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Legislature needs remedial education in the law



Published: Mon, May 21, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



When Thomas Moyer, chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court, writes an opinion that tells the Ohio General Assembly to obey the court, the legislators should realize they've been smacked and act accordingly. But apparently, the Republican-dominated House doesn't understand that even lawmakers have to obey the state Constitution.

The court's order came about because the state didn't want to turn over documents and allow interviews of state officials as requested by the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding. The coalition asked for the information in subpoenas it served on employees of the Ohio Department of Education and the Legislative Budget Office in connection with the school funding case.

Out of order: The state said that the information wasn't available and besides, it had no duty to respond to the request. But Moyer, a Republican and one of three dissenters on the court's original school funding decision, said in his opinion, "We do not accept this argument. & quot;

In DeRolph, the court has twice ruled 4-3 that the state's school-funding system is unconstitutional because it relies too much on local property taxes and has given the state until June 15 to file a new school-funding plan.

Rather than comply with that court order, Republicans -- including Moyer -- tried to change the balance of the court by defeating Justice Alice Robie Resnick in last November's election.

When that failed, legislators have been playing behind the scenes to come up with something the court might approve. Trouble is, this state has open meeting and public records laws that preclude such back-room deals. Hence the court's order.

Secrecy: Undaunted, Senate Republicans are still trying to hide what they're up to. According to the Plain Dealer of Cleveland, GOP senators inserted a provision into the proposed two-year state budget that would shield documents used to write the new $1.4 billion plan from disclosure in the school-funding lawsuit. Said Sen. Jeff Jacobson, a Dayton-area Republican, in the Plain Dealer story, & quot;In the legislative process, there are always some parts that are public and some that are not. & quot;

Has Jacobson confused the state's school funding plan with the budget for the CIA?

We have news for him. Aside from issues of national security and a few other explicit exceptions, the public's business is always public. And when Republican justices like Moyer, Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, Paul Pfeifer and Andy Douglas are laying down the law, then Republican legislators had better sit down, shut up and do what they're told.




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