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Morning news headlines for February 26, 2013
T.J. Lane expected to plead guilty; ODOT plans I-71 widening; Finalists named for State Superintendent

Morning Edition Host
Amanda Rabinowitz
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  • T.J. Lane expected to plead guilty today in Chardon shooting
  • Man killed in Carroll County drilling accident
  • Beasley prosecution lays out motives
  • Interstate 71 will soon be three lanes all the way to Columbus
  • Statehouse Democrats worried about Kasich’s turnpike plan
  • Finalists named for Ohio schools superintendent
  • Eight school districts’ report cards flagged in attendance-rigging probe
  • AEP will stop burning coal at two plants
  • FirstEnergy earnings down after Hurricane Sandy
  • Cincinnati casino opening less than a week away
  • T.J. Lane expected to plead guilty today in Chardon shooting
    The teenager accused of killing three students in last year’s shooting at Chardon High School is expected to plead guilty today. 18-year old T.J. Lane's lawyer announced February 15th that negotiations were under way for a possible plea deal. He’s due in court today.  A Geauga County judge has ordered psychiatric testing for Lane and attorneys for both sides want the testing to determine if he is competent to stand trial. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. Wednesday is the one year anniversary of the shootings.

    Man killed in Carroll County drilling accident   
    Authorities say one man was killed and another was injured in a drilling accident in eastern Ohio. Carroll County Sheriff Dale Williams said it happened Monday afternoon at a gas drilling rig near Carrolton, southeast of Canton. The injured man, 21-year-old Alex Cox, told the sheriff that he and the other victim were using drilling equipment and hadn't hooked up a safety line designed to keep it from swinging around and striking workers. The dead man's name hasn't been released. Media reports said the rig is owned by R.E. Gas Development, a subsidiary of Rex Energy Corp. The investigation is continuing.

    Beasley prosecution lays out motives
    The prosecution has outlined motives of robbery and identity theft in rural Ohio attacks two years ago that killed three men and wounded a fourth lured by phony Craigslist job offers. The alleged triggerman, 53-year-old Richard Beasley of Akron, who has back problems, slumped in his wheelchair and didn't turn to look as the evidence was detailed Monday. Beasley's attorney told the jury there isn't enough evidence to prove his client committed the crimes. Beasley could face the death penalty if convicted.

    Interstate 71 will soon be three lanes all the way to Columbus
    Ohio's Highway Department says work is under way to expand the only two-lane section left on Interstate 71 between Cleveland and Columbus. The Ohio Department of Transportation says work on the three-phase project has already begun in northern Morrow County with another project scheduled to start this week. The final leg will be finished in 2015 with $144 million spent to widen the final 25 miles. News four years ago that the state ran out of money to finish that stretch upset local officials. Most of the route to Cleveland is now three lanes.

    Statehouse Democrats worried about Kasich’s turnpike plan
    Ohio House Democrats say key public promises made by Gov. John Kasich are absent from a bill authorizing the sale of $1.5 billion in Ohio Turnpike bonds to fund highway projects. The lawmakers said a bill authorizing the bond sale excludes a guarantee to keep 90 percent of the bond deal's proceeds in northern Ohio, and doesn't mention Kasich's pledge to freeze toll rates for a decade for those making short trips on the 241-mile toll road. Democrats say the have submitted amendments that would insert the provisions into the bill. The Ohio Department of Transportation says Kasich intends to keep his promises and that mandating particular percentages and dollar amounts could jeopardize flexibility.

    Finalists named for Ohio schools superintendent
    Four candidates have made the final cut in Ohio's search for a new schools chief. Finalists named Monday include Gov. John Kasich's top education adviser, Richard Ross. The former Reynoldsburg superintendent helped craft Kasich's school-funding plan. Current Interim Superintendent Michael Sawyers is also a finalist. The board hired an Iowa-based firm to conduct a national search to replace Stan Heffner, who resigned amid ethical questions about his relationship with an educational testing contractor. Other finalists invited to interview March 4 are Charles Hokanson Jr., former president of the Alliance for School Choice, and former Massachusetts schools chief Michael Sentance.

    Eight school districts’ report cards flagged in attendance-rigging probe
    Ohio's education chief has informed eight school districts accused of altering attendance data that report cards they've been issued since 2010 will be flagged until a state Education Department investigation is completed. Acting State Superintendent Michael Sawyers also gave districts where state Auditor Dave Yost found evidence of so-called scrubbing until March 15 to respond to his findings. That includes Cleveland, Canton and Campbell in Mahoning County.  Sawyers reminded superintendents that removing poor-performing students from rolls to improve performance rankings is illegal and could mean lost education funding or revoked education licenses.

    AEP will stop burning coal at two plants
    Columbus-based American Electric Power will stop burning coal at two of its power plants under a legal settlement reached with the EPA, eight states and several environmental groups. AEP agreed to stop burning coal at the Muskingum power plant in Southeastern Ohio, plus plants in Indiana and Kentucky by the end of 2015. In exchange, AEP changed the conditions of an earlier court settlement and will use equipment at another Indiana power plant that will not reduce sulfur dioxide as much.

    FirstEnergy earnings down after Hurricane Sandy
    Akron-based FirstEnergy took a hit from Hurricane Sandy and that was one reason the company’s fourth quarter earnings were down. FirstEnergy reported a loss of $148 million dollars for 2012. Sandy affected all of its ten delivery companies from Toledo to New Jersey, costing some $630 million dollars. FirstEnergy losses were also affected by a $600 million dollar contribution to its pension plan. 

    Cincinnati casino opening less than a week away
    Workers at Ohio's fourth and last voter-approved casino are gearing up for the $400 million facility's opening in less than one week. The casino opens its doors to reporters today for a first look and it undergoes a pivotal dry run Wednesday for invited guests only. If no major problems arise, the Ohio Casino Control Commission will allow the casino to open to the public on March 4.


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