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Morning news headlines for March 22, 2013
Ohio's unemployment stays at seven percent; Kasich clarifies civil union stance; 70 mph speed limit clears legislature

Reporter / Host
Jeff St. Clair
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  • Ohio's unemployment rate holds steady 
  • Kasich backtracks on civil union comments
  • Transportation bill clears legislature
  • House Republicans ax Kasich tax proposals
  • Democrats fail to get JobsOhio to testify before Statehouse panel
  • Victims will now be notified before assailants are released
  • Strongsville teacher’s strike ends third week, no end in sight
  • Former Summit County judge to oversee Steubenville Grand Jury
  • Mansfield man charged with public building bomb threats
  • Ohio launches STEM scholarship
  • Ohio's unemployment rate holds steady 
    Ohio’s unemployment rate was unchanged last month at 7.0 percent. The number released this morning is the same as in January after a jump from 6.7 percent in December. The increase in January was the first increase in the unemployment rate since July 2011. Ohio’s unemployment remains below the national rate of 7.7 percent.

    Kasich backtracks on civil union comments

    A spokesman for Governor John Kasich says the Gov. misspoke when he said he supports civil unions. Press Secretary Rob Nichols said in a statement yesterday that the Governor’s position never changed on civil unions or gay marriage. Kasich still opposes both. The Plain Dealer reports the confusion started Wednesday during an interview with WEWS-TV about Kasich’s views of Sen. Rob Portman’s support of gay marriage. Kasich said he was for civil unions but does not support gay marriage. Nichols says the governor’s stances on civil unions and gay marriage should not be viewed as prejudice.

    Transportation bill clears legislature
    A bill setting in motion Governor John Kasich's plan for a $1.5 billion Ohio Turnpike bond sale and increasing Ohio's speed limit to 70 mph on rural interstate highways has cleared the state Legislature. The state House passed the two-year transportation budget 63-28 yesterday. Kasich is expected to sign it.

    House Republicans ax Kasich tax proposals
    An influential state lawmaker says substantial changes are planned to Gov. John Kasich's tax reform proposals but statewide income-tax cuts will remain. House Finance Chairman Ron Amstutz said the House version of the two-year state budget will remove the governor's proposed sales-tax expansion. He said extending sales taxes to professional services, as Kasich proposed, would have "significant unintended consequences."  Amstutz said the House budget will focus on taxes, school-funding and health care. As they wrapped up public hearings on Kasich's budget plan yesterday, House Speaker William Batchelder has signaled the House will also remove Kasich's proposed tax hike on drilling.

    Democrats fail to get JobsOhio to testify before Statehouse panel
    House Democrats in Columbus failed yesterday to force leaders of the governor’s private jobs-creation agency JobsOhio to appear before a state legislative panel amid questions over the nonprofit's spending. Democratic lawmakers wanted the nonprofit's leaders to appear before the House Finance Committee to describe the entity's budgetary relationship with two state agencies — the Development Services Agency and Ohio Department of Commerce. Their request was rejected by the committee's Republican chairman, who said the motion to subpoena JobsOhio was out of order. Democrats on the budget-writing panel objected to the chairman's ruling, resulting in a party-line vote to deny the motion. JobsOhio reluctantly complied this week with a state auditor's order to turn over its private financial records, and then it returned $1 million in taxpayer startup money.

    Victims will now be notified before assailants are released
    A new law taking effect today requires the state of Ohio to notify victims of violent crimes when their assailants are about to be released from prison. It’s called Roberta’s Law, after a 15 year old girl who was raped and beaten to death in 1974. Her father didn’t know the killer was being released until he read about it in the paper. Now Ohio’s office of Victim Services will make three attempts to contact victims and will give 60 days notice before parole hearings so victims have more opportunity to give input.

    Strongsville teacher’s strike ends third week, no end in sight
    The teacher’s strike in Strongsville wraps up its third full week today with no end in sight. The school board and the teachers’ union are still divided on pay raises. An invitation from Mayor Tom Perciak for the two sides to meet at City Hall today was rejected by the school board. They say it would not be in line with a negotiating agreement that calls for meetings only at the request of a mediator and only when there is a change of position. The board’s position hasn’t changed since March 2nd when it presented its last, best offer just before the strike began.

    Former Summit County judge to oversee Steubenville Grand Jury
    The chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court has appointed a special judge to oversee the work of a grand jury investigating possible new charges related to the rape of a 16-year-old girl last summer. Thursday's appointment follows a request by Jefferson County judge Joseph Bruzzese Jr. for an outside judge because of ongoing local controversy over an alleged cover-up of the initial rape report. Bruzzese says "nameless bloggers" who made unproven allegations of a cover-up have a strong following that makes appointing a judge from outside Steubenville necessary. Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor responded by appointing retired Summit County Judge Patricia Ann Cosgrove to handle the grand jury, which meets in April. Two football players were convicted Sunday of raping the girl after an alcohol-fueled party in August.

    Mansfield man charged with public building bomb threats
    A Mansfield man has been charged in the investigation into dozens of bomb threats made to courthouses and other public buildings in five states late last year. The FBI arrested Lonny Bristow on Wednesday. He appeared in federal court in Cleveland yesterday and waived a bond hearing.

    Ohio launches STEM scholarship
    A new scholarship program is being launched to encourage Ohio students to become high-tech inventors and entrepreneurs. ‘Believe in Ohio’ will be a youth commercialization and entrepreneurship program offering incentives for achievements in science, technology, engineering and math or STEM studies. The new program was previewed yesterday at a breakfast reception in Columbus. A Board of Regents report in June found the state has below average success in commercializing university research.

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