Morning Headlines: DeWine Proposes $1 Billion State Budget; FirstEnergy Agrees to Drop Controversial “Decoupling” Fees
Here are your morning headlines for Tuesday, February 2:
- DeWine proposes $1 billion state budget
- FirstEnergy agrees to drop controversial “decoupling” fees
- COVID-19 cases lowest since October, DeWine to get vaccine Tuesday
- FBI looking for Northeast Ohio man suspected in assault at the Capitol
- Yost passes on the Senate race, will run for reelection
- Cincinnati teachers sue to delay reopening as vaccines begin
- Development on former golf course moves forward in Akron
- Mercy Medical Center now part of Cleveland Clinic
DeWine proposes $1 billion state budget
Gov. Mike DeWine unveiled a two-year state spending budget with a $1 billion initiative to help bring the state back from the economic downfall of the pandemic. The budget proposal includes $460 million in relief for small businesses, with $20 million of that set aside for businesses that opened in 2020. There will also be $450 million invested in key infrastructure projects that will include expanding broadband access to rural parts of the state. The one-time investment of $1 billion comes from a combination of savings through a reduced workforce and frozen state spending, along with an increase in federal Medicaid dollars.
FirstEnergy agrees to drop controversial “decoupling” fees
Ohio's largest electric utility has agreed in a settlement to forgo collection of a guaranteed profit subsidy provision in a now-tainted energy bill. Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost says the subsidy would have allowed Akron-based FirstEnergy to collect around $100 million from customers this year. Yost's office sued FirstEnergy to stop collection of the subsidy that would maintain profit levels based on earnings from 2018, a year of weather extremes in Ohio. A Franklin County judge granted a temporary injunction last year to stop collection of a subsidy for two Ohio nuclear plants.
COVID-19 cases lowest since October, DeWine to get vaccine Tuesday
Ohio’s daily tally of new coronavirus cases continues to trend downward. The state reported just over 3,200 new cases on Monday, the lowest number since October. Currently, around 2,500 people are hospitalized with COVID-19, which is below the target set by Gov. Mike DeWine in order to again move back the statewide curfew. Meanwhile, DeWine and first lady Fran DeWine will each receive first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday. DeWine, who is 74, has said he would wait to get a shot when it’s his turn in line. This week, Ohioans age 70 and older are eligible.
FBI looking for Northeast Ohio man suspected in assault at the Capitol
The FBI is asking the public to help identify a Northeast Ohio man suspected of assaulting an officer during the Jan 6 attack on Congress. The man’s face was painted red, white, and blue in the images the FBI is circulating. Seven Ohioans are among the 150 people so far facing charges in the attack on the Capitol. Two, Jessica Watkins and Donovan Crowl of Champaign County, are among the first to be charged with planning the assault. Watkins is accused of running a military-style training camp for the Oath Keepers militia whose members, wearing tactical gear, searched the Capitol building for targets of the Trump-inspired crowd.
Yost passes on the Senate race, will run for reelection
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost says he will not join the field of candidates vying for Republican Rob Portman’s Senate seat. Yost says he plans to run again for state office. Congressman Jim Jordan and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted have also taken their names off the list of contenders. State party chair Jane Timken is still considering a run, along with former Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, among others. Northeast Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley are among the Democrats considering the 2022 Senate race.
Cincinnati teachers sue to delay reopening as vaccines begin
A teachers union in Cincinnati is suing to stop one of Ohio’s biggest school districts from reopening for in-person learning as the state begins distributing coronavirus vaccines for employees in that district and others. The Cincinnati Federation of Teachers says it's asking a court to delay in-person learning in Cincinnati Public Schools until an arbitrator decides a related grievance. CFT is objecting to reopening under circumstances it considers unsafe for staff and students as the virus spreads. The district acknowledged employee concerns but proceeded toward resuming a blend of in-person and distance learning with precautions in place, starting Tuesday with the youngest students.
Development on former golf course moves forward in Akron
Akron City Council has approved a controversial plan to rezone an area in the Merriman Valley for a new housing development. Council voted 10-2 in favor of the request from Petros Development Group to build around 200 townhomes at the former Riverwoods Golf Course. The citizens group “Preserve the Valley” opposes the project, arguing that development along the Cuyahoga River should be part of a broader master-plan for the Cuyahoga Valley. They also argue that the 15-year tax abatement that Akron agreed to will cost the city and local schools $13 million in revenue. Last month, Councilman Jeff Fusco added a 100-foot river setback, more open space, flood control measures and other changes.
Mercy Medical Center now part of Cleveland Clinic
Canton’s Mercy Medical Center is now officially the 19th hospital in the Cleveland Clinic system. The more than 450-bed Catholic hospital will now be called Cleveland Clinic Mercy Hospital. Mercy will maintain its Catholic identity through sponsorship by the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine. Cleveland Clinic officials say patients will notice few immediate changes, as all services and employees will remain unchanged. Meanwhile, University Hospitals and Case Western Reserve University announced Monday they’ve extended their affiliation through 2031.