John Oliver digs up some dirt in this segment on state legislatures; we give you more on what’s happening in Ohio’s
Thank you, John Oliver (no really, thank you) for giving us this little introduction to state governments. I mean, it’s true we all belong to a state, and that state has a government; but how much do we really know about what goes on there? Judging by turnout in midterm elections, I’d say not much.
It’s important to remember that politics is not all about federal politics. Oftentimes, many Americans forget that. This could probably explain that pesky problem of why every presidential election has a higher turnout than midterms–even though, as John tells us, only 185 laws were passed federally from January 3, 2014 to the present, while State legislatures have passed more than 24,000 laws. And some of those laws, as he does wonders to explain, really should be more concerning to us (dwarf-throwing legislation in Florida, just to give an example).
There’s also the intimidating force of the American Legislative Exchange Council, better known as ALEC, a conservative think-tank that writes model legislation that goes into the hands of conservative legislators across the country. Even John Oliver feels the burn of ALEC’s involvement in his day-to-day occupations, explaining: “I’m going to list ALEC in the credits for our show as associate producer…of creating horrifying things for us to talk about.” Yep, that’s ALEC for ya.
Now, to build on John’s discussion in a more Ohio-specific way, here is a little information about Ohio’s state legislature for those of you who have the sudden urge to know more:
Ohio’s state elections work a little bit differently from federal elections… particularly when it comes to their results. We do have State Representatives and State Senators, but every Ohioan gets to vote for 1 Representative and 1 Senator to represent their district. There are 33 Senate Districts and 99 House Districts. Currently, there are 10 State Democratic Senators and 23 State Republicans. For the House of Representatives, there are 39 Democrats and 60 Republicans. Those numbers might seem a bit odd for a battleground state that went blue for President Barack Obama in the last two presidential elections…
The numbers are a bit skewed because, like the Federal congressional districts, Ohio’s Senate and House districts are drawn in order to give more seats to one party over the other in a process called gerrymandering. Below is a map of Ohio’s House Districts. See that oddly shaped district there by the arrow? That’s NOT how districts are supposed to look.
And the gerrymandered swathes of Republican-skewed territories will last at least until 2022. In the meantime, we are left with a legislative body that passes laws that are significantly more right-skewed than the preferences of the state’s voting public… Go figure.
For example, in 2013, Governor John Kasich signed into law Senate Bill 310, a very controversial piece of legislation that effectively froze Ohio’s energy efficiency standards put in place by the previous administration. The Washington Post explains the situation: “The Ohio Chamber of Commerce, the utility First Energy and the American Legislative Exchange Council pushed to roll back the standards. On the other side, 51 manufacturers, including Owens-Corning, Whirlpool, Honeywell and Honda, signed a letter urging Kasich to let the requirements stand.” Turns out that even when 51 businesses and environmental protection organizations want something to keep progressing in Ohio, a Republican-held state legislature doesn’t have to care, at least not when it’s against the ideology of climate denial established by their Party.
If you want to check out some of the other pieces of legislation that are being passed at the State House, take a look here.
Meanwhile, remember ALEC, the conservative group that writes the model legislation for conservatives across the country? Well, it turns out that over 30 of Ohio’s legislators have strong ties to ALEC. In fact, according to ALEC’s own official website: “Among those who were involved with ALEC in its formative years [was]… John Kasich of Ohio”.
Welcome to state government, folks. We’re happy, at least, to have you involved. Please help get us out of this quagmire, hope for the future in tact.