Gov. John R. Kasich’s State of the State Address transcript


Staff report



SPEAKER ROSENBERGER: The house will come to order.

I want to take the opportunity to welcome everyone here today to Marietta. It’s fitting that we’re here, seeing that tomorrow marks the 228th anniversary of the settlement in Marietta. And ever since that day, this great city has shined and continued to lead not only Ohio, but our nation. As we continue to go forward, it’s been a great day to see the industries, the educational institutions, and everything else in between and the true and genuine history that this entire region provided.

And I want to personally take the opportunity to thank Representative Andy Thompson for the warm and gracious host that he has been while we’ve been here.

(Applause)

SPEAKER ROSENBERGER: Ladies and gentlemen, it’s my great and distinct honor to introduce to you, my friend and president of the senate, Keith Faber.

SENATE PRESIDENT FABER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Thank you, Representative Thompson and Senator Gentile for your hospitality, and to the great community of Marietta.

This is just another one of those gems that we love to call part of our Ohio home. It’s one of those reasons we believe this is truly God’s country. Is there a quorum of the senate present? The chair recognizes President Pro Tem, Senator Obhof.

SENATOR OBHOF: Mr. President, a quorum of the senate is present.

SENATE PRESIDENT FABER: Is there a quorum of the house present? The chair recognizes Barb Sears.

MS. SEARS: Mr. President, there is a quorum of the house present.

SPEAKER ROSENBERGER: There being a quorum, this joint session will come to order.

I invite everyone to stand for the presentation of the colors by the Ohio State Highway Patrol Honor Guard. Please remain standing thereafter for the Pledge of Allegiance. Honor guard?

(Colors presented)

(Pledge of Allegiance)

SENATOR PRESIDENT FABER: Please be seated.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is my distinct honor and pleasure to present the governor of the great state of Ohio, John Kasich.

(Applause)

SPEAKER ROSENBERGER: Now that we’ve had the obligatory selfie and you’ve seen that the Ohio General Assembly is really one big family, ladies and gentlemen, it is my great honor to introduce to you our great governor, John Kasich.

(Applause)

GOVERNOR JOHN KASICH: Thank you all very much. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you all very much. Thank you.

(Applause)

Well, you know, I couldn’t resist that baby. I mean, that will be one when she gets to be 18 and decides to vote, I will be out of politics, but that’s so sweet. Congratulations on a beautiful baby. And she didn’t even cry. There you go.

Well, thank you, Mr. President, Mr. Speaker. And I want to thank the members of the General Assembly for bringing this joint legislative session to Marietta.

And I hope you’re all beginning to realize that getting this out of the capital is a good idea, and I hope it will continue for a very long time. And it’s a historic day for Ohio’s first permanent city.

Special thanks also to the people of this great community, Marietta, Washington County, the local officials, law enforcement officers, and other community leaders, and, of course, the staff and trustees of this beautiful Peoples Bank. This is a phenomenal place! And all who have made this year’s state of the state possible.

Justice O’Connor is here and also Justice French. Let’s have them be recognized.

(Applause)

And I hope you’ll join me in recognizing our lieutenant governor, Mary Taylor. Mary, please stand.

(Applause)

And other members of my Cabinet and staff are with us tonight. They’ve been with us all day long. They’ve been out all over this town. If the Cabinet would just stand and be recognized.

And then finally, I’d just like to say a word to my wife. Our kids are 16. They’re sophomores in high school. There are a lot of demands on them and they’re now driving. And I said to

my wife, if you can’t make it down here, I understand. Everybody will understand you have things you have to do. And so I came down here with the expectation that my wife might watch on television, but she shocked me and surprised me. Love you, sweetie. If you’ll stand and be recognized. Karen Kasich, the first lady of Ohio.

(Applause)

Tomorrow, April 7th, will mark 228 years, to the day, that 48 daring adventurers first settled here in Marietta. The pioneering spirit of those early settlers remains alive in Marietta today, as do a number of their descendants.

And one of them is with us this evening. Nancy Putnam Hollister, our first female governor.

(Applause)

Those first settlers couldn’t imagine it at the time, but by opening the door to America’s western frontier, they were opening one of the most important chapters in the history of the new American nation.

And think about this, in 1788, no one conceived that the state that began with those pioneer homesteads would go on to be the birthplace of the first man who walked on the moon. It’s a pretty incredible thing when you think about that whole movement from the first settlers to Neil Armstrong on the moon. Ohio in those early days was a frontier state, and although the frontier continued moving westward, Ohio in so many ways remained on the frontier — a pioneer in entrepreneurship, adventure, industry and innovation. From its earliest beginnings and for generations after, Ohio has been a place that people wanted to be and a model to which many other states aspired.

I would say that sadly, over time, we lost that edge. After some tough times — and a world that seemed to be moving on without us, Ohio wasn’t always able to hold itself up as America’s model.

Take, for example and we have to think about this — how troubled we were just five short years ago. Our budget was busted, our reserves were empty and our credit outlook was in the tank.

We had an ineffective economic development program, high taxes and heavy handed regulation. We had lost 350,000 jobs. That’s 350,000 families that really got bad news.

And we were $8 billion in the hole. As you know, I’ve done a bit of traveling in recent months — here in Ohio and a few other places – and in many places, I’ve actually met people who have been struggling with some of the same challenges we faced right here in our beloved state.

I’ve been grateful to be able to give them hope by holding up what we’ve been doing here, how we’re getting back on our feet, how we’ve made progress, all of us, by pulling together.

That’s the funny thing about hope — it’s powerful because it can be contagious, and the progress that we’re making is giving hope not only to Ohioans, but to many other people across our great country.

One of the most important things we did to get Ohio back on track was to get our fiscal house in order, with common-sense management, sound budgeting, and conservative spending restraint. Sometimes it would have been easier to be looser, but my judgment was that we needed to remain conservative in our estimates. We went to work cutting taxes by $5 billion — more than any other state.

We are streamlining regulations, and Mary Taylor has done a great job with the Common Sense Initiative to create a jobs friendly climate. And for those business people, particularly small business people who feel strangled by excessive regulations, you give her a call.

The formula is working: fiscal responsibility, common sense regulations, and, of course, always looking to cut taxes.

And, with the prosperity that comes from job creation and economic growth, we have the resources to go further, and reach out to those who might otherwise be ignored.

We should also take into account the fact that because of the prosperity and the additional resources, we’ve been helping the mentally ill, giving hope to the drug addicted, the disabled and the working poor. And we should all be proud of that.

When folks around the country take a look at Ohio today, I think they see a state beginning to do a lot of things better. Our budget is sound and we have $2 billion in the bank. Ohioans have created more than 417,000 new private-sector jobs and wages are growing faster than the national average right here in the Buckeye state.

(Applause)

Over the past five years, we’ve improved opportunities for students in our classrooms and we are absolutely working to make college more affordable. We’re taking on the scourge of addiction, streamlining state government, and continuing to chip away at taxes and regulations in ways that can continue our economic growth well into the future.

Together, all of us — Republicans, Democrats, the people across this state — we have actually lifted Ohio out of the ditch. We started moving again and we are picking up speed. The state of our state is getting stronger every day and the outlook is bright and hopeful here in the Buckeye State.

(Applause)

But we should make no mistake, it’s not just me behind the steering wheel. We’re all in this together. And every one of us is responsible for keeping Ohio moving forward toward our goal. And that goal is to build more speed and strength and sustain it for the long term, for our children, for everyone’s children, and for the generations that follow. We want them to remember us.

While state government is taking big steps to tear down barriers and send power back to Ohioans — that only means that the real work to push Ohioans forward is being done by Ohioans. And, frankly, it is up to Ohioans to continue putting their power that we’ve returned to them back to work to keep us moving.

The progress we’ve made — and that we must continue to make — only happens one person at a time, one community at a time, in every county, all across our state. That’s because the spirit of Ohio, just like the spirit of America, is in our families, in our neighborhoods and in our communities.

You see, folks, it’s where we live. It’s where we work, where we go to school or teach, or where we worship, where we look after our neighbors and care for others around us who may be lonely, people who may be discouraged, or people who are hurting.

I want you to think about the fact that the spirit of our state is in the people that sit next to us and the people we know at home.

I want to look at a few examples.

In the schools, thanks to our work together, children have new opportunities to succeed, from the earliest age, we take care of them. By the end of 2017, Ohio will be helping three times more young children have access to early childhood instruction than just six years ago.

(Applause)

And, we’re making sure that all early childhood education is of high quality, so children can start school ready to learn. It’s expensive, but it is a high priority for us — early childhood.

And then there’s the Third Grade Reading Guarantee because we’re making sure children aren’t just being shuffled along, but they have the learning skills they need for the progressively more rigorous material in higher grades.

This is great news, folks. This year, even with the tougher standards, 94 percent of third graders passed the reading guarantee. Thanks to the hard work of everyone — educators, librarians, mentors, and most importantly, families — 94 percent of third graders can now past that test.

(Applause)

Schools are also developing new strategies for identifying students at risk who may drop out. We need to keep them interested in school. And if they’ve already dropped out, we have to help them find a way to their diploma. We have one of those new diploma holders with us today: Jill Hawkins from Marietta’s Washington County Career Center. Jill was an adult without a high school diploma. Jill had very narrow career options. But now she’s on a much better track because she made the choice to take ownership of her future and to get that diploma. Congratulations, Jill.

(Applause)

We also have new mentoring efforts underway to motivate and inspire young Ohioans to find their purpose and to reach for the stars. Folks, we know that mentoring makes a difference because we see the results in great programs like the Cincinnati Youth Collaborative, where 95 percent of the students graduate from high school — 95 percent graduate from high school in a system where the average is about 63 percent. And 83 percent go on to college, a career, or the military.

It was part of the inspiration for our Community Connectors program, which brings mentors dedicated to good values and career education into our schools to help shape young people’s lives. Today Community Connectors has 115 local partnerships statewide, in more than half of Ohio’s counties to help inspire kids about learning, their futures and their God given potential.

This was a critical program we passed to create mentoring. It is now in effect in over half of Ohio’s counties. With a match of $3 for every dollar the local people put in, if you don’t have this program in your county in your schools, let us know. We want every child in the state of Ohio to be mentored and be told about how great they can be and how much they’re loved and appreciated. Can we do it, please? Let’s get every kid mentored.

(Applause)

Look, right here in Marietta, where the city’s schools work with volunteers from the business, civic and religious community to mentor seventh and eighth graders, they help to guide them and explore different career paths.

And I want to say to all of you that are here tonight. Think back to who inspired you. It might have been your principal. It might have been your coach. For me, it was a couple barbers that cut hair in McKees Rocks. When I would walk out, they’d come out the door and they’d yell, ―Johnny, someday you’re going to be something.‖ That’s 50 years ago. And I remember Panucci’s and love them for what they did. We need to do that for our children across this state.

And another tool for helping young people explore their future is OhioMeansJobs website. With it, parents, teachers and others who mentor young people have kid friendly internet tools to learn about careers, what the salaries are, and what they have to do to get those jobs. More than 220,000 students in our K 12 system have already used this site to begin exploring careers. Direct your constituents to the OhioMeansJobs. It can change a life.

So many people as well as employers in big cities, small towns and rural areas, tell me that one of their top personal concerns is drug abuse and addiction. Cliff and I talked about it earlier today. The attorney general and I have worked on this for quite a long time.

And the families I talk to back that up with very personal stories about the way drugs have torn apart their own lives, their families and their neighborhoods. Oh, yes, I’ve met mothers and fathers who get up every day, wonder whether it’s going to all come tumbling down.

Put yourself in their shoes for a moment. We have to win this war. Here in Ohio, we took the battle on in earnest five years ago. We knew then, and we are all too well aware today, that this is not an easy war to win.

The progress can’t happen overnight. It takes a comprehensive and community centered plan of action — one based on four pillars: education, prevention, treatment, and enforcement. And that battle won’t be fought and won just by actions we take in Columbus.

The frontlines of this battle are in every urban center, town and farm community across Ohio.

We do have one powerful tool that is free for any community, to use. It’s called StartTalking! And if you don’t already know about it, you must learn about it. The name says it all: StartTalking! By simply having a conversation with our young people about the dangerous consequences of trying drugs, we could reduce the likelihood reduce the likelihood — of starting kids down a path to drug addiction by 50 percent just by talking to them. Many schools and communities are using the resources we have provided them with StartTalking! Schools such as Goshen in Clermont County, the City of the Chillicothe – but we can also do more. I’m not asking — I’m begging our teachers, our parents, our mentors, and all adults to take a minute to have a conversation with those that they know about the dangers of drug abuse.

And to the men and women that are here tonight, do you want to win this battle? Do you want to stop drug addiction and drug abuse and drug deaths in your community? Go do it. Get out of your comfort zone. Grab a young man or a young woman, and you tell them about God’s purpose for their lives. And if they take these drugs and end up addicted, they will obscure or destroy that purpose. Let’s win this in our great state. But it takes all of us. This is a scourge that we must defeat.

And keeping kids off drugs is a big part of our moral calling to help every Ohioan fulfill their chance to have a purpose and God-given ability.

But I believe that as our state’s leader, our number one moral obligation is to foster, of course, a jobs-friendly climate. Our next mission is to then create quality education and training so Ohioans can acquire the skills they need to compete for the new jobs our businesses create.

It also means helping Ohioans at the bottom of the economic ladder move up. In a few months, Ohio will begin implementing legislation passed in the last session to help Ohioans who are just entering the workforce, those from 16 to 24 years old, break into careers and break out of the cycle of poverty.

Stark and Tuscarawas counties were early adopters of this new concept. By using common sense to better align job training and human service efforts, these counties are better able to assess young people’s overall needs and skills, and then they can offer them the training and the education to get and keep a job, to help them start moving up on the economic ladder.

We start early. We work with them. We can get great results. And we’re also eliminating unintended barriers in Ohio’s safety net that once discouraged working moms from moving up, now by making it easier for them to keep their support for child care. Even after they get a promotion or a better job, we show them that hard work truly pays off.

(Applause)

And a word about Medicaid expansion because I believe it’s making a difference. Together we’ve worked hard to improve the system’s quality and accountability so taxpayers get the value they deserve and Ohioans in need get better quality care.

For example, more than 330,000 more women in Ohio now have access to healthcare. This means they can get healthy, stay healthy, and better participate in the workforce. And expansion has also delivered new resources to help our communities address mental health issues and addiction. It is working for our people.

(Applause)

We’ve also made important progress in improving community and police relations. Over the past few years across this nation, we’ve seen growing tension between communities and police and the divisions have been severe and oftentimes violent.

We’ve always known that this has to be dealt with because we won’t have safe neighborhoods if there is mistrust between our communities and law enforcement. Thanks to your help, I’m so proud to say that Ohio is leading the way. Our efforts began when we pulled together a diverse group of law enforcement experts, community leaders from throughout the state to recommend strategies for strengthening the bond between our communities and the police.

They were a bipartisan group of all philosophies and understood that it was not a time for politics. They knew that they couldn’t practice politics if they were going to get it right, and

they have been able to get it right. So to continue their work, we established an ongoing collaborative to put those recommendations into action. For the first time in our history, Ohio now has statewide standards for law enforcement agencies on the use of force, including deadly force, and the hiring and recruitment of law enforcement personnel. And we’re asking our local agencies, our local police departments, to start using them.

I’m pleased that we already have some early adopters, such as Colerain, Ansonia, Coldwater, Sidney, Medina, and Montgomery County.

We know there’s more to be done and that our ultimate success depends on our follow-through. So we’re going to keep it up.

But for all we’ve achieved, there’s still more work to do. But for what we have achieved, I’m grateful for the leadership of my good friend, former state senator Nina Turner and the support of Senator Sandra Williams, Representative Alicia Reece, as well as our community leader, pastors, and law enforcement community. We are a model for what works in this country, and the country would be wise to adopt our model for harmony and police and collaboration.

(Applause)

These are all areas where Ohio is solving tough problems. We could have put our head in the sand. And it’s clear that we know how to make things work. So we need to keep doing that. To keep our momentum going, my Cabinet and I are in the process of coming to the General Assembly with important new reforms and initiatives, some of which are already being considered.

Education and training continue to be priorities. As I mentioned to one of the Democrat leaders who was with me today, education and training continue to be priorities. We need to do a better job of connecting Ohioans at an early age with a wide range of career opportunities open to them. And then we need to help them find the pathway to a career with the greatest potential and personal satisfaction.

If you look right now at our job search website, OhioMeansJobs, this is unbelievable. You’ll

find more than 170,000 job openings. I understand that about 20 percent of them pay over $80,000 a year. And these are Ohio businesses searching for well trained, motivated workers. We need to prepare our students and job seekers of every age for these openings and the careers they represent. A powerful resource for helping students find their way are our school guidance counselors.

These are professionals with the training to help students learn about career opportunities and connect them with the training that they need.

I’m really a believer in the importance of guidance counselors and think Ohio should do even more to support them. Guidance counselors are not just an extra set of hands. They are people that can put our young people on a pathway to a lifetime of success. And that’s why last year Ohio adopted new evaluation standards for counselors to support them with a clear vision of how they can help students with career planning.

Each local school district is adopting their own policies to implement these new supports for counselors by the next school year. Students can also get a jump start on their chosen career with recognized pre-apprenticeship programs in high school, like those for carpenters or electricians, making them even more worthwhile by counting them towards the apprenticeship requirements that many vocations have. It’s another way Ohio is strengthening our vocational training efforts and helping students connect with quality employment.

We will also recommend expanding what’s been known as STEM education to all grade levels. Of course, we all know the letters in STEM stand for science, technology, engineering, and math. But personally I like to call it STEAM. STEAM education – to add a capital A for the arts.

Any student who’s going to succeed later in life, including someone choosing a technical career, is going to need creative skills and know how to apply critical thinking. Those skills are best developed by exposure to the arts.

(Applause)

Science, technology, engineering, math, and the arts. Arts community, did you ever think you’d see a conservative Republican ever say this?

(Laughter)

But we believe it. Because these are all essential for success in these 21st Century careers.

And we also want to give extra support and encouragement to the children of our active duty military families who must often move from place to place. That can be hard for students, and our new Military Family Opportunity Scholarship will help provide relief by giving military families new choices to best meet their children’s education needs. It’s the least we can do for families who give so much to support our country.

(Applause)

And going forward, we will study ways to expand it, to children and members of the Ohio National Guard, the Reserves and veterans. For many young Ohioans, their path to a rewarding career requires more than a high school diploma.

For some, it means that professional certification or training in specialized vocational skills that I mentioned, but for others it can mean a college degree. But there is a very big barrier in our way, and it’s something I hear wherever I go, anywhere in this country, not just here.

Too many young people in America are struggling with the cost of advanced education. We’re going after that problem in Ohio, attacking the root cause of high tuition by encouraging colleges to get their costs of doing business under control.

We created a task force of business leaders who are experts at controlling costs and balancing the bottom line. And I’m happy to say our college presidents are taking this very seriously, and they’re starting to put those recommendations to work.

University of Toledo and Bowling Green are working together to jointly – jointly offer courses that traditionally have had low enrollment on their separate campuses. Ohio State and Cincinnati are taking steps to partner with the state and large scale technology operations to take advantage of college of scales instead of taking on costly upgrades or new construction on their own.

We recently forgot the General Assembly some important initiatives to establish pathways to a lower cost college degree. We’re proposing efforts to allow more students the ability to study for three years at a lower cost on a community college campus and then transfer to a four-year university for a final year to earn their degrees. This could cut their costs by 75 percent in getting this degree.

(Applause)

And let me just say that if we don’t begin to control these costs, these four-year schools, many of them, will be just a memory. Because people will figure out a way to get their education – their credentials – at a much lower price. And these colleges and universities are going to have to make very tough decisions.

I’d like to salute Gordon Gee one more time. He leased the parking garages and the surface lots at Ohio State amid great criticism. He carried out his plan, and he was paid for leasing those facilities a half a billion dollars that got put into scholarships. This is the courage and the vision that we need across our state.

And this goes hand-in-hand with another earlier step we took with College Credit Plus programs. And think about this one. It gives Ohio students the ability to earn college credits in high school before they ever step foot on a college campus or pay college tuition.

In one semester alone, these efforts – College Credit Plus – has saved an estimated $50 million for these students across Ohio on their college costs just by doing College Credit Plus.

(Applause)

And we want to work with you to allow community colleges to offer a limited number of four-year degree programs in fields where we won’t have overlap with other schools so students can earn a college diploma at a lower cost and meet the needs of local industries. There are places here.

If we want to make it easier for Ohioans to earn a college degree, we also need to keep in mind those adult learners, most often those with jobs and families have who already built up considerable knowledge and hands-on experience in their field. And they probably know enough to teach some of the courses, and they shouldn’t have to pay to sit through hours in the classroom. So we want to give these folks a way to use what they have learned to earn their college degrees more quickly. And through all of this, the need to help guide and support students is essential, which is why in last year’s budget we required every two- and four-year institution to have strong career advisors for students in place by December.

When our kids enter higher education in this state, they must have somebody that guides them all the way through to get them their degree and get them a degree in a job that is available where they can have success once graduating from college. We need to do this.

(Applause)

Lorain County Community College, Zane State and Edison State — they made a lot of progress in this area. Miami, University of Cincinnati as well. Just as with guidance counselors in K through 12, higher ed for students is a priority. And these schools are going to do this. The important work we are setting in motion all across the higher education system, especially on affordability, will prepare Ohioans for strong futures, but we have more work to do, and we must do it.

And I’m proud to hold up our progress to other states as a model that they can all learn from us. These new reforms and proposals we’re bringing you will build on the success of all the programs we’ve made together over the past five years. And I, in fact, am sending to people around this country the recommendations of our cost-cutting commission that I think can help attack this problem and solve some of this problem across our country.

Our economic growth is increasing both the number of jobs available as well as the types of jobs available. If you ask people about Ohio, many times they’ll say, well, it’s the football team or agriculture or steel. It’s always been our goal to bring about a significant broadening of the base of Ohio business, and we see that in the positions that have been created by some of Ohio’s newest employers.

Think about this. Amazon. Three investments in the state, including in Wilmington. Amazon, picking us in the Midwest to carry the ball for them. How about the automotive glassmaker Fuyao?

Talk about losing jobs? The Chinese have hired now over a thousand Ohioans with perhaps another thousand to be hired by this Chinese investment. And biotech companies such as Assurex Health and Enable Injections.

As I announced earlier, part of creating this job friendly economic, we’ve cut taxes by five million, a billion more than any other state in the country. But there’s more that I want to do.

And I will send you the General Assembly legislation to let Ohioans to keep more of their hard-earned money by accelerating the benefits of income tax cuts we passed last year. There’s no reason to wait. The money’s there. Let’s just move it up.

(Applause)

And I say to my friends, the Democrats, we’ve already passed it. Just move it up, so the people have more money in their pocket. It’s not complicated. I’m not asking you to buy into the philosophy on this. But we can do it together. There’s no reason to wait. We can apply the benefits of these tax cuts to Ohio’s families right now. I do appreciate the Legislature’s Tax Study Committee, and I look forward to seeing their recommendations that will come down the road.

But we are going to come with another comprehensive tax reform package early next year with more tax relief and reforms to better align our tax code with the way Ohio works in today’s economy. And that fundamentally means lower income taxes.

(Applause)

You know, while we have worked to create economic growth by cutting taxes and restraining the growth of state government, we haven’t left other areas of focus behind. For example, I am a firm believer that economic growth and protection of our natural resources can go hand-in-hand.

(Applause)

We continue to invest significant money into our state parks, and we have spent more than three and a half billion dollars in order to improve water quality from Lake Erie to the Ohio River. Three and a half billion dollars.

(Applause)

The quality, the well-being, and beauty of our natural environment are an essential part of a jobs-friendly business environment we want to maintain and grow. Of course, it’s also central to the success of our $40 billion travel and tourism industry, and all the local businesses that depend on tourism.

It’s such a very important part of the local economy here in Marietta. Isn’t it, Governor Hollister? It’s a very, very big part. In fact, we’ve just launched an impressive new marketing campaign designed to strengthen Ohio’s brand as an attractive and exciting destination. And as Ohio continues to benefit from the growing shale opportunities, we’ll need to keep pace with the industry’s continuous innovation by proposing updates that support its continued success and ensure that we remain one of the nation’s leaders in protecting public health and safety as well as the environment.

You know, I spoke a few minutes ago about the epidemic of drug addiction, particularly prescription drug abuse that has inflicted Ohio at every level of society. Fighting this battle takes everything we’ve got and attacking it from every angle and that comprehensive approach is the best part of Ohio’s strategy. A big part of that strategy is the medical community. And with the help of doctors, we’ve tightened up prescribing guidelines to make sure that people can get the pain relief they need but not more than what they need.

The number of prescriptions for pain medicine has gone down 12 percent over the past four years. And with tighter controls, doctor shopping by patients has fallen dramatically by 70 percent in the past five years.

(Applause)

We know that Ohio’s pharmacies are key players. And not just pharmacists, but also the thousands of pharmacy technicians who work side by side with them. Right now, however, we have no uniform standards or registration requirements for them. We need to join other states who register pharmacy technicians to ensure that they receive the ongoing training and education that can help identify and prevent opiate abuse and which also allows Ohio to track and discipline bad actors.

At the same time, we need to limit dispensing of painkiller prescriptions to 90 days and invalidate any prescription that hasn’t been brought to the pharmacy within 30 days of issue. And we must also put increased scrutiny on new drug treatment clinics and ensure that they’re using best practices to treat people and not perpetuating their addiction.

These and other proposals will bring to you. The spring will provide additional tools that Ohioans can use to improve the places where they live. But these, like the other tools we’ve provided, are only valuable if they’re put to work. As I said earlier, the spirit of our state is in our communities. The more that each of us has a chance to contribute to crafting our state’s future, the stronger that future will be because it benefits from the talents that we all bring to the table.

Making sure we all have a chance to contribute and that we all have a voice is why we came together last year across party lines to reform the way Ohio’s legislative districts are drawn. Our goal was the right one: To make the process less about politics and more about inclusion. We need to go further, however, which is why I’m calling on the General to look at how we make these same kinds of reforms to the way Ohio draws its congressional districts.

(Applause)

Ideas and merits should be what wins elections, not gerrymandering. When pure politics is what drives these kinds of decisions, the result is polarization and division. I think we’ve had enough of that. Gerrymandering needs to be on the dust bin of history.

We can solve so many of life’s problems by working person to person, neighbor to neighbor — by coming together. That’s where the best solutions come from, when instead of looking to government to do things for us, we use the tools and gifts we each have and take control of our lives.

Yes, I know that government can create an environment for success, and tear down barriers, but in the end the responsibility for our lives and the strength of our communities lies with what we do. I happen to believe we must each strive to live a life bigger than ourselves, to take our special gifts that the Lord has given us. He’s given us these gifts to live a life bigger than ourselves for purposes of healing this world.

Those gifts are all unique and varied, and together they form the mosaic that makes our state and our country so resilient.

I’ve had the opportunity as I’ve traveled the country by the grace of God to be able to look people in the eye and remind them that they’re made special. All of us, unique. All of us, created for a purpose, to literally live a life bigger than ourselves, and to make a commitment to lift, to heal the world.

That’s what’s expected of us, I believe, when we were created. No one has ever been made like us before, and no one will ever be like us again — we’re here at a unique moment of time. And we find satisfaction in life. And we ignore some of the silliness, the fighting, the divisions, the ego, the turf protection. Because when we do our job, when we’re a teacher and give up a salary because we’re changing a young life, we’re changing the world.

When we’re a physician and we make that call at 1:00 o’clock in the morning, we’re changing the world. When we’re a nurse and when it’s time for us to stop we’ve filled our role in the job, but yet we spend 20 more minutes to reassure a family that things are going to be okay. And up in Westerville the other day, I saw a custodian. I said, ―You’re special.

You know how I know that?‖ He said, ―Yeah, I know how you know it. Because you know those kids will tell me things that they will never tell anybody else. And I’ll take care of them.‖

And even taking that widow that I like to talk about who’s been married for 50 years, lost her husband and her phone doesn’t ring anymore. You call her on Monday and say, ―we’re going to dinner this weekend.‖ You know what she does on Thursday? She gets her hair done. And by Saturday, it’s still all in place. And when you pick her up, she wears that dress she hasn’t worn in six months.

Did you change the world? I think you did. I’ve always been so inspired by people who understand this, and they live lives bigger than almost all of us. That’s how I got this whole idea of the Governor’s Courage Award, to recognize those Ohioans and hold them up as models from which we can all learn.

One such person is Margo Hudson. A long time Cleveland resident who grew up on the south side of Chicago. She had it tough. No stranger to the hard knocks of life. Without a high school diploma, think about it. She struggled for years from job to job that didn’t pay much of anything. But well into adulthood, she was inspired to go after her high school equivalency. It took her 11 tries, but she stayed at it. She didn’t get discouraged. And she finally prevailed.

Now with her GED certificate, Margo, believe it or not, is an active tutor and a mentor for young Clevelanders who are also seeking a second chance to earn their diplomas. She’s an enthusiast champion for the power of adult learning. Margo has been honored by the Commission on Adult Basic Education as 2016 National Adult Learner of the Year. Her courage in the face of so many challenges is inspiring, and I’m proud to present her the Governor’s Courage Award this year.

(Applause)

Wallace Peck of Columbus is an exceptionally talented artist who has overcome significant developmental disabilities. Significant developmental disabilities and personal challenges, including homelessness, health problems, and an upbringing with little support or very little education.

Through all this, and with the support of some equally remarkable friends and volunteers, Wallace has become one of Ohio’s most honored and self-taught artists. Wallace’s paintings are primarily of people, especially those he knows, but also includes wildlife and nature. He uses bold colors in a style all his own to express the joy he feels in this world.

My wife stuck all of your work in the governor’s residence, so you know. His most recent exhibit sold out in a single night. It’s a testament to the acclaim that has increasingly drawn the attention of museums and art festivals. In fact, the Columbus Museum of Art purchased one of Wallace’s paintings for its permanent collection.

For his life of courage, perseverance and positive outlook, after so many years living in the shadows of society, I’m proud to award Wallace the Governor’s Courage Award, accompanied by the First Lady.

(Applause)

Pretty clear, isn’t it, the Lord has made everyone special, for special reasons.

Well, I spoke earlier about the battle that we’re waging against drug abuse and addiction. And I know we’ve talked about this three times tonight. So tonight I’m proud to recognize the courageous work that’s being done in that fight right here in Washington County. First, Sheriff Larry Mincks who like our law enforcement leaders in southeast Ohio and statewide. Sheriff, thanks for making youth drug prevention a big priority.

(Applause)

And just down the road, we have another champion. And I love this guy. That’s Belpre School Superintendent Tony Dunn. This guy rocks it. Right there, Tony, thank you.

(Applause)

And, Tony, you’re going to get every superintendent to do StartTalking! aren’t you? I know you will. Because he’s been one of the most active in the StartTalking! program.

But, folks, the fight against addiction took on special urgency in this community last summer with the death of Hunter Burkey, a talented and energetic 17 year old. Hunter was just ready to begin his senior year at Belpre High School, with a promising future, when that future was tragically cut short by a heroin overdose.

I don’t know how they do it. Sometimes it’s beyond me. But they’re doing the best they can to try to protect others. Hunter’s mother, Kelli Allman, is also here tonight to share in this award. After her son’s death, Kelli found the strength and the courage to rise above her pain and, by the way, the undeserved guilt that is too often felt by parents who have lost a son or a daughter to drugs.

She is standing up, and she is helping others in this fight. She is determined that no other mother should ever know the pain she’s had to carry. I’m honoring these three first and foremost for their own individual efforts and personal courage, but also as representatives of all the Ohioans, thousands of them, who are fighting against this deadly epidemic every day. The award will be displayed forever in the Belpre High School trophy case as a reminder of the futures that have been cut short and our resolve to do all we can to fight addiction and abuse.

So, folks, please come to the stage, and, please, ladies and gentlemen, honor them for their work and the courage of Kelli Allman.

(Applause)

Kelli, I’m going to give you the medal. And we’ll put it on display at the school. But how about for right now we’ll just put it on you.

(Applause)

We thank tonight’s heroes. Let’s also take time to think about — and to thank — all the people that we know who have inspired us, who live lives bigger than themselves. Their example can inspire within us the creativity and leadership we need to go further and build on the strong new foundation we have laid for our great state and restore our position as one of our nation’s greatest places.

That is the vision I have for Ohio. Power out of Columbus to the folks, in the neighborhoods, in the communities, and in our families. And with it I have optimism and hopefulness that our state will be a place of freedom and prosperity for everyone.

We’re getting there. It’s happening. The changes we have made together have taken us very far, very far, in a short time. But we’re not done yet. We, of course, have more work to do, but I’m confident together that we can keep moving forward.

Why am I confident? Well, I’ve traveled all across this country, and I’m always reminded of one thing again and again.

There’s no place like Ohio! There’s no place like home!

(Applause)

I’ve known it since I was a young man traveling across the Pennsylvania Ohio line with my Uncle Harry shouting as we entered the Buckeye state. ―Johnny, we’re in the promised land.‖

There is no other place with our resources, our strategic location, and of course (as Woody Hayes said) our people.

Starting here in Marietta, the first Ohioans showed our nation the great things that can be published when people work together for a common and righteous purpose. And we’re still doing it today. Together we’re getting the job done for Ohioans, and together by rededicating ourselves to the mission and spirit of servient leadership, we will keep lifting up our fellow Buckeyes.

Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, members of the General Assembly, let’s tear down all the barriers, all the roadblocks in our way, and together we can move Ohio further down the path towards that vision of freedom, prosperity, and opportunity that we all share and believe in.

Together, we can do it. God bless America, God bless Ohio and God bless our future together. Thank you.

(Applause)

SENATE PRESIDENT FABER: Ladies and gentlemen, would you please remain in your seat for the retirement of the colors? Color guard, retire the colors.

The chair recognizes President Pro Tem, Senator Obhof, for a motion.

SENATOR OBHOF: The purpose of this joint session being complete, I move that we adjourn.

SENATE PRESIDENT FABER: Without objection, I hear no objection. The joint session of the General Assembly is hereby adjourned.

(End of program, 8:21 p.m)

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Staff report

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