Phillip Strach, a North Carolina lawyer representing Ohio’s Republican legislative leaders, defends Ohio’s new state legislative maps in a Dec. 8, 2021 hearing before the Ohio Supreme Court (Andrew Tobias/Cleveland.com).
Make me a map: For the second time in a week, the Ohio Supreme Court has rejected a political map drawn by Ohio Republicans as an illegal gerrymander. As Andrew Tobias writes, the Ohio Supreme Court, in a 4-3 decision on Friday, said the map, which favored the GOP to win a 12-3 share of Ohio’s congressional seats, unduly favored Republicans while unnecessarily splitting Cuyahoga, Hamilton and Summit counties. As in the previous decision striking down Ohio’s state legislative maps, Republican Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor joined the court’s three Democrats as the swing vote. The constitution gives lawmakers 30 days from the court’s decision to come up with a new map.
Democrats delight: Ohio Democrats in Congress who were disadvantaged by the maps welcomed the decision, Sabrina Eaton reports. “The redistricting maps approved by the state were clearly drawn for maximum partisan advantage,” said a statement from U.S. Rep. Shontel Brown of Warrensville Heights, who represents one of the safe Democratic seats. “Now, the state must listen to the will of Ohioans, who overwhelmingly supported an amendment to the state’s constitution in 2015 to reform redistricting and make it fair. I hope they remember that voters are supposed to pick their representatives, not the other way around.”
Unduly split: Republicans overstepped by splitting up Northeast Ohio counties leaving fewer potentially Democratic congressional seats during redistricting, according to the Ohio Supreme Court’s Friday ruling overturning the plan. Seth Richardson reports that a 4-3 majority of justices found the Republican-passed maps unduly split Cuyahoga and Summit counties to benefit the Republican Party. In their plan, Republicans led by state House Speaker Bob Cupp and Senate President Matt Huffman split Cuyahoga three times while splitting Summit twice.
Back to work: The Ohio Redistricting Commission will meet at 10 a.m. today to take up the task of drawing a new set of state legislative maps. As Tobias writes, a Sunday statement announcing the meeting notably said that all seven commission members would have access to each other’s aides and consultants. The commission’s seven members will remain the same, with one exception: state Rep. Allison Russo, elected last week by her colleagues as the new House minority leader, will replace state Rep. Emilia Sykes.
Bridge money: The U.S. Department of Transportation announced Friday that Ohio would get $483.3 million over the next five years to fix deteriorating bridges under a new program established by the bipartisan infrastructure bill that Congress approved last year, Eaton writes In the 2022 fiscal year, Ohio will get $96.7 million.
Educational theory: Gov. Mike DeWine thinks unpleasant chapters of American history should be taught honestly, but he’s against critical race theory, or anything that makes minority students feel like victims and white students feel guilty. Laura Hancock writes about his views, which are a theme in the Republican gubernatorial primary, and how other history and education experts disagree.
Supreme candidate: Jim Obergefell, who was the lead plaintiff in the U.S. Supreme Court case that legalized gay marriage nationwide, has returned to his native Sandusky and is planning to announce a run for elected office at 9 a.m. today. Obergefell sued the state of Ohio to have his name listed as “surviving spouse” on the death certificate of his spouse, John Arthur, whom he married in Maryland at a time when gay marriage wasn’t legal in Ohio. Gannett’s Laura Bischoff reports that he will run for a seat in the Ohio House of Representatives.
Off the grid: A new Public Utilities Commission of Ohio audit released Friday has found no evidence that the roughly $500 million FirstEnergy collected from customers for grid modernization resulted in more spending on grid modernization. In fact, as Jeremy Pelzer reports, FirstEnergy didn’t track how the money was spent, so the auditors couldn’t tell if any of the money was used to help pass the scandal-drenched House Bill 6.
My ears are burning: If this audit sounds familiar, it’s because FirstEnergy’s now-fired CEO bragged about ex-PUCO Chair Sam Randazzo “burning” the final report of an earlier probe into the same issue. A preliminary version of that earlier audit suggested that if it was released, it would have recommendations much harsher than those made in Friday’s audit — including restricting FirstEnergy dividend payments and requiring some of the fee money to actually be spent on grid modernization.
Powering down?: An Indiana coal power plant that Ohio ratepayers are paying millions of dollars to subsidize thanks to House Bill 6 could soon close because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is seeking to no longer exempt it from environmental rules regarding the disposal of coal ash. As Pelzer writes, the owners of the Clifty Creek Power Plant told the EPA they would be forced to shut it down if the EPA’s decision becomes final.
No report for you: Maryland’s utility regulation commission has struck down an attempt to force FirstEnergy Corp. to release the full findings of an internal investigation related to the House Bill 6 scandal that led to the firing of top company executives. As Pelzer reports, the Jan. 6 ruling by the Public Service Commission of Maryland is the latest rebuff of consumer advocates’ attempts to force the release of the entire investigation report, which uncovered a previously secret $4.3 million payment to Randazzo.
Portman visits Ukraine: U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, is visiting Ukraine with a bipartisan group of colleagues to meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and other Ukrainian officials. “Ukraine continues to defend its territorial integrity against an increasingly aggressive Russia, while also striving to enact critical domestic reforms to solidify its democracy – it is more important than ever that the U.S. support Ukraine in its efforts,” said a statement from Portman.
Five things we learned from the May 17, 2021 financial disclosure form of state Rep. Jessica Miranda, a Forest Park Democrat.
- Aside from her legislative salary of $65,527.32, Miranda reported earning more than $100,000 for insurance brokerage and tax preparation service for Uno Tax, LLC.
- Miranda had a fiduciary relationship with Uno Tax as its president as well as with the Forest Park Chamber of Commerce as a board member.
- Miranda’s lone reported investment was a retirement fund through the Ohio Public Employee Retirement System.
- At some point in 2020, Miranda owed more than $1,000 to PNC Bank and Capital One.
- The Ohio House of Representatives reimbursed Miranda $2,991.12 in mileage.
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