Despite calls for urgency from fellow Republicans, the Ohio House and its leader are pumping the breaks on the latest round of legislation that would overhaul how Ohio draws its election maps. Senate President Keith Faber, R-Celina, said passing a plan that would require both Republicans and Democrats to sign off on congressional and state legislative districts is a top priority. The Ohio Senate approved that plan 32-1 in December. Senators reintroduced a bipartisan new version in the new legislative session that began this year. “I’d expect the senate to act soon,” Faber said. But the Ohio House, led by Speaker William Batchelder, R-Medina, is taking a more deliberate approach. Rather than address the Senate plan directly in the legislature, Batchelder has decided that redistricting reform should be first taken up by the Constitutional Modernization Commission, a 32-member advisory body that meets four times a year. The commission has 10 years to recommend changes to Ohio’s constitution. Any changes would ultimately require the approval of the legislature.
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican longtime advocate for redistricting reform, said it’s urgent that the legislature approve something by the end of this year or next. The closer it gets to 2021, when lines will be re-drawn again, the less likely it is that Republicans and Democrats in the General Assembly will cooperate to pass a reform measure, he said. “The longer we wait, the harder it is to do this,” Husted said.
Despite Husted’s calls for haste, Batchelder’s decision to refer the issue to the commission will certainly slow it down. Batchelder said he has no timetable to act on the issue. “Well, we’ve got to finish it in less than ten years. Other than that, no,” Batchelder said.