Advocacy update April 5, 2022

Advocacy update April 5, 2022

Advocacy update April 5, 2022 150 150 Episcopalians in Connection
Ecumenical Advocacy Days April 25-27

Also known as EAD, this is an annual gathering of Christian advocates and activists across different denominations.  This year’s will be virtual, and costs $75.  Register here.

The 2022 theme is “Fierce Urgency: Advancing Civil & Human Rights”, with specific attention to voting rights and the weapon sales that make human rights abuses possible. There will also be a great opportunity to connect in the Episcopal Public Policy Network’s virtual Episcopal caucus event for Episcopalians on Monday, April 25 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. EDT. We welcome any and all Episcopalians to join us this year in fierce advocacy for making God’s love a reality and for the opportunity to learn and grow with EAD’s expansive workshops.

Bail battle escalates conflict between Republican leaders and Ohio Supreme Court

Debby Stokes-Wayne, a member of the diocese’s Becoming Beloved Community Leadership Team, recently shared the news of Ohio’s bail reform bills HB 315 and SB 182 in this post. These bills would reduce the burden of pre-trial detention on poor people by requiring courts to make a pretrial-release decision within 24 hours. Any conditions on release must be non-monetary, such as a restraining order, and fit the danger the court determines that the defendant poses, such as domestic violence. If the court sets bond as a condition of release, the amount must be based on a determination of the accused person’s ability to pay.

But, in response to an Ohio Supreme Court 4-3 decision supporting a lower court’s ruling that the bond set for a Cincinnati murder suspect was too high, Republicans have introduced a proposed constitutional amendment bill, HB 607, that would require Ohio judges to consider criminal suspects’ threat to public safety when setting bail amounts.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost supports HB 607, which had its third hearing this week in the House Criminal Justice Committee. You can contact the committee with your views by clicking on the pictures of each member at this link to get their contact information. Supporters of bail reform point out that cash bail does nothing to protect public safety.  A wealthy man could walk out of jail after posting bail and murder his wife.

The proposed constitutional amendment is yet another battle between the Republican majority in the Ohio Legislature and the Ohio Supreme Court, where Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, a Republican, has joined the three Democrats in several rulings including those finding four different sets of legislative maps unconstitutional. The Ohio Supreme Court decision affirmed that judges can protect public safety by setting other requirements, such as electronic monitoring and restraining orders, which were imposed by the lower court on the Cincinnati defendant.

HB 315 and SB 182 championed by many social justice advocates for eliminating the financial burden of bail and pretrial detention (which can cause poor people to lose their jobs and housing) on people who can’t afford to pay bail.  The bills preserve Ohio’s process through which judges can keep the accused in jail if they pose a risk of violence. Here’s an overview of the bail reform prepared by the Ohio Judicial Conference.

Early voting begins in Ohio’s chaotic primary

Ohio’s new state and Congressional district maps are still unresolved, but early voting begins April 5 on statewide and Congressional races.  Voters will not be able to vote on candidates for the Ohio House and Senate for months. Holding two primaries is expected to cost Ohio taxpayers at least $20 million and has consistently been opposed by the Ohio Association of Election Officials, but the state legislature has refused to act on Democratic bills to postpone it so a single primary can be held.

The split primary burdens candidates with extra expense and uncertainty (who lives in their districts?) and is expected to depress voter turnout. A three-judge federal panel declined last week to set a primary date or choose a map for state legislative districts, referring the case back to state authorities but reserving the right to intervene if the Ohio Supreme Court and Redistricting Commission don’t come to a solution by April 20. Here is a clear and succinct summary of the impasse.

Republican petitioners asked the federal panel to use the third set of state district maps even though the Ohio Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional. Democrats recommended the maps drawn by the bipartisan team of Michael McDonald and Douglas Johnson, the two independent mapmakers hired by the Redistricting Commission. Ohio Democratic mapmaking consultant  Chris Glassburn testified to the federal panel that the McDonald/Johnson map meets Ohio’s constitutional requirements. But just hours before the March 28 deadline to complete new maps, the Republican legislative leaders on the Redistricting Commission discarded their work (which taxpayers have paid for) and substituted a slightly revised version of the third plan ruled constitutional March 16 by the Ohio Supreme Court. House Speaker Cupp and Senate President Huffman pushed through a Commission vote on their map over the protests of the Democratic minority. Citizens groups have challenged this fourth plan and asked the Ohio Supreme Court to reinstate a contempt hearing for the Commission’s flouting of the Court’s orders on both the plans and process, including transparency. Two short broadcasts by the Statehouse News Bureau report: 1. That the Republicans on the Redistricting Commission say the Court lacks authority to hold them in contempts, and 2. quoting Ohio Secretary of State LaRose (a Commission member) that he would “be fine with it” if the state legislature impeaches Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, the Republican who has joined with three Democratic judges on the court in all the decisions finding the maps unconstitutional.

The Ohio Supreme Court has already rejected three sets of state legislative maps and the first Congressional map passed by the Redistricting Commission, extensively citing evidence that all of these maps showed extreme partisan gerrymandering in violation of the Ohio Constitution.  Ohio’s redistricting drama echoes that in several other states where maps are still under litigation well into the normal primary season.  The New York Times reported Sunday that state courts have replaced the federal courts as the battleground over partisan gerrymandering.

HB 99 allowing school districts to arm staff with minimal training is advancing in the Ohio Senate

The Ohio House passed this bill last November despite an overwhelming volume of opponent testimony. It was introduced in the Senate Veterans and Public Safety Committee March 29.  The momentum behind this bill follows last summer’s Ohio Supreme Court decision that applied current law to prevent Madison County Schools  from arming staff unless they have the equivalent of Peace Officer training or experience. HB 99, which has 32 sponsors, drops Ohio law’s training requirement from over 700 hours to as little as 22 for carrying weapons on school grounds, and says nothing about safe storage of guns at school.   You can express your views by going to the Senate Veterans and Public Safety Committee directory and clicking on each member’s name to get their email and phone number.

A second hearing for HB 99 hasn’t been scheduled yet, but SB 293, which would prohibit imposing any fees or liability insurance requirements for gun owners, was introduced April 5.

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