Ohio Gov. John Kasich deflects on right-to-work, other hot-button issues

by MARC KOVAC | CAPITAL BUREAU CHIEF Published:

This is Part III of a three-part series.

Columbus -- The legislative session ended with plenty of hot-button issues that will carry over into the new year.

From union-opposed right-to-work initiatives to whether teachers should be allowed to carry guns in schools, Gov. John Kasich didn't offer too many specifics in response to questions about his stances on such issues.

Right To Work

Kasich still isn't biting on questions related to efforts to ban mandatory union membership and dues payments, via right-to-work petitions being circulated around the state with an eye toward the next general election.

"I'll just say it one more time," he said. "We have a very aggressive agenda that's moving Ohio in the right direction -- higher ed reform, K-12 reform, our school funding, our whole job training initiatives, the ability to take care of infrastructure. That is my focus, period."

Pressed on whether he would support an effort by proponents to place the issue on the November 2013 ballot, Kasich would only respond, "When you have a focus, you have to focus on your agenda. That's what I'm focused on. Think of me as a horse trying to run to the finish line with binders on. I'm not looking at any horse next to me. If I just do this, Ohio is going to be in much better shape, and focus is an awful lot about what this job is about."

Ballot Issues

The governor and legislative leaders were asked whether super majorities in the Ohio Senate and House would pave the way for legislative ballot initiatives, placing contentious issues before voters without being blocked by Democratic lawmakers.

Longtime Ohio Public Radio Statehouse reporter Bill Cohen put the question this way: "The Democrats say that now that Republicans have a three-fifths majority in both chambers, you could, if you wanted, put ballot issues on the ballot, and the Democrats couldn't stop you … Is there anything you would like legislators to put on the ballot next year with that three-fifths super majority?"

Kasich paused for a moment before saying, "Next question."

Guns in Schools

The governor's year-end press conference came a day after Attorney General Mike DeWine said he was open to allowing local school boards to decide to arm trained principals, teachers or school staff to provide an immediate means of responding to shooting incidents.

And it came a day before Kasich signed into law a bill that, among other provisions, will allow guns stored in cars in the Ohio Statehouse parking garage.

"The experts are going to look at this, and they're going to come back and make recommendations on a whole host of things," Kasich said, indicating that his administration was considering school safety issues. "… Let ideas get out on the table, and we'll figure out once they're out there what makes the most sense, working with our partners and many interested parties."

Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at mkovac@dixcom.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.

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