Request To Move State of the State Speech Sparks Surprising Debate

Gov. Kasich's request to give the State of the State speech outside the Statehouse sparked debate.(Photo: State of Ohio)
Gov. Kasich's request to give the State of the State speech outside the Statehouse sparked debate.(Photo: State of Ohio)

The governor’s plan to take his annual State of the State speech on the road got mixed reactions in the state legislature.

Since the State of the State speech is held before a joint session of the House and Senate, lawmakers in both chambers had to pass resolutions to move the session to Steubenville so Gov. John Kasich could deliver it as he plans on February 7. But criticism came from an unlikely corner in the House.

“I love Steubenville, but I love my taxpayers even more.”

Conservative Republican Lynn Watchmann of Napoleon in northwest Ohio wanted to know how much it would cost to move the speech 150 miles away from the Statehouse, where it’s been held for more than a century. Speaker Bill Batchelder of Medina said he’d asked about that.

“I have personally discussed the matter with the governor, and my understanding is that the, there will not be additional cost. On the other hand, obviously, things happen,” Batchelder said.

Republican Rep. Lou Blessing of Cincinnati noted the speech will be held at Wells Academy, the state’s highest-performing public elementary school, which suggested to him that education is on the governor’s agenda. And Blessing said perhaps the mission of the speech might be more important than the money.

“It may cost more, although I’m not so sure – I don’t want to call anything not important because every dollar’s important. I think the message to the students and the other people outweigh what any additional cost might be,” Blessing said.

But the cost wasn’t the concern for Democratic Rep. Ron Gerberry of Youngstown, not far from Steubenville.

“If the governor wants to go and have a news conference or have a meeting at Wells Academy, that’s great, go ahead – I don’t have a problem with that. But to take the State of the State out of this chamber is wrong,” Gerberry said.

And Lynn Wachtmann agreed. But Majority Floor Leader Matt Huffman said it was a chance to do what lawmakers have talked about for years – to take government from Capitol Square and to the people. Then Democrat Bob Hagan weighed in.

“I’m glad that the governor is having it in Steubenville and not Youngstown, because we’ve had so many earthquakes in Youngstown if he showed up there’d be another one. (Batchelder) I appreciate your concern for our health and the governor’s.”

The final vote in the House was fairly close in a chamber dominated by Republicans – and if some Democrats who had voted for it voted against it, it might have failed. But in the Senate, there was no debate at all, and it passed easily.

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