Editorials from around Ohio

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

The (Toledo) Blade, Dec. 31

Children with autism can lead healthy and productive lives, with proper treatment and early intervention. But thousands of Ohio families can't get either, because insurers don't offer adequate coverage.

This month, Gov. John Kasich took a big step toward remedying the problem, when he announced that Ohio will require health-insurance plans to cover autism services for children by 2014. The new policy directive will make such services available to state employees and their 40,000 covered children, after approval by five state employee unions.

Autism services also will be included in Ohio's "essential health benefit" package, which federal law requires in every state starting in 2014. The package outlines minimum coverage that insurers must provide.

Ohio's tax-funded Medicaid program for poor and disabled residents already covers autism services for roughly 40 percent of Ohio's children. But most employer-sponsored health plans don't include such coverage.

Mr. Kasich is, in effect, finishing the job the General Assembly undertook six years ago, when it passed mental health parity measures that generally require insurance companies to treat mental illness in the same way they treat other medical needs. The legislation, however, excluded autism spectrum disorder....

(I)n placing Ohio among 32 other states with similar mandates on autism, Mr. Kasich should be applauded for helping to close a troubling and risky gap in Ohio's mental-health care and insurance coverage.

Online: http://bit.ly/VRv92Q

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The Lima News, Dec. 26

In the lame-duck session of the Ohio Legislature, state senators gave welcome, near-unanimous approval to a simple, practical plan to reform the way Ohio redraws congressional and legislative districts. Although the Ohio House did not have time to act, the Senate set the stage for quick movement early next year....

What emerged from the Senate is based on the reality that it is impossible to remove politics from an inherently political exercise. The Senate plan for a constitutional amendment would expand the board now charged with creating legislative districts, giving it the task of congressional redistricting, too. That is now done by the legislature.

The new Ohio Redistricting Commission would include the governor, auditor and secretary of state. Instead of two legislative members, from opposite parties, the commission would include four appointees, one each from the speaker and minority leader of the House and the president and minority leader of the Senate.

None could be sitting members of the legislature.

To force compromise, five votes would be needed to pass a redistricting plan, with one vote required from the minority party.

That would force compromise, ending the possibility (as happened after the 2010 census) of one party in the majority dictating gerrymandered lines designed to maximize its partisan advantage.

The best course is for state lawmakers to start over quickly in the new session, the House embracing the Senate's concept, a proposed amendment on the ballot next November.

Online: http://bit.ly/ToydWi

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Akron Beacon Journal, Dec. 30

The Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution has taken up the task of crafting a constructive response to the "fiscal cliff." Among other things, it has proposed a modest carbon tax as an alternative for new revenue. It also has called for an independent panel to identify redundant and wasteful federal programs, the recommendations handled by Congress in the up-or-down way of military base-closing commissions.

Much of the attention in Washington has trained on the fate of income tax rates for those households paying at the top of the scale. Yet there are several items related to the tax code set to expire today, the end of the year. None is more important than the tax credit for research and development (or experimentation) in the private sector.

Brookings makes a persuasive argument for making the tax credit permanent, and more, updating and improving its performance.

The credit is an American idea, the United States the first to provide such an incentive for cultivating innovation. The credit has been a success. Brookings notes that many companies are reluctant to invest in research and development, the spillover effect often denying a full return. The tax credit makes the commitment more attractive....

Updating and making permanent the tax credit shouldn't be hard politically....No package to address the fiscal cliff is complete without an improved tax credit for research and development.

Online: http://bit.ly/VrEp1H

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The (Tiffin) Advertiser-Tribune

People truly concerned about the welfare of animals should be thrilled with a federal judge's upholding of Ohio's new restrictions on owning the creatures. The inconvenience claimed by those who sued the state over the laws is nothing compared with the improvements to the health and well-being of the animals — not to mention the safety of the general public - once these rules go into effect.

Everyone who remembers the horror of 48 animals killed while the public held its breath near Zanesville last year will appreciate Ohio's effort to reduce such threats to citizens and animals by requiring owners to obtain new state-issued permits by Jan. 1, 2014. Owners must pass background checks, pay fees, obtain liability insurance or surety bonds, and prove they can properly care for and control exotic animals. Animals must also have microchips implanted to aid in locating them, should they escape.

These are common-sense requirements for those who hope to keep rare and potentially dangerous animals on their property. Surely anyone who genuinely has the best interests of the animals at heart understands these much-needed changes will be only a tiny part of the financial hardship and inconvenience associated with giving them the care and protection they deserve.

If responsible owners of dogs and cats are willing to obtain licenses, pay taxes, get microchips, provide regular veterinary care and abide by laws regarding animal cruelty and public safety, why would owners of animals such as lions and tigers expect not to face even stiffer regulations?

Online: http://bit.ly/TYLpoF

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