Redistricting Gets Complicated

 

According to Ohio's Statehouse News Bureau, the U.S. Census Bureau has announced that they will be delayed in reporting the population data needed to redraw both state legislative and congressional districts. Due to the pandemic, the original due date of March 31 has been pushed back to Sept. 30.

 

Every 10 years, Ohio draws new district maps. In 2015 and 2018,voters approved new processes, including a 7-person bi-partisan redistricting committee to prevent "gerrymandering", a process to prevent districts being drawn to favor one party over another.Voting on state maps was required by Sept. 1 and congressional maps by Sept. 30.

 

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost has sued the Biden Administration for failure to deliver census data by the  deadline. In the federal lawsuit, Yost compels the U.S. Census  Bureau to release population data relevant to

Ohio's upcoming congressional redistricting process. Yost cites that a postponement until Sept. 30 means that the Ohio Redistricting Committee will be unable to use the data in the 2021 redistricting process - a process that Ohioans created in 2018 through a constitutional amendment that passed by overwhelming margins.

 

The Census is expected to show a lag in population growth, which could result in Ohio losing one or even two of its 16 Congressional sets.

 

FCC Launches Broadband Mapping Task Force

 

A new task force has been announced by the FCC to improve the agency's flawed broadband maps. Jean Kiddoo, the newly appointed leader of the task force says the new data will not be available until sometime in 2022.

 

The data for mapping needs to be more granular in order to get an accurate picture of where broadband exists and where it does not. Currently, the FCC relies on internet service provider (ISP) reports on census-block areas.  If

they report a single home or business in a particular census block as having service, the FCC's current reporting method counts that entire census block as being served, which is not always the case.

 

Congress passed the Broadband DATA Act last year,directing the FCC to improve its mapping process. Due to lack of funds, the FCC could not implement those requirements. In December 2020,Congress allocated $65M for broadband mapping initiatives as part of its COVID-19 relief bill.

 

An FCC working group has suggested that Artificial Intelligence has the potential to improve the accuracy of broadband maps.

 

The second phase of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) is expected to use the more accurate data collector.

 

FCC Implements Plans to Replace Chinese Equipment

 

The FCC was allocated close to $1.9 billion through the Consolidated Appropriations Act to rip and replace equipment from Chinese manufacturers, Huawei and ZTE. Equipment from these two companies has been deemed to pose a security threat to U.S. communications networks.

 

A majority of large U.S. carriers have avoided using equipment from these companies but smaller wireless and wireline companies have more widely deployed such equipment.

 

The FCC is seeking comments on a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) for this rip and replacement program.

 

Governor DeWine Eases COVID Restrictions

 

As hospitalizations decline and vaccinations increase, Ohio Governor DeWine is moving toward relaxing several COVID-19 safety restrictions, including high school activities, weddings, sports and other spring events. New

guidelines for spectators will be announced soon for both indoor and outdoor sports venues as well as restaurants, fairs, festivals and others.

 

Rules and guidelines regarding mandatory mask wearing and social distancing will continue to be required.

 

Governor DeWine's number one goal is to get back to where our lives were before the pandemic, but cautions against relaxing too much. Health officials are carefully monitoring to see if and how contagious variants of the

virus spread throughout Ohio.

 

LGBTQ Equality Act Passes U.S. House

 

The Equality Act, which updates the 1964 Civil Rights Act to provide protections for LGBTQ individuals, passed the House on a 224-206 vote. The legislation bans discrimination against people based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

 

The bill faces an uphill battle in the Senate. At least 60 Senators would have to vote in favor of the legislation in order to avoid a fillibuster. Opponents of the measure have expressed two particular concerns - religious liberties and women's sports.

 

The Biden Administration strongly supports the bill.

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