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Category Archive for 'Legislation'

The Ohio House approved the Ohio Senate’s amended version of  HJR 12, which would amend the Ohio Constitution in order to make the process for Ohio legislative redistricting more nonpartisan.  In November 2015, Ohio voters will decide whether to approve the constitutional amendment.  See   (Joint resolutions do not need approval by the governor as they are not amendments to statutes,  but “formal expressions of the opinions and wishes of the General Assembly“. )  See   Akron Beacon: Map-making overhaul goes to Ohio voters next year

For some details on the amendment, see our prior posts,   Ohio House passes Redistricting Reform Measure and Ohio Senate Passes Amended Version of House’s Redistricting Plan  and the Cleveland.com article The Bipartisan Redistricting Reform Proposal:  What You Need to Know.

The Ohio Senate passed a version of  HJR 12, the Ohio House of Representative’s plan to amend the Ohio Constitution to making drawing a districting map for Ohio legislative elections more nonpartisan.  See our prior post Ohio House passes Redistricting Reform Measure.  “In the Senate-approved version, the second time the panel doesn’t get minority approval, the map would be in place for six years. During that time, the panel’s makeup could change.” Cleveland.com article Bipartisan Redistricting Reform passes Senate in Historic Vote.   The House will need to vote on the version as passed by the Senate.

If approved, the plan will go to Ohio voters to decide whether to accept this amendment to the Ohio Constitution.

What started off as an admirable effort to curb Lake Erie pollution and to enforce Ohio oil and gas laws ended up including language to weaken recently passed legislation against puppy mills, as well as provisions possibly endangering basic land-line telephone services.    H.B. 490, as passed by the Ohio House this November, includes all those items.  According to commentator Thomas Suddes,

“A bill to weaken the puppy mill law couldn’t pass on its own, so it’s catching a ride on the must-pass Lake Erie bill. So much for the Ohio Constitution’s one-subject rule (Article II, Section 15(D)). In theory, it forbids making a bill a junk-drawer for legislators. In practice, the one- subject rule is ignored — as, way too often in Ohio, is cruelty to animals.”

Dayton Daily, Ignoring the One Subject Rule and More.

HB 490 must still be passed by the Senate and signed by the Governor.  Governor Kasich threatened to veto House Bill 490 if the telecommunications language remains.  See Toledo Blade, Kasich Could Veto Algae Bill if Telephone Aspects not Removed.  The  telecommunication language is problematic because it would leave senior citizens in rural areas without basic land-line service and without reliable cell or Internet service to replace it.

If the bill is not passed by the end of the year, it dies because a new General Assembly starts in January.




SJR 9, recently passed by the Ohio Senate, would amend the Ohio Constitution to create the Public Office Compensation Commission.  The Commission would review and set pay for lawmakers, constitutional officers, judges and others.   Commission members would be appointed by the governor, members of the legislature and the chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court, but they can not be state employees, family members, lobbyists or someone who was a candidate for public office in the last 12 months.  The commission creates a proposed compensation plan, and there must be three public hearings on the plan.  The General Assembly can reject one or more of the compensation amounts in the final plan.

The joint resolution would eliminate the prohibition against executive officers’ compensation being increased or decreased during the period for which the officer was elected.  However, if the General Assembly rejects a final compensation plan or portion thereof, a member of the General Assembly is not entitled to an increase in compensation for the duration of the member’s term of office.

If the House passes Senate Joint Resolution 9, Ohio voters must approve this amendment to the Ohio Constitution.

Currently, the General Assembly has authority over pay raises for public officials.   See Dayton Daily, Statehouse split on raises; Ohio House, Senate pass competing bills to increase pay for 7,300 in public office.

The Ohio House passed HJR 12 , which would change the way state legislative districts are created, if voters approve this amendment to the Ohio Constitution.  The hope is to make the redistricting process more bipartisan.  Modifications were made to the previous language of HJR 12.  See our prior post New Ohio Redistricting Idea Proposed with Only Weeks Left in the Legislative Session.

Like the prior version of HJR 12, a seven member redistricting commission will draw the district map, including the governor, auditor, secretary of state and four legislatively appointed members, one from each legislative body and each party.  However, the version of HJR 12 adopted by the House requires approval of a redistricting plan by TWO minority party members, not just one.  If two minority party members do not approve, then a public hearing will take place on a plan proposed by a majority of commission members.  The “simple majority” plan will be in effect for four years, as opposed to ten years.  This gives the majority party incentive to pass a plan now and compromise with the two minority party members, because in four years they may not be the elected majority party anymore.   The “simple majority” plan must also contain a statement explaining what the Commission determined to be the statewide preferences of the voters of Ohio and the manner in which the statewide proportion of districts in the plan whose voters, based on recent election results, favor each political party corresponds closely to those preferences.

The current requirements for districts would also be changed by HJR 12, as adopted by the House.  See Legislative Service Commission Analysis for a comparison chart.  Supporters of HJR 12 say the plan provides the Ohio Supreme Court with more guidance as to whether the plan should be tossed out on a court challenge.  See Columbus Dispatch article, Proposed Revision of Redistricting is Progress, Expert Says.

Now it remains to be seen whether the Ohio Senate will adopt this plan, or some version of SJR 8, which was informally passed by the Senate.  SJR 8 requires that at least one minority party member must adopt the plan.  If one minority member does not approve the plan, a plan approved my majority vote can go into effect, but it must be approved by a vote of the people of Ohio.

Rep. Huffman recently introduced new plans for redistricting reform, set out in HJR 11 and HJR 12. See New Ohio Redistricting Idea Proposed with Only Weeks Left in the Legislative Session.  Democrats have their own proposal, based on SJR 1, an earlier redistricting proposal.

Under the Democratic proposal, there would be no consideration given to previous district lines. It would restore the protection of political subdivisions from largest to smallest; add language prohibiting the favoring of a political party; restore the ability to referendum district plans; and create one panel to draw both the state and congressional lines.

The proposal would also replace the impasse resolution with a new panel chosen at the beginning of the process. That panel would include four members chosen by the leaders of the four legislative caucuses, with those four choosing a fifth member. Should the redistricting panel come to an impasse, the new panel would step in and draw the lines.

Hannah News, House Dems Counter with Own Redistricting Proposal, 11/18/2014.

According to Cleveland.com, Secretary of State Jon Husted says redistricting reform must be bipartisan, Senate republicans plan to use SJR1 and add an impasse mechanism, such as the one proposed in Rep. Huffman’s plan, and vote on this after Thanksgiving.  They will have to move quickly before the legislative session ends in December.  As far as Congresssional redistricting, a layer of complication arises due to redistricting cases pending in the U.S. Supreme Court, Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission , Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama and Alabama Democratic Conference v. AlabamaSee Hannah News, Faber Aims to Finish by Dec. 11, Looks at Likely Issues Following Thanksgiving Break.

HJR 11 (federal legislative districts) and HJR 12 (state legislative redistricts) were recently introduced in the Ohio General Assembly.  Under HJR 12, a seven member panel, including the governor, secretary of state, auditor of state, and four legislative appointments (two from each party) creates the districts.  A member of the minority party must vote in favor of the district map, which will be in place until the next census (10 years if a map is adopted in a census year).  If a minority vote is not obtained, the plan adopted by the panel will be used for the next election, while the question of whether to accept the map or redraw it is automatically put before voters .   If voters accept the map, it would only be in place for half of the remaining legislative elections before the new census (it is in effect for less time than if adopted by the panel including a minority vote).

As far as congressional districting is concerned, HJR 11 provides that a six member board draws the map.  The board consists of six members of the General Assembly, two appointed by the Speaker of the House, two appointed by the President of the Senate, and two appointed by minority leaders in each body.  One board member from the minority party has to approve the map.  If such approval is not forthcoming, a map can be approved by four board members, two Senators and two Representatives.   Then the plan must be approved by a majority of the House and Senate.  If the General Assembly does not pass a plan, the proposed plan goes into effect for one year, while the the question of whether to accept the map or redraw it is put before the voters.

Under HJR 11, “A congressional district plan that becomes effective under this section is not subject to the referendum and is not subject to the veto of the Governor. The electors may not propose a congressional district plan by initiative.”  This is different than the current system, where the Governor can veto a district plan and the plan is subject to referendum.

Representative Matt Huffman (R-Lima), who proposed these joint resolutions, recently addressed the Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission’s Legislative Branch and Executive Branch Committee.   Committee  members questioned whether this process gives enough incentive for the majority to get minority approval of a district map.  Huffman was asked to explain why, absent at least one minority vote, the issue should go to the ballot rather than to federal court.  Huffman said that it was likely that federal court judges would vote according to the party line of their appointing president.  The plan was also criticized for removing the Governor’s veto, referendum and initiative.  It was noted the plan lacks guidance for drawing a new map.

SJR 1 also sets forth a redistricting mechanism, and the Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission considered adopting a modified version of SJR 1.

See Hannah News, Nov. 13, 2014,  Huffman Outlines New Redistricting Proposals to OCMC Committee.

In light of the recent Ohio Supreme Court case, ProgressOhio.org, Inc. v. JobsOhio, 2014 Ohio 2382, which held that liberal group ProgressOhio lacked standing to challenge JobsOhio legislation, the Ohio House proposed legislation to grant standing to challenge the constitutionality of an Ohio statute.  House Bill 590

“wouldn’t allow the JobsOhio ruling to be reversed. But it would permit almost anyone in the future to challenge the constitutionality of an Ohio statute, so long as:

  • The challenger can “effectively assist” the court in determining the constitutionality of the law.
  • It regards an issue of “significant public importance and interest.”
  • It’s unlikely that the law could be contested in another way.”

See Plain Dealer article, Democrats seek to make it easier to challenge Ohio laws in court

An Akron Beacon Journal editorial states that Ohio can not wait for the Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission or the legislature to reform redistricting, and a citizen-led  initiative petition drive should be started.  See Redistricting reform? Start the petition drive.  

Another interesting article on redistricting and term limits appeared in the Columbus Dispatch.

Governor Signs S.B. 47, which prohibits collecting or submitting additional signatures for initiative or referendum petitions during the period beginning on the date that the petition is initially submitted to the Secretary of State and ending on the date that the Secretary of State notifies the committee that the petition has an insufficient number of valid signatures.  Court challenges expected, and possible challenge via referendum.  See Hannah News, 3/26/13, Dayton Daily News, 3/20/13.

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