COLUMBUS — A dramatic day of veto override attempts at the Ohio Statehouse on Thursday ended in a kind of tie for outgoing Republican Gov. John Kasich, a prospective 2020 presidential contender who took on his same-party Legislature on Medicaid expansion, abortion, gun rights and politician pay raises.
Lawmakers overrode Kasich's vetoes of bills expanding gun-owner rights and increasing the pay of elected officials, including some incoming state officeholders, during rare post-Christmas voting sessions.
But they opted not to revisit Kasich's 18-month-old veto protecting Medicaid expansion and, in the most dramatic moment of the day, came up just one vote short of overriding his veto of a heartbeat abortion ban.
Republican Senate President Larry Obhof dismissed the cheers that broke out in his chamber after senators voted 19-13 vote to override the so-called heartbeat bill veto when 20 votes were needed. The bill would have prohibited the procedure at the first detectable heartbeat, as early as six weeks into pregnancy.
"I think that the celebration for some of the people in here will be short-lived," Obhof told reporters. "We will have a supermajority that is pro-life in both chambers in the next General Assembly — we're getting sworn in in less than two weeks, and we have a governor coming in who has said he would sign that bill."
Still, abortion rights activists bedecked in red and pink regalia claimed the vote as a victory. The bill's author, Janet Porter, declined to comment.
The House successfully overrode Kasich's veto on the heartbeat bill with just the 60 votes necessary. The 80-year-old father of a former state representative was sworn in quickly to take his seat and cast the deciding vote.
"What you see continuously with this bill — with the last-minute pushes, the never full sets of hearings, always last-minute hijinks — really proves that they know they don't have the will of the people with this bill," said Jaime Miracle of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio. "It is just too extreme. Without exceptions for rape and incest, a 6-week abortion ban is blatantly unconstitutional."
That was what Kasich effectively said in his second veto message on the bill in as many years.
In another of the day's extraordinary moments, Democratic state Sen. Mike Skindell read the entirety of Republican Kasich's veto message on a bill expanding gun-owner rights. It was mostly Democrats who supported his veto, while Republicans provided the votes to override it.
The legislation shifts the burden of proof in self-defense cases from defendants to prosecutors, allows off-duty police officers to carry firearms and phases in pre-emption of many local firearms restrictions.
Obhof said the bill has wrongly been roped into the national debate over gun violence, when most of its provisions bring Ohio law in line with a majority of other states.
State Sen. Peggy Lehner, of Kettering, was among Republicans who voted to let Kasich's veto stand.
"We have a gun problem in this country and we need to recognize that," she said.
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