COLUMBUS -- There was a point during what could have been the final Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission meeting where there was a motion, a call for a vote, questions about a quorum and voiced confusion about the process.
I can't imagine how frustrated the citizen and other members of the panel were at that point, listening and watching as years of work potentially came to an end, without a lot of final action.
You'll recall that lawmakers created the commission back in 2012, in advance of a mandated ballot question about the convening of a constitutional convention, which has been placed on the ballot every 20 years for decades (but never OK'd by voters).
Initial plans called for the commission to meet through mid-2021 to review the state constitution and offer amendments where needed. Any recommendations for change would have to be placed on the ballot by lawmakers and approved by voters.
But the legislature, via a budget amendment a couple of years ago, opted to end the panel's work early, as of the Jan. 1, 2018.
An amendment to the biennial budget by the House earlier this year would end the commission's deliberations even earlier -- on June 30, though that language has not yet been finalized or signed into law.
"We don't know whether this is the last commission meeting or not," Sen. Charleta Tavares (D-Columbus), co-chairwoman of the commission, told members. "As of today, we have until Dec. 31 to conclude our business."
Regardless of the end date, the commission process couldn't be described as efficient, with lots of ideas for constitutional changes likely left to languish.
Take reforms proposed to the citizen initiative process, by which residents can place proposed laws or amendments before voters.
Dennis Mulvihill, an attorney from Hudson who headed the commission's Constitutional Revision and Updating Committee, said the proposal was aimed strengthening the process, "taking, to the extent that we can, any interference from politicians out of the process and really emboldening and empowering petitioners to get their [issues] to the ballot."
He said the committee worked for years on the issues involved, developing a reform package with dozens of changes to the initiative process.
But it was clear during the recent commission meeting that there weren't sufficient votes in support of the changes to move the recommendation.
"There is opposition on both the left and the right," said member Jeff Jacobson. "I do not believe that this has anywhere near the votes."
Representatives of several groups also voiced their opposition during a public comment period.
I'll spare you the details of the actual proposal, since they seem like moot points now, following a prolonged debate on something that wasn't going anywhere anyway.
Talk about a frustrating process -- committees meeting for years, developing proposals only to see them die at the last minute because members of the full panel wouldn't support them or because there weren't enough people in the room to vote.
"We've been talking about this for four and a half years," Mulvihill said at one point. "It should not come as a surprise to anybody who is showing up here on the last day of the commission. It's been public. We've had people coming all times to these committees You weren't there during the four and a half years that we were working on this."
In the end, members couldn't even muster enough votes to recommend the removal of language in the state constitution that bars idiots and insane people from casting ballots in elections.
More than a year ago, the commission debated that same section, and members who were on hand voted in favor of it, but there weren't enough people there for final approval.
"One of my true regrets of having worked on the commission is that we're leaving the state constitution with the word 'idiot' in it," said commission member Richard Saphire. " My guess is that almost everybody on the commission would agree that that's just wrong."
There are lots of other issues that will go unaddressed, as well.
"There are a number of very significant reports and recommendations and other significant proposals that have been worked on for long periods of time by committees and for one reason or another just have never been acted on," Saphire said. "They're sort of suspended in the ether someplace."
Kovac covers the Ohio Statehouse for Gatehouse Media. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.