Editorials from around Ohio

Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from Ohio newspapers:

Ohio pipeline protest bill threatens to shut down free speech

The Columbus Dispatch

Oct. 19

The Ohio House of Representatives should stand up for civil rights and stand up to corporate interests that want to make protesting a crime in Ohio. They can do both by voting down Senate Bill 33.

Approved 24-8 by the Senate in May, the bill creates new categories of criminal and civil offenses for "willfully damaging critical infrastructure facilities." The language refers to refineries, water treatment plants, electric generating plants, telecommunications structures and more, but the genesis for the bill was protests of energy pipelines such as those that held up construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline in 2016.

Since then, bills like SB 33 have popped up around the country, backed by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a corporate-backed group that writes model legislation attuned to corporations' interests and enlists state lawmakers around the country to introduce them.

Fossil fuel industry giants are among ALEC's biggest backers, and ALEC model bills include measures to weaken environmental protections and undermine the development of carbon-free energy alternatives.

Backers claim the pipeline protest bill is about safety — to prevent dangerous accidents that could result from anyone damaging or tampering with infrastructure. But no supporter could define for Dispatch reporter Martin Schladen what "tampering" means in the context of the bill.

Does it include classic acts of civil disobedience, such as standing in the way of a bulldozer?

The Dispatch doesn't condone damage to public or private property, and Ohio already has laws against trespassing and criminal damaging. By piling on heavier penalties and by virtue of the interests backing it, SB 33 seems designed to intimidate people whose protests might inconvenience pipeline companies and cost them money.

It seeks to silence opposition by creating fines of up to $100,000 on organizations that support protesters. Ohio lawmakers should be more responsive to Ohioans and less compliant with big donors.

Online: https://bit.ly/2W22RuQ

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'Red-flag' law turned out positive in Indiana

The Toledo Blade

Oct. 22

As Ohio's state government backs away from considering a "red-flag" law to stop the epidemic of gun violence, it's worth noting that Indiana has maintained such a law on its books since 2005, before the current pressure in this state and around the country to do something to keep weapons out of the hands of dangerous people.

A study has found that the law has a modest impact on reducing the number of suicide by firearms. Researchers at the University of Indianapolis reported in June, 2018, their estimate that 383 firearm suicides were prevented in the 10 years following enactment of the law.

The Dayton Daily News recently reported on this study as an example of how so-called extreme risk protection orders have operated in a neighboring Midwestern state. While cautioning that the data from Indiana's 92 counties makes a comprehensive analysis hard to achieve, researchers found that Indiana's red-flag law led to a 7.5 percent decline in firearm suicides.

The Jake Laird Law, enacted in 2005, was named after a police officer shot dead by a heavily armed man who months earlier showed warning signs that he could be dangerous. The Indiana law allows police to seize weapons with or without a warrant if someone is deemed dangerous. Court hearings are held within 14 days of a seizure.

Gov. Mike DeWine had promised a red-flag law that would have required a court to hold a hearing three days before seizing guns from a person setting off alarms that he or she could be dangerous to themselves or others. The governor's proposal would have allowed family members, loved ones, law enforcement, and others to request such an order.

But when his proposals were put in legislation, the governor did not follow through, saying a three-day warning to a dangerous person might merely have heightened the danger, a legitimate concern.

Indiana's study focused on suicides, rather than on homicides, including mass shootings. In Ohio, suicides account for more than 60 percent of gun deaths. Between 2007 and 2018, Ohio recorded 15,406 firearms deaths: 9,446 suicides, 5,642 homicides, 177 accidental deaths, and 141 undetermined reasons, according to the Ohio Department of Health data.

Indiana's law has prevented nearly 400 suicides over its 14 years of existence. That alone weighs heavily in favor of Ohio following a similar path. It stands to reason that other injuries and deaths by firearms also would be averted with a well-crafted law that protects the rights of law-abiding gun owners while protecting the lives of potential gun victims.

Online: https://bit.ly/2N2XlUN

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Report shows opioid cost is overwhelming

The Warren Tribune Chronicle

Oct. 21

The standard measuring stick for determining the human cost of the drug abuse crisis tends to be the number of lives claimed by it — more than 70,000 annually in the United States. As we have pointed out, that exceeds the total number of U.S. deaths in the Vietnam War (58,220).

But an estimate released a few days ago of the epidemic's cost in dollars also provides a window into human suffering.

A study by the Society of Actuaries concludes the opioid epidemic cost the United States $681 billion from 2015-18. For 2019 alone, the expense may be as high as $214 billion, the society predicts.

Again for comparison, note that the Department of Defense has estimated the entire cost of the Vietnam War, including U.S. aid to South Vietnam, was about $1.08 trillion in 2019 dollars.

But in a very real way, the monetary cost of drug abuse is a reflection of damage to human beings.

As the Society of Actuaries explained, it based its estimate on several factors. They included health care spending linked to drug abuse, premature mortality (loss of lifetime earnings), law enforcement, assistance to families fractured by substance abuse, and lost productivity in the workplace.

Think about that. How many families have required government assistance — and in what ways — because a breadwinner lost his or her job or died due to drug abuse? How many middle-class families were driven into poverty? How many children had to go to foster homes? How many of them will not be able to go to college because the family fund for that was sucked dry by drug pushers?

Look, too, at the health care statistics ($205 billion of the total). As the society points out, some of that expense was for treating babies born dependent on opioids because their mothers were hooked. Many such infants experience excruciating withdrawal symptoms.

Last, but certainly not least, consider the cost of lost productivity in the workplace because of drug abuse. How many companies — and their employees — are struggling because of that? Here in Ohio, how has our record for rampant substance abuse affected our ability to grow our economies?

The actuaries' report may be one of financial costs, but it paints a picture of harm the drug crisis is doing to men, women and children. It really is a war — and to date, it is one we are losing.

Online: https://bit.ly/2N0TN5C

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Drivers are ultimately in charge of their own safety

The Marietta Times

Oct. 18

Last year, Ohio saw a dip in the number of traffic deaths. But the improvement was short-lived. The number of traffic deaths so far this year is approximately 20 more than at this time last year, at 880, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

While the Ohio Department of Transportation has tried to do its part, the effort has its limitations. It has $158 million to spend on safety measures this year, and some of that goes toward putting up digital signs meant to provoke thought and conversation. This year's have included "You're not a pumpkin, don't drive smashed," ''Drive egg-cellent somebunny needs you" and "Camp in Ohio state parks not the left lane."

But the bottom line is neither the OSHP or ODOT can control the decisions made by drivers.

This year, 33 percent have been killed by not wearing seatbelts, while 32 percent were killed by speeding, ODOT spokesman, Matt Bruning said. He also says almost 50 percent of deaths were when drivers went off the road and 27 percent occurred at intersections,

"All the things we do go out the window if the driver decides 'I'm going to go faster than the speed limit,' or if the driver decides 'I'm going to drive impaired' or they decide 'I'm going to look at my cell phone instead of looking at the road," Bruning told a reporter for WBNS. "All the safety measures ODOT puts in place mean nothing at that point."

Not a dime budgeted for ODOT can make a driver do the right thing. WE are in the driver's seat when it comes to decisions that keep us -and maybe others on the road — safer.

Online: https://bit.ly/33Rxztp