The Senate approved a draft bill Thursday that, if approved by the House and signed by the governor, would reorganize the State Board of Elections, the State Ethics Commission and the lobbying responsibilities of the Secretary of State’s office under one banner.
The new “Bipartisan State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement” would be made up of eight members, four from each of the two largest parties in the state.
The governor would appoint four of the members and the Senate and House would each get two appointments.
The bill also allows the full Court of Appeals to hear cases “en banc” instead of being limited to three-judge panels as it has in the past.
Three-judge panels would still be able to hear cases and make rulings but those would be up for discussion by the full court before becoming final.
The bill also returns partisan labels to the appellate judicial races, which includes the Court of Appeals and the state Supreme Court.
Discussions on the bill were interrupted by protesters in the gallery, who were warned multiple times to refrain from making distracting noises, laughing, hissing and yelling out, before they were removed from the gallery.
The Senate recessed for about half an hour Thursday afternoon while the gallery was cleared and while protesters chanting loudly in the lobby were also brought under control so session could resume.
One point of contention in the bill for Democrats is that in the interim between the start of the year and when the new bipartisan board is appointed, the State Ethics Commission would serve as the Board of Elections.
The Ethics Commission is made up entirely of Republican appointees.
House Speaker Rep. Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) encountered similar issues around 4:45 p.m. when protesters balked at Moore’s insistence that the spectators refrain from outbursts in the gallery.
After Moore’s request that the protesters stop, specifically calling on one protester to retake his seat, the protesters got louder and louder until Moore ordered the gallery cleared, at which time the protesters began chanting “All political power comes from the people.”
The House sat at ease while the protesters were cleared out so session could resume.
The House was discussing a bill that would adjust the relationship between the
Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Department of Education, giving more power to the superintendent and pulling power from the governor.
The bill also pulls appointments to the board of trustees for the public state universities from the governor and gives the Senate confirmation authority of cabinet level appointees the governor would want to serve in his cabinet.
The Senate adjourned for the day around 4:30 p.m., with plans to return to the chamber at 8:30 p.m. to take up legislation from the House, while Moore said that the House would be working into the night to dispense with some of the bills before it, but would likely not enter a midnight session to finish up the fourth special session.