Here are your morning headlines for Wednesday, Feb. 21:
- Otterbein gives full scholarships to children of fatally shot Westerville officer;
- Medical marijuana groups sue the state over licensing process;
- State ballot board approves redistricting bill for May ballot;
- Jackson Middle School student shoots self in restroom;
- Democratic lawmakers introduce statewide assault weapons ban;
- Akron RV sharing service gets $50 million from investors;
- Police investigate a string of school threats in Northeast Ohio;
- Cleveland RTA considers postponing fare hike;
- FirstEnergy reports fourth-quarter losses;
- Akron Superintendent David James is one of two finalists to lead Columbus schools;
Otterbein gives full scholarships to children of fatally shot Westerville officer
Otterbein University near Columbus has offered full four-year scholarships to the children of an officer fatally shot while responding to a 911 hang-up call. The scholarships were announced for all three of Officer Eric Joering's daughters during a Westerville City Council meeting last night. Officers Joering and Anthony Morelli were killed earlier this month after entering a Westerville townhome.
Medical marijuana groups sue the state over licensing process
A lawsuit filed by some unsuccessful applicants to grow medical marijuana in Ohio claims state regulators failed to follow their own rules last year when they awarded provisional licenses for growing facilities. Several groups including CannAscend Ohio filed the lawsuit Tuesday in Franklin County Common Pleas Court. The lawsuit challenges the Ohio Department of Commerce's process for awarding the provisional licenses to 12 companies for large-scale growing facilities. The lawsuit alleges various failures in the licensing process, including "scoring errors, undisclosed conflicts of interest, and undisclosed loopholes in the security of information." It asks a judge to revoke the licenses and prevent the department from issuing operators' permits to the companies.
State ballot board approves redistricting bill for May ballot
A proposal restructuring Ohio's process for drawing its congressional maps is headed to May's ballot. The Ohio Ballot Board cleared the proposed constitutional amendment on redistricting Tuesday. The proposal cleared the state Legislature with bipartisan support Feb. 6 after backers of competing proposals agreed to a compromise aimed at curbing gerrymandering. The plan would limit how counties are split into multiple districts and require more support from the minority party to put a 10-year map in place. If lawmakers couldn't reach such agreement, the map-making process would move to an existing bipartisan commission. If that failed, the majority party could make a shorter-term map under more restrictions.
Jackson Middle School student shoots self in restroom
A Stark County seventh-grader brought a gun to school and shot himself inside a restroom just before classes began on Tuesday. Police say the Jackson Middle School student also had a device in his backpack meant to cause a distraction. The student, who suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound, was flown by helicopter to Akron Children’s Hospital. His condition is unknown. No other students were hurt in the shooting. It’s not clear whether the shooting was intentional or how the boy, who rode the bus to school, managed to sneak the .22-caliber long gun into the building. Classes will resume Wednesday with counselors on hand.
Democratic lawmakers introduce statewide assault weapons ban
Two Democratic lawmakers in Ohio want assault weapons banned statewide in the wake of recent deadly mass shootings. Sens. Michael Skindell and Charleta Tavares introduced legislation Tuesday making it a fifth-degree felony to possess or acquire a firearm considered an "assault weapon." That includes any automatic or semi-automatic firearm capable of accepting a detachable magazine with the capacity to accept ten or more cartridges. It also includes any semi-automatic firearm with a fixed magazine that can accept ten cartridges or more. A similar bill the pair introduced in 2013 went nowhere in Ohio's Republican-led Legislature.
Akron RV sharing service gets $50 million from investors
Investors in Texas are giving $50 million to an Akron-based peer-to-peer RV rental business. RVShare lets about 60,000 RV owners rent their vehicles directly to customers. The 4-year-old company says it will use the money to improve the user experience, pay for marketing and hire more employees. RVShare CEO Jon Gray said in a release his company wants to help RV owners turn their vehicles into a second source of income.
Police investigate a string of school threats in Northeast Ohio
Police across Northeast Ohio are investigating a rash of school threats in the same day. The Summit County sheriff’s office reports a 14-year-old has been arrested for posting images of a handgun on social media and alleged threats against former classmates at Green Middle School. An Ellet High School student in Akron was arrested for making threats, and at least four students have been arrested in Stark County since Friday for posting threatening messages. Alliance High School was placed on lock-down Tuesday after someone posted a message on Facebook threatening to shoot-up the school.
Cleveland RTA considers postponing fare hike
Cleveland transit officials are considering postponing a rate hike set to take effect in August for at least a year. The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority on Tuesday recommended postponing a 25-cent fare increase. The recommendation came after the advocacy group Clevelanders for Public Transit presented its “Fair Fares” proposal to the RTA board. The group blamed fare hikes for last year’s record low ridership. RTA has been cutting service and staff since it lost revenue from a sales tax on Medicaid payments for managed care.
FirstEnergy reports fourth-quarter losses
FirstEnergy is reporting fourth quarter losses of more than $2 billion. The losses are an improvement from last year, when it lost nearly $6 billion in the fourth quarter. Moody’s recently downgraded FirstEnergy’s unregulated generation arm, FirstEnergy Solutions, saying it will likely default on a $100 million bond payment.
Akron Superintendent David James is one of two finalists to lead Columbus schools
Akron Superintendent David James is one of two remaining candidates to lead Columbus City Schools. James is facing off against Columbus’ interim superintendent John Stanford. The two candidates are headed for a third round of interviews and will introduce themselves to residents in public meetings. Dates for the meetings have not been set.