Morning News: Deters to announce Tensing decision today; officials fear Ark Park tax dodge; Kasich to skip GOP dinner amid Pence tiff

Ark Encounter last month sold the land under its 'life-size' replica of Noah’s Ark to its nonprofit arm for $10 after Williamstown city officials denied its request for an exemption from a tax meant to fund safety measures around the park.

Ark Encounter, a theme park built around a replica of Noah's Ark in Northern Kenutcky
Ark Encounter, a theme park built around a replica of Noah's Ark in Northern Kenutcky

Good morning all. Here’s a quick news update for you.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters will announce at 1 p.m. whether he’ll seek a third trial for former University of Cincinnati Police officer Ray Tensing for the July 2015 shooting death of unarmed motorist Sam DuBose. Two juries have deadlocked on murder and manslaughter charges for Tensing, who shot DuBose during a traffic stop in Mount Auburn. DuBose’s family, local faith leaders, community groups and activists have called for a retrial. Stay tuned here or follow me on Twitter for updates.

• Local grocery giant Kroger is doing legal battle with German grocer Lidl, which is moving rapidly into the U.S. market. Kroger has filed suit against its new competitor because it says Lidl’s “Preferred Selection” house brand is too close to Kroger’s “Private Selection” brand. In its suit, Kroger says that will confuse shoppers and devalue its house brand, which it has been using for 20 years. Lidl wants a jury to weigh in on that. The stakes are high for both companies as Lidl looks to expand here and as Kroger feels the squeeze from various other competitors like Amazon. Lidl recently opened 20 new stores in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina and hopes to have 100 across the U.S. by next summer.

• Those seeking taxpayer dollars for stadiums and arenas should take a number, Hamilton County Commissioners said yesterday. We told you about U.S. Bank Arena owners’ bid for a $300 million sales tax extension yesterday, and, later in the day, Commissioners responded to that request as well as a possible proposal from FC Cincinnati asking for taxpayer funds for a soccer stadium — by listing off all the other things the county needs. That list has about a $1 billion price tag and includes a revamped county crime lab, deferred maintenance on the Hamilton County Courthouse and Justice Center, an expansion of the Duke Energy Convention Center and other big projects. Commissioners also brought up, yet again, the fact that the county is still paying for Paul Brown Stadium and Great American Ball Park, a 20-year-old deal they say was a mistake they’re not eager to repeat.

• Let’s head on down to Northern Kentucky for a moment, where officials in Williamstown are worried that a recent property shuffle is a way for religious theme park Ark Encounter to avoid paying taxes. Last month, Ark Encounter LLC sold the land under its “life-size” replica of the Biblical Noah’s Ark to its nonprofit arm Crosswater Canyon for $10. That move came after Ark Encounter requested an exemption from a tax meant to fund emergency crews and safety measures provided by the city in the area around the park. The city passed that tax, amounting to 50 cents on every $40 ticket to the park, back in April. The city rejected Ark Encounter’s request for exemption on the grounds that the group is a for-profit business, not a religious organization as it claimed in its request. Williamstown City Council will meet with Ark Encounter officials tonight to attempt to iron out differences, but at least some city leaders, including Mayor Rick Skinner, believe the matter might need to be settled with a lawsuit.

• Back up to Ohio we go, where Gov. John Kasich has endorsed Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor in the race to replace him next year. Kasich will be term limited out of office starting in January 2019, and four Republicans are vying for the chance to slip into his seat. Taylor is Kasich’s pick — something that presents some problems for her in a political atmosphere that hasn’t been particularly favorable to establishment candidates. Kasich has been pretty unpopular within his party, thanks to his acceptance of a Medicaid expansion in Ohio and his feud with the Trump wing of his party. Will his seal of approval help or hurt Taylor as she tries to best Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, Ohio Secetary of State Jon Husted and U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci? DeWine and Husted have their own political pedigrees, while Renacci has painted himself as an outsider in the mold of President Donald Trump, even hiring Trump’s Ohio primary campaign manager Rob Scott to run his campaign.

• Speaking of Kasich’s rift with the Trump administration: The governor won’t attend this year’s Ohio Republican Party dinner this Saturday, where Vice President Mike Pence is the featured speaker. Kasich cited a previous family commitment for his no-show at his party’s big event, though an ongoing tiff with Trump and Pence probably doesn’t help. Yesterday, we told you about Pence’s factually inaccurate statements tying a Medicaid waitlist in Ohio to Kasich’s acceptance of Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. It turns out those waitlists preexist the expansion by a number of years and don’t have anything to do with the health care law. Pence later said he wasn’t trying to suggest that the two were connected.

• Finally, another effort to repeal and replace Obamacare is dead in the U.S. Senate after two conservative Senators signaled they won’t support replacement legislation. Where does that leave the Republican Party, which has run at the state and national levels for years on opposition to Obama’s health care law? This is an interesting piece about the party’s options.