Ohio Budget Relieves Advocates for Public Schools, Safety Net
With strong bipartisan votes, both houses of the Ohio Legislature passed the new biennial budget June 28. The conference committee chose several elements in the House budget championed by faith-based advocates including the Ohio Council of Churches and the Hunger Network in Ohio. These include approving, for two years, a new formula for public school funding that was developed with statewide impact and is seen as a breakthrough in making funding more equitable across the state; rejecting the Senate’s idea of adding asset tests for SNAP (food stamps), and $250,000 to improve broadband access. The names and contact information for the conference committee are listed below – if you’re so moved, a thank you letter to these legislators would be great.
State Supreme Court rules against arming teachers without safety training, but Legislature poised to change the law
In a 4/3 decision in Gabbard v. Madison Local School District Board of Education, Ohio’s Supreme Court ruled that current Ohio law prohibits school districts from allowing teachers or other staff to be armed on school grounds without having satisfactorily completed an approved peace officer training program or having 20 years of experience as a peace officer. The Legislature is debating two bills – HB 99 and HB 168 – which will drastically reduce the safety training required to arm teachers or other staff in Ohio schools. I will do my best to keep you posted on this rapidly-evolving situation.
Legislature passes bill creating new obstacles to wind and solar farms
Staying in session past midnight, the Ohio Legislature passed SB 52 on June 28, sending it to the Governor today. He has indicated that he will sign it. SB 52 endangers the work of at least two Episcopal congregations of our Diocese and Procter Conference Center, who are all working to lease farmland for solar installations as a win-win for clean energy and a new revenue stream.
Here is how to contact Gov. DeWine:
Here are the major provisions of the bill:
- Authorizes county commissioners to create Energy Development Districts – wind or solar outside them would be prohibited (so if land is outside the district, the owner can’t lease it for this purpose)
- Authorizes county commissioners to ban wind or solar farms.
- Creates new requirements for local representation and input in Power Siting Board decisions which other energy generation sources don’t need to meet
- The faith communities of Ohio steadfastly support emergency assistance, including trying to prevent utility shut-offs. Wind and solar are now the cheapest form of generation and impeding them keeps electric rates higher than they need to be.
- We are concerned for the health and safety of everyone, particularly children and the poor who often live closest to power plants. The less we depend on fossil fuels in Ohio, the lower the disease burden will be from lung and cardiovascular disease – think of children struggling to breathe through asthma.
- We advocate for education as the path out of poverty. This bill obstructs a major source of new operating revenue for rural public schools in counties with very low tax base.
- We want people to have living-wage jobs. This bill sends a chilling message about Ohio to businesses which are increasingly opting for renewables as the most cost-effective solution.
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.