Ohio: Public Officer Compensation Commission passes Senate 34-0; would repeal guarantee legislature cannot reduce judges’ salaries while in office

In the last 48 hours the Ohio Senate has introduced and approved on a 34-0 vote a constitutional amendment (SJR 9) to create a Public Office Compensation Commission “to review the current compensation of each elected public official in the state” including judges. Interestingly, SJR 9 eliminates the guarantee that judicial salaries may NOT be cut by the General Assembly. Art. IV, Sec. 6(B) which now reads

The judges of the Supreme Court, courts of appeals, courts of common pleas, and divisions thereof, and of all courts of record established by law, shall, at stated times, receive, for their services such compensation as may be provided by law, which shall not be diminished during their term of office.

Would instead read

The judges of the Supreme Court, courts of appeals, courts of common pleas, and divisions thereof, and of all courts of record established by law, shall, at stated times, receive, for their services such compensation as provided for in [the Public Officer Compensation Commission system].

The Commission is explicitly authorized to recommend, and the General Assembly to enact, cuts to such salaries.

The elimination of the constitutional guarantee that judicial salaries cannot be cut by the legislature as part of a public officer compensation system is almost identical to what occurred in 2013 in Arkansas. As introduced and initially approved (see here and here and here) Arkansas’ HJR 1009 of 2013 eliminated that state’s constitutional guarantee that judicial salaries could not be diminished (Amendment 80, Sec. 16 (E) “Such salaries and expenses may be increased, but not diminished, during the term for which such Justices or Judges are selected or elected.”)

The final version of the Arkansas proposal that went on the ballot, however, did ensure the protection; that state’s new Independent Citizens Commission may increase, but not diminish, the salaries of judges in the state as discussed here.