April 15, 2024: This week’s editorials from Ohio newspapers


By The Associated Press

Marietta Times. April 12, 2024.

Editorial: Justified discipline

An independent, state-ordered investigation into reportedly “erratic and abusive behavior” by Ohio Rep. Elliot Forhan, D-South Euclid, has concluded legislative leaders were justified in disciplining him.

Because of accusations of confrontations with other lawmakers, constituents and lobbyists, Forhan lost all his committee assignments and was barred by House Minority Leader C. Allison Russo, D-Upper Arlington, from contacting interns, pages and Democratic legislative aides. He also was required to have a House sergeant-at-arms accompany him while he was at the Statehouse.

But the report suggests Forhan didn’t learn his lesson, repeatedly failing to comply. He reportedly showed up at the Statehouse and a legislative office building unannounced, and yelled at the sergeant-at-arms or one of his assistants at least twice.

It seems Forhan is part of a recent crop of politicians that believes the rules do not apply to them; and that in fact the worse the behavior, the more favorable the political attention. Certainly, he’d been given little reason to believe otherwise.

But his constituents decided they’d had enough. He did not win the Democratic primary last month and his term will expire at the end of the year.

The investigation, conducted by a Columbus law firm appointed by state Attorney General Dave Yost, concluded legislative leaders were right to move quickly on Forhan, as his behavior, if left unaddressed, would have posed “a significant threat to the institutional integrity of the Ohio House and its reputation, and posed a credible risk of escalating to violence or violent conduct.”

It would be nice to think other elected officials who make their reputation by behaving like petulant children would learn from Forhan’s fate and change their tune. But we aren’t holding our breath.


Sandusky Register. April 9, 2024.

Editorial: Ohioans deserve fair elections

Supporters of a petition drive are confident they will be successful getting the needed number of valid signatures to put a constitutional amendment on the November ballot to change how redistricting happens.

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

If they do burn enough shoe leather and are successful, it will be the third time Ohio voters are asked to weigh in on how political districts are shaped, every 10 years.

In 2015 and in 2018, voters, by a whopping lopsided advantage, approved constitutional amendments to outlaw the practice of gerrymandering. That’s when elected officials draw the maps to favor their own re-elections, the equivalent of cheating.

Ohioans want fair elections and it was the supermajority in Columbus today that denied them fair elections in 2022 and again this year. The decks are stacked in favor of incumbents and Republicans in general. The maps are drawn to mathematically to favor one party over the other.

If the Democrats had a 30-year run on dominance in Columbus they likely would have done the same thing. But they weren’t and they didn’t. It’s the Ohio Republican Party and its leaders who derailed the will of the people, defied state law and denied Ohioans fair election when the maps were redrawn after the 2020 census.

If the petition drive is successful and the amendment is approved, elected officials will be removed from the process of redistricting. They will be barred from serving on the commission that redraws the maps, and therefore will not be able to corrupt the process the next time.

There was agreement in 2015 and 2018, and it was a bipartisan effort to change the process before. It was a goodwill initiative — approved by voters by 70%-plus margins both times — that was defied. It’s unfortunate, but likely necessary, our own elected representatives must be kept away from the process if voters in the state are ever going to have fair elections again.

That fact, alone, is why gerrymandering must be stopped.


Elyria Chronicle-Telegram. April 11, 2024.

Editorial: DeWine avoided some tough topics in speech

What Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine didn’t say in his State of the State address Wednesday was as telling as what he said.

DeWine steered clear of the culture-war fights that have come to dominate the Buckeye State’s politics. He didn’t mention abortion, the word “woke” or his dispute with his fellow Republicans over transgender care.

He barely mentioned gun violence, except to note that his administration had made state resources available to communities dealing with the problem. DeWine didn’t renew his push for the package of gun reforms he introduced in the wake of the 2019 massacre in Dayton in which a gunman killed nine people and wounded 17 others before police shot him to death.

Nor did DeWine touch on the scandal over House Bill 6, a bailout for two nuclear-power plants that was fueled by $60 million in bribes. One of the defendants accused in the scandal, Sam Randazzo, the former chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, was found dead Tuesday in a case being investigated as a suicide.

DeWine also barely mentioned economic development, which was something of a surprise given how much he loves to sing the praises of Intel’s $20 billion investment in a chip-manufacturing plant in central Ohio.

Economic development aside, DeWine probably avoided most of those topics because they were battles he didn’t want to fight or couldn’t win.

DeWine is staunchly pro-life, but voters rendered unconstitutional the six-week abortion ban he signed when they approved an amendment last year to the Ohio Constitution protecting abortion and other reproductive rights.

Although DeWine is conservative, he hasn’t been as engaged in the conservative culture wars as other Republicans. For example, he vetoed a bill that largely banned transgender care for minors, but statehouse Republicans overrode his veto even after he offered up some administrative rules to address their concerns.

As for gun regulation, Republicans who control both chambers of the Ohio legislature have shown little interest in DeWine’s package and it is unlikely ever to become law.

Nor was DeWine likely to discuss HB 6. He appointed Randazzo, and the scandal has haunted the edges of his administration for years. DeWine, who has denied any knowledge about the bribes, signed HB 6 into law and initially resisted repeal of its nuclear-bailout portions, which are at the heart of the scandal.

Moreover, it seems unlikely the remaining provisions, including a bailout of coal-fired power plants in Indiana and Ohio, are going to be repealed. House Speaker Jason Stephens, R-Kitts Hill, told reporters in a news conference that he was more interested in moving Ohio’s energy policy forward than in revisiting a bill passed five years ago.

Attempts at serious ethics reform in the wake of the HB 6 scandal have come to naught.

What DeWine talked about was kids, specifically ways in which the state could help them be healthy, educated and safe.

Some of his proposals were good ideas, such as a voucher system to help families pay for childcare. He said it would be available to those making up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level, around $60,000 for a family of four, and help about 8,000 children.

Senate Minority Leader Nickie Antonio, D-Lakewood, later pointed out to reporters that a voucher system designed to help families send their kids to private schools was available to those making up to 450 percent of the federal poverty line, around $135,000 for a family of four.

You can see where the focus is for Ohio Republicans.

Then there’s the question of how to pay for the program, which DeWine didn’t directly explain.

DeWine talked about programs to help kids get vision screenings and to tackle sickle cell disease.

He also touted programs he said would help reduce infant mortality in 11 counties and expand community and school-based health clinics in Appalachia. We hope those programs will eventually encompass the entire state.

Some ideas DeWine floated weren’t as clear-cut.

For example, he continued his push for what he called “the science of reading,” which is heavy on phonics. That might be the best way for many students to learn to read, but there need to be alternatives for students who struggle with DeWine’s preferred method.

Likewise, DeWine’s call for a state law to encourage schools to ban or restrict students’ cellphone use during the school day is driven by good intentions, but we have reservations. There are good reasons some kids need their phones during the school day, including for medical applications and for communication with parents in an emergency.

On other issues he mentioned, such as allowing police officers to pull people over for not wearing a seat belt and banning flavored tobacco and vapes, DeWine hasn’t got much traction with his fellow Republicans.

One other area DeWine touched on also bears mentioning: He talked about finding ways to get kids trained for careers with an eye toward getting them to build their lives in Ohio.

That is indeed a worthy goal, but, as Democrats later pointed out, many young people aren’t interested in living under the culture-war-inspired ideas espoused by many Ohio Republicans.

DeWine didn’t mention that wrinkle, either.


The Vindicator. April 13, 2024.

Editorial: Property tax reform in Ohio must be priority

Many Mahoning Valley homeowners are mad over rising property taxes and vow they aren’t going to take it anymore.

They are not alone. Many residents throughout the Buckeye State have been slammed with mammoth spikes in their property tax bills this year because of the skyrocketing valuation of their homes. Those values in Mahoning County have risen on average 38% after last year’s countywide revaluation of 164,000 parcels.

To their credit, Mahoning County commissioners last week sent out a compelling letter to leaders in the Ohio General Assembly that outlined, in their words, “the profound impact of these tax hikes on residents and the urgent need for reform.”

Many homeowners told commissioners they risk displacement from their homes over their inability to pay. The impact on senior citizens, many of whom live on meager fixed incomes, has hit particularly hard.

“Many senior citizens already have to decide between taking their prescription drugs or putting food on their table,” Commissioner Anthony Traficanti said. “With the increase in property taxes in Mahoning County now, I do not want to see residents having to make a choice between paying their taxes or keeping their homes.”

Fortunately, however, it appears as if the urgent appeals of commissioners and taxpayers alike will not fall on deaf ears in Columbus, where state tax laws are written and implemented.

That’s because a panel created last year has convened with property tax relief as its top priority. To its credit, the House and Senate Joint Committee on Property Taxation Review and Reform already has conducted several productive hearings to gain insights into the scope of property tax problems and to find workable solutions.

We urge that panel to continue to work aggressively and speedily to find viable routes to lessen the burden of heightened property taxation and then recommend meaningful legislation to reform the system.

Among those giving testimony to the committee were representatives of the National Conference of State Legislatures on Feb. 28. Committee members learned that huge hikes in property taxes are not isolated to Ohio. They have become a hot potato nationwide.

Fourteen states enacted property tax relief laws in 2023, including West Virginia. Among the reforms implemented have been greatly increased property tax credits, relief payments to taxpayers, limits on the scope of allowable increases and freezing of property tax levels for senior citizens on Social Security.

Members of the joint committee in Columbus should therefore explore what options might work best for Ohio.

But it’s not only the adverse impact of sudden surges in property taxes on individual homeowners in the state that warrants fixing. This state’s broken property tax system also takes a toll on business and economic development.

Representatives of the Ohio Business Roundtable told committee members that Ohio’s single biggest challenge to greater economic competitiveness is the level of taxation and the complexity of our tax structure. Among nine peer states in the study they presented, Ohio had the third-highest per capita property tax ($207) after Michigan ($233) and Pennsylvania ($306). Clearly those rankings discourage new businesses from scouting out our turf for expansion and growth, which would translate into expansion and growth of the state’s tax base.

It is this newspaper’s hope that committee members will hear the appeals of county leaders, property taxpayers and testimonials at its hearings to draft workable and meaningful reforms.

Our optimism, however, must be guarded. After all, it’s been 27 years since the Ohio Supreme Court ruled as unconstitutional the Buckeye State’s overreliance on property taxes to fund public schools in the state. Over those three decades, little structural change has occurred and as Mahoning commissioners pointed out in their letter to state leaders, “the basic inequities of the system continue to plague public schools, and we now rank 22nd in the nation in quality of education.”

The next few weeks and months will be critical for the committee to wrap up its hearings and propose meaningful reforms — preferably before the General Assembly’s long summer recess. In the event that cannot happen, lawmakers might want to give related legislation sponsored by state Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Loveland, a closer look.

Her measure, House Bill 402, would temporarily freeze 2023 property taxes throughout Ohio at 2022 levels. Those who have already paid the higher tax bills would be eligible for future credits for the difference.

Clearly, however, there’s no time to waste. The sooner Ohio adopts a more fair, equitable and affordable property tax system, the sooner the anguish and outrage of many property owners can cease.


Toledo Blade. April 12, 2024.

Editorial: Oblivious on ethics

Ignoring the worst state government corruption case in Ohio history, a scandal that deeply implicates Gov. Mike DeWine, totally undermines the governor’s rhetorical call to make this “Ohio’s finest hour.”

The 2024 State of the State address was held exactly 24 hours after the body of former Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Chairman Sam Randazzo was found hanged in a Columbus warehouse. Mr. Randazzo was facing federal and state felony charges, alleged to have used his PUCO power to aid FirstEnergy in return for a $4.3 million bribe, and is believed to have taken his own life.

The close connection between Mr. Randazzo and FirstEnergy was well known to Mr. DeWine, who ignored warnings of a clear conflict of interest to appoint Mr. Randazzo.

There is comprehensive ethics reform legislation based on the FirstEnergy bribery scandal being ignored in the legislature. House Bill 16 is sitting ignored in a House committee. Governor DeWine would have been wise to make a state government response to the corruption convictions in 2023 and the corruption cases still to be tried in part of his annual address to the legislature.

Instead, the governor kept his focus on education and health initiatives that are worthy of consideration by the General Assembly but which signal a business as usual agenda as if the cancer of corruption in the Capitol was unknown.

Mr. DeWine wants to use child care vouchers for families with incomes up to $60,000 for day care, and plans to use $85 million in federal funds to improve and expand service. He’s selling this as a plan to help businesses as more parents would be able to enter the work force.

The education initiatives in Mr. DeWine’s speech include a principals apprenticeship program to improve the school administration and a call to ban smart phones in Ohio schools as a way to regain focus from students. The governor seeks a clear career path as a graduation requirement of every Ohio high school student.

There were many other proposals positioned as crucial to the development or safety of Ohio children, including making mandatory seat belt use a primary driving law, enabling state police to make that the sole reason for a traffic stop.

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