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Stay ahead of the curve, but legally

When former Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel initiated a program that allowed the state to collect some tax payments via Bitcoin, he touted it as a means to help our state become a leader in embracing new technologies. And it was exciting to think about Ohio being ahead of the curve in technology to better serve residents into the future.

It turns out Mandel got a little too far ahead of himself, and the effort to put Ohio on the cryptocurrency bandwagon was launched illegally.

State Attorney General Dave Yost has found that Atlanta-based BitPay, which Mandel brought on as the third-party processor that converted Bitcoins into U.S. currency, was functioning as a “financial transaction device.”

But requirements of a competitive selection process and the sign-off of the state Board of Deposit were not met when they were hired.

Current Treasurer Robert Sprague was right to shut down the state’s OhioCrypto.com website during the investigation that led to Yost’s finding. Now it is up to him, as well as the other two members of the deposit board, Yost and Auditor Keith Faber, to decide how to proceed.

It is important for Ohio officials not to remain stuck in the way things have always been done and to keep an eye toward the future.

Mandel’s experiment might have proven worthwhile, had he carried it out legally.

If Ohio is, indeed, to become a leader in this and other fields, it must do so without ignoring the law. If taxpayers let members of the deposit board know they should pursue a program like Mandel’s, perhaps something similar to it can be explored — legally, this time.

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