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Morning Headlines: Renacci to Run for Senate Instead; Bipartisan Bill Funds Fentanyl Detection

Lane V Erikson

Here are your morning headlines for Thursday, Jan. 11:

  • Renacci to drop out of governor's race and run for Senate instead;
  • Akron superintendent among candidates to head Columbus Public Schools;
  • Bipartisan bill gives $15 million toward fentanyl detection;
  • Akron telemarketing firm to pay $250,000 penalty in proposed settlement;
  • Embattled online charter school faces closure;
  • Group awards $90,000 grant to protect Ohio youths from human trafficking;
  • North Royalton hacker accused of spying with malware;
  • Two children dead amid severe flu season;
  • Ohio judge charged with stealing $100,000 from a former client;
  • State education officials vote to extend alternative graduation requirements;
  • Jon Husted defends voter roll purges;
  • Bureau of Workers' Compensation requires non-drug treatments for workplace injuries;

Renacci to drop out of governor's race and run for Senate instead
Multiple sources say Jim Renacci will drop out of the Ohio governor’s race this morning and run for Senate instead. The Republican Congressman from Wadsworth met with White House officials on Wednesday who encouraged him to run against incumbent Senator Sherrod Brown this year. The Ohio Senate race was thrown into flux last week when the front-runner for the GOP nomination, Ohio State Treasurer Josh Mandel, dropped out, citing his wife's health. Brown's campaign announced Wednesday that he had raised more than $2.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2017 and he ended the year with almost $10 million in the bank.

Akron superintendent among candidates to head Columbus Public Schools
Akron Public Schools Superintendent David James is still in the running to become the next superintendent of Columbus Public Schools. James' contract expires in 2019. James has been Akron’s superintendent for nearly a decade, overseeing 20,000 students across 50 buildings. James had his first interview with the district on Wednesday. A group of semifinalists will be interviewed at the end of the month. Columbus schools expect to hire their next superintendent sometime in February.

Bipartisan bill gives $15 million toward fentanyl detection
President Trump has signed a bipartisan bill to fund screening for fentanyl at U.S. borders. The bill allocates $15 million toward portable detection equipment. The detectors will be used at border crossings and post offices. Both of Ohio’s U.S. senators sponsored the bill and were at the signing ceremony in Washington on Wednesday. A separate bill supporting fentanyl detection by the U.S. Postal Service is awaiting a vote in Congress. Ohio was second in the nation last year for drug overdose deaths.

Akron telemarketing firm to pay $250,000 penalty in proposed settlement
Akron-based telemarketer InfoCision has reached a settlement over allegations it misled people to collect donations over the phone. Rules by the Federal Trade Commission require phone solicitors to say up front whether they’re calling for a donation. InfoCision employees told customers they were not calling for donations. But the suit alleges telemarketers often asked for money at the end of the call. The proposed settlement would ban InfoCision from violating FTC rules. The company would also pay a $250,000 penalty. The settlement does not include an admission of guilt from InfoCision. The proposed settlement still needs approval from an Akron judge.

Embattled online charter school faces closure
Ohio's largest online charter school could shut down as early as next week. The Columbus Dispatch reports the financially troubled Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow is losing its sponsorship contract with The Educational Service Center of Lake Erie West. The state school board voted that ECOT must pay back $60 million for 9,000 students that it claimed were enrolled but couldn’t verify their attendance. The case will be heart before the Ohio Supreme Court next month.

Group awards $90,000 grant to protect Ohio youths from human trafficking
A children's advocacy group has awarded nearly $90,000 in grants to help keep at-risk youth in Ohio safe from human trafficking. The awards from the Ohio Children's Trust Fund come during Human Trafficking Awareness Month, which is recognized each January. The grants are given in collaboration with Gov. John Kasich's Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force.

North Royalton hacker accused of spying with malware
A North Royalton man has been charged in federal district court for hacking into thousands of computers. Phillip Durachinsky, 28, is accused of creating malware named "FruitFly" that enabled him to control each computer and access microphones and cameras to record people. Case Western Reserve University says about 100 computers were infected by the malware.

Two children dead amid severe flu season
Two boys from Ohio have died from the flu in what is shaping up to be one of the most severe flu seasons in recent years. Ohio's Department of Health announced Wednesday a 1-year-old from Lucas County and a 4-year-old boy from Montgomery County have died. The state has seen nearly 4,000 flu-associated hospitalizations this season.

Ohio judge charged with stealing $100,000 from a former client
A northeast Ohio judge accused of stealing nearly $100,000 from a former client has been charged in federal court. Judge Diane Vettori-Caraballo presides over a Mahoning County court in Sebring. Court documents allege she stole cash that was in a client's home when that client died in 2016. The Ohio Supreme Court disqualified her from acting as a judge while the case continues.

State education officials vote to extend alternative graduation requirements
Ohio's school board is recommending that lawmakers give students beyond the class of 2018 the flexibility to earn high school diplomas through specified alternatives not based on passing tests. Ohio added flexibility for current high school seniors after educators warned that too many students could be at risk of not meeting higher test score requirements to graduate on time. The Board of Education voted this week to recommend that such alternatives be extended two more years, through the class of 2020. The move still needs approval from the legislature and the governor.

Jon Husted defends voter roll purges
Ohio's Secretary of State is defending his state's process for pruning voter rolls. The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments about the practice on Wednesday. Jon Husted says Ohio's process balances the state's need to keep voter rolls up-to-date with ensuring people have the opportunity to vote. Ohio is one of a handful of states that use voters' inactivity to trigger a process that could lead to their removal from voter rolls. Registered voters who don't vote for two years are sent notices. If they don't return them and fail to vote for four more years, they're removed. Husted says the system has been in place for over 20 years, under Democratic and Republican secretaries of state.

Bureau of Workers' Compensation requires non-drug treatments for workplace injuries
New guidelines this year mean Ohioans with work-related back injuries must try remedies like rest, physical therapy and chiropractic care before turning to surgery and prescription painkillers. The policy that went into effect January 1 is partly meant to reduce the overprescribing of opioids. The new Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation rule requires an injured worker undergo at least 60 days of alternative care — while avoiding opioid use — before resorting to spinal fusion surgery. It's a more aggressive restriction than other states that also decline to pay right away for the surgery.