Morning Headlines: U.S. Senate Narrowly Blocks Ballast Water Bill; Ohio Upholds Death Penalty

Apr 19, 2018

Here are your morning headlines for Thursday, April 19:

  • Bill removing federal EPA oversight of ballast water is narrowly blocked in U.S. Senate;
  • Ohio's high court upholds constitutionality of the death penalty;
  • Akron Public Schools faces three lawsuits over phony Scared Straight program;
  • Weekend flooding in University Circle linked to construction site;
  • Standardized testing placed on hold amid technical issues;
  • University of Akron names interim president;
  • Federal appeals court blocks attempt to divert Planned Parenthood funding;
  • Canton woman gets six years in prison for attempted mercy killing;
  • Cuyahoga County aims to lease land for public park for $1 a year;

Bill removing federal EPA oversight of ballast water is narrowly blocked in U.S. Senate
In a victory for environmental groups, the U.S. Senate has blocked a vote on a bill that would have removed federal EPA oversight of ballast water from commercial shipping. The bill fell four votes short of the 60 needed to bring it up for debate. A rider on the Coast Guard Authorization Act would have given the U.S. Coast Guard sole oversight of ocean water brought into the Great Lakes by ships. Conservation groups say the ballast water brings invasive species that threaten the lakes’ ecosystem. Lobbyists for the shipping industry say the bill aims to create a more uniform set of ballast water regulations. Ohio’s U.S. senators were split on the issue; Sen. Rob Portman voted in favor of the measure and Sen. Sherrod Brown voted against.

Ohio's high court upholds constitutionality of the death penalty
The Ohio Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of the state's death penalty law. The court ruled against the contention by lawyers for a convicted killer that the 1981 law is unconstitutional because judges, not juries, impose death sentences in contrast to the 6th Amendment right to a jury trial. The court said in a unanimous ruling that the law is constitutional because juries in Ohio first determine whether an offender is guilty beyond reasonable doubt of aggravated murder.

Akron Public Schools faces three lawsuits over phony Scared Straight program
Akron Public Schools is facing three federal lawsuits after giving access to a man conducting a fake Scared Straight program. Christopher Hendon, 26, pleaded guilty last month to 31 charges including impersonating a police officer and kidnapping. He was sentenced to nearly six years in prison. The latest case was filed Tuesday on behalf of a mother whose son has a learning disability. The suit claims the boy was emotionally distressed and thought he was going to jail after Hendon handcuffed him to other students. The lawsuits are seeking a combined $74 million.

Weekend flooding in University Circle linked to construction site
City officials in Cleveland are blaming flooding last weekend on a University Circle construction site. Heavy rains on Sunday caused a sewer grate at the Doan Valley Storage Tunnel Project to become clogged. Contractors were digging a large tunnel to collect sewage and stormwater before it reaches Lake Erie. Cleveland.com reports the clogged grating caused the site to flood, sweeping water and debris down Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. The Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District is investigating other factors that may have led to the flooding.

Standardized testing placed on hold amid technical issues
Standardized testing has been placed on hold at some Ohio schools over login issues with the online system. The state Department of Education says officials learned Wednesday morning of an issue with American Institutes for Research, the vendor that distributes the tests. Students currently taking tests weren't affected. AIR has issued an apology and says the company is working to resolve the problem.

University of Akron names interim president

The University of Akron has named an interim president. Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, John Green, will begin working with outgoing President Matt Wilson on May 1. Wilson announced he will return to teach at the law school in July. He's currently a finalist for president at Utah Valley University. Green has been with the university for about 30 years, and is the former director of the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics. Trustees say they will conduct a national search for president.

Federal appeals court blocks attempt to divert Planned Parenthood funding
A federal appeals court has blocked an Ohio law that tried to divert public money from Planned Parenthood in an anti-abortion push by GOP lawmakers. The Ohio law targeted the more than $1.4 million in funding that Planned Parenthood gets through the state's health department. That money, mostly from the federal government, supports certain education and prevention programs. The law would bar such funds from going to entities that perform or promote abortions. The restrictions, which had been slated to take effect in 2016, were signed by Gov. John Kasich during his failed presidential bid. A federal judge blocked the law that same year. Wednesday's ruling from the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati upheld that lower-court decision.

Canton woman gets six years in prison for attempted mercy killing
A Canton woman will serve six year in prison for posing as a doctor and trying to administer a lethal dose of an opioid to an ailing elderly woman. Prosecutors say the plot by Lilly Brunoni, 41, and a relative of the elderly woman appeared to be an attempted mercy killing. The victim was revived with the overdose-reversal drug naloxone. The elderly woman's relative, Nicole Dailey, apparently believed Brunoni was a doctor. She pleaded guilty to attempted murder in February and agreed to testify against Brunoni.

Cuyahoga County aims to lease land for public park for $1 a year
Cuyahoga County is planning to lease land for a new public park along the west bank of the Cuyahoga River. A council committee approved a 25-year lease of two acres near the Veterans Memorial Bridge. Cleveland.com reports the $1 per year lease is a symbolic partnership with more than 20 organizations developing the Irishtown Bend Park. The deal is expected to get a full council vote next month.