Sunday, August 08, 1999

CAPITOL INSIDER


Law alters drug policy for inhalers in schools

BY MICHAEL HAWTHORNE
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        In this age of zero-tolerance for drugs in schools, news reports occasionally pop up about kids facing expulsion for having an aspirin in their bookbags.

        It's a policy that can end up hurting kids suffering from asthma. When they have an attack and can barely breathe, the fastest relief often comes from an inhaler provided by their physicians.

        State lawmakers thought some schools' policies went too far. Under legislation Gov. Bob Taft signed into law last week, schools can't prohibit kids from self-administering their asthma medication if they have written permission from their parents and doctor.

        Rep. Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green, sponsored the bill after a physician in his district complained that some of his young patients couldn't use their inhalers when needed.

        School officials, though, wanted to make sure they weren't exposed to potential lawsuits. So the bill exempts them from liability if they think the written approvals have been received or deny the use of an inhaler by kids who they think don't have permission.

        Another exemption If a student for whom the inhaler wasn't prescribed uses it, school officials wouldn't be liable.

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        With fields across central and southern Ohio wilting from drought, politicians are rushing to show their concern for the state's farmers.

        Mr. Taft flew in a helicopter last week to tour a pair of parched fields in Pickaway County, south of Columbus. When he touched down, a handful of state lawmakers made sure they were there to be seen on TV next to the governor.

        State Sen. Eugene Watts, R-Dublin, stayed as close as possible to Mr. Taft as the governor interviewed farmers about their plight. Mr. Watts is running for the congressional seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. John Kasich, R-Westerville.

        It took Mr. Taft a few minutes to recognize another guy in dark sunglasses wearing a baseball cap advertising a brand of seed corn.

        “I didn't realize that was you, Bill, dressed up like a farmer,” the governor said sarcastically to state Rep. Bill Schuck, a Columbus Republican interested in Mr. Watts' Senate seat. “You're really looking the part, but I didn't think you got out of the city much.”

        Maybe it was some sort of Ivy League throw-down. Mr. Taft graduated from Yale, while Mr. Schuck was a Harvard man.

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        Another sign of the robust economy The state is getting a boost in its bond rating for school construction projects.

        Now talk of bond ratings may be the perfect sleep-inducer, but Ohio Treasurer Joe Deters thinks the change will save $400,000 when the state borrows money again in December.

        That means there will be a little more money to repair and renovate the state's crumbling schools. While more than $2 billion has been set aside for school construction in recent years, the state still has a ways to go. The estimated need is somewhere between $10 billion and $16 billion statewide.

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        Welfare reform seems to be working, but child care is a constant concern for former recipients and advocates for the poor.

        In an effort to keep more kids close to their parents during the workday, Mr. Taft recently signed legislation allowing the state to subsidize child care provided by centers in Kentucky, Indiana and other border states.

        Rep. Cheryl Winkler, R-Cincinnati, sponsored the bill at the behest of Don Thomas, director of the Hamilton County Human Services Department.

        “A lot of the jobs for former recipients in our area are in Northern Kentucky, around the airport, or in Indiana near the (riverboat) casinos,” Mr. Thomas said. “It's more convenient for folks to take their kids with them to work.”

        Michael Hawthorne covers state government for The Cincinnati Enquirer. He can be reached at (614) 224-4640.

       



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