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Around Ohio-Aug. 18

Published: August 18, 2016 2:27 PM

Theft ring may have stolen 50 ATMs
Cleveland — A criminal ring carefully planned and sometimes executed smash-and-grab thefts of ATMs in Cleveland and Northeast Ohio that netted hundreds of thousands of dollars, authorities said Aug. 17.
Eleven Cleveland men were indicted Aug. 16 on racketeering and other charges related to 10 thefts or attempted thefts of ATMs in five Northeast Ohio counties since early 2015. The group could be responsible for more than 50 ATM thefts and that more arrests and charges are expected, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty said at a news conference Aug. 17.
Three men alleged to be the leaders of the ring were convicted in 2011 of breaking into a store and trying to steal an ATM, with two of the men serving prison time, McGinty said.
The thefts became more sophisticated, with the ring targeting convenience and drug stores with ATMs near the front door, authorities said. They would use stolen cargo vans to smash through store entrances in reverse, detaching cash machines from their moorings. The ATMs would be loaded into the van and taken to locations in Cleveland where they were opened using pry bars, power tools and cutting torches, authorities said.
Police in Strongsville arrested several members of the ring Aug. 8 after a 20-mile chase that began seconds after an ATM was stolen from a convenience store in that city.
— Associated Press

Medical marijuana
budgeting issues considered
Columbus — The state Controlling Board is set to decide several funding and accounting moves to cover the costs of Ohio’s initial efforts to regulate medical marijuana use.
The Office of Budget and Management is seeking the creation of a new fund, titled the Medical Marijuana Control Program Fund, to allow the Department of Commerce and Pharmacy Board to operate the program.
Under legislation passed by lawmakers and signed by Gov. John Kasich earlier this year, the commerce department is heading the licensing of medical marijuana cultivators, processors and testing labs, while the Pharmacy Board is handling the licensing of dispensaries and the registration of patients and caregivers, according to documents. The latter also will operate a new advisory committee, which will offer recommendations for the regulation of medical marijuana in the state.
The Controlling Board requests include a transfer of more than $1.8 million for the medical marijuana control program. The Department of Commerce has requested more than $923,000 for its work, including “staffing (to initiate and enforce program rules and regulations), training, research and establishment of the required database.”
The Pharmacy Board is seeking $882,400 for new staff and related systems systems.
— Marc Kovac, Captial Bureau

Backers seek
second look at
drug-price ruling
Columbus — Backers of a proposal aimed at controlling prescription drug prices are asking the Ohio Supreme Court to reconsider requiring their issue to be re-submitted to the Legislature after adequate signatures are collected.
Supporters of the Drug Price Relief Act, who include the California-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation, say the requirement imposed in a ruling Aug. 16 would be unconstitutional and result in “extreme prejudice.” Their proposal aims to keep state entities from buying drugs at prices higher than the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs pays.
They asked Aug. 17 for the issue to bypass lawmakers and go straight back to voters once enough names are collected.
Justices ruled election officials erroneously counted 10,303 signatures submitted last year, leaving backers short by 5,044 valid signatures. Backers have until Aug. 25 to resubmit new signatures.
— Associated Press

Committee studies
Columbus — A new committee of state lawmakers has been tapped to review Ohio’s unemployment compensation system.
Legislative leaders announced the joint panel of senators and representatives on Aug. 15. They say its members will see whether the jobless benefits system for workers is sustainable and determine if any solvency issues should be addressed.
Senate President Keith Faber and House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger say the group will emphasize getting input from labor groups, businesses and Ohio’s workforce. They say the committee will help craft legislation to be considered this fall.
The panel of six appointed Republicans and two appointed Democrats is being co-chaired by two Republicans, Sen. Bob Peterson of Washington Court House and Rep. Kirk Schuring of Canton.
— Associated Press

Agency: Closed
Public Square could violate funding pact
Cleveland — A federal agency says keeping Cleveland’s Public Square closed to public transit might violate an agreement that helped the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority get about $140 million in grants.
The Plain Dealer in Cleveland reports the Federal Transit Administration sent a letter to RTA CEO Joe Calabrese last week claiming that a 2004 funding deal stated that the Bus Rapid Transit system would end in Public Square.
The agreement called for a Downtown Transit Zone that would facilitate bus traffic across town and would mitigate noise impacts.
The FTA says the RTA could be in violation of an agreement it made to receive grant funding for the HealthLine in not reopening Public Square to public transit.
Calabrese says he expects to talk to the FTA soon.
— Associated Press

200 endangered
to be released
Toledo — More than 200 eastern hellbenders will be released into Ohio streams in an ongoing effort to offset a decline in the endangered aquatic salamander.
The Toledo Zoo will participate in releasing the endangered salamanders into Ohio River and Muskingum River drainages next week as part of the Ohio Hellbender Partnership. Hellbenders are native to the state. But they are endangered in Ohio primarily because they are very susceptible to pollution, siltation and general disturbance of their stream-bed habitat.
The Blade in Toledo reports that the zoo hatches hellbender eggs collected from the wild and raises the young until they are large enough to avoid most predators.
Surveys of hellbenders in the late 1980s and again in the late 2000s showed an estimated population decline of 82 percent.
— Associated Press

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