Declaring 'this is our moment,' DeWine lays out State of the State to mixed reaction
For only the second time in office, DeWine delivered a State of the State address, after the COVID-19 pandemic forced him to cancel the event for the last two years.
Members of the Ohio House, Ohio Senate, Ohio Supreme Court, and state offices filled the House chamber as DeWine announced several proposals and declared his support for several current bills.
DeWine started the speech with a look beyond Ohio, to thunderous applause shouting, "Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the Heroes!"
He then honored the family of former House Speaker Bill Batchelder, a Republican from Medina, who died last month.
After proclaiming the state of our state is "strong," DeWine spent a chunk of his nearly-hour-long speech talking about mental health, saying in spite of money put toward programs in schools and in Medicaid, mental health issues are on the rise.
He said he’ll come to lawmakers for what he called a major, long-term commitment to expand the behavioral health workforce, increase research and innovation, and fund better crisis response. That can lead to more treatment services and increased prevention efforts.
"My friends, the system isn’t broken, it was just never fully built, and it does not exist everywhere in Ohio, yet. And so, we must build it," said DeWine.
With the Intel project announced a few weeks ago, DeWine was expected to talk about workforce development. He said he wants more high tech equipment for career centers, community colleges, and four-year universities.
He also wants to create a combined college scholarship and mentorship program, "So that no child in this state lacks guidance and direction, and so they can have the financial support to continue their education to become career-ready, whether by earning a credential, a certificate, or a degree."
DeWine said he supports Republican-sponsored bills on distracted driving and on standardizing on-going training for law enforcement.
While standing in front of a Republican-dominated legislature that’s been expanding gun rights, DeWine got applause for pushing a bill cracking down on convicted violent offenders who use guns to commit crimes.
"It’s a small group, but we must target them, and we must remove them from society," said DeWine.
He also said he’ll be asking lawmakers to reinvest in Ohio’s state parks, though it’s unclear whether he meant in the upcoming capital budget or a separate proposal.
DeWine's State of the State address generated a lot of buzz as lawmakers walked out of the House chambers.
There was a mixed reaction from Democratic lawmakers who appreciated some of the comments DeWine made, but said he stopped short of addressing serious issues in Ohio.
Sen. Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) said, while DeWine mentioned bringing people to Ohio with lower taxes and economic development, he did not talk about social issues that could attract younger people.
For Antonio, that includes the Ohio Fairness Act that makes sexual orientation and gender identity protected classes.
"Especially with all of this growth and all this economic development. If we're going to welcome the best and the brightest, we need to pass that bill," said Antonio.
Rep. Jay Edwards (R-Nelsonville) said he appreciates DeWine's comments on investing in Appalachia, but he urges DeWine and the legislature to follow through on that goal.
"We've got to work real hard on making sure the investments that he's talking about in Appalachia, that it's going to the right cause and making sure we can get 50 of our colleagues on board with the aspirations that the governor put forth," Edwards said.
There are several reasons why focusing on mental health issues and community programs is a good investment, according to Rep. Laura Lanese (R-Grove City) who said, "So many of these issues are workforce issues -- dealing with incarcerated folks and how do we get them trained when they come out. Trying to give children stable homes so they can become productive members of our society. So I think there is a ton of overlap."
Democratic lawmakers say the number one issue missing from DeWine's State of the State address was the dilemma with redistricting and Ohio's May 3 primary, with Rep. Terrence Upchurch (D-Cleveland) saying it's a challenge.
"I was shocked that wasn't mentioned. I mean, this process has made it hard for folks like myself that don't know where they're going to be running and when to start campaigning and where they're going to be campaigning," Upchurch said.
After the speech, DeWine called on everyone in attendance to join him and First Lady Fran DeWine outside to plant a Dogwood tree on the south lawn of the Ohio Statehouse.
Lawmakers say they're preparing for the next step which is to see DeWine's goals for the future take the form of legislative proposals.
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