While the state remains firmly under Republican control, Ohioans can expect a noticeable change under the administration of Gov. Mike DeWine.
As Ohio’s 70th governor, DeWine plans to bring a fresh set of ideas to the table that he hopes can help citizens of all ages. While some of his actions and plans are shaping up to have a bipartisan basis, others are highly controversial and could change the political landscape on a national scale.
The former attorney general was sworn into office on Jan. 14, replacing former Gov. John Kasich. While both are Republicans, DeWine is considered more conservative than his predecessor and will likely take different actions on legislation concerning healthcare and abortion.
Because he was also an early supporter of President Donald Trump in 2016, DeWine’s office will also have a less contentious relationship with the president compared to Kasich’s eight years.
Here is a breakdown of what to expect from Gov. DeWine’s first term in office.
A focus on fixing the opioid crisis
During the 2018 campaign for governor against Democratic candidate Richard Cordray, one of the main issues they had to address was Ohio’s opioid crisis. DeWine responded to this by drafting his “Recovery Ohio” plan.
“Ohio is in crisis,” DeWine said in an October 2017 . “At least 14 Ohioans are dying every single day in our state from drug overdoses. More people will die in Ohio this week than died in the devastating shooting recently in Las Vegas."
The 12-part plan would allow the governor to declare a public health emergency, adapt current law enforcement technology to modern standards and expand drug task force models that target and disrupt the “Mexican drug cartels.” It creates more drug courts, doubles treatment capacity, employs more specialists and implements prevention education in all K-12 schools.
“He has advocated for prevention, age appropriate, in grades K-12 each year,” Dan Tierney, DeWine’s press secretary, said. “When you do prevention every year, it does make a difference in outcomes later in life.”
Tierney said “Recovery Ohio” is one of DeWine’s priorities in his first four years of office. He said DeWine wants to make sure the drug companies pay their share in helping pay for treatment and education, as well as change the culture.
A new “Heartbeat Bill”
Before being sworn in, the Ohio Legislature passed the “Heartbeat Bill,” in a lame-duck session which would make abortion illegal in Ohio after a fetal heartbeat is detected. This controversial bill was vetoed by Kasich and the legislature failed to override the veto.
“The governor has stated on the record multiple times that he would sign the legislation if he were governor at the time,” Tierney said.
John Haseley, the chairman of the Athens County Democrats, said DeWine’s administration is coming on the heels of the lame-duck legislature, where there were a lot of anti-choice and other anti-progressive measures put up as trial balloons. The “Heartbeat Bill” will be a major concern for Democrats.
The current Ohio legislature has yet to introduce a bill similar to the 2018 version of the “Heartbeat Bill,” but it is expected to try and introduce a similar bill at some point.
The legislation prompted a strong response from NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, the Ohio chapter of the national abortion-rights organization.
A bipartisan approach to governing
Democrats have little hope for having a say in Ohio politics over the next four years. Democrats lack power in any major statewide offices, control over the governor’s mansion or a majority in either chambers of the state legislator.
The bipartisan support given to the newly elected Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, R-Glenford, is one of the few signs that show they can possibly have a voice in state governance; DeWine’s cabinet appointments could be another one.
“Some of his initial appointments that he made in his administration should give us hope because he has not made ideological choices that you would likely see in Washington,” Haseley said. “He has appointed a number of people that are very pragmatic, moderate, policy centered individuals, who I think will be good to work with.”
Haseley said it is still far to early to give the governor a scorecard on what he has done in office, but he hopes DeWine will work with Republicans, Democrats and Independents to govern the state.
Tierney said DeWine’s goal is to work with all Ohioans regardless of party affiliation.
“He has appointed a very diverse cabinet in many respects,” Tierney said. “One of those is making sure people from all sides of the ideological spectrum are represented”
Early childhood and foster care
Before midnight on his first day in office, DeWine signed six executive orders. Four of these dealt with early childhood and foster care.
The first elevated the leader of Ohio's Office of Families and Children to report directly to the head of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. Another extended anti-discrimination protections to parents of young children, foster children and expecting mothers. The third created the governor's Children's Initiative to address infant mortality and educational gaps among children in lower-income homes. The last one created a position that focuses on educating K-12 children about drug abuse prevention.
“I am especially heartened in his initiatives in regards to children and his initiatives in regards to addiction,” Haseley said.
All six executive orders help to fulfill campaign promises made in 2018 by addressing these issues and the opioid crisis.
“The goal on these is to help children in all respects,” Tierney said.