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Editorials from around Ohio

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Excerpts of recent editorials of statewide and national interest from Ohio newspapers:

The (Toledo) Blade, Dec. 15

Before they went home for the year, state senators killed a phony bill that, in the guise of cleaning up toxic algae in Lake Erie, would have jeopardized the lake and otherwise threatened the state's environment. That was the right choice; doing nothing was preferable to passing the array of special-interest junk the state House had approved.

But that doesn't mean the General Assembly's job is done. When lawmakers return to Columbus for the next session, they — and Gov. John Kasich — must again take up the urgent task of cleansing Lake Erie and protecting the water supplies of cities such as Toledo. And this time, they need to take it seriously.

The kind of harmful algae blooms that caused Toledo's drinking water to be poisoned last August are on schedule to return in 2015. State and federal lawmakers can no longer delay tough action to regulate the sources of phosphorus pollution — notably runoff of manure and fertilizer from farms — that feed algae growth.

The bill that died in the lame-duck Senate would have done that, sort of: It would have prohibited the spreading of manure and fertilizer on frozen and snow-covered ground in the western basin of Lake Erie. That provision should be part of any new anti-pollution bill, but it should apply across the state.

The measure would have properly banned the dumping in Lake Erie of material dredged from the Toledo shipping channel and other Ohio ports and harbors along the lake, albeit not until 2020. There are better uses for that material, and they should be required sooner. The tougher criminal penalties the bill specified for violating state water-pollution laws should be part of new legislation as well.

Online:

http://bit.ly/12Vv5KL


The Plain Dealer, Dec. 14

It's unconscionable for Ohio's elected officials to disregard transparency and medical ethics in order to continue executing death-row inmates.

That's what the Ohio General Assembly is on the verge of doing. The Senate Thursday passed Substitute House Bill 663, legislation that would allow companies that provide lethal-injection drugs to the state to remain anonymous for 20 years and that would prevent medical licensing boards from disciplining physicians who assist with executions or testify in court in death-penalty proceedings.

While the Senate-passed bill is an improvement over the House version - in part because it includes a two-year sunset provision - it still violates the public's right to know about government contracts and interferes with the medical profession's longstanding code of ethics.

Ohio's death penalty protocol is in flux because manufacturers of pentobarbital, the state's execution drug of choice, stopped allowing the drug to be used to carry out executions. And when the state turned instead to a cocktail of midazolam, a sedative, and hydromorphone, a morphine derivative, questions of cruel and unusual punishment arose. ...

The bill's secrecy language would allow so-called compounding pharmacies to produce pentobarbital and sell it to the state secretly, preventing public review of the contracts. What's more, regular providers could be grandfathered for 20 years under the bill's secrecy provisions, even if the bill is allowed to expire, said Gary Daniels of the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio. ...

This is unacceptable, just as it is unacceptable that the state is pitting doctors against their own licensing boards, which in Ohio do not allow their members to take part in execution protocols.

The Senate-passed legislation is scheduled to go back to the House for concurrence this week. If lawmakers do not reconsider, Gov. John Kasich should veto this bill.

Online:

http://bit.ly/1GHF6rZ


Marietta Times, Dec. 11

Hundreds of Ohio rape cases have been solved because of state Attorney General Mike DeWine's initiative to have old evidence examined, authorities say. Since he began the initiative three years ago, more than 5,600 "rape kits" have been tested, DeWine said Monday.

That is wonderful news - but it with it goes a disturbing question:? Why did it require a campaign by DeWine for police departments throughout the state to dig out old rape kits and have them tested?

While that evidence gathered dust on police department shelves, scores - at least - of rapists were allowed to prowl Ohio streets and byways. How many victims did they claim before testing of evidence in their old crimes put them behind bars. ...

More than 9,000 rape kits that had not been tested previously were sent in by 147 police departments. There are many reasons why some law enforcement agencies did not have rape kits tested in a timely manner. DNA testing technology is much better now. Cost of testing may have been a factor many years ago. Circumstances in some assaults may have prompted police to think not even DNA testing would help catch culprits.

All that said, 9,000 untested rape kits submitted to DeWine's office during the past three years seems like a lot. The attorney general should investigate why so many remained untested for so long. ...

Online:

http://bit.ly/1zofjUc


The (Tiffin) Advertiser-Tribune, Dec. 10

As the 130th Ohio General Assembly draws to a close, and with it Rex Damschroder's term in the House of Representatives, the lawmakers should pass one last piece of legislation he has sponsored.

House Bill 639 would make a current ban on sending or reading text messages while driving into a primary, rather than secondary, offense. Now, police officers and sheriff's deputies can only issue tickets for texting and driving if they have stopped a motorist for some other reason - such as a collision resulting from it.

The change is needed because such crashes still happen. State officials report nearly 2,800 collisions last year were due to drivers distracted by texting or cell phone use, resulting in 16 deaths.

Some of those fatalities included the person driving and texting. Others claimed occupants of vehicles struck by drivers who were texting.

Legislators should approve allowing law enforcement officers to stop and ticket offenders solely for texting while driving, before another collision occurs.

Online:

http://bit.ly/1DBuFdh

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