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The Latest: Fracking tax not on legislative leaders’ agenda

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The Latest from a forum for journalists organized by The Associated Press (all times local):

12:05 p.m.

Republican and Democratic leaders of the state legislature say now is the not the time to change Ohio’s tax on oil and gas drillers, saying it could be problematic to the industry.

A severance tax increase has been a priority of Republican Gov. John Kasich (KAY’-sik) for years. He contends the tax is too low, and he’s wanted to use proceeds of a tax hike on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to help cut the state’s income-tax rate.

Speaking Thursday at a forum in Columbus hosted by The Associated Press, Republican House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger said his chamber would not be taking up a severance tax adjustment this year.

Republican Senate President Keith Faber (FAY’-bur) also says revisions to the tax aren’t a good idea until market conditions improve.

10:45 a.m.

Four of Ohio’s Republican statewide officers aren’t yet ready to say what their future plans will be after their terms end in 2018.

Attorney General Mike DeWine, a former U.S. senator, and Secretary of State Jon Husted (HYOO’-sted), a former Ohio House speaker, are weighing whether to run for governor. Though both remained mum on their potential bids when asked Thursday at a forum for journalists organized by The Associated Press.

Auditor Dave Yost joked that he wanted to be DeWine, while emphasizing that he will not be a candidate for governor in 2018.

Treasurer Josh Mandel (man-DEHL’), who has previously run for the U.S. Senate, says he isn’t making a decision until next year.

Each officeholder was first elected in 2010 and re-elected in 2014.

10:30 a.m.

Ohio’s Republican statewide officers are weighing in on the issue of medical marijuana as the General Assembly studies the topic.

Secretary of State Jon Husted (HYOO’-sted) says Ohio lawmakers should work with law enforcement and medical professionals to develop a focused approach to medical marijuana. Attorney General Mike DeWine says it’s up to the legislature, while noting ongoing clinical trials examining the use of medical marijuana. Auditor Dave Yost said he supports tightly controlled medical marijuana. Treasurer Josh Mandel (man-DEHL’) cautioned that the “devil is in the details” of any approach.

The officeholders spoke at forum Thursday organized by The Associated Press.

Ohio voters resoundingly defeated a marijuana proposal last fall that would have legalized marijuana for both medicinal and recreational use. While that effort was unsuccessful, polls indicate support for medical marijuana.

10 a.m.

Ohio’s statewide officers say they believe that fellow Republican Gov. John Kasich (KAY’-sik) should sign a bill aimed at diverting money away from Planned Parenthood.

The state’s auditor, attorney general, treasurer and secretary of state — who are all Republicans — were asked whether Kasich should sign the bill during a forum for journalists Thursday organized by The Associated Press. Each said yes.

Kasich, who is running for president, is expected to sign the bill.

The measure targets money Planned Parenthood receives through Ohio’s health department. The roughly $1.3 million supports initiatives for HIV testing, breast and cervical cancer screenings and other programs. The bill would restrict such funds from going to entities that perform or promote abortions.

The statewide officers also discussed the year ahead at the legislative preview.

3 a.m.

Statewide officials and legislative leaders in Ohio plan to share their thoughts for the year ahead during a forum for journalists organized by The Associated Press.

Republican Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor also is expected to speak about the priorities of Gov. John Kasich’s (KAY’-siks) administration at Thursday’s legislative and elections preview session in downtown Columbus.

Democratic and Republican legislative leaders are scheduled to attend the event, along with the state’s auditor, attorney general, treasurer and secretary of state.

The leaders of the state’s Republican and Democratic parties are slated to talk about the how the presidential election year is shaping up.

Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor also plans to discuss a voter education website for judicial elections and a newly formed task force studying the grand jury process.

In related news, How low will they go? Ohio gas prices continue to drop.

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