Ohio's Constitutional Catch-22 . . .
While critics wonder how anybody ever would have the legal standing to mount a legal challenge if the legislature violates Ohio's Constitution the appeals court said it could not address that issue until it was brought up by someone with legal standing. A perfect Catch-22.
Twice in recent weeks, judges in Columbus have -- in so many words -- let the Ohio Constitution become a Slinky toy in the General Assembly's playpen.
True, the edicts include enough words such as "therefore" and "whereas" to bubble-wrap their real meanings.
But that can't cushion this fact: Last week's decision (in ProgressOhio.org vs. JobsOhio), like a May 30 ruling against the Ohio Roundtable (noted here last week), means Joe or Joan Taxpayer generally can't go to court to question many of the General Assembly's antics.
If you think that's a good thing, you're either in someone's legislative majority or you don't pay taxes.
Because both decisions -- again, however technically defensible -- fail to recognize changing times:
Regardless of party, a term-limited General Assembly, plus a job-dispensing governorship, mean lawmaking in Ohio ain't what it used to be: Checks and balances are fewer, and weaker, in the rush to make nice-nice with a governor made even more powerful by legislative term limits. In most places, that would prod judges to rebalance the Statehouse scales.
But this isn't most places. It's Ohio.
So, last week, in a challenge to Gov. John Kasich's transformation of the state Development Department into JobsOhio, the 10th Ohio District Court of Appeals ruled that a liberal outfit named ProgressOhio, plus Sen. Michael Skindell, a Lakewood Democrat, and Rep. Dennis Murray, a Sandusky Democrat, had "no standing" to challenge the General Assembly's creation of JobsOhio, despite constitutional angles which even the appellate court's ruling conceded are important: "There is no question [the plaintiffs'] challenge raises significant concerns about at least some of the provisions of the JobsOhio Act."
Then, however, the ruling cited the courthouse equivalent of this, that and the other thing -- the phrase "great public interest," a requirement for winning a case like ProgressOhio's. And, said the court, the objections that ProgressOhio, Murray and Skindell raised to JobsOhio didn't amount to "enough of a public concern to confer standing" on them -- the right to go to court.