Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost was in Marietta Friday and met with community leaders before heading for Vinton County.
He said he enjoys visiting southeastern Ohio.
“I’ve been coming to Washington County for over 10 years since I’ve been in the state office. I have a lot of friends in Marietta. I love Marietta,” he said Friday. “I was talking to one of my staff that if I retired to a small town, Marietta would be on a short list. It has everything. The topography, the culture. It’s got higher education and the river. It’s just a beautiful place and the history of it … I’m just a big fan.”
One of the topics Yost spoke on was local gas prices, which many have been questioning the last couple of weeks.
According to GasBuddy, prices in Ohio vary widely. In Marietta, the cost was as high as $4.59, while just 25 miles north in Noble County, gas was $3.75 per gallon. Around the state, gas was $3.69 in Cambridge, $3.32 in Columbus and $3.09 in Cleveland, the least expensive gas in the state.
Yost explained why prices are varied.
“In Ohio, we don’t have a price gouging statute, and gas prices are not regulated. It’s a free market kind of thing,” Yost said. “Under extreme circumstances, say if there was a 500 percent increase and it wasn’t related to any production interruption, you may have an antitrust collusion claim you might be able to bring, but day to day, month to month fluctuations are market based in Ohio. They can charge whatever the people are willing to pay.”
Yost’s office sent out a press release this week regarding a lawsuit against Facebook.
He said for several years, Facebook assured people they were taking measures internally to make sure the algorithm in their product was not harming people.
“Then last fall, we had that whistleblower that came out and leaked internal documents and we found out that they understood their algorithm was harmful and they weren’t doing anything to correct it, particularly for teenage girls,” he said.
When the news leaked, Facebook stock tanked and Ohio’s biggest pension system lost $3 million, Yost said. The pension funds have investments to increase the value of their holdings to pay out pension benefits.
“There’s a federal law that says if you lie about something material to your company’s operation and it has an impact on the stock price, you are liable,” he explained.
A group of organizations, including the State of Ohio, sued under the law and on Tuesday, a federal judge picked Ohio to lead the lawsuits “which was a big thing,” he said.
He said the lawsuit wasn’t only about money, but they want governance changes within Facebook so it doesn’t happen again.
“Free markets don’t work if they are based on lies,” he said.
He said one thing he’s frustrated with is how the opiate epidemic is ignored.
“Six years ago, you could turn on the news and it was all over. We made some progress in the late teens, but when COVID hit, the overdose death rates spiked and right now, it’s as bad as it’s ever been. I’m really concerned,” he said.
Yost explained fentanyl is largely being brought into the US through Mexico, but they are largely coming from China.
There’s a corollary problem, seeing a resurgence of methamphetamine, he added.
“Twenty years ago, you had faces of meth and whatever and you couldn’t buy Sudafed without an ID. Methamphetamine really fell off the table as a problem. It’s still a problem, but much reduced. Now we’re seeing a spike again,” he said. “It’s now being manufactured in bulk in Mexico. Twenty years ago, it was happening in mom and pop clandestine labs.”
He’s also concerned about law enforcement, he said, as half of his office is law enforcement.
“Sometimes in the mid teens, something started to turn in our country and the trust Americans have always had in our law enforcement started to take some hits and politicians encouraged that, frankly,” Yost said. “That turning broke in the summer of 2020.”
He explained he has a friend who has been a police officer for 20 years in a major jurisdiction. His friend used to park his cruiser in his driveway because his family was proud of his job and the neighbors felt safer as it deterred crime in their neighborhood.
In 2020, the officer’s children started taking abuse when others called their dad a thug and a racist, Yost said.
“Today, that cruiser sits in his garage with the garage door closed and his wife’s minivan is parked in the driveway,” he said.
There will be a constitutional amendment on the ballot this fall allowing judges to consider public safety when setting bail. A Supreme Court decision said they aren’t allowed to think about public safety, but “courts have always considered public safety when setting bail.”
“They should, so we’re going to add that to the constitution,” he said.