State Rep. John Becker is not a household name, but he wants to be, or at least he would like to carry an unofficial title in the Ohio General Assembly: most conservative lawmaker.
“It’s not a contest,” Becker told our Columbus bureau. “If I were to wind up with that designation, I would be pleased with that. But I do have some stiff competition.”
Becker wants to reshape Ohio into a state where citizens can carry their guns widely, abortion is outlawed, absentee voting is more restricted and repeat sex offenders can be executed.
And he doesn’t like the idea of needle exchanges for street drug users, which he labels an “element of the liberal, social agenda.”
“The answer is treatment, not enablement,” he said recently during a House floor debate. “…The message should be ‘shape up or ship out,’ not ‘if it feels good, do it.’ Expectations is what we should be considering here. Do we want to provide condoms to our children and say, ‘Be safe?’ Do we want to provide needles and say, ‘Be clean.’ I think not.”
Becker, 51, a Republican from Union Twp. in Clermont County just east of Cincinnati, is quickly positioning himself to the right of a very right-leaning Ohio House, which is full of politicians brandishing conservative credentials. He was elected in November 2012 to represent the 65th district, winning 68.7 percent of the vote.
Becker considers himself a full-time legislator after spending most of his career in the insurance and banking industries and most recently, as a treasurer for a charter school. Becker, who grew up in the Cincinnati area, has served on the GOP’s Clermont County and state central committees for several years. His wife, Dorothy, homeschools their teen-age daughter.
He’s introduced 14 bills since June and signed on to a dozen others considered fiscally or socially conservative. Becker said more bills are in the works, and he has enough ideas to introduce one bill each week for the rest of the year.
State Rep. Terry Blair, R-Washington Twp., said he finds Becker to be very respectful, interesting and attentive. “I find it entertaining that he offers a different perspective,” Blair said. And while Blair said he doesn’t support all of Becker’s ideas, “I’m willing to listen to hwat he has to say.”
Becker is a co-sponsor on the so-called heartbeat bill that would outlaw abortion once a fetal heartbeat can be detected and on the Stand Your Ground bill that would allow Ohioans to use deadly force without first attempting to retreat. He also backs repealing the national Common Core standards adopted by Ohio and 44 other states.
He wants to allow silencers on guns (so not to scare off wild turkeys and grouse while hunting) and not let people vote if they don’t have a government ID card.
He also wants to put a stop to the government mailing out unsolicited absentee ballot applications or paying the return postage on the absentee ballots. And he doesn’t see a need for in-person voting to be done outside the standard Monday through Friday business hours. Becker wants to limit early voting to 17 days before an election, down from the current 35 days, and he wants to ban special elections held in February and August.
Sen. Nina Turner, D-Cleveland, said Becker’s election propsoals would reduce access to the ballot box, when Ohio should be trying to encourage people to vote. Turner is running for secretary of state in 2014.
“It’s pretty telling, pretty sad that Rep. Becker — instead of working on the issues the citizens of the state should be — is using his power for these bills,” Turner said.
Becker not only opposes expanding Medicaid, the state- and federally-funded health insurance program for poor and disabled Ohioans, but wants to shrink it. Currently, Ohio parents who earn at or below 90 percent of the federal poverty level — $13,959 for a single mother with one child — are eligible for Medicaid. Becker-sponsored legislation would drop eligibility to 34 percent and lower the threshold for pregnant women from 200 percent poverty to 133 percent.
“Furthermore, if medical providers had immunity from malpractice litigation for indigent (charity) care, they could provide health care services more economically. Additionally, I will never surrender the fight against socialized healthcare.”
Cathy Levine, executive director of the Universal Health Care Action Network of Ohio, said of Becker’s Medicaid proposal: “It is absolutely heartless in addition to being fiscally and socially irresponsible. Those folks are going to need treatment and we’re going to pay for it eventually — and in a more expensive setting.”
Becker wears his conservative coat proudly.
“Being a minimalist would best describe my philosophy on government,” he writes on his homepage. “Regarding taxes and regulations, let’s start with zero and negotiate from there.”
Perhaps Becker’s most controversial idea is extending the death penalty to cover rapists under certain conditions. Becker is the sole sponsor of the bill.
“There’s always cases out there about rapists and child molesters. I’ve always had this opinion that for some of those people there’s no cure,” Becker told The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer when he introduced the bill. “They just need to be put to death.”
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