|Sent on:||Thursday, December 15, 2011 9:09 AM|
The months-long stalemate between Republicans and Democrats over redistricting finally broke Wednesday as the legislature wrapped up work on a number of issues during its final session day of 2011.
A legislative package that included a slightly revised map, a single Mar. 6 primary date, and a legislative task force on redistricting proved sufficient to garner the necessary two-thirds vote to put the measure into effect with the governor's signature.
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Matt Huffman (R-Lima), said the proposal would replace Republicans' previously enacted map (HB 319) with the proposal (HB 369) he introduced last month. The newly revised plan consists of a minor change to districts in Franklin County affecting about 800 residents, he said.
Officials later confirmed that the Franklin County change would place Rep. Ted Celeste's residence in the 3rd Congressional District seat, for which he has filed. The change also moves parts of Clintonville into another bordering district.
The bill also establishes a Dec. 30 filing deadline for presidential and congressional candidates for the March primary, Mr. Huffman said. State and local candidates and ballot issues would not be affected, he added.
Earlier this year, Republicans created a second June primary for most federal candidates (HB 318), citing the need for additional time to negotiate an agreement with Democrats that would head off their effort to repeal the original GOP-drawn map through a referendum.
However, neither party liked the idea of a second primary that was estimated to cost the state $15 million - an expense that several Democrats cited in explaining their decision to vote for the proposal.
"Creating two primaries was not responsible and could have cost the state millions at a time when funding for education, police and fire, and local governments is certainly scarce," said Rep. Matt Szollosi (D-Oregon), who led Democrats' negotiations while Minority Leader Armond Budish (D-Beachwood) was on a family vacation.
Another provision that Democrats said was important is the creation of an eight-member legislative task force charged with recommending changes to the redistricting process in 2012.
Members of the House Rules & Reference Committee also amended the bill to waive county boards of election competitive bidding requirement for printing election materials next year. Rep. Huffman said boards requested the rider to make sure that ballots get sent to military voters by the required 45 days prior to election.
The fact that Ohio was required to shed two of its 18 congressional seats due to slow population growth in the 2010 Census count made the decennial redistricting process especially contentious.
Several Democrats spoke in opposition to the measure before it passed the House 77-17 (roll call) with an emergency clause intact.
Rep. John Barnes (D-Cleveland), who voted for the original map, said he believed revisions to the narrow Lake Erie district linking portions of Toledo and Cleveland could potentially encourage U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Cleveland) to challenge U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Cleveland) in the 11th Congressional District.
The map could violate federal Voting Rights Act requirements to preserve minority voting rights, he said. "It's a political discussion about who is going to have the votes to preserve the minority representation in the state of Ohio."
Rep. Dan Ramos (D-Lorain) expressed vexation with the way the map splits Hispanic neighborhoods in Cleveland and in Lorain among multiple congressional districts. He said the proposal ignores the fact that Hispanics account for 75% of the total population growth in the state over the past decade.
Rep. Bob Hagan (D-Youngstown) said Republicans corrupted the
redistricting process by allowing outside influences determine the outcome of
the map. He cited a recent report alleging that GOP mapmakers altered the plan
at the request of U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-West Chester) and the
The proposal was later taken up in the Senate, which voted 27-6 to send it to the governor to sign.
After the Senate suspended rules twice to bring the bill directly to the floor, Sen. Keith Faber (R-Celina) said the plan would unify the state's 2012 primary, and better preserve communities of interest across the state.
He added that a new task force on the redistricting process should also help public officials improve the redistricting process when it occurs again in 10 years.
Sen. Nina Turner (D-Cleveland), herself a congressional candidate, ripped the plan. She said it is "laughable" to suggest the map is a bipartisan given that it maintains what is expected to be a 12-4 Republican majority.
"This process was reduced to the least common denominator: seats over service," she said. "It is rotten to the core."
Sen. Charleta Tavares (D-Columbus) also objected. She said officials who drew the map were "cherry picking" districts for businesses and legislators. "That's not the democratic process."
Sen. Minority Leader Capri Cafaro (D-Hubbard) supported the bill, saying it brings an end to uncertainty and saves the additional cost tied to the second primary. "There is some bad and some good in this," she said.
Joining Sens. Tavares and Turner in opposing the plan in the Senate were fellow Democrats Eric Kearney, Tom Sawyer, Michael Skindell and Shirley Smith.