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Week in Review: Jan. 23, 2022

Written on Jan 21, 2022

REDISTRICTING/REAPPORTIONMENT

The Ohio Supreme Court followed its 4-3 decision striking down the recently redrawn legislative district map with another 4-3 decision last week invalidating the congressional map approved by the Legislature in SB258 (McColley). The opinion found that the congressional map violated the partisan gerrymandering prohibitions contained in the Ohio Constitution. The Supreme Court went on to order the General Assembly to pass a new map for Ohio's 15 congressional districts that complies with the Ohio Constitution within the timeline required by Article XIX, Section 3(B)(1). That section gives the General Assembly 30 days to pass a constitutional plan. If it fails to do so, map-drawing goes to a reconstituted Ohio Redistricting Commission to adopt "a congressional district plan in accordance with the provisions of this constitution that are then valid ...." In Friday's 4-3 decision, Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor was again the swing vote.

Newly-chosen House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Columbus) announced Friday afternoon that she appointed herself to the newly reconstituted Ohio Redistricting Commission following the Wednesday, Jan. 12 ruling from the Ohio Supreme Court striking down the previous state legislative map. Her predecessor as leader, Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Akron), served on the previous incarnation of the group.

The Ohio Redistricting Commission held its first meeting to redraw the legislative district map per the directive from the Ohio Supreme Court on Tuesday with a second meeting on Thursday. At that session, legislative Democrats and Republicans exchanged counteroffers on redrawing the lines for Franklin and Hamilton counties, but the two sides continued to be at odds on how closely to adhere to proportionality in the final maps. Sen. Vern Sykes (D-Akron) said that the commission has decided to work through negotiations by taking a regional approach, and while they have a tentative understanding on that approach, they have not made a final decision on any map. The clock is ticking, though the final deadline is still in dispute. Auditor of State Keith Faber, a commission member, said Ohio Supreme Court rules allow a deadline that falls on a Saturday to be continued until the following Monday, but the legislative commission members said they believe the deadline is just before midnight on Saturday, Jan. 22 and were working toward that goal. This time around, all commission members have access to the map-drawing software and staff of all are participating in the discussions. Sen. Vern Sykes (D-Akron) and Speaker of the House Bob Cupp (R-Lima) are co-chairs. At Tuesday's meeting, Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a member of the commission, told his colleagues that time is of the essence, with election deadlines fast approaching. He said it isn't just the filing deadline that could be problematic for county boards of elections, but a number of administrative deadlines as well.

ELECTIONS 2022

Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) officially launched her campaign for Congress Tuesday, a move that was expected after Sykes stepped down as minority leader late last year. Sykes said in a statement that she will fight for opportunity for every Northeast Ohioan -- although in precisely which district awaits the redrawing of the congressional lines.

Jim Obergefell, namesake of the litigation that struck down Ohio's and other states' same-sex marriage bans, said Tuesday he'll be a Democratic candidate for the House district including his hometown of Sandusky. His announcement came on the same day the Ohio Redistricting Commission reconvened to respond to the Ohio Supreme Court's invalidation of new General Assembly district maps. Obergefell said the physical and political geography will not affect his decision. Sandusky is now in the 89th House District, covering Erie and Ottawa counties. Rep. D.J. Swearingen (R-Huron) is the incumbent. Republicans have held the district since defeating former Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern in 2014.

U.S. Senate candidate and state Sen. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) launched his first television ad of his campaign this week. A spot titled "Cold War," the ad focuses on the threat of the Chinese Communist Party to Ohio and America, along with Dolan's priorities in the U.S. Senate. Dolan's campaign said the commercial will run statewide on broadcast, cable and digital platforms, and is part of an initial $1.7 million ad buy.

After saying last year that he was exploring a run for the General Assembly, conservative activist and attorney and Knox County resident Scott Pullins officially launched his campaign Wednesday. He said his first action as a legislator would be to sponsor a constitutional amendment to throw out Ohio's new process for redistricting.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Joe Blystone has filed a lawsuit in Franklin County Court of Common Pleas seeking to block an Ohio Elections Commission hearing on a complaint filed by Blystone's former campaign manager Sarah Chambers alleging the candidate had not been properly reporting contributions. Specifically, the complaint alleges that the campaign had taken in "vast amounts of cash" that had not been reported, such as donations made at events where a bucket had been passed around for attendees to put cash into, and that some of those contributions violated campaign finance law maximums.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE

Sen. Sandra Williams (D-Cleveland) is among five applicants for the Ohio House seat vacated by former Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland), now a member of Cleveland City Council. Williams is term-limited for her Senate seat, and previously held the 11th District seat until being term-limited in 2014. She ran for Cleveland mayor in 2021. The other applicants are Darnell Brewer, a health-related program coordinator; Shayla Davis, a former Garfield Heights City Council member; Michael Seals, a union and political field organizer; and Chad Stephens, a grassroots organizing coordinator.

TAXATION

The state of Ohio would benefit from eliminating the Commercial Activity Tax, representatives from the Tax Foundation and Americans for Prosperity (AFP) told the House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday. During interested party testimony on CAT repeal bill HB234 (Gross-McClain), Tax Foundation senior policy analyst Ulrik Boesen said gross receipts taxes are "non-neutral and economically destructive" despite the low rate and broad base of Ohio's CAT.

WORKERS' COMPENSATION

The Bureau of Workers' Compensation announced that registration has opened for its Ohio Safety Congress & Expo, which will be held virtually on Wednesday, March 9 and Thursday, March 10. It is free for Ohio employers and their employees, and offers more than 40 "live broadcast and on-demand sessions for success in business strategies, innovation and technology, governance and compliance, workers' compensation and professional development," according to BWC. There will also be a digital Expo Marketplace hosting over 30 exhibitors.

This feature was provided by Hannah News Service and selected for you by OSCPA Government Relations staff.