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Ohio voting rights case gets a hearing today
Other morning headlines: Gay Games; drug epidemic; water safety; overload limits; GOP candidates; bee habitat; utility regs; immigration court

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Gay Games 9 unfold in Cleveland
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  • Judge hears arguments today on voting restrictions
  • World Gay Games hit high gear in NE Ohio
  • Lawmakers hold four hearings in Ohio on drug epidemic
  • Cuyahoga exec holds water-safety summit today
  • State lawmakers want to limit university overload fees
  • Republicans pick their candidates
  • Ohio highways buzz with new habitat
  • Power companies push for some regulated prices
  • Ohio's immigration court handles more child cases
  • How much will insurance rates go up?
  • Topless exotic dancer protest church
  • Graduation from Summit's new drug-alcohol program
  • Judge hears arguments today on voting restrictions
    A federal judge in Columbus will hear arguments today on when voters can cast an early ballots in Ohio. Civil and voting rights groups are challenging changes made by the GOP-dominated state Legislature, including the elimination of the week when people could register to vote and cast ballots at the same time.

    The groups are also challenging a scaling back of night and weekend in-person voting hours. Both steps, they say, are aimed at suppressing minority and other traditionally Democratic voters. The judge, Peter Economus, already has ordered Ohio to reinstate voting on the Sunday before an election.

    Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted says he’s simply aiming for uniformity of voting hours and days among all 88 Ohio counties.

    World Gay Games hit high gear in NE Ohio
    The world Gay Games continue today at venues throughout Northeast Ohio.  Sport competitions include tennis, track and field and rodeo. But the games also include workshops and public exhibitions, including a traveling exhibit of photographs and interviews with families with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender members called “Love Makes a Family.”

    Lawmakers hold four hearings in Ohio on drug epidemic
    A legislative committee on Ohio's drug epidemic plans four meetings in this month and next to hear testimony from state agencies, law enforcement and the public. It will focus on law enforcement’s needs and experiences regarding drug problems, as well as drugs' effects on families. Hearings will be held next Tuesday in Wilmington, Aug. 27 in Marion, Sept. 3 in North Canton and Sept. 9 in Cincinnati.

    Cuyahoga exec holds water-safety summit today
    Cuyahoga County executive and Democratic candidate for governor Ed FitzGerald is convening a summit on Lake Erie water problems.

    FitzGerald's office says this afternoon’s summit in Cleveland will gather policymakers and others in northeast Ohio to "discuss a strategic approach for addressing emergency situations on Lake Erie."

    The meeting comes about a week after toxic algae blooms in Lake Erie contaminated Toledo's water supply for days.

    FitzGerald, a Democrat who is running against Republic Gov. John Kasich, is coming off a difficult week during which he had to answer questions about why he lacked a permanent driver's license for more than a decade, and why he was in a car in an empty parking lot in 2012 with a woman who isn't his wife.

    State lawmakers want to limit university overload fees
    A group of state representatives is backing a bill to prohibit Ohio’s colleges and universities from charging students overload fees as long as they don’t take more than 18 credit hours a semester.

    Most of the state’s universities charge an extra tuition for full-time students who take extra courses in a semester, but set different levels for when the fees kick in. Kent State began charging students last year who take more than 16 hours.

    The bill was introduced by Republican Rep. Anthony DeVitis. It has bipartisan support among its 22 co-sponsors, including from the chairman of the House Education Committee, Republican Rep. Gerald Stebelton.

    Republicans pick their candidates
    Barberton Municipal Judge Todd McKenney will be on the ballot in November as a candidate for Summit County Common Pleas Court.

    County Republicans picked him over the weekend to replace Judge Jane Davis, who Gov. Kasich appointed to the court a year ago. She withdrew last week from running for a full six-year term. The Beacon Journal reports she has given no reason for her withdrawal.

    McKenney – who was a state representative and county probate judge -- will be running against Democrat Jon Oldham in November. Oldham is a probate court magistrate.

    Meanwhile, Mahoning County Republicans have picked their candidate for auditor to run against Democrat Michael Sciortino, who has been indicted on charges that include bribery. Ralph Meacham of Lake Milton was nominated over the weekend, and will hold a press conference on his candidacy today.

    Sciortino was indicted in a case involving the lease of county offices from a private developer. He’s fighting the charges, and a Supreme Court panel is considering whether to remove him temporarily from office until his criminal case is resolved.

    Ohio highways buzz with new habitat
    A state agency is turning a southern Ohio highway median into a honeybee paradise to try to new create habitats for a bee population that has been declining in recent years.

    The Ohio Department of Transportation planted wildflower seeds in two, 1-acre lots along Ohio 207 in Ross County in June to start a three-year process creating habitats for bees and other pollinators.

    A department spokeswoman says the seeds beginning to germinate are a mix of native Ohio wildflowers intended to provide much-needed food for honeybees and beautify the road. The Columbus Dispatch reports other parts of the state plan similar plantings.

    Increasing numbers of diseases and pests in recent years have thinned colonies and threatened Ohio's agriculture industry, which relies on bees to pollinate more than 70 crops.

    Power companies push for some regulated prices
    Three of Ohio’s power companies — First Energy, American Electric Power and Duke Energy — want the state to guarantee profits for power plants that might otherwise be closed.  According to the Columbus Dispatch, the companies have told the PUCO that would save jobs and provide price stability. But environmentalists and consumer advocates disagree.

    A new PUCO policy would change the course of the last 15 years, during which regulated prices have been phased out. The Sierra Club calls the move a bailout for obsolete coal plants.

    Ohio's immigration court handles more child cases
    The Journal News is reporting that the immigration court in Cleveland has taken in 36 new child immigration cases this year –  twice the number of last year and the most since 2009. The paper says the court has also decided 66 cases, and that immigration lawyers say the spike is directly tied to the surge of children from Central America who were crossing the Mexican border into the U.S.

    How much will insurance rates go up?
    A study by the Plain Dealer says health insurance rates will be going up – but not for everyone and not by the 12 percent mathematical average reported by the Ohio Department of Insurance last week.

    Republican’s condemned the projected "double-digit" increase as evidence that the Affordable Care Act is not controlling costs.

    The paper reviewed filings by insurance companies and finds some of the costs will actually go down, and some others will increase about 1 percent – based on new companies coming into the market.

    An on-line video of a man kicking a cat into the air has spawned a criminal investigation. The Beacon Journal says Akron police are trying to figure out if the alleged abuse happened in their jurisdiction.

    The video was posted by the Ohio Animal Abuser List Facebook, and spurred outrage. The police say if it happened in Akron there will be criminal charges. 

    Topless exotic dancer protest church
    Exotic dancers from a central Ohio strip club protested topless at a church yesterday in a demonstration that included a few heated verbal exchanges between protesters and churchgoers. The Coshocton Tribune reports, though, no major problems occurred outside the Warsaw church that has protested his business for years. The newspaper reports that six bare-breasted women marched from a corner to the edge of the church's parking lot.

    Graduation from Summit's new drug-alcohol program
    A graduation ceremony today will be held for the first class in a new drug and alcohol treatment program of the Summit County courts. The Turning Point Program has a specialty court certification from the Ohio Supreme court The new court and allows the courts to dismiss felony charges for those who complete substance abuse treatment, including counseling, getting GEDs and submitting to regular drug and alcohol screenings. 



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