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Winter storm closes schools, colleges and increases need for replenishing salt supplies
Other morning headlines: Spring primary field taking shape; Ohio Supreme Court delays execution

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Amanda Rabinowitz
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  • Winter storm closes schools, colleges and increases need for replenishing salt supplies
  • Spring primary field taking shape
  • Ohio Supreme Court delays execution
  • AG's office moving forward on rape test kits
  • Stark County steelworkers picketing
  • Hiram College names new president
  • Ohio Senators vote for farm bill
  • Cleveland company faces OSHA fines
  • Ohio wildlife officers reinstated
  • Ravenna voters turn down levy
  • JP Morgan Chase settles lawsuit
  • Higher education committee issues report
  • Columbus Schools treasurer resigns
  • Northeast Ohio braces for winter storm
    A winter storm warning is in effect for most of the day today with 4-8 inches on the ground and the possibly of 1-4 additional inches during the day, mixing with ice. Kent State University’s main and all regional campuses are closed all day today. All classes at campuses are canceled for the University of Akron.

    Local governments could get help with salt
    Local governments running low on salt are expected to get some help, but it could be a while. The Columbus Dispatch reports that the Ohio Department of Transportation is almost at its purchase limit for its existing salt contracts with its four different suppliers. ODOT is trying to negotiate new contracts, but because of a national salt shortage—it will likely be at least two weeks before any deliveries are made. Right now, ODOT is asking salt companies to bid on contracts that would make 150,000 tons of road salt available. Typically, those mid-season salt contracts come at a premium. Many municipalities say they are rationing their salt. 

    Spring primary field taking shape
    Ohio's spring primary field will take shape as candidates make it official by the filing deadline. People wanting to run for federal, state or local-office nominations May 6 had until 4 p.m. today to submit their paperwork. Barring a late surprise, neither party will have a primary battle in the Ohio governor's race. Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald has been running for the Democratic nomination since early last year. Meanwhile, Governor John Kasich hasn't drawn any opposition on the Republican side, including from the Tea Party, which was trying to field a candidate. 

    Ohio Supreme Court delays execution
    The Ohio Supreme Court has put off a double killer's execution pending appeals that could take years. The court approved a procedural defense motion Tuesday to delay the execution of 31-year-old Dawud Spaulding of Akron. The trial judge scheduled the execution for March 3. Spaulding was sentenced last year for the 2011 shooting rampage that killed his estranged girlfriend and a man and paralyzed the man's nephew. His appeal claims his trial attorneys did a poor job by failing to challenge eyewitness testimony and, in one lawyer's case, missing repeated court sessions.

    AG's office moving forward on rape test kits
    The Ohio Attorney General's office says it has received 5,500 previously untested rape kits as it searches for DNA matches that could help solve sexual assaults. The office said Tuesday it has completed testing of nearly half of them, leading to nearly 900 hits in the state's DNA database. Attorney General Mike DeWine announced the DNA testing initiative in 2011.  In Cuyahoga County, prosecutors and investigators have generated nearly 80 indictments as a result of the testing initiative.

    Stark County steelworkers picketing

    A few dozen Stark County steelworkers are picketing after they say they were locked out of the plant. The publication, American Metal Market, reports 62 PSC Metals workers at its Canton auto shredding facility and a dozen workers at its Cleveland plant were locked out over the weekend. The union has been without a contract since November and The United Steelworkers Union has filed an unfair labor practice charge, alleging the company has bargained in bad faith. Workers are reportedly opposed to the company’s termination of employee medical benefits. The business is still open during the dispute.

    Hiram College names new president
    A West Coast university administrator has been named president of northeast Ohio’s Hiram College. Lori Varlotta is currently is senior vice president for planning, enrollment management and student affairs at California State University, Sacramento. She’s a Pittsburgh native who been a college administrator for nearly 30 years. In August, she will succeed the retiring Tom Chema. He formerly ran the Ohio Lottery, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio and the Gateway corporation that developed Cleveland's ballpark and arena.

    Ohio Senators vote for farm bill
    Both of Ohio’s Senators voted in favor of the $1 trillion farm bill that cleared the chamber yesterday. The five-year bill passed the House last week. The president is expected to sign it. Democrat Sherrod Brown, who serves on the Senate Agriculture Committee, helped negotiate reforms in the farm-subsidy program. In a statement, he said the legislation balances the need for reform while making investments in conservation, nutrition renewable energy and rural development programs. Republican Rob Portman said the bill will reduce redundant government programs and closes loopholes in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. The deal includes $8.6 billion in cuts to SNAP, but Brown has said that’s a lot better than the $40 billion Republicans originally wanted.

    Cleveland company faces OSHA fines
    An East Cleveland company that manufactures alloys and metal products is facing more than $60,000 in fines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. OSHA cited Victory White Metal Co. for 12 workplace safety violations. The state agency says employees have been exposed to dangerous levels of lead, which can cause disease and sickness after a few days. Five of the violations were considered “repeat violations” and were cited in 2009. Victory has roughly two weeks to comply or challenge the findings. 

    Ohio wildlife officers reinstated
    More than a dozen Ohio wildlife officers are back on the job following an investigation that they were deer hunting on the clock. The 17 officers were placed on administrative leave six weeks ago after the inspector general originally said vehicle radio logs showed they were hunting while on the job from 2009 to 2011. An investigation by ODNR and the Inspector General showed the problem was timekeeping issues, not falsifying of time sheets by officers. Those timekeeping policies have been changed. One officer faces a pre-disciplinary hearing.

    Ravenna voters turn down levy
    Voters in Ravenna said no to a new school levy yesterday. It was the sole issue on the ballot in the region. The 4.9 mill levy would have generated a half-million dollars a year for technology upgrades, elementary school repairs, and safety upgrades. The school board says it plans to put the issue on the ballot again in May. It was also voted down in November.

    JP Morgan Chase settles lawsuit
    JP Morgan Chase will pay nearly $1.5 million to 16 Columbus employees following a sexual discrimination lawsuit. The Plain Dealer reports that a group of female mortgage bankers sued—saying they were harassed and kept from making higher paying sales calls. The claims go back more than four years. The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that Chase allowed a “sexually hostile work environment.” Chase has also agreed to overhaul its procedures as part of the settlement. It must ensure all sales call assignments are distributed equally, and provide training to help eliminate discriminatory practices. 

    Higher education committee issues report
    A house higher-education study committee has released its report on problems with Ohio’s colleges and universities. The report includes numerous fixes for the higher-education system, along with recommendations for high schools to help better prepare students for post-secondary education. Among those proposals are establishing state-level goals for the percentage of adults with degrees, cutting the college remediation rate, increasing access to dual enrollment options for high school students who want to take college classes, and expanding the use of tax-deferred college savings plans. Ohio has one of the largest systems of public higher education in the country, with more than half a million students enrolled.

    Columbus Schools treasurer resigns
    The treasurer of the Columbus City School district has resigned. The Columbus Dispatch reports that Penny Rucker offered little explanation for the resignation, other than that she needed more flexibility. Rucker was at the center of a controversy involving the district’s levy campaign last fall. Just three weeks before the levy went up for a vote, she changed her financial forecast for the district from a nearly $20 million shortfall to a $51 million surplus. The change gave levy opponents ammunition, saying it showed the district didn’t need the 24 percent property tax increase. The school board president said Rucker was not forced out. She had been with the district five years, and had a contract through 2017.

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