In a rare move, Ohio lawmakers on Thursday used their power to override Gov. John Kasich on two major issues — an expansion of gun rights and a pay raise for lawmakers and other elected officials.
The Ohio Senate failed to override Kasich’s veto of the “Heartbeat bill,” which would have outlawed abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected. State Senate President Larry Obhof said the bill will come back after the new year when new lawmakers and Gov.-elect Mike DeWine are in office.
The two overrides are especially unusual given Republican control of the governor’s office and majorities in both legislative chambers. Michael Dawson, former spokesman for late Gov. George Voinovich, said before Kasich’s term there had only been two veto overrides in nearly 40 years.
The fast-tracked, lame-duck veto overrides were completed before lunch, sparing little time during the rare post-Christmas session. During the blitz, Ohio lawmakers:
• Overrode the veto of a bill that shifts the burden of proof in self-defense shooting cases from the defendant to the prosecutor, and allows individuals or groups to sue local jurisdictions that try to enact and enforce their own gun control measures.
• Gave themselves and other elected officials pay raises. The increases were attached to death benefit increases for slain public safety officers, prompting Kasich to label it “a grubby money bill.”
• Declined in the Senate to override the governor’s veto on a so-called “heartbeat” abortion bill. State Sen. Bill Beagle was the only local senator to vote against the override, causing it to fall one vote short of the 20 votes needed.
• Avoided confrontation with Kasich over the governor’s 2017 veto ensuring the future of his Medicaid expansion effort.
Gun bill gets OK
On the gun rights bill, the Senate overrode the veto 21-11, following the House’s 67-22 vote. Veto overrides require 20 votes in the Senate and 60 votes in the house.
Kasich had vetoed the bill while reiterating his call for a “red flag law” that would allow police and family members to petition the courts to seize firearms from someone exhibiting warning signs that they’re a danger to themselves or others.
Before it was sent to Kasich, lawmakers stripped out the most controversial measure in HB 228, which would have removed a duty to retreat from danger in public places. The provision is often called “Stand Your Ground.”
The bill also allows off-duty police officers to carry concealed weapons and strengthens prohibitions on so-called straw-man gun purchases.
Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg, said the bill “will advance the Second Amendment in Ohio.” GOP lawmakers said the shift aligns the legal burden of proof to that of the other 49 states.
Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering, said she could not vote in good conscience to override the veto.
“We have a gun problem in this country and we need to recognize that,” Lehner said. “I think this bill is just one more example where we are rushing to the defense of the gun lobby, even though it’s been pared back considerably from where it was.”
Lawmakers get pay increase
The Ohio Senate voted 25-6 to override Kasich’s veto of a pay raise for elected officials. The House also voted to override the governor, 70-16.
Senate Bill 296 calls for the current lawmaker base pay of $60,584 to increase to $73,167 by 2028. Stipends for leadership and committee chairmanship posts would also be increased. It would be the first pay raise in a decade.
House Majority Leader Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, railed at Kasich in a statement before the vote, calling the veto “Grinchlike” for denying pay increases to legislators and non-judicial officials, “many of whom, unlike the governor, are not independently wealthy and are not in anticipation, as he is, of landing a seven figure salary as a TV talk show commentator.”
Kasich leaves office in January and is weighing a 2020 presidential bid and potential short-term media job.
‘Heartbeat’ bill stalled
The House voted in favor of overturning Kasich’s veto of a six-week abortion ban bill, but the Senate rejected the override attempt 19-13, prompting loud cheers from protesters within the chamber.
Sen. Beagle, R-Tipp City, voted against overriding the governor, despite previously voting for the bill. He did not respond to repeated requests seeking comment. The switch prompted state Rep. Candice Keller, R-Middletown, to call for Beagle to lose his expected position within the new GOP administration of Ohio Treasurer-elect Robert Sprague.
Other local senators voted to override the governor including William Coley, R-Hamilton; Bob Hackett, R-London; Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering; Steve Wilson, R- Maineville. and Matt Huffman, R-Lima.
Gov.-elect DeWine has said he would sign the abortion bill if it gets to his desk in the next session. DeWine takes office Jan. 14.
The Associated Press and Columbus Bureau Staff Writer Laura A. Bischoff contributed reporting.