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Morning Headlines: Akron Schools Exploring Earlier Return to Classrooms; Bill to Limit DeWine’s Health Orders Passes Ohio Senate

Gov. Mike DeWine holds a mask
Office of Gov. Mike DeWine
A small committee of legislators could overrule the Ohio governor’s health orders under a bill approved Wednesday by the state Senate that marks the latest effort by GOP lawmakers to restrict the governor’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Here are your morning headlines for Thursday, February 18:

  • Akron schools exploring earlier return to classrooms
  • Bill to limit DeWine’s health orders passes in Ohio Senate
  • ACLU report shows Ohio lawmakers still propose too many crime bills
  • Home sales continue to soar
  • Lordstown Motors wants Ohio to OK direct sales
  • Ohio's 2 veterans homes remain closed to new admissions
  • 7 deaths in Cuyahoga County this month were weather-related
  • Ohio's third innovation district planned in Columbus

Akron schools exploring earlier return to classrooms
Akron school officials are looking into whether they can return to in-person classes sooner than planned. At this week's board meeting, Superintendent David James said he’s looking into the logistical and other challenges in meeting with the governor’s goal of March 1. Gov. Mike DeWine has twice called Akron’s mid-month reopening schedule a violation of a state agreement to reopen on March 1 in exchange for vaccinating teachers. Parents of Akron students have until Friday to let administrators know whether they prefer all online or in person learning for the rest of this school year.

Bill to limit DeWine’s health orders passes in Ohio Senate
A small committee of legislators could overrule the Ohio governor’s health orders under a bill approved Wednesday by the state Senate that marks the latest effort by GOP lawmakers to restrict the governor’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. A Senate bill introduced last month by lawmakers would establish “checks and balances” on fellow GOP Gov. Mike DeWine’s ability to issue and keep in place executive action during an emergency, including the current coronavirus pandemic. DeWine, who vetoed a similar bill in December, pledged to do the same with this bill, calling it “unconstitutional.” It now heads to the Ohio House.

ACLU report shows Ohio lawmakers still propose too many crime bills
A report finds that nearly one out of 10 bills introduced by Ohio lawmakers are criminal justice-related and at odds with efforts to reduce the state's prison population. The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio conducted the review of the most recent legislative session as part of an ongoing analysis. The report found that nearly 10% of all bills either created new crimes, enhanced existing sentences, or expanded current criminal laws. The incarceration rate in Ohio has more than doubled since the 1980’s with nearly 330,000 Ohioans currently either behind bars or on probation.

Home sales continue to soar
Northeast Ohio home sales in 2021 are continuing to soar. Preliminary numbers from January show a 6.6% bump for the 18-county region. Some markets are hotter. Home sales in Cuyahoga County were up by 18% over last year, according to the listing service MLS Now. Crain’s Cleveland Business reports that the average home spent around seven weeks on the market and the average price is up 17.5% from a year ago. A tight housing market with 20% fewer homes for sale is driving the jump in prices.

Lordstown Motors wants Ohio to OK direct sales
A Northeast Ohio electric vehicle maker is asking state lawmakers to allow it to directly sell its trucks to customers. Lordstown Motors wants the state to lift the rule requiring that vehicle sales go through auto dealerships. Lordstown Motors says that would it allow it keep prices down and protect proprietary technology. The startup expects to launch full production of its pickups in September at the former GM plant in Lordstown.

Ohio's 2 veterans homes remain closed to new admissions
The Ohio Department of Veterans Services says it's reviewing options for re-opening admissions to the state's two veterans homes after a nearly yearlong moratorium. The homes in Georgetown in southern Ohio and Sandusky have waiting lists of 43 and 118 respectively. Fewer than one of every two beds at the Georgetown facility are filled and about two of every three of the Sandusky facility's beds are occupied. Jeff Rapp is a spokesperson for Veterans Services. He calls the decision to put admissions on hold a difficult one but necessary “to achieve maximum safety for our veterans and staff.”

7 deaths in Cuyahoga County this month were weather-related
Cuyahoga County’s medical examiner says seven people have died this month from what appear to be winter-related causes. Dr. Thomas Gilson says that’s the most weather-related deaths in a two-week span in more than a decade. He said most of the deaths were from people who had no heat in their homes. They ranged in age from 53 to 90 years old. He reminded residents of local resources for help, including the county’s 211 hotline for referrals to social, health and housing programs.

Ohio's third innovation district planned in Columbus
Columbus will be the site of Ohio’s third so-called “innovation district”, hoping to draw in high-tech investment and jobs. And this one will be a $1 billion collaboration between the state, Nationwide Children’s Hospital and Ohio State University. Gov. Mike DeWine says the partnership will create research facilities where 25,000 STEM students will graduate over the next decade. The focus of this district is developing gene and cell therapies. Cleveland and Cincinnati already have similar districts – all three aim to each bring in 20,000 jobs and $3 billion in economic impact.