The Ohio Senate should approve a bill to consolidate Youngstown's municipal court judgeships, and Trumbull County should begin working on a similar process.
The Ohio House voted 76-12 to approve the measure sponsored by Rep. Bob Hagan, D-Youngstown, and Rep. Ron Gerberry, D-Austintown. The legislation was introduced on Nov. 20. The House heard testimony on the bill Tuesday afternoon.
The bill now heads to the Ohio Senate where it could be passed by the end of the year.
The bill would reduce the size of the Youngstown Municipal Court from three judges to two and abolish the seat that was left vacant when former Judge Robert Douglas retired in the summer. Gov. John Kasich has not yet filled the seat.
Hagan said last week that at least two studies, including one commissioned by the Mahoning County Bar Association, plus a justice on the state Supreme Court agree that Youngstown only needs two judges because of a declining case load.
The third judge for the city court was created in 1953, when the population of the city was close to 150,000 residents. Currently, the population is about 67,000.
The rest of Mahoning County should work toward a smaller, consolidated judicial system as well. Likewise, Warren and Trumbull County have experienced population declines that warrant a smaller, consolidated lower court system.
Earlier this year, the consolidation of Eastern and Central district courts in Trumbull County appeared a certainty. Citizens approved, the Ohio Supreme Court approved, and the Ohio Senate approved. Unwilling to release control of a judgeship usually held by an elected Democrat, the local Democrat state representatives halted the consolidation in the Ohio House.
No doubt in Youngstown, since the Republican governor would appoint Douglas' replacement, it was easier for Democrats Hagan and Gerberry to support abolishing the seat.
Trumbull County leaders and taxpayers should press on. Spending more than $100,000 per year to support two judges where everybody, including the state representatives who quashed the merger, agree only one is necessary, hurts other services such as senior citizen transportation, which comes from the same budget.