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September 21, 2018

OML Board Officially Opposes State Issue 1

A quorum of the Ohio Municipal League’s Board of Trustees has voted unanimously to officially oppose State Issue 1, the proposed constitutional amendment that would reduce penalties for the crimes of obtaining, possessing and using illegal drugs. Issue 1 will appear on the ballot on Tuesday, November 6th for consideration by Ohio voters.

If approved, the amendment would prohibit jail time as a sentence for obtaining, possessing or using illegal drugs until an individual’s third offense within 24 months; it would mandate those criminal offenses be classified only as a misdemeanor rather than a felony; and would require sentence reductions of incarcerated individuals, except individuals incarcerated for murder, rape or child molestation by up to 25% if the individual participates in rehabilitative, work or educational programming, among other provisions.

The Ohio Municipal League stands opposed to Issue 1 for several reasons. The amendment would shift the financial responsibility of prosecuting these misdemeanor offenses to the local governments, making them responsible for the costs of treatment, probation and jail. The amendment will also inhibit the prosecution of drug traffickers, in addition to reducing the sentences of violent offenders such as human traffickers, those convicted of aggravated arson, burglary or robbery, kidnapping and felonious assault – just to name a few.

Ohio’s local governments are already struggling with combating the worsening opioid crisis on the front lines of our communities despite repeated cuts to their funding. Issue 1 is projected to save the state millions annually – however, shifting the cost of courts, probation, treatment and jail time to municipalities would create an incredible financial burden in the form of yet another massive unfunded mandate.

Issue 1 also ties the hands of local law enforcement to effectively prosecute drug traffickers, hobbling their ability to dole out the criminal penalties necessary to reduce drug use and crime in their communities. By reducing sentences for violent offenders – not just those possessing drugs – Issue 1 poses a very serious threat to public safety by putting violent criminals back on the streets.

Finally, changing Ohio’s constitution creates a long-term challenge, as an entire statewide initiative and election would be necessary to make any needed changes to the amendment in years to come. Ohio should not legislate via constitutional amendment: such a serious change in sentencing law should be done in the Ohio Revised Code, where the legislature can make necessary adjustments as needed.

On behalf of Ohio’s municipalities, due to the increased financial burden and serious safety concerns, the Ohio Municipal League opposes Issue 1. If your municipality is interested in passing a resolution opposing Issue 1, you can find sample language

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