Last updated: March 20. 2014 9:33PM - 632 Views

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Ohio income tax cut

Given that an Ohio income tax cut is the marquee item in Republican Gov. John Kasich’s mid-biennium review (House Bill 472), early debate understandably will focus on that.

But the bill — which is as big as a phone book — also would rework numerous state policies and endeavors, and those components of HB 472 deserve as much debate as taxation….

Kasich’s education and work force initiatives deserve overwhelming approval….

Now to the proposed tax changes, which include some good ideas that are, unfortunately, overshadowed by the big, bad idea of an income tax reduction.

An income tax cut supposedly would spur Ohio’s economy. There’s scant evidence for that. A backup argument: Ohio’s stated income tax rates (regardless of effective rates) deter investments in the state. The actual problem is that Ohio has a whole galaxy of income taxes that municipalities and school districts charge. The only way to tamp those down is with more state aid — which Columbus has pruned back….

Meanwhile, it appears Kasich wants to adjust the income tax based more on possible publicity effects outside Ohio — to draw capital to the state — rather than on possible economic effects inside Ohio. But flat-lined state revenues don’t help localities in need….

Much of HB 472 promotes forward-looking policies, including a fair severance tax regime and a cigarette tax that discourages smoking. But the income tax cut Kasich wants seems more about politics than policy. And that’s one of many reasons why the income tax cut is a bad idea. — The Cleveland Plain Dealer


Minimum jail standards

Now that an update of Ohio’s minimum jail standards is nearly complete, the Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections must ensure jails comply with the new rules.

The state has a spotty jail inspection record at best. Relatively few have occurred since 2008. In 2011, corrections officials asked jails to evaluate themselves, a bad idea that lasted about six months.

Hancock County Sheriff Mike Heldman, as chairman of the Ohio Jail Advisory Board, has overseen a rewrite of the standards that apply to 349 city and county jails.

The standards, in the works for two years, establish rules for most all jail operations, including classification of inmates, security, housing, medical, food service and visitation. The number of proposed standards has been reduced to 180 from 249….

The standards were in need of a revision. They were first created in the 1970s, but had not been updated since 2003.

The updates, among other things, will allow jails to serve two meals a day to inmates on weekends, require jails to offer showers to inmates at least every 48 hours, and keep jail temperatures at “acceptable comfort levels.” The current standard requires that the temperature be maintained between 66 and 80 degrees….

Enforcing the standards will be a challenge, however, with just two employees now assigned to inspect 92 full-service jails, 13 minimum-security jails, 90 12-day jails, 18 12-hour jails and 136 temporary holding jails.

The size of the inspection staff may need to increase if the state is serious about improving jail oversight. It should be. Failing to conduct compliance checks could jeopardize inmates’ health and safety, and lead to more costly lawsuits. — The Findlay Courier


On the courts treatment of young illegal immigrants

Until about three years ago, federal agents annually intercepted 8,000 unaccompanied minors entering the United States illegally. By last year, the number had jumped to nearly 26,000. This year’s projection: As many as 60,000 youngsters may attempt to cross into this country without parents or papers.

This surge of under-age humanity presents two problems.

First is understanding the forces propelling it, which experts say include narco-trafficking, Central American gang violence and abusive homes.

It’s sensible to seek a regional approach to a humanitarian issue that is beyond the power of a single government to control.

A joint effort holds greater potential to address the causes of this migration trend, and the affected governments should work together to find a solution before it becomes a migration crisis.

The second problem the U.S. faces is what to do with the youngsters once they get here.

Unlike people charged with criminal offenses, those detained on immigration violations do not have the right to a court-appointed attorney during deportation proceedings, so if the detained person can’t afford a lawyer, he or she often faces the judge alone.

The issue is compounded when the defendant is a child. Children barely of school age have been compelled to argue alone in immigration court why they should be allowed to stay.

Often, the children can’t even understand the language, let alone the process, which means there is a very real chance that minors who qualify for asylum or other protections are being booted out of the country without a fair hearing.

The federal government should develop a system under which unaccompanied minors have access to a lawyer or experienced advocate (as happens in child-welfare court proceedings) to defend their interests. A number of nonprofit organizations, such as Kids in Need of Defense, have been training and coordinating pro bono lawyers to help children. — The Gleaner

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