Advocacy update May 10, 2022

Advocacy update May 10, 2022

Advocacy update May 10, 2022 150 150 Episcopalians in Connection
Episcopal Church statements on the Supreme Court abortion case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health

“Since 1967, The Episcopal Church has maintained its ‘unequivocal opposition to any legislation on the part of the national or state governments which would abridge or deny the right of individuals to reach informed decisions [about the termination of pregnancy] and to act upon them,” reported the Church’s Office of Government Relations last week. “In light of the recent report about a pending decision in the Supreme Court case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, The Episcopal Church reaffirms our commitment to ‘equitable access to women’s health care, including women’s reproductive health care,’ which we view as ‘an integral part of a woman’s struggle to assert her dignity and worth as a human being.’”

You can read an overview of the Church’s positions on abortion and women’s reproductive health here.

Constitutional amendment bill blocking bail reform speeding through the Legislature

The Ohio House Criminal Justice Committee may vote as soon as tomorrow (May 11) on House Joint Resolution 2 and HB 607, a proposed constitutional amendment that would require judges to consider public safety in setting bail amounts. This is because the measure needs to pass in both houses before the summer recess in order to be on the ballot this fall. Committee chair Jeff LaRe co-sponsored the bill, noting that the deadline to get it on the ballot is August.

The bail reform bill HB 315 supported by racial justice advocates – including the Ohio Council of Churches –   is on the agenda tomorrow as well, but I was told by the legislative aide of the Chair, Rep. LaRe, that no testimony is being accepted.  HB 315 seeks to eliminate the financial burdens of cash bail and lengthy detention which hammer the poor. The bill emphasizes other tools to protect public safety – such as pretrial detention for violent offenders. It would limit bail to situations where the court deems the accused unlikely to appear on the trial date.

  • 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, 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 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. Learn more.

    The ACLU of Ohio and the Buckeye Institute, a conservative think tank, have both expressed concerns about the constitutional amendment. “Ability to pay does not equate to public safety. If an individual is a threat to society, we should be giving judges the authority and the discretion to detain them pre-trial. We shouldn’t simply be increasing the price that they have to pay,” said Buckeye Institute President Robert Alt.

    HB 315 and SB 182 would mitigate 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.

Ohio Redistricting Commission adopts maps already ruled unconstitutional

On May 5, the Ohio Redistricting Commission failed to meet the deadline set by the Ohio Supreme Court to submit new, constitutional maps for state legislative districts. Instead, they voted 4-3 to resubmit their third set of maps for state legislative districts, even though the Ohio Supreme Court ruled this plan unconstitutional for disproportionately favoring the majority party. The August 2 primary date and its associated deadlines were presented by the Republicans on the Commission as the reason for using the unconstitutional plan, even though the Ohio Legislature could change those deadlines by emergency legislation. Learn more. After the Commission vote, citizens in the hearing room broke into a chant of “Hold them in contempt!”

“I don’t think that members of this commission could possibly be more contemptuous of the Ohio Constitution and Ohio voters and the Ohio Supreme Court. It’s utterly disturbing that our democracy doesn’t matter more to the leaders of this state,” said Jen Miller, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio.

  • The plan the Commission adopted is the same one a three-judge federal panel has already said they would order the State to adopt – while acknowledging its defects –  if the Redistricting Commission failed to come up with a new plan acceptable to the Ohio Supreme Court by May 28. Given this federal court decision, the majority Republicans on the committee had absolutely no incentive to work on new maps. They refused to even hold a meeting of the Redistricting Commission until two days before the deadline for submitting a constitutional plan to the Ohio Supreme Court. When they finally reconvened, the Republicans on the Commission also rejected a proposal by the two Democrats to work with maps drafted in public view by the two independent consultants – one from each party – hired by the Commission earlier this spring at an expense of about $98,000 to Ohio taxpayers.

    While the maps the Commission re-submitted appear to meet constitutional requirements of reflecting the 54-46% Republican-Democratic share of statewide votes over the preceding decade, at least a third of the “Democratic” leaning districts are likely to be toss-ups, while none of the Republican districts are. Secretary of State Frank LaRose said that using the invalidated maps was the only way for the state to meet several deadlines before the scheduled Aug. 2 primary for Ohio House and Senate seats. Democrats noted the Ohio Legislature could pass emergency legislation to change those headlines, but Republicans on the Commission said the Legislature, which has a Republican supermajority, is not likely to do so.

    This fits the pattern that the Republican leadership have followed throughout redistricting, using various excuses – the pandemic, the delayed Census data, and primary dates – to delay forming the Commission, scheduling public hearings, and complying with the Ohio Supreme Court’s repeated rulings that they must draw maps in compliance with the Constitutional amendments passed by over 70% of Ohio voters to end partisan gerrymandering and ensure fair districts in our state.

Special Meeting, City of Cincinnati Climate, Environment, and Infrastructure Committee

Cincinnati Council’s new Environment Committee is holding a special meeting on May 17 at 6 p.m. on the varying impact of environmental hazards on the city’s neighborhoods. A panel of local experts on climate justice will be speaking, with an opportunity for you to ask questions.  You can read neighborhood profiles in the City’s Climate Equity Indicators Report, complete the City’s climate change survey, and provide your recommendations for the 2023 update to the Green Cincinnati Plan on this form.

The meeting will be held at the Bond Hill Recreation Center, 1501 Elizabeth Place, Cincinnati, 45237.  The City of Cincinnati has made huge progress in the last 14 years in resilience and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This year they are updating the Green Plan first adopted in 2008, and they welcome public input, with environmental equity a major focus for the next plan.

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