Advocacy update January 10, 2023

Advocacy update January 10, 2023 150 150 Episcopalians in Connection

Governor DeWine signed several bills into law last week after Ohio’s Lame Duck session.  We share which ducks landed, plus news of four timely forums, three of them offering in-person attendance! (Cincinnati, Columbus, and Milford).

The Governor signed the following bills we’ve been following:

  • SB 288 criminal justice reforms including ways to qualify for early release and expungement, plus Erin’s Law requiring K-12 public schools to provide age-appropriate instruction to help children protect themselves against sexual abuse
  • HB 45 allocating unspent federal Covid funding to food and housing security as well as many other programs
  • HB 458 adding new restrictions to voting access
  • HB 507 defining natural gas as “green energy” and facilitating permits for drilling on state lands

Here are the coming week’s wonderful opportunities to learn:

  • Jan. 12: Cincinnati City Council Update by Vice Mayor Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney, Christ Church Cathedral, 12 to 1 p.m.
    • This talk by the Vice Mayor, a member of Christ Church Cathedral, covers  top issues facing Cincinnati , The Forum will be in person at the Cathedral and also on Zoom at this link. This is part of the Cathedral’s Community Issues Forum series.
  • Jan. 17: The Climate on Capitol Hill: Roadmap for Jewish Climate Advocacy in the 118th Congress, 8 p.m.
    • The Jewish Earth Alliance is organizing this opportunity to hear directly from a Congressmember (TBD) and David Roberts, one of the nation’s top reporters and interpreters of climate policy. This event is sponsored by many Jewish congregations and organizations across the US, including Shomrei Olam, Jewish Environmental Advocates of Cincinnati. Register here.
  • Jan. 18: Green on Green: using new federal tax incentives and technology to green your building, at Melink Solar in Milford, 8-10 am
    • Solar and accounting firm Clark Schaefer Hackett invite you to this free public seminar and tour at Melink HQ in Milford.“Green energy and sustainable building practices are no longer the domain of early adopters or futuristic visionaries.” they write.  “As the technology of ‘going green’ becomes cheaper and more efficient, the upsides for your bottom line continue to increase. The recent passage of the Inflation Reduction Act has put into place an array of new tax incentives that are making green buildings even more attractive. Join the experts from Melink and Clark Schaefer Hackett to learn about the latest innovations in green building techniques, tour a facility putting them into practice, and hear about the latest tax incentives so you can go green and get green. Register here.
  • Jan. 18: Shining a Light on Dark Money, noon, Columbus Metropolitan Club Forum on the HB 6 corruption case
    • The panelists offer their profound knowledge of Ohio’s massive HB 6 bribery scandal: attorney David DeVillers, who launched the Justice Department’s case, environmental journalist and lawyer Kathian Kowalski, whose diligent research has exposed its details to the public, and Jo Ingles of the Statehouse News Bureau. They will describe the case’s impact on the environment and ratepayers, and what can be done to mitigate the damage to Ohio’s energy policy.  Register here.  For those attending in person, the forum will be held at the Grange Insurance Audubon Center, which has free parking. If you have trouble registering online, email Montra Moody at montra@columbusmetroclub.org.
Ohio House elects new speaker with unexpected bipartisan support

As the US House of Representatives struggled through 15 ballots to elect Kevin McCarthy Speaker, an unexpected alliance of 22 moderate Republicans and every House Democrat elected Jason Stephens (R-Lawrence) Speaker of the Ohio House “in a 54-43 vote that essentially let Democrats pick the leader of a chamber where Republicans outnumber them two to one,” wrote Statehouse reporter Anna Staver in the Columbus Dispatch. “Forty-three of the 65 Republican members present on Tuesday [Jan. 3] voted for [Republican Derrick] Merrin,” who had been picked by the party leadership.

Stephens has established a conservative voting record on abortion and transgender athletes, and he voted for the controversial election bill, HB 458, that Gov. DeWine has just signed into law.  The Ohio Environmental Council’s Legislative Scorecard for the 134th General Assembly (2021) gives him a score of 2.4 out of a possible 10 on environmental issues. But Stephens convinced House Minority Leader Alilson Russo (D-Upper Arlington) that he is willing to listen and work across the aisle. “Russo told reporters she made no ‘grand deal’ with Stephens in exchange for her party’s 32 votes, but she did say they reached an understanding about how to work together on everything from education policy to redistricting,” Staver reports.  Use the link above to study the voting records of other members of that General Assembly on environmental bills.

What the General Assembly and Governor did with key bills last month

The Statehouse News Bureau’s Karen Kasler posted a summary of the major legislation the Ohio General Assembly passed in 2022. On Epiphany, Governor DeWine signed two hotly-debated bills that we reported to you about in December:  HB 458, which creates new restrictions on voting access, and HB 507, which defines natural gas as green energy, and allows oil and gas companies to bypass the usual public scrutiny and review process for gaining leases on state-owned lands. Lawsuits against both laws have already been filed.

Also on Epiphany, the Governor’s Office published a series of statements from many advocacy and civic groups thanking him for signing HB 45 allocating federal Covid funds for many urgent needs from public school funding to food security. It is really moving to read these and it shows that advocacy counts!

We are trying to find out the meaning of this comment in the Governor’s signing statement on HB 507:  “I believe the amendments in House Bill 507 do not fundamentally change the criteria and processes established by the Ohio General Assembly in 2011 that first established the policy of leasing mineral rights under state parks and lands. In addition, I am instructing the Director of the Department of Natural Resources to continue to follow the processes first established by the General Assembly in 2011 in this area. This includes continuing my administration’s policy of prohibiting any new surface use access in our state parks.”

Does that mean that oil and gas companies have to follow the same rules as any other applicant, and the Administration will not enforce the new law? Stay tuned!

Jury selection begins Jan. 20 in HB 6 federal corruption case

Among the key updates: US District Judge Timothy Black denied Householder’s motion to dismiss charges, and FirstEnergy has agreed to pay a $3.9 million penalty for failing to provide federal regulatory auditors with information about lobbying expenses. Public records requests elicited the news that the DeWine Administration did not formally request an ethics investigation at the Public Utilities Commission after Chair Sam Randazzo resigned following an FBI raid of his house. “Nor does it appear that the PUCO’s leadership took such steps on its own,” reports Kowalski.  Extracting these public records releases took over half a year of work by Energy News Network and Eye on Ohio.

Follow the HB 6 case by subscribing to Eye on Utilities, an initiative of Energy News Network, reported by Kathian Kowalski.

Advocacy briefings are compiled by Ariel Miller, a longtime community advocate and member of Ascension & Holy Trinity, Wyoming. Connect with her at arielmillerwriter@gmail.com