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DeWine focuses on reading, health and kids in his annual State of the State speech

Gov. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) gives his 2024 speech to the Ohio General Assembly
Sarah Donaldson
Statehouse News Bureau
Gov. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) gives his 2024 speech to the Ohio General Assembly

Republican Gov. Mike DeWine proposed a few new ideas and asked state lawmakers to follow through on some plans that were already in motion in his annual State of the State speech.

DeWine called on lawmakers in the Republican-dominated legislature that has expanded gun rights to do more to prevent gun violence. And he promised to come forward with a primary seat belt law proposal, saying it will save lives.

In a section about behavioral health care, DeWine called on lawmakers to require K-12 schools to implement responsible policies on the use of cell phones. And he said lawmakers should come up with social media policies that give parents more control.

"These phones are detrimental to learning. They are detrimental to our kids’ mental health. And they need to be removed from the classroom," DeWine said to applause.

A proposal to require social media platforms to demand parental permission for Ohioans under 16 was in the state budget passed last year, but it's on hold because of a lawsuit in federal court.

DeWine also urged more in-demand mental health studies by proposing $10,000 scholarships for 4,000 students in those fields to stay in Ohio and work in those jobs after graduation.

"Find these students. Recruit them," DeWine said. "The money is there -- so get it into their hands and get them started."

DeWine urged colleges and universities to align their curriculum so teachers can be instructed in how to use the "Science of Reading" approach he and Ohio lawmakers put into the budget.

"All of our dreams and all of our goals -- really, our vision for the future -- ultimately depends on them," DeWine said. "The single most important thing we can do for Ohio’s future is to ensure that all Ohio children - no matter where they live, no matter who their parents are -- have the opportunity to live up to their full God-given potential and that they have the chance to pursue their dreams and their passions in life."

DeWine also said he wanted to expand public child care beyond the 16,000 kids already in the state's programs. He proposed a childcare choice voucher program for Ohio families that make up to 200% of the federal poverty level, or $60,000 for a family of four, which he said would bring in 8,000 more kids.

DeWine said he will be reallocating federal funding to dedicate $85 million to create new "childcare access grants” to improve and expand existing childcare facilities.

On kids' health, DeWine talked up a "children's vision strike force" to ensure kids get vision screenings and treatment. And he called for more school-based health clinics across the state.

DeWine focused on preventative health care, announcing a new statewide program called Outcome Acceleration for Kids Learning Network (OAK) that will focus on preventing children with childhood illnesses like asthma or sickle cell disease from falling more ill due to a lack of early care.

"Historically, our system pays healthcare providers to provide care when you need that care. We don’t reward doctors for actually keeping you healthy," DeWine said.

To curb infant mortality, he said he wants the Republican-dominated General Assembly to expand a home visitation program for mothers and infants to the statewide level.

DeWine also talked about what's often been called the "brain drain" of college graduates leaving Ohio. He praised state lawmakers for investing $200 million in grants to build and grow new career tech classrooms. He noted the top 5% of Ohio high school seniors -- who will be graduating in a few weeks -- will be the very first students to receive Ohio’s new “Merit Scholarship,” renewable for up to $5,000 for each of four years.

DeWine ended his speech talking about Ohio's new voter-approved recreational marijuana law, and he's urged the House to pass a bill the Senate approved in December. And once again he called on them to ban the sale of a substance known as delta-8. which he's also called intoxicating hemp.

(NOTE: This story has been updated to eliminate references to this as DeWine's sixth State of the State speech. He didn't deliver the speech in 2020 or 2021 because of the COVID pandemic.)

Contact Jo Ingles at jingles@statehousenews.org.