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Rep. Kent Smith: Black Ohioans Deserve Better

Calls for immediate, sweeping reforms to address racism after weekend protests across Ohio
June 2, 2020
Kent Smith News

COLUMBUS—Rep. Kent Smith (D-Euclid) released a statement today following the weekend’s protests throughout the state:

“President John F. Kennedy once said, ‘Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.’ Over the past seven days, in the midst of a global pandemic, Ohioans of all races were willing to march in peaceful protest to draw attention to the crisis of police brutality.  Those protesters risked their own health to draw attention to this problem and their constitutionally protected actions must be respected (not squashed) and their voices must be heard (not pepper sprayed),” Rep. Smith said.

Following the deaths of Tamir Rice and John Crawford, Governor John Kasich formed The Ohio Task Force on Community-Police Relations in 2014. The Task Force issued its final report April 2015, and the legislature funded several of its key recommendations including a database on use of force and officer-involved shootings, a public awareness campaign, and state-provided assistance with policymaking and manuals.

Republicans, however, have cut this funding each year, and with a month left in the state’s fiscal year, Democrats are urging the Director of Budget and Management to transfer up to $2.2 million to the Statewide Community Police Relations Fund to implement these key recommendations.

“In my three terms in the Ohio General Assembly, I have attempted to advance legislation to protect the most vulnerable and provide additional resources to the most needy.  This is why I have introduced legislation to raise Ohio's minimum wage every term.  This is why I have fought to stop state takeovers of public school districts like the East Cleveland City Schools.  And this is why I am co-sponsoring a resolution to declare racism a public health crisis.   If passed, Ohio would become the first state to adopt this resolution, becoming a model for the nation,” Rep. Smith said.

Democrats have also introduced numerous bills to address inequality and racial disparity issues, but few have seen any movement. Bills include criminal justice reform, equality, gun safety, increasing the minimum wage and prohibiting discrimination in various forms. Additionally, Democrats continue to call for increased diversity and inclusion efforts throughout the state.

In contrast, House Republicans scheduled a hearing this week of chaos and racial unrest for HB 381, so-called stand your ground, a law which has led to the killing of many black and brown people throughout the country.

Additional examples of bills sponsored by House Republicans that adversely impact minority communities this General Assembly limit access to the ballot box (HB 680), threaten prevailing wage (HB 78, HB 663), allow hate speech on college campuses (HB 88), allow concealed weapons to be carried without a license (HB 178), and multiple bills (HB 617, HB 618, HB 649, HB 671, HB 682) that limit the authority of the Governor and the Director of Health to combat COVID-19 – a virus disproportionately affecting minority communities.

“I pray that, in the midst of these turbulent times, my Republican colleagues join with my fellow Democratic members to pass legislation to make black Ohioans’ lives better,” Rep. Smith said.