Signs of our times in Ohio’s changing policy
Justice, love, and reconciliation are the heart of the Episcopal Church’s quest to build Beloved Community. This post summarizes several policy trends in Ohio, invites you to reflect on them in the light of Becoming Beloved Community, and offers opportunities to write your legislator this week on HB 99, which would allow schools to arm staff with minimal safety training. You can also ask the House to pass HB 351 to repeal coal plant subsidies HB 6 imposed on all Ohio ratepayers. HB 6 is the core of Ohio’s $61 million political bribery criminal case. Clean energy is a justice issue central to the Episcopal Church’s Becoming Beloved Community. In this first week of the UN Climate Conference, weighing in for energy justice is something we can do here in Ohio.
Ohio’s political climate and its implications for Beloved Community
We’re experiencing increasing verbal intimidation that could easily spill over into violence. Ohio newspapers are reporting many incidents of verbal abuse and threats against school boards and other public officials over issues like mask mandates and teaching about the history of racism and ways to overcome it. Our friends and neighbors are being targeted as The Enemy for trying to protect our children against a deadly virus, or working to reduce the risks of unarmed people being killed by police.
Two members of Ohio’s Board of Education resigned last week after the Board, to which three new members had been appointed, voted to rescind its 2020 resolution against racism, adopted after the killing of George Floyd. Board President Laura Kohler said there were enough votes in the Ohio Senate to remove her. The Ohio School Boards voted last week to leave the National School Boards Association after the latter appealed to the Biden Administration for federal assistance as threats and intimidation increase at local meetings.
Many people are resigning from their public service jobs or choosing not to run for reelection. With good reason: social media are amplifying rage, and our legislature continues to advance bills to allow people with no or minimal safety training to carry and use guns. Last week a House committee voted to send HB 277 to the floor. This bill allows Ohioans to carry concealed weapons without a license or training. They would no longer have to disclose that they are carrying to a police officer who stops them.
This week jury selection begins in the murder trial of teenager Kyle Rittenhouse in Kenosha, WI for killing two Black Lives Matter protesters and wounding a third. He is claiming self-defense. Ohio’s Stand Your Ground Bill, SB 175, signed by Governor DeWine in January, allows an Ohioan to use lethal force anywhere in public if he feels he is in danger, even if he has a safe option to retreat. This provides a legal defense for someone who goes armed to a racial justice protest, as Rittenhouse did in Kenosha, with a loaded assault rifle.
This week, consider the following actions
Hearing Thursday, Nov. 4 at 10 on HB 99 allowing schools to arm minimally-trained staff
You can submit written testimony by Wednesday at 10 a.m. to the House Criminal Justice Committee, Chairman LaRe. Current Ohio law requires the same level of training or experience as an Ohio Peace Officer for a school to let employees carry arms. Use the following links for a factsheet giving an overview of how this kind of bill – opposed by the National Association of School Resource Officers – would increase risks to children and liability for schools, a sample testimony and a fillable witness sheet that must accompany your testimony. To contact your own representative, use this link
Bipartisan bills to repeal HB 6 coal plant subsidies need citizen support now
Companion bills sponsored by Rep. Laura Lanese (R, Grove City) and Senator Mark Romanchuk (R-Ontario) are trying to repeal subsidies for two obsolete coal-fired plants which were imposed on Ohio ratepayers by HB 6. The bill would refund the subsidies to ratepayers and prevent their being reimposed by the Public Utilities Commission (PUCO).
The nuclear subsidies of HB6 have been repealed in the outcry over the corruption scandal, but utilities are lobbying hard to keep the coal subsidies in place. Coal generation is more expensive and dirtier than natural gas, and is no longer competitive in the energy market. The emissions increase lung and cardiovascular disease in nearby residents and exacerbate climate change which is devastating communities in every part of the world. The Senate bill (SB 117) seems to be stuck in committee, but the House bill (HB 351) appears to have momentum. You can help by going to the link for the House Public Utilities Committee, clicking on each member’s picture in turn to access their phone numbers, and calling them. On a smart phone, you can just click the phone number to dial it.
Note: some of the articles cited above are behind paywalls (Cleveland.com). Contact me if you’d like me to cut and paste the article into an email for you.
Advocacy briefings are compiled by Ariel Miller, a member of Ascension & Holy Trinity, Wyoming, and a member of the diocesan Becoming Beloved Community Leadership Team.