Does Ohio need 'official country music group?'

By MARC KOVAC @ohiocapitalblog mkovac@dixcom.com Published:

COLUMBUS -- A state lawmaker wants to designate Rascal Flatts as Ohio's "official country music group."

Sen. Jim Hughes, R-Columbus, introduced Senate Bill 233 at the suggestion of a constituent to honor Gary LeVox, Jay DeMarcus and Joe Don Rooney. The trio has released more than two dozen singles, including a dozen No. 1 hits, and two of the members have central Ohio roots.

"They have always been a group that has remained loyal to their roots and have showed their allegiance to the state of Ohio in many ways," Hughes told members of the Senate's State Government Oversight and Reform Committee Wednesday, where the bill had a first hearing. "Committed to giving back, they are known for their charitable work and have even performed for charities in Ohio"

He added, "As fellow Buckeyes, I believe they are God-fearing, hardworking, honest men who positively represent our state and all Ohioans,"

Hughes also cited the group's numerous Ohio concerts and charitable work among reasons for singling Rascal Flatts out for the state honor.

A couple of members of the Senate committee, however, questioned the selection and offered other musicians who could be honored, including Grandpa Jones, Dwight Yoakam, Johnny Paycheck and Roy Rogers.

"Ohio has some very strong roots in country music," said Sen. Mike Skindell, D-Lakewood, who asked whether the legislation could be amended to ensure others are recognized or if the genre could be better specified.

Sen. Frank LaRose, R-Copley, added, "I'm familiar with Rascal Flatts and have a great deal of respect for their Buckeye Pride ... They do seem like upstanding gentlemen and the kind of role models we can be proud of as Ohioans. But it seems to me that naming them as the official country act of the state of Ohio does so perhaps to the exclusion of others that are worth considering. ... We've had a number of really outstanding country music musicians from the state of Ohio."

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