Legislative Watch – November 5, 2021

OEA Continues to Oppose House Bill 99 – Training Requirements for Armed School Staff

House Bill 99, sponsored by Representative Thomas Hall (R-Madison Township), would exempt a “person authorized to go armed within a school safety zone” from satisfactorily completing an approved basic peace officer training program. This would reverse the 2021 Ohio Supreme Court ruling on Gabbard v. Madison Local School District Board of Education that required personnel entering a school to go through peace officer training.

In October 2021, a substitute bill was introduced. The change represents marginal improvement to the original version of the bill. OEA is pleased that the measure requires the Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission (OPOTC) to create a training program for people to carry guns in schools. However, OEA remains concerned and opposed to the training hour requirements in the bill. The new bill version would prescribe state training requirements at a maximum of 20 hours of initial training and 4 additional hours to be completed annually. OEA believes this level of firearms training remains inadequate and will ultimately jeopardize the safety of students and staff. Additionally, the measure requires a board of education or governing body of a school to notify the public that they have authorized one or more persons to go armed within a school of the board or governing body. However, the bill does not expressly state how often the governing body should notify the public, nor does it clarify if school districts who have already authorized this policy are required to notify the public. OEA has requested that this provision be amended to require annual notification to the public, including notification from school districts who have already authorized personnel to carry guns in schools, and post these notifications on the district’s website.

The bill is currently pending in the House Criminal Justice Committee.

Republicans Unveil Proposed Congressional Maps

Despite a statewide ballot issue that enshrined a Constitutional amendment aimed at ending gerrymandering, Republican leaders in the Ohio General Assembly have introduced new Congressional maps heavily tilted in their party’s favor. The House and Senate Republicans introduced separate plans this week that would each likely result in 13 of 15 Congressional districts being represented by Republicans. Ohio currently has some of the most heavily gerrymandered maps in the country and the new ones would shockingly be even worse.

In 2018, voters overwhelming passed Congressional redistricting reform that called for fair districts and an open, bipartisan process. Thus far, instead we have seen missed deadlines and no cooperation between the two parties. The partisan maps unveiled this week would break Ohio’s largest urban counties among multiple Congressional districts. This dilutes the voice of Ohio communities of color and results in up to 86% of the seats would favor Republicans in spite of that party winning approximately 55% of the statewide vote.

The General Assembly has until the end of November to pass a Congressional redistricting plan. If a plan is passed with a three-fifths majority (including at least one-third of each party) it will go into effect for 10 years. Without bipartisan support, only a simple majority is needed but the districts will only be in effect for four years. Further, those districts must not unduly favor or disfavor any political party.

OEA is part of a coalition advocating for fair maps called Equal Districts. The coalition is holding a Statehouse Lobby Day on Tuesday, November 16. Members who are able to attend are encouraged to do so. More information is available by clicking here.

HB 327 – Anti-Freedom in the Classroom Bill Undermines Honesty in Education

OEA opposes HB 327. Despite some recent changes to the bill, HB 327 continues to prohibit K-12 schools, state institutions of higher education, state agencies, and political subdivisions from teaching, instructing, promoting, or providing professional development in certain “divisive concepts” listed in the bill. OEA also opposes HB 322, a similar bill that is receiving less attention from the Ohio House State and Local Government Committee.

Violations of murky state censorship prohibitions in HB 327 would threaten students with loss of graduation credit, schools with cancellation of state funding, and educators with suspension/revocation of state licenses. HB 327 also threatens financial harm to educators and schools with exposure to uncapped civil liability damages in lawsuits brought by parents alleging violations of state censorship regulations.

Educators and students deserve the freedom to teach and learn without fear of state censorship, intimidation, and punishment. Instead of more state regulations in the classroom, let’s trust educators, administrators, and school board members to do the jobs they were trained and elected to do on behalf of students.

To send an email to your state Representative, click HERE.

For a guide on how to prepare and submit HB 327 opponent testimony to the Ohio House State and Local Government Committee, click HERE.

For a summary of the current version of HB 327 click HERE.