The Ohio Attorney General and Secretary of State opened the door last week for a consumer advocacy group to start gathering the necessary signatures to place embattled House Bill 6 on the statewide ballot before that same door slams shut in seven weeks.
Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts received approval of petition language on Aug. 29 with certification of the 1,000 signatures of registered voters coming the following day.
Campaign spokesman Gene Pierce said they prechecked and submitted 2,246 signatures to insure they had the necessary amount to gain authorization in order to progress to the next phase — obtaining the 265,744 signatures to place the issue on the November 2020 ballot.
“We’ve been getting ready for this assuming that we would receive the approval of the secretary of state and the attorney general,” he said. “We had crews hitting the ground Saturday after the approval was given to us on Friday so now our petition circulators are out and we hope they will be treated cordially.”
He reminded everyone that the people who may be walking down the sidewalk or coming up the driveway may be a neighbor, someone from church, or a person they work with, emphasizing that it probably won’t be a total stranger since he feels there is “a lot of grass-roots supports for this.”
The motivation behind the OACB signature drive is what Pierce described as legislation that forces Ohio residents to pay $1.5 billion to bail out a bankrupt northern Ohio utility, namely FirstEnergy Solutions.
As previously reported, the measure would add new fees to electric bills for consumers in Ohio, with 90 percent of the revenue going to help bail out a pair of nuclear power plants owned by the bankrupt utility.
Beginning on Jan. 1, 2021, an 85 cents per month fee would appear on Ohioan’s electric bills, raising about $150 million annually, with about 90 percent of the revenue earmarked for the Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear power stations.
FirstEnergy Solutions has said that without the money generated by HB 6, they would be forced to close both nuclear facilities in 2021 with a loss of nearly 1,400 jobs.
OACB also called on the First Energy Solutions-backed Ohioans for Energy Security to pull what it called “fear-mongering ads” that claim the organization’s petition circulators are agents of the Chinese government.
“The ads are ridiculous,” he said. “They’re making a national spectacle of themselves for how ridiculous their argument is. They’re basically making themselves a laughing stock in the energy industry.”
Pierce said his organization has found in the initial days of signature canvassing that people who have seen the televised ads were more receptive to signing the petition.
He said in order to get the issue on the ballot in 2020, the signatures must be collected statewide, and state law prohibits the “loading up” of signatures from one geographic location.
The nearly 266,000 signatures represents 6 percent of the state’s most recent gubernatorial election, he pointed out, with a minimum of 3 percent of those voters having to come from at least 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties, insuring geographic diversity and representation of everyone’s point of view.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.