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Morning news headlines for May 9, 2012
State pension reform moves forward; Ohio work force adds jobs for shale drilling; Nuclear plant shuts down for repairs

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Jeff St. Clair
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  • State pension reform awaits study results
  • Ohio adds jobs in preparation of shale drilling
  • Stow soldier killed in action
  • Cleveland casino will be first of four to open in Ohio
  • State Senate to vote on gambling bill
  • Nuclear plant shuts down for repairs
  • Education reform bill sparks debate in state Senate
  • U.S. veteran scam suspect pleads not guilty
  • Shareholder wants Chesapeake Energy to refocus
  • Ford to increase production days in Ohio
  • Congressional campaign ads begin airing today
  • Another dog food company recalls products

  • State pension reform awaits study results

    The Ohio Senate fast-tracked legislation yesterday aimed at shoring up Ohio's public pension funds. Meanwhile Republicans in the House say they will wait until an independent study on the fiscal health of the retirement systems is completed. The report is expected this summer. The five pension funds are losing varying amounts, up to $2 million a day, as they await legislative action allowing them to adjust premiums and payments for retirees.  House Speaker William Batchelder said Tuesday that he doesn't have any plans to take up pension reform until lawmakers have the recommendations of outside advisers. Republican Senate President Tom Niehaus and Senate Democratic Leader Eric Kearney jointly announced the Senate's intentions Tuesday to move forward before the study is complete, saying after three years of deliberations it's time to move the pension bills.

    Stow soldier killed in action

    A soldier from northeast Ohio has been killed in Afghanistan. The Pentagon says 23-year-old 2nd Lieutenant David Rylander of Stow was killed last week after insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to an engineer battalion based at Fort Drum, New York.

    Cleveland casino will be first of four to open in Ohio

    Officials behind Ohio's first casino are putting the finishing touches on the venture that promises to boost Cleveland's economy. The $350 million casino is located in the city's old Higbee department store.  Additional space will be added later in a second construction phase. State regulators recently approved an operating license for the casino's owners, which include Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert. Four casinos are going up in Ohio following approval by voters in 2009. A Toledo casino will open in late May, followed by a casino in Columbus and one in Cincinnati. Cleveland's casino will open Monday.

    State senate to vote on gambling bill

    A bill that would make a range of changes to gambling options in the state is slated for a vote today in the Ohio Senate. The measure makes dozens of changes to laws involving Ohio's four new casinos, video lottery terminals, the state lottery and other forms of gambling. It cleared the Senate's government oversight committee on Tuesday after senators stripped a provision that would have expanded charity card rooms to all 88 counties. Senators also added a one-year moratorium on new sweepstakes devices. Other items include longer operating hours for bingo parlors and a provision allowing previously illegal games of chance at festivals. The Ohio House must vote on the Senate changes before the bill goes to the governor.

    Nuclear plant shuts down for repairs for the second time in a year

    An Ohio nuclear plant along Lake Erie has shut down for scheduled refueling and maintenance. The subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corp. that runs the Davis-Besse plant says the shutdown is underway, but did not say when the maintenance work might be completed. The nuclear plant was last shut down last fall while its reactor head was replaced. That's when crews found cracks in the outer concrete wall designed to protect the reactor. Opponents point to the cracks as a sign the plant near Toledo is unsafe. Federal regulators are set next week to consider whether to renew the plant's license. That decision isn't expected until next year.

    Education reform bill sparks debate in state Senate

    Ohio's Senate president defended changes to an education bill despite the governor's criticism that it would weaken reform efforts in the state. A Senate education committee on Tuesday unanimously approved dozens of changes to Gov. John Kasich's bill, including postponement of a requirement that third-grade students be held back if they test below their reading level. Republican Senate President Tom Niehaus says the changes remain on course with lawmakers' efforts to improve education. Kasich says he's troubled by the changes because they would weaken efforts to reform education in the state. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill today. It would then move to the House.

    U.S. veteran scam suspect pleads not guilty
    A man accused of running a scam that collected millions in donations for U.S. Navy veterans has pleaded not guilty to state charges in Ohio. He calls himself Bobby Thompson, but authorities don't believe that's his name and have been unable to identify him. The man was arrested last week in Portland, Oregon, by U.S. marshals after nearly two years as a fugitive.

    Shareholder wants Chesapeake Energy to refocus

    The largest shareholder of natural gas driller Chesapeake Energy is criticizing the company for what it calls distractions from the bottom line.  The Youngstown Business Journal reports Southeastern Asset Management also wants Chesapeake CEO Aubrey McClendon and its board of directors to consider selling the company. The Tennessee based investor group owns 13.6 percent of Chesapeake’s shares. Southeastern’s criticism comes after Chesapeake’s stock fell 11 percent following allegations of insider activities by Chesapeake’s CEO, and a subsequent SEC inquiry. The group sent a letter this week urging Chesapeake to stop wasting time with analysts and the media. Southeastern also urged the company to stop spending money on new shale gas leases and “accelerate monetizing” assets such as its midstream and oil services units.

    Ohio adds jobs in preparation of shale drilling

    Ohio’s work force of oil and gas regulators is expected to more than double as the state gears up for a shale-drilling boom. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Oil and Gas Division is adding 75 inspectors to the current staff of 65. The agency expects 2,250 wells to be drilled in the next three years. State records show 65 shale wells have been drilled so far. The new hires will be funded by oil and gas drilling fees, and waste water injection fees which brought in nearly 5 million dollars to the state last year.

    Ford to increase production days in Ohio

    Ford Motor Company plans to add a week of production to two Ohio plants this summer. Rising sales have prompted the company to cut in half its normal two-week summer shutdown. Ford’s Cleveland Engine plant No. 1 and its Lima Engine plant are part of the extension. Ford will add a third shift to the Brook Park plant later this month. Chrysler announced in April a similar extension.

    Congressional campaign ads begin airing today

    The U.S. Chamber of Commerce says ads will begin airing today and tomorrow in 17 hotly contested congressional races in Ohio and seven other states. The Chamber says the ads are intended to help protect business-friendly incumbents while challenging lawmakers it says have voted against business interests.

    Another dog food company recalls potentially contaminated products

    Another pet food company is issuing a recall of dog food. Following a string of recalls from Diamond Pet Foods, Solid Gold Dog Food announced a voluntary recall of its puppy and adult dog food. The recalled products were sold between January and May 2012. The Diamond and Solid Gold dog foods are being recalled due to potential salmonella contamination.

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