Saying Goodbye To Bill Cohen

Less than two years after Ohio voters overwhelmingly rejected collective bargaining limits for government workers, Republicans in the Ohio House launched a new effort to prohibit requiring workers from joining or paying automatic dues to a union. But while Democrats protest, Republican leaders suggest it might not go far. And an Ohio man convicted of killing a 6-month-old girl while raping her in 1998 was executed this week, after he claimed in a plea to the governor that he never meant to kill the child.

Medicaid expansion is out of the state budget proposals from the House and the Senate, but it may not be dead yet. But is there any chance that this legislature, with so many members strongly opposed to what they call Obamacare, would consider any kind of Medicaid expansion? Or could the huge coalition of social services advocates, business interests, hospitals and health care organizations and others sway lawmakers to reconsider? Gene Krebs is a Republican former state representative from Preble County and formerly the head of the think tank Greater Ohio – he’s now working on some policy issues with the progressive leaning Center for Community Solutions. Matt Mayer is the former head of the Buckeye Institute and now leads Opportunity Ohio, a free market think tank in Dublin.

Saying goodbye is not easy, especially after 40 years. This week, we say goodbye to one of our crew – Bill Cohen. Bill is an icon here at the Statehouse. After 42 years in journalism – 38 of them here – Bill is retiring from the daily grind. For all those years, he’s been producing spots and features daily for Ohio’s public radio stations, and appeared on public TV stations in a variety of roles, including the newsmagazine “Ohio Journal” in 1979. Bill’s retirement caps a career that’s seen changes that were sometimes slow and slight, but sometimes startling and sweeping – both in journalism and in state government. He’s covered seven governors and their administrations, from Gilligan to Rhodes to Celeste to Voinovich to Taft to Strickland to Kasich. He founded our Statehouse News Bureau in 1980, and he’s followed the legislature and the executive branch and the swings back and forth between the two parties. He’s tracked dozens of state issues on the ballot and thousands of bills as they made their trips through the legislature – following many that passed along with those that died, and sometimes came back again and again. Bill’s straight-forward, no-nonsense and strictly non-partisan reporting style amid the confusion of policy and the clatter of politics has brought him a lot of awards and honors on the way. And he’s earned the respect and admiration of fellow reporters who worked alongside him and the politicians, activists and lobbyists he covered – including some of the top elected officials in the state. Bill spent this week on what we’re calling his Farewell Tour. Tuesday, he was honored with a proclamation in the Ohio Senate, praised by Lakewood Democrat Michael Skindell and President Keith Faber. Wednesday, Bill was called to Speaker Bill Batchelder’s office for a commendation. We wished Bill well this week with a blowout at the Statehouse Atrium, and a who’s who of Ohio politics past and present turned out – pundits, politicians and powerbrokers from all sides of the political spectrum. Bill plans to spend time with his family and friends, to travel, and to perform around central Ohio – he’s well known as a gifted folk musician. Bill is also an avid fan of the Columbus Clippers, and he gets the honor of throwing out the first pitch at the Clippers home game on Monday. And he’s likely to come back to do some special projects reporting at some point. So we won’t say goodbye – it’s farewell for now.

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