October 27, 2021

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Editorial Roundup: Ohio :: WRAL.com

Cleveland Plain Dealer. July 3, 2021.

Editorial: Should Ohio lawmakers bar schools from allowing transgender athletes to compete?

In early February, two Ohio legislators introduced the “Save Women’s Sports Act,” Ohio House Bill 61. It would require that every Ohio school, school district and public and private institution of higher education that fields competitive interscholastic sports teams create single-sex teams, with the athlete’s sex verified by a signed physician’s statement if challenged. The bill has been mired in committee ever since.

On June 24, proponents of this legislation amended its anti-transgender-athlete contents into a seemingly must-pass bill to allow college athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness. Ohio State University officials wanted that law in place by July 1 to ensure, for competitive recruitment purposes, that Ohio was among states with such legislation before the NCAA announced its plans. Which is why Senate Bill 187 was on an uncontroversial fast track until it became a poison pill bill June 24. The House passed it on a mostly party-line vote that day, but Ohio Senate leadership made clear the Senate would not be moving it with the transgender amendment.

Gov. Mike DeWine rode to the rescue, earning Buckeye bundles of joy by signing an executive order June 28 allowing the state’s college athletes to profit from their names, likenesses and images. Meantime, lawmakers are seemingly back to Square One on getting a transgender athletic ban enacted in Ohio.

Cleveland.com’s Andrew J. Tobias reports that Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Mississippi, Tennessee and West Virginia are among states enacting bans in recent months, with more than 20 other states considering such bans.

But the transgender athletic bans raise a question — do those states really want to see transgender youth banned from sports or for intrusive sex exams to become the price of admission to athletic competitions? Is there a better way to ensure that sports competitions are fair?

DeWine thinks so — arguing in a recent statement that instead of the legislature stepping into this arena, Ohio should leave it up to athletic governing bodies like the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) to police.

Tobias reports, “The OHSAA has a transgender policy that states transgender girls can participate on a girls’ sports team if they have either completed a year of hormone treatment related to their transition or have demonstrated through sound medical evidence that they don’t possess physical or physiological advantages over genetic females — which include bone structure, muscle mass, testosterone and hormonal advantages.”

So what does our editorial board roundtable think? Is DeWine right to suggest Ohio defer to scholastic and collegiate athletic governing bodies to decide this question? What is the right way forward for Ohio and its young athletes, transgender and otherwise?

Leila Atassi, managing producer, public interest and advocacy:

The Ohio High School Athletic Association is in the right position to make policy governing the participation of transgender athletes. State lawmakers, on the other hand, are far outside their lane. They paid the price when they tried to shoehorn a transgender ban into an unrelated bill that, until then, enjoyed wide bipartisan support.

Thomas Suddes, editorial writer:

Mike DeWine has a reasonable position on this matter, with emphasis on “reasonable.” In fact, this is just another manufactured controversy by people whose real agenda is political gain, not public good.

Ted Diadiun, columnist:

The Legislature should come to the rescue of girls sports, but eventually everything winds up in court, anyway. Once, the idea of a biological boy declaring himself a girl and then beating out an actual girl in athletic competition would have been preposterous, and unfair. Raise your hand if you think the courts will see it that way.

Eric Foster, columnist:

Yet another legislative solution in search of a problem. There may be some transgender athlete dominating high school sports somewhere, but that is certainly not the case in Ohio. There are too many real problems that could use legislators’ time and attention.

Lisa Garvin, editorial board member:

Transgendered women athletes do have a competitive advantage for about a year after transition, which is sensibly addressed by OHSAA policy. But I find it troubling that most proposed legislation only covers transgendered women. It’s as if lawmakers used a little kernel of science to create legal precedent that could eventually affect the entire trans community.

Mary Cay Doherty, editorial board member:

Leaving the decision to athletic governing bodies obscures the broader question. Are biological women still a protected class with rights to separate spaces and programs, or do trans rights supersede women’s rights? Ohioans deserve a voice in these profound legal and cultural decisions. As such, elected state lawmakers should legislatively address transgender participation in women’s sports.

Elizabeth Sullivan, opinion director:

The OHSAA has it exactly right. This should be about fairness, not knee-jerk discrimination against transgender youth in Ohio. Fairness means fair access to competition and appropriate criteria to ensure fair competition based on actual physical attributes and medical science. Blanket anti-transgender bans such as that proposed in Ohio are unfair, unmerited and cruel.

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Akron Beacon Journal. July 4, 2021.

Editorial: Behold, the state budget: Better formula for school funding in Ohio is approved

When Ohio lawmakers decide to listen to the public in their budget process, they’ve proved they can make a positive difference.

Some changes built into the $74.1 billion spending package known as House Bill 110 are sure winners. Other changes might only be winners for a select few. Some seem to come out of nowhere, taking us all by surprise.

As House Speaker Bob Cupp said, in regard to one provision — the budget bill’s legalization of electronic instant bingo: “Budget time produces unusual and unexpected results.”

He has that right.

Here are some hits and misses from the budget bill.

School funding finally fixed

There’s jubilation across Ohio as the state’s school funding formula finally gets the overhaul districts have sought for 20 years. Cupp’s Fair School Funding Plan was drawn after three years of work by legislators, local education leaders and school finance experts.

Critics of the Senate plan announced in June claim it was slapped together in a couple of weeks behind closed doors.

We’re pleased that the budget conference committee settled on the plan that sought public input and promises to ease the burden on property owners.

To make things fairer, the state will look at both local incomes and property values to determine how much a district should be able to cover on its own. The base amount, or the cost to educate the average student, will be based on local costs instead of a single, statewide average.

The Akron Public Schools could gain about $8 million from the state over the next two years. It lessens the burden on local taxpayers and should extend the time between levy requests, according to Akron Chief Financial Officer Ryan Pendleton.

One note of caution is that the bill funds just two years of the six-year plan. It will be up to future lawmakers to ensure a stable funding system.

Another key benefit of the school funding plan is that it allows direct state payments to charter schools, rather than the money coming from districts.

It’s unfortunate that charter schools remain a priority for Ohio lawmakers. More and better funded charter schools likely will be a result of this plan that expands eligibility and drops location restrictions. Children, too, will get larger EdChoice vouchers, $5,000 for K-8 and $7,500 for high school students.

Ohio continues to ignore concerns about the separation of church and state in channeling taxpayer money to religious schools. And lawmakers need to do a better job of ensuring that the private schools meet academic standards and are not wasting taxpayer dollars.

Tax cut rewards the wealthy

Lawmakers boast of a 3% personal income tax cut, and a raise in the minimum amount Ohioans must earn before having to pay state income taxes. But like most provisions in the budget, it’s a mixed bag.

Policy Matters Ohio, a critic of the cuts, says the cuts mainly benefit wealthy taxpayers. The 80% of taxpayers with income below $107,000 on average will receive a cut of $43 a year. Lowering the income tax rate for the state’s wealthiest means Ohio would collect $400 million less a year; these taxpayers would see an average $5,400 annual tax cut.

This sounds like a giveaway that benefits lawmakers’ wealthy donors and makes balancing the budget harder.

On the bright side, Senate President Matt Huffman said people making $25,000 or less will now be exempt from income tax, helping an additional 125,000 Ohioans. Previously the bracket was $22,150 or less.

Broadband, Medicaid, redistricting

— The budget provides $250 million for a broadband access grant program meant to boost connections to high-speed internet in underserved areas. A Senate proposal that could have put municipal broadband Internet services such as FairlawnGig out of business was dropped. This is a relief to governments that are trying to provide the best and most affordable services to local residents and businesses.

— Gov. Mike DeWine stepped in and vetoed a Senate provision that would have changed the way the state awards its care contracts for Medicaid. The state had been working on an overhaul for two years when senators tried to make a sudden change.

— Leave it to Ohio lawmakers to insert a controversial provision relating to redistricting into the state budget. DeWine, at the request of Attorney General Dave Yost, wisely vetoed language that would let the Ohio and Senate leaders spend tax dollars defending their proposals in any lawsuits that might arise in the process of drawing legislative district maps.

Of course, there’s more in the 3,300-page budget that affects us all. Expect to read more in the coming days about how this important document will affect us all.

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Columbus Dispatch. July 4, 2021.

Editorial: Ohio lawmakers proved they can compromise. Let’s see if they can keep it up

Ohio lawmakers proved last week that reason, negotiation and compromise are possible even during these often ridiculously divisive times.

This is important to recognize as we celebrate today, the 245th year since the Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.

The state’s two-year budget signed by Gov. Mike DeWine was approved by a bipartisan vote of 84-13 in the Ohio House and 32-1 vote in Ohio Senate.

We are a long way from the times when the budget process was as easy as it was in 2007, when then-Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland’s first two-year budget was passed almost unanimously by a mostly Republican General Assembly.

There was a lot of red meat slung during the six-month budget negotiation season.

Yet, approval went smoother than it did in 2019.

That budget season marked the first time since Strickland’s second budget in 2009 that Ohio lawmakers missed the passage deadline.

Don’t get us wrong, the new 3,000-page budget is far from perfect.

It still includes lumped-in legislation that rightly, and dare we say legally, should have been proposed in their own bills. They have absolutely nothing to do with the budget.

Among them is language that erodes access to abortion clinics and new rules that complicate how kids will receive potentially lifesaving sex education instruction.

The budget includes changes that require abortion clinic doctors to work within 25 miles of the clinic and bar them from teaching at public hospitals or medical schools.

Schools will have to give parents the names of vendors, teachers and curricula used in sex education and notify them if that education goes beyond instruction about abstinence only.

Before parents had to opt their kids out of sex ed. Now they must opt them in.

Then there is a list of head scratchers that includes ending the requirement for phone companies to print telephone books, allowing sacramental wine in correctional facilities and allowing people to drink while playing bingo.

And yet, even lawmakers in the minority party have issues they could get behind.

The biggest involves school funding.

For the next two years, the budget sets a formula that considers local incomes and property values to determine state funding for K-12 public schools.

House Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) is not completely happy but says there are things about the budget she supports.

“Ohioans wanted to see an opportunity for Ohio’s future in this budget, and Democrats delivered on the long fight to reform our broken school-funding system,” she said in a statement.

“While this budget delivered for some, others were left behind with a tax giveaway that benefits millionaires and billionaires while working people see very little,” Sykes said. “This budget also saw changes to medical care as we continue to battle a pandemic, cuts to clean water infrastructure, and provisions that undermine the overwhelming majority of Ohioans who wanted fair districts with no strings attached.”

We are pleased the budget cuts income taxes across the board by 3%, and that problematic proposals like the last-minute Senate push to include dangerous changes to Ohio’s food-stamp program were abandoned.

While not abandoned completely, the final version of the budget dials back the attempt to melt the Step Up To Quality program, the state’s rating system for the child-care facilities we help pay for.

The $250 million grant program to install high-speed internet across the state, which DeWine wanted and groups like AARP Ohio support, made it back into the budget, and that’s an important step forward for areas where lack of broadband access is leaving families and businesses behind.

The budget “is a balanced and responsible plan that invests in our schools, our economy and important services for Ohio’s seniors and our most vulnerable citizens, while protecting tax dollars and helping Ohioans keep more of what they earn,” Ohio House Speaker Bob Cupp, R-Lima, said as part of a statement.

We don’t like everything in the budget, but overall, it’s better than we expected after seeing some of the earlier proposals.

One rarely gets everything he or she wants during a negotiation, but there are too many non-negotiables in today’s politics.

Among those being batted around the Statehouse now are the divisive, headline-grabbing “solutions” in search of a problem, such as restricting how students learn about history and racism and attempts to ban transgender athletes from high school competition.

Reasonable compromise works, and it’s something we need our lawmakers to do more often for the good of the state and nation.

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Sandusky Register. June 29, 2021.

Editorial: Message for GOP: Stop groveling

It is an unfortunate observation that four candidates seeking the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate race next year all are gleefully willing to promote the big lie in order to get the ex-president’s endorsement. Somebody they will listen to ought to tell each one of them that knowing how to grovel is not a skill voters are looking for in a leader. Being the best groveler is not something to which they should be aspiring.

Jane Timken, Josh Mandel, Mike Gibbons and Bernie Moreno each has already proved incontrovertibly they can grovel. They know how to pay great compliments in lavish form onto a man who loves to be lavished by compliments, sincere or otherwise.

The groveling four were with the audience at the ex-president’s political rally in Lorain County on Saturday that went wild with applause to welcome U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the South Carolina Republican, a conspiracist who openly and regularly promotes racism and antisemitism at social networking sites. She’s the congresswoman video recorded taunting a young man who was victimized in a school shooting massacre just a few years ago.

What does it say about them that our Senate candidates cheer for MTG? We would have never predicted — or ever expected — the standard could get so low.

The longer he delays endorsing somebody in Ohio’s Senate race the longer he will be a factor in it, the longer he will maintain relevance as he ponders his own political future. The ex-president will pick a candidate suited to his own self-interests, not one in the interests of Ohioans. Our candidates should stop this fawning; they should stop embarrassing our state this way. They should stop serving his interests and start serving ours.

Instead of parading like beauty contestants ready to repeat every lie, we urge Timken, Mandel, Gibbons and Moreno to do this: Tell voters what you stand for, tell them who you are and why you want to be our senator. Tell them how you will blow up the gridlock in Washington and build consensus among us and among lawmakers and other leaders. Tell us how you will respect those with whom you disagree. Tell us how you will fix Obamacare and save Social Security, how you intend to help solve the immigration crisis on our southern border and help humanely relieve the suffering of people so desperate to become part of our beloved country. Tell us how you will vote to protect our state and our planet. Tell us your dreams and your ambitions, for yourself, for your family, for our state and for our nation.

Stand for principle. Leave the negativity, the talking points, the anger, the propaganda — and everything else that divides us — behind.

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Newark Advocate. July 4, 2021.

Editorial: Miller’s appointment leads good news ahead of holiday

The selection of Kevin Miller to the Ohio House of Representatives is a positive step forward for the legislature and area residents.

Miller replaces indicted former speaker Larry Householder to serve the 72d District after fellow legislators expelled Householder in June. The district includes Coshocton County, Perry County and part of Licking County.

While the time it took to remove Householder was long, House Republicans made quick work to find his replacement. And we think they made a solid selection for the district.

Miller most recently worked as a legislative liaison for the Ohio State Highway Patrol, drafting legislation and keeping troopers apprised of what’s happening at the Ohio Legislature. He previously served as commander of the Patrol’s Granville Post.

Early reviews from people familiar with Miller have been overwhelmingly positive. Described as an opposite from the often blustery Householder and as someone who is receptive to talk out issues and is active in the local community. Generally he’s been described as a dedicated public servant.

His background with law enforcement will also provide perspective as the legislature looks to implement critical police reform.

We are obviously biased here, but Licking County should benefit from having two residents serving in the legislature. It will be up to Miller to prove he is providing quality representation to the people of Perry and Coshocton counties as well.

There are many important issues facing Ohio. We look forward to seeing how Miller addresses them and wish him luck moving forward.

Biotech boom

Licking County got some tremendous news this past week with the announcement that Amgen will build a $365 million pharmaceutical packaging facility in New Albany that will employ 400 workers.

The facility will be built near Beech Road and Ohio 161, with a large section in Licking County. It is expected to have an annual payroll of around $41 million.

Obviously bringing that many skilled jobs to the area is a tremendous boon. It will not only mean more opportunities for local workers and tax revenue for local governments, but it also shows the area is a place companies want to invest. Company leaders noted the area’s access to a talented workforce, highlighting the critical need to continue investing in post-secondary education.

This kind of investment should further spur local leaders to improve local public transportation options. While such developments will always provide ancillary benefit to Newark residents, it will be even more direct if people have a way to get to work without driving.

Celebrating independence

The Independence Day festivities this year have returned to mostly normal after a year of COVID-19 cancellations. For that we are grateful.

We hope that readers were able to enjoy one of the many firework celebrations in Licking County with family and friends. We hope the holiday reminds people that while we may have differences, we are fortunate to live in a country that provides the freedom to disagree. Let’s just try to do so without being disagreeable.

Happy Independence Day, Licking County.

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