A Year in Review: Senate Minority Leader Nickie J. Antonio Legislative Wrap-up

J:\COMMUNICATIONS\Photos\Antonio\Approved Photos\Antonio_Session06212023-3.jpg

In January, I was sworn into the 135th General Assembly as the new Ohio Senate Minority Leader. Since then, it’s been a whirlwind of both challenges and accomplishments, and I want to take a moment to thank all of my constituents and Ohioans for working together to get things done. Below is a wrap-up of some of the great things we’ve achieved this year.

In February, I introduced Senate Bill 57, a bill to designate the month of May as Stroke Awareness Month, as well as Senate Bill 69 to designate the week including March 22nd as Ohio Doula Awareness Week. Both of these bills have been referred to the Senate Health Committee.

In March, Senator Nathan Manning (R-North Ridgeville) and I introduced Senate Bill 100, a bill to prohibit the installation of tracking devices or apps without consent. This bill passed the Senate in June and is now awaiting its second hearing in the House Criminal Justice Committee. In the same month, I introduced Senate Bill 101 with Senator Steve Huffman (R-Tipp City) which would abolish the death penalty and replace it with life without parole. Senate Bill 101 has had two hearings, with 97 submissions of proponent testimony in November. 

In April, the $13.5 billion two-year transportation budget was finalized. Serving as the ranking member of the Senate Transportation Committee, I worked tirelessly with Chair Stephanie Kunze and several other senators on this bill to implement a series of changes aimed at making Ohio a safer place to live and to advance businesses. This bipartisan budget came directly after the devastating East Palestine train derailment and made clear the need to regulate railroad operations in Ohio further. 

In May, the Ohio Senate Select Committee on Rail Safety was in full swing, as we met to hear testimony from the EPA and other institutions in addition to producing recommendations to Governor DeWine and President Biden in order to hold Norfolk Southern accountable. At the same time, Ohio’s two-year operating budget was at its height. My office held countless budget meetings with advocacy groups and organizations requesting money from the General Revenue Fund (GRF). At the end of the month, we were able to submit our final amendments to House Bill 33 for consideration. 

In June, I introduced the Ohio Fairness Act (Senate Bill 132), alongside Representative Michael J. Skindell (D-Lakewood), who introduced companion legislation in the House. This bill would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. I have introduced this piece of legislation every year since I was elected. Not only is this bill a clear statement on non-discrimination, equal opportunity and inclusivity, but it also is crucial for attracting business investments to Ohio and growing its economy.

In July, Ohio’s operating budget for fiscal years 2024-2025 was signed by the governor. This budget had some elements in it that hurt everyday Ohioans and rewarded the wealthy, along with some good things.  House Bill 33 created universal school subsidies, slashed nearly $1 billion from Medicaid, and cut taxes for the benefit of Ohio’s wealthiest residents. Additionally, it contained a number of controversial policy provisions, including Senate Bill 1 which transferred most powers of the elected state Board of Education, to a new executive agency (DEW), as well as Senate Bill 117 to create new centers for “conservative indoctrination” at five state universities. Though portions of the budget were abysmal, there were positive highlights worthy of recognition including: increased funding for infant vitality, expanded access to greater support for childcare, $3 million in support for behavioral healthcare for children, removed barriers to access to SNAP, $50 million in support for vulnerable multi-system youth and $5 million to provide free period products in Ohio schools.

In August, we collectively defeated Issue 1, a tremendous victory for all Ohioans. This Issue was a despicable attempt by the GOP to engage in misinformation and keep the Republican supermajority and cruel policies in Ohio. However, Ohioans saw through this attempt and voted to protect one person, one vote in Ohio.

In September, I began serving as the co-chair for the Ohio Redistricting Commission alongside House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington). The process to the final map was anything but easy. The Redistricting Commission was originally delayed through Republican infighting, and even after the Republican co-chairs were chosen, there was still dysfunction and Republican attempts to propose unconstitutional maps. This process only made it resoundingly clear that the redistricting process does not belong in the hands of politicians. It deserves to be in the hands of citizens and done in an objective, independent process. 

In October, early voting for Issues 1 and 2 began. Issue 1 enshrined reproductive rights into the Ohio Constitution, by guaranteeing the right to abortion and protecting the right to other reproductive health care such as contraception, fertility treatment, miscarriage care and the right to continue a pregnancy. Issue 2 legalized adult-use recreational marijuana. 

In November, Ohioans voted to protect reproductive rights in addition to legalizing recreational marijuana. This was a major victory for the fundamental right to self-determination for women and their families in Ohio while setting the stage for similar wins across the country. By codifying reproductive rights in our constitution, we have ensured that Ohioans will have access to safe, reproductive health care options making their own personal, private decisions without government interference.

In December, the will of the voters was once again challenged and put in question after Republicans inserted language into House Bill 86 that would propose extreme changes to Issue 2. However, after a long, deliberative bipartisan process, the Senate agreed on the final version of House Bill 86.  In the middle of the month, the Government Oversight Committee held countless hearings on House Bill 68, a bill that would ban gender-affirming care for minors, deny parental rights and ban trans student-athletes from participating in sports. I urged my colleagues to vote “no” on this bill. Ohio voters have repeatedly told us that they don’t want the government involved in their personal health care decisions. Over 800 Ohioans have pleaded with the legislature to not pass this bill. House Bill 68 now awaits the governor’s signature. Wrapping up the month of December, Senator Hearcel F. Craig (D-Columbus), Senator Vernon Sykes (D-Akron) and I introduced a new package of legislation to prevent gun-related deaths and violence in Ohio. Senate Bill 187 would harmonize state and federal law by prohibiting individuals with a domestic violence conviction from possessing a firearm. Although it is already illegal under federal law for such individuals to possess a firearm, gaps in Ohio law subvert the federal statute.

Though this year was packed full of challenges and meaningful accomplishments, I’m honored to serve and will continue to serve Ohioans and Senate District 23 into 2024. I thank all of you for all the support and advocacy you have brought to this work!

Leave a Reply