Column: Home speaker respectfully sits out vote on state seal

Last week’s Statehouse calendar featured a red-letter day for Ohioans who strive to underline Ohio’s claim to be the birthplace of aviation: Ohio’s House passed a bill requiring the state seal and coat of arms to carry a depiction of the Wright Brothers’ plane. Rep. Rick Perales, a Beavercreek Republican, sponsored the bipartisan bill, whose co-sponsors include Rep. Fred Strahorn, a Dayton Democrat. To become law, the state Senate would have to approve Perales’s bill, then Republican Gov. John Kasich would have to sign it.

Purists may quibble that depicting a plane on Ohio’s seal — which portrays Mount Logan in Ross County, whose seat, Chillicothe, was the state’s first capital — mixes old times with modern times. And adding the Wrights’ plane to the seal’s rural scene calls to mind a memorable part of Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller, “North by Northwest,” when a killer crop-duster chases Cary Grant across farmland. (See an illustration of the revised seal in HB 370.)

Still, the Wrights changed the world, and having their invention on the seal isn‘t without a kind of precedent. The Ohio History Connection reports that some earlier versions of Ohio’s seal and coat of arms portrayed a canal boat.

The House passed the bill 90-3; voting no were Republican Reps. Robert Cupp of Lima, Mike Duffey of Worthington and Gary Scherer of Circleville. (Much of Ross County is in Scherer’s district, with the remainder in House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger’s district.)

Rosenberger, a Clarksville Republican, didn’t vote on the bill. A Rosenberger spokesman said House rules don’t require the presiding officer to vote. The spokesman added that “because the current state seal depicts a scene from Ross County, (part of) which is in the speaker’s district, some constituents strongly urged against him voting to alter the seal. At the same time, the speaker appreciates and understands the historical significance of the Wright Brothers’ achievement and how the creation of the Wright Flyer makes Ohio unique.”

So, the House’s most powerful member stayed neutral on the bill — didn‘t take part in deciding it either way — and the House made the decision.

But as Margaret Thatcher said, “It’s a funny old world.” That’s so even in Columbus. Also last week, although the campaign committees of Republican Supreme Court Justices Terrence O’Donnell and Pat DeWine had each received a past donation from the founder of the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, the online charter school, the two justices took part anyway in a Supreme Court case that likely will determine ECOT’s future. True, the $3,450 donation to O’Donnell’s campaign was made in 2012, and the $3,600 donation to DeWine’s campaign was made in 2015. Still …

When GOP legislators unveiled a bill last week that, among other things, would prune the power of the partly elected, partly appointed State Board of Education, fans of the status quo reached for smelling salts. The board hires Ohio’s superintendent of public instruction — the state’s chief school officer. Under the bill, the governor would appoint him or her.

That mechanism is clearly what Gov. Kasich would like to bequeath his successor. If anyone can name the State Board of Education’s members, she or he qualifies for a MacArthur Foundation genius grant. The Ohio Constitution says that the board shall “be selected in such manner and for such terms as shall be provided by law.” That is — though this isn’t in the bill — the legislature could create a State Board of Education composed of, say, the governor, lieutenant governor and someone the governor appoints.

But that won‘t happen. It’d make too much sense.

Thomas Suddes is a former legislative reporter with The Plain Dealer in Cleveland and writes from Ohio University.



Leave a Comment