July 10, 2023: This week’s editorials from Ohio newspapers


By The Associated Press

Toledo Blade. July 8, 2023.

Editorial: GOP owns school choice

Reigning Republicans in the Ohio General Assembly have made bold and sweeping changes to elementary and high school education in the newly passed biennial budget that will shape the state’s economic future and the GOP’s political prosperity.

Creation of a universal voucher program and a shift in administrative responsibility from the State Board of Education to the governor are significant moves that have put Republicans on the hot seat to show success in raising the quality of K-12 education in Ohio.

School-choice scholarships will pay $6,165 for students up to the eighth grade and increase to $8,407 for high school students with family income up to $135,000.

The state subsidy declines above that income level, but every family is entitled to some tuition reimbursement from Ohio, and the vast majority of households qualify for the entire amount.

School choice is a viable option for every family and for believers in market-based competition as a spur to universal improvement this is all they could ask for. Proponents of traditional public education contend that the ever-expanding role of vouchers to fund nonsectarian and religious private schools dilutes the resources needed for public schools and flies in the face of the constitutional requirements for common schools.

A lawsuit now in the court system will address the question of whether vouchers that are no longer tethered to conditions related to failing local school performance and poverty violate the state constitution.

Not coincidentally, the expansion of the Ohio EdChoice program has come with the simultaneous increase of nearly $1 billion to keep the Fair School Funding Plan on track to meet the state responsibility to fairly fund public education.

It would be monumentally bad politics and probably unconstitutional to allow universal vouchers to diminish common public schools. Thus, the public schools are experiencing an increase in the state funding portion of their revenue.


Youngstown Vindicator. July 6, 2023.

Editorial: Avoid giving taxpayer-funded credit cards to public workers

We were disappointed to learn recently that the state budget bill, approved last week by the Ohio Legislature and subsequently signed into law by Gov. Mike DeWine, includes a provision that will make it permissible for local government to issue publicly funded credit cards for any employee as elected officials see fit.

We are troubled by this decision and urge our elected officials to use great discretion and, in fact, avoid the practice all together.

Here’s why.

We believe passing out taxpayer-funded credit cards may present opportunities and, yes, even temptations to misuse the credit card on items that are not permissible according to Ohio law or local government policy. When taxpayer-funded credit cards are issued, particularly on the county level, the impetus falls on the county auditor’s office to scrutinize all the expenses charged on county credit cards, which could be difficult to monitor. Frankly, we believe it could get out of control quickly.

Rather, we urge a practice that instead requires employees to use their own credit cards and then seek reimbursement — provided that review and reimbursement is done in a timely manner to avoid accrual of interest or late fees. If that is not possible, then we suggest offering petty cash for expenses that must be justified up front and then immediately reviewed with the cash receipt once the purchase has been made. We believe this type of policy generally invites closer scrutiny of expense reports and discourages overspending on county credit cards.

Indeed, state law will prohibit use of public credit cards for things like late fees, tips.

The recently adopted budget bill specifically requires each county to adopt a policy regarding the use of its credit cards; requires purchases on a county credit card to be for work-related expenses that serve a public purpose; and generally prohibits the use of a county credit card for finance charges, late fees or sales tax unless approved by the board of county commissioners.

In the text of the bill, county commissioners must consult with the county auditor.

The credit card policy discussion already has arisen in recent months in Trumbull County government, as county commissioners worked to create a new rule for workers and officials who might be granted a county credit card. Good. We urge all local government bodies to review their credit card policies and to rethink any consideration or existing practices that allow distribution of taxpayer-funded credit cards.

Overall, we are hopeful that the expenditures submitted by any public employee or official seeking reimbursement are reasonable and justified. Further, we are hopeful that county commissioners and other county officials are able to review this and all expenses in a reasonable timely fashion according to detailed policies that are clear on what is permissible and what is not.

But more than that, we urge elected officials to vote against issuance of credit cards to employees and officials, even if state law now specifies that this action is permissible.


Cleveland Plain Dealer. July 7, 2023.

Editorial: Issue I doesn’t align Ohio with other states’ constitutional-amendment powers. It puts Ohio in a difficult category all its own

Contrary to what its backers suggest, State Issue 1 would make it much tougher for Ohioans to amend their state constitution than it is for voters in most of the other states with citizen-initiated amendment powers. That is, Issue 1 won’t conform Ohio’s rules to other states; Issue 1 would make Ohio an outlier.

Statehouse Republicans are pushing Issue 1 precisely because it would get in the way of voter-petitioned constitutional amendments in Ohio by making it much harder to get an amendment on the ballot in the first place — then requiring 60% approval rather than the current majority.

For a legislature that has failed to pass a single new ethics law in the wake of the House Bill 6/FirstEnergy/Larry Householder racketeering scandal, putting up roadblocks for citizens trying to check a legislature beholden to special interests is precisely what Statehouse insiders want.

They want to make it much harder for voters to pass any future citizen-initiated amendments, whether on abortion, gerrymandering or other topics.

Since 1912, voter passage of a citizen-initiated state constitutional amendment has required “yes” votes from a majority of voters voting on the question. Backers of Issue 1 falsely suggest the 50% requirement makes Ohio an exception — an easy-passage exception — among the 17 states which grant voters the power to initiate proposed state constitutional amendments.

That’s not true: Only three of the 17 states (Colorado, at 55%, Illinois and Florida at 60%) require more than simple majority statewide votes for all citizen-initiated constitutional amendments. There are buts: Colorado allows a constitutional provision to be repealed with a majority vote. Illinois lets a measure pass if it gets a simple majority vote as measured against all voters voting in that election, not just on that issue. Florida requires a 66% margin for new taxes, but 60% on all other constitutional amendments.

Among the other 14 states, Arizona requires a 60% vote only for tax hikes; all other amendatory measures require a simple majority. Nevada requires passage by a majority vote in two successive elections.

Oregon, interestingly enough, requires a supermajority vote only when it’s “equal to any supermajority voting requirements in a proposed amendment,” cleveland.com’s Andrew J. Tobias reports, citing the National Conference of State Legislatures.

In other words, if Oregon’s requirement were in effect in Ohio, Issue 1’s passage would need 60% of the vote, not just the simple majority its backers hope for.

But a majority vote versus a 60% vote isn’t the most egregious Issue 1 comparison point with other states.

Issue 1 would also make it much harder to petition for constitutional amendments in the first place.

Ohio’s current requirement has two prongs: First, the total number of signatures must equal at least 10% of the total votes cast in the most recent gubernatorial election. Currently that number, based on the 2022 governor’s race, is 413,487 signatures. (The 10% requirement doesn’t change under Issue 1.) Additionally, signatures equal to 5% of a county’s gubernatorial vote must be gathered in 44 counties.

Issue 1 would significantly toughen the rules for gathering sufficient signatures. First, Issue 1 would extend the 5% requirement to all 88 counties, arguably giving voters in even tiny counties the opportunity to road-block amendments before they ever could reach the statewide ballot. No other state requires voter signatures from every county to qualify proposed amendments for the ballot, Tobias reports.

Then, under current law, if petitioners fail to turn in enough valid signatures, they’re allowed a ten-day “cure period” to collect additional signatures. Issue 1 would abolish the cure period.

All told, Tobias recently reported, the Issue 1 signature requirements would impose “one of the biggest roadblocks in the country for citizens who want to change their state constitutions. Some critics say it would make it a near impossible task to qualify for the ballot, much less win 60% of the vote.”

Issue 1 is a solution in search of a problem cooked up by Statehouse insiders to defang the citizen initiative powers Ohioans have had for 111 years to check a corrupt legislature. It also would extend to proposed constitutional amendment ballot issues the same curse extreme gerrymandering imposes in the legislature: rule by a political minority.

Voters who want a voice on Issue 1, make note of two upcoming dates: Next Monday, July 10, is the last day to register to vote or update registrations for the Aug. 8 special election. And early, in-person voting begins the next day, Tuesday, July 11.

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