At a discussion hosted by the Athens County League of Women Voters, or LWV, on Tuesday night, Ohio State Rep. for the 94th District Jay Edwards, R-Nelsonville, detailed his push for expanded mental health care in Ohio and addressed redistricting and gun rights.
Edwards emphasized commitment to his constituents and residents of Southeastern Ohio describing the importance of inclusion of Appalachian voices in the legislative process.
“That’s really what this job is about, and what I think politics and issues are about, is opportunities and making sure that I have a strong voice, bring a strong voice from this region and from Appalachia to the statehouse, making sure that our voices are heard,” Edwards said.
A key issue Edwards focused on was his belief in expanding mental health resources and support for Ohioans to address addiction and other social issues. He said in order to address addiction and substance misuse in the state, more concerted efforts must be made to provide and make accessible mental health services.
Edwards described his collaboration with local mental health treatment providers and his goal to pass a budget amendment, which would allow workers to receive workforce development training that raises compensation and allows organizations to offer greater services to a wider number of people.
In response to a question about proposed Ohio legislature loosening gun ownership restrictions, Edwards reinforced his belief in second amendment rights, saying he supports the bills. He pointed again toward increased mental health support and its role in potentially helping reduce gun violence.
City Council President Chris Knisely asked a question about state redistricting regarding the impact the Ohio redistricting process has on his district and the state overall. Edwards reiterated his decision to vote against the proposed redistricting maps, which were ruled unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court.
“It wasn't anything about any certain current incumbent congressman. It had everything to do with cutting our district up,” Edwards said of the failed proposed redistricting map. “I would be representing a house district, 120,000 people in a house district, with three different congressmen. That is really tough, and it's really not fair for our part of the state.”
The Athens LWV also asked questions regarding sustainability and the environment: specifically, green energy and the proposed bill regarding the sale of brine to de-ice roads.
Edwards said he believes more green energy initiatives should be emulated in Southeast Ohio, which may open up job opportunities for people living in the area. He also communicated his opposition to the sale of brine for de-icing this year, which he also voted against in 2017.
When asked about his position on labor unions, Edwards said he supports them and tries to advocate for working class Appalachians.