Five for Friday July 7, 2017

By Aaron Marshall


T.S. Eliot once wrote in “The Hollow Men” that the world will end not with a bang, but a whimper. After extensive research, Five for Friday can definitively tell you that he was not writing about the Ohio House Republican Caucus. Oh yeah, dawg, we’re talking Medicaid freeze, opioid politics, state commissions doing nothing, and Muslim teen hackers as we sit around the bi-monthly campfire. 


Ohio Medicaid freeze is frozen 

Follow the Ohio Statehouse shenanigans long enough and this becomes self-evident: Given a tough call, state lawmakers will almost always choose not to do something rather than make a bold move.

Such was the case Thursday when House Republicans finally had the biggest policy piece of the state budget—a July 2018 freeze of the much-hated expansion of Medicaid under Gov. John Kasich—dead in their sights but failed to pull the trigger. See Dispatch story here

House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger said he had the 60 votes needed, but chose to keep his powder dry so his caucus could wait to see how the ObamaCare repeal played out on the federal level. Gov. Kasich has defended his veto of the freeze saying it would eventually boot a half-million needy Ohioans off the Medicaid rolls.

That “does not mean we will not come back in the fall and take that back up,” Rosenberger told reporters Thursday. “We want to give the summer to let the federal government see if they are going to come to a conclusion in Congress before we take action on moving forward with a freeze waiver.”

Perhaps that’s true or perhaps, as others speculated, he didn’t have the votes. Either way, the chances of freezing Medicaid in Ohio seem to be heading south on conservatives. As the Dispatch story points out, there have only been five veto overrides since 1975 so mounting this kind of challenge isn’t done easily. 

It seemed odd, in one sense, because most House Republicans are already on paper as wanting the freeze—they put it in their version of the state budget. But maybe that was the point too: We’ll look tough, but never have to actually live with the consequences of the decision because Kasich won’t play ball.  

Whatever the case, off stage right sits Representative Larry Householder who is no doubt building a slate of candidates for the 2018 House Speaker primary proxy wars against Representative Ryan Smith, the House Finance Chair and member of current leadership. Whatever ends up happening when this is all said and done, you can bet your last dollar that Larry will be trying to hang Smith with whatever he reckons is the worst end of it.


Playing politics with Ohio’s opioid problem

With Ohio currently leading the National League in dead, opioid addicted bodies it seems a safe bet that the fight against the deadly addiction will be taking center stage in politics in 2018. sure thinks so, and compiled a handy guide to what all of Ohio’s 2018-ambitious politicians are saying about the problem. See story here.

From the gubernatorial ranks, the article mentions Democrat Nan Whaley’s opening line in her lawsuit filed in Dayton vowing to “hold the drug crisis that created the heroin crisis accountable” while noting that Republican front-runner Attorney General Mike DeWine beat her to the punch by suing the drugmakers a week earlier. 

Fellow Republican Mary Taylor seems to have staked out some personal turf with her early June admission that the opioid crisis had “come in her front door” and grabbed hold of her sons. However, her opposition to Medicaid expansion puts her at odds with those who see it as necessary to funnel more money into drug treatment.

Meanwhile, Democrat Joe Schiavoni is given credit for proposing that $200 million be taken out of the rainy day fund for more opioid addiction treatment.

U.S Senator Sherrod Brown, for his part, seems to be tying the opioid fight to the effort to protect Medicaid expansion at the federal level. “What we hear today, what I heard yesterday in Cleveland from the coroner, the police department, from people going through treatment, is that nothing is more important to fight opioid abuse than to have Medicaid coverage.”


Butler County to opioid junkies: Drop Dead

For another take on the opioid crisis look no further than the Weimar Republic known as Butler County, where Sherriff Richard Jones is taking a whole different stance on fighting the opioid crisis—doing nothing.

Jones—who has served as a warm-up act at a recent Cincinnati-area Donald Trump rally—told the Cincinnati Enquirer that his deputies don’t dispense the life-saving opioid overdoes reversal drug known as Narcan. “I don’t do Narcan,” Jones told a reporter. “They have not carried it. Nor will they. That’s my stance.” See story here.

While adjacent sheriff departments all arm deputies with the revival drug, the tough-talking Butler County lawman said that safety is his concern since revived addicts are often violent and never happy to see law-enforcement.  

Well, give Jones credit for this—he’s found a sure-fire way to make sure no one thrashes around when coming back to life. 


State Modernization Commission does nothing, no longer modern

One of the bigger wastes of time in recent memory—the Ohio Constitutional Modernization Committee—was taken out behind the barn and shot in the state budget, the Dispatch reported. See story here.

Funding for the commission was ended now rather than continuing the commission on until 2018. Created in 2011, the commission was hampered by partisan agendas and insufficient resources, according to the article. That left members of the commission to say deeply odd things to reporters.

“I think the work we did was terrific,” said Denis Mulvihill, a private attorney on the commission. (But) We ended up doing absolutely nothing.”

Perhaps the “fatal flaw” in the words of the article for the commission was that legislators and private citizens made up the group. “For me it was a revealing experience: politics gone awry on a grander scale” said Mulvihill.  Super-majority of 22 votes was required for something to clear the commission and make it to the Statehouse for more discussion and an eventual binding vote. The partisan politics ensured that never happened which left the commission with a big old zero in the results category. 

Two questions left unanswered in the story: How much did this hot mess on wheels cost taxpayers? And how do we get our money back?


Muslim teens mess with state website

If you were sitting around waiting for ISIS to invade Ohio—looking at you Josh Mandel—then last weekend brought you sweet, sweet release. That’s when a group of hackers called Team System Dz managed to break into a state website to issue a vaguely threatening statement on behalf of ISIS. 

“You will be held accountable Trump, you and all your people for every drop of blood flowing in Muslim Countries,” said the statement sounding about as militant as your one friend on Facebook who is super into Bernie Sanders.  Buzzfeed has the story here.

Along with the state government hack, the website of Brookhaven, New York and Maryland’s Howard County were targeted. The Buzzfeed story quotes a global hacking website as tracing the group of hackers to a group of teenagers in Algeria.

This crew grabbed headlines in 2014 when they were responsible for 200 “low level” hacks of websites including the student union at the University of New Brunswick in Canada. (Go Varsity Reds! Beat St. Thomas!)

The hack was a big old hanging curveball for state treasurer Josh Mandel who got busy on the Twitter machine in the aftermath. “Wake up freedom-loving Americans!” he tweeted. “Radical Islam infiltrating the heartland.” You gotta give Mandel credit, that definitely is a way more effective message than “bored Algerian teens make state website guy come into work on a Sunday.”