Emails show: Chamber of Commerce pushed to undercut Lake Erie Bill of Rights

Staff Writer

An exchange of emails in April between an executive with the Ohio Chamber of Commerce and the office of a state representative indicates the chamber was pushing to add language to the state budget bill that undercuts the Lake Erie Bill of Rights ballot initiative approved by Toledo voters.
Zachary Frymier, then director of Energy and Environmental Policy for the Chamber of Commerce, reached out to the office of Rep. James Hoops, R – Napoleon, saying he had concerns with the LEBOR that voters approved in February.
LEBOR grants legal rights to the Great Lake and its watershed as an amendment to Toledo’s charter.
“We have some language that we’d request be considered for the budget,” the Frymier emails say. ”Language stating that ecosystems and nature do not have [legal] standing …is essential to what we’re trying to accomplish. If we could get that added I would be very grateful.”
The language was added to the biennial budget bill.
Rep. Hoops is chair of the House Finance Subcommittee on Agriculture, Development, and Natural Resources.
“Though obviously it would have to be submitted after tomorrow’s deadline we’d still like to have a conversation,” the Frymier emails say.
The staff of the Legislative Services Commission questioned the necessity of the language but Frymier defended the language to a legislative aide for Hoops.
The emails were obtained through Ohio’s Public Records Act by Community Rights Network board member Bill Lyons.
“People are under the impression that their elected representatives write the laws and the process is transparent. This shows that industry is doing it for them. It’s supposed to be The People’s budget, the representatives say, but this is just a mirage,” said Lyons.
The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund drafted the bill of rights for the lake at the request of Toledoans for Safe Water, which then gathered signatures to qualify the measure for the ballot.
The LEBOR is being challenged in U.S. District for the Northern District of Ohio by Drewes Farm Partnership.
The Ohio Attorney General’s office is also intervening in the case, arguing the charter amendment is unconstitutional and is preempted by state and federal law.


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