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.

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.

The bill that would ban abortion at the first detectable fetal heartbeat has been introduced three times in four years, and it appears to have its best shot at passing this time around.

User: eJourna / flickr

Ohio lawmakers are currently considering a measure that would fast track fracking on public lands. But there’s debate over whether it would allow drilling activity in state parks.

The bill would allow drillers who are working on private property that’s separated by state lands to drill through those lands. Republican Rep. Al Landis of Dover says the drilling would be thousands of feet underground, because a commission would have to allow drilling on the surface in state parks. 

The Ohio Supreme Court’s decision that local communities can’t use zoning ordinances to keep out oil and gas drillers has many speculating on what it might mean for the future.

The oil and gas industry says the decision shows local bans are largely pointless, because they conflict with the state’s permitting process. But Dick McGinn, who helped pass a ban in Athens, says bans are based on residents’ civil rights. 

“If we have to go to court on this, the industry and the state will have to argue that we have no rights,” he said.

Ohio's high court recent ruling limits local power over gas drilling.
WCPN

The Ohio Supreme Court has ruled that cities can’t enforce local laws banning fracking if the state has issued a permit to a driller. 

State and federal lawmakers are considering requiring childproof containers for liquid nicotine used in e-cigarettes.
American Herald

The numbers of medical crises involving liquid nicotine refills used in e-cigarettes are rising dramatically and there are efforts underway to crack down on their packaging.

Public health experts say liquid nicotine poisoning calls have increased 40 times in the last three years, and that includes the first known death, of a toddler in New York in December. State Sen. Shannon Jones of Springboro in southwest Ohio says these refills should have child-proof packaging. 

The state’s tax commissioner took some heat from lawmakers looking over the budget. Lawmakers say they’re hearing complaints from some tax refund filers who are being required to take an identity quiz. 

During questioning before the House Finance Committee, tax commissioner Joe Testa says the state spent $6 million to stop thousands of fake income tax refund requests filed in many states by people who are stealing massive amounts of social security numbers. 

The panel of state lawmakers looking over the budget had questions during a House Finance Committee meeting Wednesday about Medicaid, including about a proposal to require almost 100,000 Ohioans making above the federal poverty level to pay premiums. 

State Medicaid Director John McCarthy said the premiums will be $20 a month, which he said will teach recipients about monthly payments when they make enough money to buy insurance on the federal marketplace. 

Gov. John Kasich recently announced his $72.3 billion dollar, two-year budget. It includes a series of tax cuts and increases as well as a change in the education funding formula.
ohio.gov

Activists, lobbyists and other budget watchers are still tearing into Gov. John Kasich’s third two-year spending plan, trying to figure out who will be helped by it, and who it will hurt. Some Ohio Statehouse veterans have very different opinions on the budget’s overall impact.

The $5.7 billion in tax cuts and benefits in the spending plan are paid for with $5.2 billion in tax increases on oil and gas drillers, on cigarettes, on businesses through the commercial activity tax, and through a half-percent increase in the state sales tax.

Office of Governor John Kasich

Today’s the day Gov. John Kasich unveils his third budget, which is expected to include $500 million in tax cuts plus benefits to lower-income Ohioans. But he has yet to talk about how he’ll pay for those.

Kasich wants to cut taxes on many small businesses and increase some tax benefits for lower-income Ohioans. And he’ll likely pay for those plans with a proposal to hike the tax on oil and natural gas drillers. But Kasich also suggested in December that he’ll take another swing at an increase in the tobacco tax.

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