The Ohio Supreme Court ruled 6-1 against the local charter proposal that targeted state fracking laws.

If Athens County residents want an anti-fracking bill of rights, they’ll have to wait more than a year to get it.

The Ohio Supreme Court turned down the Athens County Bill of Rights Committee’s charter proposal Wednesday, meaning the measure will not appear on the Nov. 3 ballot.

The ruling also overturned similar proposals in Fulton and Medina counties.

The court ruled 6-1 on the case, with Justice William M. O’Neill as the only dissenting vote.

“We hold that it was within Husted’s discretion to determine that the proposed charters were invalid because they did not set forth the form of government ... and to invalidate the three petitions on that basis,” the court stated in their decision.

The decision upholds Secretary of State Jon Husted’s ruling earlier this month to turn down the proposal.

{{tncms-asset app="editorial" id="fef7233e-5a43-11e5-95f7-27975501d2ef"}}

“As I have stated previously, this course of action is not the appropriate path to seek change on this issue,” Husted said in a Wednesday news release. “If advocates of these local proposals truly want to effect (sic) change, they should use the legislative process available to them and either work with their representatives in the Ohio General Assembly or propose a statewide initiated statute.”

The proposal included a bill of rights, which attempted to override state fracking laws by declaring that the county had the right to forbid hydraulic fracturing and injection wells within its borders.

In doing so, the proposal also sought to change the structure of the county from a statutory government to a charter government, meaning the Athens County Commissioners would have the ability to pass ordinances.

According to the court’s decision, the proposal failed to achieve that for two reasons: A county cannot pass a proposal that directly conflicts with state laws, and a charter government must have an appointed executive.

Dick McGinn, a member of the Bill of Rights Committee, said the court’s decision violated the Ohio Revised Code.

McGinn said, based on his understanding of the law, charter governments did not have to include an executive.

“(The Supreme Court is) essentially creating a new requirement for charters that you have to have an executive function,” he said. “These are a bunch of lawyers, so how do you tell them that they’re wrong?”

McGinn said the group’s only option now would be to start circulating petitions again in the hopes of getting in the 2016 ballots.

The new petitions, in order to comply with the court’s ruling, would likely include a measure that appoints a county executive.

“It really is not very fair to us,” McGinn said. “But if they made up a new (law) what choice do we have now?”

But Joanne Prisley, the first person in Athens County to make an appeal for Husted to overturn the proposal, said the group would have to do more than appoint an executive to make its proposal legal.

“(I don’t support the proposal) if they put the fracking or the bill of rights in there because that does not belong in a charter,” she said.

Prisley added that she supports local efforts to curb fracking, but a county charter was not the appropriate method to achieve that.

“I think they should go work on getting the legislation to change the laws and working through the House and the Senate and the state representatives,” she said.


Comments powered by Disqus