The 16-member Legislative Black Caucus wants to create a permanent 30-member bipartisan committee appointed by the governor, which would undertake a comprehensive study on the contributions African-Americans have made to Ohio and the way the state’s laws and policies have affected them.
Democratic state Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland) says the legislature needs a study like this.
“It will provide an opportunity for people to have some understanding and even put in a lens of empathy," Howse says.
Howse is an African American lawmaker who recently was at odds with House Speaker Ryan Smith over the impact of race in the so called “Stand Your Ground” bill. Howse pointed out the racial makeup of districts represented by supporters of the bill, which at the time would have eliminated the duty to retreat before using lethal force in self-defense. That provision has since been stripped from the bill.
She says lawmakers often don’t understand issues from an African-American point of view. Sponsors know the bill isn’t going to get through the lame-duck session of the legislature, so they say it will be re-introduced after the first of the year after the new General Assembly is seated.