GUEST COLUMN: A Look Back At 2017
A guest column by Senate President Larry Obhof
January 04, 2018
 
 
As we begin the new year, we have passed the halfway point for the 132nd General Assembly, the two-year cycle for introducing and enacting new legislation.  As I look back at the past twelve months, I am proud that my colleagues and I have worked to keep our commitments to the people of our great state. 
 
When the legislature kicked things off in January 2017, the Senate majority members announced our priority legislation – the first ten bills that we introduced.  These dealt with issues important to Ohioans, including 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; and streamlining government and lowering Ohioans’ tax burdens.
 
This wasn’t empty rhetoric. Members of the Senate worked hard to keep our commitments to Ohioans.  We passed all ten of these priority bills in 2017, and the Governor has now signed seven of those bills into law, either as stand-alone legislation or as part of the state’s biennial budget. 
 
Perhaps most important, in June the Senate passed a biennial operating budget that is balanced, conservative and fiscally responsible. We faced significant challenges along the way, with state revenues missing estimates and the legislature facing a budget gap of nearly $1.1 billion. We rolled up our sleeves and got to work. Despite the tough fiscal situation, we balanced the budget while investing more than $200 million of additional state funding into our local schools and making historic new investments into the fight against opioid abuse. 
 
We have also fought to provide tax relief to the hard working men and women of our state. The budget bill eliminated Ohio’s two lowest income tax brackets, providing tax relief to those who need it most. The budget bill doubled the amount that you can save tax-free for your child’s college education and renewed the state’s popular back-to-school Sales Tax Holiday for 2018. Finally, the bill provided much-needed relief to Ohio’s farmers by making long-overdue changes to the state’s formula for valuing agricultural land.  
 
The Senate continued these efforts in the second half of the year. This fall the Senate authorized tax credits to incentivize job creation and economic development in rural, underserved areas of the state (also known as the “Rural Jobs Act”). We also provided relief to Ohio’s families by exempting corrective eyeglasses and contact lenses from sales and use taxes, beginning July 1, 2019.  In short, while we improved the state’s finances and passed a balanced budget, we also made sure that you are able to keep more of your hard-earned money. 
 
The Senate works for you, for We the People, and as Senate President I have tried to make the legislative process more accessible to Ohioans all across our state. In 2017, I expanded television coverage of the Senate’s work to include several important committees and made those proceedings available on OhioSenate.gov, on the Ohio Channel online (OhioChannel.org) and on local public access broadcast stations. The inner workings of the legislature are now accessible from your homes and on your smartphones.
 
And in contrast to the common perception of politics, in the Ohio Senate Republicans and Democrats are working together to find common solutions to Ohio’s problems. Of course, there will always be areas of disagreement, but in 2017 more than 90% of the bills that passed the Senate received a bipartisan vote.
 
It has been an honor to serve our community in the Ohio Senate and to serve the State of Ohio as the Senate’s leader for the 132nd General Assembly. In 2018, my colleagues and I remain focused on moving Ohio forward, and we will continue to make your priorities our priorities. I hope to hear your ideas about how to improve our great state. If you have questions, concerns, or ideas about any issue facing Ohio, you can reach me at obhof@ohiosenate.gov or by calling me at (614) 466-7505. You may also reach me by mail at State Senator Larry Obhof, 1 Capitol Square, 2nd Floor, Columbus, OH 43215.
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COLUMBUS - Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) announced today the application process to fill a vacancy in Ohio’s 1st Senate District seat, which encompasses all of Defiance, Hancock, Hardin, Henry, Paulding, Putnam, Van Wert and Williams counties as well as portions of Auglaize, Fulton and Logan counties in northwest Ohio.

Former Senator Cliff Hite resigned from the position earlier this week.

The Senate Republican Caucus is responsible by law for appointing a temporary replacement to the seat. The appointee will serve for the remainder of the current term, ending in December 2018. The person appointed to the vacancy must seek election on the 2018 ballot if that person intends to seek an additional term.

The Senate Republican Caucus will accept applications for the vacancy until 4 p.m. on Monday, November 6, 2017. Applications may include a resume, letters of recommendation and any other supporting material considered relevant to the applicant's qualifications. The materials should be sent or hand-delivered to the following address:

The Honorable Larry Obhof
President, Ohio Senate
The Ohio Statehouse
1 Capitol Square, Room 201
Columbus, OH 43215

Please send an identical copy of the application to the Senate Chief of Staff:

Jason Mauk
Chief of Staff, Ohio Senate
The Ohio Statehouse
1 Capitol Square, Room 201
Columbus, OH 43215

The applicant screening and selection process will take place in early November. Applicants are expected to be available to meet in person with the screening committee.

 
 
  

COLUMBUS—Ohio House Speaker Clifford A. Rosenberger (R-Clarksville) and Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) today announced the creation of a working group to review and reform Ohio’s congressional redistricting process. 

State Representative Kirk Schuring (R-Canton) and State Senator Matt Huffman (R-Lima) will co-chair the working group. Leaders of the House and Senate Democratic caucuses have been invited to participate, but at this point have yet to select a member for the panel. 

The working group will review current law, explore possible reforms, gather public input and make recommendations to the legislative leaders by early December. The General Assembly would then consider whether to proceed with a redistricting reform resolution to place before Ohio voters. The deadline for considering such a proposal on the 2018 primary election ballot is February 7, however the General Assembly has the authority to put a proposal on the ballot at any date of its choosing. 

“Redistricting has been an issue that several states, including Ohio, have been giving a closer look at in recent years,” said Speaker Rosenberger. “With the responsibility of redrawing congressional districts quickly approaching, we feel the issue deserves thorough review and consideration, with the goal of finding common-sense reforms that will lead to a redistricting process that all interested parties can agree on. I believe the creation of this panel, which I hope will be bipartisan, will yield an open exchange of ideas and input from varying perspectives.”

“I'm confident we can have a meaningful, bipartisan conversation about redistricting that can potentially show us a path forward to reform,” said Senate President Obhof. “I know that because we've been here before, particularly in the Senate, where we've been able to pass bipartisan congressional redistricting reforms twice in the last decade. I'm hopeful this dialogue will lead us again to a fair, constitutional process that we can take to Ohioans for consideration.” 

The working group is expected to begin holding meetings as soon as this month. Specific details on times and locations will be forthcoming.

 
 
  

COLUMBUS—Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) announced funding awarded today for special response teams aimed at putting drug overdose survivors on the path to recovery.

Consisting of highly trained law enforcement and drug treatment providers, DARTs (Drug Abuse Response Teams) and QRTs (Quick Response Teams) provide support and consultation to overdose survivors. The specialized response teams offer counseling and referrals to drug rehabilitation facilities so those struggling with addiction can find the help necessary for successful recovery.

Funding for these grants was added by the Ohio Senate as part of an overall related effort to tackle the opioid crisis by improving education, treatment, addiction and recovery efforts and stepping up law enforcement.

“We are committed to fighting the scourge of addiction, and I’m pleased we were able to fund these grants as part of the new state budget," said President Obhof.

Coordinated by the Attorney General’s office, these grants expand and support these critical response teams in communities throughout Ohio.

Among the local agencies receiving funds are the Medina County Sheriff’s Office, the Mansfield Police Department and the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office.

 
 
  
COLUMBUS - 

COLUMBUS—The following statement can be attributed to Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina):

"Harry Meshel was not only a respected and beloved member of our Ohio Senate family, but also part of the historic fabric of our institution. For more than two decades, Meshel delivered for the people of the Mahoning Valley, including obtaining substantial investments that helped make Youngstown State University what it is today. His memory and legacy will live on for many years to come. On behalf of my colleagues, I extend our deepest condolences to the Meshel family at this time of loss."

 
 
  

COLUMBUS—On Friday, Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) announced the appointment of State Senator Joe Uecker (R-Miami Township) to the Southern Ohio Agricultural and Community Development Foundation.

State lawmakers established the foundation in 1999 in an effort to promote economic revitalization in southern Ohio's tobacco-producing counties.

"I'm honored to join this distinguished group of community leaders as we promote opportunities that help spur job creation here in southern Ohio," said Uecker. "Programs supported by the foundation also play an important role in improving quality of life for families across the region."

The Southern Ohio Agricultural and Community Development Foundation is charged with developing and carrying out programs to help replace the production of tobacco with other agricultural products and to mitigate the adverse economic impact of reduced tobacco production in the 22 burley tobacco growing counties in southern Ohio.

A 12-member Board of Trustees governs the Foundation, while day-to-day operations are overseen by an executive director and two other employees.

 
 
  

COLUMBUS—Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) announced that the governor signed legislation this week aimed at strengthening penalties for violent offenders. House Bill 63 would increase penalties for felonious assaults where the perpetrator uses an accelerant to burn his or her victim. The new law was introduced by Representative Jim Hughes (R-Upper Arlington) after Gahanna resident Judy Malinowski was doused in gasoline and set on fire in August 2015 by her estranged boyfriend.
 
Judy passed away in June after undergoing more than 50 surgeries in the 22-month period following her attack.
 
“Judy's tragic story highlighted a particularly heinous type of crime, which leads to permanent disfigurement or even death,” said President Obhof, who co-sponsored the bill. “No one should have to suffer through what she experienced over the past two years. This new law will ensure that prison sentences more accurately reflect the severity and cruelty of these types of attacks.” 
 
House Bill 63 creates a six-year specification to be added to the attacker’s prison term. This would apply to felonious assaults, where the offender uses an accelerant in committing the offense and the harm suffered by the victim results in a permanent, serious disfigurement or permanent, substantial incapacity. 
 
Despite her condition before her passing, Judy Malinowski continued to speak out about domestic violence and made every effort to make others aware of the dangers of domestic violence. She bravely recorded video testimony encouraging lawmakers to adopt House Bill 63.
 
House Bill 63 goes into effect October 15, which is 90 days after the governor signed the bill into law.
 
Making Government More Efficient
 
President Obhof also announced that the governor has signed House Bill 103, which makes changes to the membership of financial planning and supervision commissions that assist local governments in escaping from fiscal emergency. Obhof co-sponsored the bill, which revises who makes appointments to planning and supervision commissions. Importantly, the bill also requires that appointees to the commissions be appointed in 15 days, whereas it can now take up to a year to seat a commission.  
 
“House Bill 103 gives local governments options as they take steps toward solvency,” said President Obhof. “These changes will help local governments recover more quickly from fiscal distress.” 
 
The bill was supported during the legislative process by State Auditor Dave Yost and passed the Senate in late June. It goes into effect October 15.

 
 
  
 
Helping Families Save On Back-to-School Shopping: Ohio Sales Tax Holiday Set For August 4-6
A Guest Column by Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof
July 18, 2017
 
 

Back-to-school shopping can be tough on families, as you try to stretch every dollar as far as it can go. Clothing, books, pens, notepads… it all really starts to add up. In the Ohio Senate, we know that Ohio’s families could use some help, and we are committed easing the burdens that government adds to the mix. That is why, for the third year in a row, the General Assembly has passed the Ohio Sales Tax Holiday to assist parents during the back-to-school shopping season.
 
Two years ago we enacted Ohio’s first Sales Tax Holiday – a pilot project to see how Ohio would respond to the tax-free weekend. That was a success, as Ohioans saved millions of dollars and retailers saw a significant boost in sales. We renewed that program in 2016 and Ohio families were once again able to save money while buying necessities.  

This year, I co-sponsored Senate Bill 9 to renew the Sales Tax Holiday for 2017. Beginning Friday, August 4 and running through Sunday, August 6, families can take advantage of this unique tax-free weekend when purchasing select items. But the benefits don’t stop there – over the past two years retailers have offered additional discounts to coincide with the tax holiday weekend. Both shoppers and retailers can once again benefit from this savings opportunity.  
 
All shoes and clothing priced less than $75 will be exempt from state and local sales and use taxes during this period. School supplies and instructional materials priced at $20 or less will also be tax exempt. Even online vendors will be more affordable, as they will waive local and state sales taxes on designated items during the three-day tax holiday.
 
Ohio’s Sales Tax Holiday is scheduled to provide optimal savings for parents, families and educators at a time when families must stretch their dollars. This temporary relief from the sales tax is meant to ease the burden for families and ensure that students have the items necessary to succeed in the classroom.
 
Ohioans saved millions of dollars on back-to-school items during the prior Sales Tax Holidays, and stores saw significant boosts in statewide retail sales. Counties located along state lines fared even better. 
 
This is a win-win for families, businesses and most importantly, students. I was proud to support this initiative, which will help families keep more of their hard earned money.
 
For more information about Ohio's Sales Tax Holiday, including specifics on which items qualify for savings, please visit the Ohio Department of Taxation's website athttp://www.tax.ohio.gov/sales_and_use/SalesTaxHoliday.aspx. And as always, if you have any questions about the Sales Tax Holiday or any other issue, please feel free to contact me. You can reach me at Obhof@OhioSenate.gov or by calling my office at (614) 466-7505.

 
 
  

COLUMBUS—State Senator Bob Peterson (R-Washington Court House) welcomed Ohio Dairy Producers to the Ohio Senate on Wednesday, presenting them with a resolution to commemorate the month of June as National Dairy Month. 

"It is an honor to recognize Ohio's Dairy Producers for their contributions to the food agricultural industry in this state," said Peterson. "Ice cream is one of the best parts of summer. For this delicious treat, we owe our gratitude to the hard working men and women who rise before daybreak every day to tend to their cows in the milking parlors. Ohio's dairy farmers love the work that they do, and we love that they do it."

Ohio is home to 270,000 dairy cows that live on 2,500 farms and produce more than 630 million gallons of milk annually. Dairy farmers contribute an average of $2.35 billion annually to the state's economy, which generates an annual average of $436 million in earnings and more than 14,400 jobs.

National Dairy Month was initially created to stabilize the dairy demand when production was at a surplus but has since developed into an annual tradition that celebrates the contributions the dairy industry has made to the world.

 
 
  
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GUEST COLUMN: A Look Back At 2017

 

As we begin the new year, we have passed the halfway point for the 132nd General Assembly, the two-year cycle for introducing and enacting new legislation.  As I look back at the past twelve months, I am proud that my colleagues and I have worked to keep our commitments to the people of our great state. 



 
 

Senate President Announces Process To Fill 1st Senate District Vacancy

 

COLUMBUS - Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) announced today the application process to fill a vacancy in Ohio’s 1st Senate District seat, which encompasses all of Defiance, Hancock, Hardin, Henry, Paulding, Putnam, Van Wert and Williams counties as well as portions of Auglaize, Fulton and Logan counties in northwest Ohio.



 
 

Legislative Leaders Announce Creation Of Redistricting Working Group

 

“I'm confident we can have a meaningful, bipartisan conversation about redistricting that can potentially show us a path forward to reform,” said Senate President Obhof. “I know that because we've been here before, particularly in the Senate, where we've been able to pass bipartisan congressional redistricting reforms twice in the last decade. I'm hopeful this dialogue will lead us again to a fair, constitutional process that we can take to Ohioans for consideration.”