Democratic Ohio Rep. Casey Weinstein of Hudson will introduce legislation this week to establish a hate crimes unit in the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost appears open to the measure, Weinstein told the Cleveland Jewish News May 5.
Weinstein, who is co-sponsoring the bill with Rep. Adam Miller, D-Columbus, said his proposed legislation would provide the resources and focus necessary to fight hate crimes effectively, including antisemitism and anti-Asian attacks. He is working with advocates to gain Yost’s backing and believes the attorney general is supportive of the proposal. Weinstein and Miller are also working this week to gain bipartisan House support.
Development of a special unit and funding to support it would help increase hate crime reporting, investigations and prosecution of these crimes, and help Ohio become a leader in fighting hate crimes, Weinstein said, adding that only New York, New Jersey and California have similar programs.
“I think this is something Ohio can send a strong message on,” Weinstein said. “That is a priority for us. We can be one of the first of the leading states to focus on a deterrent and putting resources behind the deterrence and prevention and prosecution of hate crimes.”
Weinstein and Miller are also working with the Legislative Service Commission to draft the bill’s language.
Weinstein said he was prompted to develop the legislation by the Anti-Defamation League’s recent report, which found antisemitic incidents in Ohio reached an all-time high in 2020. The ADL reported 43 antisemitic incidents in 2020 – 72% higher than the 25 incidents in 2019 – and a record high for the state.
“I anecdotally have felt like we’ve got an increasing issue here in hate crimes against Jews, against cross-protected classes,” he said.
Howie Beigelman, executive director of Ohio Jewish Communities in Columbus, said he believes that Weinstein is on the right track with the legislation.
“Giving the AG’s Civil Rights Section a dedicated unit to take on hate sends a powerful message,” he said. “Making sure there’s the right prosecutorial tools and proper support for law enforcement responding to and investigating incidents can only help in this fight.”