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Morning Headlines: GM Offers Health Insurance Amid Strike; Former House Speaker Resigns

A UAW ON STRIKE sign sits on the sidewalk in front of the General Motors Metal Fabrication Division in Parma, Ohio Tuesday, Sep. 17, 2019.

Here are your morning headlines for Friday, September 27:

  • GM offers workers health insurance amid strike;
  • Former Ohio House Speaker resigns;
  • HUD awards millions in lead paint grants to NE Ohio;
  • Drug companies ask judge to be removed from lawsuit;
  • Ohio doctors caught in drug scheme;
  • Former Ohio sheriff sentenced to prison for taking bribes;
  • Man accused of Ohio murders found incompetent to stand trial;
  • Judge dismisses wrongful death lawsuit against Columbus police;
  • Camp Perry to get historic landmark marker;

GM offers workers health insurance amid strike
General Motors (GM) said striking workers will get company-paid health insurance, nine days after telling the union that coverage would be cut off. The automaker said in an email to the United Auto Workers Wednesday that employee health and well-being are GM's top priorities. The email came after GM received withering criticism from workers, politicians and on social media about cutting off the benefits. It wasn't clear how the rhetoric or the health care spat would affect contract talks aimed at ending the strike by 49,000 workers — including 900 workers in Parma — that has shut down manufacturing for nearly two weeks at more than 30 GM plants across the nation.

Former Ohio House Speaker resigns
A former Ohio House speaker who lost his bid to keep his post during the current session is resigning his seat. State Rep. Ryan Smith announced the decision in a resignation letter Thursday. The Gallia County Republican departs Oct. 3. He faced term limits next year. Smith lost a months-long battle for the House speakership against fellow Republican Larry Householder. Caucus members had selected Smith last session to fill the leadership position left vacant when Speaker Cliff Rosenberger resigned in April 2018 amid an FBI probe. But in January, Householder edged Smith by gaining 52 of 100 votes. Smith will become president of the University of Rio Grande and Rio Grande Community College in Southern Ohio.

HUD awards millions in lead paint grants to NE Ohio
Gov. Mike DeWine announced more than $44 million in federal grants will be used to help identify and get rid of lead paint across Northeast Ohio. The funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development are going to Cleveland, Akron, Canton and other cities across Cuyahoga, Erie, Mahoning and Summit counties. Funding was also awarded to Lima and Columbus. DeWine announced a statewide Lead Advisory Committee this month to help prevent lead contamination and poisoning.

Drug companies ask judge to be removed from lawsuit
The federal judge in Cleveland overseeing national opioid litigation denied requests Thursday of several drug companies that he remove himself from the case. U.S. District Court Judge Dan Polster said in his order that he has done nothing over the past two years to favor cities and counties seeking money from the pharmaceutical industry to cover their costs of fighting the deadly crisis. Polster said he has merely acknowledged the massive toll of the opioid crisis and the responsibility, as opposed to the legal liability, of many parties in the epidemic. Lawyers for drug distributors and pharmacies argued in a filing this month that Polster's "unusual level of commitment" to a settlement in the multidistrict lawsuit has drawn intense media attention and tainted his ability to be a neutral decision-maker. A trial, scheduled to begin Oct. 21, will be the first time a federal court will consider a case from government entities against the drug industry over the toll of opioids.

Ohio doctors caught in drug scheme
Federal authorities said two Ohio doctors prescribed a drug to patients that didn't need it as part of a kickback scheme involving two drug company employees. The U.S. Attorney's Office in Cleveland said the doctors along with representatives from California-based Avanir Pharmaceuticalsengaged in a conspiracy to prescribe Nuedexta to patients not suffering from pseudobulbar affect, a condition marked by involuntary and frequent episodes of laughing or crying. Prosecutors said Thursday that one of the physicians earned more than $330,000 between 2011 and 2016 while writing 10,000 Nuedexta prescriptions. That’s the highest prescription rate for the drug in the country. Prosecutors said the other physician received free firearms training, office equipment and other valuable items. Avanir said the representatives no longer work for the company.

Former Ohio sheriff sentenced to prison for taking bribes
A former Ohio sheriff has been sentenced to 11 years in prison after admitting he took thousands of dollars in bribes from people arrested for prostitution and gambling stings. A federal judge in Toledo also ordered former Allen County Sheriff Sam Crish, 56, on Thursday to pay more than $600,000 in restitution to his victims. Prosecutors said Crish offered to help suspects facing charges and those dealing with child custody issues and would then ask for a loan. Authorities said he also took $50,000 from someone who was hired at the county jail. He pleaded guilty to extortion and bribery. Crish resigned as sheriff in 2017.

Man accused of Ohio murders found incompetent to stand trial
A man suspected of killing four women at truck stops in Ohio and Illinois has been ruled incompetent to stand trial in an Ohio rape case.The Chronicle-Telegram in Elyria reports a Medina County Judge ruled this month that Samuel Legg III isn't capable of aiding in his defense for charges connected to the sexual assault of a 17-year-old girl at a truck stop in 1997. The judge wrote it's probable Legg's competency can be restored and ordered him to be held at a psychiatric facility for up to a year. Legg’s defense attorney said he doubts Legg's competency can be restored. Legg was extradited to Ohio from Arizona in January. He also faces aggravated murder charges for the 1992 slaying of Sharon Kedzierski, 43, outside Youngstown.

Judge dismisses wrongful death lawsuit against Columbus police
A federal judge has dismissed a wrongful death lawsuit against police in Columbus over the 2016 shooting of a man by undercover officers. Columbus police said Henry Green, 23, who was black, ignored commands by two white officers to drop his gun during the incident. Court documents and depositions say Green shot at officers, who then returned fire. Green's family argued Green only fired after police shot at him. A grand jury declined to indict the officers, and an internal Columbus police investigation cleared them. But the shooting led to criticism of police targeting violence-prone areas. Federal Judge George Smith said Thursday it was reasonable to use deadly force under the circumstances faced by the officers. Green's attorney promised an appeal.

Camp Perry to get historic marker
An Ohio rifle range and camp that processed army recruits and housed prisoners of war during World War II is getting an historic marker. The Ohio National Guard and Ohio History Connection are dedicating Camp Perry Joint Training Center's marker Friday. The camp, located along Lake Erie about 50 miles east of Toledo, opened in 1907 as a rifle range. As a reception center during World War II, it processed 1,000 soldiers every three days until the prisoner-of-war camp was established in 1943. Trains later brought Italian and German POWs to the camp from ports in New York. The camp is currently a National Guard training facility.

Mark Arehart joined the award-winning WKSU news team as its arts/culture reporter in 2017. Before coming to Northeast Ohio, Arehart hosted Morning Edition and covered the arts scene for Delaware Public Media. He previously worked for KNKX in Seattle, Kansas Public Radio, and KYUK in Bethel, Alaska.