Editorial Roundup: Ohio

Marietta Times. May 31, 2024.

Editorial: Boards, administrators must decide on cellphones

With the passage of Ohio House Bill 250, lawmakers sent a strong message about the importance of protecting students from the harm done by constant access to cellphones during the school day. Now, as each school district is required to come up with a policy of its own, the state has unveiled its model policy for minimizing cell phone use in schools.

“By removing the distraction of cell phones from classrooms, our school children will be free to flourish and will see improved academic engagement and social interaction,” Gov. Mike DeWine said, according to a report by WTVG. “Schools that implement this model policy will quickly see positive results by giving children a break from the nonstop notifications that have proven to be harmful to student performance and mental health.”

Though school districts have until July 2025 to adopt their own policies, there is no need to wait that long. With a model policy available, and each school district having been given ample time to plan for adjustments to that policy that suit its own needs, the change can be put in place for the upcoming school year. Boards of education need only decide to move quickly on the matter.

“The need for action when it comes to cell phone restrictions during the school day was made clear after months of meetings with Ohio district and school leaders. We listened to their experiences and feedback and used these insights to inform the model policy and additional resources that we are proud to make available,” Department of Education and Workforce Director Stephen Dackin said, according to WTVG. “I encourage school leaders to use these tools to engage their communities and adopt policies that enhance students’ ability to have a rich and rewarding learning experience while at school.”

We’ve waited too long already, and there is no excuse for letting the damage continue another year. Boards and administrators must not delay in implementing their own policies.


Elyria Chronicle-Telegram. May 29, 2024.

Editorial: Absurdity in Columbus

The Democratic National Committee must have finally realized that the Ohio General Assembly can’t be counted on to make a simple fix to allow President Joe Biden to appear on the Buckeye State’s ballot this year.

The DNC announced Tuesday that it was planning to hold a virtual roll-call vote to nominate Biden formally as the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate. The event will take place before Aug. 7, Ohio’s deadline for major parties to formally nominate their candidates. The Democratic convention is set to begin Aug. 19 in Chicago.

This unusual step — we hope it works — was necessary because lawmakers in the Ohio General Assembly have thus far failed to fix the problem.

There is blame on both sides.

After Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s office alerted Democrats to the problem in April, they didn’t appear overly concerned.

Likely, they hoped there would be a quick bipartisan fix as happened in 2012 and 2020, when both the Democratic and Republican conventions fell after the deadline. Biden ran into a similar issue in Alabama this year, and lawmakers there swiftly fixed it, which also perhaps gave Democrats a false sense of security.

Had access to the Ohio ballot been an issue for former President Donald Trump, the GOP’s presumptive nominee, you can rest assured that Republican lawmakers already would have solved it. However, the Republican National Convention will happen before Ohio’s filing deadline.

Since Trump wasn’t in danger, too many GOP lawmakers decided not to let a crisis for Biden go to waste.

State Rep. Brian Stewart, R-Ashville, wrote in a social media post a few weeks ago that “any legislative fix for Biden should be paired with a GOP policy priority.”

As if the only reason to ensure Ohioans a chance to see a Democratic presidential candidate on the ballot is conditional on Republicans getting their way.

The policy priority the GOP picked was a proposed ban on foreign money being used in ballot-issue campaigns.

This appears to be driven by lingering GOP anger over voters adding an abortion-rights amendment to the Ohio Constitution last year. Republicans were upset when it was revealed that a Swiss billionaire had donated to a group that supported the amendment.

Last year was a bad one for the Ohio GOP when it came to ballot issues. Voters also went against Republicans’ will by approving a citizen-initiated law that legalized recreational marijuana and rejecting a proposal that would have made amending the state Constitution harder.

Voters might again defy Republicans this year if a proposed constitutional amendment that would revamp redistricting in Ohio makes the ballot in the fall. (The GOP owes its veto-proof majorities in both the Ohio House and Senate in large part to gerrymandering.)

In any event, Democrats saw the proposed foreign-money ban as a poison pill. The proposal that emerged from the Senate, they pointed out, would have required any group gathering signatures to put an issue on the ballot, including at the local level, to register as a political action committee. That designation brings with it various requirements, including filing campaign finance reports.

As we’ve written before, there is certainly a debate to be had about campaign finance reform in Ohio.

However, those discussions should include addressing the problems revealed by the $60 million bribery scandal that brought down former House Speaker Larry Householder. The Glenford Republican is now serving a 20-year prison sentence on federal corruption charges. Forcing dark-money groups to reveal their donors would be a good place to start.

Republicans haven’t shown much interest in tackling those problems.

Internal strife among GOP lawmakers in the two chambers also has complicated what, again, should have been a simple fix.

Term-limited Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima, is running for the House next year with an eye toward challenging Speaker Jason Stephens, R-Kitts Hill. Stephens won the speaker’s gavel last year in part with the support of House Democrats.

Since the two leaders and their chambers couldn’t agree, nothing happened.

Meanwhile, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, has been saying for weeks that there was no need to worry. Biden’s name, he insisted, would be on the ballot, somehow.

He also appeared to recognize how foolish Ohio would look if a way couldn’t be found to put Biden’s name on the ballot.

“Failing to do so is simply not acceptable,” DeWine said Thursday. “This is ridiculous; this is an absurd situation.”

So DeWine ordered the General Assembly into a special session that began Tuesday. Unfortunately, he didn’t confine the business to Biden and the ballot.

He also asked lawmakers to take up the foreign-money ban, which of course touched off a whole new round of debate when they got together on Tuesday. Senate Republicans stuck to their guns on marrying the Biden ballot issue with the foreign-money ban.

Who knows what the House will end up doing when it convenes Thursday, but we wouldn’t be surprised if more absurdity were still to come.


Youngstown Vindicator. June 1, 2024.

Editorial: Revive the death penalty, restore justice in Ohio

To most casual observers, it may appear as if the death penalty is dead. After all, in 2023, only five states carried out 24 executions of capital criminals in the United States. In Ohio, not one has taken place in nearly six years.

But not all is as it appears. On the books, capital punishment lives on in 27 states and in all 50 states for federal crimes. The ongoing nationwide lull results from what Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost calls “a private-sector pardon” as pharmaceutical companies refuse to sell the necessary drugs to carry out the death penalty by lethal injection.

As a result, capital punishment in Ohio and elsewhere remains a farce. As Yost so aptly put it, the death penalty is “a broken promise of justice, and it must be fixed.”

Now at long last, a fix is in the works.

Enter state Reps. Brian Stewart, R-Ashville, and Phil Plummer, R-Dayton, who this year introduced House Bill 392. That bill would add nitrogen hypoxia asphyxiation to the legal methods by which a death sentence may be carried out. It also could end the state of limbo for capital punishment in the state of Ohio.

Fortunately, the bill already has gained traction. The House Government Oversight Committee began hearings on it this spring. At one hearing last month, revered Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins gave compelling testimony for Ohio’s stalled capital punishment system to resume. He argued, as he has boldly argued throughout his 40 years as the county’s top legal officer, for the state to finally obey the well-reasoned orders of juries and judges to fulfill death sentences as expeditiously as possible.

That clearly has not been the case in Ohio for far too long. Since the death penalty was reinstated in the Buckeye State in 1981, only 56 of 341 death sentences have been administered.

HB 392 has potential to clear that logjam and end the state’s institutional miscarriage of justice.

Of course, some opponents, including the American Civil Liberties Union, argue the use of nitrogen gas to execute capital criminals constitutes “cruel and unusual punishment.” Truth to tell, however, no method of execution– including the decidedly more painful electrocution or firing squad — has been found in violation per se of the Eighth Amendment. As for nitrogen gas, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to consider an appeal from Kennth Smith of Alabama on its legitimacy as an execution tool. Smith then became the first person in the U.S. to be executed by inhaling it earlier this year.

But beyond the legal mandate to carry out a just sentence lies other reasons to end the death penalty moratorium.

For one, a majority of Americans, according to a fall 2023 Gallup poll, support the death penalty. Many see it as a deterrent to crime and as a just punishment for the incredibly brutal murders many of them committed.

Second, the death penalty stands as more fiscally responsible. A state estimate shows death sentences have cost Ohio taxpayers $384 million, mostly in legal fees, a figure estimated to be five times higher than the cost of housing a convicted killer for life.

Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, carrying a capital crime case to its natural conclusion inside a death chamber provides much needed closure for families and friends of victims. Consider Miriam Fife, mother of 12-year-old Raymond Fife, who was raped, tortured and murdered 39 years ago in Warren by convicted killer Danny Lee Hill. Thirty-nine years and about 30 unsuccessful appeals later, Hill remains alive and Mrs. Fife and her son’s loved ones remain anguished and revictimized.

As Watkins put it in his support for HB 392, “Miriam Fife should not be — at age 83 — twisting in the wind waiting for us to do our job.”

Passage of HB 392 could clear the path to end that wait and carry out the appropriate and long-delayed justice for the worst of the worst in our state. We call on state legislators to do so promptly before summer recess.


Toledo Blade. May 30, 2024.

Editorial: Vance a co-conspirator

Regardless of how one feels about the criminal charges brought against Donald Trump for his efforts to conceal his marital infidelity with porn actress Stormy Daniels, the judge who presided over the case should be spared from the political crossfire.

Yet, Ohio’s junior U.S. senator has proposed a ridiculous criminal investigation into that judge’s conduct of the case.

Republican Sen. J.D. Vance stoops lower with each passing day in his desperate desire to be Trump’s vice presidential running mate.

The latest example is his letter to the U.S. Justice Department calling for prosecution of Judge Juan Merchan.

Republicans once epitomized the concept of respect for the legal structure. This is not your father’s Republican Party anymore.

Through his own shameful behavior, Trump has found himself the target of the Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. Mr. Bragg didn’t instruct Trump to reimburse Michael Cohen $130,000 to keep the voting public from learning about Trump’s sordid hotel room romp with Ms. Daniels. That was Trump’s choice.

Was it worth a criminal case eight years later? That’s debatable. That’s on Mr. Bragg. That’s on the New York grand jury that brought the indictment. It’s not on Judge Merchan.

Judge Merchan had an almost impossible job. He had to oversee a courtroom with Trump in the dock.

He imposed the same rules requiring decorum and respect for the courtroom process that he imposes on anyone.

Mr. Vance has written a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland calling for a criminal investigation into Judge Merchan “for his illegal deprivation of President Donald J. Trump’s First Amendment rights.”

Mr. Vance thinks he’s an expert of every subject. On the issue of the conduct of the trial, he is an amateur, and that’s giving him credit for sincerity. At worst, Mr. Vance’s letter is fake news, a specious critique of Trump’s trial to distract Trump voters from the reality of whom their candidate is.

To accuse Judge Merchan of being in a conspiracy with District Attorney Bragg is an offensive libel. There isn’t the tiniest bit of evidence of conspiracy or collaboration.

The only conspiracy involving this situation is the one that involved Trump and Cohen, and now Mr. Vance himself.

Cohen confessed to it, and the evidence was extremely clear that Trump knew that he was paying to hush up Ms. Daniels to keep it from the voters. Mr. Vance’s part is the cover-up.

Mr. Vance can’t see the Trump conspiracy right before his eyes but sees conspiracies in the ordinary activities of a judge who was just doing the job that was randomly assigned to him.

If Mr. Garland wasn’t such a painfully fair and impartial person he would tell Mr. Vance by return email to stick his letter about Judge Merchan somewhere the sun don’t shine. That’s the level of respect Mr. Vance’s letter deserves.