Today is the first anniversary of the killing of George Floyd. Like many other state legislatures across the country, Ohio’s is considering several bills creating or increasing criminal or civil penalties for protesters (see more, below). This week’s update lists a number of bills on issues of humanitarian concern to the Episcopal Church, including the death penalty, voter access and fairness, and gun safety. We will keep you posted of hearings.

Opportunity

Virtual Advocacy and Lobbying Training by the Women’s Fund of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation

First of a five-part series over the summer and fall, Wednesday, June 2, noon-1:30 p.m. This is free and open to all, especially organizations dedicated to serving Black women. The first session is The Basics.  Registration covers all five, but you can choose any or all that fit your interests. Register here: https://www.gcfdn.org/events/advocacy-lobbying-series/

Bills on priority issues for the Episcopal Church

Death penalty

Ohio SB 103 to eliminate the death penalty.  Advocacy for this bill is a top priority of the Ohio Council of Churches.

Voter access

This week, National Public Radio had two stories on All Things Considered about the speed at which state legislatures are passing bills to restrict voting access and to add criminal and civil penalties that add real risk to organizations – including churches – that help to organize protests and rallies as an expression of First Amendment rights to free speech and freedom of assembly.

Ohio’s legislature has jumped on that bandwagon. On voting, Rep. Bill Seitz (R, Cincinnati) introduced HB 294 last week. His bill reduces the days requesting absentee ballots and for early voting, restricts drop boxes to one location per county (the board of elections), stiffens voter ID requirements, and eliminates voters’ ability to correct minor errors on mail-in ballots.

Restricting right to protest

Four bills – HB 22, HB 109, SB 16, and SB 41, add or increase criminal or civil penalties for participants protests or rallies.  These have all been introduced, but hearings have not yet been held.

Redistricting

Rep. Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo) has just introduced HB 313 to ensure transparency by specifying public records and hearings to be held during the new constitutionally-mandated rules for drawing Ohio’s state and congressional districts.

Gun safety

HB 262, sponsored by Rep. Jessica Miranda (D-Forest Park) and Rep. Brigid Kelly (D-Cincinnati), seeks to protect children by incentivizing safe gun storage through creating an income tax credit for purchasing firearms safety storage units. The bill prohibits negligent storage of a firearm and provides criminal penalties if a child gains access to an improperly stored firearm.

Renewable energy

New bills impeding renewable energy continue to advance. As this eNews went to press, the Senate’s Energy and Public Utilities Committee was poised to vote on Sub SB 52, which creates new hurdles to utility-scale wind and solar farms – obstacles not faced by fossil fuel generation.  I submitted testimony on this bill and will keep you posted.


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.