SUDDES: Two proposals to resolve Statehouse redistricting drama

Thomas Suddes is an adjunct assistant professor at Ohio University. He covered the Statehouse for The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer for many years.

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Thomas Suddes is an adjunct assistant professor at Ohio University. He covered the Statehouse for The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer for many years.

The serial antics over General Assembly districts – who draws them, and how – has become another Statehouse melodrama that Ohioans could do without. And there are two simple ways to do that:

Elect all 99 Ohio House and 33 Senate members at large – on a beach-towel-size ballot – with each party nominating 264 candidates. The voters would get to pick 132. Candidates who drew with the top 33 totals would get seats in the House of Wind – d.b.a. the Ohio Senate – and the next 99 candidates would become members of Ohio’s wheel-spinning House.

Dollars to doughnuts, the legislature would end up with 20 members named Brown and a dozen named Sweeney, and you’d never know it wasn’t the same assembly Ohio has now.

Or an Ohio voter could be asked one and only one question: Who shall represent you at the Statehouse – a Republican or a Democrat (or for that matter, an independent)?

Then seats in the state Senate and Ohio House would be ladled out to match whatever a party’s respective statewide percentage was.

If, for example, 60% of the Ohioans voting chose to be represented in the General Assembly by the GOP, that – depending on rounding rules – would seat 19 or 20 Republicans in the state Senate and 59 or 60 Republicans in Ohio’s House. The remaining seats would default to Democrats or to independents, as nice as pie.

Given that most Ohioans besides special interest voters (guns, abortion) don’t have the foggiest notion who their state legislators are, nothing could be simpler. No more fussing over which burg is in which General Assembly district.

True, either plan has its drawbacks. For one thing, the army of campaign-management consultants and ad agencies would have fewer clients because the two parties would likely advertise statewide, rather than locally, for legislative. Candidates.

True also, a bedsheet ballot – with 264-plus names – could promote the election of candidates with familiar names. In 1970, for example, a West Side Cleveland businessperson who happened to be named John F. Kennedy, otherwise virtually unknown, won a contested Democratic primary for Ohio secretary of state. Kennedy then racked up a respectable 46% of the statewide vote that November against veteran Republican Secretary of State Ted W. Brown.

In Ohio, the people rule. But a name can help.

LOBBYING: There’s hardly a cause that doesn’t have a lobby or a lobbyist. So, no surprise, it appears that potholes have a lobbyist, not in human form but in the form of a bill – Senate Bill 277, sponsored by Sen. Steve Huffman, a Republican from suburban Dayton’s Tipp City. For the five years beginning July 1, the bill would slash Ohio’s gasoline tax, now 38.5 cents a gallon, and Diesel fuel tax, now 47 cents a gallon, to 28 cents.

For the two fiscal years starting July 1, the bill would cut state transportation funding by $973 million, and transportation funding for counties, cities and villages by $798 million . Next pothole you hit, keep that possibility in mind.

PRIMARY: The Butler County and Clermont. County GOP organizations have endorsed Wadsworth Republican Jim Renacci, for governor, rather than incumbent Republican Gov. Mike DeWine.

For January 2019, Mike DeWine’s first month as governor, the unemployment rate in Butler County was 4.6%. It was 4.9% in Clermont. In December 2021, latest month available, the jobless rate in Butler was 2.9%, and in Clermont it was 2.8%. If, as veteran GOP Gov. James A. Rhodes used to preach, jobs are Ohio’s No. 1 issue, it’s hard to see what Butler and Clermont’s beef with Mike DeWine is.

Thomas Suddes is an adjunct assistant professor at Ohio University. He covered the Statehouse for The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer for many years.

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