Working in a lame duck session, Ohio lawmakers sent a handful of controversial bills to Gov. John Kasich, who indicated he will use his veto pen on measures he doesn’t like.
Joking that he could be known as “Veto Corleone” by the time he’s done, Kasich said, “I have no joy in having to veto stuff, but I’m not going to sign stuff that I don’t agree with in a deep way. If you think I’m going to sign a bill that gives more power to the gun folks, are you kidding me?”
Sitting on his desk now is House Bill 228, a gun rights bill that would shift the burden of proof in self-defense cases from the shooter to the prosecutor. Kasich’s 10-day window to sign, veto or let the bill go into law without signature closes on Tuesday.
The bill is dramatically scaled back from its original version, which would have given armed Ohioans the right to stand their ground and use deadly force in public places, rather than face a duty to retreat. Even without that provision, Kasich said, “This bill is still a terrible bill.”
Lawmakers planned voting days for Tuesday and Wednesday for possible veto overrides, which require 60 votes in the House and 20 in the Senate.
Bills on abortion, pay raise hang in balance
Late Thursday night, lawmakers put the finishing touches on two abortion bills and a pay raise for elected leaders, including themselves. The pay hike provisions were folded into a bill that calls for health care benefits for the widows and kids of police and firefighters killed in the line of duty.
Kasich called the pay hike measure “a grubby pay bill.” He does not have a line-item veto power with the bill because it doesn’t contain an appropriation. So the governor must decide whether to reject the entire bill — including benefits for the families of fallen first responders — or sign it or let it go into law without signature.
Jay McDonald, past president of the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police, urged Kasich not to veto the bill.
“A veto of this much needed bill would be devastating to the families of our fallen heroes,” he said in a tweet.
Also heading to Kasich’s desk are House Bill 258 and Senate Bill 145, both of which call for abortion restrictions.
SB145 would outlaw abortions performed by dilation and evacuation, a procedure commonly used to terminate pregnancies between 13 and 24 weeks gestation. In 2017, 3,441 D&E abortions were performed in Ohio, according to state records.
HB258 would ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which can be as early as six weeks gestation and often before a woman knows she is pregnant. The bill does not include exemptions for victims of rape or incest.
If it were to become law, it is likely to be challenged in court — a process that is expected to take years before it would reach the U.S. Supreme Court.
Kasich vetoed a similar heartbeat bill in December 2016 but he has signed more than a dozen other abortion restrictions into law.
Possible veto showdown
Mustering the votes to override a governor’s veto on the lawmaker pay bill or the abortion ban bills could be difficult. Kasich is expected to run out his 10-day clock, which would force lawmakers to return to Columbus during Christmas week for override votes. Many lawmakers have made holiday plans and may not be available. Plus, the heartbeat bill got 53 votes in the House and 18 in the Senate — shy of the 60 and 20 votes needed for a veto override.
On Friday, Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Medina, announced his chamber would hold session on Dec. 27, setting up a possible showdown over Kasich vetoes.