Rate Hikes For Coal Plants Approved, And A Lawsuit Over Disability Rights

State regulators have approved a pair of deals that allow FirstEnergy and AEP to impose multi-billion dollar rate increases on electricity customers to subsidize some older coal-fired and nuclear power plants. Though Gov. John Kasich has been campaigning in Wisconsin ahead of that state’s primary next week, his administration made a big announcement this week, proposing an overhaul of how local officials deal with lead in drinking water. A group that’s announced it wants to go to the ballot with a package of ethics reforms for lawmakers – including a pay cut – is now going to court. The House task force on medical marijuana has finished its public hearings, with a marathon session that lasted hours and included dozens of witnesses.  Meanwhile, a group that wants to put a medical marijuana plan on the ballot is a step closer to that.

There’s been an opening at the Ohio Department of Education since the end of last year.  But so far, it appears no one has applied to become the new state school superintendent. But state school board president Tom Gunlock says he's not worried. But there are those who think the lack of applicants is sending a strong message. Among them is Keary McCarthy, the president and CEO of Innovation Ohio, a progressive leaning think tank that researches state policy on education.

A disability rights group has filed suit against the state, claiming Ohio forces people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to receive services in institutional settings due to a lack of community options. Disability Rights Ohio’s lawsuit was filed in federal court in Columbus on behalf of six people who the group says are, or are at risk of being, "needlessly institutionalized" because of barriers to community-based services. The state says improvements are being made and points to $300 million toward the issue in the current budget. But the complaint alleges those six disabled Ohioans, and more than 27,800 others, are unnecessarily segregated in violation of federal law because of how Ohio funds and administers its service system. Kerstin Sjoberg-Witt, the director of advocacy and assistant executive director of Disability Rights Ohio, talks about the lawsuit.

Last week the Ohio Supreme Court once again ruled in a case on who has the legal authority to sue the state over a particular law or policy. The court ruled that one private citizen who said the state was unconstitutionally keeping him from running his own casino had standing to sue the state over its decision to allow seven horseracing tracks to become racinos with the installation of electronic slot machines. But the court ruled against a conservative group, saying it did not have standing. Rob Walgate of the Ohio Roundtable has been asking the question about standing to sue over and over again – and he’s talks about this decision and what's next.

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