Governor says ‘no executions’ without court-backed drugs
By ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS
Tuesday, February 26
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Recent statements and actions by Gov. Mike DeWine suggest Ohio could go years without executing another death row inmate.
Last month, the Republican governor ordered the prison system to come up with a new lethal drug protocol after a federal judge’s scathing critique of the first drug in Ohio’s method.
Last week, DeWine said Ohio “certainly could have no executions” during that search and the court challenges that would follow adopting a new system.
After Ohio started looking for new drugs in 2014, it took the state more than three years to establish its current three-drug lethal injection protocol. Since then, it has become even more difficult for states to find drugs, meaning a new search could easily last as long.
The first drug in Ohio’s new system, the sedative midazolam, has been subject to lawsuits that argue it exposes inmates to the possibility of severe pain because it doesn’t render them deeply enough unconscious.
Because of Ohio’s use of midazolam, federal Judge Michael Merz called the constitutionality of the state’s system into question in a Jan. 14 ruling and said inmates could suffer an experience similar to waterboarding.
But because attorneys for death row inmate Keith Henness didn’t prove a viable alternative exists, Merz declined to stop the execution.
But DeWine did, postponing Henness’ execution from Feb. 13 until Sept. 12, although that would be contingent on the state having a new, court-approved lethal injection system in place, which is unlikely in that time frame.
Ohio is also scheduled to execute Cleveland Jackson on May 29, a timeline Merz questioned last week, given the governor’s order.
Surely the prison system is “not ‘planning’ on carrying out an execution using a protocol the Governor has publicly disavowed,” Merz wrote Friday.
In the same opinion, he said DeWine’s decision “embodies excellent public policy” since a fully constitutional method could avoid the usual last-minute delays.
DeWine says it wouldn’t be right to carry out executions until a lethal drug method meets with court approval.
“Ohio’s not going to execute someone under my watch when a federal judge has found it to be cruel and unusual punishment,” DeWine said during a Feb. 19 forum sponsored by The Associated Press.
Attorney General David Yost, a fellow Republican, deferred to DeWine and his decision to ask the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction for a new system.
If DeWine “feels that the prudent course is to develop a new cocktail, we’re going to look and see what DRC comes up with and we will appeal in court to defend its constitutionality,” Yost told the AP.
Prosecutors say they trust DeWine will resolve the issue so executions can resume.
Capital punishment is “an important criminal deterrent, and an expression of society’s moral outrage at the most heinous crimes in the state,” said Louis Tobin, executive director of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association.
DeWine should be applauded for his statements, said Tim Young, the state public defender, who said the breadth of expert testimony heard by Merz, the federal judge, made it clear the drug is inappropriate for executions because it’s not a traditional anesthetic.
Finding a new lethal drug system will take time, as it should, said Young.
“When the government is going to use its awesome power to kill somebody, to take a life, it should be incredibly thoughtful and deliberate about that,” he said.
Henness, 55, was convicted of killing 51-year-old Richard Myers in Columbus in 1992. Authorities say Myers had been helping Henness find a drug treatment for his wife.
Ohio’s last execution was July 18, when Robert Van Hook was put to death for choking and fatally stabbing David Self, whom he met in a Cincinnati bar in 1985.
PUCO fines Columbia Gas of Ohio following Avon home fire
COLUMBUS, OHIO (Feb. 27, 2019) – Today the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) ordered Columbia Gas of Ohio to pay a fine of $400,000 to the State of Ohio. The penalty is based upon the PUCO’s investigation of an August 2017 home fire in Avon, Ohio that caused an estimated $83,000 property damage.
“The safe operation of utility systems should be the number one priority for Ohio’s regulated utilities,” stated PUCO Chairman Asim Z. Haque.
A PUCO staff investigation determined that an excavator struck an unidentified 2-inch natural gas service line while installing a new water service line to the home. Columbia records failed to identify the presence of one of two natural gas service lines supplying the property. When Columbia responded to the scene, they were unable to identify the natural gas service line that was feeding the fire.
PUCO staff concluded that Columbia Gas did not follow its operating procedures when abandoning the service line in 2012, and failed to disconnect it properly from the main line. On multiple occasions, Columbia did not investigate contradicting records regarding the existence of two service lines at the property. Columbia also failed to respond and shut off the flow of natural gas in a timely manner.
In its order, the Commission noted that Columbia has complied with PUCO staff’s directives to update company procedures regarding underground locating, service disconnections and emergency response.
The PUCO is committed to ensuring the safe, reliable and environmentally sound operation of Ohio’s natural gas pipeline systems. PUCO investigators inspect each natural gas pipeline system in the state at least once every two years and review records and procedures implemented by utilities. When violations are detected, the PUCO orders corrective action and may assess fines and other penalties to ensure that Ohio’s natural gas pipeline systems continue to deliver natural gas safely and reliably.
Today’s Commission order, the agreement filed by Columbia and PUCO staff, and a copy of the PUCO investigation is available in the case docket for case 19-452-GA-GPS.
PUCO adopts agreement to improve Town Square Energy East marketing practices
COLUMBUS, OHIO (Feb. 27, 2019) – The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) today adopts an agreement between PUCO staff and Town Square Energy East to implement a compliance program to resolve alleged violations of the competitive retail electric service provider marketing and enrollment regulations.
“The PUCO’s role in competitive retail energy markets is to protect consumers from misleading and unfair marketing practices,” stated PUCO Chairman Asim Z. Haque. “We encourage consumers to contact the PUCO with utility-related questions and concerns so we can help resolve any issues.”
Town Square will work with the PUCO to ensure full compliance with PUCO rules and orders, and agrees to pay a forfeiture of $150,000 to the state of Ohio.
As a condition of Town Square resuming marketing, it must provide quarterly updates to PUCO staff for one year following the agreement.
On Jan. 16, 2018, PUCO staff provided Town Square with a notice of probable non-compliance with various PUCO rules regarding marketing and enrollment practices. PUCO staff and Town Square filed a settlement agreement on Dec. 3, 2018.
A copy of today’s finding and order is available on the PUCO website. Click on the link to the Docketing Information System and enter 18-1785-EL-UNC in the search bar.
PUCO accepts results of Duke Energy Ohio’s auction
COLUMBUS, OHIO (Feb. 27, 2019) – The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) today accepted the results of Duke Energy Ohio’s wholesale auction that will determine its default retail generation rates from June 2019 through May 2022.
The auction, held Feb. 26, 2019, secured a three-year product to supply electricity to Duke’s Ohio utility customers, resulting in two winning bidders and an average clearing price of $48.12 per megawatt hour for the delivery period of June 1, 2019 through May 31, 2022.
The results from this auction will be blended with previous and future auctions to help determine Duke’s price-to-compare for the delivery period of June 1, 2019 through May 31, 2022.
CRA International served as the independent auction manager. Bates White, LLC, a consultant retained by the PUCO, monitored the auction process. The names of the winning bidders will remain confidential for 21 days.
Customers continue to have the opportunity to consider competitive options to meet their electricity needs, including shopping for an alternate supplier or joining a local government aggregation. More information about how to choose a supplier is available at www.energychoice.ohio.gov. The PUCO’s Apples to Apples rate comparison charts provide customers with a snapshot comparison of current electric supplier price options and contract terms. The charts are updated on a daily basis.
Additional information regarding the auction format is available at bidding manager’s website www.duke-energyohiocbp.com.
A copy of today’s Commission finding and order and redacted version of the report issued by the auction manager are available at www.PUCO.ohio.gov. Click on the link to Docketing Information System and enter the case number 18-6000-EL-UNC.
PUCO approves AEP Ohio/PRO-TEC rate arrangement
COLUMBUS, OHIO (Feb. 27, 2019) – The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) approved an economic development arrangement between AEP Ohio and PRO-TEC, in support of its planned expansion and investment in Leipsic, Ohio.
PRO-TEC will receive up to $7 million in discounts from AEP Ohio over the next six years. PRO-TEC has committed to investing $400 million in a new production line at its facilities in Leipsic, which will provide 80 permanent jobs and up to 1,000 temporary jobs. PRO-TEC will also make direct contributions of up to $6.4 million in the village of Leipsic’s water systems.
An August 2018 JobsOhio economic impact study found PRO-TEC’s expansion will have direct and indirect impact of 1,701 jobs with a total payroll of $96.5 million, and contribute $151.4 million to the gross regional product.
Ohio law allows large electricity customers and utilities to enter into economic development arrangements to support capital investment or job commitments.
A copy of today’s finding and order is available on the PUCO website at www.PUCO.ohio.gov. Click on the link to Docketing Information System (DIS) and search for case 19-124-EL-AEC.
The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) is the sole agency charged with regulating public utility service. The role of the PUCO is to assure all residential, business and industrial consumers have access to adequate, safe and reliable utility services at fair prices while facilitating an environment that provides competitive choices. Consumers with utility-related questions or concerns can call the PUCO Call Center at (800) 686-PUCO (7826) and speak with a representative.
Opinion: Teacher Strikes, Charter Schools and Unions
By Neil Campbell
It’s been a year since the statewide teachers strike in West Virginia, and teachers around the country continue to protest disinvestment in public education, low pay and poor working conditions that stretched far beyond the Great Recession. It’s good that teachers and their unions are standing up to push for resources that will benefit students and compensate teachers like the professionals they are.
But in some places, we’re seeing other issues become part of the story around these teacher actions — issues like charter school policies that some teachers and unions oppose. It’s unfortunate that these issues are becoming linked, because it is possible and reasonable to support teachers in their fight for more resources for their students and classrooms while also supporting high-quality public charter schools.
In West Virginia, last week’s walkout was to protest poison pills added to a funding bill that would create private school voucher-like education savings accounts as well as the first public charter schools in the state. Unfortunately, this bill was yet another example creating a false link between vouchers and charter schools.
Public charter schools, while managed outside of traditional school districts, are open to all kids and face strict accountability in return for flexibility from some district rules. And they can be remarkably effective in improving results for students. Urban charters, in particular, provide an average of 40 more days of learning in math, and 28 more days in reading.
On the other hand, private school vouchers, like education savings accounts, funnel public money away from public schools. Voucher programs have little to no accountability for how public money is spent, while also removing critical protections for vulnerable students. What’s more, they can actually lead to less learning for students. Studies of voucher programs in Indiana, Ohio, Louisiana, and Washington, D.C., found highly negative impacts on reading and math scores, including for students from low-income families.
Teachers and unions rightly opposed this legislative maneuvering — and so should supporters of charter schools. It’s particularly important for charter supporters to push back on the conflating of charters and vouchers and state clearly that public money must support public schools.
In Chicago, there were strikes in December and February by unionized teachers at two charter school networks. While relatively few charter schools are unionized, that doesn’t mean the two have to be incompatible. Teachers should have the right to organize if they don’t feel their voices are being heard, and Green Dot Public Schools in California has shown what collaboration between a union and a charter network can look like. These strikes in Chicago highlight the need for transparency and collaboration to ensure that all teachers — charter school teachers as well as traditional public school teachers — have a meaningful role in developing schools’ policies.
These are not just charter school issues. Supporters of public education can stand with all teachers in fighting for better schools — both charter and traditional — without demonizing the entire charter or district sector.
The size of the charter school sector has most clearly been an issue in January’s strike in Los Angeles and the strike that began last week in Oakland, Calif. But districts have a range of financial challenges that go beyond any effect from charter schools — challenges that have manifested in Los Angeles from low levels of state per-pupil funding, the declining birth rate’s effect on enrollment, and increasing pension and health care costs.
Bans or moratoriums on charter schools aren’t going to solve those problems. And as state policymakers debate charter school policies and the appropriate size of the charter sector, they should also consider the positive results of charter schools in each city and the fact that approximately one-fourth (Los Angeles) to one-third (Oakland) of parents have affirmatively chosen charter schools.
Even if charter supporters and opponents may never see eye to eye on the appropriate scale of the charter school sector, that doesn’t mean every critique of charters should be dismissed because an opponent levels it. There are legitimate criticisms of charter policy in many locations about topics such as the performance of virtual charter schools, openness and transparency in decision making, and weak conflict of interest protections that deserve attention and improvement.
It’s unfortunate that questions about charter schools are diverting attention from the core message of these teacher protests: the need to invest in our schools, teachers and students. Instead of focusing on division, it would be powerful for teachers, unions and charter supporters to advocate together for greater investments in public education across the board. Every student deserves a building, supports and supplies needed to succeed, and every teacher — in traditional or charter schools — deserves to be treated and paid like a professional.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Neil Campbell is the director of innovation for K-12 Education Policy at the Center for American Progress. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.
GM is Closing My Plant. What Are Politicians Going to Do About It?
I gave GM 20 years of my life. In return they took my job — and the government keeps rewarding them for it.
By Nanette Senters | February 27, 2019
For the past 20 years, I’ve walked at least nine miles a day on the body shop floor of the General Motors plant in Lordstown, Ohio, where I help assemble the Chevy Cruze. In a few weeks, when GM shutters our plant, I’ll walk my last mile.
I don’t know what’s next for me and nearly 15,000 other workers who are being laid off at GM plants across the country.
What I do know is that GM is forcing my fellow workers to choose between mandatory relocation to other plants, hundreds of miles away from their families, and the unemployment line.
For me and many of my co-workers, this is a false choice. I can’t just pick up and leave. My entire family lives in the Lordstown area — my 84-year-old mother is too frail to move and she relies on me for her care. I’m also expecting my first grandchild here in June. But if I don’t relocate, I may not be able to find another job that pays a living wage.
Which is why I’m choosing instead to fight for the fair treatment and dignity that I deserve.
The truth is that our political leaders have failed America’s workers. President Donald Trump promised to revive the auto industry, but he hasn’t done anything to force GM to save our jobs. In fact, instead of punishing GM, the Trump administration has awarded the company with billions of dollars in federal contracts.
GM isn’t the only corporation that’s profiting from our tax dollars even as it betrays workers. New research from Good Jobs Nation shows that 185,000 jobs have been lost to foreign competition on Trump’s watch, and that his administration has awarded more than $115 billion in federal contracts to companies such as GM that continue to offshore jobs.
Our tax dollars shouldn’t reward job killers. That’s why the thousands of workers who are being laid off by GM — and the surrounding communities hurt by GM’s closure of our productive, profitable plant — are calling on the 2020 presidential candidates to come to Lordstown to tell us how they’re going to do what Trump won’t do: hold GM accountable and save our jobs.
Politicians who ignore Rust Belt towns like Lordstown do so at their peril. Returns from the recent midterm election indicate that Trumbull County — which flipped from blue to red in 2016 — flipped back to blue in 2018.
Workers in our county realized that Trump’s continued inaction to bring jobs back spoke louder than his rhetoric. With unemployment and poverty rates — at 6 percent and 17 percent, respectively — well above the national averages, we need politicians who will do what it takes to turn things around.
Here in Lordstown, GM was the only game in town for workers looking for a decent wage to support their families. What’s more, our plant supported many other jobs in the community. It’s estimated that for every GM job lost, there will be three or four jobs lost in the surrounding community.
Lordstown has given a lot over the years to GM — from tax breaks and subsidies during the auto bailout to a skilled, hard-working workforce. Now, GM is just walking away and sending our jobs to Mexico. They don’t seem to care that they’re taking our hopes for the future with them.
We need politicians who will stand on our side, not on the side of corporations that only care about their profit margins.
I hope to see the 2020 presidential candidates here in Lordstown soon. And I hope to hear them outline their plans to hold GM and other offshoring corporations accountable. We need good jobs here now. Our future and the future of our community depend on it.
Nanette Senters has spent the past two decades working at GM’s Lordstown plant in Northeast Ohio. Distributed by OtherWords.org.