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Congress mapping stalled



Published: Sat, April 9, 2016 @ 12:00 a.m.

Think back for a moment to 2010, when Democrats controlled the Ohio House and Republicans controlled the Ohio Senate.

There were competing resolutions at that time to reform legislative redistricting, with proposals to bring a more bipartisan approach to the process.

Democrats generally wouldn’t buy into the Republicans’ plan, and Republicans generally wouldn’t buy into the Democrats’ plan. So they both stalled for much of the session.

That is until after the general election, when Gov. John Kasich and GOP contenders swept Ohio’s five statewide offices and took back control of the House.

Democrats in the House then attempted to move the Republican redistricting plan, but it was too late and the votes weren’t there for adoption.

Could we be heading for the same type of situation during this year’s lame-duck session on congressional redistricting?

Late last year, Gov. John Kasich called for action on congressional-redistricting reform. He renewed that call in his State of the State speech in Marietta, this time pushing lawmakers to move on the issue.

GERRYMANDERING

“Ideas and merits should be what wins elections, not gerrymandering,” the governor said. “When pure politics is what drives these kinds of decisions, the result is polarization and division. I think we’ve had enough of that. Gerrymandering needs to be on the dust bin of history.”

But the Republican leaders of the General Assembly aren’t placing congressional redistricting on a fast track.

In other words, don’t expect action before they break for summer.

The Legislature controls the congressional mapping process, and many Republican members aren’t ready to give up that authority.

Democrats, on the other hand, are ready to act.

“Let’s do it immediately,” Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni of Boardman, D-33rd, said.

Republican Senate President Keith Faber acknowledged that there are issues with the current process. He suggested that some of the district-drawing criteria adopted as part of last year’s legislative redistricting reform package might be used in the congressional mapping process.

“We’re willing to talk about some standards and parameters,” he said. “But I think it’s a much different problem to do what some have proposed and just move congressional redistricting outside the legislature. I don’t understand what the benefit of that is to end gerrymandering. ”

House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger added, “We’ll continue to have the conversations when we go forward, and as the president said we’ll be willing to listen and take those legislative priorities forward ... and have the conversation. But I, too, am extremely protective of the Legislature’s ability. To me it’s apples and oranges looking at congressional redistricting versus our apportionment board process.”

But here’s a scenario to consider: What if Republicans lose big in November? What if the GOP candidate at the top of the ticket drags down other Republican candidates, and the party loses control of one of the chambers of Congress or the state Legislature?

Will GOP legislative leaders then decide congressional redistricting reform is so important that it should be moved in the waning days of this General Assembly?

And will they have the votes during lame duck to accomplish the task?

Marc Kovac is the The Vindicator’s Statehouse correspondent. Email him at mkovac@dixcom.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.


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