135th OGA (2023-2024)
The ACLU of Ohio is committed to advocating for a criminal legal system free from discriminatory racial disparities and eliminating a two-tiered system of justice which treats those most vulnerable in our society more harshly than those with resources. This system criminalizes poverty and devastates Black and Brown communities. We believe in “Smart Justice” and are working to combat racism in our criminal legal system and decarcerate prisons and jails across Ohio while making it easier for formerly incarcerated people to re-enter their communities.
- We continue to push for smart bail reform policies. While comprehensive reform did not pass during last session, a Bail Reform Task Force was created through an amendment to another bill. This Task Force will receive, study, and report on pre-trial populations across Ohio jails. We will push to ensure the data collection is conducted in the most meaningful way possible while pursuing common sense pretrial liberty reforms.
- Additionally, we continue to advocate for death penalty abolition as it is an expensive, ineffective, racist, and arbitrary system that puts innocent lives at risk. The ACLU of Ohio is fighting to abolish the death penalty in Ohio along with Ohioans to Stop Executions, Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center and a broad group of partners from faith leaders to conservative allies and everyone in-between. This session one bill has been introduced so far (Senate Bill 101) to repeal Ohio's death penalty. SB 101 has strong bipartisan support, demonstrating how important repeal is to both sides of the aisle. Plus, Ohioans resoundingly support this effort. 59% support replacing the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole. It is time Ohio end the death penalty once and for all.
- This session we are also committed to advancing community reentry by working to eliminate barriers – legal or otherwise – that serve no purpose toward public good. One-in-six Ohioans have a criminal record. After completing their sentence, these individuals face tremendous difficulty finding employment, housing, and other vital resources needed to live a productive and stable life. In some cases, the barriers (aka collateral sanctions) are legally imposed by a court of law or government agency. Ohio has more than 850 collateral sanctions ranging from driver's license suspension to bars on certain employment and professional licensure. These sanctions create lasting and damaging limitations on convicted persons and many bear no rational relationship to the offense. Whether imposed by law or by institutional practice these barriers increase recidivism rates and perpetuate systems of poverty and incarceration that weaken our communities. We are currently tracking two re-entry related bills: House Bill 29 (driver’s license suspensions); Senate Bill 37 (driver’s license suspensions – drug offenses).
The crisis of mass incarceration did not happen on its own; fear-based and racially motivated policies created it.
Protecting Democracy & Voting Rights
Democracy is strongest when it includes us all. The ACLU of Ohio is committed to making voting more accessible, secure, and fair for all Ohioans. Unfortunately, this legislative session is ripe with attacks on direct democracy. House Joint Resolution 1 and Senate Joint Resolution 2 are similar, but not (yet) identical, pieces of legislation that would dramatically change the citizen-led ballot initiative process and weaken Ohio voters’ power at the polls. Both measures would increase the threshold for citizen-led initiatives to become law from 50% + 1 to a supermajority of 60% among other things. HJR 1 would also
- Eliminate the ten-day cure period to gather additional signatures for an initiative petition proposing a constitutional amendment; and
- Requires an initiative petition proposing an amendment to the Constitution to have petitions bearing the signatures of at least 5% of the electors of each county in the state, instead of half of the counties.
We are working alongside a variety of coalition to stop these joint resolutions from becoming law in Ohio. Democracy is on the line!
Numerous states have implemented comprehensive non-discrimination laws to protect LGBTQ individuals from discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations. Unfortunately, in Ohio, non-discrimination bills have been introduced and stalled every year for more than a decade. That means many LGBTQ Ohioans can still get married on Sunday, lose their housing on Monday, be denied employment on Tuesday, and be denied access to public space on Wednesday. It's time for this to end. We are hopeful that Ohio lawmakers will again introduce the Ohio Fairness Act to extend basic statewide protections to LGBTQ Ohioans by adding sexual orientation and gender identity into Ohio's non-discrimination laws.
Unfortunately, while we wait for positive legislation to be introduced, we are already combatting two regressive anti-trans bills. House Bill 6 would ban trans girls and women from playing on sports teams that match their gender identities. Transgender girls and women deserve the opportunity to build community in sports – not be ostracized. House Bill 68 would ban critical, gender-affirming healthcare for minors, while further stigmatizing the transgender and non-binary community and their needs. Important medical decisions should remain between youths, their families, and medical providers – not our politicians. This harmful legislation also negatively impacts physicians by threatening to remove the licenses of those who provide gender-affirming care and opening the door for civil lawsuits. On top of that, HB 68 places burdensome requirements on mental health professionals to report private information about their patients. We are working to combat these regressive bills alongside our partners Equality Ohio, Trans Ohio and the Human Rights Campaign.
Watch our 2021 Legislative Outreach Training video series below:
The entire playlist of training videos can be found on the ACLU of Ohio YouTube channel.
For a look at our historic legislative involvement, please visit the legislative archive page.