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Published: Thursday, 5/13/2004

House opts to name bridge Veterans' Glass City Skyway

BY JAMES DREW
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS - After two speeches that blended pride and sorrow about the construction of Toledo's new bridge over the Maumee River, the Ohio House of Representatives yesterday approved a bill to name the new I-280 bridge the Veterans' Glass City Skyway.

The bridge will have a 420-foot-high center pylon with glass panels located on the top 185 feet that will contain 350 diodes to light up the spire, said the bill's sponsor, state Rep. Lynn Olman (R., Maumee).

"There is no doubt in my mind that Veterans' Glass City Skyway will be to Toledo what the Golden Gate Bridge has been to San Francisco. It will become as was originally envisioned, a true signature bridge," Mr. Olman said.

The House voted 81-0 to approve the bill, which moves to a Senate committee.

Mr. Olman introduced the bill to name the bridge in November, 2003. Two years earlier, the naming subcommittee of the Maumee River Task Force recommended that the bridge be named Veterans Memorial Bridge or Glass City Skyway.

Mr. Olman said state legislators from the Toledo area chose to take parts of the five most popular names - as determined by 1,100 votes cast.

He and state Rep. Peter Ujvagi (D., Toledo) noted that four ironworkers died when a 1.8-million-pound truss crane collapsed on Feb. 16, also injuring four others. Mr. Ujvagi said a memorial in a park next to the new I-280 span will honor the bridge construction workers.

"Keep in mind in your heart and your prayers the men and women who are building this bridge," Mr. Ujvagi told his colleagues.

Also yesterday, the House put the final touches on the two-year spending budget for funds that Ohio receives from its share of the national tobacco lawsuit settlement.

The measure, which Gov. Bob Taft is expected to sign into law, includes an amendment to eliminate a $108 million shortfall in funding for public schools.

Last week, state budget officials told legislators that the shortfall in the K-12 budget that ends June 30 was caused by an unexpected spike in enrollment, an increase in special-education students, and funding obligations that were carried over into this budget year.

The shortfall will be closed by moving around $28 million in the state Department of Education budget and tapping $80 million from the state's year-end balance, state Rep. Charles Calvert (R., Medina) said.

The Senate, which approved the bill by a 32-1 vote, tabled an amendment from state Sen. Eric Fingerhut (D., Cleveland) that would have halted any additional state funding to charter schools in which students learn at home by computer - referred to as "e-schools."

The House also voted 72-20 to approve a bill enabling local governments to set up "e-911" systems.

Currently, only land lines provide a call-back number and location when people dial 911, said the bill's sponsor, state Rep. Larry Flowers (R., Canal Winchester).

The bill, which moves to a Senate committee, will set a charge of 32 cents per month per wireless customer. Local governments will be able to use the funds for equipment, staff training, and up to 10 percent on employee salaries, Mr. Flowers said.

By a 60-37 vote, the House approved a bill that backers said will provide much-needed funding to county health boards to inspect and oversee construction and demolition debris landfills.

State Rep. Shawn Webster (R., Millville) said by replacing an annual licensing fee with a charge of 60 cents per ton, health boards would receive an additional $2 million for inspection costs.

But state Rep. Dan Stewart (D., Columbus) said the bill would help accelerate the amount of construction and demolition debris from the East Coast into Ohio - which was 2.8 million tons last year. He said the disposal fee needed to be higher.

House Republicans, who control the chamber 62-37, accepted a Democratic amendment to ban arsenic-treated lumber at Ohio's 71 construction and demolition debris landfills.

The House voted 83-2 to approve a bill to increase the penalties for those convicted of identity theft.

The measure also would provide victims with a state document they can use to show law enforcement, creditors, and others that their personal records have been used in identity-theft crimes.

Contact James Drew at:

jdrew@theblade.com

or 614-221-0496.



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