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Ohio Issue 1, Congressional Redistricting Procedures Amendment, was approved by Ohio voters in the May 8, 2018 primary election. Official elections results show that the ballot issue was approved by 1,178,468 votes in favor to 395,088 votes against. According to the certified ballot language, available on the Secretary of State’s website:

“The proposed amendment would:

  • End the partisan process for drawing congressional districts, and replace it with a process with the goals of promoting bipartisanship, keeping local communities together, and having district boundaries that are more compact.
  • Ensure a transparent process by requiring public hearings and allowing public submission of proposed plans.
  • Require the General Assembly or the Ohio redistricting Commission to adopt new congressional districts by bipartisan vote for the plan to be effective for the full 10-year period.
  • Require that if a plan is adopted by the General Assembly without significant bipartisan support, it cannot be effective for the entire 10-year period and must comply with explicit anti-gerrymandering requirements.

[…] the amendment will become effective immediately.”

The result is that Section 1 of Article XI, taking effect on January 1, 2021, will be amended, and Sections 1, 2, and 3 of Article XIX will be enacted to establish a process for congressional redistricting. The full text of the amendment is available here: SJR 5 (132nd GA (2018)). Ohio Constitution News blog shared a succinct explanation in this post on February 15, 2018. For additional statements, the certified arguments for and against are still available from the Secretary of State’s website.

 

 

The Ohio General Assembly has approved a proposed amendment, SJR 5 (132nd GA (2018)), to add a new Article, Article XIX, to the Ohio Constitution to address congressional redistricting.  The proposed amendment will be on the May 8, 2018, ballot, and Ohio voters will have to approve this amendment for it to become part of the Ohio Constitution.

In November 2015, Ohio voters approved an amendment proposed by the General Assembly to revise the way in which state legislative district lines are drawn and the standards for drawing these lines.  This process, known as Apportionment, is addressed in Article XI of the Ohio Constitution, and it does not deal with congressional redistricting, which has been left in the hands of the General Assembly.

The 2015 amendment created an Ohio Legislative Districting Commission to address state apportionment, and the proposed amendment would give this Commission the authority to also address congressional redistricting.

Congressional redistricting has become a visible issue given the fact that in this relatively evenly split state, one political party has 12 of the 16 congressional seats.  The need for significant changes in the district lines will become more acute after the 2020 census, since Ohio will likely lose one seat in Congress.

A recent article in the Columbus Dispatch succinctly described the proposal as follows:

The proposed constitutional amendment sets up a bipartisan process to draw a new 10-year map, significantly changing the current map-drawing process that allows the majority to work alone, gerrymandering districts to its benefit. Republicans have held a firm grip on 12 of Ohio’s 16 congressional districts since drawing the map in 2011, and few races have been competitive.

*        *        *

Unlike the current process, which requires no minority-party support and has few rules that need followed, the new proposal initially requires 50 percent of the minority party in each chamber to approve a map for 10 years. It also would limit how often counties can be split into multiple congressional seats, and it would require public hearings and the ability for the public to submit maps.

Under that plan, 65 counties cannot be divided, 18 can be divided once and five can be divided twice into three congressional districts. Currently, many counties are split, such as Cuyahoga and Summit counties in Democrat-rich northeast Ohio that are split into four districts as Republicans sliced them up for partisan advantage.

If the legislature is unable to come to a bipartisan agreement, the multi-step process moves to a seven- member commission consisting of the governor, auditor, secretary of state and four lawmakers, where a 10-year map would require at least two minority-party votes.

If that fails, the process goes back to the legislature, where it would require a three-fifths vote in each chamber, including one-third of each minority caucus, to pass a 10-year map.

If there’s still no deal, the majority can draw a four-year map on its own, but it would be under stricter criteria, including prohibitions against several acts — “unduly” splitting counties and other jurisdictions, drawing a district that favors or disfavors a party, or drawing districts to favor incumbents. That process also would require the majority to formally justify why it decided to draw each district, which advocates say would hold them accountable to the courts and the public.

Any map that is approved would be subject to a potential governor’s veto, or a ballot referendum that attempts to overturn the map.

Jim Siegel, Bipartisan deal finalized, voters to decide congressional redistricting changes (Dispatch) (2-6-2018)

Cleveland-Marshall College of Law Dean Emeritus Steven H. Steinglass has published an op-ed in the December 25, 2017, Akron Beacon Journal, urging the General Assembly to give Ohio voters a chance to vote on proposals made by the Constitutional Revision Commission and its committees.  The online version of the article was also published in paper copy on December 26th under the title “Give voters a say on a trimmer Ohio Constitution.”

In 2011, the General Assembly created the Commission, a 32-person commission (composed of 12 legislators and 20 public members), to provide a comprehensive bipartisan review of the Ohio Constitution and to propose amendments to the General Assembly (which in turn could place proposed amendments on the ballot). In June 2017, the General Assembly moved up the sunset date for the Commission four years, and the Commission closed its doors on June 30, 2017. Though it did not complete its review, the Commission recommended the amendment or repeal of 21 obsolete or inappropriate sections of the Ohio Constitution, but the General Assembly has not acted upon these recommendations; thus, the voters have not had an opportunity to consider any of them.

In this op-ed, Steinglass identifies recommended provisions that are ripe for removal, including provisions involving state debt, the sinking fund commission, services for “the insane and dumb,” “voting by idiots and insane persons, and the use of gender-inappropriate language.

Steinglass concludes his op-ed by noting that if the General Assembly approves these recommendations, it will salvage some of the work of the Commission.  It will also permit the voters to shorten our 57,000-word constitution by more than 20% and relieve Ohio of the dubious distinction of having the tenth longest state constitution in the country.

This op-ed follows up earlier op-eds. In a July 9, 2017, Columbus Dispatch op-ed, Steinglass described the commission, its modest success, and its demise. In a guest column for Cleveland.com on October 9, 2017, he discussed the commission’s unfinished agenda. And in a November 16, 2017, Columbus Dispatch op-ed, he opined that the effort to modernize the Ohio Constitution was undercut by the decision to structure the commission to insure legislative control of it, by a lack of effective leadership, by the absence of a legislative commitment to constitutional revision, and by a corrosive partisan political climate.

On November 7, 2017, more than 82% of Ohio voters supported a proposed initiated constitutional amendment to replace Article I, Sec. 10a of the Ohio Constitution, with a new provision designed to further strengthen the rights of victims in the criminal justice process. The new provision, generally known as Marsy’s Law, seeks to expand the rights of crime victims to privacy and to treatment with respect, fairness and dignity; it further provides that such rights are to be protected as vigorously as the rights of the accused. For the text of the new amendment and the summary that had been submitted to the Secretary of State, click here.

Under Ohio law, the process for initiating a constitutional amendments begins with the filing of a petition (with 1,000 valid signatures) with the Attorney General. The petition must include the text of the proposed amendment and a summary of it, and the Attorney General is required to determine whether the summary is a fair and truthful statement of the proposed amendment. On September 15, 2017, the Attorney General provided the required certification, and the proponent—Stop Ohio Puppy Mills—is free to begin collecting the 305,591 required valid signatures (10% of the votes in the last gubernatorial election). Petitions with signatures must be submitted to the Secretary of State by July 4, 2018. If the requisite number of valid signatures are obtained, the Secretary of State certifies the signatures. Amendments proposed by initiative may only be on the fall general election ballot, and thus the earliest the proposal may appear on the ballot is November 6, 2018.

This detailed proposed amendment seeks to regulate puppy mills in Ohio and to insure that dogs have adequate exercise and socialization, adequate food and water, adequate shelter, and adequate veterinary care. These terms are all defined in the amendment, which also mandates that the General Assembly and the state department of agriculture revise all laws and regulations within 120 days of passage. Finally, the proposed amendment enumerates defenses to actions brought to enforce the amendment and exempts “hobby breeders” from coverage under the amendment.

Cleveland-Marshall College of Law Dean Emeritus Steven H. Steinglass has published an op-ed in the November 16, 2017, Columbus Dispatch describing how the Ohio General Assembly undercut the work of the Ohio Constitution Modernization Commission.

The General Assembly created the Commission in 2011 to provide a comprehensive bipartisan review of the Ohio Constitution and to propose amendments to the General Assembly, which in turn could place proposed amendments on the ballot. In June 2017, the General Assembly moved the sunset date up four years, and the Commission closed its doors on June 30, 2017.

In his latest op-ed, Steinglass, who served as Senior Policy Advisor for the Commission, described how the work of the 32-person commission (composed of 12 legislators and 20 public members) was undercut by the decision to structure the commission to insure legislative control, by a lack of effective leadership, by the absence of a legislative commitment to constitutional revision, and by a corrosive partisan political climate.

This op-ed follows up two earlier op-eds. In a July 9, 2017, Columbus Dispatch op-ed, Steinglass described the commission, its modest success, and its demise. here And in a guest column for Cleveland.com on October 9, 2017, he discussed the substance of the commission’s unfinished agenda.

The Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission has ceased to exist, eff. 6/30/2017, but its work product is available for those who care about the future of the Ohio Constitution. The final reports of the Commission and its six subject-matter committees can be viewed on the Commission website (click here) and have been posted on the OCLH (OHIO CONSTITUTION LAW AND HISTORY) website along with selected research memoranda from each of the subject-matter committees. (click here)

On August 17, 2017, the Ohio Ballot Board prescribed the ballot language for the November 7, 2017, vote on a proposed initiated constitutional amendment to replace Article I, Sec. 10a of the Ohio Constitution, with a new provision designed to further strengthen the rights of victims in the criminal justice system. The proposal, which will be Issue 1 on the ballot, is the Ohio Crime Victims Bill of Rights, generally known as Marsy’s Law. If approved by the voters, this amendment will expand the right of crime victims to privacy and their right to be treated with respect, fairness and dignity; it will further provide that such rights are to be protected as vigorously as the rights of the accused. The Secretary of State had reviewed the signatures and concluded on July 17, 2017, that the petitioners had obtained more than the required 305,591 valid signatures needed to qualify the proposed amendment for the ballot. For a copy of the approved Ballot Language, click here. For the text of the proposed amendment and the summary that had been submitted to the Secretary of State before the beginning of signature-gathering, click here.

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled on July 26, 2017 that three provisions of a 2015 state law regulating the use of traffic cameras were unconstitutional. Justice Fischer wrote the majority opinion in Dayton v. State, holding that:

R.C. 4511.093(B)(1), which requires that a law-enforcement officer be present at the location of a traffic camera, infringes on the municipality’s legislative authority without serving an overriding state interest and is therefore unconstitutional. We also hold that R.C. 4511.0912, which prohibits the municipality from issuing a fine to a driver who is caught speeding by a traffic camera unless that driver’s speed exceeds the posted speed limit by 6 m.p.h. in a school or park zone or 10 m.p.h. in other areas, unconstitutionally limits the municipality’s legislative powers without serving an overriding state interest. Finally, we hold that R.C. 4511.095, which directs the municipality to perform a safety study and a public-information campaign prior to using a camera, unconstitutionally limits the municipality’s home-rule authority without serving an overriding state interest.”

Justice Fischer’s opinion was joined by Chief Justice O’Connor and Judge Baldwin of the Fifth District Court of Appeals, sitting for Justice O’Donnell. Justice French wrote a concurring opinion, joined by Justice Kennedy. Justice French found the state laws unconstitutional on the ground that they “fail to prescribe a rule of conduct upon citizens generally,” and thus violate the Home Rule Amendment (Art. XVIII, Sec. 3).

Under Article XVIII, Section 3 of the Ohio Constitution, municipalities have authority to exercise powers of local self-government. They also have authority to adopt and enforce police regulations, as long as those regulations do not conflict with state laws. The Court uses a three-part test to examine potential conflicts between local ordinances and state law. The local ordinance must yield to a state statute if “(1) the ordinance is an exercise of the police power, rather than of local self-government, (2) the statute is a general law, and (3) the ordinance is in conflict with the statute.”

Dayton permitted its police department to begin using traffic cameras in 2002. When the state law passed in 2015, Dayton challenged the provisions that conflicted with its existing local ordinances. The parties agreed that the state laws and local ordinances conflicted, and the Court determined that Dayton’s laws were an exercise of police power. Thus the remaining part of the test stated above, and the issue in this case, was whether the challenged provisions of the state law were general laws.

Justice Fischer and Justice French both used a four-part test from Canton v. State, a 2002 Ohio Supreme Court decision, to determine whether the challenged provisions were general laws. Under this test, to qualify as a general law, a statute must “(1) be part of a statewide and comprehensive legislative enactment, (2) apply to all parts of the state alike and operate uniformly throughout the state, (3) set forth police, sanitary, or similar regulations, rather than purport only to grant or limit legislative power of a municipal corporation to set forth police, sanitary, or similar regulations, and (4) prescribe a rule of conduct upon citizens generally.” When this general-law test is not satisfied, then the statute is deemed an unconstitutional limitation on the municipality’s legislative home-rule authority.

The majority opinion focused on the third prong, and determined that the provision requiring the presence of an officer contradicted the purpose of using the cameras; that the speed-leeway provision acted as an increase in speed limit, violating the city’s legislative power; that the study and notice provision does not actually require use of the study and would not succeed in notifying all potential motorists. The concurring opinion focused on the fourth prong and noted that the challenged provisions do not apply to citizens’ conduct in driving, but rather places limitations on municipalities.

Justices DeWine and O’Neill wrote separate dissenting opinions, both challenging the validity of the Canton test and pointing out that the 2015 law promotes uniform application of traffic laws around the state. Justice DeWine wrote that the Canton test is applied unevenly and does not provide sufficient guidance for the legislature. Additionally, to determine whether a state legislative enactment is a general law, the reviewing court should instead examine whether the statute has statewide reach and whether it treats the objects of the law equally.

The Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission was terminated by the Ohio General Assembly on June 30, 2017. The Commission had been created in 2011 and was supposed to last for 10 years. The Commission’s purpose was a comprehensive review of the Ohio Constitution, which is the 10th longest in the country.

In a column for the Columbus Dispatch, published on July 9, 2017, Cleveland-Marshall College of Law Dean Emeritus and former Senior Policy Advisor of the Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission, Steven Steinglass reflected on the Commission’s work and some topics left unfinished. Despite not being fully staffed until mid-2014, the Commission approved recommendations to repeal or amend 21 sections. The General Assembly must decide whether to present those proposals to voters for approval. Two amendments, involving apportionment and anti-monopoly, were put before voters in 2015 and were approved. The Commission recommended no changes to 39 sections.

According to Steinglass, there are still many more provisions that the Commission did not act on. For example, committee-approved proposals to reform grand jury proceedings; unconstitutional provisions such as barring same-sex marriage and placing term limits on members of Congress; obsolete provisions; detailed provisions that should be in statutes instead; and hot button issues such as congressional redistricting.

The Commission’s work record, including proceedings and reports are still available on its website, but will eventually be moved to the Ohio Legislative Service Commission website.

The full text of the column is available here.

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