COLUMBUS: Gov. John Kasich’s request to move the State of the State speech away from the capital for the second year in a row won approval Wednesday from the state Legislature. And this time around, the Republican governor had more support from his fellow GOP lawmakers.
The Republican-led House approved the move with a bipartisan vote of 80-16 on Wednesday, while the GOP-controlled Senate cleared it on a 24-9 vote.
Kasich wants to give this year’s address in Lima, a rebounding Rust Belt city in northwest Ohio. The speech is scheduled to take place the evening of Feb. 19 at the Veterans Memorial Civic Center.
Last year, Kasich became the first governor in modern memory to take the big policy speech outside the Ohio Capitol in Columbus. He chose the blue-collar Ohio River city of Steubenville.
His plan was met with some pushback in the state House last year, which narrowly agreed to it then on a 52-42 vote.
One previous critic of holding the speech away the Statehouse told his colleagues on Wednesday that he was “eating some crow” in supporting the move this year.
State Rep. Lynn Wachtmann, a Napoleon Republican, said he learned a lot traveling to Steubenville and talking to people along the way.
“I really assumed because so many people pay so little attention to what most of us do that they wouldn’t even be aware if the State of the State was coming to a nearby town,” he said. “But more than being aware, they were excited about it.”
State Rep. Ron Gerberry, D-Austintown, implored his fellow legislators not to destroy a historic tradition of holding the speech at the Capitol.
“Let’s stop the parading of the State of the State and bring it back home,” Gerberry said.
Some lawmakers had logistical concerns about Lima, such as where to stay in the city of about 38,700 people.
Rep. Matt Huffman, a Republican from Lima, was quick to offer accommodations.
“Three of my four children have now moved out,” he said. “So there are a couple of extra bedrooms at our house, some various couches, things like that. People may have to double-up.”