Smith applauds bill passage protecting pastors, clean lake plan

Staff Report

COLUMBUS — Speaker of the Ohio House Ryan Smith (R-Bidwell) has applauded the passage of Senate Bill 299, or the “Clean Lake 2020 Plan,” and House Bill 36, or the “Ohio Pastor Protection Act,” by the Ohio House of Representatives.

These bills were two of over 30 pieces of legislation voted on by the House recently.

Senate Bill 299, sponsored by State Senator Randy Gardner (R-Bowling Green) and spearheaded in the House by State Representative Steve Arndt (R-Port Clinton), aims to allocate funds to disaster relief in Ohio, and makes critical investments to support and preserve the health of Lake Erie and its tributaries. The legislation provides funding assistance to Ohio’s southern counties that have been devastated by flooding, allowing those communities to further meet the needs of disaster relief efforts and to reach out to struggling residents. It allocates an appropriation of over $7 million for FY 2019 to the Local Disaster Assistance Fund, to be utilized by eligible local governments in meeting the funding match for federal disaster assistance funds.

“I applaud the work put forth by Representative Arndt to carry Senate Bill 299 through the House,” said Smith. “This bill not only helps to ensure that Lake Erie will remain a resource for our state for years to come, but also provides crucial funding and resources to southern Ohioans impacted by severe weather and flooding.”

House Bill 36, sponsored by Rep. Nino Vitale (R-Urbana), seeks to emphasize and uphold religious freedom. It specifies that no ordained or licensed minister or religious society is required to solemnize a marriage or host a marriage ceremony if the marriage does not conform to the minister’s or religious society’s sincerely held religious beliefs. In these instances, the bill removes civil and criminal liabilities for any pastor or religious society that refuses to solemnize such a marriage. In addition, House Bill 36 prohibits the state or a political subdivision from either penalizing or withholding benefits or privileges from a minister or religious society for exercising this freedom.

“Freedom of religion and expression are both important principles guaranteed in the First Amendment to our Constitution, and I commend Representative Vitale’s effort in crafting this important legislation,” said Smith. “House Bill 36 will enable religious clergy to abide by their core beliefs and values without being subject to government interference.”

House Bill 36 now heads to the Ohio Senate for further consideration, and Senate Bill 299, which passed both the House and Senate unanimously, awaits Governor John Kasich’s consideration.

Staff Report