Dems criticize bill delays
Republicans will need Democratic votes for an emergency clause.
By JEFF ORTEGA
COLUMBUS -- Democrats continue to criticize majority Statehouse Republicans on the lack of a Republican congressional redistricting bill.
"Clearly, if you want to do this ... it can be done," Senate Minority Leader Leigh E. Herington of Portage County said Tuesday as Democrats unveiled their own plan to redraw Ohio's congressional lines.
"The Republicans have known about this deadline for 10 years. To say we've been busy with the budget is ludicrous," House Minority Leader Dean DePiero of Cuyahoga County said.
Cost: Ohio must lose one congressional seat -- from 19 to 18 -- because of population shifts in the 2000 Census. Republicans came under criticism last week after a Republican bill was introduced in the House that would move the congressional primary from May 7 to Aug. 6, a move that legislative researchers estimate could cost Ohio an extra $7.3 million.
Under the bill, part of the cost of an extra primary would be paid from an emergency-purposes fund and part from the state's budget-stabilization fund, the so-called "rainy-day fund." The primaries for state and local offices would remain on May 7 under the bill.
The new filing deadline for congressional candidates would be May 23; the filing deadline for state and local offices would remain Feb. 21 under the bill sponsored by state Rep. Gary Cates, a southwest Ohio Republican.
Republican leaders had said that work on shoring up the state's $45 billion, two-year budget had prevented them from getting to the redistricting bill. But Tuesday they said the Cates bill was a safety net in case a redistricting bill couldn't be enacted in time.
Emergency clause: Herington and DePiero said Democrats might be willing to provide some votes for an emergency clause that would make a congressional redistricting bill effective after Gov. Bob Taft signs it.
But they might be looking for things such as public hearings in exchange for Democratic support for the emergency clause.
"Within the confines of good redistricting, we want to do our jobs," Herington said.
According to Jonathon McGee, the House's chief legal counsel, 66 votes in the 99-member House and 22 votes in the 33-member Senate are needed to attach an emergency clause to legislation.
There are 59 Republicans in the House and 21 in the Senate, meaning the Republicans will need Democratic votes for an emergency clause.
Democrats' measure: According to DePiero, the Democratic redistricting plan would combine two Republican congressmen -- U.S. Rep. Paul Gillmor of Old Fort and U.S. Rep. Michael G. Oxley of Findlay -- into the same congressional district.
Republicans, who control both houses of the Legislature and the governor's office, are expected to unveil their bill to redraw the congressional lines next week, House Speaker Larry Householder said.
"I'd like to see one [primary]," Householder said. "I'd like to see it at a normal time in May."
Householder, a Perry County Republican, said the Cates bill to move the primary was introduced in case the need arose.
"We're going to try and get it done in a bipartisan manner," the speaker said.
The House Elections and Ethics Subcommittee is considering Cates' bill and could vote it out this week.