House passes state budget
The Ohio House has passed a state budget that rewrites Gov. John Kasich's proposals for overhauling the state tax code and eliminates his plan to expand Medicaid health coverage to thousands more low-income residents. The GOP-dominated House approved the $61 billion, two-year budget on 61-35 vote Thursday. The budget now goes to the Senate, where more changes and hearings are expected. The budget bill contains a 7 percent permanent income-tax reduction. It excludes the Republican governor's proposed tax hike on oil and gas drillers and his small-business tax cut. The House budget also would send Planned Parenthood to the back of the line for public family planning dollars, but it drops a controversial idea to prohibit public schools from teaching about “gateway sexual activity,” imposing fines on teachers who talk about things like masturbation.
Pro-abstinence sex education removed from budget
The Ohio House has removed a pro-abstinence sex education provision that was added to the state budget. The proposal, sponsored by House Health Chairman Lynn Wachtmann, would have barred educators from promoting "sexual gateway activity" or distributing contraceptives on school property. Violators could have been sued and faced civil penalties of up to $5,000. The provision mirrors a Tennessee law enacted last year that was spurred by a classroom demonstration involving a sex toy. It became nicknamed the "no holding-hands bill" because of difficulty among Tennessee lawmakers to define "sexual gateway activity."
Unemployment rate unchanged
Ohio’s unemployment rate held steady at 7.1 percent last month. State officials unveiled the newest statewide labor force data this morning. Ohio's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 7.1 percent in February and has remained about one percentage point below the national rate.
FBI affidavit: Haslam knew about rebate fraud
An FBI agent's affidavit says a Pilot Flying J employee told authorities that Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam knew about rebate fraud at the truck stop chain his family owns. The 120-page document was filed Thursday in federal court in Knoxville, where Pilot is based. It identifies the employee only as a confidential source. Haslam issued a statement saying the foundation of the company is integrity and pledged to cooperate with the investigation. The company headquarters was raided Monday by FBI and IRS agents. Pilot Flying J is a private company mostly owned by Haslam, his brother Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and other family members.
School Employees Retirement System sent two to Hawaii despite public disagreement
The trustees of one of Ohio's public pension funds voted to send two members to a conference in Hawaii, despite pressure from the public and lawmakers to scrap the junket. The Columbus Dispatch reports that the board of the School Employees Retirement System of Ohio voted 4-3 to go ahead with the $8,000 trip for two board members. But the board did adopt a new travel policy to limit spending and out-of-state trips. In January, the board first approved three members to attend the conference in Hawaii, but one has since backed out because of health concerns. Lawmakers and the state oversight committee have repeatedly criticized the plan and urged the pension fund board to change its travel policy.
Fitzgerald expected to finalize run for governor next week
Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald reportedly plans to make his run for governor official next week. The Plain Dealer reports the Democrat is prepared make his 2014 challenge to Republican governor John Kasich public on Wednesday. FitzGerald already has filed paperwork that allows him to raise and spend money like a candidate for governor. He’s also been canvassing the state speaking at Democratic Party dinners and events.
Education Secretary comes to Cleveland today
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan is visiting Cleveland and Columbus to talk about schools.
Duncan will be in Cleveland today to talk about educational improvements with area school superintendents. He'll also visit an elementary school and discuss the Cleveland district's improvement plan with the mayor, the superintendent and others. The Cleveland district could have fallen under state oversight because of low test scores and lack of academic progress, but Ohio's state superintendent decided against such oversight as the district makes progress on its own plan.
Indictments handed down in sweepstakes café raids
Eleven people and eight companies have been indicted after an internet café raid in Cuyahoga County this week. The indictments include three of the six cafes raided this week in Cleveland, Euclid and Westlake where authorities seized video terminals and cash. County Prosecutor Tim McGinty says the defendants allegedly worked with a New Jersey-based online gambling syndicate known as “VS2.” The prosecutor’s office says VS2 uses obstructive legal tactics and frivolous civil suits to avoid or delay law enforcement. Earlier Thursday, Common Pleas Judge Nancy Margaret Russo ruled that the raids on the six Internet cafes did not violate a protective order she issued last year to protect some of the businesses from prosecution.
Four people found dead in Akron home
Police are searching for answers in the shooting deaths of four young adults in the basement of an Akron townhome. Names of the victims in the Thursday shooting haven't been released by police. The victims were two men and two women. Police said they had all been shot in the head at close range. The housing complex is in the Chapel Hill section of Akron. Police spent Thursday night collecting evidence and talking to neighbors.
Burke Lakefront Airport gets grant for runway improvements
Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland is getting a federal grand of more than $20 million. The money from the Department of Transportation is slated to improve runway safety. The FAA says the work is scheduled for next year and will bring the airport into compliance with new runway safety standards from Congress. Burke is the official reliever airport for Cleveland Hopkins International.