Toledo voters will soon decide whether farmers can be sued by Lake Erie. In this update of the Lake Erie Bill of rights on Legal with Leah, Farm Bureau Policy Counsel Leah Curtis says the court has ruled the measure can be voted on later this month.
Joe Cornely: For the one or two people that didn’t hear it, update us on what LEBOR is.
Leah Curtis: So LEBOR is the Lake Erie Bill of Rights. It is a proposal to amend the city charter for the city of Toledo.
And what it does is grants Lake Erie and the watershed the right to exist, flourish and naturally evolve including all the organisms and features and soil as well as grants the city of Toledo citizens the right to a clean and healthy environment including a clean lake.
Joe Cornely: And I’m going to translate that. The lake will have rights like a human. Any citizen who wants to can sue anybody on behalf of the lake and of course they’re going to be talking about suing farmers pretty quickly. Now last time we talked, there was a chance it wouldn’t even get on the ballot in the special election on February 26. That’s not the way it turned out.
Leah Curtis: Yes so this was subject to a challenge at the Ohio Supreme Court.
The Ohio Supreme Court did rule last week that the board of elections acted properly and under the law in putting it on the ballot. So to be clear, the board of elections didn’t approve this. Neither did the Supreme Court approve it because they can’t really look at the actual text or substantive provisions of this charter amendment. What they have to do is follow the law which says according to the Supreme Court if the signatures are collected and valid then it will be put on the ballot essentially.
Joe Cornely: So again translating, nobody says this is a good idea. They just said the law requires it to be on the ballot. So what’s that mean? What’s coming next? People will be voting February 26.
Leah Curtis: Yes so people will be voting on February 26. Early voting does start before that and the city is going to have to take some steps under the law to notify citizens of this provision so that they’re aware of it and that it’s on the ballot. If we do see it pass we will likely see lawsuits filed probably fairly quickly and those lawsuits could be against farmers. They could be against other industries other businesses. They even can be against governments. It does limit it to businesses and governments but it could be any type of business: LLC, sole proprietorship, pretty much anything. So we will probably see a lot of legal action. A lot of pieces of this from a legal standpoint are unenforceable and probably unconstitutional but we’ll take a court saying that before that’s actually determined.
Joe Cornely: And that’s not quick nor is it cheap.
Leah Curtis: It is not. Unfortunately it is oftentimes years before things get all the way through all the appeals and things that we would have to have to get up to a final decision.
Joe Cornely: So between now and Feb. 26 what can Farm Bureau member do?
Leah Curtis: Make sure you’re talking about all the good things you are doing for water quality.
You’re talking to the people around you and they understand all of the great things that you are doing and the challenges that we face and how we are taking the bull by the horns and doing our part to make sure we are the group that is facing those challenges. And as I always say Joe before you sign something, make sure you read it so in the future if somebody presents a petition to you don’t just sign it. Read it. Understand what you’re signing because that may be the next thing that is on your ballot.