Voter signatures supporting an initiative heading to the Nov. 6 election ballot in Ohio that would have restricted profits for dialysis providers in the state were invalidated by the Ohio Supreme Court on Monday, after opposition leaders questioned whether paperwork was properly filed for the petition drive.
If voters had approved the measure, a version of which is already on the ballot for state elections in California, an amendment would have been added to the state constitution limiting dialysis providers to charging no more than 115% of the cost of providing dialysis care.
The court decision “affirms that Ohio law requires paid circulators to register with the secretary of state before they start collecting signatures,” Gene Pierce, campaign spokesperson for Ohioans Against the Reckless Dialysis Amendment, told Healio/Nephrology. “This reckless proposal was written by California outsiders who know nothing about dialysis care in Ohio. The Ohio Supreme Court has ruled that the petitioners didn’t follow the law in their $4 million paid petition drive,” he said in a prepared statement.
“It is shameful that the Ohio Supreme Court relied on what even the justices acknowledged is a technicality to stop millions of Ohioans from voting on a critical issue affecting tens of thousands of people who need dialysis to stay alive,” Sean Wherley, a spokesperson for Los Angeles-based Service Employees International Union (SEIU)-United Healthcare Workers West, said in a written statement by email to Healio Nephrology. SEIU was a major financial backer of the Kidney Dialysis Patient Protection Amendment Committee as part of an effort to organize dialysis workers in Ohio. “Those patients will now be denied this chance for improved conditions and better, more sanitary care in the clinics, which this initiative would have produced. Dialysis patients and workers will not be stopped in our effort to ensure that the dialysis corporations make safety and quality care, not profits, their top priority.” Wherley said SEIU is making plans to “bring this issue back before Ohio voters next year.”
In the complaint filed on Aug. 9 with the Ohio Supreme Court, the Ohio Renal Association argued that organizers of the ballot drive had not properly registered paid supervisors who manage volunteers for the petition drive.
“It is a violation of R.C. 3501.381(A)(1) for a circulator to obtain signatures before that circulator’s compensated manager has filed disclosures ... with secretary of state,” according to the court summary of the Ohio Renal Association’s position. “Managers violated R.C. 3501.381(A)(1) by managing circulators who collected signatures before filing their R.C. 3501.381(A) disclosures.”
The court concurred, noting in the summary that the statute requires “ ... any person who will receive compensation for supervising, managing, or otherwise organizing any effort to obtain signatures * * * for a statewide initiative petition * * * shall file a statement to that effect with the office of the secretary of state before any signatures are obtained for the petition or before the person is engaged to supervise, manage, or otherwise organize the effort to obtain signatures for the petition, whichever is later.”
The ballot initiative drive almost faltered for supporters even before the court ruling. Organizers submitted 296,080 signatures by a state-imposed July 19 deadline - short 9,511 of the 305,591 required to meet the constitutional and legal requirements to get on the Nov. 6 ballot. The organizers later submitted another 41,000 signatures to cover the shortfall. – by Mark E. Neumann