State Sen. Rob McColley, R-Napoleon, presents congressional redistricting maps to the House Government Oversight Committee on November 17. (Photo: Susan Tebben, OCJ)
This week the process begins again of trying to draw congressional districting lines in Ohio.
The Ohio Supreme Court started its year sending the state legislature back to the drawing board on congressional redistricting, after rejecting the map passed in November by the GOP supermajority.
With a one-week timeline for the legislature to come up with a plan, committees are convening with that specific purpose.
Starting Tuesday morning in the Ohio House’s Government Oversight Committee, representatives will hear about House Bill 479, a bill led by state Rep. Scott Oelslager, R-North Canton, which is up for a possible substitution, meaning it could include the new House proposal for congressional districts.
That bill was the vehicle for the House’s proposal last time around, but it was overtaken by the GOP’s Senate Bill 258, which was quickly adopted by the legislature as the official redistricting plan.
The same day the House considers its own redistricting effort, the Senate General Government Budget Committee will be looking at Senate Bill 286, state Sen. Rob McColley’s bill for congressional redistricting.
McColley, R-Napoleon, was the lead on SB 258, the map that would eventually be rejected as unconstitutional by the state’s high court.
The senate committee accepted testimony on the bill for its first hearing on Tuesday, and a possible vote is indicated for Wednesday’s meeting of the General Government Committee. No testimony or vote is indicated for the House Bill, and the committee is not set to meet again this week.
If either of the bills pass through committee, it would move on for a full House and/or Senate vote. Both chambers are scheduled to have sessions on Wednesday, with the House set to meet at 1 p.m. and the Senate to meet at 1:30 p.m.
The House has an “if-needed” session on the calendar for 1 p.m. on Thursday, which could mean the Senate will pass a redistricting plan on Wednesday and send it to the House for agreement on Thursday.
The legislature has until Feb. 13 to pass a plan. In order for the plan to take effect for 10 years, bipartisan support is needed, which would have to include 33% of Democrats in both the House and Senate. If the legislature can’t get bipartisan support, the map would be in place for four years, pending supreme court approval.
A new plan from the legislature would have to have an emergency clause attached to it in order to take effect before the May 30 primary. Typically, without an emergency clause, a bill passed by the General Assembly goes into effect 90 days after the governor signs it.
If the legislature doesn’t bring a plan to a vote by the deadline, the process heads back to the Ohio Redistricting Commission, who would have another 30 days to come up with a plan.
The 4-3 decision by the court found the revised maps had similar violations as the original maps, with the court still finding issues with the revised maps in terms of partisan favoritism.
The ORC now has until February 17 to revise the legislative maps for a third time.
Susan Tebben is an award-winning journalist with a decade of experience covering Ohio news, including courts and crime, Appalachian social issues, government, education, diversity and culture. She has worked for The Newark Advocate, The Glasgow Daily Times, The Athens Messenger, and WOUB Public Media. She has also had work featured on National Public Radio.
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