- Associated Press - Monday, February 17, 2014

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

The Columbus Dispatch, Feb. 17

Graduated driver’s licenses, where teens earn more driving privileges as they age and gain experience behind the wheel, have been adopted by all 50 states in recent years.

Statistics back up those laws: Easing kids into driving and helping them to build skill and maturity makes for safer roads.

But Ohio lawmakers have made proposals that push the limits of what is reasonable.

These include new licensing requirements for people who, in the eyes of the law, are adults.

As it stands, to get a license at age 16 or 17, the applicant must have completed a formal driver’s education course, with 24 hours of classroom instruction and eight hours of in-car training with a certified instructor.

An amendment to House Bill 204, introduced during a Tuesday committee hearing, would require that 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds also take that formal driver’s education course.

By that age, some young people are out on their own. They might be supporting themselves; they might even be supporting families. Requiring them to fork over several hundred dollars for a driver’s education course could be a hardship.

More defensible are stricter rules governing 16- and 17-year-old drivers….

HB 204 also would ban young drivers from being on the road between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. unless a parent or guardian is present.

Currently, 16-year-old drivers must be in by midnight; 17-year-olds by 1 a.m….

Obviously, if the state keeps all teen drivers off the road, none are going to crash. But the desire for safety has to be tempered by practicality.

Online: http://bit.ly/1bYKuYX

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The Marietta Times, Feb. 14

A bill working its way through the Ohio Legislature would ban sales of electronic cigarettes to minors. An Ohio Senate committee approved the measure Tuesday.

E-cigarettes - not to be confused with smokeless cigarettes - use a battery to heat a liquid containing nicotine and flavoring. The resulting vapor is inhaled much like cigarette smoke.

Studies are examining whether e-cigs are safe, let alone safer than tobacco cigarettes. And the effect of secondhand “smoke” from the devices isn’t yet known.

What isn’t debatable is whether minors should be barred from access to the nicotine-delivery devices. The proposal should be approved by the Legislature and signed by the governor as quickly as possible.

Online: http://bit.ly/1gwkTvp

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The (Canton) Repository, Feb. 17

Gov. John Kasich and his fellow Republicans in state government are pretty much in sync on taxes in general: the lower, the better. But they have different visions when it comes to a severance tax on oil and natural gas drilling, and that’s to the benefit of eastern Ohio.

Kasich wants a higher tax on drilling activity than many Republicans in the Legislature do. Advocates of a lower tax stress their fear that the 4 percent tax Kasich originally proposed would scare the industry away. For his part, the governor is giving other interests their due, as well….

Speaking to reporters at a recent Associated Press meeting, Kasich said: “We don’t want to do something that doesn’t mean the taxpayers of this state get some fair value for their resources that are being depleted. On the other hand, we don’t want to have a severance tax that drives people out, because this industry is critical to the state. So it’s kind of like porridge. It can’t be too cold and it can’t be too hot. It’s got to be just right.”

As for what isn’t “just right,” Kasich has made it clear that he’ll know it when he sees it….

Also, Kasich, never shy, can afford to be bolder in defense of his own tax plan, now that he has no challengers in the May GOP primary. All this bodes well for the eastern Ohio counties where the most drilling is occurring.

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Steubenville Herald-Star, Feb. 16

If you haven’t noticed, the world has changed in a dangerous way.

The price of heroin has followed all the rules of basic economics of supply and demand. The supply has increased to meet an unfortunate spike in demand, and the price has made this dangerous narcotic “affordable.”

Affordable, that is, in price per hit, but not when one considers the price in human suffering, societal damage and lost potential.

Affordable until one considers how pervasive the drug has become, when a symbol of American childhood, a fast-food child’s meal with a toy, can become a vehicle for the drug trade…

High-profile deaths such as talented actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s call the drug into sharp focus.

Anyone is vulnerable. From Cleveland to New York to Pittsburgh to the streets of our local communities, the drug is available and doing its damage. It’s not just the “gritty industrial heartland” that’s vulnerable, either. Seemingly idyllic Vermont has been declared so badgered by heroin that the governor there dedicated much of his state of the state address this year to the heroin epidemic….

There is a cost in illnesses, overdoses, deaths, accidents and lost time for employers. There is a cost in thefts, broken families and relationships and violence. And there is a cost in treatment and redemption for those who try to fight the habit.

The reasons for heroin’s rise are many, but it’s as much a result of the ongoing prescription painkiller problem as it is from a people living without hope, or without caring for themselves or others enough to avoid the needle.

The solution remains, unfortunately, in trying to curtail the market and treat the addicted.

Online: http://bit.ly/1j5aRBJ

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