Advocacy update April 26, 2022

Advocacy update April 26, 2022

Advocacy update April 26, 2022 150 150 Episcopalians in Connection
Map ruled unconstitutional most likely outcome for Ohio. You can still weigh in

On April 14, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional the 4th state district plan which was adopted on a partisan vote by the Ohio Redistricting Commission. The Court ordered the Commission to submit a new map by May 6. On April 20, a three judge-federal panel declined to choose a map, giving the State until May 28 to resolve the dispute. If the Commission and Ohio Supreme Court do not agree on a fifth map by then, the federal court will impose the third plan, which the Ohio Supreme Court found to be disproportionately partisan in violation of the Ohio constitution. The only way to prevent this outcome is for the Redistricting Commission to reconvene and to adopt a map which fits Ohio’s constitutional requirements.  Use this link to tell the Commission your views.

  • After the Oho Supreme Court ruled the third state district map unconstitutional, the Ohio Redistricting Commission hired two independent mapmakers – one Republican and one Democrat – at a cost to taxpayers of $98,000.  They were close to completing a map in a transparent process shown on the Ohio Channel, but their work was slowed by a number of questions and factors raised by Republican commissioners, including taking into account the addresses of incumbents, despite the Ohio Supreme Court having said that protecting incumbents elected by a gerrymandered map contradicted the very goal of the constitutional amendments passed by voters to prevent partisan gerrymandering.

    On the deadline day, the House Speaker and Senate President said the consultants’ work had failed and presented a map produced out of public view, rushing through a vote to adopt it. This map was a slight revision of the third plan previously found unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court, and the Court ruled this fourth plan unconstitutional on April 14, ordering the Ohio Redistricting Commission to revise it.  It’s the third plan that the federal panel will impose if the Redistricting Commission fails to come up with a map which passes constitutional muster.

    The Republican leadership has no incentive to reconvene the Commission when a map predicted to produce a veto-proof supermajority for their party is now a foregone conclusion if they do nothing. Either the two co-chairs or three commissioners can vote to reconvene the commission. So far, no Republican member has agreed with the two Democrats to resume work. “We are acutely aware of its flaws,” the federal panel said of the rejected third set of maps. “Yet with deference to the state in mind, we see it as the best of our bad options.”

    “By using the third set of maps as a backstop, judges buy Ohio officials more time to find a different solution, Thapar and Beaton argue,”  writes Jessie Balmert in the Cincinnati Enquirer, referring to the two federal judges who chose this strategy.

    “But [Judge] Marbley disagreed, saying that forecasting their eventual pick only made it easier for Republicans on the Ohio Redistricting Commission to wait out the clock. ‘Indeed, the Republican Commissioners will benefit directly from a crisis they created, and which the Ohio Supreme Court has attributed squarely to them,’ Marbley wrote.

    Balmert continues: “The two other judges had more faith in the commission, writing, ‘we must presume that Ohio’s officials are public servants who still view partisan advantage as subordinate to the rule of law.’ But if Republicans on the commission like the maps they already passed, there is little incentive to act. Rep. Bill Seitz, R-Green Township, took to Twitter for a victory lap: ‘Now I know it’s been a tough night for all you libs. Pour yourself a glass of warm milk and you will sleep better. The game is over and you lost.”

Earth Day action here and in Washington

Creation care champions from four Greater Cincinnati parishes pitched in on Earth Day service and advocacy on April 23, helping to collect almost 100 letters from Greater Cincinnati voters in support of HB 450 to authorize community solar projects in Ohio, and HB 351 to repeal the HB 6 coal plant subsidies that cost Ohio ratepayers $85 million a year. Meanwhile, Congress has returned to work and the Washington Post is reporting that negotiations are starting again on the climate policies included in the Build Back Better Bill blocked by Senator Joe Mansion (D-West Virginia) last fall. Stay tuned!

  • How to weigh in on HB 351 and HB 450

    Parishioners from Christ Church Cathedral and Church of the Redeemer in Cincinnati organized an Episcopal team to help with the city-wide clean-up of the new Lick Run Greenway, which has restored a stream, improved stormwater drainage, and created a beautiful park in Cincinnati’s low-income South Fairmount community. They were joined by volunteers from suburban parishes St. Barnabas, Montgomery, and Ascension and Holy Trinity, Wyoming. Kyle Vath and Eden Vath of the Cathedral helped Ariel Miller of the diocese’s Creation Care Task Force to inform voters about HB 450 and HB 351 at the Faith Communities Go Green booth. Faith Communities Go Green is a collaboration of Cincinnati’s interfaith group EquaSion, which sponsors the annual Festival of Faiths, and Green Umbrella. Here’s the call to action on both bills:

    Support HB 351 to Repeal Coal Subsidies in HB 6

    HB 6 included a bailout for two obsolete, polluting coal plants—Kyger Creek in Ohio and Clifty Creek in Indiana that are no longer commercially viable.  All Ohioans are charged on their monthly electric bills to subsidize these coal plants. The coal plant payment unfairly burdens low-income Ohioans who struggle to pay rent and utility bills. HB 351 has bipartisan support, but is stalled in committee.

    Please write your Ohio Representative and House Speaker Bob Cupp on your views on this bill, connecting them to your faith.  You can find your Ohio Representative by entering your address in the “Who Represents Me” box on the Oho House homepage.

    Here are talking points to consider for your letter. Ohioans are paying $85 million extra each year to coal plants that:

    • produce high levels of pollution with negative health consequences
    • emit 26 million tons (each year) of greenhouse gas into a warming atmosphere
    • deliver electricity that is more expensive than the market rate
    • are not required to meet electric demand
    • produce electric that is increasingly more expensive than clean renewable energy
    • Will stay in operation through 2030 unless repealed
    Support HB 450 to Launch Community Solar in Ohio

    HB 450 expands solar development for a cleaner, more diversified electric grid reducing harmful emissions and improving air quality. It encourages solar development on “distressed sites” (brownfields), closed solid waste facilities, and communities with lower incomes. Underdeveloped land will be used for environmentally beneficial projects and will help communities recover from environmental degradation.

    This legislation advances energy justice by enabling tenants and low-income Ohioans to take advantage of the cost-saving and environmental benefits of solar electricity. The average Ohio household spends 3% of their income on their electric bills, but low-income households spend an average of 12% – four times more. The legislation’s careful focus on developing distressed sites will result in much-needed jobs for communities that are struggling amidst the energy transition.

Episcopal Office of Government Relations newsletter on advocacy successes

Read OGR’s spring newsletter for important news about federal funding bills, other legislation, and executive branch rule-making in recent months. The omnibus spending bill includes vital funding for food assistance, public health, education, transportation, and housing. The Equal Act (S. 79), which now has 60 sponsors in the Senate, will eliminate the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine. The newsletter also reports on the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act, the Justice Department’s rule on ghost guns, and decisions on immigration policy, including the termination of the CDC’s order banning asylum applicants, and the commitment to accept 100,000 Ukranian refugees.

Governor signs HB 126, which curtails school districts’ ability to challenge property valuations

Districts can only appeal if there’s been a recent sale and the price was at least 10% and $500,000 more than the county auditor’s value of the property. School boards will have to pass a resolution to appeal, and districts can no longer appeal unfavorable decisions to the Ohio Board of Tax Appeals, though property owners can. Public school districts warned this could increase the tax burden on homeowners and significantly reduce what they can win in property tax disputes.  Read more.

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. Connect with her at arielmillerwriter@gmail.com