Ohio House Joint Resolution 2 (HJR2) is expected to receive a vote in a special session of the Ohio House on Tuesday, August 2nd.
If approved by both chambers this week, it would place language on the ballot in November to amend the Ohio Constitution to expand the state's bonding authority to fund 3 different types of economic development projects.
1. Public Infrastructure capital improvements (i.e. roads, bridges, water treatment systems)
2. Research and development - broadly worded to "support Ohio industry, commerce, and business" (including Governor Taft's Third Frontier research)
3. Site and facility development for Ohio industry, commerce, distribution, and research/development
Concerns: 1. This package is very poorly worded. As proposed, Article VIII, Section 2p (A)(2)states that the research and development "SHALL include, WITHOUT LIMITATION, research and product innovation, development and commercialization..."
This language places no ethical boundaries around the use of taxpayer funds for research and commercialization in the controversial area of bioscience (i.e. human embryonic stem cell research and human cloning).
Even with an amendment expected to be offered by State Representative Mike Gilb (R-Findlay) to place ethical constraints on human research, there would still be no prohibition on the use of human embryonic stem cell lines listed in a federal registry established four years ago.
2. Further in the resolution the "implementation of the research and development purposes" is described as including "supporting ANY AND ALL related matters and activities including ... activities to develop and commercialize products and processes."
Again, this language is too broad. It may be interpreted by the courts to limit future general assemblies against establishing reasonable boundaries around the use of taxpayer funds for research programs in the fields of human genetics and biomedical engineering.
It is important to remember that adult stem cell research has demonstrated tremendous success in advancing treatments for many diseases, without the destruction of human life.
Whether or not the Gilb amendment is approved, please consider asking your representative to vote NO on HJR 2 as a whole. The economic development package is completely inappropriate for inclusion in the Ohio Constitution. It places an unreasonable financial obligation on future state budgets, without regard to the available revenues the state may have. Fiscal decisions of this magnitude need to be made by each elected general assembly. We should not be blanketly mandating that the state incur additional debt. If the Ohio House members approve HJR2, please be prepared to make immediate contact with your state senator. Both chambers must approve the joint resolution by August 10th in order for the language to be placed on the ballot in November.