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

The dam at Buckeye Lake undergoes repairs in March of 2015.
KAREN KASLER / STATEHOUSE NEWS BUREAU

Just over a year ago, the $100 million project to repair the crumbling earthen dam at Buckeye Lake was finished two years early.  But the state is looking at dozens of the 1,420 dams in Ohio that could be failing.

The state says 124 dams are in poor or unsatisfactory condition. ODNR Director Mary Mertz says her agency is working its way through the list, but there aren’t any emergencies like Buckeye Lake’s dam on it.

“No, not that I’m concerned about that we’re going to wake up tomorrow and see a big dam breach.”

KAREN KASLER / STATEHOUSE NEWS BEAURU

State Senators considering one of two bills to ban local bans on plastic bags heard from around 40 opponents, who either came to a committee hearing or sent in written testimony. They were speaking out against a bill that’s similar to one that passed the House this summer. 

There were local officials talking home rule, including Ben Kessler, the mayor of Bexley, one of three communities with bans on plastic bags.

KAREN KASLER / STATEHOUSE NEWS BEAURU

Gov. Mike DeWine says he wants to make it easier and quicker for people who have long-ago criminal convictions to be considered for pardons. It’s another part of his recent moves to make changes to Ohio’s parole and post-release system.

DeWine says he often sees pardon applications for murderers, rapists and other offenders.

"They got a snowball's chance in hell of getting granted, some of them," DeWine said. "And so they're kind of clogging the system, and the people who really should be applying aren’t applying."

KAREN KASLER / Statehouse News Bureau

State lawmakers are looking at a bill that would hike the penalties for passing a school bus as it’s picking up or dropping off kids. 

Audrey Napier’s 11-year-old granddaughter, Lizzie Robertson-Rutland, was run down and killed while walking to her school bus in Columbus one early morning in September.

“We don’t want any other family to have to go through what we are dealing with right now. It’s very hard for us,” said Napier. “It’s a very emotional time for us. And we support this bill because we want our children to be safe.”

Representative Stephanie Howse
Jo Ingles / STATEHOUSE NEWS BUREAU

An Ohio lawmaker, who went to El Salvador recently on a fact-finding mission, says her experience there is strengthening her resolve to fight abortion bans here at home. 

Democratic Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland) says she visited women serving time behind bars in El Salvador for miscarriages rather than deliberate abortions.

Death penalty vigil.
Statehouse News Bureau

Opponents of the death penalty say they are concerned about a newly proposed abortion ban that could charge a woman who gets an abortion, and a doctor who provides it, with a capital crime. It would make abortion punishable by life in prison without the possibility of parole, or death. 

Holiday Shoppers walk in the Easton Town Center, Columbus Ohio.
KAREN KASLER / STATEHOUSE NEWS BUREAU

Ohio’s more than 7,000 retailers are expecting a slight increase in sales this holiday season over last year, though where those spending increases are projected may be a surprise.

The Ohio Council of Retail Merchants is predicting $25.3 billion will be spent this holiday season, a .8 percent increase over last year and lower than the national spending forecast. Megan Heare is with the University of Cincinnati Economics Center, which did the research.

photo of the Ohio Statehouse
STATEHOUSE NEWS BUREAU

State lawmakers have touted their support of a new law that eliminates the so-called “pink tax” on feminine hygiene products and gives a tax credit to teachers buying supplies. It also restores a $250,000 income tax break for lawyers and lobbyists. It can seem to be a mixed message Republican leaders are sending on tax policy.

A satellite photo of Lake Erie shows a toxic algea bloom
JOSHUA STEVENS / NASA EARTH OBSERVATORY

Ohio farmers say they’re on board with the state’s plans to slow down agricultural runoff into Lake Erie. And they’re joining environmental activists and conservationists in embracing how Gov. Mik DeWine says he’ll spend $172 million in the newly created H2Ohio fund.

Householder and Obhof
Karen Kasler

One of the Ohio House’s top agenda items known as priority bills was passed in the Senate on Wednesday, but Speaker Larry Householder says he’s still frustrated with the pace of legislation moving from his chamber through to the other one. 

Householder says there’s not tension with fellow Republican leaders in the Senate, but frustration. He says the budget included many Senate priorities with the understanding that Senators would move on House priority bills.

“If there’s a problem, we need to work it out. If there’s not a problem, let’s start passing some bills.”

photo of lawmakers' press conference
Karen Kasler / STATEHOUSE NEWS BUREAU

There are more than 7,000 diseases that are considered “rare” – meaning that fewer than 200,000 people have them. But 10 percent of Americans have one of those “rare” diseases, including 1.1 million Ohioans. But now two lawmakers have come up with on a proposal that seeks to help them.

photo of DeWine
DAN KONIK / STATEHOUSE NEWS BUREAU

Gov. Mike DeWine has released details of his plan to improve water quality in Ohio, starting with preventing toxic algae blooms in Lake Erie. DeWine says the program will start in the Maumee River watershed near Toledo but he wants to eventually broaden it to the rest of the state. 

 

A stock photo of stethoscope and chart.
PIXABAY

The state is starting the process that will eventually require thousands of Ohioans in Medicaid expansion to work 20 hours a week or lose their benefits, after getting permission from the federal government earlier this year. But advocates for Medicaid expansion still have big concerns about how this will work and how many people will be kicked out of the program.

Ohio Medicaid Director Maureen Corcoran said no one’s just going to get a letter saying they’ve lost their health care through Medicaid expansion.

Crossroads of I-70 and I-71 in Columbus
KAREN KASLER / STATEHOUSE NEWS BUREAU

For the first time in several years, an Ohio Department of Transportation panel has voted to move forward on hundreds of millions of dollars in road construction projects, including one in Summit County. 

ODOT director Jack Marchbanks says the Transportation Review and Advisory Council, or TRAC, has nearly $400 million to spend thanks to the increase in the gas tax that took effect in July.

two pills.
MIKE ROGAL / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

The Ohio Senate has sent to the House two controversial abortion bills. One involves abortion reversal, a practice that is not backed by mainstream medical professionals.

The other subjects doctors to steep penalties for failing to deal with aborted remains in a particular way. 

State Sen. Peggy Lehner (R-Kettering) says women can reverse a two-step medication abortion by taking progesterone instead of a second pill. She says her bill requires doctors to tell women about it.

A photo of Matt Dolan
ANDY CHOW / STATEHOUSE NEWS BUREAU

Democratic state senators had lots of questions for the sponsor of Gov. Mike DeWine’s proposed gun violence bill at its first hearing. They wanted details about the private gun sales background check system it creates as well as the version of the red flag gun seizure law it includes.

Democrats fired various scenarios at sponsor Sen. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) and asked why the bill doesn’t include mandatory background checks or a stronger red flag law. Dolan told them the bill will reduce gun violence, and therefore does something – as activists have called for.

A 'thank you for voting sign'
CARTER ADAMS / WKSU

On this Election Day, two Democratic state lawmakers announced they’re introducing a bill to make future general election days paid state holidays for all Ohio workers.

State Reps. Erica Crawley (D-Columbus) and Bride Rose Sweeney (D-Cleveland) say state law allows workers to take time off to vote, but hourly workers don’t have to be paid if they do. And though Ohio has 28 days of early voting, Sweeney says a paid holiday for governments and businesses that would observe it would help voters – especially single parents and those working multiple jobs.

photo of guns
KEITH HOMAN / SHUTTERSTOCK

A quarter of the Ohio House – all Republicans – have signed on to a new “stand your ground” self-defense bill introduced last month.

That’s setting up suggestions that it could be part of a compromise to pass the gun violence plan backed by Gov. Mike DeWine following the mass shooting in Dayton. 

a photo of state legislators
KAREN KASLER / STATEHOUSE NEWS BUREAU

Several Ohio House Republicans are backing a bill that they say is a ”free market solution” to surprise medical billing, when patients get unexpected big invoices from out of network providers after visiting an in-network hospital or health care facility. 

“Surprise medical bills are the number one cause of bankruptcy in Ohio," Rep. Adam Holmes (R-Nashport) says.

gas pump prices
ROSCHETZKY PHOTOGRAPHY / SHUTTERSTOCK

Ohio’s 10.5 cent gas tax increase from the state’s transportation budget has been in place for four months. And the director of the Ohio Department of Transportation says the money his agency fought lawmakers to get is already making a difference.

Jack Marchbanks says ODOT is on solid financial ground for the first time in years. The gas tax hike will bring in $820 million this fiscal year, and $3.2 billion over the next four years. But Marchbanks says the agency didn’t overshoot in asking for nearly twice that when it first proposed the gas tax increase.

photo of Mike DeWine
ANDY CHOW / STATEHOUSE NEWS BUREAU

Gov. Mike DeWine has signed an executive order to create a panel that will review Ohio’s parole system and how those who leave prison are supervised.

The review comes after two six year olds were killed in a crash in Dayton in August. Recent parolee Raymond Walters allegedly stabbed his father, stole a police car and caused the crash. DeWine said that’s one of the horror stories he’s heard.

A photo of Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine
KAREN KASLER / STATEHOUSE NEWS BUREAU

For the first time in three years, there likely won’t be an execution in Ohio this year. That’s according to Gov. Mike DeWine, who says an execution planned for December probably won’t go forward.

James Galen Hanna is scheduled to be put to death Dec. 11 for a 1978 murder in Toledo. 

Gov. DeWine doubts the sentence will be carried out. “No, I think that’s highly unlikely. That’s probably not going to happen,” he said.

photo of sign language interpreter
KAREN KASLER / STATEHOUSE NEWS BUREAU

Ohio’s 15 public colleges and universities will each have a full time counselor dedicated to helping students with disabilities.

The Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities agency said 1.6 million Ohioans identify as having a disability – and many of them go to college.

“And these universities are finding more and more students coming from high school on IEPs, which is an Individualized Education Program. And so they need that additional assistance,” according to OOD director Kevin Miller.

photo of voting machine
STATEHOUSE NEWS BUREAU

State senators will soon take up a House-passed bill that its sponsor said will clarify descriptions of school and local levies and other property tax issues before voters. But opponents said it will make it harder for those money questions to pass.

Republican Rep. Derrick Merrin said the bill fixes antiquated ballot language about millage to express how much a levy would bring in and would cost homeowners.

photo of Candice Keller
Ohio Legislature

A conservative Republican state lawmaker wants Ohio to become the 37th state with a so-called “stand your ground” self- defense bill. A similar bill was introduced last year, after a veto fight with former Gov. John Kasich resulted in a stripped down version that eventually passed.  

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