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Morning news headlines for March 20, 2013
Transportation bill raises rural speed limits; Teens charged for on-line threats to rape victim; Craigslist killer faces sentencing in Akron

Reporter / Host
Jeff St. Clair
  • Transportation bill raises rural speed limits
  • Teens charged for on-line threats to rape victim
  • Craigslist killer faces sentencing in Akron
  • Business group backs away from Kasich and his tax plan
  • Ohio lawmakers authorize ‘health navigators’ to aid uninsured
  • Ohio AG advocates for victims of sexual assault
  • Transportation bill raises rural speed limits
    A plan to increase Ohio's speed limit to 70 mph on rural interstate highways is poised today for a Senate vote, after a legislative panel worked out differences between House and Senate versions of the transportation bill.

    The bill also sets in motion Gov. John Kasich's plan for a $1.5 billion Ohio Turnpike bond sale that would raise money for highway and bridge projects.

    Negotiators kept a provision that guarantees 90 percent of the turnpike bond sale would go to projects in northern Ohio, specifically within 75 miles of the turnpike.


    Teens charged for on-line threats to rape victim
    Prosecutors in eastern Ohio have filed formal charges against two girls accused of posting online threats against a 16-year-old rape victim.

    The two teenagers are being held without bond in the Jefferson County detention center in Steubenville, customary for juveniles.

    Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine says the girls were charged yesterday with intimidation of a victim, telecommunications harassment and aggravated menacing.

    The 15- and 16-year-old girls would face up to six years in prison if convicted as adults, but it's likely they would be treated as juveniles. That means they could only be detained up until their 21st birthdays, if they're found "delinquent," the juvenile court equivalent of guilty.

    The girls are accused of sending threatening tweets about the victim on Sunday, the same day her attackers were convicted in juvenile court. 


    Craigslist killer faces sentencing in Akron
    Jurors who convicted a self-styled Ohio preacher for killing three men lured with Craigslist job offers will return today to consider his sentence.

    The jury in Akron jury must decide whether to recommend the death penalty for 53-year-old Richard Beasley.

    He was convicted last week of killing three men and wounding a fourth, all lured with offers of farm jobs in southeast Ohio. The survivor was wounded, fled into the woods and tipped off police.

    Beasley's co-defendant, then 16 years old, was too young to face the death penalty. Brogan Rafferty was sentenced to life without chance of parole on his conviction last year.

    Beasley testified that the survivor pulled a gun on him in retaliation for being a police informant.

    Business group backs away from Kasich and his tax plan
    The Ohio Chamber of Commerce is opposing Gov. John Kasich's sweeping tax code overhaul after endorsing him in 2010 as the man with the best ideas for Ohio's economy.

    Vice President Dan Navin yesterday told the House Finance Committee that Kasich's tax plan unhealthily shifts the tax burden onto employers with sales taxes on "virtually all business and professional services" and a drilling tax hike.

    But he backed Kasich's income-tax reductions.

    The nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities told lawmakers income tax cuts are a poor way to create jobs.

    The group cited a study showing less than 3 percent of personal income-tax payers have legitimate small businesses with employees other than the owners.

    Kasich says his reforms bring fairness and equity to an outdated tax code.

    Ohio lawmakers authorize ‘health navigators’ to aid uninsured
    The Ohio Senate has passed a bill to require training and certification for a new group of professionals who will be available to guide consumers through the new health insurance market, known as the exchange.

    The Senate voted unanimously Tuesday to pass the bill. The House has passed a similar bill.

    These so-called ‘health navigators’ will help educate consumers and small businesses about the online marketplaces created by President Barack Obama's health-care law.

    Through these exchanges, consumers will be able to buy individual private policies and apply for government subsidies to help pay the premiums.

    Ohio's bill specifies that navigators can't sell, solicit or negotiate health insurance.

    Ohio AG advocates for victims of sexual assault
    Ohio's attorney general is announcing new efforts to help victims of sexual assault, saying services for victims are lacking in the state.

    Lawmakers at a Wednesday news conference being held by Mike DeWine also are expected to announce legislation to create a rape crisis program trust fund.

    DeWine says a recently completed survey found that 52 of Ohio's 88 counties do not offer comprehensive services for sexual assault victims.

    DeWine says the problem is not limited to Steubenville, with sexual assaults happening every weekend across the country.


    Fitzgerald fund raises with Southwest Ohio Dems
    A northeast Ohio Democrat will explore the reaction to his possible run for governor with a speech to Cincinnati-area party members.

    Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald will be the featured speaker at an April 11 party reception.

    The former Lakewood mayor announced earlier this month that he is forming an exploratory committee to consider a 2014 race. He's the first Democrat to make a move toward entering the field.


    Federal official pushes min. wage hike in Ohio
    The acting U.S. secretary of labor will hear from low-wage workers in southwest Ohio today about a White House proposal to raise the minimum wage.

    The Labor Department says Seth Harris will meet low-wage workers for a roundtable discussion in Cincinnati. The department says workers will talk about how raising the current wage of $7.25 an hour would help them and their families.

    Critics of hiking the minimum wage say it could hurt businesses and deter hiring.

    Portman’s pro-gay marriage stance faces first test
    Ohio's U.S. Sen. Rob Portman will face fellow Republicans in a conservative Ohio county about a week after announcing he has changed his mind and now supports gay marriage.

    Portman will be the featured speaker on Saturday at the Butler County GOP's Lincoln Day dinner.

    Portman told reporters last week that he began changing his views in 2011 when his college-age son Will told his parents he was gay.

    Wrongly convicted Clevelanders sue city crime lab and worker
    Two men who spent 13 years in prison on wrongful convictions are suing a disgraced Ohio crime lab worker who helped put them there.

    Thomas Siller and Walter Zimmer are accusing the crime lab worker — forensic serologist Joseph Serowik — of fabricating evidence. They also named the city of Cleveland, which they claim had failed to properly train and supervise the worker.

    Siller and Zimmer were eventually exonerated of charges in the 1997 beating death of a 74-year-old woman. Serowik was later fired, and several experts who studied his work found cases of professional misconduct and "scientific fraud."

    Cordray gets Banking Committee's blessing in party-line vote
    Former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray narrowly cleared a Senate committee yesterday in the first step in his bid to head the Federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as a full appointee.

    The Senate Banking committee voted 12-10 along party lines to approve Cordray to run the consumer watchdog agency. Cordray faces a tough floor fight to head an agency many Republicans believe should be overhauled.

    Just over a year ago, President Obama installed Cordray to run the agency through a recess appointment after Republicans successfully blocked his initial nomination.

    More money for school safety
    A bill to allow school districts to set aside money for safety and security purposes is working its way through the Ohio Legislature.

    The measure, co-sponsored by Republican Gayle Manning of North Ridgeville, authorizes school districts to levy a tax of up to 10 mills for safety and security measures, including hiring school guards.

    The bill has the backing of police and teachers unions.

    Hit-and-run driver sought
    Police are looking for a driver they say ran over a 5-year-old boy and then apologized before driving away.

    The Akron Beacon Journal reports that Joshua Shaw was crossing the street with his 9-year-old sister when he was hit Friday. The car tires rolled over his left leg, causing multiple severe breaks. He had surgery at an Akron hospital and is facing a second one.

    Joshua's sister said the driver stopped briefly and apologized before driving away.

    Akron police say they have no leads and are asking for public's help in identifying the driver of the dark colored sedan. Joshua's family members say they hope the driver will come forward.

    Listener Comments:

    Anyone who FRETS about a 70 mph or 75 mph or higher interstate speed limit fails a basic understanding of highway safety. Ohio's rural interstates had a fatality rate of 0.67 -- FAR FAR LOWER than the rates of 1.78 to 4.63 on most other rural roads (latest federal Highway Statistics, Table FI-30). WHY? Fatalities commonly occur at intersections, sharp curves, and where opposing traffic is separated by only yellow stripes of paint -- hazards "designed out" of interstates! Rural interstates are the fastest, safest, and most fuel-efficient rural highways, and carry long-distance travelers and tourists. They deserve a higher speed limit.

    Posted by: Duke Ganote (Cincinnati) on March 20, 2013 6:03AM
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