Julie Carr Smyth

The damaging superstorm has been jeopardizing labor unions' get-out-the-vote efforts in blue-collar areas of northeastern Ohio but contributing to record early-voting turnout in other parts of the battleground state. Democratic state Rep. Bob Hagan of Youngstown said Teamsters president James Hoffa advised pressing forward despite the weather. Hagan said unions have out-of-state helpers that are on a demanding timeline heading into Election Day.

Ohio's "Big 8" urban school districts say administration of a state computer system at the center of a statewide attendance-tampering investigation is riddled with deficiencies. A new evaluation of the Educational Management Information System, or EMIS, provided to The Associated Press highlights errors, delays, inconsistencies and a lack of training. The districts are asking to work with the Ohio Department of Education to address problems they've experienced. The call comes from districts in Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Toledo, Dayton, Akron, Canton and Youngstown.

Big changes are ahead for nearly 1.8 million workers, retirees and family members covered by Ohio's five public pension funds. State lawmakers cleared a package of bills this week aimed at shoring up the systems' finances and keeping them solvent. The result is adjustments to benefits, premiums and eligibility requirements, including in some cases the age and service levels at which participants will be eligible to retire.

Ohio voters will see an expanded description of a proposed redistricting amendment on fall ballots, but the issue's backers say the language is still cumbersome. The Ohio Ballot Board agreed in a party-line vote Thursday to new ballot language for Issue 2. The vote came a day after the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that the wording was incomplete and inaccurate. Secretary of State Jon Husted's office proposed adding paragraphs of exact phrasing from the amendment. Democrats and the group behind the proposal said a more concise, clear summary was possible.

The Ohio school board opted Monday to conduct a thorough national search for a new state superintendent after the former top education official resigned amid ethical questions about his work for an educational testing contractor. The 19-member Ohio Board of Education voted unanimously to have its executive committee interview search firms and bring a recommendation to the board. They set a committee meeting for Thursday. "I think we cast a wide net," Board President Debe Terhar said. The vote followed a two-hour executive session on the replacement of former Superintendent Stan Heffner.

A former Ohio charter school treasurer has pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $470,000 in federal education funds from four schools over six years. Carl W. Shye Jr., of New Albany in suburban Columbus, entered the plea Thursday in federal court. As part of a plea deal, Shye agreed to pay nearly $672, 000 in civil findings, forfeit his certified public accountants' license, and cooperate with the government's ongoing investigation. He had served as treasurer for more than a dozen charter schools in Columbus, Youngstown and Dayton.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich has signed a sweeping midterm budget bill after removing $30 million that lawmakers had set aside for bonuses to high-quality nursing homes and striking a number of other provisions. The bill was among three Kasich signed Monday. The policy and spending measure trims state spending by nearly $13.6 million. The legislation advances a number of Kasich's government-trimming strategies. It changes some laws to allow local government to share certain services, and eliminates or alters the roles of various government boards and commissions.

The well-funded campaign behind the 2011 repeal of Ohio's collective bargaining law is throwing its might behind a constitutional amendment that would take away elected officials' power to draw legislative and congressional districts. The labor-backed We Are Ohio coalition led the successful repeal of union limits for public workers. It said Monday it will join the nonpartisan Ohio Voters First organization. Its decision will mean additional money and volunteers helping to qualify the amendment for this fall's ballot.

A Senate committee has pulled a pilot program that would tie welfare benefits to clean drug tests from a swiftly moving budget bill. The move came Wednesday after Gov. John Kasich's  administration intervened. The proposal was broadly criticized as discriminatory to the poor, ineffective in other states, and potentially unconstitutional. A Senate spokeswoman said the governor's office pledged to work with the Senate on the issue as a stand-alone bill. Angela Meleca said the process would allow senators and the governor to work out implementation issues.

The Republican-controlled Ohio Senate is nearing approval of a pilot program that would tie welfare benefits to clean drug tests. The Senate Finance Committee set a Tuesday vote on a provision allowing three Ohio counties to volunteer to administer drug tests to prospective welfare recipients. Those who failed would get treatment and lose benefits for six months or more. Its author says the provision's wording avoids legal roadblocks encountered in other states. It's among dozens of Senate changes to a midterm budget bill to be voted on Wednesday.