Sunday, Jul 24, 2016
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Sauce for the goose

THE way Republican senators in Columbus ducked a recent proposal to require criminal background checks on legislators, you would have thought they were being ordered to take lie detector tests.

After all, lawmakers aren't reluctant to subject a long list of Ohioans in licensed professions to police checks. But when the tables were turned, the Senate's nervous GOP majority found a whole host of reasons - none of them very convincing - to kill similar scrutiny of themselves.

Not that they might have something to hide, of course.

The hypocritical tableau took place last month during debate on a House-passed bill that would institute background checks on a long list of professionals, including accountants, funeral directors, optometrists, pharmacists, physicians, chiropractors, massage therapists, and veterinarians.

The ostensible purpose of the requirement is to allow state licensing boards to verify information provided by applicants and to head off potential bad apples.

But Democrats called the mandate unnecessary overregulation, and one of them, Sen. John Boccieri, of Middletown, decided that, as the old fable suggests, what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. He proposed an amendment that would have required candidates for the state House and Senate to undergo background checks when they filed nominating petitions with the county board of elections.

"We ought to hold ourselves to the same standard that we're holding them," Senator Boccieri reasoned.

However, his amendment was blocked on a party-line vote after the GOP leadership lamely objected that the idea hadn't been vetted through the usual committee process. Oh, and it wasn't submitted in writing, either. Never mind that, minutes earlier, the Senate had agreed to an amendment - also unwritten - to exempt barbers from background checks.

The Republican double-speak on parliamentary procedure was seized on by Democrats, including Minority Leader Teresa Fedor, of Toledo. "They're just making up the rules as they see fit " she observed.

All the more reason, some would argue, to subject legislators to background checks. What could be the harm in trying to separate the lawbreakers from the lawmakers?

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