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Anti-swatting, fentanyl testing: What’s on tap for the lame duck Ohio legislature this week? The Wake Up for Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022

The Plain Dealer  Cleveland logo The Plain Dealer Cleveland 11/29/2022 Cliff Pinckard, cleveland.com

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If the holidays are the most wonderful time of the year, lame duck might be the most productive time of the year for the Ohio legislature.

In the frenzied weeks between Election Day and year’s end, lawmakers have a final chance to approve legislation introduced during the past two years. Our statehouse team is keeping track of all the hustle and bustle.

Maybe we’ll even see some Christmas tree bills.

- Laura

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Lame duck: The Ohio General Assembly is set to return this week for the last few weeks of lawmaking of the 2021-22 legislative session. Jake Zuckerman reports several items are up for committee votes this week, including decriminalizing fentanyl testing strips, limiting early voting and stiffening penalties against swatting.

Non-profits: Like people and businesses, non-profits took a hard hit during the first year of the pandemic. However, out of the more than 2,900 non-profits in Greater Cleveland, 100 still managed to generate more than $15 million in revenue. Zachary Smith lists the big ones, including four that reported over $1 billion in revenue during the first year of the pandemic.

Boutros pay: In 2018, MetroHealth Board Chairman Thomas McDonald pointedly defended raising the pay of then-CEO Dr. Akram Boutros because of the success of the system. Neither mentioned a $400,000 bonus Boutros received weeks earlier because McDonald knew nothing about it, according to an investigative report. Julie Washington has the full recording of a meeting with the cleveland.com/Plain Dealer editorial board.

Boutros lawsuit: Fired MetroHealth System CEO Dr. Akram Boutros has filed a lawsuit against the MetroHealth Board of Trustees for violations of the Ohio Open Meetings Act, reports Julie Washington. Last week, the MetroHealth Board of Trustees fired Boutros, who had led the hospital system for nearly 10 years, saying he had given himself more than $1.9 million in unauthorized bonuses. Boutros said the bonuses were authorized by the board.

Today in Ohio: Dr. Akram Boutros, the fired CEO of MetroHealth System, failed to disclose his full annual compensation – including bonuses – on at least two occasions. We’re talking about Boutros’ salary, raises and bonuses on Today in Ohio, cleveland.com’s daily half-hour news podcast.

Statehouse and Politics

Recreational marijuana: Backers of an Ohio recreational marijuana legalization proposal aim to place the initiated statute before voters in November 2023, reports Laura Hancock. Meantime, the General Assembly may pass by the end of the year a bill that would allow the drug for any condition “that the patient’s symptoms may reasonably be expected to be relieved from medical marijuana.”

Pension fund: Ohio’s two largest state pension funds are suing Warner Bros. Discovery, claiming they lost more than $25 million because company executives withheld adverse information about a merger earlier this year. Jeremy Pelzer reports the class-action lawsuit, filed by the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System, the State Teachers Retirement System and other Warner Bros. Discovery investors, claims the company and top executives David Zaslav and Gunnar Wiedenfels didn’t reveal that WarnerMedia was in financial disarray when it merged with Discovery last spring.

OSU president: Ohio State University President Kristina Johnson will step down from her role at the end of the academic year. The university announced the change in a news release Tuesday evening, albeit without much explanation behind the move, Jake Zuckerman reports.

Northeast Ohio News

Cleveland’s Promise: At Almira Elementary School, many children on individualized education plans eventually reach a point where they no longer need their IEPs. Hannah Drown reports 22% of Cleveland schools students, or about 8,200 students, have an IEP, compared to 16% across Ohio.

Quilting duo: Jan Lipker has had an interest in sewing and quilting since childhood, but it was only after the coronavirus pandemic and some much-needed bonding time with her daughter, Rebecca, did the two realize they weren’t just weaving fabrics together but sharing memories. Alexis Oatman reports their business currently has over 15,000 followers on TikTok, with more than 131,000 likes on the social media platform.

Mount Kilimanjaro: Each year on Oct. 14, Akron personal trainer James Anderson celebrates his sobriety anniversary by partaking in an intense physical challenge. Megan Becka reports that one challenge had eluded Anderson until this year: Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, the world’s tallest mountain not part of a mountain range.

Business and Healthcare

COVID-19 map: The COVID-19 picture in Northeast Ohio worsened last week, with three counties previously designated yellow flipping to red for high COVID-19 spread. Ashtabula, Medina and Lorain counties were designated red on the latest U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention map, reports Julie Washington.

Affordable Care: Continuation of expanded subsidies for middle-income families and the end of the “family glitch” are among the changes coming to the Affordable Care Act next year. Julie Washington reports open enrollment — a time to stop, start, or change ACA Marketplace health insurance — is open now through Jan. 15.

Crime and Courts

Suspect charged: A West Side man has been charged in the murder of Adrianna Taylor, his live-in girlfriend, who was found buried in Pennsylvania on Thursday with a gunshot wound to the head, John Tucker reports. Anthony M. Kennedy, 43, was charged but remains at-large.

Mosque shooting: An argument during evening prayer inside a West Side mosque ended when a man shot a fellow congregant outside the building, resulting in felonious assault charges, reports John Tucker. Nasir Abdelrahman, 53, was arrested Nov. 21 and accused of shooting a fellow mosque-goer in the biceps at the Islamic Center of Northeast Ohio—Masjid Al-Sahabah, in the city’s Jefferson neighborhood.

Tri-C lawsuit: Two Cuyahoga Community College professors on Monday filed a lawsuit accusing the school and its top administrators of retaliating against them for making critical comments about the school to the media. Cory Shaffer reports Diane Gaston and Linda Lanier told a WOIO Channel 19 reporter in a May 2021 segment that the school’s decision to offer fewer in-person courses at its downtown campus than at suburban campuses disproportionately harmed Black and minority students.

Firefighter death charge: A Cuyahoga County grand jury Monday accused a Cleveland man of murder in the death of firefighter Johnny Tetrick. Leander Bissell, 40, is charged with murder, felonious assault, involuntary manslaughter, failure to comply, failure to stop after an accident and aggravated vehicular homicide. He could face 15 years to life in prison if he is convicted of the murder charge.

Wrongful imprisonment: A judge on Monday formally declared that Ru-El Sailor was wrongfully imprisoned for 15 years for a 2003 murder that he didn’t commit. Cory Shaffer reports Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge Sherrie Miday told Sailor, who was released in 2018 after prosecutors agreed that he did not kill Omar Clark, that he should have never gone to trial in the first place.

Warrants: Federal prosecutors in northern Ohio issued more search warrants and subpoenas than any other federal district in the country in the first six months of the year. Adam Ferrise reports they even outpaced Miami prosecutors, who have historically been some of the nation’s busiest.

Highway deaths: Sixteen people died in 15 traffic accidents over the Thanksgiving weekend on Ohio highways, reports Molly Walsh. Two were pedestrians and 10 were not wearing a seat belt. Six fatal crashes involved impaired driving.

Airport breach: A Cleveland man who carjacked a woman and breached a gate at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport was charged Monday with damaging its main radar antenna tower, which prompted the temporary shutdown of the airport on one of the busiest travel days of the year, reports Olivia Mitchell. Isaac Woolley, 26, was taken into custody by Fairview Park police on Wednesday for grand theft of a motor vehicle and attempted felonious assault.

Arts and Entertainment

Holiday pop-ups: Toast the holiday season at one of Cleveland’s best pop-up bars, with ornaments, glitz, and holiday merriment. Paris Wolfe reports the pop-ups are around for a limited time.

‘Christmas Story’ House: “A Christmas Story” House & Museum owner Brian Jones confronted actor Yano Anaya outside the Cleveland tourist attraction recently, accusing him of being a “scam artist” and a “loser.” Paris Wolfe reports Anaya, who played Grover Dill in the original 1983 “A Christmas Story” movie and has a role the new HBO sequel, “A Christmas Story Christmas,” created a bit of a stir in the media recently by claiming that cast members want to buy the house and several surrounding properties in the Tremont neighborhood.

‘A Christmas Carol’: For many families in Northeast Ohio, the holidays don’t begin until you’ve seen Great Lakes Theater’s production of “A Christmas Carol.” Cleveland’s classic company has been staging the beloved Charles Dickens story for 34 years, attracting over 800,000 people since its debut in 1988. Joey Morona reports the show remains that magical experience you remember.

Mickey D’s: ‘Tis the season for limited-time offerings at your favorite fast-food chain. Joey Morona tries the Smoky BLT Quarter Pounder with Cheese at McDonald’s so you don’t have to.

RV Rocking: Jeff and Patti Kinzbach found themselves in California for Thanksgiving, visiting their daughter and staying at Dockweiler State Beach RV Park. The Kinzbachs talk about their Thanksgiving trip and share the story of a couple they met at the park, who also prepared their holiday meal right on the beach.

You’re all caught up

Thanks for joining us this week in our redesigned Wake Up format. We appreciate the feedback you provided about our new look. Don’t forget, you can always find the latest Cleveland news by visiting cleveland.com. If you value the hard work of Cleveland journalists, consider becoming an cleveland.com subscriber.

— Curated by Laura Johnston with contributions by Cliff Pinckard

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