COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — NBC4 has been reporting on several bills inching through the Ohio Statehouse the last few months, ranging from higher education to transgender health care.
Statehouse Reporter Natalie Fahmy sat down with Gov. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) in a one-on-one interview to see where he stands on some of the hotly debated issues. If passed, it will be up to DeWine to decide if these bills become law.
Bringing back August special elections for ‘certain purposes’
A few months after lawmakers at the Statehouse passed a bill to abolish recurring August elections, they want to bring them back this year for Ohioans to vote on House Joint Resolution 1. Right now, to pass a constitutional amendment in the state, it takes a simple majority at the polls, but HJR1 would increase the required vote to 60%.
“I’m not taking a position on it, I’ll take a look at that,” DeWine said. “I think the best argument in favor of 60% is what we’ve seen many times. It is groups outside of Ohio spending millions and millions of dollars to try and engrave something in Ohio’s constitution. There’s a good argument, I think you could make, that the bar needs to be rather high to do that.”
While former Gov. Bob Taft and former Gov. John Kasich have both come out against bringing back August elections for HJR1, DeWine is not on the same page.
“If the legislature does in fact pass a bill to have an election in August, I will sign that,” he said.
DeWine called the issue “divisive” and said he wants the issue to be voted on so lawmakers can get back to focusing on other issues that directly impact Ohioans.
There are two bills moving through the Statehouse that would impact trans-Ohioans. One of those bills would ban gender-affirming care for minors and another would ban trans girls from female sports. Fahmy asked DeWine if he will sign the bills if they make it to his desk.
“I’ve learned a long time ago that these bills change all the time,” he said. “And so, we’re going to see what comes out of the legislature. We’re going to look at the bill and make a judgement at that time.”
When Fahmy asked DeWine if he thinks having some sort of restriction on trans girls playing in female sports I necessary, he doubled down on his previous answer.
“Well again I am going to look at it if and when the legislation gets through, I will take a look at it then,” DeWine said.
Higher Education Bill
A higher education bill at the statehouse has garnered hundreds of opponents. The bill would require certain courses and prohibit universities from mandating diversity equity and inclusion training.
“This bill is a work in progress,” DeWine said. “I think there clearly needs to be reforms made in regard to higher education.”
DeWine said the last thing he wants to see is Ohio schools losing their accreditation.
“I feel very confident that we can get a bill that is a good bill and that the universities can live with but frankly brings about some reforms we need to see in higher education,” DeWine said.
There is an effort underway to increase the minimum wage in Ohio by putting the question in front of voters. DeWine said he does not believe the issue is gaining a lot of traction right now, so it is too early to know all the facts. However, DeWine did say the argument has changed these past few years.
“Virtually everyone is not working at a minimum wage,” he said. “We have a situation today where we’ve seen the hourly rate go up because its supply and demand.”
Decreasing the Minimum Age for Police Officers
Some lawmakers are moving forward with legislation to decrease the age requirement an Ohioan must be to join the police force. Right now, to become a police officer in Ohio, applicants must be 21 years old, but Senate Bill 53 would drop that age requirement to 18.
“Well, I’m going to wait until I hear some more testimony on this,” DeWine said. “But the most important thing whether the police officer is 18, 20 or 45 is continuous training.”
DeWine said it takes 500 to 600 hours to become an officer, but there are many departments throughout the state where there is no training beyond those required hours. So, he said he wants a yearly allocation for police training.
“To me, it is very essential,” he said.