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Ohio Gov. DeWine delivers child-focused State of the State address

Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on Wednesday unveiled his 2024 agenda, which includes a host of legislative priorities focusing on children.

Improving access to child care and kids' health care form the core elements of Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine's agenda in 2024, as the second-term Republican rolled out a slate of policy priorities focusing on children to state lawmakers Wednesday.

DeWine, speaking in the House of Representatives' chamber in the Statehouse, delivered his State of the State address to a joint session of the GOP-controlled Legislature, a preview of his budget and policy plans for 2024.

To a great extent, DeWine focused on improving health care and student learning, as well as things he said can boost Ohio's economy, including efforts to expand child care and keeping more college graduates in the state.


He said he wants to build on previous efforts to expand subsidized child care, college tuition and technical education offerings in high schools.

"The single most important thing we can do for Ohio’s future is to ensure that all Ohio children — all Ohio children, no matter where they live, no matter who their parents are — 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 said.

DeWine said he wants to create a child care voucher program for families that meet income eligibility requirements and to use $85 million in federal funding for grants to expand child care offerings.

The voucher program would be open to families that make up to 200% of the federal poverty level, or $60,000 for a family of four. He estimated that it would help 8,000 children. He did not say how much money it would require, or what sort of grant would be available to each family.

Saying the state needs to retain more of its college graduates, DeWine said he wants to start collecting data that measures how many graduates get jobs within six months. He framed the effort as an accountability measure that will help students in picking a higher education institution to attend.

As part of an effort to help children learn, DeWine said he wants to ensure every child who fails a vision screening test in school can get a follow-up eye exam and, if needed, a pair of eyeglasses. Too many do not, he said, announcing a "Children’s Vision Strike Force" to work with vision care professionals.

"Ohio has never had a statewide plan to ensure that every Ohio child who needs glasses will get glasses," DeWine said. "Now we do."

DeWine pledged to improve various aspects of health care for infants and schoolchildren.

Every school should consider starting a school-based health clinic, DeWine said. His administration could help with technical assistance, he said.

He said his administration will launch a new pilot program in 11 counties to offer every new mother a visit from a nurse about three weeks after delivering a baby. Visiting nurses can help parents find medical support, navigate breastfeeding or other aspects of caring for an infant, DeWine said.

Similar programs have a track record of reducing infant mortality, emergency room visits, postpartum depression and child protective services investigations, DeWine said.

He also said he wants to expand a quick-response service for children in mental health crisis from 38 to all 88 counties.

On public health and safety, DeWine asked lawmakers to ban marijuana use in public after Ohio voters approved a measure last year legalizing recreational marijuana, defying Republican legislative leaders who had refused to pass it.

He asked lawmakers to toughen seat-belt laws, require schools to minimize cellphone use by students in classrooms, and write new legislation to require parental consent for children under 16 to use social media apps. An existing law DeWine signed is blocked by a court.

"We need to go after the social media companies that are targeting our kids — addicting them and then monetizing that addiction," DeWine said. "What they are doing is shameful."

He also called for lawmakers to outlaw flavored vaping and flavored cigarettes and ban the sale to children of delta-8 THC, a mildly intoxicating sibling of delta-9 THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana.

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