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Politics

Senate Budget Would Allow Top Lawmakers To Hire Lawyers In Ohio Redistricting Disputes

David Niven, a professor of political science at the University of Cincinnati holds a map demonstrating a gerrymandered Ohio district, Thursday, April 11, 2019, in Cincinnati.
John Minchillo
/
Associated Press

Republicans in the Senate have added to their budget a provision that could directly affect the upcoming process to draw new maps for a 15-member Congressional delegation as well as the Ohio House and Senate.

The provision would allow only the Senate President and the House Speaker, currently both Republicans, to use state dollars to hire outside attorneys to intervene in disputes over maps before the Ohio Supreme Court. Usually, the attorney general defends state laws. Republican Dave Yost currently occupies that office.

Policy issues are added to budgets every time, including raising the age to buy tobacco to 21, creating the 2020 presidential primary on St. Patrick's Day, and provisions over several budgets limiting access to abortion. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine even attempted to put elements of the gun regulations he had proposed after the 2019 Dayton mass shootings into his budget, though the House took them out and the Senate did not restore them.

But Jen Miller from the League of Women Voters said the budget is supposed to be a financial document.

“Instead, what we have are these last-minute legislative power grabs that really weaken one of the building blocks of our representational democracy, which is the separation of powers," Miller said in a forum on redistricting sponsored by the City Club of Cleveland.

Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) said this guarantees the legislature a seat at the table in legal disputes.

Huffman had wanted to ask voters to move the map drawing deadlines because Census data is being delayed. But Democrats had wanted the courts to decide that.

The House has to agree to the provision before it could go to the governor.

Copyright 2021 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.