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Legislation signed by Ohio Gov. John Kasich on March 22 has infuriated Democrats and advocacy groups who say it will make it harder for voters to repeal laws and introduce their own.
Senate Bill 47, sponsored by Sen. Bill Seitz of Cincinnati, sets strict rules on the time organizers have to collect signatures when mounting a petition drive to strike down laws. The bill, which passed swiftly through the legislature, will essentially cut at least two weeks from the existing timetable.
Part of SB 47, which Seitz affectionately calls the "Stop in the Name of Love Provision," would prohibit organizers from collecting signatures while the secretary of state verifies submitted petitions.
Under current law, organizers have 90 days to collect signatures before submitting the petition to the secretary of state. Organizers now can collect signatures to bolster their petition while the secretary of state reviews the initial petition, which has taken between 16 and 58 days. SB 47 will put a stop to that.
Seitz says his bill would prevent potential malevolence by secretaries of state who could game the system in their favor -- quickly verifying a petition they hope will fail, or slow-walking a petition they hope will succeed.
The Republican senator’s efforts riled the liberal side of the aisle and advocacy groups like the League of Women Voters of Ohio, We Are Ohio and the Ohio Fair Elections Network, which fear SB 47 would infringe on the constitutional right to initiative and referendum Ohioans granted themselves more than a century ago.
The senator brushed off the opposition on March 13 during his sponsor testimony before the House Policy and Legislative Oversight Committee, saying his bill had major bipartisan allies: Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted and his Democratic predecessor Jennifer Brunner.
"The current secretary of state supports this provision, and the previous secretary of state supported this provision," Seitz said.
PolitiFact Ohio decided to get to the bottom of it. A call to Husted quickly propelled the Truth-O-Meter in a positive direction.
"Sen. Seitz is on the right path," Husted said. "There is certainly the potential for the secretary of state to slow down or speed up the process. The lack of guidance in the revised code certainly allows for that to happen."
Proponents of the bill have not been able to cite an instance in which the secretary of state has taken advantage of the current system. But Husted’s support of the "Stop in the Name of Love Provision" is clearly bubbled in.
Brunner, on the other hand, said she is no such booster.
The former secretary of state testified against SB 47 on March 19 during a House committee meeting in which she told legislators "If you pass this lickety-split, it’s going to make you look very bad."
Brunner, who served as Ohio’s secretary of state from from 2007 to 2011, said Seitz misled the House committee when citing her as an advocate of the contentious provision.
"No, I don’t support it," Brunner said in an interview with PolitiFact Ohio.
However, Brunner’s explanation as to why she may have been lassoed into the SB 47 debate fogs the Truth-O-Meter glass.
Brunner had worked with Seitz in 2010 on a now-abandoned compromise bill that would have made numerous changes to election laws. Seitz said those talks birthed the "Stop in the Name of Love Provision."
The bill aimed to set the same restrictions as SB 47 on the number of days voters could use to collect signatures for a referendum. The language in SB 47 is cut from the same cloth as the 2010 bill, with a difference: SB 47 speaks to referendums and initiatives, whereas the old bill only addressed referendums.
Seitz said Brunner approved the referendum measure in 2010. Brunner doesn’t deny that, although she has a different view now.
"I had agreed to it two-and-a-half years ago," Brunner said. "I think I should not have agreed to it because it limits what is granted in the Constitution."
So, let’s account for the facts.
Seitz said Husted supports the controversial SB 47 provision, which is accurate. Seitz also said Brunner supported it -- the past tense being paramount -- which is partially correct.
The old provision didn’t include language about initiative petitions addressed in SB 47. In addition, the senator failed to fully explain Brunner’s past endorsement of petition restrictions, and might have left the impression that she was a current supporter of the provision.
We rate his claim Half True.
Telephone interview with Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, March 18, 2013
Telephone interview with former secretary of state Jennifer Brunner, March 25, 2013
Telephone interview with Ohio Sen. Bill Seitz , March 26, 2013
Copy of abandoned 2010 compromise billprovided by the office of Sen. Seitz (lines 9177-9185)
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