COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Excerpts of recent editorials of statewide and national interest from Ohio newspapers:
The (Canton) Repository, May 17
The state Legislature apparently needs to hire someone to dispense Mom-like wisdom such as “Haste makes waste.” (Last) week alone, legislators have had to fix errors or problems in two previous bills.
They weren’t typos or other simple oversights. Both involved language that could have had serious repercussions for people affected by the new laws.
. Bill No. 1: Requires officials and volunteers for youth sports organizations to take players who may have suffered concussions out of the game and keep them out of play until a medical professional clears them.
The problem: The original bill would have permitted criminal charges to be filed against coaches and referees who make the wrong call about a child’s injury. That wasn’t legislators’ intent; a new bill passed this week makes it clear.
. Bill No. 2: Defines eligibility guidelines for teachers in connection with the state’s new third-grade reading guarantee. (The guarantee requires most third-graders to be held back a year if they can’t pass a reading test.)
The problem: The initial eligibility guidelines for teachers who are assigned to reading improvement were so strict that far too few teachers qualified. School districts were worried that they wouldn’t have enough people to meet the new mandate. The common-sense correction allows teachers with a record of effectiveness, those who aren’t the student’s “teacher of record” and those with related credentials to also work on reading improvement….
Lesson learned, legislators?
The Cincinnati Enquirer, May 17
There’s a question that’s useful when trying to decide whether a course of action is a good idea: If the worst possible outcome occurs, how will this look in the newspaper (or on a mobile news platform)?
Asking that question could have saved Internal Revenue Service agents in the Cincinnati Determinations Unit a lot of trouble. There’s no way to defend their targeting of groups applying for tax-exempt status using names that indicated a conservative bent. Some of those organizations, whose names included phrases like “tea party” and “patriot,” waited years to hear back about their applications. Agents also asked improper questions about their activities and membership, according to a report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.
They approved about 70 percent of those applications – some of them tea party groups — after an initial review. But the local unit had the bad idea to set aside some applications that included the conservative terms….
This is wrong, and it was wrong for managers to allow the practice to continue. They cannot ask for the names of donors, whether officers intend to run for political office, and a handful of other questions and requests that IRS employees routinely sent out….
There are lessons to be learned from this scandal, but the current political posturing over it threatens to overshadow anything useful we could take from it. Once the furor dies down, we’d like to see clarity on how much political activity is permissible for tax-exempt groups.
The (Newark) Advocate, May 19
If we have to pay taxes, there is little doubt we want the process to be as painless as possible.
That’s not always the case when it comes to Ohio’s web of municipal income taxes paid to villages and cities.
Not only do the rates vary from community to community, but so do many of the rules — including if businesses can carry losses forward from year to year. There’s also the confusion facing taxpayers who work in one city and live in another regarding credits for taxes paid where they work.
So we’re sympathetic to the stated goal of Ohio lawmakers who have introduced House Bill 5, which purports to create uniformity across the hundreds of local income taxes collected in Ohio. It’s being pitched as an effort to make Ohio more business friendly.
Unfortunately, the bill appears to really amount to a business tax reform measure designed to lower business taxes at the expense of local governments already reeling from massive state budget cuts and other sensible tax reductions benefiting businesses….
Several other provisions, such as requiring certified letters for routine annual audits of returns and changing how taxes are calculated for off-site or online sales, would increase government expense or lower revenue.
That’s a lose-lose proposition for our cities and villages as they struggle to maintain safety services, pave roads and even clear snow with reasonable speed.
The (Toledo) Blade, May 20
Mother’s Day is over for the year, but the health-care needs of working-class Ohio mothers and their children remain acute. State lawmakers should address these needs promptly, not shove them aside for another year — or forever.
The Republican-dominated General Assembly continues to ignore GOP Gov. John Kasich’s plea to expand Ohio’s Medicaid program of health insurance for low-income and disabled people. Mr. Kasich’s expansion plan would reduce medical costs borne by taxpayers, employers, and people with private insurance. Its emphasis on preventive care would improve public health, strengthening families and communities.
Expansion would create jobs, generate new tax revenue and economic activity, and save state government lots of money. It would upgrade local mental-health and substance abuse programs. And it would be funded almost completely by Washington under the federal Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare….
Medical evidence is clear: Women who have health insurance during pregnancy deliver healthier babies, because they are more likely to get prenatal care. The Medicaid expansion would broaden access to such care, reducing infant deaths and expensive premature births.
Yet the Republican majorities in the state House and Senate remain unmoved by such compelling data. Their opposition to Medicaid expansion is rooted less in sound policy than in partisan politics — an effort to placate the hard-right, anti-Obamacare zealots who could exert disproportionate influence in the GOP primaries many lawmakers may face next year.