Respectfullness, dignity and the Ohio legislature: Thomas Suddes –

Theres good news and bad news at the Statehouse. The good news is that Ohio ended its 2021-22 fiscal year in great shape in big part because of Joe Bidens American Recovery Plan Act, which GOP Gov. Mike DeWine said he wouldnt have voted for (and which just goes to show that politics is just another word for agility).

The bad news is the publicity hit Ohio takes nationally, and may keep taking after Novembers election, because of a gerrymandered General Assembly that sometimes makes Hee Haw seem highbrow: Were not talking about a chapter of Mensa, after all.

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

Whatever an Ohioan thinks about the Supreme Courts June 24 Dobbs decision overturning Roe v.. Wade she or he can likely agree that few things can be more personal than human reproduction.

In effect, the decision leaves it up to every states legislators, and voters, to regulate abortion as they see fit even to forbid it.

Still, after almost a half-century of working for, and in many instances praying for, Roes reversal, an anti-abortion officeholder may be tempted to rush anti-abortion legislation to DeWines desk without fretting over the details not just legal, but also human. And this legislature, at least its GOP majority, is champing at the bit to act as Dobbs allows it to act.

Even so, public opinion, in Ohio as elsewhere, is anything but unanimous about whether abortion should always be illegal or if there is some number of weeks x (during a pregnancy) before which abortion should be legal or some factors y (medical, or criminal) to permit it.

Then theres this the Statehouse imbalance in politics between women and men. Ohios population, the Census reports, is 50.7% female. True, the seven-member state Supreme Court has four female justices, including Chief Justice Maureen OConnor, and three male justices.

But the Ohio General Assembly has a male majority, and then some. According to the Legislative Service Commission, the percentage of female members of the General Assembly, as elected in November 2020, was 31% agreed, apparently a new high, but still almost 20 percentage points below the statewide population percentage.

Moreover, after 219 years of statehood, Ohio has had just one female House speaker, Reynoldsburg Republican Jo Ann Davidson (1995 through 2000), and one female Senate majority leader, Cleveland Heights Democrat Margaret Mahoney (in 1949 and 1950). (Mahoneys post was equivalent to todays Senate presidency.)

That is, late this year, a male-majority legislature led by two men will likely act to regulate womens reproductive health in a female-majority state. If that doesnt demand Statehouse committee hearings and floor debate that are respectful and dignified, nothing does.

Agreed, respectfulness and dignity are qualities hard to expect and even harder to witness in what sometimes seems like a colossal Columbus frat party. But theyre essential when dealing with a topic as sensitive as abortion.

Gerrymandering rules: For the second time, Ohios Supreme Court last week struck down, in a 4-3 ruling, congressional districts Ohio Republicans drew for this years U.S. House elections. So: Thanks to gerrymandering, Ohioans will be voting for U.S. House members in districts tilted to favor Republicans running for Congress just as Ohioans are voting for state legislators in General Assembly districts tilted to favor Republicans.

The ruling makes obvious, as has been for a while, that ballot issues Ohioans passed to preclude rigged districts were well-intentioned but defective. One defect is that the measures enacted by voters in 2015 (for General Assembly districts) and 2018 (for congressional districts) needed more specific wording about how to measure fairness.

The second defect, and the major one, is to let any General Assembly member help draw new districts for the General Assembly or U.S. House. Letting legislators take part is the very definition of conflict-of-interest, which explains the mess were in today.

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

To reach Thomas Suddes:, 216-408-9474

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Respectfullness, dignity and the Ohio legislature: Thomas Suddes -

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