Battle heats up over how Ohio should draw congressional district lines

Published: Monday, January 22, 2018 @ 4:17 PM

Grassroots groups seek to end gerrymandering

Rather than fix a broken system, a plan backed by Republican state lawmakers will make certain Ohio voters get gerrymandered congressional districts for years to come, according to grassroots groups that are pushing a vastly different reform package.

The groups — Common Cause Ohio, League of Women Voters of Ohio and the Ohio NAACP — came out against the lawmaker’s plan Monday, saying it is unfair to voters.

“It does not provide relief from the current situation of partisan gerrymandering and it does make things worse,” said Ann Henneker of the League of Women Voters.

She said it’s possible under the lawmaker plan to draw districts so that Ohio has a dozen GOP-held congressional seats and just three Democratic-held seats. The current makeup is 12 GOP districts and four Democratic districts, but Ohio is expected to lose a congressional seat after the 2020 Census.

Related: Groups rebuke redistricting plan

State Sen. Matt Huffman, R-Lima, couldn’t be reached for comment, but previously has said that the lawmaker plan would “ensure that the process for drawing congressional district lines is fair and equitable no matter which party is in the majority.

“We are committed to reaching a reasonable solution in a bipartisan manner,” he has said.

Lawmakers are working to hit a Feb. 7 deadline to put the congressional redistricting proposal before Ohio voters in May. Huffman’s proposal is scheduled for hearings in Columbus this week.

Fair Districts = Fair Elections, a grassroots coalition of 35 groups including the League of Women Voters and Common Cause, has 200,000 voters’ signatures of the required 306,000 to put a different constitutional amendment before Ohio voters in November. It is facing a July 4 deadline for collection of the signatures.

Related: Ohio voters may change the way Congressional district lines are drawn

Ohioans could end up voting on both proposals this year. Henneker said if both pass, the Fair Districts = Fair Elections’ plan would trump an earlier-adopted measure.

Ohio redraws legislative and congressional districts every 10 years following the U.S. Census. For generations, the party that controls the process has drawn districts in its favor.

But grassroots groups have fought party control over the maps — often termed gerrymandering — in a number of states, including Ohio.

In November 2015, 71 percent of Ohio voters approved a reform plan for drawing legislative districts. It set up an expanded redistricting commission that gives the minority party more power and discourages partisanship, requires compact and competitive districts and adds transparency to the process.

But that new system only applies to legislative seats in the Ohio Statehouse — not congressional seats. The Fair Districts = Fair Elections’ plan would set up a system for drawing congressional lines that is similar to the ballot proposal on legislative districts.

Related: Former state Sen. Tom Roberts elected Ohio Conference NAACP president

The Huffman plan is different. It would initially leave redistricting in the hands of the state legislature but require support from one-third of the minority party. If the legislature couldn’t reach agreement, a seven-member Redistricting Commission would get involved under rules that specify some minority party input.

Former state lawmaker Tom Roberts, a Dayton Democrat and president of the Ohio Conference of the NAACP, said just because gerrymandered districts have been the norm for decades doesn’t make it right.

“What’s going on in Columbus and what’s going on in Washington right now shows us what the problem is when it comes to not having fair districts,” Roberts said.

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Dayton traffic from the WHIO Traffic Center

Published: Monday, February 19, 2018 @ 3:49 AM
Updated: Thursday, February 22, 2018 @ 12:52 AM

Traffic issues can be reported by calling our newsroom at 937-259-2237 or tweeting @WHIOTraffic .

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MONTGOMERY COUNTY

  • Keowee Street north of Stanley Avenue, bridge closed until 2019. The official detour is: Keowee Street to Stanley Avenue to I-75 to Wagner Ford Road and back to Dixie. More information is available here.
  • Stewart Street Ramp to US 35 East, RAMP CLOSURE March 28 - Sept 30, 2018. The official detour is: Stewart Street to Edwin C. Moses Boulevard to I-75 north to US 35 west to James H. McGee Blvd. to US 35 east.
  • I-75 north Ramp to US 35 west and east, Lane width restriction until Apr. 1, 2018. One lane will remain open on the ramp with a width of 11 feet.

SHELBY COUNTY

  • SR 47 between Fifth Avenue and Wilkinson Avenue, Lane closures Jan. 21 - Nov. 27. One lane will remain open in each direction at all times. 

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Alleged Florida high school shooter has $800,000 inheritance, reports say

Published: Wednesday, February 21, 2018 @ 5:23 PM

Reportedly Alleged Florida High School Shooter Has $800,000 Inheritance

The alleged gunman in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting last week in Parkland, Fla., has an inheritance from his adoptive parents worth $800,000, according to news outlets.

>> Read more trending news 

But Nikolas Cruz, 19, who now has a public defender at taxpayer expense as his attorney in his murder case, cannot access the money until he turns 22, the Miami Herald reported.

Cruz was charged with 17 counts of murder last Thursday, a day after allegedly opening fire inside the high school with an assault-style rifle.

>> Related:Hundreds of students walk out in mass protest, march to Parkland high school

The large amount of money could prompt a judge to review the estate and possibly make the money accessible for Cruz’s defense.

Who Is Nicolas De Jesus Cruz, Alleged Gunman In Florida School Shooting?

The Public Defender’s Office asked a judge Tuesday to review the inheritance, the Herald reported,  to help determine if any of the money can be used in his defense.

The court filing specifically asked the judge to “determine whether the defendant is indigent.”

>> Related: Parkland students march at Capitol calling for tighter gun control laws

Cruz is charged with 17 counts of murder in the deaths of 14 students and three adults, including teachers, in the deadly rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day. More than a dozen others were injured in the massacre.

Cruz was caught shortly after the shooting in nearby Coral Springs, Fla., and taken into custody without incident.

He’s jailed without bond.

>> Related: Dallas Mayor pro tem tells NRA it can hold annual convention someplace else

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Marco Rubio faces a tough crowd during CNN's town hall for gun reform

Published: Thursday, February 22, 2018 @ 12:01 AM

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Cameron Kasky asks a question to Sen. Marco Rubio during a CNN town hall meeting at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla., Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018. Rubio was put on the defensive Wednesday by angry students, teachers and parents who are demanding stronger gun-control measures after the shooting rampage that claimed 17 lives at a Florida high school. (Michael Laughlin/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)
Michael Laughlin/AP
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Cameron Kasky asks a question to Sen. Marco Rubio during a CNN town hall meeting at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla., Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018. Rubio was put on the defensive Wednesday by angry students, teachers and parents who are demanding stronger gun-control measures after the shooting rampage that claimed 17 lives at a Florida high school. (Michael Laughlin/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)(Michael Laughlin/AP)

During CNN’s Wednesday night town hall with Florida lawmakers, survivors of last week’s high school shooting and members of the NRA, Sen. Marco Rubio attempted to explain why a ban on assault rifles wouldn’t have prevented the tragedy, and the audience’s reaction was not quite what he was hoping for.

>> Read more trending news

While explaining what a ban on assault rifles would do, the Republican senator from Florida said to ensure no one would “get around it.”

“You would literally have to ban every semi-automatic rifle that’s sold in America.” A surprised Rubio, who appeared to have been hoping to convince the audience against such an idea, was met with a solid 10 seconds of applause that overwhelmed the room.

“Fair enough, fair enough,” the senator said as the cheers died down.

>> Related: Who are the top 10 recipients of NRA money?

The moment came just after a grieving father called Rubio’s reaction to the mass shooting “pathetically weak” and asked whether the senator would support banning assault rifles like Nikolas Cruz’s AR-15 in order to save the lives of children.

“It’s too easy to get. It is a weapon of war,” the father emotionally said. “The fact that you can’t stand with everybody else in this building and say that, I’m sorry.”

A flustered Rubio assured him, “I do believe what you’re saying is true,” before launching into his argument against an assault rifles ban.

>> Related: Alleged Florida high school shooter has $800,000 inheritance, reports say

CNN’s town hall follows last week’s shooting at Marjory Stonemason Douglas High School where gunman Nikolas Cruz fatally shot 17 people and injured over a dozen more. In the time since, many of the school’s surviving students have been commanding public attention and demanding a conversation about gun reform in the United States.

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Extra police to be seen at Piqua, Miamisburg schools after threats

Published: Wednesday, February 21, 2018 @ 11:36 PM

Stock classroom photo
HANDOUT
Stock classroom photo(HANDOUT)

Piqua and Miamisburg police investigated threats made by students. 

Miamisburg police Sgt. Joshua Himan said today, Feb. 21, a threat of violence was found written on a bathroom wall at Miamisburg High School.

No one has been arrested yet, and Miamisburg police and schools are investigating. 

There will be extra patrols at the school Thursday, Himan said.

RELATED: Springfield, other districts investigate vague school shooting threat

The threat referenced "tomorrow" but it's unknown how long it was on bathroom wall.

In Piqua, Police Chief Bruce Jamison confirmed his office is investigating a threat that involved a student whom attends Piqua Central Intermediate School

Jamison though would not reveal any specifics about the threat, including whether it was against a school or individual or referenced any weapons. 

Posters removed from Belmont H.S. depicting bodies of rival teams

Piqua police were made aware of this threat Wednesday afternoon and "eliminated the threat,” Jamison said, by ensuring it could not be carried out. He declined to elaborate.

Jamison said there have been increased police patrols at Piqua schools since the school shooting in Florida last week. 

"Ever since last Thursday it's just been a steady stream of threats of different levels, different types, we do threat assessment on every one of them," Jamison said. "I would really encourage people not to repeat things online; they usually don't have the facts. We're seeing increased reporting. People are hyper-sensitive whenever they hear things." 

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