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Group ready to turn in signatures for internet cafe voter referendum
Other morning headlines: State looking for new roads revenue; Vets' groups, fraternal organizations still using illegal raffle machines

by WKSU's AMANDA RABINOWITZ
and LAUREN SCHMOLL


Morning Edition Host
Amanda Rabinowitz
 
  • Group ready to turn in signatures for internet cafe referendum
  • State looking for new roads revenue
  • Vets' groups, fraternal organizations still using illegal raffle machines
  • New leader for Bureau of Worker's Compensation anti-fraud division
  • Vandals, arsonists threaten Ohio's covered bridges 
  • Ohio stepping up efforts to stop unemployment fraud

  • Group ready to turn in signatures for internet cafe voter referendum
    The Committee to Protect Ohio Jobs plans to file more than 400,000 signatures with the secretary of state today, in an effort to stop a law that bans storefront sweepstakes parlors. The group wants legislators to pass a new law to regulate the industry and shut down “rogue” operators… but leave other businesses alone. Their goal is to get a referendum on the ballot after those signatures are confirmed.
    That would give voters the chance to repeal the law next year. Supporters of the law say the internet cafes harbor illegal gambling.
    There are more than 620 internet cafes in Ohio. Back in April, Attorney General Mike DeWine and the Cuyahoga County prosecutor announced that six cafes in the Cleveland area were searched and some of their bank accounts seized.

    State looking for new roads revenue
    Ohio is looking for new ways to keep up the state’s roads, the Columbus Dispatch reports.
    Ohio ranks fourth in the country for states with the busiest interstates, but funding to pay for highway upkeep isn’t keeping up.
    The state’s 28-cents-a-gallon gas tax goes to pay for road repairs, maintenance and highway expansion. But inflation and higher cost of projects has cut into what that money is capable of accomplishing.
    Now, the state is trying to fix the issue without raising the gas tax.
    The legislature wants a report on alternatives like a vehicle miles tax that would charge motorists for miles driven.
    Here in northeast Ohio, $1.5 billion in bonds against future Ohio Turnpike revenue are paying for major highway projects.

    Vets' groups, fraternal organizations still using illegal raffle machines
    Ohio veterans and fraternal groups are not heeding a warning from the state’s attorney general that electronic raffle machines are illegal.
    Several groups have installed more of the machines—which resemble slots—since April.
    Attorney General Mike DeWine set a deadline of August 1st for the devices to be removed.
    DeWine has delayed enforcing the ban because Senate leaders are considering legalizing the devices, although there is no timetable.
    The machines' $1 dollar raffle tickets function like an instant lottery ticket.

    New leader for Bureau of Worker's Compensation anti-fraud division
    A veteran police officer will head up Ohio’s efforts to stop workers’ comp fraud. Rick Gregory will oversee 123 employees at the Bureau of Worker’s Compensation Special Investigations Department. The department seeks out employees faking injuries for disabilities, and companies that hide employees to lower the money they pay into workers compensation funds. Gregory was most recently the police chief in Provo, Utah and was a trooper for 20 years in the Florida Highway Patrol. He plans to expand the work the fraud unit does with other state and federal law enforcement agencies.

    Vandals, arsonists threaten Ohio's covered bridges
    Ohio's number of historic covered bridges has dwindled from thousands to about 145, and preservationists say vandals and arsonists are chipping away at those still standing. The Ohio Historic Bridge Association says Ohio is second only to Pennsylvania in its number of original covered bridges. The remaining wooden spans sometimes are marred by graffiti, fire and other damage. Association president David Simmons tells The Columbus Dispatch (http://bit.ly/17HTjsz ) it's often tough to catch the vandals. Many of the bridges are in rural or isolated areas and don't carry traffic, and Simmons says that can attract firebugs. An 1874 bridge with a rare, rounded shape was destroyed by fire in June in southeast Ohio's Vinton County. An earlier arson at a bridge in Lancaster caused an estimated $20,000 in damage.

    Ohio stepping up efforts to stop unemployment fraud
    Ohio is cracking down on unemployment fraud with new investigators and new methods to track down scammers. The state has added more than a dozen fraud investigators in recent years. It has also started using databases and data mining to check for fraud. In the past year, the Department of Job and Family Services has referred nearly 200 cases to prosecutors. Ohio has also joined a consortium of states and agencies aimed at identifying fraud and making unemployment payments more accurate.
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