Advocacy update November 22, 2022

Advocacy update November 22, 2022 150 150 Episcopalians in Connection

Ohio’s Lame Duck session reflects polarization: Ohio’s legislative leaders are preparing for a short, intense lame duck session. You can track bills and see how to direct your advocacy on Innovation Ohio’s Lame Duck site. Innovation Ohio is a progressive non-profit, so the site recommends specific stands on the bills. You can choose your own, of course, but in this fast-moving legislative situation it is useful to have the bills tracked on one site. Scroll down the Innovation page for background on each measure and who to contact:

  • A new resolution that would require citizen-sponsored constitutional amendments to win 60% of the vote, instead of the current simple majority. This comes as citizens plan referenda to create an independent redistricting commission and to make abortion access a constitutional right.
  • SB 178 would strip the Ohio Board of Education of authority to set curriculum and policy, transferring that to the executive branch. The push on this bill follows election results where voters provided 7 of the 11 elected seats to Democrats, ending the Republican supermajority on the Board.
  • COHHIO asks you to urge the Governor, House Speaker Cupp, and Senate President Huffman to use $308 million of the state’s $10 billion in unspent American Rescue Plan funding to create affordable housing. 

We also provide background and contacts on HB 105 (Erin’s Law) and HB 266 (the Hidden Predator Act) to give victims of child sex abuse greater protection in Ohio by extending the time limits under which perpetrators could be charged with the crime or be subject to civil liability. See Terry DeMio’s and Jordan Laird’s story for USA Today about three Ohio survivors of child sexual abuse.

Ohio Constitution Protection Amendment raises bar to 60% to pass a constitutional amendment

Raising the bar to 60% to pass a constitutional amendment was proposed Nov. 17 by Secretary of State Frank LaRose, who serves on the Ohio Redistricting Commission which has drawn seven different district maps which were found unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court. This would make it harder for citizens to amend the constitution, while the legislature would still only need a majority vote to amend the constitution. Ohioans who are disgusted by the extreme partisan gerrymandering which not only sustained, but increased a veto-proof Republican supermajority in our legislature, plan to campaign for a voter referendum to amend the constitution to create an independent redistricting commission.

Retiring Ohio Chief Justice Maureen O’Conner, the Republican who joined the 4-3 majorities in each ruling finding a set of maps unconstitutional for disproportionately benefitting Republican candidates, told USA Today’s Laura Bischoff that she plans to work to pass this referendum. Voter initiatives in five states addressed the question of whether to forbid or include abortion as a constitutional right. Kentucky and Kansas rejected the anti-abortion measure by 52.3% and 59% respectively. Michigan voters approved the pro-abortion measure by 56.65%.

Ohio School Board

The composition of the Ohio School Board has become a hot issue since the controversy over the Board’s 2020 anti-racism resolution and its decision to postpone a vote on a resolution opposing LGBTQ+ protections. The anti-racism resolution, passed following the murder of George Floyd, called for teachers to participate in training to help them understand implicit bias. The Ohio Legislature pressured two appointed members who supported the anti-racism resolution to resign last year. The board then repealed the anti-racism resolution in December, 2021. School board resolutions need to be passed by a supermajority. If SB 178 passes, the only powers left to the Board would be choosing the state superintendent, licensing teachers, handling disciplinary issues, and making school territory transfer decisions.

Changing Ohio’s voting rules

HB 294 would change Ohio’s voting rules, eliminating early voting on the Monday before the election and requiring voters to apply online for absentee ballots. It had a third hearing on Nov. 17.  This bill is opposed by the League of Women Voters Ohio.  This article shows the changes it would make to Ohio voting rules. It looks to me as if the current version of the bill has dropped some of the more burdensome elements of previous versions, which would have restricted drop box use to only 10 days and required voters to present a picture ID.

Bills to hold sexual predators of children accountable

Rebecca Surendorff of Ascension and Holy Trinity, Wyoming, has been working tirelessly with Ohioans for Child Protection, a statewide coalition to improve Ohio’s extraordinarily weak statute of limitations (SOL) laws, a situation which make it hard for victims of child sexual abuse to hold perpetrators accountable and to deter this crime. Here is her update on bills currently in the Ohio State House (which will die if not passed by the end of the year. She also provides background resources.

HB 105 Erin’s Law: Sponsors Rep. Scott Lipps and Rep. Brigid Kelly

  • Requires age-appropriate personal body safety education
  • Passed in 37 states (www.erinslaw.org)
  • Passed the House 6/10/2021
  • Currently in the Senate Education Committee
  • Committee Chair Senator Andrew Brenner 614-466-8086

HB 266 The Hidden Predator Act (Statute of Limitations – SOL – Reform): Sponsors Rep. Tavia Galonski and Rep. Jessica Miranda

  • Eliminates the criminal statute of limitations for rape, extends the civil SOL for child sex abuse, opens a civil look back window to handle cases that are beyond their criminal SOL.
  • Introduced 4/21/2021
  • Currently in the House Criminal Justice Committee without a scheduled hearing
  • Committee Chair Rep Jeff LaRe 614-466-8100

Further information on SOL Reform: Child USA www.childusa.org
Local Advocacy: Ohioans For Child Protection (follow on Facebook)

Potential Resources and Legislation
National Campaign www.enoughabuse.org
Parents Against Child Sex Abuse www.paxa.online
Stop Educator Sexual Abuse Misconduct and Exploitation (SESAME) www.sesamenet.org
Ohio Alliance To End Sexual Violence www.oaesv.org
Rainn.org
Darkness to Light www.d2l.org

Faith’s Law (Pass the Trash prevention) was passed in Illinois as HB 1975 (www.ilga.gov)
This bill, if drafted for Ohio, could criminalize grooming a child for sexual abuse, require mandated reporters to report grooming, update language pertaining to sexual misconduct in schools, require employee training related to child abuse and educator ethics

Grooming is befriending and establishing a relationship with a child, and sometimes the child’s family, in order to manipulate and exploit the child with intention of sexual abuse. Offenders often seek both access and authority roles over minors.

Examples of Ohio Cases of child sexual abuse

  • John Austin Hopkins abused 28 first graders at Clearcreek Elementary School in Springboro, Ohio
  • Fr. Geoff Drew was convicted of 9 counts of child rape stemming from his time as a teacher at St. Jude Elementary in Hamilton County. His last position was pastor with superintendent-like authority at St. Ignatius in Cincinnati

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