Excerpts of recent editorials of statewide and national interest from Ohio newspapers:
The Cincinnati Enquirer, April 26
It's time to review the death penalty.
Regular review and, if necessary, reform of death penalty standards are essential to be sure the ultimate punishment is applied fairly.
Minimize or eliminate the risk that the innocent are executed. Improve standards for the preservation and use of DNA evidence. Strengthen assurances that confessions are not coerced. Strengthening protections for the severely mentally ill accused of capital crimes would be humane. Ensure that the accused in these life-and-death cases get adequate defense by implementing uniform standards and better pay for public defenders.
These recommendations are included in a new report put together by an expert task force. The just-released recommendations are already reviving traditional divisions on the practice. But before prosecutors, lawyers and legislators resort to predictable stances, they should remember that public confidence in state-sanctioned execution is essential.
The death penalty has long been controversial, but opinions are shifting. A solid majority of Americans still favor the death penalty, but it is a shrinking number. Just a generation ago, 78 percent favored capital punishment and only 18 percent opposed it, according to the Pew Research Center. That has shrunk to 55 percent in favor and 37 percent opposed...
The death penalty is the law in Ohio, but opinions are evolving. If reforms are made, they should be done to improve the public's trust that the law is being applied fairly, justly and impartially.
The (Warren) Tribune Chronicle, April 28
Drug abuse has become a wildfire in Ohio, spreading rapidly and consuming lives in the process. Local law enforcement agencies cannot battle it on their own. State officials need to do more.
A package of bills intended to do more against heroin and other opiates, including pain pills, has been approved by the state House of Representatives. It includes common-sense measures that could help.
Approved separately by the House the steps would, if enacted, include:
— Tens of millions of dollars a year for centers that help opiate addicts recover.
— Require that physicians who prescribe opiate drugs must review patients' prescription histories through a special state database.
— Mandate that opiates cannot be prescribed for minors without consent from parents or guardians.
— Establish procedures to curb diversion of opiate drugs from hospice-care facilities and programs.
There has been some criticism of the House plan. Much of it involves a proposal that new addition treatment programs be funded by reallocating much of the nearly $50 million already provided for county-level programs.
That may be a valid concern. Simply shifting addiction treatment money around adds nothing to the battle against illegal drugs. And, if it takes money from effective treatment initiatives and shifts it to less-capable ones, the move could be counterproductive...
Still, state representatives are on the right track with the anti-opiates package. State senators should look at it carefully, addressing whatever valid concerns there are, then forward the bills to Gov. John Kasich for his signature.
The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, April 25
Edward FitzGerald is looking past the Democratic primary to the general election against Republican Gov. John Kasich. And it's just as well, because his primary challenger, Larry Ealy, 51, a former tow-truck driver from the Dayton area who said he's now living on $800 a month in disability, simply has no business being in the race.
It's too bad somebody with a realistic chance didn't emerge to challenge the 45-year-old FitzGerald. He could use the seasoning before close combat with Kasich begins.
FitzGerald is already trying to convince voters they are worse off after three-plus years of Kasich, and that the governor's election victory in 2010 was the result of a bad Ohio economy that FitzGerald believes was wrongly blamed on then-Gov. Ted Strickland, rather than on the international economic downturn.
FitzGerald, a family man with a boyish face, touts an impressive resume of civil service and elected office that includes stints as an FBI agent tackling organized crime and corruption in Chicago, an assistant Cuyahoga County prosecutor, a Lakewood councilman, the mayor of Lakewood and now Cuyahoga County's first executive...
FitzGerald gets our endorsement in the primary but the contest with Ealy isn't testing him or his tendency to get prickly when challenged.
Once FitzGerald and Sharen Swartz Neuhardt, his running mate for lieutenant governor (and, judging from the endorsement interview, cheerleader-in-chief), get past the May 6 primary, voters should get a much better idea of how he stacks up against Kasich. Early voting has begun.
The Columbus Dispatch, April 26
Even as state parks bust out in dogwood and redbud bloom, prospects for a desperately needed fix-up also are blossoming.
For years the victim of brutal budget cuts that left all but the most basic maintenance unaddressed, the parks are in line for a $110 million infusion of care over the next two years, thanks to one of the budget bills recently passed in the General Assembly.
That likely will mean infrastructure fixes such as shored-up dams, shorelines and sewer-and-water systems, along with improvements more obvious to visitors: updated bathrooms, repairs to marinas, improved campgrounds and renovations to lodges and cottages.
Although the sum has been called unprecedented, it is only a small start. A 2010 report concluded the parks had a $574 million backlog of deferred maintenance. Converted to 2014 dollars, that's $621 million. And that doesn't count the things that have deteriorated since then...
It will be money well spent, because the state parks are a precious public treasure in a state that has less public land per capita than almost any other...
The fact that the state can start down the path of restoring those things is one more benefit of Gov. John Kasich's skillful fiscal management, which has taken the state in 3 1/2 years from crippling crisis to promising future.