Kasich vetoes bill to roll back clean energy rules

Ohio Gov. John Kasich on Tuesday vetoed a controversial bill that would have made renewable energy benchmarks voluntary instead of mandatory for the next two years, saying the change would mark a step backward for the state.

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Ohio Gov. John Kasich on Tuesday vetoed a controversial bill that would have made renewable energy benchmarks voluntary instead of mandatory for the next two years, saying the change would mark a step backward for the state.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich on Tuesday vetoed a controversial bill that would have made renewable energy benchmarks voluntary instead of mandatory for the next two years, saying the change would mark a step backward for the state.

The governor said in his veto message that a wide range of energy options makes Ohio attractive to businesses and helps businesses and residents reduce their utility bills.

“Ohio workers cannot afford to take a step backward from the economic gains that we have made in recent years, however, and arbitrarily limiting Ohio’s energy generation options amounts to self-inflicted damage to both our state’s near and long-term economic competitiveness,” he said.

The veto drew immediate applause from the National Wildlife Federation, the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel, National Audubon Society, Sierra Club and others. The benchmarks, set by legislation passed in 2008, require electric companies to gradually acquire more energy from renewable sources.

The veto drew a rebuke from state Sen. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, who opposes the energy mandates. Seitz promised to strive for a full repeal of the mandates next legislative session.

“It is apparent that Gov. Kasich cares more about appeasing his coastal elite friends in the renewable energy business than he does about the millions of Ohioans who decisively rejected this ideology when they voted for President-elect Trump,” Seitz said in a written release. “We can only hope that President Trump and his amazing cabinet of free market capitalists will save us from this regulatory overreach of Al Gore-style policies that take unnecessary money out of ratepayers’ pockets.”

The governor eliminated provisions in Senate Bill 235 that would have granted sales tax exemptions for digital jukeboxes and oil and gas companies.

And he vetoed Senate Bill 329, which would have “sunsetted” state departments in the governor’s cabinet unless the General Assembly deemed that they should continue to exist.

Kasich said in his veto message that state departments are already reviewed every two years during the budget process. “This second, duplicative process would be a waste of both Executive and Legislative branch resources,” he said.

Lawmakers could return to Columbus to override these vetoes as well as Kasich’s decision to line-item veto a provision that would have outlawed abortion as soon as a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which could be as early as six weeks. The Ohio House has two “if needed” sessions scheduled this week.

Meanwhile, Kasich has other homework: 20 bills passed by the Legislature in lame duck landed on the governor’s desk Tuesday.

Here is a look at bills awaiting his signature or veto:

Public university audits: Public universities and community colleges may be subject to performance audits conducted by the state auditor.

Drunk drivers: First time drunk driving offenders could opt to have an ignition locking device installed on their cars instead of having their driving privileges revoked or restricted by the courts.

Civil forfeitures: Government agencies would face limits on when civil forfeiture — taking of personal property — can be used, particularly when the owner hasn't been convicted of any crime.

Chronically truant students: School districts would not be allowed to suspend or expel students solely because of unexcused absences. Instead, districts would have to establish an intervention team to address the truancy issues.

Terminally ill: Patients suffering from terminal illnesses may be allowed to take drugs that are not yet approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration.

Towing: Repair shops, towing services or storage yards could obtain titles to vehicles after 30 days if they are worth less than $1,500, are inoperable and impossible to restore to highway operation. And the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio would be responsible for setting maximum towing and storage fees.

Death penalty cases: Court clerks would be required to retain records in death penalty cases and offenders would have more time to request post-conviction relief.

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