Yes, the legislature’s approval of a proposed reform of congressional “redistricting” (Substitute Senate Joint Resolution 5) was a good thing. But make no mistake: Inside the General Assembly, good government takes a back seat to self-interest. Ohioans will vote SJR 5 up or down on May 8. SJR 5 is a good if not perfect plan. Every single state senator present for last week’s Senate vote on SJR 5, Republicans and Democrats alike, voted for SJR 5. The Senate tally was 31-0. The House’s count was 83-10. As Statehouse bystanders noted, the legislature likely wouldn’t have passed SJR 5 but for the extraordinary work of the non-partisan Fair Districts = Fair Elections coalition, paced by the League of Women Voters of Ohio and Common Cause Ohio. The coalition’s been gathering signatures to place its redistricting reform plan on November’s ballot – and aims to do just that if voters don’t ratify SJR 5 in May.
The Fair Districts campaign jolted General Assembly Republicans. The last thing they need is a ballot issue that’d draw Ohioans to vote in November. Voters usually are unkind to any president’s party halfway through his term, and President Donald Trump … well.
Moreover, Democrats say that for the first time in eons, they’re fielding candidates in all 99 Ohio House districts. Meanwhile, the House Republican caucus is split over who its leader should be starting in January, when term-limits will force incumbent Speaker Clifford Rosenberger, of Clinton County’s Clarksville, to leave the House. The contenders for speaker: Former Speaker Larry Householder, of Perry County’s Glenford, and the chair of the House’s budget-writing Finance Committee, Rep. Ryan Smith of Gallia County’s Bidwell. Some days, the Householder-Smith contest seems like an episode of Mad magazine’s Spy vs. Spy feature; other days, the competition looks as deadly as something out of Machiavelli.