Citizens taking action because officials won’t

Published 9:09 am Friday, September 20, 2013

An interesting trend has developed in Ohio in recent years: If lawmakers won’t take action, then the citizens will.

The state has seen a significant number of ballot initiatives enact laws that the Ohio Legislature has either passed despite public opinion, failed to make any progress on or simply ignored. Recent examples include increasing the state’s minimum-wage, banning of same-sex marriages and repealing what was widely viewed as union-busting legislation implemented under Senate Bill 5.

Several others are in the works and voters could be asked to decide on expansion of Medicaid in November 2014 if the legislature remains locked in the ongoing stalemate since the proposal was struck from the budget.

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The Ohio Ballot Board has cleared the group Healthy Ohioans Work, a coalition of advocates labor groups and others, to begin collecting signatures that could ultimately put the issue in front of voters.

“Roughly 366,000 Ohioans would be newly eligible for coverage beginning in 2014 by expanding Medicaid. The federal-state program for the poor and disabled already provides care for one of every five residents in the state. Washington would pay the entire cost of the expansion for the first three years, gradually phasing down to 90 percent — still well above Ohio’s current level of almost 64 percent,” according to Associated Press reports.

Although this may not be how we typically think of our government working, it is a logical extension of the concept “of the people, by the people, for the people” that President Abraham Lincoln eloquently spoke of in the Gettysburg Address.

When citizens lead the effort to put something on the ballot for voters to make their own decisions, it may just be democracy in its purest form.