GUEST COLUMN: A Look Back At 2017
A guest column by Senate President Larry Obhof
Posted January 04, 2018 by Majority Caucus
 
 
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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