Right now, the Ohio attorney general is attempting to shut local communities out of a legal process that would bring opioid epidemic resources and support into local communities still struggling with the opioid epidemic. Whether by unconstitutional statute or 11th-hour legal filings, this move is disappointing, but not surprising. Dave Yost is carrying on the tradition of blocking funds that should flow directly to our local governments.
One reason our cities and counties have taken such a significant financial hit due to the ongoing opioid crisis is that our first responders are already grappling with a decade of cuts to local government funds that have stressed budgets to the max. Now, Yost seeks to squeeze the metaphorical blood from the turnip.
For nearly two years, our local communities have navigated the justice system and laid the legal groundwork to hold opioid companies accountable for the most consequential public health crisis of our time. For the attorney general and his allies to intercede and propose taking control of this process at the last moment, mere weeks before the trial is set to begin, is absurd and will be celebrated by opioid makers and distributors looking to delay or avoid accountability.
Yost’s plan is the definition of strong-arming. If he successfully wrests legal authority from communities on behalf of the state, it will be to the detriment of hardworking families and our Ohio taxpayers.
Fortunately, our state’s governor has signaled that he agrees with us.
Gov. Mike DeWine has said this takeover attempt is a “serious mistake” and that local governments like ours, which have “borne a great deal of that cost,” should be allowed to move forward without state intervention.
Gov. DeWine is wise to make this public statement. And here’s why.
For more than 100 years, the Ohio Constitution has recognized the authority of local governments to govern themselves without undue interference from the state. This right, known as “home rule,” is a cornerstone of a fair and proper allocation of power between the state and local governments.
The flood of pills into Main Streets in Ohio has forced communities to take drastic measures to slow the tragic consequences of the epidemic. Our towns, cities and counties continue to make budget-breaking, yet necessary, investments in addiction treatment and recovery; to allocate money to the epidemic that could have been used to build a new school, fix roads or improve local services for taxpayers and working families; and to fund life-saving programs and organizations that work directly with the victims of substance use disorder and their families.
Local communities, the ones we represent, have always been, and always will be, shouldering the burden of the opioid epidemic. The state attorney general seems not to recognize — or even worse, has simply chosen to ignore — this reality. And his intervention attempt at this late date is doing a disservice to the very people he serves.
It’s disappointing to see the attorney general actively working to shut the door on towns, cities and counties awaiting their day in court — an action antithetical to the fundamental principles of our justice system. We trust our neighbors to know and fight for what’s best for them. We strongly urge Attorney General Yost to reconsider his proposal and let the local communities continue their pursuit.
Our communities have a fundamental right to their day in court and to allow the court and a jury to assess the facts.
Our top priority is to find solutions to end the opioid epidemic plaguing our communities. We welcome the opportunity to work with the attorney general and other local and state officials to achieve this common goal.
Sykes, an Akron Democrat, Galonski, an Akron Democrat, and Weinstein, a Hudson Democrat, are Ohio House members. Sykes is the minority leader.