Legislative Watch – March 31, 2023

Take Action Against Proposals to Weaken Voice of Ohio’s Voters

Two proposed constitutional amendments seek to weaken the voice of voters. It’s time to stand up and fight back. House Joint Resolution 1 and Senate Joint Resolution 2 (HJR 1 and SJR 2) would make it much harder to pass citizen-initiated constitutional amendments in our state by requiring a supermajority of 60% of the vote.

Legislators are considering rushing these issues to the ballot with an August special election. We must come together to protect the fundamental right of Ohio voters to decide critical issues at the ballot box. Click here to take action and urge your legislators to oppose HJR 1 and SJR 2.

SJR 2, sponsored by Senators Robert McColley (R- Napoleon) and Theresa Gavarone (R- Bowling Green), received two hearings before the Senate General Government Committee. A similar proposal, HJR 1, has been introduced in the House. Either proposed amendment, if passed by both chambers, would go before Ohio voters. If a majority of voters pass the amendment, all future constitutional amendments would require a 60% majority to pass.

Senators McColley and Gavarone have also introduced Senate Bill 92 which would allow for a special August election to put the statewide ballot issue before voters. Senate Bill 92 also received two hearings this week. The bill appropriates $20 million for the purposes of holding the special election. Just months after the legislature passed a law eliminating August special elections, they are now considering rushing a constitutional amendment to the ballot in August.

The legislature is slated to take a two-week recess and return in mid-April. For an issue to go onto the ballot, it would need to be passed 90 days prior to any election (early May for an August election). Now is the perfect time to contact your legislators and express opposition to these proposals that weaken the voice of Ohio’s voters. Click here to take action today.

Ohio Senate Bill 49: Senate Education Committee Approves Student Religious Expression Days

On March 28, 2023, the Ohio Senate Primary & Secondary Education Committee unanimously passed legislation that would provide K-12 public school students with three excused absences a school year for religious expression days. SB 49 requires that students be provided alternative accommodations for examinations or other academic requirements missed due to a religious expression day absence approved in accordance with the bill.

OEA has been advocating for changes to SB 49 that are beneficial to educators and students. SB 49 is sponsored by Sen. Michele Reynolds (R-Canal Winchester). OEA has an “Interested Party” position on the bill. The next step for SB 49 would be a vote before the full Ohio Senate, which has yet to be scheduled.

The Ohio Senate Primary & Secondary Education Committee, chaired by Sen. Andrew Brenner (R-Delaware), added the following amendments to SB 49 requested by OEA:

  • Requires the school principal, instead of the classroom teacher, to approve religious expression day absence requests.
  • Requires a student’s parent or guardian, instead of the student, to provide written notice for religious expression day accommodation requests.
  • Permits school principals to verify written requests for excused absences by contacting the parent or guardian whose name appears on the written request and to deny requests that a parent or guardian disputes having signed.
  • Requires school principals, upon approval of a parent or guardian’s request for religious expression day absence(s) in accordance with the bill, to require the appropriate classroom teacher(s) to provide alternative academic accommodations for examinations or other academic requirements.
  • Require school districts to annually communicate the district’s policy and general procedure for requesting religious expression day accommodations to parents and guardians in a manner determined by the school district, instead of placement of the notice on all classroom syllabi.

SB 49 also provides that absences approved as student religious expression days shall not be considered unexcused absences under Ohio Revised Code Section 3321.191, a state law that requires parental notification if a student supersedes specified amounts of unexcused student absences.

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