HB 55 is a matter of equity and access – Let’s make the legislative process open to all Ohioans
March 25, 2021
Earlier today, I had the privilege of visiting the Ohio Statehouse, the People’s Ohio, to provide testimony to the House Government Oversight Committee. I drove 20 minutes from my home, parked in the underground garage, and entered the Statehouse through the basement access to go through the required security checks. As I made my way to the hearing’s overflow room, I made note of my ability to navigate the barriers to participate in this very democratic process of making my voice heard in the legislature: transportation, personal mobility, child care, ability to pay for parking, and time. These are barriers that are currently in place for all Ohioans who want to make their voices heard, because the only way a person can speak on a bill is to do so in-person at the Statehouse.
As a child advocate, my employer pays me to go to the statehouse when needed, so I’m not making any personal sacrifices to testify on issues as needed. However, I think about the people that I represent everyday in the work of CDF-Ohio and how we, as an organization, have stated repeatedly the critical nature of centering community voices in policy discussions and decisions.
I think about the mom and dad working low wage jobs with young children in child care and living in Ashtabula who don’t have benefits or can afford to take time off work, who don’t have the flexibility in childcare to stay for extended time if the committee decides to take an extended break, or possibly the room in their budget to pay for gas for the roundtrip drive to Columbus. Yet, don’t they also deserve to be heard? Of course they do and expanding options to Ohioans in how they provide testimony in the General Assembly ensures that we build equity and accessibility into our deliberative process. It’s time to make virtual testimony an option for Ohioans and to make sure they have access to the legislature and can also have their voices heard.