Julie Carr Smyth

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.

A state legislative panel in Ohio has approved new rules for horizontal oil and gas drilling amid a shale exploration boom in the state. A rule-setting committee cleared the guidelines without discussion Monday. They relate to drilling permits, well construction and set other industry standards for horizontal hydraulic fracturing primarily in the Utica and Marcellus shale formations. A state Department of Natural Resources spokesman says the rules are expected to go into effect Aug. 1.

The Ohio House approved a sweeping package of spending and policy initiatives spearheaded by Gov. John Kasich on Wednesday, after stripping out the governor's signature tax provision on oil and gas.

Justices in Ohio are weighing arguments that will determine the fate of Ohio's newly drawn legislative map. Lawyers sparring before the Ohio Supreme Court Tuesday disagreed over the constitutionality of the new lines and the process by which they were drawn. The attorney for Democrats, who filed suit on behalf of a group of Ohio voters, said it's clear the maps favoring Republicans violated provisions against gerrymandering.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich has thrown his support behind Mitt Romney for president as the presumptive Republican nominee visits the battleground state. Kasich endorsed Romney Thursday, citing Romney's "proven experience as a manager and as a job creator." Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor joined the endorsement. Kasich said Ohio's further economic progress is hampered by the Obama administration. The decision comes days after Kasich allies took control of the Ohio Republican Party, which can raise money and recruit volunteers across the state. After false starts backing former Mississippi Gov.

A dozen earthquakes in northeastern Ohio were almost certainly induced by injection of gas-drilling wastewater into the earth, Ohio oil and gas regulators said Friday as they announced a series of tough new regulations for drillers. Among the new regulations: Well operators must submit more comprehensive geological data when requesting a drill site, and the chemical makeup of all drilling wastewater must be tracked electronically.

A proposal being prepared in the Ohio Senate would convey potentially lucrative land-grant status on a second Ohio university, the historically black Central State University. Such a move would open up the school to federal money for agriculture research and construction. It comes 122 years after a similar attempt was scuttled by former U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes. Senate Finance Chairman Chris Widener, a Springfield Republican, says he's been working for months on the plan. Details are due out Tuesday, with Ohio State University President E. Gordon Gee scheduled to attend.

The state's new collective bargaining law was defeated Tuesday after an expensive union-backed campaign that pitted firefighters, police officers and teachers against the Republican establishment. In a political blow to GOP Gov. John Kasich, voters handily rejected the law, which would have limited the bargaining abilities of 350,000 unionized public workers. Speaking to reporters, the governor congratulates opponents of Senate Bill 5. The Governor said he was not sure what he would do next, but promised to help local governments find "tools" to control their costs.

State data reviewed by The Associated Press show eight in 10 unionized government workers in Ohio would pay more toward their health insurance premiums if voters retain a new collective bargaining law in November. Figures from the State Employment Relations Board show state workers and many county and health-district employees already pay more than the 15 percent share required under the law. Unionized township and fire district employees pay the lowest percentages on average, between 2.2 percent and 5.6 percent. They would see the biggest jump in costs.

Columbus, Ohio (AP) - The Ohio Supreme Court has rejected a liberal policy group's lawsuit challenging certification of a fall ballot measure that seeks to exempt the state from parts of the federal health care overhaul. The court's decision clears the so-called Health Care Freedom Amendment for the Nov. 8 ballot. Progress Ohio had argued that Secretary of State Jon Husted counted petition signatures that should have been rendered invalid on technicalities.

A document obtained by The Associated Press shows Ohio's public colleges and universities have cash reserves nearing $3 billion, a significant chunk of the state's $8 billion budget gap. The sum is at the heart of debate emerging in the Ohio Senate over tuition limits and state aid to higher education. The chamber begins hearings today on a $55 billion, two-year state budget. Senate Finance Chairman Chris Widener questions authorizing tuition increases when universities are sitting on so much cash.

An Ohio man has pleaded guilty to charges that he tried to force his pregnant girlfriend at gunpoint to get an abortion. Dominic Holt-Reid entered his pleas in a Columbus courtroom Thursday to attempted murder, weapons and abduction charges. He was charged under a 1996 fetal homicide law. Police say Holt-Reid pulled a gun Oct. 6 on his girlfriend, Yolanda Burgess, who was three months pregnant, and forced her to drive to an abortion clinic. Burgess did not go through with the procedure but slipped a note to a clinic employee, who called police.

An apparent loophole in legislation creating Ohio Gov. John Kasich's new semi-private job creation board could allow panel members to enjoy job-seeking junkets without having to report the trips to the public.

The bill establishing JobsOhio requires that only "actual expenditures" on travel be reported. That phrasing would seem to exclude plane rides, dinners, and hotel rooms paid for by corporations.

A closely divided Ohio Supreme Court has rejected an effort by a former Republican fundraiser to overturn his conviction in a state investment scandal.

The court on Wednesday declined to hear an appeal by Tom Noe, whose criminal conviction engulfed Ohio Republicans five years ago.

Just three justices made up the majority in the decision. Two justices dissented and two others recused themselves because of having a past relationship with the defendant.

A group fighting November's casino ballot issue is asking a central Ohio prosecutor to determine whether a rival campaign illegally accessed their latest TV spot before it aired.

TruthPAC submitted as evidence a Friday letter from the rival committee's lawyer urging them not to air the ad because it contained false and misleading information. TruthPAC also pointed Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien to public statements by the pro-casino campaign's spokesman acknowledging they got a copy of the ad from Time Warner. Time Warner produced the ad for TruthPAC.