To combat fracking and accomplish other community ends, charter groups seek more local authority
This article by David DeWitt was published in The Athens News, November 28, 2017.
A legal organization that has been working with a group of Athens County residents to put an anti-fracking county charter before voters the past three years is launching an initiative petition process for two Ohio constitutional amendments.
One seeks to assert the primacy of local self-government, while the other seeks to grant counties and townships the power of initiative and referendum.
The Pennsylvania-based Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) assisted the Athens County Bill of Rights Committee (ACBORC) in its legal arguments with proposed charters in 2015, 2016, and 2017.
None of those charter proposals ever reached the ballot in Athens County, having been struck down each time eventually by the Ohio Supreme Court.
In a press release earlier this month, the CELDF announced that the organization, working through the Ohio Community Rights Network (OHCRN), submitted two proposed state constitutional amendments to the Ohio Attorney General.
The office will have to certify the validity of the proposals before the process of collecting petition signatures can begin. The CELDF assisted in the drafting and legal review of both amendments, the press release said.
The proposed “Ohio Community Rights Amendment” codifies the right to local community self-government, enabling local governments to protect and expand fundamental rights and prohibit corporate activities that violate those rights, the news release stated.
“It also secures the authority of communities to put in place stronger environmental rights and protections than those recognized at the state, federal, or international level,” the release said.
The proposed “Initiative and Referendum Amendment for Counties and Townships” extends the right to initiative and referendum to residents living in townships and counties, the release said.
“Today, only city and village residents can exercise their inalienable right to propose and repeal laws, which is recognized under Article 2, Section 1b of the Ohio Constitution,” the release said.
Nearly 39 percent of Ohio’s population resides in townships and counties (outside of municipal corporation limits), it said.
“They do not have the same constitutional right to legislate. This amendment extends equal rights to local self-government to all Ohio residents, regardless of jurisdiction within the state,” the release said. MORE…