Free The Elephants.  Lock Up Troy McClure.

The new President of the Ohio Senate has a good idea:  he wants to repeal some of Ohio’s worst laws.

Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Medina has taken over as leader of the Ohio Senate with the start of the new year.  His ascension was marked by one of the most hallowed traditions in Ohio Politics for a Republican:  a soft focus feature from the Columbus Dispatch.  In the piece he gets quoted saying the least controversial thing possible: “members [should] represent their constituents and not follow personal agendas.”

The Dispatch allows for some bragging by Obhof as he describes himself as having “a lot of personal relationships with people.”  He continues, “I think that makes me very approachable.”  And, remarkably, the Dispatch was able to get one member to go on record describing the new boss as a man of “unquestioned” competence with “no pretense” and “a friend of everyone . . .”

Eye rolling emoji:  

But we have come to praise, not mock.  What caught our eye (in between rolls) was this:

Obhof said he would like each member to pick a law that isn’t working as intended and try to repeal it or reduce its scope.

We actually think that is a great idea.  Seriously.  And in the spirit of the new year, we have some suggestions.

There are some obvious choices, but alas they are non-starters with this Legislature and Governor.

  • The exclusion of JobsOhio from Ohio’s public records laws is beyond ridiculous. The Agency – which is clearly unconstitutional – essentially operates in secret with no public oversight.  But as long as Kasich is governor, this will never change.
  • The new abortion restrictions re not only unconstitutional but bad policy. Yet the republicans seem committed to spending hundreds of thousands of dollars defending these laws in the courts just to make a political point to their most zealous constituents.  So we don’t expect change there, either.
  • The manner in which Ohio draws congressional and legislative districts is also disgraceful. But too many people – on both sides of the aisle, sadly – are invested in maintaining the status quo to make any progress here.

So, instead, we offer a few of the more interesting aspects of Ohio’s laws to repeal.

In criminal justice, we suggest the elimination of civil asset forfeiture.  The Legislature recently passed HB 347, which made some good and mch needed changes to the civil forfeiture law.  But, as John Oliver put it better than we ever could, the entire system is a corrupt disaster.  Trash the whole thing.

Another criminal justice reform:  eliminate the death penalty.  If a Dark Red State like Nebraska can do it then so can Ohio. (OK, Nebraska put it back with referendum, but still). This is not about philosophy.  And this is not even about the scary stories about innocent people being executed. This is all about being fiscally conservative.   It costs much, much more to try, convict, and execute someone after appeals than to house them for life without parole.  SO this is clearly a law that is not working.

But to get into the crazy laws that need to be revised, we need to turn to animals.

Chapter 935 of the Revised Code makes no sense for the most part.  We have no beef with having the register wild animals.  But what s the deal with R.C. 934.041, which added registration of “certain marmosets, monkeys, capuchins and lemurs.” To the list of animals to be registered.  There must be a story there.  But where the law is behind the times is that it allows a circus to still have elephant rides. The statute, in fact, specifically carves out elephants as the one wild animal a person may ride “under the direct supervision of an experienced animal handler.”  Even Ringling Borthers has determined that the use of elephants in the circus can be cruel, and has retired the animals.

Finally, there is the new Ohio bestiality law.  This seemed dead, but a restriction on bestiality in Ohio was added into SB 331 during the lame duck session.  So Ohio will soon have a new law, R.C. 959.21, the prohibits sexual activity between animals and people.

Putting aside that there was never a problem, we think, of this in the past 200+ years of Ohio history, we have a problem with the definition of an animal in the law.  As the Plunderbund Podcast crew noticed last summer, the statute defines an animal as “a nonhuman mammal, bird, reptile, or amphibian, either dead or alive.”

This law has no mention of fish.  In a famous and classic Simpsons episode, A Fish Called Selma, Troy McClure is supposed to have engaged in scandalous sex with a fish.  You may remember Troy McClure from such films as The Boatjacking of Supership ’79, Calling All Quakers (with Dolores Montenegro), and Dial M for Murderousness.   But Troy was most remembered for his unusual fetish.  If you don’t know, all you want to learn is that he famously celebrated good news by announcing, “I am going to Seaworld!”  So if we are serious about protecting animals from unwanted sexual contact,  the law should be repealed until it includes protection for our finned friends.

This is our suggestions.  We are sure YOU have better ones.  Let us know in the comments or on Facebook.