Ohio’s Healthcare Freedom Amendment – Historical Overview     

Twenty-six state legislatures have introduced bills to propose constitutional amendments to block the individual mandates contained in the new federal regulations, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.  Ohio’s filing by the Ohio Liberty Council is the nation’s first citizen-initiated action. 

The Ohio Liberty Council is a statewide coalition of non-partisan grass roots groups in Ohio including Central Ohio 9/12 Project, Cincinnati Tea Party, Young Americans for Liberty, Dayton Tea Party, Ohio Freedom Alliance and many more grass roots organizations. By working together, the member groups of the Ohio Liberty Council seek to achieve real results to protect and promote liberty in Ohio.       

Below is an historical overview of the major actions, spanning from March of 2010 to passage of the amendment in November of 2011.  In addition, media links and court documents are provided.

March 3, 2010: Ohio Liberty Council decides to Force Statewide Vote on Health Care Mandate        

The Ohio Liberty Council, a statewide coalition of over 25 grassroots groups, submitted a proposed state constitutional amendment that will “preserve the freedom of Ohioans to choose their health care and health care coverage.” The group filed constitutional amendment summary language and nearly 3,000 signatures from registered voters in 48 counties with the Ohio Secretary of State and Attorney General.        

“The Ohio Liberty Council seeks to preserve the freedom of Ohioans,” said Ohio Liberty Council President Chris Littleton. “This constitutional amendment will do what our leaders in the Statehouse and Congress have failed to do.”       

“The health care reform bill’s requirement to maintain minimum essential coverage essentially asserts that if you are alive, you must buy health insurance that is acceptable to the federal government. However, the mere act of being alive is not commerce that can be regulated by the federal government,” said 1851 Center Executive Director Maurice Thompson. “Accordingly, the legislation is constitutionally tenuous, and will take a backseat to our constitutional amendment, which upon enactment, will be a fundamental right amongst all Ohioans.”       

The amendment provides that:       

  • In Ohio, no law or rule shall compel, directly or indirectly, any person, employer, or health care provider to participate in a health care system;
  • In Ohio, no law or rule shall prohibit the purchase or sale of health care or health insurance; and
  • In Ohio, no law or rule shall impose a penalty or fine for the sale or purchase of health care or health insurance.

 The amendment does not:        

  • Affect laws or rules in effect as of March 19, 2010;
  • Affect which services a health care provider or hospital is required to perform or provide;
  • Affect terms and conditions of government employment; and
  • Affect any laws calculated to deter fraud or punish wrongdoing in the health care industry.

Member groups of the Ohio Liberty Council gathered thousands of signatures in just 48 hours. Over 25 groups covering a majority of Ohio counties participated in the signature gathering effort and will now prepare for the next phase of the project.       

April 9, 2010: Ohio Ballot Board Nixes Citizen’s Initiative
Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner and the Ohio Ballot Board ruled the proposed constitutional amendment aimed at protecting Ohioans from forthcoming health care regulations should be split into two parts. As a result, the board rejected the proposed amendment and told its sponsor, the Ohio Liberty Council, to start over. 
April 14, 2010: 1851 Center Files Ohio Supreme Court Complaint Against Ballot Board        

The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law filed a complaint with the Ohio Supreme Court seeking a remedy for improper actions taken by the Ohio Ballot Board. On Friday, the Ballot Board, chaired by Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, rejected a proposed health care freedom constitutional amendment. It ruled the Ohio Liberty Council, the amendment’s sponsor, must resubmit the measure as two separate amendments. The ruling requires the group to rewrite its constitutional amendment, and gather two sets of 402,276 signatures for two separate amendments by June 30.   

In the writ of mandamus filed with the Ohio Supreme Court, the 1851 Center asserts the Ballot Board’s actions are arbitrary and run counter to the board’s own past precedent. The complaint contends the Ohio Liberty Council’s proposed Ohio Health Care Freedom Amendment addresses only one subject and should move forward as one constitutional amendment. Further, the Ballot Board’s ruling “effectively eviscerates the Ohio Liberty Council’s objective, and threatens to eviscerate access to the November, 2010 ballot,” the 1851 Center wrote in the complaint.

“We ask the court to review and correct the Ohio Ballot Board’s improper decision,” said Maurice Thompson, executive director of the 1851 Center. “Our complaint rightfully attacks the constitutional authority of this unelected body to use its duty power to perform purely administrative tasks to destroy proposed constitutional amendments with which it disagrees. It does not have the constitutional authority to interfere with the Initiative rights articulated in Section 1, Article II of the Ohio Constitution.”       

February 13, 2011: Ohio Supreme Court Orders Ballot Board to Certify Amendment Language 

The Ohio Supreme Court today unanimously ruled Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner and the Ohio Ballot Board abused their discretion and violated Ohio law in rejecting ballot language for the proposed Ohio Health Care Freedom Constitutional Amendment. The ruling is a significant victory for constitutional initiative rights, Ohio’s grass-roots liberty movement, and health care freedom in Ohio. The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law argued the case on behalf of amendment sponsors the Ohio Liberty Council.       

The court ordered Brunner and the Ohio Ballot Board to immediately certify the language and allow the petitioners to begin collecting signatures to qualify the issue for the November ballot.       

“Today’s Supreme Court decision upheld the constitutionally-granted rights of citizens to petition their government even when the arbitrary and self-serving decisions of Secretary Brunner and the ballot board attempt to block them,” said 1851 Center Executive Director Maurice Thompson, who also drafted the amendment. “Secretary Brunner and the ballot board tried to use their purely administrative powers to destroy a citizen-initiated amendment with which they disagreed. Thankfully, the court checked this abuse, and Ohioans will have the opportunity to put the preservation of their health care freedom to a vote.”   

In the decision, the justices wrote, “the ballot board abused its discretion and clearly disregarded R.C. 3505.62.” Further, the court upheld the special protections contained in the Ohio Constitution granting citizens the right to petition government.       

Further, the court wrote, “the ballot board has a clear legal duty to liberally construe the right of initiative, and as long as the citizen-initiated proposed amendment bears some reasonable relationship to a single general object or purpose, the board must certify its approval of the amendment as written without dividing it into multiple petitions.”  

July 6, 2011: Signatures Submitted to Place Ohio Health Care Freedom Amendment on November Ballot     

Supporters delivered more than 546,000 signatures to the Ohio Secretary of State to place the Ohio Health Care Freedom Amendment on the November ballot.   The amendment would add a 21st Section to Ohio’s Bill of Rights “to preserve the freedom of Ohioans to choose their health care and health care coverage.”       

For the amendment to move forward, approximately 386,000 signatures must be declared valid.  Internal due diligence indicates that over 440,000 of the collected signatures (over 85 percent) are valid.  This is believed to be the most signatures collected by a volunteer-only organization in Ohio history for a constitutional amendment.  

August 3, 2011: Ballot Board Approves Ballot Language for Issue 3 

The following language was approved for Issue 3 on the November 2011 ballot:       

Issue 3: Proposed Constitutional Amendment to Preserve the Freedom of Ohioans to Choose Their Health Care and Health Care Coverage

Proposed by Initiative PetitionTo adopt Section 21 of Article I of the Constitution of the State of Ohio.

 A majority yes vote is necessary for the amendment to pass.The proposed amendment would provide that:

  1. In Ohio, no law or rule shall compel, directly or indirectly, any person, employer, or health care provider to participate in a health care system;
  2. In Ohio, no law or rule shall prohibit the purchase or sale of health care or health insurance; and
  3. In Ohio, no law or rule shall impose a penalty or fine for the sale or purchase of health care or health insurance.

The proposed amendment would not:

  1. Affect laws or rules in effect as of March 19, 2010;
  2. Affect which services a health care provider or hospital is required to perform or provide;
  3. Affect terms and conditions of government employment; and
  4. Affect any laws calculated to deter fraud or punish wrongdoing in the health care industry.

If approved, the amendment will be effective thirty days after election.

Watch the entire recording of the Ballot Board meeting here

Download the ballot language here

August 12, 2011: Supreme Court Denies Effort to Take Issue 3 Off Ballot        

The Ohio Supreme Court this morning rejected a challenge to remove Issue 3, the Health Care Freedom Amendment, from the November ballot. The challenge was brought by ProgressOhio, a left-leaning think tank, who moved to invalidate thousands of signatures collected by petition circulators.       

The Court found, as Amendment’s proponents, through the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law had argued, that the challenger’s “legal claim lacks merit,” and “even if his challenge had substantive validity, Rothenberg’s evidence is insufficient to establish that the part-petitions do not have enough signatures.”       

Volunteer backers of the Health Care Freedom Amendment submitted over 546,000 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office last month. 426,998 signatures were verified, and of those, Progress Ohio attempted to challenge the validity of 62,000.       

The court unanimously ruled the challenge lacked merit and that ProgressOhio’s case did not show the signatures fell short of the 385,245 valid signatures that were required.       

“The Court’s decision is simply another repudiation of Ohio’s advocates of unlimited government, as well as their ongoing effort to use the courts to accomplish that which they fear they cannot accomplish in the light of day, through a free and open election,” said Maurice Thompson, Director of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, which defended the proponents.  “Opponents of liberty, no doubt recognizing the importance of squashing a growing grass-roots revival in favor of limited government, decided to bring a case before they knew whether they had a case.  Ultimately, this frivolous politicized approach permeated their legal arguments and evidence.”       

See the Ohio Supreme Court’s decision on this issue here.

November 8, 2011: Election Day Victory for Issue 3  

March 26, 2012: The 1851 Center Analyzes the Amendment’s effect on implementation of Obamacare in Ohio

Does Ohio’s Health Care Freedom Amendment Prohibit It from Enacting an Obamacare Exchange? explains how the Ohio Health Care Freedom Amendment, Section 21 of Ohio’s Bill of Rights, forbids Ohio officials from imposing Obamacare health care exchanges on Ohioans. The document also explores reasons that such exchanges are an unwise policy choice

April 14, 2011: Glenn Beck Show Here

July 5, 2011: Dayton Business Journal: Ohio Group to Challenge Healthcare Reform Law

July 6, 2011: Cleveland Plain Dealer: Ohio Tea Party Groups Seek Ballot Measure

July 6, 2011: WYTV: Ohioans to Have Say on Healthcare Law

July 6, 2011: Toledo Blade: Obama Health Care Opponents File Petition

July 6, 2011: TIME: In Ohio, the Tea Party Rallies Around Opposition to Healthcare Mandate

July 6, 2011: San Diego Union-Tribune: Ohio Healthcare Law Opponents to File Petitions

July 7, 2011: Newark Advocate: Locals Join List of Names Filed to Fight Healthcare Law

July 7, 2011: Dayton Daily News: Ohio at the Center of Debate

July 7, 2011: Columbus Dispatch: Foes of Federal Insurance Mandate File Petition

July 8, 2011: National Journal: Ohio Tea Party Group Pushes for Amendment

July 8, 2011: The Daily Caller: Ohioans Fighting to Kill Obamacare With State Constitution

August 7, 2011: Cuyahoga Falls News: Ballot Board OK’s Ballot Issues

November 8, 2011: Cleveland Plain Dealer: Issue 3 Passes

 April 13, 2010: Application for Writ of Mandamus. Asking the Ohio Supreme Court to compel Sec. Brunner and the Ohio Ballot Board to include the amendment on the next election ballot as written.

April 20, 2010: Merit Brief. Laying out the argument for why the amendment should be included on the next election ballot.

April 22, 2010: Motion in Opposition of Extension. Opposing an application by the state for an extension.

April 29, 2010:  Writ of Mandamus from the Ohio Supreme Court, directing Sec. Brunner and the Ohio Ballot Board to certify the amendment.

August 11, 2011: Rejection of Challenge. The Ohio Supreme Court rejected Progress Ohio’s challenge to petition signatures.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The community organizing group ACORN has agreed to give up its Ohio business license and not return under another name, as it has in other states, under a settlement struck with a libertarian center that sued it.

U.S. District Judge Herman Weber, in Cincinnati, signed off on the deal, which settles claims brought by the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law against ACORN’s voter registration practices. Other terms of the deal are confidential.

The center alleged in a lawsuit filed in 2008 that ACORN’s voter registration drives amounted to organized crime because the group turned in a pattern of fraudulent forms.

Center attorney Maurice Thompson said restricting ACORN’s ability to support or enable other groups to “do what they do” was crucial to the deal, especially in a state he characterized as “ground zero” to their voter advocacy efforts.

“It carries a great deal of significance because, in the absence of that term, ACORN could simply have shut down but reopened the next day as WALNUT or CHESTNUT or whatever and done the exact same thing,” Thompson said. “So our goal was to affect permanent change.”

In other states, including New York and California, ACORN chapters have disbanded and resumed operations under new names.

The California ACORN chapter split from the national organization in January, forming a new nonprofit called the Alliance of Californians for Community Employment, or ACCE.

In New York, where three ACORN employees were caught on video apparently advising a couple posing as a prostitute and her boyfriend to lie about her profession and launder her earnings, ACORN’s local offices disbanded and resumed operations as New York Communities for Change. Prosecutors said they found no criminal wrongdoing by the employees.

That video and a series of others filmed at ACORN offices around the country last year sparked a national scandal and helped drive the organization to near ruin.

ACORN spokesman Kevin Whelan said Thursday the group agreed to surrender its Ohio business license by June 1 and already has closed up shop in the state.

“For reasons unrelated to the lawsuit, ACORN was winding up its staff operations in Ohio anyway,” he said. “So there was no practical reason for us to spend time and money litigating this suit further, even though it was baseless and intended to harass us.”

ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, describes itself as an advocate for low-income and minority home buyers and residents. It denied any wrongdoing in Ohio.

Whelan said offshoot groups that have formed as new nonprofits may have help from former ACORN activists but are independent entities. He said no such effort has taken place in Ohio.

“They’re new corporations, incorporated with different boards that include some people that used to be involved with ACORN but also prominent community members from labor and public life,” Whelan said. “So those really are new and different things, although a number of people who played a big role in them played a role in ACORN for a long time.”

In October 2008, the 1851 Center sued ACORN regarding its activities in Ohio. The action alleged ACORN engaged in a pattern of corrupt activity that amounted to organized crime due to its perpetual submission of fraudulent voter registrations in Ohio. The Center sought the dissolution of ACORN as a legal entity, the revocation of any licenses in Ohio, and an injunction against fraudulent voter registration and other illegal activities.

March 11, 2010 – ACORN Settles with 1851 Center, Folds Ohio Operation

The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law achieved victory in its state RICO action against the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). ACORN has agreed to settle the case and will cease all Ohio activity as a result. In its settlement with the 1851 Center, ACORN agreed to surrender all of its Ohio business licenses by June 1, 2010. Further, the organization cannot support or enable any individual or organization that seeks to engage in the same type of activity.

March 11, 2010, Associated Press: ACORN Gives Up Ohio Business License

October 27, 2008: Original Complaint