Updated: August 4, 2014 at 8:30 pm
Excerpts of recent editorials of statewide and national interest from Ohio newspapers:
Akron Beacon Journal, Aug. 3
The result could have been much worse. Congress could have departed for its summer recess without adding money to the Highway Trust Fund, leaving the Department of Transportation to begin cutting payments to states, putting jobs and highway projects at risk. So, there is small comfort in lawmakers approving a House version of legislation, the $11 billion measure sent to President Obama.
Unfortunately, the extension expires in May, and the bleak prospects for a long-term solution hardly have brightened. ...
There are many examples of congressional dysfunction. Few are as frustrating as the plight of the Highway Trust Fund. This is a program that has worked, the federal gas tax generating revenue for highway maintenance and construction. ...
Of late, trust fund revenues have fallen short of the needed spending. To cover the gap, Congress has concocted assorted temporary schemes. ...
The gas tax has weakened, reflecting the improved fuel-efficiency of cars and trucks. But that does not diminish the sound principle at work, the tax functioning as a user fee. ...
The current challenge involves getting revenues into line with priorities, and there is no more reasonable option than raising the gas tax to replenish the Highway Trust Fund.
The (Dover-New Philadelphia) Times-Reporter, Aug. 1
The most unappetizing story of the year so far has to be the discovery of fly larvae in food at four Ohio prisons. A spokeswoman for Aramark Correctional Services, which prepares and serves food at all 28 of Ohio's prisons, has called the reports part of an "ongoing political and media circus about anti-privatization," according to The Plain Dealer. But the headlines obviously would have been just as numerous, if not more so, if state employees still were providing food service for Ohio's prisons, as they did until last fall.
That is when Aramark began a two-year, $110 million contract to supply food to the prisons, allowing the state to save about $28 million over that period. Prison officials have said they were spending about half their annual $1.56 million budget on food services. ...
The state already has fined the company more than $142,000 for failing to hire the number of employees stipulated in the contract. The latest incidents reinforce the fact that if this experiment is going to work, oversight is key.
The (Tiffin) Advertiser-Tribune, Aug. 1
A major malfunction on a ride at Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky will not be investigated by state inspectors. That should prompt state legislators to amend the law on inspections of rides such as those at carnivals and amusement parks.
Two people were hurt July 26 when a cable on a Cedar Point ride snapped and struck them. One was treated for injuries at the scene. The other had to be taken to a hospital.
But because neither person was admitted to the hospital, the law does not require state inspectors to check the ride. Cedar Point is investigating, and the state Department of Agriculture will have to approve reopening of the ride, however.
One reason for investigating minor accidents is to ensure more serious ones do not occur.
Of course, state inspectors should not be called in whenever someone stubs his toe getting off a carnival ride. But surely some compromise, perhaps requiring inspections when people require treatment of injuries, can be agreed upon.
State legislators should consider such a change.
The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, Aug. 4
The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio must side with open government by unsealing certain documents Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp. wants kept sealed.
FirstEnergy owns, among other utilities, the Illuminating and Ohio Edison companies. At issue are documents pertaining to FirstEnergy's energy-efficiency measures. They surfaced as part of quarterly meetings ("collaboratives") the PUCO ordered. ...
A FirstEnergy spokesman has said the company contends that data in some of the sealed documents could, if revealed, help competitors gain an advantage over FirstEnergy. Moreover, in FirstEnergy's filing with the PUCO, the company contends that nowhere in Ohio law "is there statutory authority for the commission to dictate the information that must be disclosed to third parties through a voluntary stakeholder process."
Nice try, but that's not how Ohio's open-records law works. Ohio presumes a record is public unless the law specifically closes it...
In this instance, the PUCO is the people's trustee. If unsealing the data really would disadvantage FirstEnergy, it's hard to understand why the other three Ohio electric utilities don't also seal their "collaborative" data.
The General Assembly, via Senate Bill 310 — a bill FirstEnergy quietly favored — froze Ohio's energy-efficiency standards for 2015 and 2016. Unsealing the FirstEnergy data at issue in this dispute could offer Ohioans fuller information on the energy-efficiency options they should consider. ...