rather than the current 3 percent.

Meanwhile, Senate Bill 250, to “Protect critical infrastructure facilities from mischief,” modifies “criminal mischief, criminal trespass, aggravated trespass, telecommunications harassment, and making false alarms with respect to critical infrastructure facilities.”

Among the features of SB250 are changing criminal trespass from a misdemeanor to a felony, and greatly increasing organization fines. It includes natural gas pipelines in the list of critical infrastructure, which has prompted some critics to suspect the bill is meant as a means of chilling free speech and the right to peacably assemble in protest.

Note also the use of the words “telecommunications harassment.” The language of the bill itself carefully contains the phrase “including but not limited to …” One wonders how long it will be before a government official decides an unfavorable comment on social media constitutes “telecommunications harassment” and decides to try his or her luck in the courts.

Lawmakers likely have very good reason for introducing these changes — and there may be no ill intent. But the appearance is of restricting freedoms for Ohioans. Authors and sponsors of the bills might want to take a look at whether a revision here or there would be better suited to their desire to protect the rights and freedoms of Buckeye State residents.

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