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Ohio hopes to settle seven-year workers comp suit with $420 million
Other morning headlines: Fracking fire; execution; political conventions; hotel tax; Biden and civil rights; VA nominee McDonald; Prade's next step

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M.L. Schultze
Vice President Joe Biden is the keynote speaker at the Urban League's national meeting in Cincinnati this morning.
Courtesy of File photo
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In The Region:
  • Ohio workers comp case could cost $420 million
  • Where was ODNR during early hours of Monroe drilling fire?
  • Arizona execution problems echo Ohio
  • Will Democrats embrace Ohio, too?
  • Hotel tax extension up for a vote
  • Biden talks civil rights in Cincinnati
  • Senate committee OK's McDonald for VA post
  • Summit County prosecutor wants Prade back in prison
  • Ohio sues over foreclosure promises
  • Jim Brown wants his NFL championship ring back
  • Volunteers try to replace vandalized trees in Youngstown
  • Coast Guard tries to free stranded boat in Lake Erie
  • Sentencing in Ashland slave case is today
  • Piketon uranium site cleanup meeting tonight
  • Ohio workers comp case could cost $420 million
    The state of Ohio has agreed to pay $420 million to hundreds of thousands of businesses who were overcharged for workers’ compensation insurance premiums. 

    The deal announced last night settles a suit begun by Corky & Lenny’s Deli in Woodmere. It was one of 230,000 businesses who were overcharged while those favored by the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation got huge discounts. Many of the overcharged companies were small and medium-sized.

    The settlement is a lot less than the state was originally ordered to pay.

    Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Richard McMonagle had earlier decided that state overcharged businesses a total of nearly $860 million over seven years, though that was later shaved to $650 million. The state had planned to appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court after losing at the appeals court level.

    But the state agency now says it recognizes that the rates were not sound and the agency has changed its practices.

    McMonagle must still approve the deal.

    Where was ODNR during early hours of Monroe drilling fire?
    Environmentalists are questioning why the Ohio Department of Natural Resources was not immediately involved after a major fire broke out at a natural gas well last month in southeast Ohio.

    Citing a U.S. EPA report, the Beacon Journal is reporting the state agency – which overseas drilling in Ohio – did not get actively involved until three days after the well pad in Monroe County blew on June 28. Nathan Johnson of the Ohio Environmental Council called that alarming.
    But the Beacon says ODNR insists its inspectors were on the scene within hours of being notified.

    A broken hydraulic line reportedly triggered the blaze and two dozen houses were evacuated.  Some 70,000 fish in a nearby creek were killed. 
    The fracking well is being developed by Statoil North American, and the drilling was being done by Halliburton. The U.S. EPA report says Halliburton took five days to give it a complete list of chemicals used. Fracking chemicals are considered proprietary so information about them is not public at the time of drilling.

    Arizona execution problems echo Ohio
    The drugs used in a botched execution in Arizona last night were first used – with similar problems – in Ohio. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer ordered a review of why it took two hours to kill Joseph Rudolph Wood. Ohio underwent a similar review after the execution of Dennis McGuire in January took 25 minutes. In both cases, witnesses described the men as gasping and twitching.

    Two former heads of Ohio’s prisons department have become vocal critics of execution in the U.S., saying prison employees are being forced into experimenting with human lives.

    Will Democrats embrace Ohio, too?
    Ohio’s Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern has told WKYC he thinks there’s a “pretty good” chance Ohio will host the Democratic, as well as Republican, convention in 2016. Cleveland already has won the GOP convention, and Columbus is a finalist for the Democratic gathering. Ohio is a highly prized swing state in presidential elections.

    No state has ever hosted both conventions. The same cities have hosted both conventions in the same year five times, but not since 1972.

    Hotel tax extension up for a vote
    Cuyahoga County Council will vote Aug. 12th on extending its share of the county hotel tax for another 40 years. The extension also needs an OK from Cleveland’s mayor and those of surrounding cities.

    The 1.5 percent tax was passed in 1992 to build the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame after it passed in 1992. It’s worth about $5 million a year. If it is extended, it will go toward general tourism efforts, the bulk of which would be the Rock Hall inductions in Cleveland every third year.

    Biden talks civil rights in Cincinnati
    Vice President Joe Biden will speak to another major civil rights organization — this time in Cincinnati — and Republican leaders are around to offer counterpoints.

    Biden was scheduled at the National Urban League conference ths morning, a day after speaking to the NAACP in Las Vegas. Republican chairman Reince Priebus also will be at the conference, part of his efforts to engage black voters who twice helped Barack Obama win the White House.

    Biden hasn't ruled out a run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016. A potential GOP contender, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, will be at the conference Friday.

    Senate committee OK's McDonald for VA post
    Former Proctor and Gamble CEO Robert McDonald got unanimous approval yesterday from the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee to head the Department of Veterans Affairs.

    The committee voted one day after it held a confirmation hearing into McDonald’s nomination. Ohio’s Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown sits on the committee and both he and Republican Sen. Rob Portman strongly endorsed him. McDonald told the committee he’s ready to fire some VA officials “who have violated the trust of the nation and of veterans.”  
    McDonald is a 1975 graduate of West Point, served as an Army Ranger in the 82nd Airborne Division and joined Proctor & Gamble in 1980.

    Summit County prosecutor wants Prade back in prison
    The Summit County prosecutor has asked a judge to again imprison former Akron police Capt. Douglas Prade who is fighting a ruling that reinstated his conviction for killing his ex-wife.

    After the Ohio Supreme Court decided not to hear Prade's appeal, Sherri Bevan Walsh filed a motion to send Prade back to prison. A hearing on that has been set for Friday afternoon.

    He was convicted 15 years ago, but was freed last year based on DNA testing of a bite mark on Margo Prade’s lab coat. An appeals court later said the DNA testing raised more questions than answers, and reinstated Prade’s conviction – a decision he tried to take to the state high court.

    Ohio sues over foreclosure promises
    Ohio is suing a Chicago company that it accuses of falsely promising to help save homeowners from foreclosure.

    Attorney General Mike DeWine says the Credence Law Group collected fees of $900 to $3,000 for loan modifications that never came through. The lawsuit is part of a joint federal-state investigation with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Federal Trade Commission, and 15 states against similar operations.

    Jim Brown wants his NFL championship ring back
    Hall of Fame football star Jim Brown is running out of time to retrieve his 1964 NFL championship ring and has sued a memorabilia dealer in New York.

    The Los Angeles resident filed the suit Tuesday in federal court against and Lelands Collectibles. IBrown wants to stop the sale of the ring in an online auction that ends Friday. The suit also seeks unspecified damages over broadcast remarks Lelands founder Joshua Evans made about Brown.

    Evans says Brown's claims "are entirely without merit."

    The lawsuit says the ring is priceless to the former Cleveland Browns player. The bidding was around $59,000 Wednesday afternoon.

    Brown rushed for 12,312 yards and scored 106 touchdowns in nine seasons before retiring at the peak of his career in 1965.

    Volunteers try to replace vandalized trees in Youngstown
    Volunteers in Youngstown plan to plant 29 donated fruit trees Saturday to replace ones in an inner-city grove that someone purposely destroyed over the weekend.

    The Youngstown Vindicator is reporting that the founder of the Food Forest on the city’s South Side is worried that the vandals will return. The paper says the city is donating video cameras to keep watch on the woods where more than two dozen of the 50 pear, apple, cherry, plum and peach trees were cut down. The produce was to be donated to people in Youngstown’s poor neighborhoods.

    Coast Guard tries to free stranded boat in Lake Erie
    The Coast Guard is investigating how a 38-foot pleasure boat got grounded on a breakwall in Conneaut Harbor on Lake Erie late Tuesday afternoon. Three people were removed from the boat and no one was injured.

    A commercial salvage company tried unsuccessfully to remove the vote, and the boat’s owner it working with the Coast Guard on a new removal plan.

    Sentencing in Ashland slave case is today
    A northeast Ohio woman convicted with her boyfriend of enslaving a mentally disabled woman in their home in Ashland County for nearly two years will be sentenced today in federal court in Youngstown.

    Thirty-three-year-old Jessica Hunt faces as 30 years to life. A jury convicted her in March of forced labor, conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and conspiracy to illegally obtain prescription drugs.

    Hunt's boyfriend, Jordie Callahan, was sentenced to 30 years in prison Tuesday on the same charges. The couple was accused of threatening to harm the woman's daughter if the woman did not do chores, shop and clean up after their pit bulls. The couple's attorneys have argued that government witnesses at the trial were unreliable.

    Piketon uranium site cleanup meeting tonight
    Local officials are hosting a public meeting tonight to discuss warnings about 675 potential layoffs for workers decontaminating and decommissioning a Cold War-era uranium plant in southern Ohio.

    Layoffs are expected to begin in October for some workers cleaning up the former Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Piketon, roughly 60 miles south of Columbus. It produced enriched uranium until 2001.

    The federal government and the contractor leading the cleanup say the layoffs may be necessary because uranium transfers fund much of the project but uranium prices have dropped. They say the next proposed federal budget appropriation wouldn't make up for that decrease.

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