Editorial Roundup: Ohio

Cleveland Plain Dealer. July 23, 2022.

Editorial: Should most Ohio retailers be required to accept cash as payment?

A downstate GOP lawmaker has done something that many might consider unusual for a Republican -- introduce a bill in the Ohio Senate that would add a mandate for Ohio businesses. State Sen. Louis W. “Bill” Blessing III, of Colerain Township in Hamilton County, via Senate Bill 242 introduced last fall, wants the legislature to require most retail businesses in Ohio to accept cash payments.

This is largely, it seems, intended to stifle a trend the pandemic accelerated for “non-touch” electronic and credit-card payments. (Nonpartisan analysts at the Legislative Service Commission believe the bill is largely pre-emptive, since so few Ohio firms now bar cash payments.)

Denying customers the ability to pay in cash obviously harms those without bank accounts -- the poor, marginalized and minority communities. But Blessing, an electrical engineer by training, also sees Big Brother dangers in an economy where all payments can be tracked, warning in his sponsor testimony that, “The sheer amount of data that is available about any given citizen through their transactions is disconcerting, to put it charitably.”

As Blessing also noted, similar legislation in New Jersey, Delaware and Colorado was sponsored by Democrats, showing the bipartisan potential of a bill that’s also likely to appeal to many older Americans’ preference for writing checks or paying cash.

The bill would exempt certain businesses, including parking lots and large stadiums. “Conceptually, this is a very simple bill,” Blessing said.

It’s also a bill that seems to be going nowhere fast. Since it was introduced Sept. 30, 2021, and assigned six days later to the Senate’s Small Business and Economic Opportunity Committee, it’s had just two hearings, both last fall - with testimony only from Blessing and two others, representing the Ohio Poverty Law Center and ACLU.

Blessing also has signed up zero co-sponsors to the bill, which seems destined to die at the end of this legislative session unless Senate President Matt Huffman -- who likely doesn’t welcome cash payments at his family law firm in Lima -- suddenly sees its merits and puts it on the calendar for the packed lame-duck session after the Nov. 8 election.

So, what does our Editorial Board Roundtable think? Cash is still legal tender in the United States. Does it need saving? Is Blessing onto something? Or is he going to have to go out and find some powerful co-sponsors before he tries again?

Leila Atassi, manager public interest and advocacy:

I’m sure legislators view this bill as a solution in search of a problem, given that most businesses do, indeed, accept cash. But it seems Blessing is correctly reading the trends here and attempting to protect a vulnerable sector of our population before technology renders their cash useless.

Ted Diadiun, columnist:

Rarely, I’ve tried to pay for a purchase with money and been told they don’t take cash. I’ve wanted to laugh at the incongruity. But we don’t need legislators to step in. It’s the proprietor’s right – and mine. If the place doesn’t want my dollars, I can go someplace else.

Thomas Suddes, editorial writer:

Yes. Legal tender is just that -- legal tender -- and using other payment setups simply enriches banks and credit card companies, who charge merchants a fee for such online payments.

Eric Foster, columnist:

A bank account is not required to get an Ohio Direction Card, the debit card that Ohio provides to those who obtain food assistance (SNAP). Family Dollar, The Dollar Tree, the gas station, and/or Walmart are not going cashless anytime soon. I understand the theory of cashless business harming the poor and unbanked. I just don’t think the reality supports that theory.

Lisa Garvin, editorial board member:

For me, cash is still king. Blessing is correct to raise privacy concerns over electronic transactions. I don’t want my detailed spending habits lurking in the cloud. Studies have shown that when people see real money leaving their wallet, they spend less and value their purchases more. Save the greenbacks!

Mary Cay Doherty, editorial board member:

I hope we don’t need laws requiring American businesses to accept American currency. Government’s economic interference often does more harm than good. But if cashless businesses become the norm, government should affirm citizens’ right to use cash. And shame on businesses that need government prodding to treat customers fairly.

Elizabeth Sullivan, opinion director:

Blessing is onto something with this bill and should reintroduce it next legislative session. Cash should be accepted by retailers, absent good reasons for not doing so.

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Toledo Blade. July 19, 2022.

Editorial: Sound and fury signifying nothing

When state government works correctly Ohio is an acronym for only-handle-it-once.

There is no better current example of dysfunctional, never ending, dispute in Ohio governance than the congressional districts for the November election.

The state Supreme Court struck down the Republican-drawn districts Tuesday for the second time. By a 4-3 vote the state high court ruled the Congressional districts that will be in effect for the 2022 election are unconstitutional because they were created to give Republicans an advantage.

The court ordered the General Assembly to submit a new map within 30 days. Lawmakers have adjourned to campaign. If the legislature ignores the court, the Ohio Redistricting Commission, authors of the current partisan districts, will once again draw 15 congressional districts.

Meanwhile, the composition of the Ohio Supreme Court will change in 2023 with the exit of Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, a Republican who has consistently joined Democratic justices in ruling the congressional districts do not meet the standard set by Ohio voters when they amended the state constitution to eliminate gerrymandered state and federal legislative districts.

“It’s all sound and fury signifying nothing,” as Shakespeare would tell us. The 2023 Ohio Supreme Court will have jurisdiction over 2024 Congressional districts.

To put it bluntly, the court decision will not be permitted to enforce the will of voters.

The state politicians who will draw those districts have already shown us they put personal partisan interests above the clear intent of Ohio voters to maximize the power of citizens through competitive legislative elections.

And districts the founding fathers intended to serve voters for a full 10 years between census driven changes, will differ after more litigation.

In Ohio, if you’re not a cynic, you’re not paying attention.

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Youngstown Vindicator. July 20, 2022.

Editorial: Obey Ohio’s ‘Move over’ law to save lives

Though Ohio drivers already should be aware, state troopers in six states are working this week on reminding drivers we have a “Move over” law and it will be enforced.

In Ohio, the law says drivers must shift to an adjacent lane when approaching vehicles with flashing or rotating lights that are parked on the roadside. If moving over safely is not possible, drivers must slow down and proceed with caution.

Too many drivers ignore the law and continue to put emergency responders in danger by speeding past them in the near lane. That’s why this week law enforcement will be “highly visible” in enforcing the move over law. With the “6-State Trooper Project,” perhaps they will be able to hammer home the importance of obeying this law, though it is necessary to remember the consequences of breaking the law can be more than financial.

Between 2017 and 2021, Ohio State Highway Patrol cruisers were struck in 51 crashes that could have been avoided if drivers had just moved over. As a result of ignoring the law, two civilians were killed and there were 41 injuries to both officers and civilians.

During that time, the OSHP issued 26,000 citations for move over law violations.

Frankly, it’s an easy fix, folks. When you see a vehicle by the side of the road, particularly one that is an emergency vehicle or any vehicle with flashing lights, do what you can to safely move away from it or — at the very least — slow down measurably when passing.

“Moving over protects the lives of everyone who works or uses our roadways,” Col. Richard S. Fambro, OSHP superintendent, said. “Moving over isn’t just the law; it’s the right thing to do.”

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Elyria Chronicle. July 21, 2022.

Editorial: What is Jim Jordan up to?

Perhaps U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan was distracted.

If he was, that could explain the Urbana Republican’s dismissal of the Respect for Marriage Act, which passed the House Monday, as “unnecessary.”

Anyone with even a passing familiarity with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurring opinion in the decision striking down Roe v. Wade knows about the conservative justice’s ominous suggestions.

Thomas wrote that the court should overturn decisions that protect same-sex marriage, same-sex sexual relations and access to contraceptives. All are rooted in the due process clause of the Constitution and the right to privacy that undergirded Roe.

Jordan insisted there wasn’t anything to worry about.

After all, he argued, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito Jr. had assured the public in his majority decision reversing a half century of abortion law that the ruling was limited to abortion.

As we’ve noted before, that was hardly reassuring, especially with Thomas cheering on radical GOP lawmakers across the country.

Already some Republicans, including in Ohio, have openly talked about intruding even more in the private lives of Americans

The Respect for Marriage Act would help prevent such intrusions, including by repealing the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as being between a man and a woman and allowed states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages, even those performed in other states.

While DOMA may have reflected public opinion when it passed in 1996, it is now rightly viewed by many as a despicable act of discrimination. Thankfully, the Supreme Court struck it down, although it technically remains on the books and could go back into effect if Thomas gets his way. Moreover, a Gallup poll conducted this year showed that 71% of Americans support same-sex marriage compared to 27% in 1996.

The Respect for Marriage Act would offer federal protections to same-sex and interracial marriages. Although not mentioned by Thomas, a Supreme Court decision legalizing interracial marriages sprang from the same legal theory as those he wants to reverse. (Thomas, who is Black, is married to a white woman.)

Clearly other members of Congress were concerned because the act passed by a vote of 267-157, with 47 Republicans among the supporters. Jordan and U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Lakeville, who, like Jordan, represents parts of Lorain County, were not among them.

It now heads to the Senate, where it will need the support of at least 10 Republicans to get through a likely GOP filibuster. As of this writing, two Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Rob Portman of Cincinnati, have said they will cosponsor the Senate version.

While House GOP leaders decided not to try to “whip” their members on the bill, essentially allowing them to vote their consciences on it, Jordan tried to rally them against it in a memo he sent out prior to the vote.

He also railed against the bill on the House floor, including claiming that it was “the latest installment of the Democrats’ campaign to delegitimize and attempt to intimidate the United States Supreme Court.”

So legislating is intimidation now? That’s a stretch even for Jordan.

He also accused Democrats of trying to distract voters from other issues such as inflation, illegal immigration and crime.

“We’re here because the Democrats have no answers and desperately hope that a manufactured crisis will help them in November,” Jordan said.

It is curious, though, that Jordan would invest so much energy in opposing a bill that was “unnecessary” and aimed at addressing “a manufactured crisis.” If both those things are true, what’s the harm?

Suspicious minds might wonder if Jordan, certainly no friend of the LGBTQ community, wanted the act to fail because he hoped that Thomas might be able to round up four other conservative justices to strike down same-sex marriage.

Those harboring such suspicions might also consider whether Jordan was trying to work the GOP base, many of whom oppose same-sex marriage, into a lather a few months before Election Day.

On top of all of that is the question of whether Jordan himself was trying to distract voters from something else.

Whatever could it be?

In other news, the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of former President Donald Trump’s supporters has scheduled a hearing for 8 tonight.

Check it out.

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Sandusky Register. July 21, 2022.

Editorial: Left on the battlefield

Lawmakers holding up legislation that would ensure veterans who become ill due to toxic exposure related to their military service in war get health and survivor benefits are shameless. They claim they want to support these veterans, but their actions say the opposite. The cost of such a program, and the avoidance of inflation, is more important than giving them their due benefits, they say.

U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, the Ohio lawmaker who represents portions of Erie and Huron counties, Sandusky County and Seneca County, is one of the legislators who voted against the SFC Heath Robinson Honoring Our PACT Act.

Jordan refused to provide any explanation, aside from that which Russell Dye, a spokesperson for Jordan offered after a Register inquiry:

”...Jordan fully supports our nation’s veterans and believes it is vital they receive proper care for the effects of chemical exposure...We must ensure that the promises made to them are not broken.

Unfortunately, Democrats are using yet another budgeting gimmick in the Honoring Our PACT Act, a bill that will add more than $285 billion in direct spending. Veterans, and their families, deserve better than a Congress that makes our inflation problem worse and risks the economic security of future generations.”

In our view, Jordan’s “no” vote, and his inability to directly answer the question, “why did you vote against this,” connotates someone who is seemingly walking away from injured compatriots on the battlefield.

The answer from Jordan’s office is not responsive to the question and reeks of further noisy avoidance.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, both voted in favor of the PACT Act in the Senate in a show of bipartisan support. Brown, who has spearheaded the legislation and guided it through the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, on which he is a member, has repeatedly said the cost of providing health and survivor benefits for veterans injured or killed in war is “the cost of war.”

That, it seems to us, is a simple truth, and we should never walk away from injured veterans on the battlefield.

But it’s a truth that Jordan, his spokesman, and other politicians who now oppose this legislation will not address. Their opposition without explanation, shows they are, in essence, walking away from American military personnel on the battlefield.

END