by J.D. Davidson
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced Wednesday the state of the state is strong but challenged the General Assembly to do more for mental health, addiction issues, state parks, children, highway safety, law enforcement and violent crime.
DeWine also asked lawmakers to invest more for economic development, addiction treatment and downtown redevelopment in the state’s 32-county Appalachian region.
DeWine delivered his state of the state address to a joint session of the Ohio House and Senate, with justices of the Ohio Supreme Court in attendance. It marked the first time in three years all three branches of state government were in the same room.
“This is Ohio’s time. People are returning to the heartland. They are coming to Ohio because we have lower taxes, a good business climate and low regulations. There is no better place to raise a family than Ohio. There’s no better place to start or grow a business than Ohio. There’s simply no better place,” DeWine said. “In many ways, our work is just beginning. Ohio will not rise to its highest level until we do more than we already have in several very important areas.”
Republican leadership called the event exciting and a powerful and positive experience. Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima, and House Speaker Bob Cupp, R-Lima, also said the governor’s areas of focus are appropriate and important, specifically with additional federal pandemic money.
Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko, D-Richmond Heights, said the governor failed to focus on the needs of larger cities across the state and education. He was disappointed DeWine did not talk about gun control as the third anniversary of a mass shooting in Dayton nears.
“Because we have easy access to guns in this country, we are going to continue to have shootings like this,” Yuko said. “What we are trying to do is provide sensible gun legislation that keeps the guns out of people’s hands who don’t need to have them.”
Yuko also criticized DeWine for not discussing redistricting in the speech.
DeWine said he would bring lawmakers proposals in the coming weeks but offered few specific plans or costs Wednesday. One program is expected to be a combined scholarship-mentorship program for children aimed at inner-city and rural children. He asked for the assembly’s help and ideas.
“We need to do this not just because it’s the right thing to do for children, but it’s the right thing for all of us. We can’t leave these children behind,” DeWine said.
The governor also encouraged lawmakers to support House Bill 283, which would toughen state laws on distracted driving. Cupp said the bill is getting more support in the House and is close to having enough support for passage.
Huffman, however, expressed concern the bill is another example of adding an additional penalty when current penalties exist. He also said he has personal liberty concerns.
“My friends, lives are at stake. Please pass this bill,” DeWine said.
DeWine also encouraged lawmakers to pass a tougher law that targets convicted violent offenders who carry firearms.
DeWine highlighted what he called investments of his administration and the General Assembly in the people of Ohio, particularly children, senior citizens and those with disabilities.
The governor pointed to investments in a voluntary home visiting program to teach parenting skills to new parents, increased funding for housing options and steps to change the child welfare system.
DeWine also applauded the state’s new law to create more access to telehealth that went into effect Wednesday, along with broadband expansion, neighborhood cleanup, clean water programs and job development.
“Together, we’ve invested in the people of our great state,” DeWine said.
The governor also trumpeted more money for law enforcement, along with a reduction in state spending by $1.2 billion and a tax cut that dropped state taxes to its lowest point in 40 years.
“To think we did all these things during a pandemic,” DeWine said. “You rallied together. You made sacrifices, and you showed the world Ohioans are resilient.”
– – –
An Ohio native, J.D. Davidson is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience in newspapers in Ohio, Georgia, Alabama and Texas. He has served as a reporter, editor, managing editor and publisher. Davidson is a regional editor for The Center Square.
Photo “Mike DeWine” by Mike DeWine.