One Ohio lawmaker is asking what would happen if President Obama moved his State of the Union address from the Capitol building in Washington D.C. to an auditorium in Peoria, Illinois. Democratic State Sen. Ron Gerberry says he thinks there would be public outrage. In an interview with Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles, Gerberry says the equivalent of that is happening in Ohio. He says he's not happy about it.
GERBERRY: "I am personally offended as a member of this house that this governor believes he can take our joint session and trot us across the state. And I heard someone say that the major complaint was that -- by some legislators -- was that legislators are not getting mileage. Quite frankly I never heard that, and I think if there’s any legislator that needs a few dollars for gas if that’s their problem, I think there's a number of us that will be willing to help them out. I mean, that’s how silly I think that comment is. This is not about mileage. This is about history. This is about respect for the Ohio House of Representatives and the Ohio General Assembly. And I believe it’s disrespectful that we take this opportunity and that the governor requests permission to address the joint session, and he then makes a request to move it to some other place in this state. And quite frankly, I think as soon as you move it, it no longer becomes an address to us, setting what he believes are his priorities for the upcoming General Assembly, and it becomes a political event for the governor. And quite honestly, I think that’s wrong."
INGLES: "Governor Kasich says the reason he wants to do this, though, is that he thinks it makes government more accessible to ordinary Ohioans. Do you buy that?"
GERBERRY: "I don’t buy that at all. I believe that the governor can travel anywhere he wants. He sure found an opportunity to make government accessible when he wanted to go out and talk about his turnpike scheme. And he started up in Toledo and ended up in Austintown Township in Mahoning County. The governor could go make a speech anytime he wants anywhere he wants in this state or any part of the country. This is the State of the State. It's not about the governor. It’s about the governor's talking to members of the Ohio General Assembly. It’s not about Gov. Kasich. It’s about what the governor sees as the State of this State and his proposals for this upcoming General Assembly. And when we move it to another part of the state, now we make it about him. It’s not about him.
INGLES: "Now, Rep. Gerberry, though, you're a Democrat. And you know the General Assembly is controlled by Republicans, the same party as the governor. You are probably going to be outvoted on this. You are probably going to have to go to the State of the State in some western part of the state, as we are being told. Why fight it?"
GERBERRY: "Just on principle. That’s it. It's principle. I really believe there is no one in this General Assembly that respects the institution greater than Bill Batchelder. I really believe that Speaker Batchelder has been here longer than any other member. He has served 30 years plus in this General Assembly. No person has greater respect for this institution. I think this disrespects the institution. I think that’s why this resolution got 52 votes two years ago, and I’m hopeful it won’t get 50 votes this time."
There are 99 members in the Ohio House. If 50 of them don’t vote to allow the State of the State to be moved to a location outside the Statehouse, the annual gubernatorial address would have to be held there. But there are 60 Republicans in the Ohio House and only 39 Democrats. There is no reason to believe, at this point, that the State of the State won’t be moved to an alternative location. Gov. Kasich has not announced where he intends to make the speech. He will only say it is in western Ohio.