The Toledo Blade

Former Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger resigned from office amid talk of an FBI investigation into his allegedly unethical behavior.

Ohioans are owed some more information about how influence is being apportioned in the Ohio House of Representatives — before members get together and elect a new speaker.

The former speaker, Cliff Rosenberger, abruptly quit on April 12 — after it was reported he had retained a lawyer to respond to questions from the FBI. The Clarksville Republican says he’s done nothing wrong.

Some payday lending lobbyists may have attempted to curry favor with the speaker by helping to pay for a trip to London. The FBI is investigating that. It just so happened that payday lenders went on a lavish trip with the speaker and that coincidentally the legislation to reform payday lending got bottled up in committee. The legislation, co-sponsored by Toledo state Rep. Michael Ashford, is aimed at reining in the predatory interest rates that so-called payday lenders charge.

Ohio citizens want the Ohio General Assembly to act in the citizens’ best interests at all times. That includes when it comes to regulating the payday lending industry.

All we know is that Mr. Rosenberger was rapidly hustled out of town, and Republican House members act like it’s just another day at work and time to elect a new House Speaker. Meanwhile, the story about the payday lenders and Mr. Rosenberger’s excellent adventure in London has gone quiet. Mr. Rosenberger is the first speaker to resign under an ethical cloud. ...

The Franklin County prosecutor’s office and the office of the inspector general should not wait for the FBI to decide what to do but should open an investigation and follow where it leads.



Akron Beacon Journal

First, the French president and then the German chancellor visited the White House last week. Both Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel pitched President Trump on the value of sticking with the Iran nuclear agreement. How did it go?

According to reports, Macron appears resigned to the president pulling out of the deal "for domestic reasons," likely by May 12, the deadline for the most recent periodic review. Candidate Trump repeatedly described the agreement as a "terrible, one-sided . horrible deal." He still does. So he may be set to keep a promise, and now his cast of advisers includes prominent voices who share his harsh assessment, John Bolton, the national security adviser, and Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state.

Macron, Merkel and others have argued that the president can work to make the agreement better, seeking to expand its reach into areas, such as ballistic missiles, that negotiators earlier left off the table. Merkel provided a helpful insight when she called the deal "one piece of a mosaic."

The larger objective is constraining Iran in a turbulent Middle East where it has gained advantages, especially as a result of the civil war in Syria. The nuclear agreement stands as the one concrete restraining mechanism. A strong verification regimen reports that Iran has held to its commitments, putting off for a decade, and possibly more, its pursuit of nuclear weapons.

And if Iran breaks from the deal? Tough sanctions and other isolating measures would be applied. More, the response would be collective, the United States acting with its partners, and thus with clear moral authority not available if the White House just bolts on its own.

Part of the mosaic concept goes to the reality that Washington entered the agreement along with others, including Russia and China. All recognized the larger danger in Iran continuing its pursuit of nuclear weapons, or the likely result if the president withdraws from the agreement.

Break from the deal, and rallying partners around something new promises to be most difficult. Might there be military options? Here, the president has sent signals via his response in Syria, willing to launch narrowly conceived missile strikes yet staying away from a prolonged and messy military commitment. ...

... The next step should not be a wholly unnecessary nuclear crisis, driven by a decision that misses what brought the single achievement in constraining Iran, countries working together.



The Columbus Dispatch

The ghost of the defunct Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow online charter school is haunting Ohio’s 2018 political races, and that’s no surprise. The school’s 18-year history in Ohio, featuring dismal academic performance and gross overpayments by taxpayers, represents a colossal failure of Ohio’s charter-school system that stretches over Republican and Democratic administrations.

It provides fodder for Democratic candidates to put Republicans, who have controlled state government for eight years, on the spot.

Regardless of whose claims prove to be most valid, Ohio’s next class of leaders should focus on a key problem with e-schools: We don’t have a reliable way to ensure that e-school students are "attending" throughout the school year. And thus we don’t have a valid basis on which to pay the schools.

The old method — simply paying full freight for every child who enrolls regardless of his or her participation — is absurd and should have been seen as such from the start. Now ECOT is using employee-tracking software called ActivTrak to document students’ activity, but state regulations don’t make clear what should and shouldn’t count toward the required 920 hours of instruction time per year per student.

What if someone is logged on for six hours straight but registers no keystrokes for the last three hours? Questions like that likely will be hashed out as state claims against ECOT are litigated. Going forward, they need to be addressed up front by state lawmakers.

As state Auditor Dave Yost runs for attorney general, his role in the ECOT story is in the spotlight courtesy of Democratic opponent Steve Dettelbach. It’s a noteworthy role; Yost’s office drove investigations that found ECOT had overcharged taxpayers millions of dollars by accepting payment for students without being able to document that they were receiving an education.

But Yost also has accepted campaign contributions in the past from ECOT founder William Lager and once spoke at an ECOT graduation.

Audits by Yost’s office have found that ECOT owes the state at least $80 million in overpayments. The Department of Education last year began docking ECOT’s state funding to make up the overpayments, causing the school to close in January for lack of funds. ...

If criminal charges are warranted, they should be pursued vigorously.

But when the smoke clears, the priority should be writing better e-school regulations so this debacle won’t be repeated.