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Morning Headlines: DeWine to Propose Gas Tax Increase, Suburban Cleveland Mayor Resigns Amid Claims

Mike DeWine
Gov. Mike DeWine

Here are your morning headlines for Wednesday, Feb. 20:

  • DeWine to propose gas tax increase;
  • Suburban Cleveland mayor resigns amid allegations;
  • Police officer's suspension reduced in woman's death;
  • Treasurer: Option to pay taxes in bitcoin attracting few;
  • DeWine stands by decision to halt Ohio execution;
  • Yost: Ohio not approached to join lawsuit over border wall;
  • Hospital, doctor face 3 new lawsuits over drug doses, deaths;
  • Akron councilwoman cancels remaining public meetings on snow removal;
  • Study: Ohio online charter schools remain in sub-standard perfomance;
  • Nearly $1M of medical marijuana sold in over a month;

DeWine to propose gas tax increase
Gov. Mike DeWine will announce Thursday his proposed recommendation for increasing the state gas tax to address a chronic shortfall in spending on road renovations. DeWine said there are no other solutions outside a gas tax increase, while warning that any increase simply keeps Ohio from falling behind. He wouldn't provide details or say what the proposed increase would be. The Ohio Department of Transportation said the state’s road maintenance and infrastructure are facing an "impending crisis" unless more funding is provided for those types of projects.

Suburban Cleveland mayor resigns amid allegations
The mayor of a small Cleveland suburb has resigned amid allegations that he stole $80,000 from Republican Congressman Dave Joyce’s reelection campaign. Highland Heights mayor Scott Coleman allegedly stole the money over the last three years while he was Joyce's campaign treasurer. He's been mayor since 2004. City council has requested an independent audit of Coleman's spending.

Police officer's suspension reduced in woman's death
An arbitrator has cut the suspension for a Cleveland police officer disciplined in the death of a mentally ill woman who stopped breathing while she was handcuffed and struggling with police. The arbitrator ordered Cleveland officer Scott Aldridge's 10-day suspension to be reduced to three days. Aldridge was suspended last year, but he was cleared of any criminal liability in 37-year-old Tanisha Anderson's 2014 death. The arbitrator reduced the suspension after finding the city at the time had no written policy instructing officers when to call for an ambulance. The city settled a wrongful death lawsuit with Anderson's family for about $2 million.

Treasurer: Option to pay taxes in bitcoin attracting few
Ohio's state treasurer said only two tax payments have been made using bitcoin through the recently-launched option to pay taxes using the cryptocurrency. Republican Treasurer Robert Sprague spoke Tuesday about the bitcoin payment option set up under predecessor Josh Mandel. Sprague said officials are reviewing how the program might be curtailed or expanded.

DeWine stands by decision to halt Ohio execution
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine is standing by his decision to postpone an Ohio execution because of a federal judge's ruling that inmates could suffer severe pain under the state's current lethal injection method. He has ordered the state prisons system to come up with a new three-drug method, and acknowledged that that system —whatever it is — will then face court challenges. Last month, DeWine delayed Warren Henness’ execution from February to September.

Yost: Ohio not approached to join lawsuit over border wall
Attorney General David Yost said Ohio was not approached to join a new lawsuit challenging President Donald Trump's national emergency declaration to build a Mexico border wall.  Yost made the announcement at the Associated Press’s annual legislative forum Tuesday. Yost, and other Republican officials said they support Trump, but don't agree with him on every issue.  Secretary of State Frank LaRose called Trump's characterization of the media as the enemy of the people a "dangerous" precedent.

Hospital, doctor face 3 new lawsuits over drug doses, deaths
Three more wrongful-death lawsuits have been filed against an Ohio hospital system and a doctor accused of ordering potentially fatal doses of pain medication for dozens of patients over several years. The Columbus-area Mount Carmel Health System and Dr. William Husel now face at least 19 lawsuits. Mount Carmel found the now-fired doctor ordered potentially fatal doses for 28 patients. It later said he ordered excessive but not likely fatal doses for six more. Lawyers say two lawsuits filed Tuesday involved patients in that latter group in 2017. The third lawsuit involves 57-year-old Michael Walters' 2017 death.

Akron councilwoman cancels remaining public meetings on snow removal
An Akron councilwoman has cancelled the remaining public meetings scheduled to gather input from residents on ways to improve snow removal. The Beacon Journal reports that Councilwoman Marilyn Keith has decided not to hold the final two meetings in North Hill and Northwest Akron, but did not give a reason. Residents at the previous four meetings had expressed frustration that city administrators were not on-hand to answer questions. Mayor Dan Horrigan formed the Snow and Ice Task Force following a heavy January snowstorm that overwhelmed city services. That group is expected next month to produce recommendations for the city to improve snow removal procedures.

Study: Ohio online charter schools remain in sub-standard perfomance
A new study shows that Ohio’s online charter schools remain mired in sub-standard performance. The report from Stanford’s Center for Research on Educational Outcomes looked at both e-schools and brick-and-mortar charters. The study shows that brick and mortar charters preform slightly better than traditional public schools on some measures. But recent reforms by lawmakers have not yet had the intended impact on online charters, according to the Stanford study. The report shows that students at online charters in Ohio essentially missed the equivalent of 47 days of reading classes and 136 days of math compared to students at traditional schools.

Nearly $1M of medical marijuana sold in over a month
About a million dollars’ worth of medical marijuana has been sold in just over a month since the program began. About 126 pounds of medical marijuana have been sold. Dispensaries are selling limited amounts and types of product at this point and patients are paying up to $60 for a day’s supply. Those prices are expected to come down as more product is available as processors start operating next month, and two more dispensaries, in Elyria and Jackson, are set to open this week.