When you say you are going to do something, you ought to do it. We expect people to keep their promises. That’s especially true of our elected officials. The people of Ohio expect – and deserve – representatives who keep their word.
As President of the Senate, I am proud to say that we are keeping our commitments to Ohioans. Back in January my colleagues and I announced our legislative priorities for this two-year cycle and unveiled our priority legislation – the first ten bills introduced in the Senate. These bills covered a range of issues important to Ohioans, including, among others:
- Increasing penalties for drug traffickers who sell deadly fentanyl;
- Protecting our environment and Ohio’s water quality;
- Improving workforce development efforts;
- Investing in infrastructure in our local communities;
- Assisting school districts in improving their technology, infrastructure, and school safety and security; and
- Streamlining government and lowering Ohioans’ tax burdens.
In the first six months of 2017, the Ohio Senate passed all ten of these priority bills. We said we were going to do these things for the people of Ohio, then we rolled up our sleeves and got to work. The Governor has now signed six of those bills into law, either as stand-alone legislation or as part of the state’s biennial budget. The House of Representatives is now considering the rest.
In addition to our priority legislation, the two most significant bills in any two-year cycle are the Transportation Budget and the Biennial Operating Budget. Each is now complete, and each will improve Ohio’s economy while making investments in key areas of importance to Ohioans.
The transportation budget invests in infrastructure throughout the state of Ohio, providing the resources to build and maintain our roads and bridges. The budget also provides important assistance to local governments by renewing the Ohio Bridge Partnership Program. This requires the Ohio Department of Transportation to partner with local governments (generally the County Engineer) to repair local bridges, directing resources back into our communities and ensuring that our bridges are safe. The bill also scales back red tape and regulation to improve Ohio’s economy. This includes reducing registration fees for high-volume commercial vehicle fleets, to encourage businesses to move their fleets to Ohio and create jobs in our state’s trucking industry.
Perhaps most important, in June the Senate passed a biennial operating budget that is balanced, conservative and fiscally responsible. The budget process was not without challenges. With state revenues missing estimates, the House and the Senate faced a budget gap of nearly $1.1 billion. But once again, we did what our constituents expect of us: we rolled up our sleeves, made some tough decisions and closed the gap. And despite making some substantial spending cuts, we invested more than $200 million of additional state funding into our local schools and made historic new investments into the fight against opioid abuse.
Importantly, the budget bill also provides tax relief to the hard working men and women of our state. We eliminated Ohio’s two lowest income tax brackets, providing tax relief to those who need it most. We also doubled the amount that you can save tax-free for your child’s college education and renewed the back-to-school Sales Tax Holiday for 2018. We also provided much-needed relief to Ohio’s farmers by making long-overdue changes to the state’s formula for valuing agricultural land.
I do not measure the Senate’s success by how many bills we pass. I measure it by whether or not we are improving opportunities for the people we represent. But you should know that when we set our goals earlier this year, we intended to follow through, and we did so.
We also strived to make the legislative process more accessible. This year I expanded television coverage of the Senate’s work to include several key committees and made those proceedings available on OhioSenate.gov, on the Ohio Channel online (OhioChannel.org) and on local public access broadcast stations. The Senate works for you, for We the People, and we wanted to bring the inner workings of the legislature to Ohioans everywhere, accessible from your homes or on the go via your smartphones.
Looking ahead, we will continue to make your priorities our priorities. I welcome your feedback and opinions at any time. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling me at (614) 466-7505. I hope to see you this summer as I attend county fairs and hold open office hours at libraries throughout the 22nd District.