COLUMBUS, Ohio — For Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, 2020 provides more of a breather than 2019 did when he had to tackle the state's new 2-year budget immediately after taking office while also trying to convince GM to keep the soon to be idled Lordstown Assembly Plant open and an unforeseen hurdle of a $1 billion shortfall in the state's transportation budget for road and bridge maintenance and construction by 2030.
"The only real big surprise probably was what a sorry state our transportation budget was and that we had to go fix that," DeWine recently told News 5. "Not something that we particularly wanted to do but we did it."
The fix was a 10.5 cents-per-gallon gas tax increase and 19 cents-per-gallon increase on diesel an amount less than the 18-cents per gallon increase he originally sought but enough to get the ball rolling again on transportation projects.
"We're starting to see the results of that," DeWine said. "I kind of joke with people and say look it's good news and bad news in regard to our highways. The good news is we're fixing them, the bad news is we're fixing them and so you've got to go deal with the construction."
Looking ahead DeWine said "my number one agenda for 2020 is a continuation of some of the unfinished business of what we've done this year."
"Our number one priority is the Strong Ohio bill, which is the bill that we put forward as a direct reaction to the shooting in Dayton, the tragedy where we lost 10 people in Dayton."
Two days after the tragedy in August, DeWine presented a 17-point plan of gun reforms, stating at the time he was presenting only ideas he felt had a legitimate shot of passing. Changes were eventually made related to the red-flag law and background checks that DeWine believes sets it up for movement in 2020.
"There's no reason the legislature cannot or should not pass this bill. This bill will save lives, this bill won't guarantee because no bill will that we won't ever have another tragedy but I can guarantee you that there will be a lot of lives saved if we pass this bill," he said.
"One of the main areas is when that family does have that concern about that person in their family and that person is a danger to themselves or a danger to others we got to give an answer to that family yet protect the Second Amendment. We don't want to violate anybody's rights but on the same hand we've also got to give them some answers, this bill gives them answers."
When DeWine took office a year ago he made it clear that he would sign into law a heartbeat abortion bill if he was presented with one, a promise he kept in April.
"I signed the Heartbeat bill, I said I was going to sign that. I also said that there was no doubt that the lower courts would not uphold it because they have to follow the United States Supreme Court precedent. The United States Supreme Court will ultimately decide either this law or a similar law in some other state."
DeWine wouldn't say whether or not he would sign into law the abortion bill currently being considered by the house that would essentially outlaw abortion in Ohio and create the crime of abortion murder punishable by 15 years to life in prison or even the death penalty in aggravated cases. The measure would also require doctors to try to save ectopic pregnancies, where the pregnancy occurs outside of the uterus, by re-implanting the fetus in the uterus, a procedure that to date is not medically possible.
DeWine advises the legislature to tap the brakes while they wait for clarity from the Supreme Court.
"We really need to wait to see that, to get guidance from the court as far as what we can pass in the future so as far as any legislation that's introduced in this area I think we're probably better off just waiting."