Here are your morning headlines for Tuesday, April 23:
- Ohio home sales plummet;
- Akron to continue Great Streets Initiative;
- Pro Football Hall of Fame askes for bed tax dollars;
- State AG urges more action on pharmacy benefit managers;
- Hospital settles 3 wrongful-death suits over doctor, dosages;
- Study: Energy companies invest $74B in Ohio shale;
- Husted launches InnovateOhio initiative;
- HUD grants state $6.2M to be spent on affordable housing;
- Windham superintendent pleads not guilty to sexual battery charges;
Ohio home sales plummet
Ohio home sales plummeted last month, down nearly 7% compared to a year ago. The data from the Ohio Association of Realtors shows that although sales went down, the average sale price has climbed to $177,000. Out of all 18 housing markets across the state, only five showed increased sales but 12 of them had an increase in average sale price. It's similar to what's happening on a national level, with average sale prices increasing to more than $250,000. The Midwest overall experienced the biggest slump in the country since the beginning of this year.
Akron to continue Great Streets Initiative
Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan is continuing the city's Great Streets Initiative, which began last year. It's a way to provide funds for improvement projects within businesses and streets in 10 neighborhoods, including West Hill, North Hill and Kenmore. The city has budgeted $600,000 and businesses can apply to use some of that money for exterior upgrades and capital improvement projects. Last year, businesses received an average of $18,600. The city will also be using some of the money to help fill empty store fronts.
Pro Football Hall of Fame askes for bed tax dollars
The Pro Football Hall of Fame is asking for $500,000 a year for 30 years to further develop the Johnson Controls Hall of Fame Village. The Beacon Journal reports the money would come from Stark County's bed tax revenue, which is collected when people stay in hotels and pay to help support local tourism. The money would be used for an expansion of Hall of Fame Village, hotels and programming for concerts and conventions. The organization Visit Canton and Stark County commissioners are currently looking over the proposal. A 2017 change in state law allowed Stark County to double its lodging tax to 6 percent, giving Visit Canton an additional $1.5 million annually.
State AG urges more action on pharmacy benefit managers
Ohio's chief law enforcement officer wants to see prescription purchases for state employees centralized and subject to review by the state auditor in an effort to promote additional safeguards and transparency. Those are among four changes Attorney General Dave Yost recommended to lawmakers Monday that he says would further the state's efforts to contain the costs of pharmacy benefit managers, or PBMs. Those are private companies that contract with governments to manage prescription programs. Yost proposes establishing a single master PBM contract for administration of drug purchases for state employees and giving the state auditor "unrestricted authority" to review all PBM drug contracts, purchases and payments. He also recommends giving PBMs a legal obligation to protect the financial interests of the state and prohibiting nondisclosure agreements surrounding drug pricing.
Hospital settles 3 wrongful-death suits over doctor, dosages
The Columbus hospital system where an intensive care doctor is accused of ordering excessive painkiller doses for dozens of patients is settling three of the resulting wrongful-death lawsuits. The family of 78-year-old Lora Jackie Stone reached a $250,000 settlement with Mount Carmel Health System over her 2017 death. Mount Carmel fired the doctor, William Husel, in December. He remains under investigation.
Study: Energy companies invest $74B in Ohio shale
A new study shows that, since 2011, energy companies have invested $74 billion in Ohio’s shale sector. Cleveland State University’s Energy Policy Center shows that nearly $50 billion has been spent on drilling, land acquisition, and building roads in Southeast Ohio’s fracking region. The report shows another $25 billion has been spent of new transmission lines and natural-gas power plants. A separate study predicts that in 20 years, nearly half of U.S. natural gas production will come from the Utica and Marcellus shale regions of Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Husted launches InnovateOhio initiative
Lt. Gov. Jon Husted has launched a new initiative to deploy technology to improve state government. Innovate Ohio’s advisory board includes some prominent northeast Ohio tech gurus, including blockchain evangelist and luxury car dealer Bernie Moreno, and Key Bank’s head of IT Amy Brady. Among other things, the board will help guide the creation of a system that will require data sharing among state departments and use blockchain technology to create secure digital records of items for taxpayers, like car titles. During the December lame-duck session, state lawmakers created InnovateOhio as a new state department, and gave Husted a roughly $176,00 salary to run it. Gov. DeWine’s state budget plan includes giving InnovateOhio a $5 million annual budget.
HUD grants state $6.2M to be spent on affordable housing
Ohio is set to receive nearly $6.2 million in affordable housing grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The money awarded through the Housing Trust Fund is intended to help create and preserve safe, affordable housing for low-income households and those who are homeless. Affordable housing providers will be able to use the money for activities including property acquisition, site improvements and development hard costs, demolition, relocation assistance, financing costs, and operating cost assistance for rental housing.
Windham superintendent pleads not guilty to sexual battery charges
A Portage County school superintendent accused of having sex with two juvenile males while they were district students has pleaded not guilty to charges including sexual battery. Laura Amero was a principal at Windham Exempted Schools when the alleged encounters occurred with the 16-year-old boys between 2015 and 2017. She was hired as superintendent in February. The district says she's on paid administrative leave.