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Abolition of Ohio's Pension Law

Creator: J.P. Draper (author)
Date: April 1907
Publication: The Outlook for the Blind
Source: American Printing House for the Blind, Inc., M. C. Migel Library


A RECENT decision by the Supreme Court of Ohio indicates a distinction to be recognized by those who attempt to promote the interests of the blind by means of legislation. This distinction is between the procurement of a bounty or pure and simple gift of money for the benefit of the blind, as a class, and the procurement of legislation which tends directly to alleviate their infirmity physically, or to train them so that notwithstanding their infirmity they may become partially if not wholly self-supporting.


In 1904 the General Assembly of Ohio passed an act providing that all the adult blind persons who had been residents of the state for five years and of the county for one year, and had no property or means with which to support themselves, should be entitled to receive not more than twenty-five dollars per capita quarterly from the county auditor. It is reported that under this law about twenty-eight hundred blind persons had applied for and received pensions, when the constitutionality of the act was brought into question by the action of the Lucas County auditor, who refused to make the payment in accordance with the terms of the statute. The Supreme Court held that the statute was unconstitutional, upon the ground that the purpose for which the money should be paid was not a public purpose within the general requirements of constitutional law.


The pith of the court's argument is contained in the following quoted paragraph: "If the power of the Legislature to confer an annuity upon any class of needy citizens is admitted upon the ground that its tendency will be to prevent them from becoming a public charge, then innumerable classes may clamor for similar bounties, and if not on equally meritorious grounds, still on a ground that is valid in the point of law, and it is doubted that any line could be drawn short of an equal distribution of property."


As the decision does not depend upon the particular wording of the Ohio constitution, it furnishes a precedent of importance in most of our states. Further, in that this case indirectly discriminates between efforts which tend to leave the blind, as they find them, mere objects of charity, and those which treat them as requiring merely temporary assistance to a more independent condition, it emphasizes a vital distinction.