June 26, 2023: This week’s editorials from Ohio newspapers


By The Associated Press

Elyria Chronicle. June 20, 2023.

Editorial: Ohio Senate gets a failing grade for most education changes

Not even the complete freedom from state control that Lorain Schools would gain under the Ohio Senate’s version of the state’s two-year budget is enough to make its approach to education policy worth recommending.

State Sen. Nathan Manning, R-North Ridgeville, deserves credit for adding the provision regarding Lorain Schools to the Senate budget, which passed on a party-line vote Thursday. A different version of the budget already passed the House, which means the two chambers still need to hammer out their differences.

With luck, Manning’s plan will survive those discussions and perhaps even be expanded to include the East Cleveland and Youngstown public school districts, which also were subjected to a disastrous experiment in state control. All three districts are already in the process of extricating themselves from state control.

While the House version of the budget has its problems, it’s not nearly as bad as the Senate version.

Given the power that Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima, wields in Columbus, it’s reasonable to fear he could get his way more often than not during upcoming negotiations between the two chambers. His clout stands in contrast to the weakness of Speaker Jason Stephens, R-Kitts Hill, who must cope with ongoing infighting among House Republicans.

Consider, for example, the state’s private school voucher program, known as EdChoice, which would get a massive expansion under both the House and Senate budgets.

Under the existing program, a family of four earning up to 250 percent of the federal poverty line, or about $75,000, is eligible for vouchers. Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, had proposed raising that threshold to 400 percent of the poverty line, or $111,000, while the House took it up for 450 percent, or $135,000.

The Senate bill goes beyond even the House’s generosity. It would expand voucher eligibility to all Ohio students, although those coming from families earning more than 450 percent of the federal poverty line would receive reduced assistance on a sliding scale based on their income.

The EdChoice program, as currently constituted, is expected to cost Ohio taxpayers roughly $350 million this year.

A universal voucher program could cause the costs to soar to $1 billion per year. Those taxpayer dollars would flow to private schools, which don’t have to adhere to the same education standards as public schools do.

Meanwhile, the Senate would continue to build upon an improved formula for funding public schools, pushing the two-year figure to $1.3 billion, although that’s about $541 million less than the House included in its version of the budget.

The Senate also removed a House provision that would have expanded a school lunch program to make it free for qualifying students.

Then there are the ill-conceived stand-alone bills aimed at altering education in Ohio for the worse that Senate Republicans folded into the budget.

For example, the budget now includes a measure that would strip most of the power from the State Board of Education and give it to a new cabinet-level official appointed by the governor to oversee a revamped and renamed Ohio Department of Education and Workforce.

This would concentrate far too much power over K-12 education policy in the hands of one elected official, the governor — as it is, 11 of the 19 state board members are elected while the rest are appointed by the governor — and could lead to drastic alterations in education standards. We’ve seen the damage a motivated ideologue can do to education policy in other red states. (We’re looking at you, Florida.)

Another former stand-alone bill that’s now part of the Senate budget would ban most mandatory training on diversity, equity and inclusion and restrict how public colleges and universities handle “controversial” subjects, such abortion, marriage and climate change.

It also would allow instructors to be punished if their classrooms weren’t “free from bias,” which these days usually means free from things conservatives don’t like. It also would ban college professors from striking during contract negotiations.

Those measures are clearly designed to own liberals (and satisfy conservatives) at the expense of the academic freedom that is so necessary in college and university settings.

Manning was one of three Republicans to vote against the bill affecting public colleges and universities before it was merged with the budget, but he told us his concerns about that provision were outweighed by what he viewed, on balance, as a “good, fiscally responsible budget.”

That’s not how we would describe it. Granted, putting policy changes that have nothing to do with the state’s finances into the budget can be both a blessing and a curse.

Unfortunately, the Senate’s version is more of the latter.


Youngstown Vindicator. June 23, 2023.

Editorial: Legislators thumb noses at Ohioans with proposed new limit to openness

State senators don’t seem to be worried about appearances as they sneak into their version of the Ohio budget a provision that specifies the OneOhio Recovery Foundation is not a state entity — and therefore is exempt from complying with public records requests, according to a report by the Ohio Capital Journal.

Just last month the Ohio Supreme Court ordered OneOhio to comply with a request for its records, after it tried to avoid doing so. Justices understood the foundation set up to distribute money that local and state government entities are receiving from opioid settlements was functionally a public body. The Ohio Supreme Court considered whether providing public access to records serves the policy of governmental openness.

“In this case, allowing public access to the Foundation’s records serves that policy,” the Court said.

Yet some state senators appear to believe a) they know better than the Ohio Supreme Court, and b) there is reason for OneOhio to keep its actions hidden from the public.

It is difficult not to wonder why those who inserted protective language into the state Senate version of the budget want to keep the public in the dark about how OneOhio will handle more than $1 billion.

Dennis Cauchon, president of Harm Reduction Ohio, and the person whose public records request sparked the court ruling, is right to call the loss of public oversight of OneOhio a “petri dish for corruption,” particularly as OneOhio spokeswoman Connie Luck reports the group is so pleased with the possibility of being able to continue to operate in the dark.

“My concern early on was that it would be a nudge or a wink, but now it doesn’t have to be a nudge or a wink. You can just do it. It’s unambiguously legal,” Cauchon said, according to the Capital Journal. “And there’s no way for anyone to find out, because you have no right to know who got any contract, who got how much money, how the decision was made. It’s a beautiful design if that’s your goal.”

State House and Senate negotiators must take a look at what motivated the inclusion of such a nasty little thumbing of the nose to Ohioans, and then fulfill their responsibility to remove it.


Toledo Blade. June 24, 2023.

Editorial: Replace speaker, Dems

It is outrageous that Ohio utility ratepayers continue to subsidize coal-fired plants owned by American Electric Power, Duke Energy, and AES Ohio as part of the bribery conspiracy to bail out FirstEnergy nuclear plants.

The coal plant subsidies were part of former House Speaker Larry Householder’s grand plan to win support for House Bill 6 by eliminating opposition from the other Ohio utilities. After the settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice by FirstEnergy admitting payment of $61 million in bribes to pass the bailout legislation, the nuclear plant subsidies were repealed.

Incredibly, thanks to legislative laxity, the coal plants still have their special deal, including an AEP plant in Indiana. Thanks to Ohio House Speaker Jason Stephens, this affront to honest government continues.

The GOP representative elevated to power by House Democrats has shelved a Democrat-sponsored bill to eliminate the coal plant subsidies. Mr. Stephens has one of the coal plants in his district, and he’s using his power over the legislative agenda to make the bill disappear from the House Public Utilities Committee. That protects $700 million Ohioans will pay the utilities.

It is evidence we had it right when slamming House Democrats for compounding their error of providing Larry Householder with the Speaker’s gavel by putting Mr. Stephens in power (“Editorial: D’s pick wrong speaker,” Jan 5).

Democrats opposed Toledo-area Republican Derek Merrin, the GOP caucus selection for Speaker, because he was committed to putting State Issue 1 on the ballot for an August special election. Speaker Stephens’ claimed opposition to the special election now looks more like a ruse than a principled position and reveals House Democrats as hapless fools.

The bill to repeal corrupt coal subsidies has two Democratic sponsors and 31 co-sponsors, including Mr. Merrin. The Monclova Township Republican has his own scandal response: an ethics reform bill he pledged to make House Bill 1 as Speaker, ignored, thanks to the Democrats leadership vote.

House Democrats made Jason Stephens Speaker, and they can unmake him. Only 22 Republicans voted for Mr. Stephens as Speaker. Assuming House Democrats can count, they should immediately use the power of their 32 votes and insert Mr. Merrin into the Speaker’s post and earn political credit for reviving stalled reform in the wake of Ohio’s Statehouse RICO scandal.


Cleveland Plain Dealer. June 25, 2023.

Editorial: Statehouse legislators need to stop making ratepayers subsidize costly coal-burning power plants

Using a procedural maneuver, Republican leaders in the Ohio House of Representatives last week stalled a bill to stop electric utilities from forcing Ohio consumers to bail out two costly coal-burning power plants, one of them in Indiana.

This parliamentary sleight of hand needs to be reversed.

According to the Office of Consumers’ Counsel, which represents residential utility ratepayers, Ohio electricity customers have so far paid almost $164 million in subsidies for the two historically money-losing generating stations.

The Ohio coal-burning plant, Kyger Creek, is in Cheshire, Gallia County, in the district of Republican House Speaker Jason Stephens of Kitts Hill. The other coal-burning plant, Clifty Creek, is in southeastern Indiana.

The plants were opened in 1955. Among multiple owners, the single largest is Columbus-based American Electric Power Co. (which fields 14 Statehouse lobbyists.) The two coal-burning plants were built to provide electricity for the federal government’s former Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Southern Ohio, which enriched uranium for use in nuclear weapons.

At issue at the Statehouse is House Bill 120, whose prime sponsors are Democratic Reps. Casey Weinstein of Hudson and Sean Brennan of Parma.

The Weinstein-Brennan bill would end the coal-plant bailout; and refund to Ohio electricity consumers what they’ve paid in subsidies so far; and forbid any revival of the subsidy by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

The subsidies were required by House Bill 6 of 2019, whose aims and passage formed part of the biggest public corruption scandal in Ohio’s 220 years of statehood. As a result of his efforts to pass HB 6, former House Speaker Larry Householder, a Perry County Republican, was convicted on federal charges and will be sentenced Thursday (June 29).

The House’s GOP-ruled Rules and Reference Committee, which Speaker Stephens chairs, at least temporarily stalled a potential House floor vote on the Weinstein-Brennan refund bill.

The Weinstein-Brennan bill had been stuck in the House’s utility friendly Public Utilities Committee since March 22. But the bill’s backers have been circulating a “discharge petition” to free the bill from the committee and send the measure directly to the House floor for an up or down vote.

Then, last Tuesday, with 22 of the required 50 House members’ petition signatures gathered, Stephens and the Rules and Reference panel, which he chairs, pulled the Weinstein-Brennan bill from Public Utilities and consigned it to Rules and Reference.

That will likely slow, for at least 30 days, any further action on repeal.

True, as a consequence of gyrations in fuel markets, Ohio’s coal-plant subsidies have, in the last year, let utilities give Ohio consumers tiny credits on their bills. “For now, customers are getting credit for a few cents per month,” Kathiann Kowalski of Energy News Network reported in October.

Supporters of the subsidy say that’s exactly how the coal-plant subsidy was supposed to work. Historically, though, the plants have been money-losers. So, Kowalski also reported, ratepayer subsidies for the coal plants will resume in July, with charges of 15 or 16 cents a month for AEP, AES Ohio and Duke residential ratepayers, and 4 cents a month for FirstEnergy residential consumers.

There’s no reason to think the thirst for subsidies will change, especially given the plants’ ages; that big electricity customers are increasingly seeking green energy; and that without subsidies, the two Ohio Valley Electric Corp. plants likely would have shut down already — as they should have. The fact is that OVEC’s owners made a bad bet and sought (and got) a bailout when Householder ruled the House.

The Weinstein-Brennan bill deserves a fair vote, and not procedural game-playing by the House’s GOP leaders. The OVEC subsidies violate the very free-market tenets that Statehouse Republicans say they support. Moreover, the OVEC subsidies were folded into HB 6 not because they are good policy but because they likely would gain support from other utilities for a bill that mainly benefited FirstEnergy.

This vestige of HB 6 needs to go.


And it will, if GOP leaders let the House, then the Senate, fairly and freely vote on Weinstein and Brennan’s proposal.

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