Lawmakers from both parties criticize Kasich's budget bill
State representatives of both parties have criticized Ohio Gov. John Kasich for saddling them with a midterm budget bill loaded with proposals they called unsuited for a non-budget year. One fellow Republican said Kasich's practice of proposing voluminous off-year budgets was putting the governor in control of Ohio's legislative branch of government. Rep. Terry Boose's remarks came Wednesday before the House passed the measure. Democrats railed particularly against a last-minute amendment that would further loosen restrictions on corporate political contributions in Ohio. It lifts a one-year ban on independent political spending by corporations that get state contracts or other funding.
Education bill aims to cut high school dropout rate
A separate education bill approved by the House aims to reduce high-school dropouts and give more high-school students the ability to earn college credit. The bill renames the state’s post-secondary education program that allows high-school students to take college courses, and it requires all high schools and nearly all public universities to participate. The bill also requires districts, starting in the 2016-17 school year, to develop methods to identify students at risk of dropping out and then create specific academic pathways to get them to graduate. Other provisions would create more oversight for charter schools. The bills go to the Senate.
No cause identified for massive Garrettsville fire
State fire investigators say they couldn't pinpoint the cause of a blaze that destroyed several buildings in a Portage County village. The Ohio fire marshal's office says the roof of one of the 13 buildings in Garrettsville was being re-tarred in the area where the fire apparently started. But a spokesman says there was not enough evidence to single that out as the cause. More than 130 firefighters from 34 agencies battled the blaze in the village of about 2,200 residents.
Ohio death penalty study panel releases 56 recommendations
Prosecutors would need much stronger evidence against a murder defendant before bringing death penalty charges under recommendations proposed by a statewide capital punishment review committee. The panel that spent more than two years studying changes to Ohio's death penalty law proposes that capital charges require biological or DNA evidence or a videotaped confession. The committee convened by Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor planned to meet today to review its final report and 56 total recommendations. Most of the proposals would need legislative approval with support uncertain in what remains a death penalty-friendly state. The 71-page draft report also proposes eliminating cases where an aggravated murder was committed during a burglary, robbery or rape and banning the execution of the mentally ill.
Elyria man indicted on heroin charges, linked to woman's death
An Elyria man has been indicted on six counts of distributing heroin and fentynal, including one charge related to the death of a woman last November. The federal indictment of 29-year-old Siarres Noble was announced Wednesday. Fentynal is an opioid pain killer 80 times more powerful than heroin that is often mixed with heroin and sold as “China White.” In one weekend last November, Lorain County saw 20 overdoses linked to the combination.
Cuyahoga officials may have to foot bill for absentee ballot mailings
Ohio’s auditor says Cuyahoga County’s elected officials may be personally responsible for the cost of mailing unsolicited absentee ballot applications, should they move forward with their plan to do so. County Council voted Tuesday to approve County Executive and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald’s plan to mail the absentee ballot applications to all voters, despite a new state law forbidding the practice. The Plain Dealer reports that Auditor Dave Yost warned county leaders Wednesday that he could make it their responsibility to reimburse taxpayers for the expense. The cost of such a mailing is expected to be about $135,000 per election. A FitzGerald spokesman tells the newspaper that he won’t back down despite Yost’s comments.
Cleveland man accused of fraudulently collecting student financial aid
A Cleveland man is being accused of fraudulently collecting up to $55,000 in student financial aid funds. Federal prosecutors say 35-year-old Robert Williams has been indicted on one count of theft of federal student financial aid money. According to the federal indictment, Williams enrolled in approximately six different Ohio colleges between 2007 and 2012 in order to get financial aid benefits from the U.S. Department of Education and Department of Veterans Affairs.
Cleveland schools budget cuts not as severe as expected
Cleveland Metropolitan School District officials say upcoming budget cuts will be much less than first estimated. The Plain Dealer reports that higher than expected property tax collections and other savings mean the district has $15 million more to work with. Total budget cuts will now be around $5 million. In February, hundreds of teachers attended school board meetings to protest more than $20 million in cuts. The district also says cuts will be capped at $400,000 per building. Some buildings were initially slated to lose up to $2 million.
Plea deal expected in last Cleveland firefighter shift-swapping case
The last of 14 Cleveland firefighters accused of illegally paying coworkers to cover shifts could be settling his case. WKYC reports a 52-year-old Calvin Robinson will accept a plea deal today. Robinson is accused of getting coworkers to pick up about four years’ worth of work, while he ran a daycare center and substituted in Cleveland schools and continued to receive full city benefits. Thirteen other firefighters accepted plea deals in February and had their jail time suspended. City rules allow shift trading only in limited circumstances and forbid someone from being paid to pick up their shifts.
Couple wins early victory in suit to stop drilling under Seneca Lake
A couple who sued to try to stop gas drilling around a state-owned lake in eastern Ohio won an early victory in court. A judge ruled that the Guernsey County couple has legal standing to move forward with a lawsuit that seeks to stop fracking around and beneath Seneca Lake. The Columbus Dispatch reports that the couple sued in October after the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District approved a $40 million lease with a Colorado-based drilling company for underground mineral rights to 6,400 acres. The decision allows the lawsuit to proceed against the district, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the drilling company, Antero Resources.
Cleveland-area principal disciplined for panicking students, staff
A suburban Cleveland high school principal has been disciplined for panicking students and staff during a safety project involving a school-shooter scenario. The Plain Dealer reports that several students were screaming and running in the halls last week when administrative principal Johnetta Wiley announced on the public address system that there was a shooter in the building at Cleveland Heights High School. Wiley and other staff members actually were filming a safety video before classes started and few people were in the building. But not everyone was told the scenario wasn't real, and police were called. Wiley was put on paid administrative leave during an investigation. The superintendent said students and teachers should have been notified. She said Wiley apologized for the incident.
Uber launches ride sharing in Cleveland
There’s a new way to get a ride in Cleveland, but it’s proving to be controversial in other cities. The company Uber launched service in Cleveland on Wednesday. It allows smartphone users to hail drivers with an app, telling you what kind of car to look for, the license plate number, and finally texts you when the driver arrives. Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the city of Columbus filed a lawsuit against the San Francisco-based company, seeking to shut down the service until the city’s regulations are updated. A city investigation that found that Uber’s drivers have been accepting fares without commercial licenses. The city expects to have the order approved by Friday.
Donation brings in $18 million for Case Western project
Case Western Reserve University is getting another financial boost to turn a temple on campus into its new performing arts center. The Plain Dealer reports The Maltz Family Foundation is contributing $18 million for the project. Maltz’s total donations account for nearly half of the $64 million project that will be home to the dance, theater and music departments. The project is part of a campus expansion that includes 21 acres in University Circle.
New field unveiled at Thurman Munson Memorial Stadium
Canton’s Thurman Munson Memorial Stadium has unveiled a new $100,000 field. It’s one of the first major improvements since the Cleveland Indians Double-A affiliate left for a new ballpark in Akron nearly 17 years ago. And the new owner of the team now known as the Akron RubberDucks is trying to make amends. Three stages of upgrades are planned in all. Next come improvements to the facility, including restrooms and concession stands. In addition to collaborating on the revamp, Babby is also working with the stadium and the Ohio Men’s Senior Baseball League to host a baseball camp this summer.
Brown co-sponsoring credit reporting bill
Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown is co-sponsoring new legislation to protect consumers from erroneous credit reports. The bill would make it easier to spot errors by requiring credit reporting agencies to give you a free copy if someone makes an unfavorable decision because of the report. The act would also require new accuracy guidelines and documentation of disputes and errors. Brown is cosponsoring the bill with Hawaii Democrat Brian Schatz.