- Associated Press - Thursday, January 7, 2016

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Backers of an effort aimed at limiting the price Ohio pays for prescription drugs are suing the state’s elections chief over their petition signatures after he asked for a second review.

Supporters, who include the California-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation, say they believe they’ve met Ohio’s requirements to advance their proposed initiated statute. They argue Secretary of State Jon Husted, who oversees the state elections process, should send their proposal to lawmakers for consideration as they seek to get it on the November ballot.

The proposal is aimed at keeping state agencies from paying more for a prescription drug than the negotiated price paid by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. A similar plan qualified for California’s 2016 ballot.

In a lawsuit filed Wednesday with the Ohio Supreme Court, supporters ask for the Ohio Drug Price Relief Act to be certified and sent to the General Assembly.

The complaint comes after Husted, a Republican, told county boards of elections Monday to take another look at the petitions. Husted cited potentially improper redaction of voters’ signatures and discrepancies in the number of petition signatures compared to the number of people who gathered the signatures.

Husted was alerted to the potential problems in a Dec. 30 letter from an attorney representing the drug industry trade group, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. The PhRMA attorney Christopher Slagle of Bricker and Eckler in Columbus asks Husted to refrain from sending the proposal to lawmakers until the issues are investigated.

Attorney Don McTigue, who represents supporters of the proposed drug-price law, said initial reports from county elections boards indicated the measure had enough valid signatures to advance.

“In our view, the secretary of state was required to submit the proposed law to the General Assembly Monday of this week,” McTigue said in an interview. Instead, he said, Husted ordered a redo.

Husted spokesman Josh Eck said the office wants to weigh the validity of PhRMA’s complaint before certifying the measure. In a written statement, Husted said it’s his job to “to safeguard our elections by investigating these claims to ensure the laws of our state are followed.”

The county elections boards have until Jan. 29 to complete the review.

McTigue said the added review jeopardizes his clients’ plans to get the proposal before voters in the November presidential election since initiated statutes follow a multi-step process.

Should the measure have at least 91,677 valid signatures and meet other requirements, the proposal goes to the Legislature. Lawmakers have four months to act on it. Backers then have the chance to put the proposed law before voters. But they must first gather another round of at least 91,677 valid signatures by early July to appear on the fall ballot.

“It (the review) essentially reduces the period down to around 30 days to collect those signatures, which is a daunting task,” McTigue said.


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