Summer is here, and the old fiscal year is over and a new one is underway, now that Gov. John Kasich has signed his first state budget. The sweeping, nearly $56 billion state budget cleared the Republican-controlled Ohio Senate and House this week on a party line vote in each chamber.
Meanwhile, as House members were preparing to vote on the budget, thousands of opponents of the controversial collective bargaining reform law known as Senate Bill 5 were walking alongside the Statehouse. The anti-SB 5 group We Are Ohio says volunteers gathered five times the number of signatures it needs to put SB 5 before voters this fall.
There were some other big pieces of legislation that were passed this week - the so-called "Heartbeat Bill", which would be the strictest abortion ban in the country; a big election reform bill, and a measure finalizing water-use requirements as part of the Great Lakes Compact which opponents say will allow millions of gallons to be taken away from Lake Erie. The governor also signed several pieces of legislation besides the budget - including the long-awaited prison sentencing reform bill, the bill allowing oil and natural gas drilling on state lands, and the measure allowing concealed carry permit holders to bring their guns into bars and restaurants that serve alcohol as long as they aren't drinking.
Each presidential election year, Ohio plays a critical role in deciding who will occupy the Oval Office. No Republican has ever reached the White House without carrying Ohio. The candidates know that - judging by their many visits to Ohio - but outsiders might wonder what is it about Ohio that makes it such a key state in national elections. The experts at the Bliss Institute for Applied Politics at the University of Akron are hoping to resolve that with a new book - "Buckeye Battleground: Ohio, Campaigns, and Elections in the 21st Century". The book's lead author Dr. Daniel Coffey and Dr. John Green talk about it.