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Published: Friday, 5/12/2006

Democrats won't help with redistricting reform

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU

COLUMBUS - Ohio House Republicans should not look to Senate Democrats for help when it comes to pressuring their counterparts to change how congressional and legislative districts are redrawn.

If Republicans are pushing it, it can't be good for Democrats, the latter said yesterday.

"We believe that the Republican majority is incapable of acting in a bipartisan manner," said Sen. Ray Miller (D., Columbus). "They've demonstrated that. Now here we come after 70 percent of the voters have rejected the [Reform Ohio Now] amendments , and the Republicans are talking fairness and bipartisanship. We don't have the confidence that they're willing to act in a fair manner."

House Republicans have followed through with last year's promise to come to the table with a new plan after successfully fighting a largely Democrat-led ballot issue to change the state constitution last November. But the proposal to take the inherently partisan process of redrawing districts every 10 years out of the hands of elected officials and give it to a board on which no elected official could sit has not generated much excitement with Democrats or Senate Republicans.

The bill was introduced in the House earlier this week. A committee vote is expected next week and a full House vote the following week, just before lawmakers leave Columbus for the summer. That leaves little time for consideration in the Senate where President Bill Harris (R., Ashland) hasn't committed.

"This was a plan that was negotiated with a former [House] member, Ed Jerse, a Democrat, and with their candidate for treasurer [Richard Cordray]," said the bill's sponsor, Rep. Kevin DeWine (R., Fairborn). "To simply say this is something Republicans are pushing is inaccurate. It's too bad that they've chosen to let politics get in the way of doing the right thing for voters, something every editorial board and all government watchdog groups that have looked at this are saying is a fair proposal."

Senate Democrats presented a laundry list of legislative proposals that have seen no action in a chamber where they are outnumbered 2-1.

Democrats hope 2006 will be their comeback year at a time when Republicans hold every statewide office, six of seven Ohio Supreme Court seats, and comfortable majorities in both legislative chambers.

In the wake of GOP scandal that has climbed as high as the governor's office, Democrats think they have a good shot at winning at least two out of three of the races for governor, auditor, and secretary of state on Nov. 7. Those victories, plus the Democratic legislative representative, would give them a majority on the Ohio Apportionment Board that will redraw state House and Senate districts in 2011.

Contact Jim Provance at:

jprovance@theblade.com

or 614-221-0496.



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