COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Excerpts of recent editorials of statewide and national interest from Ohio newspapers:
Akron Beacon Journal, April 8
With vocal backing from the community, the Jackson City Schools Board of Education at first rejected the idea of removing a popular portrait of Jesus that had hung in a school building since 1947. The controversy surfaced after the Freedom from Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., and the American Civil Liberties Union sued the small, Appalachian district on behalf of a student and two parents.
As in similar cases that have brought national attention, the plaintiffs called the portrait an unconstitutional promotion of religion in a public school. The school board countered, arguing that removing it would infringe on the freedom of speech of the student group that donated it.
Fortunately, the district reconsidered, voluntarily agreeing during a court hearing last week to take the portrait down. The district's insurance company said it would not cover the cost of litigation. In the end, the board and superintendent saw the issue clearly, wisely realizing that the cost of a prolonged lawsuit would only deprive students of the resources needed to learn....
Many of the founders were, indeed, deeply religious. But they were determined not to let anyone, particularly the government, trample on their right to practice religion as they saw fit. Last week, the Jackson City Schools relearned that history.
The Marietta Times, April 6
It should not require a formal agreement for the federal government to cooperate with states in reducing food stamp fraud, but apparently it does.
Federal officials announced (last) week that Ohio has become one of the first states in the nation to be part of a new program to curb crime in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, popularly known as food stamps. Under the arrangement, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the state will share data that will help the state monitor food stamp transactions and detect fraud.
About 1 percent of the $80 billion spent nationwide on the program is lost to fraud, federal officials estimate. That is down from 14 percent just a few years ago — and the lower estimate certainly is suspect.
More than 1.8 million Ohioans receive food stamp aid, dispensed through "swipe" cards. The program costs more than $2.4 billion a year in the Buckeye State alone.
Just a year ago, state Auditor Dave Yost warned of abuse in the food stamp program. Yost said one scam involves obtaining a food stamp card, using or selling it, then seeking another one by claiming the original was lost. As many as 17,000 Ohio food stamp clients received 10 or more "reissued" cards during the previous year, he said.
Clearly, curbing food stamp fraud is in taxpayers' best interests. Ohio state officials should use this new data-sharing opportunity to stop at least some of it and file criminal charges against those responsible.
The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, April 6
Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy on Thursday signed into law one of the nation's toughest gun-control packages. He did so watched not just by family members of the children gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School last December but also by the state legislators who'd put aside ideological differences to hammer out the bipartisan measure.
It was an instructive moment.
Sensible gun laws that protect the rights of law-abiding gun owners while aiding public safety are possible. Political compromise can be accomplished. Incremental change is not only achievable but also desirable.
In Connecticut, it became an emotional issue among Sandy Hook parents that the high-capacity ammunition magazines that helped Adam Lanza slaughter their innocents weren't all banned, only restricted — including a requirement that existing owners register their magazines. Yet that is still a move forward that may help reconcile gun enthusiasts to the need for more controls.
When the U.S. Senate returns to work this week, at the top of its agenda will be a proposed requirement for universal background checks on firearms purchases. Yet despite polls that show the idea enjoys overwhelming public support, even among gun owners, there is a good chance it won't make it to the floor for a vote. The National Rifle Association's Senate allies appear to have enough votes to require a supermajority of 60 members to force final action. This is the kind of parliamentary stunt that Americans ought to resent, regardless of their political persuasion....
It's time for senators to stand with the people and not the NRA.
The (Findlay) Courier, April 5
Ohio's municipal income tax code isn't broken. It works just fine for the cities and towns which collect the tax from individuals and businesses.
The problem is the code is bulky, and collecting taxes is far from business-friendly.
Ohio is the only state that allows every municipality to set its own income taxes. It has 600 municipalities using 300 different forms, each municipality with its own rate, definition of tax, filing requirements, deadlines and reciprocity amounts.
That can create a filing nightmare and excessive costs for companies, especially those that do business in multiple places.
House Bill 5, introduced in January, aims to simplify and standardize local income tax codes.
It would overhaul some aspects of collection by requiring municipalities to standardize some of their definitions and deductions, and by not counting anything less than a half-day as a work day for income tax purposes.
It also would expand the number of days that someone must work in a community before he is liable for income tax there. Currently, the threshold is 12 days per year. The proposal would increase that to 20 days....
Sponsors had hoped to have the bill approved by June, but that appears unlikely considering the opposition, primarily from cities and villages.
Still, lawmakers should continue reform efforts.
Time and money are wasted each year as small businesses and taxpayers try to meet tax obligations in each jurisdiction where they live and work. That could be spent on growing business and adding jobs.