Minimum wage to go up 5 cents

Columbus -- Ohio's minimum-wage workers will see a nickel-per-hour boost to their paychecks come January, state officials announced Sept. 29.

As of Jan. 1, Ohio's minimum wage will increase to $8.15 for non-tipped employees (up from $8.10) and $4.08 for tipped ones (up from $4.05) at businesses with annual gross receipts of more than $299,000, according to the Ohio Department of Commerce.

Minimum wage for employees at smaller companies and for 14- and 15-year-old workers will remain at $7.25 per hour, matching the federal rate in those categories.

A constitutional amendment OK'd by voters a decade ago requires the state's rate to increase on Jan. 1 annually to account for inflation. The language required the increase to be decided by the end of September each year.

Ohio's minimum wage was $7.70 for non-tipped employees and $3.85 for tipped ones in 2012. The rate has increased annually since then except this year, when the rate remain unchanged from 2015's numbers, according to the commerce department.

-- Marc Kovac, Capital Bureau

State considers

voter registration awareness day

Columbus -- The fourth Tuesday in September would be designated to draw attention to voter registration, under legislation OK'd by the Ohio Senate Sept. 28.

SB 169 passed on a unanimous vote and heads to the Ohio House for further consideration.

The bill would establish Voter Registration Awareness Day in Ohio annually, matching a designation promoted by the National Association of Secretaries of State, said Sen. Frank LaRose (R-Copley).

SB 169 also calls for government offices to encourage their employees to register to vote or update their address and other information.

LaRose acknowledged the numerous other designations codified by lawmakers, but he said a day to focus on the importance of voter registration was important.

-- Marc Kovac, Capital Bureau

Reinstated program

would help pay for funerals for needy

Columbus -- A Democratic lawmaker has proposed reinstating a former state program that helped pay burial-related costs for needy Ohioans.

Sen. Charleta Tavares (D-Columbus) told the Senate's Finance Committee Sept. 27 that townships and other local offices, already dealing with other local government funding cuts from the state, are bearing the brunt of funerals for residents who rely on public assistance.

Tavares provided sponsor testimony on SB 107, which would provide up to $750 in reimbursements for burials, cremations, gravestones and other related costs.

The state established a comparable program in 1974, Tavares said, but lawmakers eliminated it in 2001, leaving local government offices to take possession of the bodies of needy residents after their death and handle the resulting arrangements.

Last year, townships sought nearly 100 cemetery and general fund levies to help cover their costs, Tavares said, adding that fewer than half were OK'd by voters.

-- Marc Kovac, Capital Bureau

People report being chased by clowns

in two Ohio cities

Greenville -- Police say they've received reports of individuals dressed as clowns chasing people in two western Ohio communities.

That means that in recent weeks, people in at least seven states have reported scary or suspicious encounters with people dressed like clowns.

The Dayton Daily News reports a 28-year-old man called Greenville police to report that two clowns chased him down a street early Sept. 27 in that Darke County city. Chief Dennis Butts says the man said the clowns hit him in the side and neck and stole a baseball bat from him.

Butts says police checked but found no clowns.

Closer to Dayton, police in Franklin say a woman there reported being chased by a clown.

Franklin police are discouraging people from scaring strangers, calling it childish and potentially dangerous behavior.

-- Associated Press

Driver indicted in state trooper's death on I-90

Cleveland -- A grand jury has indicted a man on aggravated vehicular homicide and DUI charges in the death of an Ohio state trooper who was struck and killed on a Cleveland interstate.

Authorities say Joshua Gaspar was driving under the influence of drugs when he hit 48-year-old State Highway Patrol Trooper Kenneth Velez on Interstate 90 earlier this month. Velez had been conducting traffic enforcement.

A Cuyahoga County grand jury indicted the 37-year-old Gaspar on Sept. 26.

Defense attorney Jon Sinn tells WKYC-TV Gaspar has a methadone prescription as part of his treatment for an addiction to painkillers.

Sinn says his client wasn't under the influence of any drugs that day and that test results support that contention.

Gaspar has been jailed on a $500,000 bond since his arrest.

-- Associated Press

Rapper gets 15 years in child porn, music video case

Columbus -- An Ohio rapper who federal authorities say recorded sexually explicit footage of teen girls and edited the footage into music videos has been sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Eric Chavis pleaded guilty in June to conspiracy to produce child pornography. The Columbus rapper on Sept. 27 received the mandatory minimum sentence required under federal statutes.

Authorities say Chavis uploaded 29 videos of the underage girls with him.

U.S. District Judge Michael Watson told Chavis the victims, who were 16 and 17, were all "mature" but not of legal age. Watson says Chavis "trolled the internet" to lure underage performers.

Chavis' attorney says his client believed the girls were willing and over 18.

Chavis must register as a sex offender upon his release.

-- Associated Press

-- Associated Press