Casino Debuts, Drilling Laws Debated, And Tourism Program Develops
The city of Cleveland and the state marked a historic moment this week, as Ohio’s first full-fledged casino opened for business. A Columbus area man who served as treasurer for nearly a dozen charter or community schools in Ohio is charged with embezzling nearly a half a million dollars in federal funds from those schools. The House passed the anti-texting bill, and a proposed new tax structure for financial institutions that would result in the vast majority of banks paying less tax money to the state. An Ohio House committee has approved legislation outlining new regulations on exotic animal ownership. And Senators made changes for four of the state's five pension funds. Senators pushed forward a proposal to require drug testing of Ohioans applying for welfare benefits went nowhere in the state legislature, and then quickly pulled it back, which Gov. John Kasich said was the appropriate move.
As Ohio’s oil and gas industry continues to boom along, lawmakers and Gov. Kasich have been debating what sort of taxes and regulations on this industry need to be added, changed or updated. The Senate took up a measure this week that lays out some new regulations on disclosing and reporting chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Sen. President Tom Niehaus (R-Richmond Heights) stood and spoke about the bill, as did Democrats Tom Sawyer (D-Akron) and Michael Skindell (D-Lakewood). But one of the most creative speeches of the year was rattled off by Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati). Meanwhile, a group of anti-fracking activists have started the Coalition to Protect Ohio's Parks, a group targeting what they say is a need to protect Ohio’s parks, which were opened to oil and gas drilling and logging last year.
As we approach summer vacation, the state is looking back on the tourism trade in Ohio last year. And it was a record year – the state says it logged 180 million visits, with tourists spending 40 billion dollars, or 6.5% more than they did in 2010. And that’s the second year in a row that tourism has increased in Ohio. But while the mission of the state’s department of tourism isn’t changing, the behind the scenes structure of the agency that it’s a part of it. Amir Eylon, the director of the Ohio Office of Tourism, talks about those issues.