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.

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.

James Oram won first place in his division at Ohio's annual oratory contest celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr.
ohio.gov

For 15 years, kids around the state have honored Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by competing in an annual oratory contest with a theme inspired by the civil rights leader. 
 

Last week, an audience came together in a downtown Columbus church to hear the winners perform their entries. The theme was building a loving, nonviolent community. The winner of the youngest division is first grader James Oram of Columbus, whose essay explained why King is his hero.

Ohio won’t be able to execute inmates until at least the spring, because the state is changing its execution drug combination again. The state is running out of the drugs it uses to put inmates to death.

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction’s 40 vials of midazolam will expire April 1 and its 60 vials of hydromorphone will expire June 1. Corrections Director Gary Mohr says the state will no longer use that controversial two-drug mixture. It was used in last January’s lethal injection of Dennis McGuire, who appeared to gasp and choke during his 20-minute execution.

State lawmakers are requiring a police officer be posted at each camera, which essentially bans the practice.
Creative Commons

Just as state lawmakers pass a bill that will likely end most traffic camera programs in Ohio, the state’s highest court has ruled cities have the authority to use those red light and speed cameras.

The lawyer for ticketed-driver Bradley Walker argued before the Ohio Supreme Court in June that Toledo’s administrative hearing process to appeal a traffic citation was unconstitutional because state lawmakers haven’t specifically allowed it. He says appeals should have to go through municipal court. Toledo Law Director Adam Loukx disagreed. 

Organizations are grumbling about a requirement from the Ohio Department of Education to include a faith-based group for a mentorship program.
ohio.gov

The state’s leading civil rights organization is planning a public records request to find out more about a state-supported mentoring program for schools. 

Ohio Superintendent of Public Instruction Richard Ross, who is an appointee of Gov. John Kasich, says schools that want to join the Community Connections program can partner with a business or a non-profit. But must also have a faith-based organization on board.

Ohio Treasurer of State Website

A new website set up by the Ohio treasurer seeks to show the state is spending its money. Treasurer Josh Mandel’s office launched Ohiocheckbook.com. He says it's a push for transparency.

“They’ll be able to search by category, so if they want to see what certain agencies are spending on office supplies or travel, they can do that," Mandel said. "It also provides a tool that can provide agency to agency and compare administration to administration back through time.”

The fund that pays benefits to unemployed workers in Ohio is more than a billion dollars in debt to the federal government, but there may be a fix in the works.

Most states borrowed from the feds to pay jobless benefits during the recession. Zach Schiller at the think tank Policy Matters Ohio has been studying this for years, and recently put out another warning about it.

“While we’ve reduced it somewhat, the natural financing of the unemployment system is not going to be enough to repay that debt, much less build a new reserve for the next recession.”

A child receives immunization for polio
United States Agency for International Development

A pair of bills to require nearly all kids in day care centers to be fully immunized are expected to move quickly in the lame duck session of the state legislature. 

The measures require parents to vaccinate their preschool age kids if they want to enroll them in one of the 4,100 licensed day care centers in Ohio. Republican Shannon Jones of Springboro sponsored the Senate version of the bill, and admits supporters have battled some misinformation about vaccines.

David Pepper, who just lost a bid to become Ohio's Attorney General, is considered a front runner for the chairmanship of the state Democratic Party.
Andy Chow / Statehouse News Bureau

The list of people who want to head the Ohio Democratic Party is getting longer as several well-known Democrats have now expressed an interest in leading the party after chairman Chris Redfern’s resignation takes effect last month.

Term-limited Rep. Bob Hagan of Youngstown, who won a seat on the state school board, says he’s interested, and that he won’t run for US Senate in 2016.

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