Death row inmate under constant surveillance
A man sentenced to die Wednesday for killing two men during a 1994 shooting spree in Garfield Heights has been placed under constant surveillance well ahead of schedule to avert potential suicide.
A prisons spokeswoman said Harry Mitts Jr. has been constantly monitored since Wednesday, a full week before his scheduled execution. Standard policy calls for a suicide watch to begin 72 hours in advance.
The state prisons department's decision to place Mitts on an around-the-clock watch follows high-profile prison-cell suicides in August and September. The hangings of Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro and death row inmate Billy Slagle are being scrutinized.
New study shows number of attempted suicides in Ohio prisons
A new study by the Correctional Institution Inspection Committee shows close to 900 men and women have tried to commit suicide in Ohio’s prisons since the year 2000 and 88 of them have ended their lives.
That puts Ohio’s prison’s suicide rate about one-quarter less than the national rate.
The Ohio prison that saw the most of such deaths has been the Southeast Ohio Correctional Facility, a men’s maximum security prison about an hour southeast of Columbus. The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections is doing its own review of deaths over the last two years.
Food stamp scheme uncovered
Two Brook Park men who operated convenience stores in the area have admitted they stole some 2 million dollars by buying food stamps at a discount and by accepting them as payments for ineligible items such as beer and cigarettes.
According to the U.S. attorneys office, 41-year-old Saed Wahdan, and his 42-year-old brother, Maher admitted that for more than four years, they accepted the food stamps at the four stores they own, but held in other people’s names.
Both brothers had previous convictions that precluded them from the food stamp program. The U.S. attorney’s office wants a federal judge to order the brothers to forfeit their properties. They’re to be sentenced next April. Charges are pending against a third defendant.
New state website to help determine Medicaid eligibility
Ohioans trying to determine whether they are eligible for Medicaid health coverage can soon go to a new state website instead of visiting a county office. The online access comes as the state replaces an outdated computer system known for rejecting eligible people from the Medicaid program and accepting others who don't meet the criteria.
The website, benefits.ohio.gov, will go live October 1. That's the same day consumers also can get private health insurance, subsidized by the federal government, through the new health insurance exchange created by President Barack Obama's health care law. Coverage in the exchange takes effect in January.
State officials said Monday that Ohio's new website should send users to the exchange, if they aren't eligible for Medicaid. Though they cautioned that transfer hasn't yet been tested.
Opponents of sweepstakes parlor law short on signatures
Opponents of an Ohio law that effectively bans storefront sweepstakes parlors have fallen more than 70,000 signatures short of the number needed to place a repeal request on the November 2014 ballot.
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted said Monday that 160,008 of the nearly 434,000 signatures submitted by the Committee to Protect Ohio Jobs were valid, well below the more than 231,000 required.
The group has 10 days to submit additional signatures. A committee spokesman said hundreds of workers will begin that effort Tuesday. If successful, enforcement of the law would be suspended until next November's vote.
Ohioans Against Illegal Gambling, which is backed by casinos, had urged county elections boards to carefully scrutinize the signatures. The group has claimed that signature gatherers misrepresented the referendum's purpose.
Funding announcement planned for Tuesday
Funding for a major project in along Cleveland’s lakefront will be announced Tuesday.
Mayor Frank Jackson and Governor John Kasich have planned a press conference at Upper Edgewater Park. The goal of the West Lakeshore project is to connect Cleveland’s west side neighborhoods to the lake with bike and pedestrian paths.
Part of reaching that goal includes expanding greenspace and dropping the speed limit on the West Shoreway from 50 to 35 miles per hour.
New refinery coming to Ashtabula
A new refinery to convert the state’s plentiful natural gas resources into liquid fuel is now planned for northeast Ohio.
The Columbus Dispatch says Velocys Inc. has announced plans for a plant in Ashtabula that would convert natural gas into diesel fuel.
It’s expected to create 400 jobs during the construction phase and 30 permanent jobs once the plant is operational.
The plant is expected to produce about 28 hundred barrels of diesel fuel a day and will cost about 300 million dollars. Velocys is a spinoff of Columbus-based research institution Battelle.
Workers laid off from Jeep plant in Toledo
About 500 workers have been temporarily laid off from a northwest Ohio plant that produces the new Jeep Cherokee.
Transmission reprogramming and extra test-driving delayed shipment of the vehicles, and inventory from the Toledo facility has accumulated, so some second-shift workers have been idled. The layoffs are expected to last about two weeks.
The local union president says the test-driving of each vehicle doesn't mean there's a problem with the new Cherokee. He says it's simply a sign of extra caution for a complex launch of a vehicle with a new transmission and other systems.
Chrysler says it has built the number of Cherokees it needs to stock dealerships initially once testing is complete. It still plans to have the vehicles at dealerships by the end of September.
Ohio lawmakers move forward on constitutional convention measure
Ohio lawmakers are moving forward on a plan to call for a constitutional convention to add a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The Plain Dealer reports the resolution is expected to go before the House Policy and Legislative Oversight Committee Tuesday. It’s part of a multi-state effort to put a stop to the growing national debt, led by Ohio Governor John Kasich.
Two thirds of state legislatures would need to request a convention in order for it to happen. So far 17 of the 34 needed have passed resolutions similar to the one Ohio is considering. Three fourths of states would have to ratify the proposed amendment.
New bill would feed hungry with interest from football ticket money
One Ohio lawmaker has come up with a plan to put the money you pay for college football tickets to good use, according to the Columbus Dispatch.
Most Ohio colleges require payment in full for season tickets in the early spring, months before the first game. Democratic State Representative Tom Leston of Warren says that money just sits around.
He has announced a bill that would put that money into an interest-bearing account. The interest would then be distributed to food banks throughout the state.
The group that represents Ohio’s public universities is opposed to the plan and calls it an “unnecessary micromanagement of the University system in Ohio.”