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Democrats campaign on Senate Bill 5 anniversary
Other morning headlines: Road construction season nears with big Turnpike project; Natural gas prices dropping

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Amanda Rabinowitz
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  • Democrats campaign on Senate Bill 5 anniversary
  • Healthcare enrollment events held around Ohio
  • Road construction season nears with big project on the Turnpike
  • Owners appeal exotic animal restrictions
  • Natural gas prices dropping
  • Xenia marks 40th anniversary of deadly tornado
  • Hikers treated for hypothermia
  • Ohio gas prices up
  • Kasich touts Ohio's successes to Jewish Republicans in Vegas
  • Heat assistance extended 
  • Dept. of Mental Health director speaks out against marijuana
  • Democrats campaign on Senate Bill 5 anniversary
    Democrats are using today’s three year-anniversary of Senate Bill 5 for campaign events around the state. It was three years ago when Gov. John Kasich signed SB 5 into law, limiting the collective bargaining rights of public unions. Voters then repealed the law at the polls months later. Today, gubernatorial candidate and Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald will talk to Cleveland union members at the Building Laborers’ Local 310. He’ll be joined by Nina Turner, who is running for Secretary of State, and John Carney, candidate for State Auditor. FitzGerald’s running make, Sharon Neuhardt and Attorney General candidate David Pepper are holding other events around the state.

    Healthcare enrollment events held around Ohio

    Health care advocates are holding their final enrollment events around Ohio as a key deadline under the federal law approaches. People who start an application by midnight can enroll for this year in the insurance marketplaces created by President Barack Obama's law. As of March 1, nearly 80,000 Ohioans had signed up, 52 percent of the federal government’s goal for the first five months. The federal data shows that many Ohio residents obtaining coverage in the marketplace are older. Eighty-five percent of enrollees are getting financial help to pay their monthly premiums. The nonprofit Enroll America plans to host an all-day enrollment event today in Cincinnati. The head of the Ohio Association of Foodbanks says its received increased calls for help in applying for health coverage.

    Road construction season nears with big project planned for Turnpike
    As the weather finally starts to warm up, Northeast Ohioans will soon be dealing with another unpleasant season: Road construction. ODOT is expected to announce 2014’s projects later today, but the Plain Dealer reports that one of the big projects will involve five miles of the Ohio Turnpike in Cuyahoga County. The construction zone will span from the southeastern edge of Olmsted Falls through Berea, Strongsville and North Royalton. The road will be torn out down to the dirt and replaced from the base up in the middle and right-hand lanes. That base is original to the road, and was poured in the early 1950s. Crews plan to keep two lanes open during peak travel times, but the road could be reduced to one lane overnight.

    Owners appeal exotic animal restrictions
    Exotic animal owners in Ohio are asking a federal appeals court to reconsider its decision that upheld the state's restrictions on exotic animals. The owners sued the state over the regulations, arguing that the law violates their free speech and free association rights. A three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati court ruled against the owners earlier this month. Ohio says the rules address animal welfare, public health and public safety concerns associated with private ownership of dangerous wild animals. The new law requires owners to get a new state-issued permit by Jan. 1 of this year. They also must pass background checks, pay fees, obtain liability insurance or surety bonds and show they can properly contain and care for the animal.

    Natural gas prices dropping
    Natural gas prices are going down for Dominion East Ohio and Columbia Gas customers, after soaring over the winter months. According to the Plain Dealer, Dominion’s rates will fall 8.5 percent, to about $5 per 1,000 cubic feet, making the average bill for next month at just over $65. Columbia customers who pay a monthly variable rate will see a 3 percent drop, making the average bill $83 dollars.

    Xenia marks 40th anniversary of deadly tornado
    The southwestern Ohio city of Xenia is planning several events in April to commemorate the anniversary of a tornado that killed 35 people 40 years ago. The April 3, 1974, tornado that hit Xenia was part of a series of 148 tornadoes over two days that killed 315 people across 13 states. The Xenia twister destroyed 300 homes and seven schools, and caused more than $1 billion in damages. The Dayton Daily News reports that among the events recognizing the 40th anniversary is a memorial service on Thursday at the Greene County courthouse.

    Hikers treated for hypothermia
    Four hikers who got lost in the woods in Valley View are recovering from hypothermia. The group was hiking yesterday evening when they got lost looking for their car keys that they thought they dropped in the woods. WEWS reports the hikers were able to call police from their cell phones, but the phones died before they could be found. A rescue dog located them about 2:30 this morning. They are being treated for hypothermia and other injuries.

    Ohio gas prices up
    Prices at the pump are up in Ohio to start the work week. The cost for a gallon of regular gas in Ohio is averaging $3.56 in today’s survey from auto club AAA and its partners. That's a nickel higher than last Monday. Today’s Ohio price is about 4 cents lower than a month ago, and just a penny lower than last year at this time. The national average is identical to the Ohio average at 3.56 per gallon. Analysts say ongoing seasonal maintenance at refineries and concerns over simmering tensions in the Ukraine have been keeping prices up.

    Kasich touts Ohio's successes to Jewish Republicans in Vegas
    Gov. John Kasich talked up Ohio’s high points during a speech to wealthy Jewish Republicans in Las Vegas over the weekend. Kasich was among a group of potential Republican presidential candidates speaking to a meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition on Saturday, including New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. While many of the speakers touched on foreign policy, Kasich kept the focus of his speech on Ohio, talking about the state’s economy, education, and fighting the prescription drug problem. He opened with thoughts on a Holocaust memorial being installed on the Ohio Statehouse grounds. Kasich’s likely gubernatorial challenger, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, issued a statement that “Governor Kasich’s focus is not on helping Ohio’s middle class, by publicly courting a billionaire and notorious presidential fundraiser in Las Vegas.” The conference was at the Venetian resort and casino, owned by GOP megadonor Sheldon Adelson

    Heating assistance extended
    The long, cold winter has been a drain on the household budgets of many Ohioans. Nearly 134,000 have received $34 million in help with heating bills through Ohio's Home Energy Assistance Winter Crisis Program. Because of the severity of the winter, the deadline to apply for help has been extended to April 15. The typical deadline is March 31. Regina Clemons, the program's director of emergency assistance, said the agency is seeing lots of people who had never sought before. She said the agency can usually stop disconnects by enrolling people in one or more energy-assistance program.

    Dept. of Mental Health director speaks out against marijuana
    As the Kasich administration pushes a program to battle drug abuse among kids, a key member of the governor’s cabinet is raising concerns about the legalization of marijuana across the country. The “Start Talking!” program seeks to get adults to talk to middle and high school students about the dangers of drug abuse. But Tracy Plouck, the director of the state’s Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, says any move to legalize marijuana conflicts with the message that program is sending. Polls show most Ohioans favor the legalization of medical marijuana. Backers of a ballot issue are gathering signatures to put the issue before voters in November. Bills to legalize marijuana have stalled in the Republican-dominated legislature. 20 states have legalized marijuana for medical purposes, and two of them, Colorado and Washington, have made recreational pot use legal as well.

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