May 27, 2024: This week’s editorials from Ohio newspapers


By The Associated Press

Marietta Times. May 23, 2024.

Editorial: Will lawmakers learn from ruling?

Ohio voters have understood for years that lawmakers in Columbus have gone power mad, seeking at every turn to claw control for themselves, rather than leave decision-making in the hands of those equipped to do what is best for their business, school district, community or county.

So crazed have they become, that they did not even bother to wonder whether they were going too far after Gov. Mike DeWine vetoed a budget measure that put regulatory power over flavored tobacco products in the hands of the state, rather than communities. Specifically, the Legislature wanted to keep communities from being able to enact bans on the sale of such products.

They wanted it so badly that they overrode DeWine’s veto. That prompted lawsuits from Columbus and Cincinnati, which wanted to keep their bans. Though his decision affects only those two cities, Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge Mark Serrott agrees with them.

Serrott ruled the law prohibiting cities from banning the sale of flavored tobacco products is unconstitutional.

Lawmakers, it seems, do not care. According to a report by the Associated Press, they are expected to appeal the ruling.

But why? Why waste resources on fighting the state’s own communities on this matter?

It could be because they aren’t worried about the damage done to children who become addicted to nicotine by starting with flavored tobacco products. It could be they ARE worried about their friends at the big tobacco companies. It could be they are enemies of Home Rule. And it could be that, yes, they really do just want that much control over our everyday lives.

The reality is probably a mix of all of the above, but none of it is a good reason to betray Ohioans.

Recall, many of those hoping to be able to regulate just about everything from Columbus are members of the party that at one time stood for small government and local decision-making. Some of them still use phrases such as “get government out of the way” while campaigning. The switch is enough to give voters whiplash.

Meanwhile, it may not matter on this one, as surely others will agree with DeWine and Serrott that Ohio lawmakers have taken their disregard for the constitution too far. The question then: Will they learn their lesson?


Sandusky Register. May 22, 2024.

Editorial: Students need phone boundaries

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed House Bill 250 into law earlier this week that will require public school districts to have written policies in place for student use of smart phones during the school day. We’ve long been concerned with lawmakers exploiting perceived shortcomings in our public schools for political gain, such as book bans and meddling with curriculum for students. But this bill, in our view, is a welcomed development.

Smartphones are now part of the every day lives of adults and children alike. These handheld devices are with us all the time, and with children from the start of the day to the end. The suggestion that they are a distraction is an enormous understatement.

The new law will require that all public school districts adopt policies for how and when students can access their phone services during the school day by no later than by July 2025.

This is, finally, an acknowledgement that having phones at school comes with responsibility. This, in our view, is common sense legislation designed to help students do better at school and limit distractions during the school day from outside forces that are consonantly seeking the attention of smart phone users of every age. This is simply setting boundaries for children.

A survey of local school districts found that they already have policies that limit access during the day. These districts already have done the work. This new law will help those districts that are late to set the boundaries kids get to a better place on this issue.


Elyria Chronicle-Telegram. May 24, 2024.

Editorial: A terrible bill targets Ohio educators

As if Ohio’s teachers and school librarians didn’t have enough to worry about, a Republican state lawmaker has introduced a bill that would “create criminal liability for certain teachers and librarians for the offense of pandering obscenity.”

The bill, introduced last week by state Rep. Adam Mathews, R-Lebanon, is unnecessary if its goal is to prevent adults from sharing pornography with children. That’s already illegal under Ohio law.

More likely the bill is of a piece with the nationwide effort by some conservatives to suppress topics that they don’t like.

Chillingly, the bill doesn’t define what would be considered obscene, which is a huge problem because obscenity is often in the eye of the beholder.

The late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously recognized that issue in 1964 in a case that centered on Ohio theater manager Nico Jacobellis screening the French film “The Lovers.”

The court overturned Jacobellis’ conviction on charges of possessing and exhibiting an obscene film. In a concurring opinion Stewart wrote that “The Lovers” didn’t cross the line into what would be considered hard-core pornography.

It’s hard to define exactly what that might be, he noted, but “I know it when I see it.”

Unfortunately, too many self-appointed moral guardians see obscenity everywhere, as evidenced by the book-banning craze that has enveloped the country.

Although book banners exist on both sides of the political spectrum, those on the right have been especially busy of late. These self-righteous folks have sought to ban books dealing with racism, sex, LGBTQ issues and other subjects that they don’t want taught in schools or shelved in libraries.

We got a taste of this locally last year when a parent tried to prevent the Lorain County Joint Vocational School from teaching John Green’s novel “Looking for Alaska” as part of its ninth grade curriculum.

Among the complaints from those who pushed for the ban were that the book was “erotic,” “immoral” and dealt with inappropriate subjects such as sex, smoking and underage drinking.

Had the parent merely wanted her daughter not to read the book, that would have been fine. But she and her allies went further, trying to impose their morality on other parents’ children by having the book removed from the school’s required curriculum. (The JVS board rightly allowed the book to continue to be taught.)

Imagine what might have happened if Mathews’ bill had been state law: Someone could have accused the teacher who assigned the book of pandering obscenity, which could have led to criminal charges and, in the hands of the wrong jury, a conviction.

The bill would allow defendants to raise an affirmative defense if they were charged with pandering obscenity, but tellingly not for using material for “educational” purposes.

The affirmative defense could be raised if the material or performance was utilized “for a bona fide medical, scientific, religious, governmental, judicial, or other proper purpose” by various professionals “having a proper interest in the material or performance.”

Guess who the bill doesn’t consider to have a proper purpose for sharing whatever someone might deem obscene? “A teacher who is not a health or biology teacher or a school librarian.”

The problem could therefore extend far beyond frank discussions of sex in “Looking for Alaska” that take place in a language arts class.

What if, as has happened before, someone took offense to Michelangelo’s famed and anatomically correct “David” statue being discussed in an art class. The teacher could be charged.

Perhaps a parent might take offense to his or her child checking out Maia Kobabe’s “Gender Queer,” a frequent target of book banners, from the school library. For letting the student access the graphic novel, which recounts Kobabe’s personal exploration of gender identity, the school librarian could be charged.

We could list a thousand more examples, but you get the idea.

The bill would create a climate ripe for turning teachers and school librarians into felons for the crime of doing their jobs, which is to educate students. Some of the topics addressed in school are bound to be tough, but that doesn’t mean books or art or films dealing with them should be criminalized.

In truth, we suspect the law wouldn’t be invoked as often as some might think, but not because puritanical scolds would be unwilling to use it. No, the reason is that once a few teachers and librarians were prosecuted, the rest would self-censor to avoid having their lives ruined.

Fear would keep them in line.


Youngstown Vindicator. May 21, 2024.

Editorial: LaRose simply does his job by verifying voters

In an era when not everyone reads past a headline, politicians know what they are doing.

They make announcements about, for example, efforts to verify citizenship status on Ohio’s voter rolls — during which, “The data found 137 voter registrations assigned to Ohio residents who have twice confirmed their non-citizenship status to the BMV,” because they know that kind of thing might gain them some political points from voters who aren’t looking for context.

To be clear, Frank LaRose is simply doing his job by verifying that all those who vote in Ohio are citizens who do so legally. But given the absolutely insane desire by some political factions to fuel belief there is widespread voter fraud and that we have endured a series of “rigged” elections in this country, it is important to make the distinction between mistakes made on bureaucratic forms and actual intent to commit voter fraud.

The Ohio Capital Journal points out last year when LaRose (who, at that point, may have still believed he had a shot at a U.S. Senate seat) announced he’d uncovered 521 cases of alleged fraud, it turned out only one case of noncitizen voter fraud was proved.

So what LaRose’s office is doing is rightly weeding out registrations submitted by those who did so in error. Again, that’s what’s supposed to happen. So far, according to what has been reported, he has not uncovered any illegally cast ballots this time around.

“These may be well-meaning people trying to pursue the American dream,” LaRose said in a press release, “and communication barriers sometimes result in a registration form being submitted in error. We need to help them get that cleared up before an accidental registration becomes an illegal vote that could result in a felony conviction or even deportation.”

Wonderful. Yes, let’s do that.

And let’s do it in a way that does not stoke paranoia, or rely on an electorate that does not do its homework. Voters have had enough of that game.


Toledo Blade. May 24, 2024.

Editorial: Ohio child care wall

Ohio’s economy is hitting the wall, unable to find needed workers and thus sure to miss out on potential growth as businesses bypass the Buckeye state bottleneck.

The problem is especially acute for working parents who are pushed out of the work force by the high cost of child care. The quickest fix for Ohio’s shortage of workers is to make it economically rewarding for stay-at-home parents to return to the job.

Ohio Republican lawmakers are teaming up with the state Chamber of Commerce to bring a program working in Michigan, Indiana, and Kentucky to Ohio. (“Business, GOP push for child-care subsidy,” Thursday)

GOP Senate and House bills are proposing a $10 million state subsidy for day-care costs. The program, run through the Ohio Department of Children and Youth, would provide a third of the cost at a licensed child-care center. The working assumption is employers would put up a third with the employee paying the final share.

But the balance of power has shifted so significantly in the employees’ favor that advocates of the legislation suggest employers would willingly pay the full cost beyond Ohio’s subsidy.

The state already provides income-based vouchers for child-care costs but the legislative proposal is a first-come first-served revenue stream open to qualifying employees of companies that choose to participate, regardless of income.

There’s little reason for parents to take a marginal job when the expense of child care consumes a huge share of take-home pay. But without those workers, for too many companies expansion in Ohio isn’t feasible.

Ohio’s highly competitive economic development incentives have no influence if businesses don’t have the workers they need to grow and prosper. With families better able to afford child-care in surrounding states Ohio competes against for development projects, a $10 million solution is money well spent.

Huge incentives to rich corporations are extended routinely. Competitive reality requires that Ohio do so for success. But now, strategic incentives must be extended to average citizens or the corporations will have no choice but to flock to locations more friendly to workers.

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