It was a political smack down that resonated throughout the state of Ohio. But the ramifications go way beyond House Minority Leader Armond Budish, D-Beachwood, refusing to be a patsy for Speaker William Batchelder, R-Medina.
As a result of Budish’s move last week, Republicans are scrambling to figure out how to immediately move the date of next year’s primary election from March to May.
If the primary date remains March 7, the filing deadline for candidates would be Dec. 7, not a lot of time left — especially if the new congressional districts being created by the Republican majority in the General Assembly are to take effect.
But since the Democratic minority was ignored in the drawing of the district lines, minority Leader Budish decided to hit back.
Here’s what he said, in part, in a letter to Speaker Batchelder:
“Passing new Congressional district maps just hours after they are first revealed is wholly unacceptable and does not fulfill the letter or spirit of our agreement to jointly pass separate legislation moving the primary date. As a result, it appears that you have abrogated our agreement, and I do not now believe that my caucus will support providing 7 votes to pass the primary date legislation as an emergency.”
Emergency passage would mean the legislation takes effect immediately after being signed by Republican Gov. John Kasich.
The letter from the minority leader was sent Wednesday. On Thursday, the Republicans adopted the new congressional district map that will give them a 12-4 advantage in Ohio’s congressional delegation. Currently, there are 13 Republicans and five Democrats.
The GOP passed a second measure that dealt with the date of the primary, but the Democrats had their way by defeating the emergency clause. That forced Batchelder and his members to caucus for an hour, after which they approved an amendment that said if a candidate for Congress filed by Dec. 7, he or she would be able to run in the next closest district to the one that now exists.
A legislative stretch if ever there was one. The amendment could well trigger legal challenges.
Given the mess Republicans in the House have made of the redistricting and the primary date change, the GOP leadership in the Senate could well decide to use its majority to push through the primary legislation with the emergency clause. No Democratic votes would be needed.
But if the Senate does move in that direction, the measure would still have to return to the House for concurrence. There, the seven Democratic votes would be needed.
Until now, Republican Gov. Kasich and the Republican controlled House and Senate have largely ignored Democrats and have rammed through major legislation on a purely partisan basis.
Democrats have offered their input, but they haven’t been taken seriously. As a result, they’re fighting back — as in the case of the collective bargaining reform law, so-called Senate Bill 5.
On Nov. 8, Ohio voters will decide if the new law should remain on the books. The referendum is the result of the public employee unions, their counterparts in the private sector and the Democrats launching a petition drive that wound up with more than 1 million signatures.
With such a significant number of Ohioans expressing their desire to have a say on the collective bargaining reform law, the governor and the GOP legislative leadership attempted to have a meeting with the union leaders to see if rapprochement were possible. They were given a taste of their own medicine, which is to say, they were snubbed.
But the GOP obviously did not learn from that experience, seeing as how Democrats were locked out of the congressional redistricting process.
Indeed, even independent, grassroots organizations that asked to be involved were ignored. Special map-drawing software developed to meet federal voting standards was used by individuals around the country to create congressional maps that met all the legal requirements.
Republicans, instead, chose to work secretly and then swooped in last week to force a vote. Democrats cried foul.
The GOP is reaping what it has sowed with its heavy-handed approach to legislating.