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Two Constitutional Amendments to Be on November Ballot


Those who have supported a pair of ballot initiatives that would add two amendments to Ohio’s Constitution claim to have secured enough signatures to make the measure onto the ballot for the general election in November.

Both the Neighborhood Safety, Drug Treatment, and Rehabilitation Amendment and the Kidney Dialysis Patient Protection Amendment campaigns claim to have acquired more than the required 305,591 valid signatures from voters who are registered in Ohio.

The ballot initiatives must be filed with the secretary of state’s office by July 4th. Both campaigns say they are up against the clock to file everything needed to meet this deadline. Both the paper signatures and scanned copies are required to be filed by the July 4th deadline. However, both campaigns expressed confidence that enough of the required signatures have already been gathered.

In a prepared statement, campaign manager Amanda Hoyt said, “Tomorrow the Ohio Safe and Healthy Communities Campaign plans to deliver over 700,000 petition signatures to the Ohio secretary of state’s office in order to qualify the Neighborhood Safety, Drug Treatment, and Rehabilitation Amendment for the November ballot.”

According to Hoyt, “These signatures are a testament to the number of Ohioans who want our state to invest in proven treatment for addiction instead of more spending on bloated prisons.”

The proposal would require all 4th and 5th degree felony offenses for obtaining, possessing or using drugs or drug paraphernalia to be reclassified as first-degree misdemeanors or lesser charges.

In addition, the proposal would allow for the drug offense reclassification to be done retroactively, which means people who are currently in prison for just the crime of possession could be released. The proposal would also prohibit prison sentences as punishment for infractions of probation rules that are not new crimes.

Some groups haven’t been as supportive of the proposal though. Paul E. Pfeifer, a retired Ohio Supreme Court justice and executive director of the Ohio Judicial Conference, believes that adding the proposal as an amendment to the state constitution is a “horrible idea.”

Pfeifer said, “I think it is misguided on the policy itself. This is something for the General Assembly to deal with. Putting anything other than your basic constitutional rights into the constitution just doesn’t belong there.” He said should the amendment get officially certified, the Ohio Judicial Conference would take an official position.

The Kidney Dialysis Patient Protection Amendment is backed by the Service Employees International Union and would strengthen regulation and control of pricing by dialysis clinics.

Anthony Caldwell, spokesperson for SEIU District 1199 and the Ohioans for Kidney Dialysis Patient Protection campaign committee, said the group obtained the number of signatures they needed and will also be filing on Wednesday.

Those who support the measure argue that changes are desperately needed for the growing industry that has gone largely unchecked by regulators. Opponents argue that increased regulations are unnecessary and would place dozens of clinics throughout the state at risk of shutting down, as well as jeopardizing patients’ health.

The increased requirements contained in the proposal call for the state to conduct annual inspections of clinics, and also limit what clinics can charge patients to 115% of the operational and care costs. Penalties can be imposed under the proposal if clinics are caught overcharging patients.

In a prepared statement, president of the Ohio Renal Association, Diane Wish, called the amendment “deceptive and dangerous.” ORA represents 326 freestanding dialysis clinics in the state. Last month she told The Dispatch, “This proposed constitutional amendment is ... ill-conceived and unnecessary, and carelessly puts the health of Ohio’s kidney-dialysis patients at great risk. We strongly oppose this amendment.”

Both proposals need to have their signatures checked by county elections workers and need to be certified by the secretary of state before they can qualify for the November ballot.

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