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Morning Headlines: Timken Joins US Senate Race in Ohio; Lawmakers Announce Effort to End Death Penalty

A pictures of Jo Ingles
JO INGLES
/
STATEHOUSE NEWS BUREAU
An ally of former President Donald Trump is joining the race for the U.S. Senate seat that the GOP’s Rob Portman is vacating. Jane Timken’s announcement sets up a 2022 primary that already includes former state treasurer Josh Mandel, another Trump backer who is making his third run for the Senate.

Here are your morning headlines for Friday, February 19:

  • Timken joins US Senate race in Ohio
  • Lawmakers announce effort to end death penalty
  • COVID-19 UK variant set to become dominant in Ohio
  • Governor suggests compromise possible on health order limits
  • House OKs bill to direct $210M for Ohio broadband expansion
  • Investor Icahn signals interest in buying FirstEnergy stock
  • Millersburg’s Pomerene Hospital joins Altman
  • Akron to replace lead pipes to 400 homes
  • Fraud remains rampant in Ohio’s unemployment system
  • Walsh Jesuit High School punished for recruiting violations

Timken joins US Senate race in Ohio
An ally of former President Donald Trump who recently stepped down as chair of the Ohio Republican Party is joining the race for the U.S. Senate seat that the GOP’s Rob Portman is vacating. Jane Timken’s announcement sets up a 2022 primary that already includes former state treasurer Josh Mandel, another Trump backer who is making his third run for the Senate. Timken described herself as a “conservative disruptor” in her announcement, noting that Republicans did well in Ohio during the four years after she took over as state chair with Trump’s backing.

Lawmakers announce effort to end death penalty
Ohio death penalty opponents are announcing a new effort to end capital punishment that includes several GOP supporters of a ban. Sen. Nickie Antonio is a Democrat from Lakewood and a longtime death penalty opponent. She was joined at a news conference Thursday by three Republican senators who support ending capital punishment. Among those is GOP Sen. Steve Huffman, who says he now opposes capital punishment both as a doctor and a person of faith. Executions are on long-term hold in Ohio as the state has struggled to find a source of lethal injection drugs.

COVID-19 UK variant set to become dominant in Ohio
Ohio’s current COVID-19 hospitalizations and average new case numbers continued a downward slide on Thursday as more people receive vaccinations. Still, the virus remains widespread throughout the state, with all but four of Ohio’s 88 counties at the second highest alert level for spread. On Thursday, Ohio's chief medical officer Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said B.1.1.7, also known as the United Kingdom variant, would become Ohio's dominant variant by late March and early April. But he said both the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are effective against it.

Governor suggests compromise possible on health order limits
Gov. Mike DeWine has suggested a compromise might be possible with lawmakers seeking once again to curtail his ability to issue pandemic-related public health orders. The governor says a Senate bill containing the latest restrictions is an improvement over an initial version. DeWine said Thursday he and lawmakers owe it to Ohioans to try to work something out. DeWine has also softened his criticism of schools that say they may not make the March 1 deadline to offer in-person learning. DeWine says the focus should be on the majority of schools complying with the deadline.

House OKs bill to direct $210M for Ohio broadband expansion
Legislation to help expand high-speed internet access in underserved and rural areas of Ohio is getting bipartisan support and fast-tracked consideration at the Statehouse. A measure to direct $210 million toward increasing broadband access passed the House on Thursday with wide support. It includes $20 million annually for three fiscal years, plus $150 million from the governor’s state budget proposal. It would create a grant program to overcome the cost hurdles that dissuade broadband providers from connecting hard-to-reach homes. An estimated 300,000 households and 1 million residents across Ohio lack high-speed internet.

Investor Icahn signals interest in buying FirstEnergy stock
Billionaire investor Carl Icahn has signaled an interest in making a large purchase of shares from one of the nation's largest electric utilities, which is under investigation for its role in a bribery scheme. Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp. announced Thursday the company received a letter citing Icahn Capital LP's interest in purchasing as many as $920 million voting shares depending on market conditions. The announcement came during FirstEnergy’s earnings call. The utility said last year it posted more than $1 billion in profit. It also said it will stop making political contributions and will no longer make contributions to political non-profit organizations.

Millersburg’s Pomerene Hospital joins Altman
Stark County’s Aultman Health Foundation has finalized a merger with Pomerene Hospital in Millersburg. The Canton Repository reports that Pomerene, a 55-bed acute-care hospital and one of Holmes County’s largest employers, will keep its name as part of the deal. It’s part of an ongoing health system consolidation in Northeast Ohio. Earlier this month the Cleveland Clinic completed a merger with Mercy Medical Center in Canton.

Akron to replace lead pipes to 400 homes
The city of Akron will use $2 million in grants to replace lead water lines with copper serving about 400 homes. Mayor Dan Horrigan says the grant money from the Ohio EPA will go toward replacing 150 homes this year and 300 next. The city says about 4,000 lead service lines remain in Akron, making up just under 5% of the city’s pipes.

Fraud remains rampant in Ohio’s unemployment system
First-time unemployment claims spiked again this past week, signaling that widespread fraud continues. Of the 147,000 new claims filed in Ohio last week, more than 33,000 have so far been flagged for potential fraud. The state says anyone who suspects their identity has been used to file a fraudulent unemployment claim to report it at unemployment.ohio.gov.

Walsh Jesuit High School punished for recruiting violations
A private Cuyahoga Falls high school is being punished for recruiting violations. The Ohio High School Athletic Association says Walsh Jesuit High School self-reported the violations that involved donor-funded sports scholarships for 11 athletes in the girls soccer and wrestling programs. The athletes will be required to give up the money paid by the donors for their tuition, and the school faces other stipulations, including establishing a committee to review all procedures. The school also fired the girls soccer coach and suspended the wrestling coach.