The General Assembly doesn’t seem to understand that its job isn’t to limit women’s options for pregnancies, nor to require everyone in Ohio to pack heat.
Instead, Ohio’s state senators and representatives are supposed to be Brush Hogs, hacking and thinning Ohio’s bureaucratic thicket. Too bad they aren’t.
A good place to start would be Ohio’s bloated K-12 bureaucracies. Ohio ranks No. 34 among the 50 states in geographic size. Ohio has 609 school districts, not counting vocational districts. Texas ranks No. 2 (after Alaska) among the 50 states in geographic area. Texas has 1,029 school districts, according to the Texas Association of School Boards.
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There’s a lot not to like about Texas, whose Legislature makes Ohio’s General Assembly look like a chapter of Mensa. But does anyone honestly think Ohio, whose population isn’t really growing, needs 609 school boards?
Likewise, if COVID-19 has taught Ohio anything (besides the fact vaccines don’t magnetize the human body), it’s that Ohio’s public health laws need a rewrite. Their basic framework was hammered together in 1919 by a General Assembly that rural Ohio then dominated. Health boards and their staffs should be regionalized at least, which is about the best you can expect of a Legislature that thinks Ohio’s Health Department is a dictatorship in waiting.
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Then there is the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, which, depending on the day of the week, either plays helpless bystander when electric and gas companies raise rates, or cheers them on.
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The panel, created just before World War I, is even older than Ohio’s health boards. Its real purpose is to insulate governors and the Legislature from the consequences of pro-utility favors legislators pass and governors sign. In that respect, the PUCO deserves a smidgen of sympathy for taking punches that should land elsewhere.
After all, it is the Legislature, not the PUCO, that is sitting on major pro-consumer legislation, such as Senate Bill 117, which would abolish one huge vestige of House Bill 6, the scandal-pocked nuclear power plant bailout law.
Legislators repealed some parts of HB 6, but not all. They left this part of the bill in place: Ohio electricity consumers are paying extra every month to subsidize three Ohio electric utilities that are among owners of two coal-fueled power plants, one in Indiana.
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According to the Office of Consumers’ Counsel, Ohio electricity consumers have paid American Electric Power, AES/DP&L and Duke Energy more than $153 million so far in coal plant subsidies. SB 117, to repeal them, is languishing in a Senate committee. The subsidy repeal’s sponsors are Sens. Mark Romanchuk, an Ontario Republican, and Hearcel Craig, a Columbus Democrat.
Meanwhile, the Legislature also is dawdling over a bill to abolish Ohio’s no-refund legal policy in instances when Ohio’s Supreme Court overturns a PUCO-approved rate boost That bill’s sponsors are Reps. Laura Lanese, a Grove City Republican, and Dan Troy, a Willowick Democrat.
The legal rigmarole behind that rule, which dates to a Cincinnati Bell rate case in the 1950s, is kind of like what the British diplomat Palmerston said about a complicated German-Danish dispute: Only three people understood it, he said: One died, one went mad and the third, Palmerston himself, had “forgotten all about it.” But utilities’ lawyers haven’t forgotten the Keco case, as it’s known, which is why utility refunds are comparatively rare.
Any legislator who says he wants Ohio’s utility consumers to get a fair break – but won’t support the Romanchuk-Craig and Lanese-Troy bills – is being … economical … not with ratepayers’ money, but with the truth.
Rep. Haraz Ghanbari, a Perrysburg Republican, voted “no” on House Bill 175, now in the Senate, which would end Ohio’s regulation of ephemeral streams, “surface water … that flows or pools only in response to precipitation, such as rain or snow,” the Legislative Service Commission reports.
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, which answers to Gov. Mike DeWine, opposes the bill, as does a raft of environmental groups. My Oct. 10 column incorrectly said Grove City’s Lanese was the only House Republican to vote “no.”
Thomas Suddes is a former legislative reporter with The Plain Dealer in Cleveland and writes from Ohio University.