The Episcopal Public Policy Network has a page packed with policy information and spiritual resources for Episcopalians working to stop the epidemic gun violence that is killing and wounding people across this country and traumatizing entire communities. The resources include resolutions passed by General Convention, the May 24 statement by Presiding Bishop Curry, and prayers and liturgies from Bishops United Against Gun Violence.
As I write on the morning of May 31, the Senate Veterans and Public Safety Committee is about to hold another hearing on HB 99, which has already passed the Ohio House and could rapidly pass the Senate. Here is information on the bill. HB 99 has been amended since the fact sheet was published: it now allows schools to arm staff with 22 hours of training, compared to the over 700 hours (peace officer training equivalent) required under current Ohio law.
Next, please read USA Today reporter Anna Staver’s overview of the 38 gun bills introduced in the Ohio Legislature’s current session. The legislature passed a bill allowing Ohioans to carry concealed weapons without a license or training, and the Governor signed it into law.
Wear Orange events to commemorate victims of gun violence will be held in Columbus, Dayton, and Cincinnati this week. Here’s the schedule:
- June 2, Columbus City Hall, 7 pm. City Council will issue a resolution declaring National Gun Violence Awareness Month
- June 3, Dayton Courthouse Square, 1 pm : Press Conference with Dayton Mayor Mims
- June 4, Cincinnati’s Fountain Square, 10 am. Public officials, gun violence survivors, and advocates will speak.
Ohio Legislature passes resolution to put constitutional amendment on bail on November ballot
Bipartisan reform bill HB 315 still in committee
On May 25, both houses of the Ohio Legislature passed a resolution supporting a constitutional amendment that would require Ohio judges to “use factors such as public safety, including the seriousness of the offense, and a person’s criminal record” when setting amounts and conditions of bail. Votes in both chambers exceeded the supermajority required to put an amendment on the ballot. This does not require the Governor’s signature. This is another example of Republicans in the Ohio Legislature attacking the Ohio Supreme Court, which upheld a lower court decision that public safety cannot be considered in setting the level of cash bail, the purpose of which is to induce a defendant to return for trial. Judges have other remedies for protecting public safety, including pre-trial detention.
Meanwhile, the House Criminal Justice Committee discussed a number of amendments last week to HB 315, a bipartisan bill that was introduced over a year ago by Rep. David Leland (D Columbus) and Brett Hillyer (R Urichsville) to reinforce the tools judges have to protect public safety while reducing the disproportionate financial burden which bail poses to nonviolent offenders who are poor. Rep. Bill Seitz (R. Cincinnati), who’s helped pass other major criminal justice reforms, said he was optimistic for SB 315 and that it would work well with the constitutional amendment. Read more
Republicans introduced the constitutional amendment resolution in March in reaction to a January decision by the Ohio Supreme Court in DuBose v. McGuffey, and “pushed them through hearings while the bipartisan effort remains in committee,” the Springfield News-Sun reported May 31. House Bill 315 “would set a $200 “floor” for bail, and set the maximum at 25% of someone’s monthly income, after deduction of some costs such as education and work expenses, Leland said. It would also greatly expand rules for pretrial detention, adding more than 50 crimes to the list of those for which a judge would need to determine the risk releasing a prisoner would pose to others,” he said. Organizations testifying in support of these reforms span the political spectrum, from the Buckeye Institute to the ACLU Ohio. Of the 21 people testifying against the reform, 13 represent the bail bond industry, which stands to lose a lot of money if it passes.
Ohio primary Aug. 2 will use maps ruled unconstitutional
On May 25, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled the Redistricting Commission’s fifth set of state district maps unconstitutional. Three days later, the prior decision of a federal court went into effect: if the Redistricting Commission failed to produce maps found constitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court, the third set of maps – also found unconstitutional -would be used for a state primary set for August 2.
“With the reassurance provided by a federal district court, that continuing delays and inaction would be rewarded with the implementation of a previously rejected map, respondent Ohio Redistricting Commission has, contrary to this court’s clear order, resubmitted an unconstitutional General Assembly–district plan and, in doing so, has engaged in a stunning rebuke of the rule of law,” said Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, a Republican who joined the three Democrats on the Supreme Court in finding that all five state district maps passed by the Commission give an unconstitutionally excessive advantage to the majority party.
“The federal court provided the Republican commission members not only a roadmap of how to avoid discharging their duties but also a green light to further delay these,” O’Connor wrote. “The federal court’s statement that this court and the commission might ‘work together to find a solution’ also erroneously suggests that this court actually has a seat at the commission’s table. Indeed, if Article XI of the Ohio Constitution allowed for this court to have a seat at the commission’s table, perhaps we would not be where we are today, and a constitutionally compliant map would be in place.”
Despite the majority decisions’ repeated critique of the lack of transparency in mapmaking, and many specific instructions on process which the Commission ignored, the Ohio Supreme Court declined to hold them in contempt. Read more.
This marks the latest stage in a process lamented by nonpartisan democracy advocates including the League of Women Voters Ohio, which have sued the Redistricting Commission after each set of maps was adopted. I’ve reported on this in detail over the past nine months, including the repeated procrastination by House Speaker Cupp and Senate President Hoffman in scheduling Commission meetings, and their staff’s producing maps out of public view. Repeatedly, these maps were then rushed through by the Republican majority right before the deadlines set by the Supreme Court. In the case of the fifth state district plan, the Republican Commission declined to bring back the independent mapmaking consultants (one from each party) hired to work in public view at a cost of almost $100,000 to Ohio taxpayers even though they were very close to a consensus plan that complied with Ohio’s constitutional requirements.
The Ohio Supreme Court also found the first set of Congressional maps passed by the Redistricting Commission to be unconstitutional but will not rule on challenges to the second plan before the 2022 election, so the unconstitutional Congressional map is being used as well.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org