During a time in which it can feel like things are winding down, the Ohio General Assembly speeds up. Get ready for a whirlwind.

Lame duck, lame duck, lame duck. You might have heard this term pop up in the last several weeks. So, what exactly is lame duck and how might it affect Ohioans?  

In Ohio, state legislative sessions last two years. This means that every even-year election, Ohioans are subjected to a “lame duck” lightning round to close out that specific general assembly session. Lame duck is a term used to describe the approximately six-week period between Election Day and the start of the new legislative session in January of the following year. During a time in which it can feel like things are winding down, the Ohio General Assembly speeds up. Get ready for a whirlwind.  

Lame duck is the last opportunity for lawmakers to pass legislation before their terms technically ends. Any bill that has not yet passed must be signed into law by the end of the year, otherwise the bill dies and must be reintroduced next term. Sometimes, the legislation has been in the works and is ready to come to a vote. Other times, it can be nefarious, as lawmakers are able to quickly rush through controversial legislation with less attention from the public. For Ohio specifically, the chaos during lame duck is unnecessary. Gerrymandering in our state allowed Republican lawmakers to maintain their supermajorities. Those in power now have plenty of time to do their due diligence and thoughtfully ponder these bills with adequate public input beginning next year. 

Given the tumultuous ride the Ohio General Assembly has taken Ohioans on this session (abortion bans, anti-LGBTQ laws, attacks to free speech, and more), it’s no wonder there are mounting concerns from Ohioans over what lawmakers might do during lame duck this year. (More on that, later.) But, these sessions don’t have to be all bad. In fact, these sessions can yield positive impacts for Ohioans and advance reform that we at the ACLU of Ohio champion.  

Let’s start with the positive.  

Despite the passage of Issue 1, an amendment to enshrine cash bail in the Ohio Constitution, the fight for true bail reform is not over. A bipartisan group of lawmakers developed HB 315, a broadly supported bill that centers public safety and goes a long way to ending wealth-based detention. Over the next several weeks, lawmakers have the opportunity to mitigate the harms of Issue 1, and get Ohio one step closer to a pretrial system that centers justice for all, not just the wealthy.  

Ohio lawmakers also have the opportunity to abolish the death penalty and officially become the 24th state to cut ties with capital punishment. The death penalty is racist, costly, and arbitrary. Additionally, a majority of Ohioans support repeal. Abolishing Ohio’s death penalty has bipartisan support, and members of the OGA can do so easily by passing HB 183.  

On a more somber note, there are several concerning bills that could receive the attention of lawmakers over the next several weeks.  

The first of which is HB 454. HB 454, which already has a lame duck hearing scheduled, is a bill that would ban gender-affirming care for transgender youth in Ohio. This bill would allow politicians to make personal healthcare decisions that should belong to transgender youth, their families, and their doctors. Take action and tell your legislator to reject this bill. Trans people belong in Ohio. 

Next up, abortion. As a result of our litigation earlier this year, S.B. 23, Ohio’s six-week abortion ban, is once again blocked. A judge in the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas granted a preliminary injunction, which blocks the ban indefinitely as litigation continues. This block, however, does not stop anti-abortion legislators from pushing forward another abortion ban. We know that Ohioans overwhelmingly support abortion access, and these bills are far out of step with the will of the majority. We’ll be ready to fight any anti-abortion legislation that might rear its ugly head.   

As lame duck heats up, it is important to remember that the only predictable thing about any lame duck session is that it will be unpredictable. Things move quickly, and while we might think we have an idea of what is coming, anything can happen. Our team will be keeping a close eye on anything and everything moving in the Statehouse and we are ready to fight on all fronts to protect the civil rights and liberties of all Ohioans.