- Associated Press - Monday, January 12, 2015

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

Marietta Times, Jan. 10

Ohio state prisons housed 50,641 inmates at the end of 2014 - 31 percent more than they were designed to accommodate.

That has prompted Department of Rehabilitation and Correction Director Greg Mohr to ask legislators to permit early, emergency release of more inmates than permissible under current rules.

Existing authority for such emergency releases of inmates has not been used since it was enacted in 1997, according to a spokeswoman for the department. It would be utilized only if overcrowding continues, she added.

Lawmakers should be cautious in granting Mohr’s request. Prison inmates should be released early only in true emergency situations - and only if doing so does not threaten the public’s safety.

Safeguards in that regard should be written into the law. Clearly, Mohr faces a dilemma, but dealing with it should not give criminals, especially violent ones, what amounts to “get out of jail free” cards.

Online: http://bit.ly/14L5buG

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The (Youngstown) Vindicator, Jan. 11

When the clock strikes midnight tonight, Gov. John R. Kasich will take the oath of office for his second four-year term - with a large number of Ohioans solidly behind him. Kasich’s landslide victory in the 2014 November general election was an endorsement of the agenda he laid out during the campaign.

It was, and is, a comparatively moderate one - considering that some legislators in the GOP-dominated General Assembly are already talking about such politically incendiary issues as right-to-work.

During the campaign, Kasich, whose name is often included in the list of potential Republican candidates for the party’s presidential nomination in 2016, was asked if he intended to follow in the footsteps of several states, including Michigan and Indiana, and push a right-to-work law.

The governor was consistent in his response, especially in meetings with newspaper editorial boards: Right-to-work is not on my agenda.

However, last month The Washington Post quoted Greg Lawson, a policy analyst at the conservative Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions, as saying that he expects the measure to be resurrected in the General Assembly this year. Two versions died on the legislative vine in 2014.

Republican Kasich, who, along with Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, will be sworn in publicly Monday and then attend an inaugural gala Monday night, has the opportunity to send a clear message to members of his party: The road to Ohio’s economic recovery should not be littered with political landmines.

Online: http://bit.ly/1BU5mQL

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The (Dover-New Philadelphia) Times-Reporter, Jan. 9

Ed FitzGerald, the Democratic candidate who failed in his 2014 bid to become the state’s governor, refused during (and after) the campaign to release records that tracked when he entered and exited his Cuyahoga County office and parking garages.

This week, the former county executive’s successor, Armond Budish, made the right call by releasing - finally - the keycard records sought by the Ohio Republican Party and media outlets as part of a public records request last year. FitzGerald, a former FBI agent and prosecutor, declined to release the records because doing so could pose a security risk. He’d claimed being a target of death threats, some of which extended back to his days in law enforcement, though he declined to provide details at the time, the Northeast Ohio Media Group reported.

The Ohio Republican Party filed a lawsuit with the Ohio Supreme Court demanding the records be released. Republican officials have called FitzGerald’s refusal a “charade,” while FitzGerald has called the lawsuit a “political tactic.” …

Whatever the case, the same security issues FitzGerald once claimed no longer exist. Budish, a Democrat, released the records for that very reason, heeding calls by several politicians and media outlets.

The records show that in his last 18 months in office FitzGerald only swiped his key card 53 times.

While we take the security of all public officials very seriously - and Ohio public records laws make such exceptions - we simply didn’t buy FitzGerald’s argument. Taxpayers deserve to know how much time the leaders they elect are spending on the job - even as technology has redefined the concepts of “work” and “workplace.” …

Online: http://bit.ly/1Iky6nF

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The Blade, Jan. 12

A new report ranks Ohio a dreadful 47th among the states in “health value” - how healthy Ohioans are in relation to the amount we spend on medical care. That dismal performance suggests the challenges the state faces in curbing the cost of, and broadening access to, health care while maintaining its quality.

Achieving these goals will require greater public investment in cost-saving preventive care. Ohioans also need to take greater personal responsibility for improving their health.

The health value “dashboard” compiled by the Health Policy Institute of Ohio notes that just 10 states spend more per person than ours does on health care; that measure includes spending by government, employers, and consumers. Spending on the state’s Medicare program for elderly and disabled Ohioans is especially high compared with that in other states, largely because of avoidable patient visits to hospital emergency rooms, the report says.

Yet for all that spending, the study also concludes that only 10 states are less healthy overall than Ohio, measured by life-spans, physical and mental illnesses, and risky behavior such as smoking, drinking, and lack of exercise.

That combination of high medical costs and bad health outcomes is detrimental to Ohio’s economy as well as its well-being. Both halves of the equation - the money side and the results side - demand to be addressed. …

Online: http://bit.ly/14pS94R

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