Stories about Ohio

Ohio campaign aiming to legalize marijuana submits signatures to send the proposed measure to the state legislature

On Dec. 20, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol submitted 206,943 signatures to the Ohio Secretary of State’s office for a ballot initiative aiming to legalize marijuana in the state. 

The measure is an indirect initiated state statute meaning that the state legislature will have an opportunity to pass the law without it going to the ballot. The required number of signatures to place the initiative before the state legislature is 132,887, which is 3% of the votes cast in the preceding gubernatorial election. The initiative petition must also meet the state’s signature distribution requirement, which requires that half of the signature requirement be met within at least 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties. If the state legislature does not act on the proposed law or rejects it, the campaign would have 90 days to collect an additional 132,887 signatures to place the measure on the November 2022 ballot.

The deadline for proposed initiated state statutes to file signature petitions was Dec. 24. The marijuana initiative was the only proposed state statute to be cleared for signature gathering by the Ohio Ballot Board.

Tom Haren, a spokesperson for the campaign, said, “The success of our petition drive shows just how eager Ohioans are to end prohibition and legalize the adult use of marijuana. We look forward to receiving the results of the Secretary of State’s review, and are eager to begin working with legislators on this important issue.” 

The initiative would enact a state law to legalize the cultivation, processing, sale, purchase, possession, home growth, and use of recreational marijuana for adults 21 years of age or older. Adults could possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis and up to 15 grams of marijuana concentrates. Individuals would be able to grow six marijuana plants at home or up to 12 plants per household.

The initiative would also enact a 10% cannabis tax rate on adult-use sales with revenue to fund “a cannabis social equity and jobs program” to “provide financial assistance and license application support to individuals most directly and adversely impacted by the enforcement of marijuana-related laws.” It would also fund the community cannabis fund, the substance abuse and addiction fund, and the Division of Cannabis Control (established by the initiative to oversee the state’s cannabis industry).

In 2015, Ohio voters defeated an initiated constitutional amendment that would have legalized the limited sale and use of marijuana and created 10 facilities with exclusive commercial rights to grow marijuana. The vote margin was 63.65% to 36.35%. The initiative was sponsored by ResponsibleOhio PAC.

As of December 2021, 18 states and Washington, D.C., had legalized marijuana for recreational purposes: 12 through citizen initiatives, one through a legislatively referred constitutional amendment, and six through bills approved by state legislatures and signed by governors. An additional 13 states had decriminalized recreational marijuana usage. In those states, while recreational marijuana usage was illegal, violation typically results in a fine rather than arrest or jail time for first-time offenders.

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Ohio enacts new congressional map

Ohio Governor Mike Dewine (R) signed a new congressional map into law on Nov. 20, 2021, making Ohio the 15th state to enact a congressional map during the 2020 redistricting cycle. This map takes effect for Ohio’s 2022 congressional elections. In the 2010 redistricting cycle, Ohio enacted its Congressional map on Sept. 26, 2011, 55 days earlier than in this cycle.

The Ohio State Senate voted 24-7 to approve the congressional map on Nov. 16, and the Ohio House of Representatives approved the map in a 55-36 vote on Nov. 18. The Senate vote was strictly along party lines, with 24 Republicans voting in favor and seven Democrats voting against. In the House, 55 Republicans voted to approve the map, while five Republicans and 31 Democrats voted against the map. Since the map did not receive approval from one-half of the Democratic lawmakers, the map is set to only last for four years, rather than 10. 

DeWine released a statement after he signed the map into law, saying: “When compared to the other proposals offered from House and Senate caucuses, both Republican and Democrat, the map in Senate Bill 258 makes the most progress to produce a fair, compact, and competitive map.” Democratic lawmakers criticized the map, with Rep. Richard Brown (D) saying: “In my view, this was done for purely partisan political advantage, which is classic gerrymandering. It is sad and unfortunate that we are here at this point today. The people of Ohio deserve so much more.”

This map was passed 10 days ahead of the third and final deadline for congressional map enactment in Ohio. The legislature did not enact a map before the initial Sept. 30 deadline, and the Ohio Redistricting Commission did not enact a map before the second deadline of Oct. 31. Ohio’s legislative maps were enacted by the Redistricting Commission on Sept. 15, and are also set to last for four years.

Redistricting committees appointed, adjourned, and change in Ohio, New Mexico, and Utah

Here’s a summary of recent redistricting committee updates from Ohio, New Mexico, and Utah.

In Ohio, the state legislature announced members of the Joint Committee on Redistricting, which will be holding two hearings on congressional redistricting proposals before the Nov. 30 deadline for map enactment. The committee’s members are Sen. Theresa Gavarone (R), Sen. Rob McColley (R), Sen. Vernon Sykes (D), Rep. Beth Liston (D), Rep. Scott Oelslager (R), and Rep. Shane Wilkin (R). Sykes is the only member of the joint committee who was also a member of the Ohio Redistricting Commission.

The New Mexico Citizen Redistricting Committee adjourned on Oct. 29 after submitting its final set of map recommendations to the legislature. The commission’s proposals do not bind the state legislature, which retains the authority to adopt, amend, or discard the proposals as it sees fit. Additionally, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) has veto authority over the maps. The legislature is expected to convene in December to begin considering proposals.

In Utah, former U.S. Rep. Bob Bishop (R-Utah) resigned from the state’s Independent Redistricting Commission on Oct. 26. Bishop said the commission favored urban areas and that the commission “is a metro-centric group. […] The majority are from Salt Lake County, we see things in a different way.” The executive director of Better Boundaries, an organization that supported the ballot proposition creating the commission, said: “We are encouraged by the work of the remaining six commissioners to suggest objective and qualified maps to the state legislative redistricting committee through this fair and transparent process.” On Oct. 29, Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson (R) appointed former Utah Commissioner of Agriculture and Food Logan Wilde (R) to replace Bishop on the commission.

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Redistricting timeline update: Georgia begins special session, New Hampshire and Ohio redistricting efforts delayed

Here’s a summary of recent redistricting updates from Georgia, New Hampshire, and Ohio.

Georgia: The Georgia State Legislature convened for a special session focused on redistricting on Nov. 3, 2021. Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan (R) said he expected the legislature to agree on and pass state legislative maps quicker than congressional maps. “[State legislative maps] will be more straightforward. The congressional ones will be a little more involved,” Dugan said.

New Hampshire: On Oct. 26, 2021, Senate Redistricting Committee Chairman James Gray (D) announced that the Senate will not begin considering map proposals until city officials in Nashua have finished redrawing ward lines. Gray said he expects the Senate to begin deliberations on proposed maps in late January 2022. The House Redistricting Committee, however, is expected to recommend proposals this year, with Rep. Barbara Griffin (R) saying the committee plans to make final map recommendations to the legislature on Nov. 16 or 17, 2021.

Ohio: The Ohio Redistricting Commission did not meet its Oct. 31, 2021, deadline to draw and approve a congressional map, and the authority to create new districts will now pass to the state legislature. Dan Tierney, a spokesperson for Gov. Mike DeWine (R), said the delayed release of U.S. Census Bureau data “essentially took five months out of the process” and did not leave sufficient time for the commission to draft and debate new congressional districts. The General Assembly must now draw and approve a new map by Nov. 30, 2021. For any map to be put in place for a full 10 years, support from at least a third of the members of the minority party is required, and any approved plan that does not meet this threshold will only be effective for four years.

Bibb wins Cleveland mayoral race

Justin Bibb (D) defeated City Council President Kevin Kelley (D), to win the mayoral election in Cleveland, Ohio. This was the first mayoral election in Cleveland without an incumbent on the ballot since 2001.

Bibb, who is 34, will become the second-youngest mayor in Cleveland’s history. Describing his campaign, Bibb said, “now is the time for bold, new, dynamic, visionary leadership and not the failed politics and policies of the past.” Kelley, who has served on the city council since 2005, highlighted his experience, saying, “Every candidate will talk about change. The question is: who knows how to and who has a record of making change?”

Bibb’s victory marks the first time since the 1962 election of Ralph Locher (D) where Clevelanders have elected a mayor with no prior electoral experience.

Bibb received endorsements from former mayors Jane Campbell (D) and Michael White (D), who served from 2002 to 2006 and 1990 to 2002, respectively. He also received endorsements from Our Revolution Ohio and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D).

Seventeen of the 100 largest U.S. cities by population held general elections for mayor on Nov. 2. In total, 28 top-100 cities are electing mayors in 2021. Heading into election day, 63 top-100 mayors were affiliated with the Democratic Party, 26 were affiliated with the Republican Party, four are independents, six identify as nonpartisan or unaffiliated, and one mayor has not responded to inquiries about his partisan affiliation.

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Pureval wins Cincinnati mayoral election

Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Aftab Pureval defeated Cincinnati Councilman and former mayor David Mann in the general election for mayor of Cincinnati on November 2, 2021. Pureval received 66 percent of the vote and Mann received 34 percent of the vote. Pureval will serve a four-year term. The two advanced from a six-person primary on May 4 in which Pureval received 39.1% and Mann received 29.1%.

Although the elections for and position of the mayor are officially nonpartisan, the candidates running were affiliated with political parties. Pureval is a Democrat. The last Republican to serve as mayor was Willis Gradison, who left office in 1971.

The mayor serves as the city’s chief executive and is responsible for proposing a budget, signing legislation into law, and appointing departmental directors. He or she presides over council meetings, proposes legislation for discussion, and holds the power to appoint or remove committee heads, but does not have the authority to vote. The mayor also represents the city on the state, national and international levels.

Cincinnati is one of 17 of the 100 largest U.S. cities by population that held general elections for mayor on Nov. 2.

Ohio Superintendent of Public Instruction Paolo DeMaria retires

Paolo DeMaria retired as Ohio’s superintendent of public instruction on Sept. 24. DeMaria was first appointed to the position in May 2016 by the Ohio State Board of Education.

DeMaria announced on July 1 that he intended to retire, saying in a statement, “It has been an honor and a privilege to serve the State Board of Education, the Ohio Department of Education, the education community and school children and the people of Ohio since June 2016 as State Superintendent, and for 30 years in various agencies of state government.”

The Board of Education selected Stephanie K. Siddens to serve as the interim superintendent until they choose a permanent replacement. 

Siddens has worked at the Ohio Department of Education since 2006. At the time she was appointed as acting superintendent, she was the senior executive director of the Center for Student Supports. She previously served as senior executive director of the Center for Curriculum and Assessment and director of the Office of Early Learning and School Readiness.

The Ohio superintendent of public instruction is an appointed state executive position in the Ohio state government. The superintendent serves as the secretary to the Board of Education and also its executive and administrative officer. The superintendent is responsible for executing the educational policies, orders, and administrative functions of the board as well as directing the work of all employees who work in the department of education.

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Ohio Redistricting Commission approves new state legislative maps along party lines

The Ohio Redistricting Commission approved new state legislative district maps by a 5-2 vote early in the morning on Sept. 16. The two Democratic members of the commission, state Rep. Emilia Sykes (D) and state Sen. Vernon Sykes (D), were the two dissenting votes. Since the map was approved along partisan lines, it will only last for four years, rather than ten, as outlined in the 2015 constitutional amendment creating the commission.

Senate President Matt Huffman (R), a member of the commission, estimated that the new maps would create 62 Republican seats and 37 Democratic seats in the House, and 23 Republican seats and 10 Democratic seats in the Senate. Cleveland.com reported that Democrats on the commission agreed with the Senate estimates, but said the new House map would create 65 Republican seats and 34 Democratic seats.

A statement from the commission explaining the manner by which districts were allocated said: “The Commission considered statewide state and federal partisan general election results during the last ten years. There were sixteen such contests. When considering the results of each of those elections, the Commission determined that Republican candidates won thirteen out of sixteen of those elections. […] Accordingly, the statewide proportion of districts whose voters favor each political party corresponds closely to the statewide preferences of the voters of Ohio.”

Following the enactment of the maps, Huffman released a statement saying: “These house and senate maps will be in place for the next four years, and represent an important first step towards approving the next map that will complete the decade. […] I’m convinced we could’ve reached a ten-year map. However, special interests pressured democrats to not support it, asking voters to extend the deadline to accomplish that.”

Leading up to the vote, Emilia Sykes disapproved of the maps as overly partisan, saying she would “call it offensive and plain wrong to move forward this map […] to put forth something that so arrogantly flies in the face of what people, our voters, asked us to do, not once, but twice.”

Commission members Gov. Mike DeWine (R) and Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R) expressed disapproval of the maps and said they expected court challenges to follow their vote. DeWine said: “Along with the secretary of state I will vote to send this matter forward but it will not be the end of it. We know that this matter will be in court. […] What I am sure in my heart is that this committee could have come up with a bill that was much more clearly constitutional.”

Click here to view images of the maps and read more about redistricting in Ohio following the 2020 census.

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U.S. Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R) will not seek re-election in 2022

On Sept. 16, 2021, U.S. Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R) announced he would not seek re-election in 2022. Gonzalez, who represents Ohio’s 16th Congressional District, said his choice to not seek re-election was a result of the current political environment: “Politically the environment is so toxic, especially in our own party right now,” he said. “You can fight your butt off and win this thing, but are you really going to be happy? And the answer is, probably not.”

Gonzalez assumed office in 2019 after defeating Susan Moran Palmer (D) in the 2018 general election 57% to 43%. In the 2020 general election, he won re-election against challenger Aaron Godfrey (D) 63% to 37%. Gonzalez was one of 10 House members who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump (R) for incitement of insurrection on January 13, 2021.

As of September 2021, 22 members of Congress— five members of the U.S. Senate and 17 members of the U.S. House— have announced they will not seek re-election. Twelve members—five senators and seven representatives—have announced their retirement. All five retiring Senate members are Republicans, and of the retiring House members, four are Democrats and three are Republicans.

Ten U.S. House members are running for other offices. Four Republicans and three Democrats are seeking seats in the U.S. Senate, one Republican and one Democrat are running for governor, and one Republican is running for secretary of state. No U.S. Senate members are running for other offices.

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Redistricting Roundup: Ohio Redistricting Commission approves state legislative redistricting maps by party-line vote

Here’s a summary of the week’s noteworthy redistricting news from Iowa and Ohio, and authorities in seven states released draft congressional or legislative maps:

Ohio: The Ohio Redistricting Commission approved new state legislative district maps by a 5-2 party-line vote on Sept. 9. If the Commission files those maps with the secretary of state, they would be effective for four years since they passed without support from two commissioners from each party. 

This is the first state legislative redistricting conducted under Ohio’s Bipartisan Redistricting Commission Amendment that voters approved in 2015. The Commission consists of the governor, state auditor, secretary of state, and four members of the state legislature —two from each party. Maps drawn by the commission are valid for 10 years if at least two commissioners from each major political party vote for them. Should the maps be passed along strictly partisan lines, the maps are valid for two general elections of the state House of Representatives.

The deadline for the Commission to adopt final state legislative maps was Sept. 15. The Ohio Supreme Court has jurisdiction over all cases involving state legislative redistricting.

Iowa: The Iowa Supreme Court ruled on Sept. 14 that they were extending the deadline for state legislative redistricting to Dec. 1 due to delays in receiving data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The Court said because the process would not be complete by the state’s Sept. 15 constitutional deadline, it was exercising its responsibility and authority over redistricting. The Iowa Legislative Services Agency has said that the Iowa Temporary Redistricting Advisory Commission would release the first draft of proposed state legislative district maps on Sept. 16.

Nationwide: Redistricting commissions or state legislative committees in Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Maryland, and Nebraska all released draft congressional or legislative maps.

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