EDITORIAL Editorial voices from across the country

September 29, 2017

Editorial voices from newspapers across the country:

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

There are 29 active national emergencies in place today in the United States. The latest is the one that President Trump declared on Aug. 10: “The opioid crisis is an emergency, and I am saying, officially, right now, it is an emergency. It’s a national emergency …”

In spite of Trump’s penchant for hyperbole, this declaration was a wise decision and came in response to draft recommendations of a presidential commission Trump appointed last spring. Unfortunately, it’s been six weeks since the emergency was declared, and the only step the administration has taken is to form a public-private partnership on the issue with some of the drug companies that have profited mightily from the addiction crisis.

The Senate had $45 billion for opioid treatment in its first Obamacare replacement bill. It had zero in the health care bill that died this week. Real national emergencies require real national leaders.

The Courier, Findlay, Ohio

When someone makes a public records request, more times than not they do so in good faith because they want to check to see how their government is working – or not working.

But a recent Associated Press story reported some school districts, municipalities and state agencies are turning lawful requests around and suing the citizens who seek public records because officials fear releasing records might be embarrassing or legally sensitive.

Such lawsuits have been filed in Oregon, Louisiana, Kentucky and elsewhere after requesters sought records about school employees getting paid to stay home, data about student performance, and documents about investigations of employees accused of sexual misconduct.

At least two cases have succeeded in blocking information while many others have only delayed the release.

According to the story, freedom of information advocates worry that suing requesters will become a way for governments to hide information, delay disclosure and intimidate critics.

While freedom of information laws can vary from state to state, they usually allow requesters who believe they are wrongly denied records to file a complaint seeking to force their release.

If they go to court and succeed, government agencies can be ordered to release records and pay the requesters’ legal fees and court costs.

Suing the requesters flips the script: Even if agencies are ultimately required to make the records public, they typically will not have to pay the other side’s legal bills. That means a requester could get the records they wanted, but have to pay legal fees to get them.

That’s not how the process should work.

Texarkana (Ark.) Gazette

News recently broke that the Social Security disability system is suffering a big backlog.

And that means a lot of Americans are suffering as well.

Social Security not only provides for retirement benefits after a certain age, it also serves as a source of income for those who become disabled before they would normally retire. Another program, Supplemental Security Income (or SSI), helps those with disabilities who don’t qualify for traditional Social Security.

It’s hard to get. Almost all applicants are denied at least once and sometimes several times. And once an applicant is approved after the appeals process, the average benefit is less than $1,100 a month.

Still, that small amount of income could mean survival to those who can no longer work. And now it’s even harder to get.

Getting disability should be hard. If someone can work they should, even if they must be retrained for another position they can handle with their disability. But when help is genuinely needed, they shouldn’t have to navigate so many hurdles or wait so long to get what they are due under the law.

The Social Security Administration says it’s working on speeding up the system. We can only hope the agency works harder. Because some folks just can’t wait.

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