Advocacy update December 14, 2021

Advocacy update December 14, 2021

Advocacy update December 14, 2021 150 150 Episcopalians in Connection

Hope for voting protections:  U.S. Senate just approved a different filibuster carve-out!

The Dec. 7 BBC update invited you to write to Ohio Senators Portman and Brown asking them to approve a carve-out for the filibuster to clear the way for debate and votes on the Freedom to Vote Act and the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which have been blocked by the filibuster.  That very same week, 59 Senators voted Dec. 9 to approve a one-time exemption to the filibuster to allow a vote to raise the U.S. debt ceiling to pass with a simple majority.  It’s my understanding that the Senate can approve voting rights carve-out by rules changes requiring only 51 votes.

The Brennan Center for Justice reports that between 1969 and 2014, the Senate has approved 161 exceptions to its rule requiring a supermajority of 60 votes to pass legislation. The article says that the filibuster has no constitutional basis and was not used till 1837.  “Critics of the filibuster have pointed to its fundamentally antidemocratic character and its use to block civil rights legislation — most infamously before and during the civil rights era, when southern segregationists used it to block anti-lynching legislation, anti-poll tax legislation, and to delay the Civil Rights Acts of 1957, 1960, and 1964,” they write. The Freedom to Vote Act provides a consistent national remedy to extreme partisan gerrymandering, as well as standards for voter access. The John R. Lewis Act restores protections in the Civil Rights Act that were eliminated by a Supreme Court ruling.

Bills advancing in Ohio House to severely constrain educators’ ability to discuss race, bias

As a member of the Diocese’s Becoming Beloved Community Leadership Team, I’m tracking and reporting to you on HB 322 and HB 327. Both bills are in the House State and Local Government Committee and could come to a vote as soon as January. HB 322 would prohibit K-12 teachers from naming policies – such as past Ohio laws that prevented Black Ohioans from voting, holding office, or serving on juries – as systemic racism. Instead, the history of policies like redlining or voter suppression which the Episcopal Church is working hard to overcome could only be taught as “deviations from, betrayals of, or failures to live up to the authentic founding principles of the United States.”

The bill lists “prohibited concepts” (see Legislative Service Commission Analysis pp. 1-2).  It also prohibits teachers from including classroom activities that include lobbying, as some do now in teaching the legislative process.  HB 327 covers all public education (K through state universities), local governments, and state agencies, prohibiting them from teaching about  “divisive concepts” such as unconscious bias.  The consequence could be lawsuits against the instructor and the educational institution’s losing from 25- 100% of its state funding. Here is the Ohio Legislative Service Commission analysis of the bill. Gary Daniels of ACLU Ohio has written an overview of the bills.

HB 322 has had three hearings with seven proponents and almost 320 opponents.  HB 327 has had four hearings. with almost 140 opponents testifying, compared to just under 40 proponents.

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