Week in Review > Week in Review 6-5-23Posted by Paul Imhoff on June 04th, 2023
Operators of public accommodations can legally restrict the use of restrooms, changing rooms and locker rooms to a single sex, according to an official opinion from Attorney General Dave Yost. “[A] policy limiting bathrooms, changing rooms and locker rooms to a single sex does not ‘deny’ anyone access to public accommodations, and thus does not violate R.C. 4112.02(G),” Yost said, responding to an opinion request from Greene County Prosecutor David Hayes. “I do not wish to diminish the reality that some transgender individuals may feel uncomfortable or disrespected if made to abide by such policies. But in this context, as in so many other legal contexts, the law does not protect subjective preferences,” Yost said. “Some may consider this equal access right insufficient to protect the interests of our transgender citizens. But only the Legislature can broaden the statutory right — I cannot make the statute confer something more than the equal access the statutory text guarantees.”
Older Americans Month in May celebrated the achievements and longevity of the state’s elders, but just as important, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost says, is it reinforced the collective responsibility to protect their dignity and keep them safe as they age. “Not only does my office go after those who neglect, steal and abuse older Ohioans,” Yost said, “but we also work hard to help older adults who go missing return home safely to loved ones.” Key to the latter efforts, according to Yost, is the Endangered Missing Adult Alert program, which is administered by the attorney general’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI). Using statewide emergency alerts, BCI works with local law enforcement agencies to help find endangered older Ohioans who are reported missing. In many cases, the missing adults have dementia or other health challenges and could be in danger.
AUDITOR OF STATE
Auditor of State Keith Faber Wednesday supported legislation that would increase the reporting requirements for government officials when it comes to waste, fraud and abuse. Faber, testifying before the Senate Government Oversight Committee, said that, while existing law covers many of the areas addressed in SB91 (Schaffer), it would hopefully get information to his office sooner. He noted that the sooner his office is made aware of fraud, the better chance they have to recover any lost funds, but the longer it takes to be reported, those funds will be harder to recover.
A proposed reproductive and abortion rights amendment is a single constitutional amendment and the Ohio Ballot Board did not abuse its discretion in determining it as so, the Ohio Supreme Court unanimously ruled Thursday, rejecting a lawsuit that sought to have it divided into multiple issues.
Cincinnati Right to Life members John Giroux and Margaret DeBlase filed the lawsuit in March, arguing that the Ohio Ballot Board had abused its discretion by holding no discussion and debate as to whether to approve the measure as one issue and for failing to recognize that abortion is an “inherently different” and “unique act” compared to other reproductive rights. In its mandamus opinion, joined by Justices Michael Donnelly, Melody Stewart and Jennifer Brunner, the Court referred back to its precedent opinion in Ohio Liberty Council v. Brunner, where it held that a legislative proposal consists of one amendment to the Constitution if each of its subjects relates to some general purpose or object. The Court said the argument on abortion is not consistent with the Ohio Liberty Council standard.
The Senate version of biennial budget bill HB33 (Edwards) is expected to be introduced Tuesday, June 6 according to Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima), with a floor vote held by Thursday, June 15. Huffman told reporters passing the budget on that date should give lawmakers plenty of time to hammer out differences before sending the bill to the governor by the end of the month.
Meanwhile, Huffman maintains his skepticism about the sustainability of the Cupp-Patterson school funding formula and argues a forthcoming Senate version of the budget, HB33 (Edwards), will provide a predictable and more sustainable framework. In an interview with Hannah News, he also expressed doubt about enacting totally universal voucher eligibility, saying he wants the Senate budget to focus on helping more kids, particularly those who don’t have other choices. “This formula isn’t any more predictable than it was before. Because in four years, the formula will require that a large number of school districts go off the guarantee,” Huffman said. “It’s even more unsustainable than I thought it was two years ago.”
Teachers and parents urged senators to follow the House’s lead in using the budget bill to repeal the retention mandate from Ohio’s third grade reading law, among many other requests the Senate Finance Committee heard during a lengthy meeting Wednesday.
Rather than spend time fulfilling the Senate’s request to survey schools on how much they’re spending on litigation challenging the constitutionality of vouchers, Auditor Keith Faber should look into charter schools’ spending to fight union drives, the Ohio Federation of Teachers (OFT) said Thursday in a letter to the auditor. Faber recently sent a survey to Ohio school districts at the request of Senate Republicans to gather information on schools’ spending in support of the Vouchers Hurt Ohio coalition’s litigation on EdChoice. Melissa Cropper, president of OFT, wrote in the letter to Faber Thursday that OFT believes costs of funding litigation are warranted, but suggested spending on consultants and communications to prevent charter school employees from unionizing is more suspect.
Amid another legislative debate on whether to keep Ohio’s decade-old third grade reading retention law, the business coalition Ohio Excels is touting new research from the Ohio Education Research Center on the positive effects of retention on students’ later performance. Ohio Excels is a group of business leaders focused on education and workforce issues. The Ohio Education Research Center brings together researchers from Ohio universities and research organizations to study education-related topics. “Retention leads to, on average, retained students within a specific bandwidth around the cutoff scoring between eight to 44 scale score points higher in fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh grades reading and mathematics assessments than students who were not retained but were within the same bandwidth around the cutoff score. The positive impacts of retention on performance in the fourth, fifth and sixth grades in both subjects are stronger than in the seventh grade,” the research report states.
Three Ohio high school seniors are among 161 students recognized as U.S. Presidential Scholars for 2023. The program is meant to identify the most distinguished high school seniors in the nation, and the designation recognizes achievement in academics, the arts or career-technical education. The three Ohioans are Pranav Sompalle of Mayfield High School; Sanjana M. Velu of William Mason High School; and Jay G. Patel of Butler Tech Bioscience Center.
The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) has awarded five Ohio teachers with the annual Teachers of Ohio Representing Character and Heart, or TORCH, recognition. Jonathan Juravich, the 2018 Ohio Teacher of the Year, presented the awards on behalf of ODE at surprise meetings and assemblies at the teachers’ schools. The 2023 TORCH recipients are the following:
– Mary Miller, Leader in Me teacher at Belpre Elementary School in Belpre.
– Carrie Burnworth, music teacher at Mt. Pleasant Elementary School in Lancaster.
– Denise Robertson, French and humanities teacher at Tippecanoe High School in Tipp City.
– Bryan Trego, social studies teacher at Botkins High School in Botkins.
– Kathy Patron, speech, debate and communications teacher at Perry High School in Massillon.
The group challenging the validity of the Tuesday, Aug. 8 special election argued to the Ohio Supreme Court that the election is unlawful because it violates unambiguous provisions of the Ohio Revised Code, which only allow elections on constitutional amendments in November, May, or March. One Person One Vote, the Issue 1 opposition group that filed the lawsuit along with three Ohio voters challenging the election, filed a brief Thursday in response to the defendants’ arguments that election statutes cannot override powers conferred to lawmakers in the Ohio Constitution. The brief urges the Ohio Supreme Court to declare the election illegal, mandate that Secretary of State Frank LaRose remove it from the August ballot, rescind the directive authorizing county boards to proceed with the election, and instruct the boards that the election should not go forward. The response brief argues that the relevant sections of the Ohio Revised Code that only authorize constitutional amendments in November, May, or March, are not unconstitutional, but are the means by which the General Assembly has prescribed when elections on constitutional amendments may be held, and cannot be superseded by a mere joint resolution like SJR2 (McColley-Gavarone).
The state will take a further step away from the normalization of virtual court proceedings proposed by former Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor’s iCOURT if the General Assembly allows the Ohio Supreme Court’s annual rules package to take effect as is on Saturday, July 1. Changes to the Rules of Practice and Procedure also strip prosecutorial input on the wisdom of virtual arraignments and remove an original amendment that would have allowed defendants to request a new trial based on “relevant and admissible” evidence not previously heard in their case. The rules omnibus now before the Legislature not only eliminates a court’s ability to order remote proceeding sua sponte — independent of parties or lawyers’ wishes — but also allows judges to override parties’ mutual agreement to virtual proceedings.
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