Ohio near top of national meth lab seizure list; Summit County leads
Ohio is near the top of a new list of that shows the numbers of seized meth labs, chemicals and dump sites. The Missouri State Highway Patrol broke down numbers from the National Clandestine Laboratory Seizure System. Ohio rose three spots to fourth in the nation with just over 1,000 labs, chemicals and other items seized related to meth. Summit County led the state with 66 labs. Indiana ranked first, followed by Tennessee and Missouri.
Construction budget clears Ohio Legislature
A nearly $2.4 billion state construction budget that funds an array of community, school and park projects has cleared the Ohio Legislature. The Senate approved the bill and Gov. John Kasich signed it late Tuesday. The funds include nearly $135 million dollars for projects in Greater Cleveland, including 15 million for Cleveland State University and five million for the city of Cleveland’s Lakefront development project. Kent State University will get more than 18 million dollars to renovate science labs. The University of Akron is getting nearly $20 million for projects including renovations to its law building. Other projects include 10 million dollars to renovate Fawcett Stadium at The Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton and 1.5 million dollars for restoration work at Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens in Akron.
Lawmakers call for additional hearings on rape bill
Backers of a bill that would repeal Ohio's 20-year statute of limitations for prosecuting rape cases are calling for additional hearings on the measure. The bill's sponsors, Sens. Nina Turner and Capri Cafaro, say the bill would give law enforcement more time to investigate the crimes. The measure was introduced in March last year. It is pending in a Senate committee. Senate President Keith Faber told reporters Tuesday that members continue to work on the issue, and he anticipates some action on the topic. Through the attorney general's testing initiative, Ohio's crime lab has received more than 5,000 previously untested rape kits as it searches for DNA matches to help solve reported sexual assaults. Many kits submitted for testing are between 10 and 20 years old.
Tesla Motors bill passes Ohio Senate
The Ohio Senate has passed a bill that would let electric car maker Tesla Motors operate three dealerships in the state. Its passage Tuesday comes after Ohio auto dealers struck a compromise to let California-based Tesla sell its electric cars at existing stores in Columbus and Cincinnati. The company also could open a third store, planned for the Cleveland area, but no others. No other automaker could operate manufacturer-owned stores in the state. Ohio was among states proposing to block Tesla from setting up additional direct-sales galleries on the grounds that they undercut traditional auto dealerships. Ohio auto dealers saw Tesla as a threat to a system in which nearly all dealerships are independently owned franchises that are separate from manufacturers. The House must still consider the proposal.
Cuyahoga Council committee approves "voter rights" legislation
A Cuyahoga County Council committee has approved so-called “voter rights” legislation proposed by county executive and gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald. The legislation that passed along party lines defies the Ohio Legislature’s ban on mailing unsolicited absentee ballot applications and the Secretary of State’s reduction in early voting. FitzGerald and other Democrats say the Republican-backed reductions are a way to hamper voters in heavily Democratic urban centers. Republican Cuyahoga County Council members voted against the measure, arguing it could lead to a costly legal battle. The Plain Dealer reports it’s unclear what would happen next should the measure clear the full council as expected.
Unemployment benefit sign-ups could go solely digital
A bill in the Ohio House would change how people sign up for unemployment benefits. The legislation would require that people sign up for benefits online, which the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services says could save money. But, the Plain Dealer reports some nonprofit groups argue eliminating a telephone option could lead to people getting edged out because they lack internet access or computer skills. If passed, the changes would take effect July 1st of next year. There are exemptions to the requirement, including disabilities or limited proficiency in the English language. Right now, about 50 percent of new claimants and 80 percent of existing claimants file online.
Annual report on capital punishment released
The Ohio Attorney General’s office has released its annual report on capital punishment in the state. The annual report covers every execution in Ohio since 1981 when the state reinstated the death penalty. Four people joined that list last year, and all were from northern Ohio. A fifth died of natural causes after making national headlines over his “too fat to be executed” defense. The most controversial execution in recent years came in early 2014 when Dennis McGuire took several minutes to die when he was executed with a new drug cocktail. Since 1981, the average age of inmates put to death in Ohio is 45 years old. 63 percent are white, 36 percent black, and spent an average of 16 ½ years on death row before their execution.
Ruling in Amish hate crime case expected
The ringleader of 16 Ohio Amish men and women convicted of hate crimes for cutting the hair and beards of fellow members of their faith is arguing that government prosecutors are assassinating his character in the face of weak evidence. In a court filing Monday, Samuel Mullet Jr.'s attorneys argue that the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals should reject a request from prosecutors to uphold his conviction and 15-year prison sentence. The court could rule any time. Mullet's attorneys argue the government overstepped its bounds in prosecuting Mullet and that the hair- and beard-cutting attacks did not amount to hate crimes.
Effort to bring daily flights Youngstown gets boost
A fundraising effort to bring daily flights back to Youngstown is getting a boost. The Cafaro Corporation’s foundation has pledged $100,000 toward a $450,000 goal set by the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport. The money will add to the $1.2 million dollars already available in federal grants to provide United Airlines with a revenue guarantee to attract at least two daily flights to Chicago O’Hare International Airport. That would then provide connections to virtually anywhere in the world.
Mogadore does 'dry run' of bussing cuts
A Summit County school district says it wants parents to experience some of the cuts they’ll face if a levy fails in May. The Beacon Journal reports Mogadore schools has cut bussing this week to students who live within two miles of their school. The district says the move is a dry run to prepare for potential cuts…and helps to raise awareness of the 5.9 mill levy. The district says if it fails, the 170 students who live within two miles of a school will have to find other transportation, with the exception of preschoolers and children in special education. The school also plans other cuts, including pay-to-play.