Officials talk state issues at AP forum

By Sheryl Roadcap - Sidney Daily News - and Andrew Welsh-Huggin - Associated Press

Ohio Governor John Kasich speaks to the press at the 2018 Legislative & Political Preview Session on Wednesday in Columbus.

Ohio Governor John Kasich speaks to the press at the 2018 Legislative & Political Preview Session on Wednesday in Columbus.

Sheryl Roadcap | Sidney Daily News

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Gov. John Kasich said Wednesday he wants to provide state money for community centers in rural areas where people are struggling with issues such as Ohio’s opioid crisis.

The Republican governor said he’ll ask for the money in his upcoming capital budget. He wants to aim it at places such as Boys and Girls clubs or YMCAs that serve children who sometimes have no place else to go.

Kasich said he was moved by a recent visit to rural Pike County and the stories of struggling teens he heard there.

“I want it to be a model for rural poverty all across America. Because there are so many of these areas that are having this problem,” Kasich said, speaking to editors and reporters attending an annual legislative preview sponsored by the Associated Press.

“Do all the complaining you want, but thank God we have the press,” Kasich said. “To me, it’s one of those essential things that we have in our country that is so important for the fabric of who we are as Americans.”

Speaking about Ohio’s necessary upgrades and Trump’s infrastructure plan, Kasich said he doesn’t know how much money is actually involved, but we (Ohio) “don’t whine” for money.

The state has and will continue to be creative in finding an additional half billion dollars — in addition to the previous $14 billion obtained without a tax increase — for infrastructure projects.

“Get ready for more orange barrels and highway improvements and infrastructure, including bridges,” Kasich said. “What local governments have to do is start getting creative. Don’t play politics; think differently. Because frankly, if we are waiting for the president or Congress to fix all these problems, forget about it. Our problems get fixed when we decide to be active and do things from the bottom up.”

In response to a question about the need for additional reform for charter schools after the recent closing of charter school Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, the governor noted the toughest rules the state had ever seen were placed on charter schools.

He elaborated by saying, he, as governor, would like to run the Department of Education “from a policy side.” Otherwise, Kasich said he doesn’t know what else should be done and needs to think about it.

Kasich answered a question about another presidential run by saying he doesn’t know what he’ll do at the end of his term. He also praised the press and said he’s concerned about people who feel there is no one to trust anymore.

Also at Wednesday’s forum, the Republican Speaker of the Ohio House said he was uncomfortable with offensive remarks made by fellow GOP lawmakers during a top House staffer’s going-away party that made light of recent sexual misconduct scandals and disparaged female lawmakers.

Rep. Clifford Rosenberger said he’s taking responsibility for what happened last week and has apologized on behalf of House Republicans. Rosenberger said he isn’t looking at further discipline against Rep. Bill Seitz, who has apologized for his remarks.

Rosenberger said he’s putting together a bipartisan committee to address concerns about such behavior.

State Senate President Larry Obhof said there might be more consequences for Sen. Matt Huffman, who also made crude remarks involving women at that event. Huffman also has apologized.

In addition, the Republican president of the Ohio Senate said he’s cautiously optimistic lawmakers can work out a redistricting plan soon, with shared feelings that oddly shaped districts that unnecessarily divide communities should be avoided when possible.

“While there are some disagreements about how you get there, I think that everybody is really trying to look at the same kinds of things overall,” Obhof said.

Obhof criticized a proposed ballot initiative creating a redistricting plan, saying it would institutionalize gerrymandering derived from preconceived notions based on voting patterns.

Rep. Fred Strahorn, Democratic leader in the House, said stringing communities of interest together will provide a common theme.

“If you link real communities of interest together and make the largest-populated county the anchor for a district, functionally you’ll get something that looks more like redistricting fairness,” Strahorn said.

A pending legislative proposal would create a 10-year map that requires a three-fifths vote in each chamber and a one-third minority vote to be enacted.

Meanwhile, Fair Congressional Districts for Ohio, a coalition that includes the League of Women Voters, Ohio NAACP and Common Cause, is gathering signatures to place a constitutional redistricting amendment on the November ballot.

Also at Wednesday’s forum, GOP state Auditor David Yost said he’s pushing legislation that would allow a one-time audit of JobsOhio, the state’s private job-creation agency.

Ohio’s elections chief, Secretary of State Jon Husted, also a Republican, predicted the U.S. Supreme Court will side with the state in a dispute over the pruning of voter rolls.

Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper said Democrats “feel very good” about their diverse, state-wide ticket for the November election. Ohio, he said, needs a “very different approach” and Democrat candidates will bring that change. In response to a question about why so few woman are running for office, Pepper said, “Our ticket reflects the diversity of Ohio in our party,” including women, race and age.

“Respectfully, I think it’s an enormous problem that the Republicans’ state ticket are all white men,” Pepper said. “I think, in the year 2018 … that there isn’t 1 ounce of diversity there, and … in the middle of a time when you literally have state legislatures saying things like Matt Huffman said last week, I just think long-term, if I were a Republican party chair, this trend, total lack of diversity, is an enormous problem.”

Kevin DeWine, Ohio Republican chairman, responded in part by pointing to Mary DeGenaro, who was appointed by Kasich, but must run to obtain a seat on the Ohio Supreme Court, and to Jane Timken, the current and first female chairman of the Ohio Republican Party.

“(The Republican) ticket should be more reflective of the state of Ohio, but you can’t force people to run, and you can’t force the candidates that made the decisions to get out of the primaries,” DeWine said. “It’s one of these things where we know it, we recognize it, we know we need better, and I know Jane and her team at the Ohio Republican Party are committed to (diversity).”

Ohio Governor John Kasich speaks to the press at the 2018 Legislative & Political Preview Session on Wednesday in Columbus. Governor John Kasich speaks to the press at the 2018 Legislative & Political Preview Session on Wednesday in Columbus. Sheryl Roadcap | Sidney Daily News

By Sheryl Roadcap

Sidney Daily News

and Andrew Welsh-Huggin

Associated Press

Reach Sheryl Roadcap at 937-538-4823.

Reach Sheryl Roadcap at 937-538-4823.