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PAC backed by Illinois billionaire pushes for vote on making it harder to amend Ohio constitution

A political action committee has been set up to push for the constitutional amendment requiring 60% voter approval for future amendments, before a vote on a reproductive rights amendment this fall.

And most of the funding for the PAC is from a billionaire Republican megadonor from Illinois.

Republicans have said they want to keep out of state special interests out of Ohio’s constitution. But more than $1 million for these ads has come from Illinois billionaire Richard Uihlein, who runs a prominent office supply and packing supplies company.

Save Our Constitution PAC is running ads targeting specific House members and Speaker Jason Stephens. The ads, aimed at Rep. Al Cutrona (R-Canfield) and Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill), urge constituents to call Stephens’ office to press him to call for votes on HJR 1 or SJR 2, the resolutions requiring 60% voter approval for constitutional amendments, and on SB 92 or HB 144, which would allow an August special election to vote on that resolution.

The ad refers to “the clock is ticking” and says there is “less than a week” for action because Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose has told legislative leaders they have to pass these measures by May 10 for an August election to happen. LaRose supports both of these proposals. The Ohio Association of Elections Officials, the bipartisan group representing the people who would have to execute a statewide August election, is formally opposed.

Save Our Constitution PAC spokesman Joel Riter said in a written statement: “The clock is ticking and the decisions made in the coming days by Speaker Stephens and those who put him into power will shape Ohio for decades to come. The voters must be allowed to protect our Constitution. Next week will determine our next move - including looking ahead to March 2024."

Uihlein, whose great-grandfather was a founder of the Schlitz brewing company, runs the private packing and office supplies company Uline. He and his wide have given more than $120 million in recent years to pro-Trump candidates and conservative causes.

And a person familiar with the campaign says Uihlein’s big donation is just the first installment in the effort to push the amendment.

SB 92 is set for a possible vote out of committee in the coming week on Tuesday. So far, there’s no hearing set for the 60% voter approval resolution.

(Note: this story will be updated if there are changes in the committee schedule.)
Copyright 2023 The Statehouse News Bureau.