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. 

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Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost
JO INGLES / STATEHOUSE NEWS BUREAU

Ohio’s attorney general said his office is disappointed in a reported settlement with five drug makers and distributors in advance of a huge opioid trial – a trial he tried to delay.

Drug manufacturers Teva and Johnson & Johnson and distributors McKesson, AmerisourceBergen and Ohio-based Cardinal Health are reportedly offering $22 billion in cash along with $28 billion in drugs and services. AG Dave Yost said it’s not enough.

a photo of the petition
ANDY CHOW / STATEHOUSE NEWS BUREAU

A group that wants Ohioans to vote on an energy law that bailed out Ohio's two nuclear power plants has one more week to get enough petition signatures. They need nearly 260,000 valid signatures to put the law before voters next year.  

But supporters of the bailout are waging an unrelenting fight to stop that. 

The pro-bailout Ohioans For Energy Security has been urging people not to sign petitions that would put the bailout on the ballot – first with ads and mailers linking the campaign to China, and now targeting the people who’ve been hired to gather signatures. 

Photo of Mike DeWine
TY GREENLEES / DAYTON DAILY NEWS

Gov. Mike DeWine’s package of proposals to reduce gun violence through mental health and gun policy changes is getting mixed reviews. 

House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) says the so-called STRONG Ohio plan is weak, especially since it doesn’t include required background checks, which DeWine said early on he wanted and which Democrats have been pushing for.

“It makes it much harder for people in our caucus to get behind something that we don’t quite see as legitimate and strong and what people have requested from us,” Sykes said. 

photo of DeWine with the new license
KAREN KASLER / STATEHOUSE NEWS BUREAU

In just less than a year, airline travelers will have to show a federally compliant driver’s license to get on a plane, or will have to bring a passport – even to fly within the United States.

Since the new license was rolled out in July 2018, only 27% of Ohioans have obtained it. Among them is Gov. Mike DeWine, who’s urging others to do the same – even if they don’t plan to take a trip.

a photo of Amy Acton, director of Ohio Department of Health
KAREN KASLER / STATEHOUSE NEWS BUREAU

The top doctor in state government says she’s keeping an eye on legislation involving vaccinations and abortion. Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton is concerned with one measure that opponents say have some dubious medical science behind them. 

Acton says she’ll weigh in on vaccinations. There’s a House bill that would demand schools post information about vaccine exemptions just as they put up immunization requirements.

Two months and a day after Gov. Mike DeWine announced he was working on a plan to address gun violence after a mass shooting in Dayton, he’s unveiled a bill that he says lawmakers will approve.

photo of a pink slip
ANDREW MEYER / WKSU

The state’s leading civil liberties group is raising concerns about a bill that would mandate more reporting of information into a database used for gun background checks.

a photo of a grocery store with a SNAP sign in the window
JONATHAN WEISS / SHUTTERSTOCK

Advocates for low-income Ohioans say they’re concerned about yet another change proposed at the federal level for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP or food stamps. 

This change would allow the federal government to set the standard deduction for utility payments that people can subtract from their overall incomes to qualify for SNAP.  Lisa Hamler-Fugitt with the Ohio Association of Foodbanks says states set that standard right now.

After less than a year and a handful of transactions, the website that was allowing Ohioans to pay taxes in bitcoin has been shut down by state treasurer Robert Sprague.

Ohio Public Employees Retirement System building.
KAREN KASLER / STATEHOUSE NEWS BUREAU

Ohio’s largest public pension fund is asking state lawmakers to allow it to cut a future benefit increase for more than 200,000 retirees.  

Money
SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

The Federal Elections Commission has only three of its six seats filled, so with the 2020 presidential election ahead, it can’t go forward with full investigations or levy fines for campaign finance violations.

But an Ohio professor who was the chair of the Federal Elections Commission says that’s not what he’s concerned about.

Perry nuclear power plant seen from the south
TIM RUDELL / WKSU

The controversial U.S. Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. FEC almost a decade ago helped bring hundreds of millions of dollars into political campaigns – and the groups that get some of it don’t have to disclose where it came from. Dark money gets a lot of attention at the federal level, but it’s hard at work in Ohio right now.

The proposal to overturn the state’s new nuclear power plant bailout isn’t even on the ballot. But the group that’s gathering signatures to put it there has launched its first ad.

A split Ohio Supreme Court has upheld a state law that invalidates a Cleveland ordinance requiring public works construction projects to hire city residents for 20 percent of the work, or the city could cut their contract price by 2.5 percent. 

students voting at machines
KAREN KASLER / STATEHOUSE NEWS BUREAU

This is the time of year when students choose their school’s homecoming courts. And kids in one Franklin County high school are voting in a very official way.

In the gym of Westland High School, real voting machines are programmed with the names of homecoming candidates. Kids make their choices, print out the paper ballots and then take them to another machine that will tally them before Friday night’s football game.            

photo of JobsOhio mockup logo
JAY EDWARDS / TWITTER

A southeast Ohio lawmaker has taken to Twitter to blast the state’s non-profit economic development company for not helping his region enough, and the governor says he’s also concerned. But supporters of JobsOhio are standing firmly behind it.

Over the last few weeks, State Rep. Jay Edwards (R-Nelsonville) has tweeted about JobsOhio nearly 40 times. For instance, he writes that it invested $140 million in 188 projects last year but that southeast Appalachian Ohio got less than four percent of that.

Dave Yost
KAREN KASLER / STATEHOUSE NEWS BUREAU

After taking heat for arguing the state should have a lead role in next month’s huge opioid trial in Cleveland, Ohio’s attorney general says he wants to be clear that he thinks any money won should be spent at the local level.

Dave Yost backed a bill that would have given his office control of more than a hundred lawsuits in that trial, saying individual cities and counties are litigating pieces of the state’s claims. But he stresses any verdict or settlement funds should go to foster care, law enforcement, prosecutors, first responders and treatment.

Frank LaRose at a high school
KAREN KASLER / STATEHOUSE NEWS BUREAU

The state is still counting up how many of 235,000 voter registrations identified as inactive were removed by county boards of elections starting September 6.

The goal is to purge voters who are deceased, have moved, or have duplicate registrations. 

Frank LaRose says 14,000 of those initial 235,000 registration are now active because voters updated their addresses or responded to voting rights groups, who asked LaRose for that list to reach out to them. Those groups plans to send voter registration forms to those who were deleted.

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor talked about maintaining public trust in the judiciary, supporting sentencing reform, and keeping dockets moving with apps, texting and technology.

a photo of voters at a polling place
KABIR BHATIA / WKSU

As of September 6, as many as 200,000 Ohio voter registrations may have been removed from the rolls by county boards of elections. But a final total won’t be available till the end of this week, after they report the numbers they deleted to the state.  

Secretary of State Frank LaRose stresses most of those removed are deceased voters or duplicate registrations. Voting rights groups tried to stop the process because they feared thousands of eligible voters would be removed by mistake, and LaRose admits there are flaws in the system.

Ohio lawmakers will soon consider a school funding formula overhaul, which has undergone some changes since it was first introduced in March. But the state’s leading school funding expert says he’s giving the plan mixed grades, and that it needs more work.

A 'voting today' sign outside of an Ohio polling station
KAREN KASLER / STATEHOUSE NEWS BUREAU

Friday is the day that tens, and maybe hundreds of thousands of dead voters and duplicate registrations will be removed from the voter rolls in Ohio. But voting rights groups say they’re still worried eligible voters will be purged by mistake. 

The process removes registrations of people who, for the past six years, haven’t voted and haven’t responded to board of elections mailings. But Ohio Democratic Party chair David Pepper says there are eligible voters who’ve been mistakenly identified as inactive.

Capital University student Kathryn Poe spoke about about her concerns about the costs of medical care at a press conference with UHCAN.
KAREN KASLER / STATEHOUSE NEWS BUREAU

A group that supports single-payer health care is highlighting a study that shows Ohioans are worried about paying medical costs, and are taking dangerous steps because of it.

Outside the All People's Fresh Market in Columbus.
Karen Kasler

The numbers of low-income people turning to food pantries for help are climbing. And with signs of trouble for the economy on the horizon, advocates at Ohio's 12 regional foodbanks and the hundreds of food pantries and soup kitchens that they serve are worried.

photo of Bob Saffold
KAREN KASLER / STATEHOUSE NEWS BUREAU

The state is honoring two men from Ohio who helped make Labor Day a national holiday more than a hundred years ago.

Ohio was the first state to recognize Labor Day in 1890 with a law sponsored by State Rep. John Patterson Green of Cleveland. Bob Saffold, a businessman and minister from Warrensville Heights and the stepfather of Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (D-OH 11th district), said that idea influenced Ohio-born U.S. Senator James Henderson Kyle, who represented South Dakota in 1893.

photo of death penalty gavel
DAVID CARILLET / SHUTTERSTOCK

There’s an ongoing and uncivil war between many Republicans and Democrats. But two former Ohio governors have called a truce and created a friendship. And though they’re from different parties, Republican Bob Taft and Democrat Ted Strickland have a lot of views in common.

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