COLUMBUS -- A lawmaker panel made quick work of a resolution urging federal officials to base a planned missile defense shield in northeastern Ohio, moving Senate Concurrent Resolution 8 on its first hearing and recommending passage by the full chamber.
The action of the Senate's Local Government, Public Safety and Veterans Affairs Committee Tuesday sets up a floor vote as early as today.
SCR 8, sponsored by Sens. Sean O'Brien (D-Bazetta) and John Eklund (R-Munson Township, in Geauga County), calls on the U.S. Missile Defense Agency to pick the Camp Ravenna Joint Military Training Center near Newton Falls as the "preferred site for a future East Coast missile defense system."
Comparable missile defense systems are already in place on the West Coast, and federal officials are considering ground-based interceptors in the eastern part of the country, O'Brien said. Camp Ravenna and sites in New York and Michigan are being considered for the project, with a decision possible before the end of the year.
O'Brien said Camp Ravenna is a good fit for the project, given its proximity to the Youngstown Air Reserve Station. The project would mean $3 billion-$4 billion in economic investment in the region, plus 2,300 construction jobs and about 850 highly technical, high-paying positions at the base.
"We believe it will have a huge economic benefit to our region of Ohio, as well as the strategic importance to defending our country," O'Brien said.
Eklund added that the project also presents "an opportunity to support protecting the United States of America from evil forces who would do us harm and a chance to beat out Michigan, all in one resolution."
Vito Abruzzino, executive director of the Eastern Ohio Military Affairs Commission, also was on hand to provide testimony Tuesday. The commission was formed several years ago to advocate on behalf of the area's military community.
"What we do know is the threat of overseas missiles or intercontinental ballistic missiles, has only grown over the last several years, not diminished," he said, adding that President Donald Trump's administration has indicated there will be increased spending on military projects. " [Basing the project at Camp Ravenna] could really benefit the state, it could benefit the defense of the United States, and it's just a good thing overall."
The two-page resolution is a symbolic move that would formalize lawmakers' position, with copies forwarded to federal officials, Ohio's congressional delegation and others.
Eklund thanked the Local Government, Public Safety and Veterans Affairs Committee for its quick work on the resolution, noting that absent action this week, the measure likely wouldn't see action until after lawmakers return to the Statehouse later in the year.
"This is important, because insofar as these decisions are going to be made in Washington about whether to go forward with this project and if so where, they're going to be made in some measure of likelihood before we get back from the summer recess," he said. "So it's critical that we give our voice and our expression of support to this location at this time."
Lawmakers are set to act on a related provision in separate legislation -- the inclusion of $50,000 over the coming biennium in the state operating budget, "for the Camp Ravenna Joint Military Training Center to help with securing federal funding in promoting the defense of the United States."
Marc Kovac covers the Ohio Statehouse for Gatehouse Media. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.