Sunday, August 29, 1999

CAPITOL INSIDER


GOP's Finan sings different tune

BY MICHAEL HAWTHORNE
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Friends of public radio may want to encourage Senate President Richard Finan to run for Congress after term limits force him out of office in 2003.

        Several National Public Radio affiliates across the country are under attack from majority Republicans in Congress for trading membership lists with the Democratic National Committee. (The lists also were shared with Republican groups.)

        But Mr. Finan, an Evendale Republican who frequently devotes his weekly column to random musings about everyday life, wants folks to know he doesn't join his conservative friends in condemning public radio.

        “I like public radio! When I'm uptight, I turn to the classic music of WGUC and it really does help,” Mr. Finan wrote in his latest missive.

        “Oh, yes, try WVXU at 11:30 a.m. "Bob and Ray,' "Jack Benny' and "Fibber McGee and Molly' are just as fresh and funny today as they were 50 years ago. And you know what? There's no smut and there's no violence or off-color humor.”

        Now back to our regular programming.

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        Statehouse insiders always are buzzing with rumors about who's on top, who's treading water and who's in trouble in state government.

        One rumor that has persisted almost since the day Gov. Bob Taft took office in January is that Lt. Gov. Maureen O'Connor hates her job and wants out.

        The Akron Beacon Journal first floated the idea in May with speculation Republican leaders wanted the former Summit County prosecutor back in Akron to run for county executive next year.

        Then this month, Ms. O'Connor refused to rule out the possibility during an interview with Gannett News Service.

        This earth-shattering story didn't reach fever pitch until the Columbus Dispatch ran a similar story last week speculating that House Speaker Jo Ann Davidson, R-Reynoldsburg, would soon replace Ms. O'Connor.

        Reporters mobbed Mr. Taft at an event Thursday, demanding to know if he needs a new running mate.

        “She's an invaluable mem ber of our team, but sometimes opportunities come along,” Mr. Taft said. “I would certainly hope she decides to continue as lieutenant governor.”

        Ms. O'Connor helped Mr. Taft secure a key endorsement from the Fraternal Order of Police during last year's campaign. He rewarded her by putting her in charge of the state Department of Public Safety, a job that pays $113,172 a year.

        Without that job, the lieutenant governor doesn't have much to do. Her only task required by state law is chairing the State and Local Government Commission.

        “I've got to weigh a lot of positives,” said Ms. O'Connor, who plans to announce her decision within 60 days.

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        Kids on school field trips and curious adults stream through the Statehouse throughout the year. Now they can watch legislative debates from their computers.

        The state has a new Web site — www.oll.state.oh.us — that allows computer users to view or hear past debates with free software. Internet enthusiasts also can watch debates live when the General Assembly is in session.

        One of the more memorable debates in recent years isn't in the Web site's archives. Mr. Finan pounded his gavel so forcefully that it shattered during a contentious 1997 debate about repealing union-negotiated wages for school construction workers.

        “At least you ought to have enough common sense to shut up,” Mr. Finan bellowed to union activists packing the Senate chambers that day.

        However, there is an often-eloquent May 19 exchange about a House resolution supporting granite monuments inscribed with the Ten Commandments outside four Adams County high schools.

        Michael Hawthorne covers state government for The Cincinnati Enquirer. He can be reached at (614) 224-4640.

       



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