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New legislative redistricting process could be in Ohio’s future

Following years of debate on the issue, the Ohio legislature is poised to pass a resolution to change the way that legislative districts are drawn. The state’s current process for drawing legislative boundaries is highly partisan, requiring a simple majority vote by members of the Ohio Apportionment Board (Board). The Board is comprised of the governor, auditor, secretary of state, and two members of the legislature with Republicans currently holding a 4 to 1 majority.

The Ohio House this week passed House Joint Resolution (HJR) 12, to amend the redistricting process for General Assembly districts in the Ohio Constitution. Currently, new maps are adopted following the decennial census and are in effect for 10 years. Under the proposal, the Board would be expanded to include two additional legislators and require votes from two members of the minority party in order for the maps to be adopted for a 10-year period. If the required minority votes are not secured, maps can be adopted by the majority for a four-year period, after which time the Board would be required to start the process over. Supporters of the proposal said in such cases it would be possible that statewide officeholders on the Board could change before new maps must be drawn.

The resolution exceeded the required three-fifths requirement for passage, with a vote of 80 to 4, with three Republicans and one Democrat voting against the measure. If approved by the Ohio Senate, the decision to adopt HJR 12 would go to Ohio voters on the Nov. 2015 ballot.

The Ohio Senate has a similar proposal, Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 8, which passed out of committee this week without Democratic support. This measure would also expand the Board by adding two additional legislators, but would require only one vote from a minority party member. Senate President Faber (R-Celina) indicated that now was the time to pass redistricting reform, in part because all of Ohio’s statewide officeholders will be different during the next process due to term limits.

Either proposal must be adopted by the week of Dec. 15, when the legislature is expected to adjourn sine die, or must be reintroduced in the following General Assembly.

Flurry of legislative activity in advance of year-end

Legislators were busy this week, passing high volumes of legislation they hope to finalize in the next two weeks. Below is a sampling of the bills that saw activity this week.

Municipal tax uniformity: Sponsored by Reps. Cheryl Grossman (R-Grove City) and Mike Henne (R-Clayton), House Bill 5 revises the laws governing income taxes imposed by municipal corporations. Among the more contentious provisions included, the bill requires municipal corporations to allow businesses to deduct new net operating losses and allow a five-year carryforward of such losses. Additionally, the legislation modifies the “casual” entrant exemption to increase the number of days from 12 to 20 per year that an individual may work in a municipal corporation without incurring income tax liability there. The bill passed the Ohio Senate on Dec. 3.

Entertainment districts: Sponsored by Sen. Eric Kearney (D-Cincinnati), Senate Bill 116 would allow municipal corporations and townships with a population of more than 35,000 to create municipal entertainment districts, and exempt persons within such districts from the open container law. The bill passed the Ohio Senate on Dec. 2.

Salvage vehicles: Sponsored by Reps. Barbara Sears (R-Sylvania) and Representative Ross McGregor (R-Springfield), House Bill 468 makes a number of changes to Ohio's Motor Vehicle Salvage Law. A "salvage motor vehicle" means any motor vehicle that is in a wrecked, dismantled, or worn out condition, or unfit for operation as a motor vehicle. Among the changes included to the salvage law, the bill would broaden the types of licenses that authorize a person to sell salvage motor vehicles. The bill passed the Ohio Senate on Dec. 4.

Towing: Sponsored by Sen. Jim Hughes (R-Columbus), Senate Bill 274 would authorize towing companies to obtain title to vehicles that have a value of less than $3,500 that are removed from private tow-away zones that remain unclaimed for 60 days after initial notice is provided. The bill passed the Ohio Senate on Dec. 4.

Underground utilities: Sponsored by Sen. Bill Coley (R-Liberty Twp.), Senate Bill 378 would give the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) jurisdiction to enforce Ohio’s underground-utility-damage-prevention law, in conjunction with a 17-member Underground Technical Committee. Additionally, the bill permits a person with certain duties and obligations who is directly involved with or impacted by a failure to comply with certain requirements of the law to request an inquiry with the PUCO. The bill passed the Ohio Senate on December 4.

Child seats: Sponsored by Rep. Dorothy Pelanda (R-Marysville), House Bill 480 would repeal a provision of law that declares that the failure of an operator of a motor vehicle to secure a child in a car seat, in a booster seat, or with a seat belt is inadmissible as evidence in certain criminal actions. Additionally, the legislation would allow the enforcement of child car seat, booster seat, and seat belt requirements as a primary offense. The bill passed the Ohio House on Dec. 4.

Pay raises: Sponsored by Rep. Gerald Stebelton (R-Lancaster), House Bill 661 would reinstate the cost of living adjustment for members of the General Assembly and statewide elected executive officers. The bill would also increase the compensation of justices and judges of the courts, county elected officials, township trustees and fiscal officers, and board of elections members and reinstate the annual cost of living adjustment to their compensation. The bill passed the Ohio House on Dec. 4.

For more information, please contact:

Michael Caputo
(non-attorney professional)

Rebecca M. Kuhns
(non-attorney professional)

Aaron M. Ockerman
(non-attorney professional)

Todd Snitchler

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