Ohio gets $26 million to fight opioids

Published: Thursday, April 20, 2017 @ 6:31 PM
Updated: Thursday, April 20, 2017 @ 6:40 PM

Ohio gets $26 million to fight opioids

The state will receive $26 million to fight heroin and prescription drugs, part of a pot of $485 million in grants that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is offering to battle the drug epidemic.

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According to Ohio Mental Health and Addiction Services, the money will be used over the next two years for medication-assisted treatment, prevention, screening, recovery supports and addressing secondary trauma among first responders, including law enforcement and emergency medical technicians.

The money comes from the 21st Century Cures act, a law enacted in December 2016 that will provide $1 billion over two years to fight the heroin and prescription drug epidemic. Sen. Rob Portman fought for opioid funding to be included in the bill. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, also supported the bill, but protested when the distribution of federal dollars was slow to go out. Brown and other Democratic colleagues sent a letter to President Donald Trump earlier this month calling for the money to be released.

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Portman called the money “good news for Ohio.” He visited treatment and recovery facilities in Eaton and Massillon. “This legislation is now starting to benefit our state,” he said.

Brown said, “Ohio communities have long been asking for help to combat the opioid crisis, so I’m glad to see the resources we secured last year have finally been announced and will soon help individuals and families get the treatment they need.”

The Democrat also argued that repealing the 2010 health-care law known as Obamacare would also harm recovering addicts who rely on the Medicaid expansion for their addiction treatment.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao coming to region Monday

Published: Saturday, April 22, 2017 @ 3:53 PM

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao will visit the region Monday, touring the Transportation Research Center (TRC) Inc. in East Liberty with U.S. Sen. Rob Portman.

She will tour the facility, which is the country’s largest independent vehicle test facility and proving grounds.

Chao is the wife of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Jr. of Kentucky. Her visit is scheduled for 11:30 a.m.

“She is coming here because Ohio is quickly becoming a model for the rest of the country on how to use smart transportation to help create economic growth and expand opportunity,” Portman said in a news release. “TRC Ohio is playing a big role in that.”

Ohio wants to fund smart highways, variable speed limits

The 40-year-old, 4,500-acre facility, located near Honda, is used by governments and companies to test vehicles under a variety of road conditions, terrain and situations.

Earlier this year Ohio Gov. John Kasich, JobsOhio and Ohio State University announced they will partner on a $45 million first phase of a “state of the art hub” for testing automated and autonomous vehicle technology to be built at the TRC.

The new 450-acre Smart Mobility Advanced Research and Test Center would be built on the grounds of the existing facility.


Trump teases tax plan release, but it may not be a complete plan

Published: Saturday, April 22, 2017 @ 8:44 AM
Updated: Saturday, April 22, 2017 @ 8:47 AM

President Donald Trump on Friday promised a “big announcement” next week on his plans for major tax reform, but soon after, top administration officials were tempering expectations, indicating that the White House would be releasing broad goals of a tax plan, not the details in full legislative text.

“We’ll be having a big announcement on Wednesday having to do with tax reform,” Mr. Trump said as he signed several executive orders dealing with financial matters at the Treasury Department.

“The process has begun long ago, but it really formally begins on Wednesday,” the President added, with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin – his chief tax reform architect – standing beside him.

Mr. Trump has talked for months about acting on tax reform, but after three months in office, the President has not sent any formal plan to the Congress, where many GOP lawmakers are waiting to see some details.

Reports on Friday night seemed to indicate that the announcement next week will be on the broad brush side – not the nitty gritty details of major tax changes.

In an hour long interview with the Associated Press, the President also hyped his own tax reform announcement for next week, saying the tax cuts he will propose would be “massive.”

“Bigger, I believe than any tax cut ever,” Mr. Trump said.

But his goal to get it out next week – just days before the 100 day mark of his presidency – evidently wasn’t what top aides had been envisioning.

“Trump Vows to Unveil Tax-Cut Plan Next Week, Surprising Staff,” was the headline in the New York Times.

Capitol Hill still trying to figure out departure of Rep. Jason Chaffetz

Published: Friday, April 21, 2017 @ 11:27 AM
Updated: Friday, April 21, 2017 @ 11:27 AM

Capitol Hill is still trying to digest the biggest news of the week from the halls of Congress, as the decision of Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) to not run for re-election in 2018 – and maybe resign his seat in Congress before the end of his term – could open up a fight for the chairmanship of a key House committee, even as many wonder why Chaffetz would just walk away from that powerful post.

Here is a look from Capitol Hill:

1. Chaffetz giving up a prime committee chairmanship. The House Oversight Committee has a broad charter, allowing its leader to conduct reviews on all sorts of possible wrongdoing in the federal government. In 2015 and 2016, Chaffetz used some of that spotlight to zero in on the Hillary Clinton email server matter from her time as Secretary of State, as he vowed that if Clinton became President, those investigations would continue. Obviously, things changed when Donald Trump won the White House instead of Clinton. But did that somehow make this committee chairmanship less attractive? Imagine the oversight you could do – with a friendly Trump Administration – that might then translate into major legislative and bureaucratic changes in the operations of Uncle Sam.

2. Chaffetz denies there is any scandal involved. The sudden announcement on Wednesday that Chaffetz would not run in 2018 clearly caught many by surprise on the Hill. Words like “odd” and “strange” were frequently heard in the hallways, as many reporters and lawmakers tried to figure out why the Chairman of the House Oversight Committee would head for the exits, just a few months after his party took charge of both houses of Congress and the White House. Like many Republicans in the Congress, Chaffetz had never served with a Republican President until January 20 of this year. Three months later, the Utah Republican has decided the grass is greener away from Capitol Hill and the Congress.

3. Most lawmakers don’t leave by choice between elections.Let’s take Chaffetz at his word, that he is not leaving early for any reason other than he wants to spend more time with his family and stop the political grind. Experience though shows that is not usually the way things go for House members. In the last Congress for example, four members left because of ethics or criminal investigations (Schock, Whitfield, Grimm and Fattah); Two members died during their terms (Takai and Nunelee); Two left early because they were elected to another office (Hahn, Miller). The sole House member to leave on his own was Speaker John Boehner – and only when it became apparent he might be booted out of that post by his own party.

4. It’s rare, but some do leave Congress for another job. Let’s be fair – while it doesn’t happen very often, there are members who just decide they want to do something else, and leave Capitol Hill during their term. A few recent examples come to mind from early 2013: Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO) left to run the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association; Rep. Jo Bonner (R-AL) took a job in the University of Alabama education system; Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) left to run the Heritage Foundation. Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) left for the Woodrow Wilson International Center. This type of move though is a recent phenomena. When I first started working in the halls of Congress in 1980, you pretty much only left the House or Senate before the next election if you died, ran afoul of the law, or moved to another elected office.

5. Reading the social media tea leaves. When Chaffetz announced his decision on Wednesday, he thanked supporters on Twitter and Facebook for their praise. “Many thanks for all the kind comments…. Thank you!” he wrote on Twitter. “Thank you very much. Very kind,” he answered to one well-wisher on Facebook, a few hours after announcing he would not run again in 2018. But by Thursday, as Chaffetz confirmed that he might leave Congress before his term ended, the Utah Republican posted only one thing on his Twitter and Facebook accounts, a web story that was about his wife. “Julie Chaffetz, Jason’s Wife: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know.”

6. Is this more about the future of Republicans? Some wondered whether Chaffetz simply looked ahead in his own future, and saw political challengers barreling at him on a number of fronts – and decided it might be best to step aside now, before being roughed up in 2018. Democrats were ready to fund a candidate against him. Some Republicans were already pushing for the mayor of Provo to primary Chaffetz. And Chaffetz was already feeling the heat locally and nationally over his reluctance to probe any links between the Trump Administration and Russia.

Trump tax reform plan coming “very soon”

Published: Thursday, April 20, 2017 @ 10:38 PM
Updated: Thursday, April 20, 2017 @ 10:38 PM

A week before the 100 day mark of President Donald Trump’s time in office, top administration officials say they are on the verge of releasing a sweeping plan to reform the nation’s tax system, waving off questions about whether legislative troubles with a GOP health care proposal would foreshadow tax troubles as well.

Asked when the details of the plan would be released, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said, “Soon, very soon.”

“We’re very focused on it,” Mnuchin said at a Washington, D.C. event sponsored by the Institute of International Finance.

“Big priority for the President – we will get tax reform done,” Mnuchin added.


Earlier in the week, Mnuchin had backed off his vow to get tax reform through the Congress by the summer break that lawmakers take in August – his latest prediction is just a few months after that, at the end of the year.

Without giving away many details, Mnuchin did say the Trump tax plan would have either three or four tax brackets – there are currently seven – along with a streamlined tax system.

“Fundamentally, fewer brackets, less deductions, simpler tax code,” said Mnuchin.

“This will be the most significant change to the tax code since Reagan,” the Treasury Secretary added.

But nothing is on the schedule right now in the Congress on taxes, as when lawmakers return next week after an over two week break, they will have to immediately turn their focus to a funding measure to avoid a government shutdown next Friday night.