- Associated Press - Monday, March 17, 2014

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

The (Youngstown) Vindicator, March 15

Recent events in the Ukraine have so dominated the foreign policy arena that it is easy to lose sight of other trouble spots that are equally important to world peace and U.S. interests.

Since July - four months before anti-government demonstrations began in Kiev - Secretary of State John Kerry has been engaged in talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators.

That effort - the latest in a string pursued by every administration since the Camp David accords of the Jimmy Carter presidency - is approaching a critical juncture.

Reaching any kind of agreement is just as much a long shot today as it was for any recent president, but the effort must be made….

Clearly any agreement is going to have to involve each side recognizing the right of the other to have its own state. The success or failure of the talks will depend not only on geography of those states, but, in no small part, on semantics….

The status of Jerusalem remains a stumbling block, with neither willing to relinquish its claim. But the time has come to agree to a fair petitioning of the city and its suburbs, with an international administrator overseeing an area that has special meaning to Jews, Christians and Muslims….

It is time to look forward and work toward peace rather than to dream unrealistically about what may or may not have been.

Online: http://bit.ly/1gtJsF0

___ The Ironton Tribune, March 13

Throughout Ohio, many of its 88 counties along with many of the villages, cities and townships are sensibly operating in regard to financial elements.

The issue at hand is not those who are being responsible, but those who are not.

This is because with the current laws, the Auditor of State Dave Yost is limited on the regulations and requirements for those in fiscal trouble to correct the issues prior to the state taking over the finances of the municipality.

That is the aim with a portion of current legislation that would oblige all local entities to use the same principles as state entities.

Moreover, a section of House Bill 337 would necessitate that budgeting be balanced and completed on real revenues rather than projected revenues.

This is the right decision, and the legislation will ultimately help provide a clear direction and allow a tangible recourse for those charged with enforcing responsible practices.

Although many may have local legislation in place that have these types of requirements, enacting this at a state level across the board will help in alleviating many of those who are either in or are facing a fiscal emergency, fiscal watch or fiscal caution.

To date the state has not had these regulations, unfortunately, and being practical with the standards helps others avoid a result that 34 municipalities currently face throughout Ohio.

___

The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, March 16

Given that an Ohio income tax cut is the marquee item in Republican Gov. John Kasich’s mid-biennium review (House Bill 472), early debate understandably will focus on that.

But the bill - which is as big as a phone book - also would rework numerous state policies and endeavors, and those components of HB 472 deserve as much debate as taxation….

Kasich’s education and work force initiatives deserve overwhelming approval….

Now to the proposed tax changes, which include some good ideas that are, unfortunately, overshadowed by the big, bad idea of an income tax reduction.

An income tax cut supposedly would spur Ohio’s economy. There’s scant evidence for that. A backup argument: Ohio’s stated income tax rates (regardless of effective rates) deter investments in the state. The actual problem is that Ohio has a whole galaxy of income taxes that municipalities and school districts charge. The only way to tamp those down is with more state aid - which Columbus has pruned back….

Meanwhile, it appears Kasich wants to adjust the income tax based more on possible publicity effects outside Ohio - to draw capital to the state - rather than on possible economic effects inside Ohio. But flat-lined state revenues don’t help localities in need….

Much of HB 472 promotes forward-looking policies, including a fair severance tax regime and a cigarette tax that discourages smoking. But the income tax cut Kasich wants seems more about politics than policy. And that’s one of many reasons why the income tax cut is a bad idea.

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

___

The (Findlay) Courier, March 13

Now that an update of Ohio’s minimum jail standards is nearly complete, the Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections must ensure jails comply with the new rules.

The state has a spotty jail inspection record at best. Relatively few have occurred since 2008. In 2011, corrections officials asked jails to evaluate themselves, a bad idea that lasted about six months.

Hancock County Sheriff Mike Heldman, as chairman of the Ohio Jail Advisory Board, has overseen a rewrite of the standards that apply to 349 city and county jails.

The standards, in the works for two years, establish rules for most all jail operations, including classification of inmates, security, housing, medical, food service and visitation. The number of proposed standards has been reduced to 180 from 249….

The standards were in need of a revision. They were first created in the 1970s, but had not been updated since 2003.

The updates, among other things, will allow jails to serve two meals a day to inmates on weekends, require jails to offer showers to inmates at least every 48 hours, and keep jail temperatures at “acceptable comfort levels.” The current standard requires that the temperature be maintained between 66 and 80 degrees….

Enforcing the standards will be a challenge, however, with just two employees now assigned to inspect 92 full-service jails, 13 minimum-security jails, 90 12-day jails, 18 12-hour jails and 136 temporary holding jails.

The size of the inspection staff may need to increase if the state is serious about improving jail oversight. It should be. Failing to conduct compliance checks could jeopardize inmates’ health and safety, and lead to more costly lawsuits.

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

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