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Army Corps of Engineers to meet with Zoar residents to talk about flooding options tonight
Other morning headlines: Kearney steps down as FitzGerald running mate; Republicans block federal budget deal; Voter registration database bill goes before House

Web Editor
M.L. Schultze
In The Region:
  • Army Corps of Engineers to meet with Zoar residents
  • Kearney steps down as FitzGerald running mate
  • Utica drilling investment total $12 billion to Ohio
  • Ohio House attempting to curtail prescription painkiller abuse
  • BMV to close last state-run customer service center
  • Stark County Democrats to choose new sheriff
  • Ohio Supreme Court to hear Canton murderer's case
  • Federal budget deal includes no extension of unemployment benefits
  • Voter registration database bill goes before House
  • Ohio State loss costs Meyer $350,000

    Army Corps of Engineers to meet with Zoar residents
    The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to meet tonight in Zoar with members of the public to talk about what to do next to control flooding of the historic village.

    The meeting comes a few weeks after the agency announced it would not intentionally flood or relocate the village, which is about 65 miles south of Cleveland. Instead, it’s focusing on options to shore up the levee for the nearly 200-year-old community in Tuscarawas County.

    The Corps says public input is important to help the agency understand the potential effects of the alternative solutions that are being put forth.

    Kearney steps down as FitzGerald running mate
    State Sen Eric Kearney has stepped down from next year’s Democratic gubernatorial ticket after continuing criticism over hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid back taxes. Statehouse correspondent Karen Kasler has the latest from the candidates for governor and lieutenant governor.

    After three weeks of discussion of his tax troubles, Kearney of Cincinnati told Ann Thompson with WVXU that he was stepping aside as Ed FitzGerald’s running mate, because he didn’t want to be a distraction to the campaign. 

    “I don’t want our business, the Cincinnati Herald, to be the focus of the campaign," Kearney said. "Rather, I want issues, so that’s why I made the decision.”

    FitzGerald confirmed that Kearney had told him of his financial situation, but says they made the decision for Kearney to leave the ticket together – and now FitzGerald wants to change the conversation surrounding his campaign. 

    “All the polls have shown the race getting closer and closer and closer, and I think they know that," FitzGerald said. "And I think we have enough time to get our feet back on the ground and start talking about the issues that people really care about.”

    FitzGerald says while the selection of Kearney wasn’t rushed, he won’t announce a replacement until sometime in January.

    Federal budget deal includes no extension of unemployment benefits
    As part of the tentative federal budget deal, Democrats have dropped their insistence that benefits be extended for people who are unemployed more than 26 weeks. That means 1.3 million people will lose their benefits in about two weeks.

    Democratic Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, whose district extends from Cleveland to Toledo, says the benefits are especially important for Ohio.

    LISTEN: Kaptur on unemployment benefits
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    But Some tea party Republicans are trying to block the budget deal. Jim Renacci, whose district includes parts of Summit, Stark, Wayne, Portage and Medina counties, issued a statement expressing reservations about it. He argues the process has not been transparent.

    As a result, he says it would be “just another last minute deal that is rammed through Congress without regard for its potential consequences.

    Ohio’s Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman is on the committee charged with coming up with the budget deal and apparently supports it.

    Voter registration database bill goes before House
    A bill to bolster the state's voter registration database is among the issues before the Ohio House today.

    The measure would require state agencies to share data with the secretary of state to help maintain Ohio's voter records. It would also reduce the minimum number of electronic voting machines a county would need.

    BMV to close last state-run customer service center
    The Bureau of Motor Vehicles says Ohio's last state-run BMV customer service center will close by next summer, and a new deputy registrar will open elsewhere in Columbus.

    The BMV says it will rent space for a privately operated registrar several miles down the road from the service center that's scheduled to close by July 1st.

    Stark County Democrats to choose new sheriff
    Stark County Democrats will meet again tonight to pick a sheriff, again.

    It’s a do-over of what the county’s executive committee did in February, when they picked a replacement for Sheriff-elect Michael McDonald, who resigned due to illness.

    In a sharply divided vote among the hundreds of committee members, they picked George Maier. But the move was challenged by former sheriff, Tim Swanson and by Lawrence Darrow, the other candidate, who argued that Maier’s experience with the Ohio Highway Patrol didn’t qualify him for the job. In November, the Ohio Supreme Court agreed, and removed Maier.

    Maier has been working as a full-time deputy in Harrison County since then and now says he has the experience he needs. And the Supreme Court late yesterday turned down the move by Swanson and Darrow to allow Democrats to consider Maier again.

    Also in for the appointment are Summit County Sheriff Lt. Douglas Smith and Hartville Police Chief Lawrence Dordea, a Republican who got one vote the last time Democrats met.

    Utica drilling brings $12 billion to Ohio

    The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has now approved more than 1,000  Utica Shale drilling permits since 2010.  And a recent report from law firm Bricker and Eckler says more than $12 billion has been invested in Ohio because of the shale development.

    James Zehringer, head of the department, says the state has been trying to strike a balance.

    LISTEN: Zehringer on a balance
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    The Utica drilling has been concentrated in seven counties, with Carroll County having the most – 352.  Harrison County has 154 permits and Columbiana has 94.

    Nearly two years after Gov. Kasich first called to the state to raise the taxes drillers in Ohio pay, Republicans are considering a severance tax that they say will raise $1.7 billion over 10 years.

    But the tax proposal includes exemptions from other taxes and a credit for small drilling companies that some Democrats say sets the tax too low. 

    Ohio high court to hear Canton murderer's case
    The Ohio Supreme Court will hear arguments this morning over a Canton man sentenced to death for killing his two young children and former mother in law.

    James Mammone III argues his 2010 trial should have been moved of Stark County because of publicity about the killings, that crime-scene photographs were inflammatory and that and that two potential jurors who said they supported the death penalty should have been removed.

    Ohio House attempting to curtail prescription painkiller abuse
    The Ohio House has come up with a bipartisan package to try to curtail prescription pain pill and heroin abuse. It includes spending $180 million on “recovery housing” for people working trying to beat their addictions.

    The one-time money would from the roughly $400 million the state thinks it will save by expanding the Medicaid program under the federal Affordable Care Act.  But some Republicans in the Ohio Senate want to use the money to cut the state’s income tax instead. The package to fight drug abuse would also require school districts to reach about opiate addiction.

    Ohio State loss costs Meyer $350,000
    Ohio State’s 34-24 loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship on Saturday coach Urban Meyer $350 thousand.

    Meyer’s contract promises him a $250,000 bonus for leading Ohio State to the national title game and a $100,000 bonus for winning the Big Ten title game.  Saturday’s  loss cost him both.

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