COLUMBUS — Gov. John Kasich said Wednesday he wants to provide state money for community centers in rural areas where people 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.
He 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.
“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.”
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 don’t 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-fifth 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.
Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus.