Legislative Watch – June 5, 2020

Senate Bill 319: Second Round of Covid-19 Education Law Changes Proposed

The recently introduced Senate Bill 319 contains additional proposed changes to education law for the 2020-2021 school year in response to the ramifications of COVID-19. A previous package of changes to education law, House Bill 197, was enacted in late March of this year.

Senate Bill 319 is scheduled for a first hearing in the Ohio Senate Education Committee on June 9, 2020.

As introduced, Senate Bill 319 would make the following temporary changes in state law for the 2020-21 school year:

  • Permits furloughing of school employees through June 30, 2021 (OEA opposes)
  • OTES relief measures (OEA supports)
  • Suspends automatic continuing contract if evaluations are incomplete (OEA opposes)
  • High school graduation flexibility (OEA supports)
  • Third grade reading guarantee adjustments (OEA interested party/neutral)
  • Additional payments in fiscal year 2020 or 2021 to certain districts that experience a decrease in taxable value of the district’s utility tangible personal property (OEA supports)
  • Flexibility to provide special education services (OEA supports)
  • On-line school bus driver training (OEA interested party/neutral)

Click here to read the entire OEA bill analysis.

OEA Advocates for Improved Voter Access
On Wednesday, June 3, 2020, OEA Vice President Jeff Wensing testified before the House State and Local Government Committee calling for improved voter access for Ohio’s citizens.  The testimony was regarding House Bill 680.  As introduced, the bill created a contingency for a mail-only election in case of an emergency and prohibited the Secretary of State from mailing absentee voting applications to voters.  The committee removed those harmful provisions from the bill.  However, the bill represents a missed opportunity to make improvements such as the ability for voters to request absentee ballots online and for the Secretary of State to use federal funds to pay for postage on applications and ballots.  You can read OEA’s testimony here.

OEA continues to support measures to ensure that we have free and open elections and making sure Ohio’s citizens have unencumbered access to participate in our democracy. One helpful piece of legislation would be Senate Bill 191, sponsored by Senator Theresa Gavarone (R- Bowling Green) which would allow for online requests of absentee ballots.  This would make the process less time consuming, reduce costs and improve accuracy.  The bill is pending before the Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee.