Ohio Governor Mike DeWine took to the stage Wednesday afternoon to deliver the State of the State Address for 2024.

During his time on stage, he discussed the progress the State of Ohio has made in numerous aspects.

DeWine began by mentioning 402,000 children receiving a free book in the mail each month courtesy of Dolly Parton's Imagination Library stating that Ohio now leads in enrollment the Imagination Library.

DeWine also mentioned improvements in student literacy throughout the state thanks to the many K-12 schools in the state's focus on the "Science of Reading." The governor called on all colleges and university's in Ohio to focus on the Science of Reading as well.

DeWine also brought up children with conditions such as vision problems, which could impact their ability to learn stating that tens of thousands of children who need eyeglasses aren't getting them.

The Governor mentioned organizations such as Sight For All United here in the Valley who are bringing comprehensive eye exams to children in need. DeWine announced a new statewide plan to ensure every child who needs glasses can get them.

DeWine then mentioned communities who struggle with access to primary health care bringing up on-campus walk-in clinics at schools such as East High School in Youngstown, as well as new centers coming to Appalachian communities in the Valley in beyond.

The governor went on to ask the Ohio Department of Health and Education and Workforce to work together to provide technical assistance to any school district in Ohio who wants to create their own on-campus clinic.

While on the topic of childhood and schools, DeWine announced a revision to the child care quality rating system to simplify and reduce paperwork, focus on better outcomes for kids and provide quality-rated programs with access to curriculums that focus on the Science of Reading.

When it comes to access to child care and Ohio's public preschool program, DeWine says over 16,000 children are currently being served. DeWine went on to announce a new Child Care Voucher Program that will provide financial support for an additional 8,000 children.

In order to qualify, families must earn up to 200% of the federal poverty level or $60,000 for a family of four.

Additionally, DeWine highlighted the creation of the Teacher Apprenticeship Program, where school leaders identify potential future teachers already working in the schools and provide them with an opportunity to participate in a registered apprenticeship program to obtain their teaching license.

DeWine then announced a new Principal Apprenticeship Program from the Ohio Department of Education and Workforce, which would allow up-and-coming principals to receive hands-on in-school training from veteran principals to prepare themselves for the job.

DeWine also highlighted the recent awarding of $67 million to 56 career tech programs to purchase additional training equipment so more students can access training on state-of-the-art equipment and fewer students would be turned away from these programs.

The governor went on to call on the legislature to make a change in statute that would require career planning into existing high school graduation requirements in order for students to have a clearer path toward a career.

DeWine also called on the general assembly to craft legislation to prevent children under the age of 16 from using social media without the permission of a parent. 

The governor said while the federal government has not acted on this yet, this should not deter Ohio and the state should instead act as an example for what other states should do about this issue.

"Let's take the lessons we are learning from court rulings across the country and let's develop a plan for Ohio that can be a blueprint for putting parents, not social media companies, back in charge of the digital lives of their children," DeWine said.

DeWine also brought up the issue of cell phones in general with children stating that they not only act as a distraction in school, but could also be detrimental to children's mental health.

That's why DeWine called on Ohio school leaders to prohibit the use of cell phones in the classroom and for the general assembly to pass a law requiring all schools to communicate their phone and social media policies to students' families.

Speaking of mental health, DeWine highlighted the recent establishment of a mobile response stabilization service in 38 Ohio counties and announced plans to expand that service to every Ohio county.

"These services are similar to what first responders do when they show up for a physical health emergency. Our mobile crisis response units will deploy within 60 minutes directly to the youth experiencing distress. A team of trained professionals will conduct safety assessments, deescalate situations and offer peer support among other services," DeWine explained.

DeWine also brought up the issue of children's access to certain THC products known as Delta 8. DeWine says these products are sold in gas stations and convenience stores and strongly resemble common children's snack foods like candy, gummies and breakfast cereals.

DeWine states these products can legally be sold without warning labels and age restrictions as other hemp products due to a loophole in the law.

"Just in the cases that were reported to the Ohio Poison Control Center, there were 100 Delta 8 poisonings last year, and of those, 40 involved children aged five and younger," DeWine said.

That's why Governor DeWine called for legislation to be passed to ban the sale of these products to minors just as other hemp products are.

In addition, DeWine called on the general assembly to make clear that marijuana cannot be smoked in public places, especially those where it would interfere with children and others who do not want to be around smoke.

"I doubt that very many people who voted yes on Issue 2 wanted their kids breathing in marijuana smoke by walking in a public park or on a sidewalk to ball practice or smelling the stench of it walking from the parking lot to a Guardians game or a Reds game," DeWine said.

DeWine then discussed tobacco products, particularly flavored tobacco and e-cigarettes calling on President Joe Biden to enact a proposal to ban the sale of these products and also called on the general assembly to pass a statewide flavored tobacco ban as well.

"We have the obligation to protect Ohio children and we have the ability to do that. ... It will save lives. We need to protect our kids," DeWine said.

DeWine also brought up the issue of highway safety and the issue of seatbelt usage in Ohio. The governor said Ohio is 10th from the bottom in seatbelt usage across the country and the issue of people not wearing their seatbelts is especially an issue with Ohio's youngest drivers.

In Ohio, not wearing a seatbelt is not a primary offense, meaning an officer would need to observe another primary offense such as running a red light or cell phone usage while driving in order to pull a driver over for not wearing a seatbelt.

That's why DeWine called on the general assembly to craft a law to make seatbelt violations a primary offense in Ohio.

This would be a similar approach to 2023's new distracted driving law, which made cell phone usage a primary offense.

"This is our time to band together, to work together, to be resourceful, to be innovative, to be optimistic, to inspire and to lead. And when we do this, this will be Ohio's finest hour," DeWine said.