Real state

Respect, Dignity and the Ohio Legislature: Thomas Suddes

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There’s good news and bad news at the Statehouse. The good news is that Ohio ended its 2021-22 fiscal year in great shape — in large part because of Joe Biden’s American Recovery Plan Act, which GOP Gov. Mike DeWine said he didn’t want. wouldn’t have voted (and that just goes to show that politics is just another word for agility).

The bad news is the publicity stunt Ohio is taking nationally, and may continue to take after the November election, because of a gerrymandered General Assembly that sometimes makes “Hee Haw” sound nerd: we don’t we’re not talking about a chapter of Mensa, after all.

There is no indication at this time that the General Assembly will return to Columbus before the November 8 general election. But whether before or after, abortion can be the No. 1 topic on the agenda. And depending on the leadership, the real leadership, not just the holding of the gavel, the November and December sessions of the General Assembly will be dignified or chaotic.

Whatever an Ohioan thinks of the Supreme Court’s June 24 Dobbs decision – reversing Roe v. Wade – he or she can probably agree that few things can be more personal than human reproduction.

Indeed, the decision leaves it up to lawmakers and voters in each state to regulate abortion as they see fit, or even ban it.

Yet after nearly half a century of working and, in many cases, praying for Roe’s overthrow, an anti-abortion official may be tempted to rush anti-abortion legislation onto DeWine’s desk without worrying about the details – not only legal, but also human. And this legislature, at least its GOP majority, is chomping at the bit to act the way Dobbs allows it to act.

Even so, public opinion, in Ohio as elsewhere, is far from unanimous as to whether abortion should always be illegal or whether there is a certain number of “x” weeks (during a pregnancy ) before which abortion should be legal or certain “y” factors (medical or criminal) to allow it.

Then there’s this – the Statehouse’s imbalance in politics between women and men. According to the census, Ohio’s population is 50.7% female. Admittedly, the Supreme Court of the seven member states has four female judges, including Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, and three male judges.

But the Ohio General Assembly has a male majority, and more. According to the Legislative Services Committee, the percentage of women members of the General Assembly, as elected in November 2020, was 31% – agreed, apparently a new high, but still nearly 20 percentage points below the percentage statewide population.

Additionally, after 219 years of statehood, Ohio has had only one House Speaker, Reynoldsburg Republican Jo Ann Davidson (from 1995 to 2000), and one female House Majority Leader. Senate, Cleveland Heights Democrat Margaret Mahoney (in 1949 and 1950). (Mahoney’s position was equivalent to today’s Senate Speaker.)

In other words, at the end of this year, a male-majority legislature led by two men will likely act to regulate women’s reproductive health in a female-majority state. If that doesn’t require respectful and dignified Statehouse committee hearings and floor debate, nothing does.

Granted, respect and dignity are hard qualities to expect and even harder to exhibit at what sometimes seems like a colossal Columbus fraternity party. But they are essential when it comes to addressing a subject as sensitive as abortion.

Gerrymandering rules: For the second time, the Ohio Supreme Court last week struck down, in a 4-3 decision, the congressional districts that Ohio Republicans drew for the US House elections. United this year. So: Through gerrymandering, Ohioans will vote for U.S. House members in tilted districts to favor Republican congressional candidates – just as Ohioans vote for state legislators in tilted General Assembly districts to favor the Republicans.

The ruling makes it clear, as it has been for some time, that the ballot questions Ohioans passed to prevent rigged districts were well-intentioned but flawed. One flaw is that the metrics — passed by voters in 2015 (for General Assembly districts) and 2018 (for congressional districts) — needed more specific wording about how to measure equity.

The second, and most important, flaw is letting any member of the General Assembly help draw new districts—for the General Assembly or the United States House. Letting legislators participate is the very definition of conflict of interest, which explains the mess we find ourselves in today.

Thomas Suddes, member of the editorial board, writes from Athens.

To contact Thomas Suddes: [email protected], 216-408-9474

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