Karen Kasler (Ohio Public Radio)

Karen Kasler is a lifelong Ohioan with a passion for broadcast reporting. She left her hometown of Lancaster for Otterbein College. As News Director at WCBE in Columbus in the 90s, she covered a variety of events, including the local impact of the Gulf War, the financial problems of the Columbus Public Schools and the trouble-ridden Ameriflora exhibition in 1992.

Karen was selected as a Fellow in the Kiplinger Master's Program for Mid-Career Journalists at The Ohio State University in 1994. After a brief stint at WBNS-TV in Columbus, she moved to Cleveland and became the afternoon drive anchor and assignment editor for WTAM-AM. Karen followed the demolition and rebuilding of Cleveland Browns Stadium, produced award-winning series on identity theft and the Y2K panic, covered the Republican National Convention in 2000 and the blackout of 2003, and reported annually from the Cleveland National Air Show each year, often going upside down in an aerobatic plane to do it. In 1999, she was a media witness to the execution of Wilford Berry, at the time the first man put to death since Ohio re-instated capital punishment. Karen frequently reported for ABC Radio News, and also co-produced an award-winning nationally-distributed documentary on the one-year anniversary of September 11, 2001, which featured her interview with Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge from the West Wing of the White House.

Since returning to Columbus, she's covered major elections and the controversies surrounding them, the "Coingate" scandal and the resignation of former Attorney General Marc Dann. She's also produced features on "green" business, STEM education, campaign ads, the elimination of the state's anti-smoking agency and a demolition derby involving farm equipment.

Each year she anchors the Bureau's live coverage of the governor's State of the State. She was a panelist for the gubernatorial and the US Senate debates in 2006 and the Attorney General's race in 2008, and has also been interviewed by NPR, by the BBC and by Brian Williams for NBC's "Nightly News".

Karen has been honored by the Association of Capitol Editors and Reporters, the Cleveland Press Club/Society of Professional Journalists, the Ohio Educational Telecommunications Commission, and holds a National Headliner Award. She's won several awards from the Ohio AP, and is a four-time winner of the AP's Best Broadcast Writing award. She was nominated for an Emmy in 2006 for hosting "The State of Ohio". She's currently the president-elect of the Ohio Associated Press Broadcasters.

Karen joined the Bureau in March 2004. She’s reported for NPR, Marketplace and the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, and is a frequent guest on ONN’s “Capitol Square” , WVIZ’s “Ideas” and WOSU-TV’s “Columbus on the Record”.

Karen is also an adjunct professor at Capital University in Columbus. Karen, her husband and their son Jack live on Columbus' northeast side.

A Cleveland police vehicle. An officer is accused in the shooting death of two unarmed people in 2012.
Raymond Wambsgans / Flickr/Creative Commons

African American state lawmakers say they want changes in criminal justice laws, and they say they’re hoping those changes can begin before a verdict comes out in a controversial case from Cleveland.

Police officer Michael Brelo is accused of firing the final shots, killing two unarmed people after a 2012 police chase involving dozens of officers and hundreds of shots.

Democratic Rep. Alicia Reece of Cincinnati leads the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, which she says is pleading for calm when that decision comes out.

State Auditor Dave Yost announced results of a charter school attendance audit Thursday.
ohio.gov

The proposed constitutional amendment that would legalize and regulate marijuana in Ohio has one state official calling for an overhaul of the process.

Auditor David Yost says he thinks it’s too easy for private economic interests to get constitutional amendments onto the state ballot. 

“The whole initiative process was designed to protect the many against the powerful few,” said Yost. “What’s happening now is that the powerful few are using that very safeguard to get their own way and make themselves rich at the expense of the many.” 

WKSU

A Democratic state senator says recent police-involved shootings has led her to ask for a change in a key element of the justice system. 

The closed grand jury process, which hears testimony in secret to determine if charges will be filed by prosecutors, has been a problem in high profile cases, says State Sen. Sandra Williams of Cleveland. 

A NAMI event featured training scenarios based on real-life situations in which law enforcement interacts with people in mental health crises. police prisons
Karen Kasler / Ohio Public Radio

Ohio’s prison system has become the state’s largest mental health provider, and the state is hoping to work with advocates in the mental health community to figure out how to deal with that.

Director of Rehabilitation and Corrections Gary Mohr started in the prison system in 1976. He says in those almost 40 years, the growth in the number of inmates coming into the system with mental health issues has shocked him.

Lawmakers on the House Education Committee have unanimously backed a bill that would cut in half the hours students and teachers need to spend on standardized testing.

Republican State Rep. Andrew Brenner of Powell says the bipartisan support for the bill shows parents, educators and kids have reached a tipping point when it comes to the time spent on tests.

“That has been a major issue - the amount of hours that have been taken away,” Brenner said. “I think the bill will help and I think we’ll get the support we need on the House floor as well.”

The law enforcement training panel created by Attorney General Mike DeWine met for a final time Monday before it will issue a report later this month. 

The advisory group is expected to make recommendations on training standards for law enforcement, especially in community relations and in situations involving the use of force. Chair Reggie Wilkinson, who once headed the state’s prison system, says to make sure its report doesn’t just sit around – as task force reports often do – the group wants to consider recommendations that can be implemented without lawmaker approval.

Flickr Creative Commons User Thoth188

After two months, Republicans who lead the Ohio House will unveil their version of Gov. John Kasich’s two year budget this week. 

The House version of the $72 billion budget is likely to include a tax cut, but it may not be the 23 percent across the board cut that Kasich had proposed. House leaders have not embraced the governor’s ideas to pay for tax cuts with increases in other taxes, such as those on cigarettes and oil and gas drillers, and the hike in the state sales tax and the commercial activity tax or CAT.

A sign for discounted E85 ethanol fuel. A requirement for alternative fuels in state vehicles has been removed from the Ohio Department of Transportation budget. gas cars
Sweeter Alternative / Flickr/Creative Commons

The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) budget signed last week includes a change for the state’s vehicle fleet: the budget cuts out a requirement on alternative fuels that had been in place for most of a decade.

The ODOT budget eliminates the 2006 requirement to use a certain amount of ethanol and biodiesel in state vehicles. It’s about time, says Greg Lawson with the conservative think tank the Buckeye Institute.

Ranny D.

The Ohio Supreme Court has ruled that a recording of an outgoing call by a 911 dispatcher is a public record.

The court sided 6-1 with the Cincinnati Enquirer, which had requested a recording of a 2013 call made by a 911 operator responding to a call about a man who wasn’t breathing. The operator had called back after the initial 911 caller suddenly hung up, and a man answered and confessed to stabbing his stepfather.

Vapor Shop employee John Talmage talks to customers. The price of the liquid nicotine used for e-cigarettes could triple under Gov. Kasich's budget proposal.
Karen Kasler / Ohio Public Radio

Gov. John Kasich’s budget calls for a 23 percent income tax cut. He’s proposing to pay for it with a package of tax increases, including hiking the tax on tobacco products. But at least one segment of that industry says hundreds of businesses could be snuffed out by the plan.

The budget includes $1 per pack increase in the tax on cigarettes, and would raise taxes on other tobacco products as well, says budget director Tim Keen. 

“The proposal is generally to equalize the tax treatment of cigarette, tobacco and related products,” he said.

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