Body parts to stay buried
There’s an abandoned cemetery somewhere near Cincinnati.
I’ve never been there and know of its existence only because Republican state Sen. Bill Seitz told everyone about it during last week’s floor debate on the $61 billion-plus biennial budget.
Seitz’s speeches are the stuff of legend and are welcome respite from some of the tripe that’s offered during lengthy floor sessions.
After a full day of debate on some of the bigger issues included in the two-year spending plan — Medicaid reform, tax reform, school funding reform and any number of other reform proposals — Seitz used his mic time to point out some of the little things that are buried in the thousands of pages of legalese.
As Seitz put it, the budget is chock full of provisions that “streamline government, solve problems and make things run a little bit more efficiently.”
“Many of the things in this 5,000-page document are small things,” he said. “But the old saying, little strokes fell great oaks, is true.”
Seitz listed a few. There’s one provision that will allow real estate appraisers to bypass coursework on appraising when seeking a real estate brokers license.
That was prompted by a guy he knows who has been an appraiser for some 30 years who actually taught classes on appraising who wanted to become a broker but was facing the course requirement, which is a pretty silly thing if you think about it.
“... Ordinary constituents can have their voices heard,” Seitz said of the amendment, just before referencing Ethel Merman and the musical “Annie Get Your Gun” to emphasize his point. He added, “That’s a very common sense solution.”
Another provision would allow county recorders to affix facsimile signatures to certain land registration documents — a change suggested by a Democratic office-holder in his district.
And then there was the aforementioned cemetery, a 12-acre parcel with tax and lender liens attached to it. But current state law blocks foreclosures of such cemeteries, leaving the property to sit vacant and unmaintained.
“Body parts and bones are bubbling up out of the ground, and the township that I formerly represented... [asked] for relief from these liens so we can take the cemetery over and put the bones back in the ground,” Seitz said. “We did that in this budget.”
There are lots of other provisions in the budget that Seitz didn’t mention.
There’s language to boost the speed limit on certain divided highways, like U.S. Route 30, to 70 mph. It’s something of a fix, since some lawmakers thought Route 30 and other highways would be covered under the interstate speed limit increase they OK’d earlier this year.
There’s an amendment that allows the sale of Jell-O shots and other foods laced with liquor.
And there’s language requiring oil and gas producers to report their production results to the state on a quarterly basis rather than yearly, giving regulators and the public a better idea of what’s going on in eastern Ohio’s shale oilfields.
The list goes on and on. Though the bigger issues get most of the attention, there’s plenty of smaller law changes in the state budget that merit consideration.
Some of those were pushed by deep-pocketed special interests, whose pockets will get deeper as a result.
Some were prompted by everyday people who encountered problems because of long-forgotten requirements in state code.
And some are needed to keep those bones buried in the ground.
If nothing else, the dead can rest in peace knowing state lawmakers are looking out for their interests.
Marc Kovac is The Vindicator’s statehouse correspondent. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.