Ohio General Assembly resumes this week
When the Ohio General Assembly returns to action this week, there will be plenty of hot topics to cover.
According to the Columbus Dispatch, the ongoing debate over Medicaid expansion will be front and center, but far from the only issue.
Municipal income taxes have a target on their back from business groups. A new version of House Bill 5 could unify the income tax code for municipalities. But some city officials say the bill will wind up costing towns money they can’t afford to lose.
Internet cafes are hoping to overturn a law they say would put them out of business. The law limits payouts of sweepstakes machines. Along a similar vein, the legislature may step in to help veterans groups and fraternal organizations that use electronic raffle machines.
There are seven gun bills in the house and two in the senate, including a Stand Your Ground law. These are expected to attract plenty of attention as they are discussed.
Graduation tests are in limbo… after lawmakers failed to act on a plan to discontinue the Ohio Graduation Test and replace is with a tougher college and career readiness exam. If nothing is done, sophomores could be required to take all those tests, which would cost millions of dollars.
And finally, Senate Bill 109 is drawing scrutiny from democrats. It makes several election law changes, but the one under debate would count a vote if someone casting an absentee or provisional ballot both marks a candidate and writes in the same one. On traditional ballots, that type of vote would not count.
Portage County Sheriff's Office making cuts
The Portage County Sheriff is cutting costs by reducing security at the Kent and Ravenna courthouses, according to the Akron Beacon Journal.
The inmate work program will also be suspended.
It uses inmates for cleaning, mowing and painting projects around the county.
The moves come after the Portage County commission refused to extend the Sheriff’s Office budget. Some cuts are also being blamed on the county’s desire to reduce health care benefits ahead of the Affordable Care Act.
The commission says over the past five years, the Sheriff’s Office has exceeded its budget by $500 thousand to $ 1 million each year.
Cleveland's Main Avenue Bridge has structural issues
The Main Avenue Bridge in Cleveland received some ominous classifications by the National Bridge Inventory.
The Associated Press reviewed the annual report, and found that 420 bridges in Ohio are in need of rehabilitation or replacement, and could be at risk of collapse if a single, vital component fails.
ODOT says dozens of those have already been replaced or closed, leaving 380 that are both structurally deficient and fracture critical.
The Main Avenue Bridge received both red flags.
Transportation officials say bridges like the Main Avenue Bridge are still safe for drivers, but may need extra care.
Tourism Ohio Advisory Board still lacks members
An advisory panel that’s aimed at boosting and supporting tourism in Ohio still lacks members, 10 months after the governor was required to appoint them.
The Tourism Ohio Advisory Board was created to advise the state Developmental Service Agency.
Appointments were required in November. A spokeswoman for the agency says potential board members have been interviewed, and she expects appointments to come soon.
Tourism in Ohio supports 443,000 jobs and generates about $43 billion annually.
Ohio lawmaker wants new license plate for charter, private schools
One Ohio lawmaker wants to create a new way to drum up funding for charter and private schools.
According to the Akron Beacon Journal, Republican Representative Andrew Brenner is looking for sponsors for a bill that would allow people to make a donation to the school-choice movement when they purchase their license plates.
Part of the cost of the plates would be donated to School Choice Ohio, a non profit group that supports alternatives to public schools.
Brenner compares the idea to other license plate causes that have already been approved, like the Lake Erie Protection Fund.
White-tailed deer archery season begins soon
More than 200,000 bowhunters are expected to participate in the state's popular white-tailed deer archery hunting season starting September 28th and continuing through February 2nd, 2014. The Department of Natural Resources says that represents more than half of the Ohioans who will hunt deer this season.
Six remain hospitalized following bus crash
At least six of the more than 30 people injured when a bus drove off an interstate highway and overturned remain hospitalized in southwest Ohio.
The Greyhound bus struck a tree and a fence and flipped on its side before sliding to a stop in a cornfield, injuring at least 35 people early Saturday. At least nine were hospitalized overnight.
None of the injuries was considered life-threatening.
The State Highway Patrol said there was no new information to release on the investigation Sunday.
Patrol Sgt. James Russell said 64-year-old Dwayne Garrett, of Cincinnati, was driving the bus carrying 51 passengers to Detroit from Cincinnati. A recording at a phone number listed for Garrett said the number may be disconnected.
The crash happened on Interstate 75 about 25 miles north of Cincinnati.
Annual march in honor of musician ends early
An annual march in honor of an Ohio musician ended early when Columbus police used pepper spray on the crowd and arrested three people.
The Columbus Dispatch reports about 60 people were walking in the annual march Saturday night to honor Columbus rapper and disc jockey Daymon Dodson when an off-duty officer reported an unruly crowd.
Dodson died in 2006 of an epileptic seizure.
Gas prices dropping
Ohio's average gas prices are dropping as we say goodbye to summer.
The average per gallon of regular is $3.39 today, according to the AAA survey. That's down 13 cents from a week ago and 48 cents compared with this time last year.
The national average Monday was a bit higher at about $3.52 per gallon
The possibility of a conflict in Syria or the surrounding region recently drove oil prices to two-year highs. The price of oil fell Monday after the U.S. and Russia reached an agreement on getting Syria to give up its chemical weapons.
Cleveland mounted-police unit honored
About 700 hooves clopped through downtown Cleveland as private citizens on horseback paraded in support of the city's 102-year-old mounted-police unit this weekend.
Most people were on horseback, but several pairs of draught horses transported small groups in large wagons on Saturday. The Plain Dealer reports that a few people rode small carts drawn by miniature horses..
Sgt. Mark Medwid of the Cleveland mounted-police unit said this year's event was the biggest turnout. Last year there were only 70 mounts.
All proceeds from the parade and attendant events will go toward the care of the current stable of eight police horses.
Other activities included raffles, food trucks and sale of merchandise, including T-shirts honoring the mounted unit.