- Associated Press - Monday, June 11, 2018

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

Akron Beacon Journal, Jun. 10

Polls consistently show that Republicans and Democrats agree about the need to protect the health coverage of those Americans with pre-existing conditions. For all the division over the Affordable Care Act, both sides favor its provision barring insurers from denying coverage based on a person’s health status or medical history.

Which makes a decision of the Justice Department last week most disappointing. Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, joined a group of Republican-led states in a lawsuit designed to overturn the pre-existing protection. In a legal brief, Justice argues the provision is unconstitutional.

The timing is troublesome. The decision comes as insurers make plans for next year’s policies and pricing on the insurance exchanges, where individuals can purchase coverage, often subsidized and thus more affordable. The outcome is added uncertainty, inviting insurers to hedge in the form of higher premiums.

So is the reasoning problematic, Justice and the states rejecting the obvious.

They contend that because Congress repealed the individual mandate penalty in the tax bill approved last year, the rest of the Affordable Care Act no longer holds. They get to that conclusion by noting that the Supreme Court upheld the mandate because it stemmed from the taxing power of Congress. Now with that tax, or penalty, gone, they say the entire basis of the law has collapsed.

This thinking is far-fetched. If Congress really wanted to end the protection for pre-existing conditions, it would have done so. In this instance, lawmakers repealed the mandate, but they said nothing about ending the other provisions. They left them in place.

At work is the concept of “severability,” whether the loss of one element upends the whole. That is not the result Congress intended.

Justice is making a striking departure. The attorney general acknowledged it is rare for the department to balk at defending federal law. So is three career attorneys at Justice withdrawing from a case, as they did last week in this matter. Sessions claimed he couldn’t find “reasonable arguments” in support. That not only is disingenuous in view of congressional intent. It smacks of putting a policy clash ahead of seeing the laws are faithfully executed. …

Online: https://bit.ly/2JJBx0S


The Blade, Jun. 11

Anyone who was expecting yet another cheery, cheesy G7 leaders group photo from the latest summit of the world’s most important industrialized economies was fooling themselves.

The photo of President Donald Trump, arms crossed tightly across his chest while staring down German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, and the other heads of state at the Quebec conference was just the tip of the iceberg.

After the meeting broke up and Mr. Trump headed for his one-on-one talks with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, he took to Twitter to reiterate the America-first policy that helped him win election in 2016.

“Not fair to the people of America! $800 billion trade deficit. Why should I, as president of the United States, allow countries to continue to make massive trade surpluses, as they have for decades, while our farmers, workers & taxpayers have such a big and unfair price to pay?”

In March, Mr. Trump shocked many when he announced he would address the longstanding problem of Chinese steel dumping by imposing new 25 percent tariffs on steel and 10 percent tariffs on aluminum.

Mr. Trump’s gambit showed signs of success when, after initially startling trade partners the world over, his administration used the tariffs to bring countries like South Korea to the table to hammer out new, more favorable trade pacts in exchange for exemptions to those tariffs.

The Trump administration similarly had tentative deals to exempt other major trading partners - Canada, Mexico, and Europe - from the tariffs.

This made it look as if only China - the real target of tariffs in the first place - would be left bearing the brunt of them.

All of that fell apart on the eve of last week’s G7 meetings in Quebec, which Mr. Trump exited early to head to Singapore for the North Korea talks. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the administration had decided to end the tentative exemption and levy the tariffs on June 1.

China may remain the real target here as the Trump administration has accused the Chinese of moving their steel through third-party nations for reprocessing before dumping it in the United States.

In the meantime, though, Canada, the European Union, and Mexico all are expected to slap retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods, including Kentucky-made bourbon, Wisconsin-produced Harley-Davidsons, and agricultural goods such as blueberries and pork from all across the country. That will surely hurt many of the same regions already suffering from unfair steel trade.

This kind of discord is far removed from the glad-handing and politeness observers are used to seeing at the G7. After all, the west’s heavy economic hitters created the group in 1975 as a means of reaching consensus and building good relations.

The rancor has led some to suggest the group’s six other members shun the United States and go forward - at least unofficially - as a sort of G6. But it seems unlikely that, even with the U.S. isolated by the latest tiff, Canada, Britain, France, Italy, Japan, and Germany could effectively function in a similar alliance that does not include the United States. The success of any policy they pursued would still be contingent on how the United States responded. …

Online: https://bit.ly/2LI33ZV


The (Ashtabula) Star-Beacon, Jun. 10

Right now, everyone in Ashtabula County has the opportunity to make life better for a child in need.

The Ashtabula County Children Services Board is desperate to find new foster families. The demand has grown in the last several years as the number of emergency placement cases in the county has tripled thanks to the opioid epidemic. Right now, the county has 39 foster families. The Children Services Board placed 237 county children in foster care as of the end of April - about 100 of those kids were placed with relatives and another 70 went to county foster families. The rest had to be sent to families or facilities out of county.

We have talked about this difficult situation before. Sending children out of county makes a traumatic experience even more challenging because not only is a child being taken from his or her home and parents, but now they lose whatever other support systems might have been in place - friends, familiar places or caring teachers. Also of concern is the financial burden out-of-county placements puts on Children Services’ budget. For in-county foster homes, the board could spend about $28 per child per day compared to $50 or $100 per day for out-of-county placements, not including added mileage for case workers.

We applaud the county Children Services Board for trying to get creative rather than sitting back. The agency has turned to crowdfunding in an effort to raise money for an advertising blitz stressing the need for foster families. …

Online: https://bit.ly/2JFaVyb


Youngstown Vindicator, Jun. 9

Ohio legislators acted with breakneck speed early in 2016 to craft and enact a detailed program to legalize medical marijuana in the Buckeye State.

After voters overwhelmingly defeated a misguided and monopolistic plan to legalize medical and recreational marijuana at the polls in November 2015, lawmakers worked diligently to head off at the pass much less palatable plans to legalize cannabis by citizen initiative. That speedy action was clearly understandable and in the best interest of Ohioans.

Not so understandable or in the best interests of Ohioans, however, have been the insufferable road bumps that have stalled the much heralded rollout of medical marijuana as a controlled prescription drug in our state.

Today, less than 100 days before the nearly 60 state-licensed cannabis dispensaries were scheduled to begin selling the pain-relieving medication, the closely regulated and highly bureaucratic program has fallen woefully off track.

The Ohio Department of Commerce, the lead marijuana regulatory agency, acknowledged as much earlier this week when it announced the original Sept. 8 deadline won’t have a chance of being met.

Commerce spokeswoman Stephanie Gostomski said that the department expected that the 24 companies awarded licenses to grow marijuana - including one large 25,000-square-foot site on Crescent Street in Youngtown - would have begun growing plants in May.

But as of earlier this week, not one of those sites had received a certificate of operation and as of last week, only one site had been inspected, and even it failed to pass muster.

Countless thousands of Ohioans with any of 21 medical conditions for which cannabis can be prescribed have good reason to be miffed. After all, other states have moved from enacting marijuana legalization to opening of dispensaries in much less time - some in a matter of months.

Ohio’s program with three different sets of bureaucratic leaders - the Department of Commerce, the Ohio Board of Pharmacy and the Ohio Medical Board - has hiccupped and dilly dallied its way to today’s bottleneck. …

… At the same time, we will hold leaders at the Department of Commerce at their word that all efforts will be made to get the program implemented as fully and as early as possible before year’s end.

The longer the delay, the longer and more severe the adverse impacts will be. Keep in mind that part of the mission of the legalization move was to provide the state and local communities a source of substantial new tax revenue at a time of belt-tightening across all levels of government.

Of course, the prime motivator for getting the state’s marijuana program on the fast track must be the human factor.

For those in our state suffering post-traumatic stress disorder, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Crohn’s and Tourette’s diseases, HIV/AIDS, cancer and about 15 other conditions, each additional day’s wait can translate into prolonged torture.

For some, it could mean leaving the state.

Online: https://bit.ly/2JyFF4I


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