Editorials from around Ohio

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Excerpts of recent editorials of statewide and national interest from Ohio newspapers:

The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, Dec. 2

An Ohio House committee risks shaming the state in backing off a bill to make cockfighting a felony.

Ohio, as The Columbus Dispatch reported the other day, is one of only 14 states, and the only Great Lakes state, where cockfighting is a misdemeanor. Bids to help Ohio gain some legislative self-respect in this department have been stymied for decades by a small but determined and vocal clique of game-fowl breeders, mostly in southern Ohio.

In the latest twist, the effort to make cockfighting a felony has stalled in the House's Criminal Justice Committee because of last-minute "questions" about House Bill 260, sponsored by Republican Rep. Timothy Derickson, from Butler County in southwest Ohio.

One committee member, lame-duck Republican Rep. Danny Bubp, of West Union in southern Ohio's Adams County, reportedly mused that making cockfighting a felony would further crowd Ohio's prisons. If that is so, then cockfighting is far more widespread in Ohio than its protectors have ever previously admitted. (Besides, anyone with an ounce of familiarity with Ohio's criminal justice system knows that prison crowding in Ohio is largely a result of inane drug laws.)

Cockfighting is a revolting, dehumanizing blood "sport" that has no place in 21st-century Ohio. What also is revolting is that a lame-duck session of the Ohio House — ipso facto, a House with some members who will never again face voters — would seek to protect it.

Online: http://bit.ly/SBclbe

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The (Tiffin) Advertiser-Tribune, Nov. 30

Representatives in the Ohio House voted 58-27 to approve an overhaul of the public school rating system. The bill next goes to the state Senate, which is expected to act on the proposal before the current legislative session ends in December.

Fine. But a priority for next year should be devising a school funding formula which relies less on personal property taxes.

The proposed overhaul would change the rating scale to parallel the familiar A through F grading system. Big deal. Most Ohioans are smart enough to equate the current five-tier ratings — excellent, effective, continuous improvement, academic watch and academic emergency — to letter grades.

The key, of course, is how those ratings are derived. It makes sense that lawmakers and taxpayers alike have a method to assess how well resources they allocate are being utilized. There is a certain logic to determining that system before revisiting school funding issues.

But 15 years have passed since the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that the state's method for funding public education was unconstitutional. In the meantime, actions by state legislators haven't even earned a rating as "continuous improvement."

That doesn't leave many letters to choose from in grading their performance.

Online: http://bit.ly/Uke6rr

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The Cincinnati Enquirer, Dec. 1

County recorders' offices are troves of public information. Property deeds, mortgages and other real estate documents are routinely used by attorneys, mortgage companies, banks, title companies and just plain citizens.

In most Ohio counties, these records are available online, making them accessible from homes and offices. But an amendment on a bill now pending in the Ohio Legislature would allow county recorders to charge a fee when people print these documents online from their own homes or workplaces.

The amendment is misguided and should be killed.

It would permit recorders to charge up to $2 a page for Internet printing or charge an annual subscription fee of up to $500 to print an unlimited number of copies. It's an effort by county recorders to raise money to fund their offices, but they shouldn't charge the public for records the public already owns. There is no cost to a recorder's office when someone hits the "print" key on their office computer to retrieve a document stored online. In fact, citizens seeking records save government offices money by printing documents on their own rather than asking county workers to do it on county equipment.

More broadly, providing access to public records is a fundamental function of government. Government offices are caretakers of public documents, not the owners. The cost of doing that should be funded through the offices' general funds, not special fees. Fees discourage and restrict access to public information.

What's more, allowing recorders to charge for Internet printing could encourage other county offices — auditor, courts, treasurer and others — to levy similar charges.

Online: http://cin.ci/VqrNtB

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The (Findlay) Courier, Nov. 29

It's never been easy in Ohio to define what is legal gambling and what is illegal gambling. The definition is no clearer since voters approved casino gambling in November 2009.

Three casinos have opened in the past year and video slot machines are being added to several Ohio horse tracks, creating something called "racinos." ...

Gambling, once a vice, has gone mainstream and is heavily regulated if deemed legal. In Ohio, schools and governments get a cut of the action.

But one form of gaming, the kind played in "Internet cafes," has gone practically unchecked in recent years.

The businesses, which are said to number more than 800 statewide, have sweepstakes devices resembling slot machines....

Unlike licensed gambling in Ohio, these places are unregulated. They aren't required to pay out a certain percentage of the money they take in, or even disclose to customers their odds of winning. Operators don't even have to undergo background checks.

That's an unfair advantage, according to casino owners and others involved in running regulated gambling....

Lawmakers are currently considering House Bill 605, which would clarify what types of sweepstakes are legal and what kind are not. If passed, the bill would put the operations out of business....

While an outright ban of these joints may go too far now that the door to gambling has been open so wide, the state has little choice but to rein them in.

At the very least, lawmakers should make sure all those who profit from gambling, however it's defined, are playing by the same rules.

Online: http://bit.ly/TxoGdP

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