Portage 2014 budget
is set at $35.5 million
Portage County has something going into the new year it did not at this time last year — a budget. Commissioners adopted their budget for 2014, something the previous board punted a year ago after it could not agree on a fiscal director.
Then-Commissioner Chris Smeiles and Commissioners Tommie Jo Marsilio and Maureen Frederick could only agree to put off action on the 2013 budget until a new board was seated, with Kathleen Chandler replacing Smeiles, and the cash carryover was certified.
This year, the board voted 2-1 to approve a county general fund that calls for no raises for non-union county workers and generally holds the line on expenditures in the face of overall flat revenues. It sets general fund expenditures at $35.46 million, about $2.2 million less than this year’s forecast expenditures of $37.66 million.
Marsilio voted against the general fund budget because “the sheriff’s budget is short beyond reason.” She said “it shorts road patrol and leaves a perilous situation in corrections.”
Marsilio said the line items do not give Sheriff Dave Doak enough money, for example, to cover the $22,000 membership in the Metro SWAT Team.
— Mike Sever, Record-Courier

Rep. Clyde pushes for
online voters’ signups
A Democratic lawmaker and frequent critic of GOP-backed election law changes wants the state’s chief elections official to offer online voter registration.
Rep. Kathleen Clyde of Kent sent a letter to Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted outlining the reasons she believes the change can be implemented without legislative approval.
“Since online voter registration is already permitted by Ohio law, there is no reason to wait to make it available to all Ohioans,” Clyde wrote. “Ohio should be a leader on this, especially since our online registration system is already built and ready to use.”
Online registration is among the few election reforms that many Democrats and Republicans support, including Husted, who urged the GOP leaders of the Ohio House and Senate a couple of months ago to approve legislation allowing it.
Lawmakers recessed for the holiday without taking action on the issue, however, and Husted’s office says it can’t allow Internet registrations without a law change.
— Marc Kovac, RPC state bureau

Figures released for
health care signups
More than 51,000 Ohioans submitted applications through the federal government’s online health coverage marketplace during the first two months of operation.
A total of 5,672 residents selected plans during that time, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The results for activities on the website (Healthcare.gov) are up from 24,000 applications and 1,150 coverage selections made during the first month of enrollment.
“More and more Americans are finding that quality, affordable coverage is within reach and that they’ll no longer need to worry about barriers they may have faced in the past — like being denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition,” said U.S. Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
Critics, however, say the results are too low.
“The president’s health care law has driven up costs, reduced choices and resulted in the cancellation of over 5 million health care plans that the president promised the American people they could keep,” Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci said last week.
According to statistics compiled by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, about 1.5 million of Ohio’s 11.3 million residents have no health insurance, and 812,000 Ohioans are poised to enroll in coverage.
— Marc Kovac, RPC state bureau
Shop owners indicted
for cannabinoids sale
The owners of a chain of at least 12 “head” shops, including shops in Streetsboro and Tallmadge, were among five people indicted for conspiracy to distribute illegal synthetic cannabinoids for their sale of products with names such as “spice” and “K2,” according to the U.S. attorney’s office.
Steven M. Dettelbach, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, announced that Sean Lightner and Sherry Lightner, both 38 and both of Grafton; Dale Drummond, 39, of Cleveland; Mark Picard, 32, of Whittier, Calif., and Nathan Albright, 28, of Glendale, Ariz., were indicted by a federal grand jury.
“These defendants sold a product that was designed to mimic an illegal drug,” Dettelbach said. “No matter what it was labeled or whatever clever name it was given, it was illegal.”
Synthetic cannabinoids are a large family of chemically — a Christmas tree and other lights — unrelated structures functionally similar to THC, and also known as “synthetic marijuana.”
The Lightners operated a chain of stores specializing in drug and smoking paraphernalia doing business as Twilight Boutique, where they sold synthetic cannabinoids along with accessories, according to the indictment. Included were shops on Route 43 in Streetsboro, in the Midway Plaza in Tallmadge and 10 other Ohio locations.
— Record-Courier report