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Morning news headlines for March 25, 2013
Strongsville teachers, school board set Tuesday meeting; Competency hearing scheduled for Route 82 Bridge suspect; tax amnesty program nearing end

Morning Edition Host
Amanda Rabinowitz
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  • Strongsville teachers to meet with school board tomorrow
  • Competency hearing scheduled for Route 82 Bridge suspect
  • Business tax amnesty program coming to an end
  • Universities bracing for research funding cut
  • Debate brewing over renewable energy requirement
  • Conference on urban issues coming to Cleveland
  • Gas prices up slightly
  • Strongsville teachers to meet with school board tomorrow
    The Strongsville teachers’ strike begins its fourth week today, during what would have been spring break. Both sides will meet tomorrow along with a federal mediator to go over a revised contract proposal submitted on Friday.  The school board has said it will only meet with the teachers’ union at the mediator’s request. At issue are items such as pay freezes and the structuring of pension benefits and the school day. The school board says it needs to close a looming $6 million budget hole. It’s one of less than a dozen teachers’ strikes since Ohio approved collective bargaining for public employees in 1984.

    Competency hearing scheduled for Route 82 Bridge suspect
    A federal judge in Akron will hear testimony next month on whether the last of five bridge bomb-plotting suspects is mentally competent to stand trial. Judge David Dowd has scheduled the hearing for April 15th for Joshua Stafford of Cleveland. Court-ordered psych tests were inconclusive on his mental competence. The four other defendants have pleaded guilty. The intended target last year was the Route 82 Bridge over the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The FBI said the device was a dud provided by an informant.

    Business tax amnesty program coming to an end
    Ohio's tax commissioner is urging eligible businesses to take advantage of a state amnesty program before it ends and avoid penalties and interest for any unpaid use taxes incurred since January 2009. Tax Commissioner Joe Testa says the use-tax amnesty ends May 1. The program was intended to increase awareness of the use tax that many business taxpayers don't know exists. Testa says Ohio businesses have paid about 20-million dollars in use-tax debt since the program began Oct. 1, 2011.

    Universities bracing for research funding cut
    Ohio universities are trying to prepare for decreased federal research funding caused partly by automatic federal budget cuts that took effect this month.  The automatic cuts took effect March 1 after the White House and Congress failed to agree on a better plan to reduce spending. The Columbus Dispatch reports that thousands of scientists at universities across Ohio face the research funding threat that is prompting university officials to search for new investors.  The National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation sent more than $800 million to Ohio universities and research institutes last fiscal year. But the foundation warned it may cut 1,000 of the grants it awards annually for new research studies.  Both agencies are trying to determine how to make the necessary budget cuts.

    Debate brewing over renewable energy requirement
    Battle lines are being drawn over whether Ohio should scrap its requirement that power companies to generate a portion of their electricity from renewable sources such as solar and wind. In hearings last week, Ohio Senate Public Utilities Chairman Bill Seitz reopened discussions on the 2008 state law that requires renewable sources to account for 12.5 percent of the power utilities produce. Opponents of the mandate say it fattens electric bills at a time when shale gas drilling is bringing new supplies of a traditional energy source. Supporters say it's helping the environment and the state's economy with new jobs in science, technology and production. Debate comes as amid Ohio electricity prices that are higher than in some surrounding states.

    Conference on urban issues coming to Cleveland
    Community activists addressing urban violence and poverty around the country will gather in Cleveland to discuss possible solutions to those and other problems facing U.S. cities. The Plain Dealer reports dozens of community groups, faith-based leaders, activists and gang-prevention specialists from cities including Detroit and Los Angeles will attend the conference beginning May 30 at Cleveland State University. Organizers say Cleveland is the perfect meeting place partly because it has history of progressive political movements such as the election of Carl Stokes, the first elected black mayor of a major U.S. city.

    Gas prices up slightly
    Ohio drivers are seeing another slight bump at the gas pump to start the work week. A gallon of regular gas in Ohio was listed at an average of $3.70 in today’s survey. That's 3 cents more than last Monday's average of $3.67.

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