Tuesday, April 16, 2024
    HomePoliticsHere's how Ohio politics will play out this legislative season| Suddes

    Here’s how Ohio politics will play out this legislative season| Suddes

    Thomas Suddes is a former legislative reporter with The Plain Dealer in Cleveland and writes from Ohio University. tsuddes@gmail.com 

    The good news is that the gerrymandered Ohio General Assembly, for all practical purposes, is in recess.

    The bad news is that the recess will end, after Nov. 7’s election. And that will subject Ohioans to the timeless truth first stated by a New York state judge, just after the Civil War: “No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session.” 

    To give the Ohio legislature’s Republican majority its due, it is at least interested in governing Ohio, unlike the Republicans — including Ohio Republicans— in the U.S. House of Representatives, who finds themselves incapable of governing the United States or, truth to tell, much interested in doing so. (Au revoir, Speaker Jim Jordan, we hardly knew ye.) 

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    The Ohio General Assembly meets for two years at a time – the first year is odd-numbered, the second, even.

    That is, the second session begins two months from now, in January, start of the 2024 election year, in which voters will fill: 

    • all 99 Ohio House seats; 
    • half the state Senate’s 33 seats; 
    • three state Supreme Court seats, now held by Democratic Justices Michael Donnelly and Melody Stewart, both Greater Cleveland Democrats, and Joseph T. Deters, a Cincinnati Republican, who was once state treasurer and Hamilton County’s prosecuting attorney. The high court now is composed of four Republican justices, including Chief Justice Sharon Kennedy and Justice Deters, and three Democrats – Justices Donnelly, Stewart and Jennifer Brunner. 
    • Ohio’s 15 seats in the U.S. House, including Republican Jim Jordan’s ultra-safe (for him) west-central Ohio seat. 
    • and will re-elect (or not) U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Cleveland Democrat, who will face one of three possible Republican contenders: state Sen. Matt Dolan, of Chagrin Falls; Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, of Upper Arlington; or Westlake entrepreneur Bernie Moreno.  

    Ohioans should brace for General Assembly antics and photo-ops.

    From Nov. 8 onward, Statehouse Republicans’ focus will be on election or reelecting other Republicans, including whomever it is the GOP will nominate (any guesses?) to challenge the re-election of Democratic President Joseph R. Biden Jr. 

    That means Ohio voters can expect the General Assembly’s 2024 antics to play out under a quartet of headings. 

    First, by midspring, the legislature will be crafting a two-year state construction (“capital improvements”) bill to fund state building projects.

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    That will include peppering Ohio towns with money for local theaters, museums, parks, and the like, with publicity-stunt groundbreakings and photo-ops during campaign season for incumbent General Assembly members who have brought home the bacon to their districts. 

    Next year’s pre-election session will also likely include various Republican moves to hold down Democratic voting in Ohio with a tangle of new fine-print laws about who can vote, where she or he can vote – and when. A maxim in Ohio politics, often proclaimed by 20-year Democratic Ohio House Speaker Vern Riffe: “When Democrats turn out, we win.” Republicans eventually noticed. 

    More guns, spicier fights and LGBTQ hate

    And of course, the Ohio House and state Senate will continue their decades-long kowtowing to the handgun lobby, though not enough (so far) loosen restrictions on carrying “firearms or other weapons, concealed or otherwise,” in the Statehouse. 

    Spicing fraternal relations between Senate Republicans and the Ohio House will be the barely concealed ambition of Senate President Matt Huffman, of Lima, to win an Ohio House seat and then replace fellow Republican Jason Stephens, of Lawrence County’s Kitts Hill, as speaker of the House. 

    That should make for … brisk … House-Senate relationships when they haggle over proposed legislation. The potential Huffman-Stephens joust will also require some deft triangulation among Statehouse lobbyists and Huffman and Stephens and likewise among the two legislative leaders and Republican Gov. Mike DeWine. Fans of three-dimensional chess will have an advantage in interpreting the ensuing intrigues. 

    Finally, in a continuation of a theme from this year’s legislative session, the General Assembly’s GOP fringe will likely continue to agitate disdain for and promote discrimination against LGBTQ Ohioans, demonstrating something the late GOP strategist Kevin Phillips once said: “The whole secret of politics is knowing who hates who.”  

    Welcome to Ohio, ladies and gents. 

    Thomas Suddes is a former legislative reporter with The Plain Dealer in Cleveland and writes from Ohio University. tsuddes@gmail.com 



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