Karen Kasler

Ohio Public Radio and TV Statehouse Bureau Chief

Karen is a lifelong Ohioan who has served as news director at WCBE-FM, assignment editor/overnight anchor at WBNS-TV, and afternoon drive anchor/assignment editor in WTAM-AM in Cleveland. In addition to her daily reporting for Ohio’s public radio stations, she’s reported for NPR, the BBC, ABC Radio News and other news outlets.  She hosts and produces the Statehouse News Bureau’s weekly TV show “The State of Ohio”, which airs on PBS stations statewide. She’s also a frequent guest on WOSU TV’s “Columbus on the Record”, a regular panelist on “The Sound of Ideas” on ideastream in Cleveland, appeared on the inaugural edition of “Face the State” on WBNS-TV and occasionally reports for “PBS Newshour”. She’s often called to moderate debates, including the Columbus Metropolitan Club’s Issue 3/legal marijuana debate and its pre-primary mayoral debate, and the City Club of Cleveland’s US Senate debate in 2012.

Karen is a graduate of Otterbein College, and earned her Master’s as a Fellow in the Kiplinger Program for Mid-Career Journalists at The Ohio State University. Karen has been honored by the Associated Press, the Association of Capitol Editors and Reporters, the Cleveland Press Club/Society of Professional Journalists, the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences/Ohio Valley Emmys, and holds a National Headliner Award. 

Ways to Connect

A Democratic state lawmaker is angry that an Ohio House colleague is claiming a bill she’s proposed would do things it wouldn’t do.

An investigation is ongoing into threats targeting two sitting Democratic state lawmakers, a well-known senator from Akron who’s served in both chambers and his daughter, who leads the minority in the Ohio House. And some state leaders are speaking out.

With most of Ohio’s businesses allowed to open up, experts who’ve worked with the state on the modeling it used to create its COVID-19 policies are evaluating their predictions for what’s ahead.

A Republican-backed bill to prohibit communities from banning plastic bags and other disposable containers passed the Senate on a mostly party line vote, after a significant change related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

1.2 million Ohioans have filed jobless claims since mid-March. And as Ohio’s businesses reopen, workers are concerned about the availability of child care, the cleanliness of their workplaces and the safety of vulnerable family members as they go back to work. And the agency processing claims has seen that concern too.

Gov. Mike DeWine changed his initial mask mandate as a condition of businesses reopening, instead requiring masks for employees but not for customers. But while mask wearing has become something of a partisan symbol, DeWine said it shouldn’t be.

Ohio’s unemployment rate nearly tripled in just a month and set a record as COVID-19 closures and the state’s stay at home order fully hit economic activity.

More than three quarters of confirmed COVID-19 deaths in Ohio have come from nursing homes. This week’s total is a 30% increase from a week ago.

For the first time since World War II, the Ohio State Fair won’t go on as scheduled. The fair was set to start on July 29.

With a state budget deficit of three quarters of a billion dollars and just two months left in the fiscal year, Gov. Mike DeWine ordered huge cuts to schools, Medicaid and other areas. He says he’s considering other options going forward, but he has ruled out one possibility.

There have been at least 674 deaths from coronavirus at nursing homes in Ohio, which is 43% of the state’s confirmed COVID-19 deaths. After saying for weeks that nursing home residents who have symptoms are tested but limitations prevented mass testing, there’s a plan for more tests in long-term care facilities.

Ohio’s K-12 schools are winding down their remote classes to end this unusual year. And Gov. Mike DeWine says he and school leaders are making plans for returning to in-person classes after summer break.

It was a big weekend for the bars and restaurants that reopened outdoor patios. Many chose not to open, and most of those that did observed social distancing. But pictures of some that didn’t were widely circulated on social media.

The Ohio Supreme Court has let stand the law that allows the state to take over failing school districts, starting with the Youngstown City Schools in 2015.

The slowdown of the economy because of COVID-19 has had a huge impact on traffic and transit. And even though the state’s gas tax that funds road construction went up by 10.5 cents a gallon last July, the Ohio Department of Transportation is bracing for a big hit. 

The Ohio Department Job and Family Services has paid more than $2 billion in unemployment claims to nearly 560,000 Ohioans since mid-March. But that’s only half of the 1.1 million claims that have been filed.

The state budget is a sea of red, as income and sales tax collections are less than half of what was predicted for this month. There is one specific area of the budget that is showing big increases, but it’s not what state officials want to see.

Ohio’s more than 600 public school districts are taking $300 million in cuts as the state deals with a deficit of more than three quarters of a billion dollars. While that’s a reduction of just under 4% to K-12 education overall, school leaders say it’s a tough hit at the local level.

Republicans in the Ohio House have approved a bill that would limit the power and length of public health orders on coronavirus that their fellow Republican, Gov. Mike DeWine, has been issuing through Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton. The bill reflects a split in the GOP on how to restart the economy that could carry over into the future.

The state parole board is recommending Gov. Mike DeWine commute an East Cleveland killer’s death sentence to life in prison without parole.

23 percent of all confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ohio are prison workers or inmates, and 31 inmates and workers have died. Ohio is the first state to do mass testing at three prisons. But the union representing prison workers says those facilities are still dangerous.

Dentists can resume office procedures on Friday, after being shut down last month to preserve personal protective equipment for health care workers fighting COVID-19. But some dental employees say they have serious reservations about whether there will be enough PPE to protect them as they see patients.

Gov. Mike DeWine has extended the stay-at-home order expiring May 1 to 11:59pm on May 29. But hospitals can start performing some non-emergency procedures Friday, and dentists and veterinarians can get back to work as well. But some businesses say they plan to open their doors as well.

The state has now added deaths from COVID-19 in nursing homes to its coronavirus tracking website – confirming that nearly 300 people have died of the disease in those facilities.

Nearly a million Ohioans - 964,556 people - have filed for unemployment in the last five weeks, more than the combined total in the last two years.  But more are coming as thousands of Ohioans who are self-employed or independent contractors have been waiting to file for unemployment under new federal rules.

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