The bill that backs up the budget plan to open state forests, parks and wildlife areas to oil and gas drilling is halfway to the governor's desk, now that it's passed the Republican-led House. One of the Senate's top leaders is leaving - Senate Majority Leader Jimmy Stewart of Albany in southeast Ohio says he's taking what he describes as a "fantastic opportunity in the private sector", but Democrats say he's the first victim of Senate Bill 5. The casino tax battle moved to New York City this week, with the company set up by Cleveland Cavs owner Dan Gilbert to develop casinos in Cleveland and Cincinnatimeeting with the gaming consultants hired by Gov. John Kasich. Meanwhile, developers of the Columbus casino have settled a legal dispute with the city that threatened to delay the project.
In all the cuts in the proposed state budget, the group that got smacked the hardest overall may be the state's local governments. The local government fund lost 25% of its funding in the first year, and took a 50% hit in the second. The governor's budget also accelerates the phase out of certain payments to local governments that made up for previous tax changes. And the budget passed by the House eliminates the estate tax - 80% of that tax goes to local communities. Talking about the criticism about local government, the cuts and the future are the leaders of three key groups representing local government: Sue Cave, executive director of the Ohio Municipal League, Larry Long, executive director of the County Commissioners Association of Ohio and Matt DeTemple, executive director of the Ohio Township Association.