State auditor to release JobsOhio review
The state's auditor plans to release his review today of Governor John Kasich's signature job-creation program, JobsOhio, after a high-profile fight for access to its records.
Republican Auditor Dave Yost, a former prosecutor, ordered JobsOhio to turn over its private and public books. The move was criticized by Kasich and fellow Republicans in the Legislature. JobsOhio complied under protest in March. At the same time, it returned $1 million in taxpayer startup money in a move possibly aimed at shielding the office from future government scrutiny.
Lawmakers also have changed state law to shield future private spending from the state audit process.
Ohio Senate approves bill to limit Controlling Board spending
Ohio senators have approved a bill to place limits on a legislative board that had a key role in the state's expansion of Medicaid.
The proposal comes after the quietly powerful state Controlling Board cleared the way last month for $2.56 billion in federal funds to be spent on covering thousands more Ohioans in the Medicaid health program. Governor John Kasich's administration brought the spending request to the panel, bypassing the full Legislature.
The seven-member board handles certain adjustments to the state budget. The bill would restrict the board from authorizing appropriation increases exceeding 1 percent of the state's general revenue fund for that budget year. Currently, that limit is about $300 million.
The proposal now goes to the House where other restrictions have been introduced.
"Stand Your Ground" bill passes Ohio House
The Ohio House has approved a measure making broad changes to the state's gun laws, including the addition of a "Stand Your Ground" self-defense rule that has sparked debates on gun control across the country.
The measure passed Wednesday amid protests from anti-gun groups, black legislators and others.
The bill eliminates the duty to retreat in any place in which the person is lawfully allowed to be and makes concealed-carry licenses in Ohio and certain other states valid across state lines. Republican Representative Terry Johnson said the bill brings reasonable safety protections to Ohioans.
Democrats predicted it would foster violence. At least 22 states have similar self-defense laws.
FitzGerlad picks Cincinnati lawyer as running mate
Democratic gubernatorial contender Ed FitzGerald has picked a Cincinnati lawyer and state senator as his running mate as he seeks to unseat Republican Governor John Kasich in 2014.
Senator Eric Kearney, who is black, lends racial and geographic diversity to the top of Democrats' 2014 ticket. He is expected to help draw votes from Ohio's heavily Republican southwest region.
Kearney was elected Senate Minority Leader in 2012. He served on the national finance committee of President Obama's 2008 campaign and as a state co-chair.
More sex-abuse claims against Franciscan brother
Twenty-five additional sex-abuse claims have been filed in the case of a Franciscan brother who killed himself after allegations emerged at a Youngstown-area Catholic high school.
The Youngstown Catholic Diocese said Wednesday it would review the additional claims and the demand for $1 million for each alleged victim at John F. Kennedy High School in Warren. The victims allege the abuse occurred from 1985 to 1992.
The diocese and Franciscans settled 11 earlier abuse claims against Brother Stephen Baker for $75,000 each.
Baker killed himself at a Pennsylvania monastery January.
Earthquake hits southeastern Ohio
The U.S. Geological Survey is reporting that a mild earthquake has shaken residents in southeastern Ohio. The agency says the 3.5-magnitude quake occurred close to 1 p.m. Wednesday in Athens County. Ohio University, in nearby Athens, says its campus felt the earthquake but there was no damage to facilities reported.
Youngstown Air Reserve to lose jobs
About 200 jobs will be eliminated the Youngstown Air Reserve Station’s 910th Airlift Wing. The air base is losing four C-130 cargo planes. Two have been transferred to Little Rock, Arkansas, and two others will be reassigned, leaving the base with just eight aircraft. As a result, 50 full-time and 150 part-time jobs will be cut in the next year.
J.M. Smucker sees drop in sales, increase in profits
Orville-based J.M. Smucker Company has reported higher second-quarter earnings on a modest decline in sales. The jam and coffee maker saw earnings rise 3 percent, while sales fell about 4 percent to $1.5 billion. The company brings in much of its revenue from its U.S. coffee business, which includes brands such as Folgers and Dunkin' Donuts. In the latest period, retail coffee sales fell 4 percent and the segment's profit grew 14 percent as the company lowered prices to reflect cheaper product costs.
More charges in credit union embezzlement case and collapse
More charges have been filed in the $16 million embezzlement that led to the collapse of a Lithuanian credit union in Cleveland.
Michael Ruksenas, a former teller at the Taupa Lithuanian Credit Union, has been charged with conspiracy to commit theft or embezzlement.
U.S. Attorneys say his alleged role led to a nearly half million dollar loss to the credit union.
Former CEO, Alex Spirikaitis, is accused of falsely reporting more than 16 million dollars in assets deposited with other credit unions. He’s pleaded not guilty and is being held without bond. He was arrested last month in Cleveland’s Collinwood neighborhood after bring on the run for more than three months.
Vets reject new gaming machine offer
A coalition of Ohio veterans posts and fraternal organizations has rejected the offer of new gaming machines to replace the video raffles that were deemed by the state to be illegal.
The Ohio Lottery Commission said last month that it would offer 1,200 "next generation" electronic gaming machines to veterans posts and fraternal lodges. They would replace video raffles that Attorney General Mike DeWine declared illegal gambling devices and ordered removed.
But The Columbus Dispatch reports that the leaders of six statewide organizations sent a letter Wednesday to Gov. John Kasich and state legislators, saying they don't want the machines. They said the lottery deal would not provide posts and lodges with enough money to cover operating costs and continue giving money to charity.
American Electric Power supports changes to energy efficiency rules
Columbus-based American Electric Power says it supports a new bill that would change Ohio’s energy efficiency rules.
The proposed legislation would repeal a requirement that electric utilities purchase half of their renewable energy-- like wind or solar-- from sources within Ohio.
AEP’s endorsement comes as the bill’s sponsor, Republican Senator Bill Seitz of Cincinnati, is planning to rewrite that portion of the bill that would delay it for several years. The bill also creates exceptions to rules that say utilities have to meet annual benchmarks for energy efficiency and renewable energy.
Those who oppose the legislation say it hurts the state’s green economy and is a giveaway to electric companies and big business.
Lawsuit against former hospital Tusc. Co. officials dismissed
A lawsuit against former officials at a small Tuscarawas County hospital has been dismissed for a second time.
The lawsuit seeks at least $15 million in connection to the financial failure of Twin City Hospital in Dennison.
Judge H.F. Inderlied dismissed the case without a trial this week. In September, the 5th District Court of Appeals reversed his first decision and remanded it to him to reconsider. At issue is whether officials were reckless in managing the hospital’s finances. The suit claims former hospital officials failed to perform a financial feasibility study before they approved an expansion.
The defense argues its clients donated tens of thousands of dollars of their own money to the project.
Ohio's inmate population rising
The director of Ohio’s prisons says the state is incarcerating too many people.
The Columbus Dispatch reports that the inmate population is rising again, after declining for about 12 months. The projected population is expected to hit more than 53,000 by 2019. That’s 6 percent more than the current population—and would put prisons nearly 39 percent over the number of inmates they were built for.
The increase is putting pressure on the state to build a new prison, which would cost $120 million to construct and $50 million per year to operate.
Prison director Gary Mohr says the problem is with probation violators. The Department of Rehabilitations and Corrections is prepared to spend more than 4 million to give local communities incentives to manage people who violate their probation.
Ohio home sales increase
Some good news for Ohio’s real estate market. Home sales increased 8 percent last month, with the best October sales numbers since 2006.
The average sales price also jumped to $137 thousand, up 2.3 percent from a year ago.
The numbers come from the Ohio Association of Realtors. The Association’s president told the Toledo Blade that Ohio is making steady, modest progress in its level of sales and pricing growth.
Nationally, the numbers weren’t so good. Sales fell 3.2 percent nationwide.