Karen Kasler (Ohio Public Radio)

Incoming Ohio Senate president Larry Obhof (R-Medina) has been in the Senate since 2011, and he takes over with some challenges ahead.

One of the first things that lawmakers will have to face is an issue that was only partly solved in the lame duck session – how to make sure there’s enough money in the fund that pays benefits to unemployed workers. A major overhaul was scrapped after an analysis showed it would cut $3.5 billion in worker benefits while increasing employer taxes just over $700 million.

Obhof said that’ll be on the agenda in the first four months.

A report from two advocacy groups says Ohio prisons are using solitary confinement too often, and that it doesn’t help inmates who will eventually be released or help make prisons safer. The groups are pushing the state to make changes.

Karen Kasler / Ohio Public Radio

The first issue on the Ohio ballot was the first to be called, as it was apparent early on that voters were approving it overwhelmingly.

The state has pushed back execution dates for a dozen condemned killers, because of a problem that’s no surprise to anyone in law enforcement or criminal justice – a lack of drugs for lethal injections.

This delay for the 141 people on death row in Ohio comes more than a year after the state had to push back executions when it switched to a single-drug lethal injection after the death of Dennis McGuire.

Karen Kasler / Ohio Public Radio

Many Ohioans know there’s a marijuana legalization issue on the ballot – but most don’t know there’s an issue to change the way state lawmakers’ districts are drawn.

Statehouse correspondent Karen Kasler reports on attempts to change that.

The Ohio Supreme Court decision that nearly a hundred million dollars in equipment bought by charter school operators with tax money belongs to those operators and not to the schools has raised more anger against the industry.

The Ohio Supreme Court has sided with a controversial charter school operator in a very narrow decision.

The case involved 10 Cleveland-area charter schools that contracted with White Hat Management to operate them.


President Obama’s announcement that Mount McKinley in Alaska will now be called Denali piqued a lot of interest in Ohio – the home state of the president for whom the summit was named nearly a century ago.

Karen Kasler/Ohio Public Radio

  The panel working on police and community relations has come up with draft standards on the use of force, police recruitment and hiring; and expects to deliver them to Gov. John Kasich by Sept. 3.

The draft standards say police will only be able to use deadly force to defend themselves or another person from serious injury or death; and that law enforcement agencies should hire qualified individuals and create diverse work forces.

Students around the Tristate are heading back to school (some are already back in session) and Ohio retailers are hoping this weekend's sales tax holiday will have Black Friday-style results.

Karen Kasler/Ohio Public Radio

Now that Ohio Gov. John Kasich has announced he will officially launch his presidential campaign in a few weeks, there may be new attention on another Republican statewide officeholder.

Holly Yurchison / WVXU

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, after months of organizing and stumping in early primary and caucus states – will make it official on July 21 at Ohio State University: He is a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination.

Karen Kasler/Ohio Public Radio

  Once again, an increase in the state’s tax on oil and natural gas drillers will not be a part of the budget.

But Republican lawmakers are talking up what they say is a new step forward for the discussion – a method that’s has been used time and again in state government.

It looked like it was going to be a big deal.

Karen Kasler/Ohio Public Radio

  Two state lawmakers are banding together to present something they are suggesting is an encore to the state’s film industry tax credit, which has brought $119 million to Ohio in its first two years.

Giving a 25 percent tax credit to musicians, producers and others in Ohio is a key way to create a major number of jobs with a minor investment, says Republican Sarah LaTourette of northeast Ohio.

And her co-sponsor, Democrat Rep. Kent Smith of Euclid, says the OhioSounds tax credit is similar to ones in Louisiana and New York.

Karen Kasler/Ohio Public Radio

Tax cuts are the big feature in the Ohio Senate’s newly proposed two year budget, along with more than a billion in new funding for higher education and K-12 schools.

President Keith Faber says the proposed Republican Senate budget is smaller than the plans proposed by Gov. John Kasich and the Ohio House. But he says his chamber’s plan has one key goal.

“We are continuing today to build on our commitment to fund what matters and return to the taxpayers what’s not essential,” Faber says.

Karen Kasler / Ohio Public Radio

Two Ohio lawmakers are backing a package of bills they say will help crack down on drug overdoses – especially involving heroin, which state stats show is responsible for nearly half of all overdose deaths.

Karen Kasler/Ohio Public Radio

The largest provider of mental health services in Ohio has become the state’s prison system. And the state is hoping to work with advocates in the mental health community to figure out how to deal with that.

Gary Mohr started in the prison system in 1976. He’s now its director. And Mohr says in those almost 40 years, the growth in the number of inmates coming into the system with mental health issues has shocked him.

Karen Kasler / Ohio Public Radio

After spending time in the key presidential primary state of New Hampshire, Ohio Gov. John Kasich took more questions about his possible presidential campaign on national TV this weekend.

It comes amid increasing signs that he is serious about running.

On NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday - where 16 years ago Kasich announced he’d formed an exploratory committee to run for president in 1999 – Kasich said he still hadn’t decided, but was weighing his options with two main thoughts in mind.

As Ohio House leaders put forward a budget that they say will help people out of poverty, the directors of the state’s job and family services agencies say they have some answers as to why people need public assistance.

Substance abuse problems, lack of transportation and high school diplomas are the issues that people on welfare or public assistance face.

That’s the conclusion of a survey done by a task force with the Ohio Job and Family Services Directors Association.

Karen Kasler / Ohio Public Radio

Six of the nine Ohioans who were exonerated after being sentenced to death want state lawmakers to consider changes to capital punishment in Ohio.

Joe D’Ambrosio spent 22 years on death row for a Cleveland murder he didn’t commit.

“If it can happen to me, it can happen to you, or your children, or your grandchildren,” D’Ambrosio said.

He and five other exonerated former death row inmates want state lawmakers to seriously consider the 57 recommendations made by an Ohio Supreme Court task force on capital punishment last year.

The controversial bill that would ban abortion after the first detectable fetal heartbeat passed the Ohio House, largely on a party line vote. Statehouse correspondent Karen Kasler reports the emotion was no surprise, but one revelation was.

Karen Kasler / Ohio Public Radio

A new law now allows access to birth records to 400,000 adoptees from around the world who were born in Ohio between 1964 and 1996. Statehouse correspondent Karen Kasler met a few who traveled from 14 states to gather in Columbus last night, to prepare to be first in line at the Ohio Department of Health on the first day of the new law.

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted
State of Ohio

Secretary of State Jon Husted has said several times that voter fraud is rare but it exists – and that’s why he says he reviews the voting rolls in Ohio’s 88 counties.

Husted has found hundreds who shouldn’t be registered to vote, and wants the federal government to help him find more.

Some of them are in southwest Ohio.

Husted’s latest review found 145 non-citizens registered to vote, with 27 of them actually casting ballots. This brings the total number of non-citizens registered in Ohio to 436, out of about 7.7 million registered voters.

Karen Kasler/Ohio Public Radio

As electronic cigarettes are becoming more popular, the numbers of medical crises involving the liquid nicotine refills they use are rising dramatically. These emergencies have sparked a bipartisan effort to crack down on the products.

E-cigarettes use containers of liquid nicotine, and some are easy to open, often with screw-on caps.

A national group that pushes for more traffic safety laws says Ohio is among 31 states getting a “caution” or “yellow” rating in its latest annual report.

But Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety says Ohio has only passed seven of 15 laws it considers necessary. President Jackie Gillan said Ohio needs a primary seat belt law and a law requiring helmets for all motorcycle riders, among others.

2015 has all the elements of an exciting year in the state capitol.

2015 is a budget year, and that potentially means battles over priorities. And Gov. John Kasich knows it.

“As executive, I’ve got to tell you, I don’t care if I have to break some china. But that’s not the best way to do things,” Kasich said. “The best way to do things is to get cooperation out of the people you work with.”

There was a lot that happened in the House in the final weeks of the last General Assembly. There were so many committee meetings it was hard to get a quorum sometimes, there were marathon sessions on the floor, and there was the almost-unheard-of failed vote on the Republican-backed abortion measure known as the Heartbeat Bill.

But when Republican House Speaker Bill Batchelder of Medina and Democratic Leader Tracy Maxwell Heard of Columbus sat down to talk about the lame duck session, they had different impressions about whether the climate was confrontational or cooperative.

This election year was a relatively slow year for the Ohio legislature as lawmakers spent most of the year campaigning.  That changed in the last few weeks.

Several bills zipped through the lame duck session, but none in a more dramatic fashion than the last minute agreement on a way to change the process of drawing lawmakers’ district boundaries.

There were rumors of the resolution’s success and demise for days.  And after 17 hours of negotiations on the last day the Senate met, at 4 a.m. a vote was taken and it passed with only one "no" vote.  

2014 brought several big cases to the Republican-dominated Ohio Supreme Court, which delivered opinions that surprised some observers.

The Ohio Supreme Court ended the year by deciding one of the highest-profile cases of the year – ruling 4-3 that traffic camera programs are constitutional, and specifically that Toledo can allow appeals to go through an administrative hearing process and not municipal court. But Republican Sen. Bill Seitz of Cincinnati, the sponsor of a bill to regulate traffic cameras, says the ruling is basically moot.

Sarah Ramsey / WVXU

Republican Bill Seitz of Cincinnati has long crusaded against red light and speed cameras.

His bill to ban them outright passed the House and Senate in 2006 – only to be vetoed by Republican Gov. Bob Taft in his last days in office, with the reasoning that a statewide prohibition on the installation of those cameras by cities violated the principle of home rule.