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DeWine focuses on children in State of the State address

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(The Center Square) – Gov. Mike DeWine used Wednesday’s State of the State address to focus on the future and children, outlining several current policies and others beginning he believes will impact schools, child care, health care and mental health.

“The single most important thing we can do for Ohio’s future is to ensure that all Ohio’s children have the opportunity to live up to their full God-given potential and they have the chance to pursue their dreams and their passions in life,” DeWine told a joint session of the General Assembly.

At a press conference following the address, House and Senate Democratic leaders called the Legislature out of step with Ohioans.

Leaders called the current legislative session one of the most unproductive in state history because of Republican in-fighting.

“The people of Ohio wait for proactive policy decisions, for the Legislature to do something,” said Senate Majority Leader Nickie Antonio, D-Lakewood. “For the remainder of the General Assembly, Ohio Democrats will continue to be staunch Democrats for all Ohioans.”

DeWine announced the new Child Care Choice voucher program for Ohioans making 200% above the federal poverty level and below to receive money for child care. Also, $85 million of federal money will be allocated to improve and expand existing child care facilities.

He called on lawmakers to adjust existing law to require students to develop both a graduation and career plan that includes how students intend to pay for additional education.

He also asked lawmakers to commit to making sure no student is shut out of career technical education. He also is directing colleges and universities to begin collecting information on how many graduates have a job six months after graduation and if it is degree-related.

DeWine wants to expand a program that partners schools with hospitals to create health care clinics inside of schools and encouraged all schools to explore options, and he promised state help for schools to utilize existing resources.

He outlined growth in prenatal care and announced a new 11-county program that gives every new mother at least one visit from a nurse. He promised to ask lawmakers for money to expand the program statewide in next year’s budget.

DeWine also called on schools to limit the use of smartphones in classrooms by students and wants the state to craft a new social media parental notification law that will withstand court challenges.

“We need to go after these social media companies. While it would be best if the federal government took action, they haven’t, and we can’t wait,” DeWine said.

House Speaker Jason Stephens, R-Kitts Hill, said school districts have the ability to establish local policies to ban or limit cellphone usage and wants to keep the decision local.

DeWine closed with calls to address what he called urgent issues, including banning Delta 8 sold to children, establishing regulations for recreational marijuana use and banning flavored vaping and flavored cigarettes statewide.

“We have accomplished a lot together,” DeWine said. “It’s really no wonder as [Pennsylvania] Gov. [Josh] Shapiro put it, he is ‘sick and tired of losing to friggin’ Ohio.’ Ohio’s unemployment is at historic lows. The economy is booming. But, we have even more to do, additional urgent issues that we must address. This is our time to meet the challenges of today. It is our time to chart our path forward as we protect our most precious resource, our child.”

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