Voter bill of rights clears first hurdle to Ohio ballot
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has certified the petition for the proposed Ohio Voters Bill of Rights amendment to the state Constitution.
DeWine says the petition has the necessary 1,000 valid signatures from registered Ohio voters and is a “fair and truthful” summary of the proposed amendment.
Now the Ohio Ballot Board must determine if the amendment contains a single or multiple issues. And then petitioners -- mostly critics of new state laws that cut back on early and absentee voting -- must collect enough signatures, equal to 10 percent of the total votes cast in the last gubernatorial election.
The state’s voting cutbacks will be challenged on another front tomorrow, when Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald will ask county council to mail out absentee ballots applications to all voters in the county regardless of a prohibition recently enacted by the GOP-dominated Legislature.
Earthquake in Youngstown area suspends drilling
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has ordered all drilling operations at a landfill outside Youngstown to cease after two earthquakes shook the area this morning. The state says it did that “out of an abundance of caution,” and that there’s no sign that the quakes are tied to injection of fracking waste water into wells.
The first quake occurred shortly after 2 a.m., and registered 3.0 magnitude. The second occurred at 11:44 a.m, registering 2.6 magnitude. The epicenter was directly below property owned by Republic Services, where Hilcorp Energy Company has one actively producing well actively producing and others are being drilled.
Kasich may trade cigarette/fracking/business taxes for income tax cut
Ohio Gov. John Kasich is expected to call for a cut in the state income tax tomorrow – paid for in part with a hike in Ohio’s cigarette, oil and gas and business taxes.
Kasich has not confirmed details of any of those proposals. But the Columbus Dispatch says his aides have confirmed the hike in the oil and gas tax is – once again – in the governor’s plans. This is the third time Kasich has proposed a higher severance tax, but the plans stalled amid heavy lobbying from the industry.
The Dispatch also is reporting that the tobacco industry will likely battle a hike in state cigarette tax, which is now $1.25 a pack.
Ohio’s current top income tax rate is about 5.4 percent for people making above $208,000. Kasich wants to drop it below 5 percent.
Democrats maintain income tax cuts already passed disproportionately benefit the wealthy and hurt local schools and governments, who have then had to raise local taxes.
Dealer pleads guilty in heroin overdose
A Cleveland man who sold a fatal dose of heroin on the city’s West Side last October has entered plea of guilty to involuntary manslaughter.
Twenty-four-year-old Michael Karkoska has been sentenced to four years on prison for selling the heroin that killed 19-year-old Lanny David Gullion III. Cuyahoga County, like an increasing part of the state has been battling a heroin epidemic, and five people overdosed on a particularly potent mix of heroin last week.
Parma students/substitute teacher charged in bullying case
Five students in Parma Senior High School have been charged with assault and disorderly conduct, accused of bullying a 14-year-old developmentally disabled boy in gym class. The substitute gym teacher also is facing a charge of child endangering.
Police say the boy was knocked down by a volleyball thrown at his head last month, and one student kicked him while another dragged him around by his feet. The teacher, Gree Mellinger, is accused of continuing class in another part of the gym while the boy remained on the floor.
School officials called the conduct unacceptable.
Brown calls for renewal of bill to protect tenants when landlords are in foreclosure
Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown wants Congress to renew a law that protects tenants from being summarily evicted because their landlords ended up in foreclosure.
The law first passed during the housing crisis, and allows tenants to remain in their homes for at least 90 days after a foreclosure or for the rest of the time left on their lease.
The law is now set to expire next January. Brown wants to make it permanent. In announcing the bill today, Brown introduced a Cleveland woman, Laquita Jarmon, who was evicted with just 30-days notice after her landlord fell behind on payments to the bank.
ACLU asks Ohio Supreme court to stop shackling of children
The American Civil Liberties Union has asked the Ohio Supreme Court to forbid juvenile courts from forcing children to appear in shackles unless they hold hearings first to see if that’s necessary. The filing is tied to a 5-foot-2-inch, 14-year-old girl charged with a drug offense and brought into Hamilton County court in full body shackles.
Adult courts in Ohio already require such hearings. And the ACLU’s Jennifer Martinez Atzberger says “putting non-violent children in chains undermines the mission” of the courts to rehabilitate children.
Delphi retirees and health-care benefits
A group of bipartisan Ohio lawmakers has sent a letter to congressional leaders arguing that Delphi salaried retirees should get extended healthcare benefits.
The letter was signed by both U.S. senators Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown, as well as by members of Northeast Ohio’s congressional delegation: Tim Ryan, Dave Joyce, Bill Johnson and Marcy Kaptur.
It argues to the heads of the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means committees that the Healthcare Tax Credit should be attached to any bill voted out of those committees. The credits expired on Jan. 1. The letter maintains that without them, the retirees are spending as much as 50 percent of their pension checks on health-care premiums.
Deadline approaches for comment on sediment dumping plan
The Ohio EPA will take comments through Thursday on plans to change where hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of sediment dredged from the Cleveland Harbor each year are dumped.
The Army Corps of Engineers wants to dump the sediment about five miles out into Lake Erie. The corps needs the state’s blessing to change about 40-years of practice, in which the dredged material is kept behind man-made barriers. Critics say the open dumping could threaten water supplies that come from the lake. The Army Corps says the sediment is below levels of toxins that would make it a concern.
Hearing begins for Ohio teacher accused of saying no more black presidents needed
A hearing was held today for a southwest Ohio teacher who was suspended after allegedly telling a black student that the nation doesn't need another black president.
Teacher Gil Voigt told The Cincinnati Enquirer today as he walked into the closed hearing he had requested that Fairfield school officials are trying to end his career. He has said previously he was misquoted.
School officials said the white teacher at Fairfield's freshman school told a black student who said he wanted to be president that the country doesn't "need another black president." Voigt claimed he said he thought the country "couldn't afford another president like (Barack) Obama, whether he's black or white."
The veteran teacher was suspended in December. He said his comments didn't have anything to do with skin color.
Gee is now West Virginia's president -- again
Former Ohio State President Gordon Gee was confirmed today as West Virginia University’s 24th president.
The West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission confirmed him today, saying he “is a vibrant leader with unmatched credentials,” HEPC Chairman Dr. Bruce Berry said. “We look forward to working with President Gee and the entire campus as we strive to increase opportunities for our students and expand the positive impact of higher education on West Virginia communities.”
Gee, hired in December as interim president, announced he would accept the job last Tuesday.
Gee will work under his current contract until June 30 and then sign a new two-year deal. The details are still being finalized.
New concerns about grass carp and the Great Lakes
A new scientific paper raises fresh concerns about the potential for grass carp to invade the Great Lakes and do significant damage.
The fight to prevent Asian carp from reaching the lakes has focused mostly on bighead and silver carp, which could unravel food chains because they gobble huge amounts of plankton.
Grass carp also come from Asia. They're used in many states to control aquatic weeds. But scientists say they wouldn't be good for the Great Lakes because they would eat plants needed for fish habitat.
The paper by researchers at the University of Notre Dame and other institutions says evidence shows grass carp could survive in all five Great Lakes. They say it appears some of the prolific fish are evading efforts to keep them from reproducing.
Democrats say Ohio AG's position could lead to dangerous extreme
The U.S. Supreme Court is preparing to hear arguments over whether private-employer health insurance can be required to include birth control. And Ohio Democrats are challenging the role of Ohio’s Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine in that case.
DeWine has filed a lead brief among attorneys general siding with Hobby Lobby, who says employers should be able to exclude birth control coverage because of their religious objections to it.
State Rep. Nickie Antonio of Lakewood and other Democrats have called DeWine’s position “a terrible precedent for women’s health,” and say it could be stretched to include sanctioned discrimination by businesses against gay people, similar to an Arizona bill that the governor there recently vetoed.
New use for historic Cleveland temple
The Temple-Tifereth Israel in Cleveland is about to become a performing arts center for Cast Western Reserve University. Case will start construction on the $64 million project in April. The Cleveland Planning Commission unanimously approved the project on Friday.
The university’s music, theater and dance departments will be in the center, which will be part of an expansion of the campus west in University Circle on the east side of Cleveland. The temple is on the National Register of Historic Places. The university bought it with the help of a $12 million donation from the Maltz Family Foundation.
Indians sign McAllister, entire 40-man roster
The Indians have reach contracts with the team’s entire 40-man roster, including renewing the contract of right-hander Zach McAllister.
Cleveland also reached one-year deals with Nick Hagadone and Jason Kipnis, . They and the other players signed all have fewer than three years in the majors and were not eligible for arbitration.
Tuesday is the MLB deadline for players on the 40-man roster to be signed.
Black Keys' T's boost Akron kid's baseball
The Black Keys are donating all the proceeds of new T-shirts that went on sale today to the West Akron Baseball league. The league, where both Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney played, will use the money to fix up fields and pay for gear and uniforms. Last season, the local duo – which transplanted its homebase to Nashville – sponsored a team.
Name the rubber duck
And the Akron RubberDucks are asking the community to help naming the team’s new mascot – a duck. The team wants fans to email suggestions (firstname.lastname@example.org) and then vote on the top-five suggestions picked by the team. The newly named mascot will be introduced to the public on April 7.
The team, which had been known as the Aeros, changed its name in October.
Cavs hit with injury to No. 1 pick Bennett
Cavaliers rookie forward Anthony Bennett is expected to miss at least three weeks with a strained left knee.
The No. 1 overall pick in last year's draft, Bennett underwent an MRI on Sunday that showed an injury to his tendon. Bennett played eight minutes in Saturday's home loss to the New York Knicks.
The Cavs will likely take a cautious approach with Bennett, and it's possible he could be done for the year.
His injury is the latest setback in what has been a disappointing first season for Bennett, averaging only 4.1 points and 2.9 rebounds in 13 minutes per game.
Running out of time to make the playoffs, the Cavs open a three-game road trip on Wednesday in Phoenix.