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Morning news headlines for November 12, 2012
Columbia Gas customers paying more after deregulation; Judges in Lorain County order budget hikes; Food stamp benefits could fall

Morning Edition Host
Amanda Rabinowitz
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  • Dispatch report: Columbia Gas customers pay more since deregulation
  • Lorain County judges order budget increases
  • Food stamp benefits could be reduced next year
  • State school board begins work to find new superintendent
  • County Council to debate giving money for Senior Games
  • New ruling suggests execution method challenges could be ending
  • Gas prices up
  • Cleveland NAACP elects new president
  • Bus safety campaigns planned 
  • Wildlife agencies working to restore Lake Erie trout
  • Dispatch report: Columbia Gas customers pay more since deregulation
    A report shows consumers in Columbia Gas of Ohio territory have paid more, not less, since being offered a choice of natural-gas carriers under utility deregulation. The Columbus Dispatch reports that newly disclosed data shows those who selected their own gas provider paid a combined $885 million more since 1997 by shopping than they would have by sticking with regulated prices. It was 1997 when Ohio's "gas choice" program was launched. The data was released last week in a regulatory case before the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio that could lead to regulated prices being abolished. Deregulation supporters said the figures don't reflect how competition drove down even regulated prices.

    Lorain County judges order budget increases
    Judges in Lorain County have put their 2013 budget requests in the form of court orders — and asking for increases. Judges for both the Domestic Relations and General divisions have ordered county commissioners to hike their budget allotments. One county commissioner said she’s disappointed judges are keeping with their pattern of ordering annual budget allotments. Judges said the procedure is appropriate.  Orders have insulated county courts from budget difficulties faced in other areas.

    Food stamp benefits could be reduced next year
    Ohioans who get food stamp benefits could see that aid shrink by about $50 a month next year, partly because of a change in how the government calculates utility expenses for recipients. The Toledo Blade reports 869,000 households are enrolled in the program for the state's poorest residents. A spokesman for the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services says it will send letters this month to notify those affected by the change. Ohio tried to appeal the change, but the request was denied by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

    State school board begins work to find new superintendent
    Members of the Ohio school board have started to the process of selecting a new state superintendent. The board met on Sunday to discuss timelines for interviews and reviewing resumes. They also plan to develop a work plan for the search firm.  Stan Heffner resigned in August amid ethical questions about his relationship with an educational testing contractor. A state watchdog's investigation earlier this year found that Heffner was on the payroll of a private Texas-based firm when he lobbied state lawmakers last year on a bill that benefited the company.

    County Council to debate giving money for Senior Games
    Cuyahoga County Council will consider a plan this week to give half a million dollars to the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission for the 2013 National Senior Games. The Games will be held in Cleveland next summer and will be the first major event at the new Medical Mart and Convention Center. The city of Cleveland already committed a half a million dollars to the event. The county money would come from its Medical Mart contingency fund.

    New ruling suggests execution method challenges could be ending
    A federal judge who has skewered Ohio in the past over the way it carries out executions heaps praise on the system and the state prisons director in a recent ruling. Judge Gregory Frost's ruling last week declined to stop the execution of Brett Hartmann, scheduled to die Tuesday for a 1997 stabbing death of an Akron woman. The comments by Frost raise the possibility that successful challenges that focused on the execution process in Ohio could be coming to an end. Frost has delayed executions over such challenges, though he has also let some proceed when it appeared problems were fixed. Frost says that prisons director Gary Mohr has created a system that finally seems able to stop major changes to the state's written execution policy.

    Gas prices up
    For the first time in nearly a month, Ohio drivers are seeing an increase in gas prices as the week begins. The average price for a gallon of regular gas is $3.40 in today’s survey. That's eight cents higher than a week ago but level with the average at this time last year. Nationally, the average cost has dropped to its lowest level since midsummer.

    Cleveland NAACP elects new president
    The Cleveland NAACP has elected its first new president in 20 years. The Rev. Hilton Smith on Sunday was elected to a two-year term. The 66-year old Smith works for Turner Construction and is also an associate pastor at Greater Abyssinia Baptist Church. The group has been functioning with an interim president for the past several months since longtime president and attorney George Forbes resigned in April.

    Bus safety campaigns planned
    Several Cleveland area community groups plan to launch a December awareness campaign about bus safety. Black on Black Crime and Victims/Survivors of Tragedy have planned a press conference today. Cleveland Regional Transit Authority bus driver union members have been calling on the agency to increase safety after several incidents of attacks in recent weeks. Driver Artis Hughes was fired after a cell phone video of him punching an angry female rider went viral…Last week, another driver was punched in the face by a passenger who got his foot caught in a closing rear door. The RTA has said it will study ways to protect drivers.

    Wildlife agencies working to restore Lake Erie trout
    Federal and Ohio fish experts are trying to restore the number of native lake trout in Lake Erie. During the past week, about 120,000 lake trout fingerlings were stocked off Catawba and Fairport Harbor. It's a joint project of the Ohio Division of Wildlife and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The native lake trout in Lake Erie have been greatly reduced by parasitic predators. Despite extensive annual stocking, experts say there has been little lake trout natural reproduction in Lake Erie over the past three decades. Tags will help to check any progress restoring native lake trout.

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