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Headline News for Monday, May 23, 2011
Ohio asks feds to waive welfare fees; National park purchases Blossom land; Legislation on state prison sale proposed

Morning Edition Host
Amanda Rabinowitz
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  • Ohio wants to waive millions in welfare-related fees after state fails to meet work-participation benchmark
  • Cuyahoga Valley National Park conserves nearly 600 acres around Blossom Music Center
  • Two Democratic representatives propose a bill to require lawmaker approval on the sale of Ohio prisons
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Headline News 05/23/11...


Ohio is asking federal regulators to reduce or waive millions of dollars in penalties it faces because not enough residents collecting welfare meet federal requirements to be working or pursuing employment. The Columbus Dispatch reports less than a quarter of Ohio adults collecting welfare meet the requirements. The work-participation rate is 23 percent. The newspaper says that's the lowest since 1997, when strict work guidelines for welfare recipients were imposed. Ohio has been hit with $136 million in penalties because it did not meet the work-participation benchmark of 42 percent in the past four years.


Oil drilling…cloning…tanning…syringes…and sweepstakes. Those topics don’t seem to have much in common – except for one thing—they will all be considered this coming week by Ohio legislators. Statehouse correspondent Bill Cohen reports. 

Almost three-quarters of Blossom Music Center will soon be conserved as part of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The Cleveland Orchestra has been working since 2007 to sell close to 600 acres around Blossom to the National Park Service.  Part of the land was purchased in March for $4 million, and $5.4 million for the remainder came through last week. Both sales were funded by federal Land & Water Conservation dollars, which are royalties from offshore oil and gas drilling. Bill Carroll is Ohio's director for the Trust for Public Lands, which helped engineer the deal. Carroll added that residential development was an option had the land not been added to the national park.  The Cleveland Orchestra will still own Blossom's roadways, parking lots and the Pavilion itself.


Cleveland police officers stationed in trouble-prone schools are being moved from those jobs as the force tries to keep up patrols amid impending layoffs.  Mayor Frank Jackson plans to off about 80 patrol officers and 50 firefighters at the end of May because the city expects to lose more than $35 million in state aid. Eighteen officers had worked in certain schools thanks to a federal grant, but the money ran out. McGrath says he'll put officers back in schools next fall if more money is found this summer. The school district still has metal detectors and a security force.


Ohio will start offering remote monitoring to keep an eye on people with developmental disabilities, so more of them can live at home safely.  The Dayton Daily News reports the state's Medicaid program received a federal government OK earlier this month to begin paying for various types of monitoring on July 15. Options include live audio or video feeds, motion sensors and equipment for back-and-forth communication with clients. Cameras would go only in common areas such as kitchens and living rooms.


Ohio gasoline prices have dropped more than 20 cents in the last week, providing some relief to motorists as the summer travel season approaches.  Today’s survey puts the statewide average price for regular-grade gas at $3.75 a gallon, down 6 percent from last Monday's average of $3.98.


Two Democratic State Reps. are proposing a bill that would require the sale of Ohio prisons to have legislative approval first. The Ohio House approved a budget May 5 that allows for the sale of at least five prisons throughout the state. Democrats Bob Hagan and Ronald Gerberry are co-sponsoring the bill, and Hagan hopes it will pressure the Senate to consider removing the prison sale provision from its budget all together. Hagan says before Ohio sells prisons, the issue needs more discussions. Governor John Kasich says the move will save taxpayers money.


Environmental groups are concerned about a change in the wording of an Ohio bill that would open state lands to oil and natural gas drilling. The Toledo Blade reports language that apparently would have exempted Lake Erie has been removed from the measure being considered by an Ohio House committee. Democratic Rep. Dennis Murray of Sandusky says he'll try adding the language again when the House Agriculture and Natural Resources committee considers amendments Tuesday. He says federal law forbids drilling on or under the lake, but some people worry that may change.


Ohio lawmakers are considering allowing concealed firearms in bars, sports stadiums and other venues that serve alcohol, though it's not clear if Governor John Kasich would sign such legislation. The director of state legislation for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence tells The Plain Dealer the Ohio proposal on concealed weapons is more wide-reaching than such measures in most other states. Proponents say it would not prevent businesses from having their own bans on firearms and would leave that choice to business owners, instead of the government.


An entomologist at Ohio State University says tick season is off to a slow start in Ohio.  Glen Needham says ticks like two things: warm temperatures and wet weather. The cooler temperatures this spring have kept the ticks dormant longer, but Needham says higher temperatures will bring more activity. He added that tick season normally ends in July, but if heavy spring rains continue into summer, the season could last till August. Needham says people should be extra careful outside when humidity increases above 75 percent.


The Indians completed a weekend sweep of the Reds with a 12-4 win on Sunday…it was a big game for short stop Asdrubal Cabrera, who went 5-5 and hit two home runs in the game. Indians manager Manny Acta says Cabrera is finally getting the credit he deserves. The Indians are now a major league best 29-15 and open a home series against Boston tonight.

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