COLUMBUS — Ohio's four statewide elected officials, leaders of the House and Senate and Gov. Mike DeWine were among officials who gathered Tuesday at an annual legislative forum sponsored by The Associated Press.
In a morning session, GOP Attorney General David Yost said Ohio was not approached to join a new lawsuit challenging President Donald Trump's national emergency declaration to build a Mexico border wall. Yost was joined by Secretary of State Frank LaRose, Treasurer Robert Sprague and Auditor Keith Faber. All are Republicans.
The statewide elected officials all say they support Trump, but don't agree with him on every issue. LaRose called Trump's characterization of the media as the enemy of the people a "dangerous" precedent.
House Speaker Larry Householder and Senate President Larry Obhof, both Republicans, and House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes and Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko, both Democrats, discussed legislative priorities for the year.
The lawmakers agreed that additional spending is needed to deal with problems with the condition of Ohio roads, including potholes on thoroughfares across the state. They disagreed about whether a gas tax was the best approach. Householder said he wants to study infrastructure needs first and wait on considering a tax. Yuko said Ohioans are already spending thousands of dollars repairing cars instead of roads.
The legislative leaders also:
- Backed the general idea of changes to the criminal justice system as Ohio struggles with overcrowded prisons. Obhof said he wants to see the prison population reduced. Sykes, who is black, said she's concerned about the overrepresentation of minorities in the incarcerated population.
- Signaled little support for any proposals to reduce the use labor-scale wages on some public construction projects. Householder called it the "wrong direction at this time." Sykes said the idea would set the state back.
- Predicted sports wagering will come to Ohio following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that opened the option for states. Householder predicted wagering will come to Ohio but doesn't know what it will look like. Yuko agreed, but warned it won't be the "cash cow" some people expect for state revenue. Obhof said he remains skeptical of allowing sports wagering.