COLUMBUS, Ohio – For the second year in a row, Gov. John Kasich is making plans to deliver his State of the State speech outside the capital city, a practice he says exposes more Ohioans to their government but which critics say sets a bad precedent.
Assuming state lawmakers agree, this year’s venue will be Lima, a rebounding Rust Belt city of 38,000 that sits equidistant between Toledo and Dayton in northwest Ohio. Kasich would give the speech Feb. 19 at Veterans Memorial Civic Center.
In another departure from tradition, Kasich hopes to deliver the speech in the evening this year, rather than the usual noontime start.
In 2012, Kasich became the first governor in modern memory to take the year’s big policy speech outside the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus.
The first-term Republican chose Steubenville for the occasion, using the award-winning Wells Academy, named the best school in the state, to tout education successes and the benefits of the region’s burgeoning shale gas industry.
Justices were unable to attend last year’s speech because court was in session the day it was delivered, and some statewide officials and legislators couldn’t or chose not to attend.
Choosing Lima this year gives Kasich a chance to highlight economic successes he has touted on both the state and national stages.
Unemployment in Allen County has fallen since he took office, moving from 10.8 percent to 6.7 percent. The selection of Lima, the county seat, was first reported by the Lima News.
The newly elected president of the Ohio Senate, Republican Keith Faber, also resides nearby. He issued a statement Friday praising the governor’s efforts to use the State of the State speech to highlight new areas of the state.
“I’m especially honored to host the governor and my legislative colleagues in Lima, one of the economic hubs of my district,” he said. “We’ve got a great story to tell, and I know Gov. Kasich has an incredible record and vision to share in this important address. This is how government ‘of the people’ should work.”
Lawmakers, Supreme Court justices, Cabinet officials and statewide officeholders would need to make the trip to convene the joint legislative session where the speech is delivered. Lima is about 100 miles northwest of Columbus.
Before 2012, the Ohio General Assembly last convened a joint session outside Columbus in 2003, when lawmakers traveled to the first state capital, Chillicothe, to celebrate the state’s bicentennial. The time before that was in the 1950s.
Some Democratic lawmakers have called on their colleagues to reject Kasich’s request to take the speech outside the Statehouse, saying it breaks a long-held and important tradition. Others have criticized the added costs of the event.
To counter them, Kasich sent a letter to state lawmakers along with his venue request Friday asking them to support his decision.