The Representative's Corner
In last month’s column I wrote about my commitment to bipartisanship in my work at the Ohio Statehouse. I am of the belief, and I believe most agree, that Democrats and Republicans working across the aisle leads to better policies that benefit all Ohioans and that it is our only hope for the future. I am happy to report this month on a piece of legislation that I recently worked on that exemplifies this spirit of cooperation and how it led to a good result for Ohio.
In December, the Ohio General Assembly – the lawmaking branch of our state government – held what is called its lame duck session. This is the period that occurs after the November election and before the newly elected members, like myself, get sworn-in in January. Needless to say, things happen very quickly, with very little discussion or public input during this frantic time, which leads to bad laws being passed and mistakes being made.
One bill passed during lame duck was House Bill 509 (HB 509). This bill made a multitude of changes to occupational licenses in Ohio in the name of making state government more efficient. However, some last minute changes were quickly made to the bill that essentially took away a local fire department’s ability to conduct in-house training by requiring that training be held at an accredited institution. As you can imagine, this would great increase the cost of training and make it very inconvenient. Note that these changes were included without asking firefighters and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) – the experts in this challenging field of work – for their opinions.
I know as a schoolteacher how frustrating it is when laws are made that affect our profession and the students we serve that do not properly include our input. All too often these laws have a negative impact on our ability to help students achieve to their potential. Relatedly, sometimes these laws require our schools and other local governments to implement unfunded or partially funded mandates, requiring our cities, schools, libraries, and other local governments to go to their local voters to seek funding to meet state mandates.
Once the problems with HB 509 were discovered, as the lead Democrat in the Ohio House of Representatives Standing Committee on State and Local Government, I joined with my Republican colleagues, Marilyn John (chair of the committee) and Sarah Fowler Arthur (vice chair of the committee), to support HB 52 to undo them. Time was of the essence, as HB 509 was set to go into effect in early April. The three of us worked hard to seek input from state leaders of firefighter and EMT organizations and educate our respective members on the importance of passing the bill. I am happy to report that it subsequently passed the Ohio House and Ohio Senate unanimously and it was signed by the governor prior to the deadline.
I share this story with you because all too often the media does not report on examples like this when Democrats and Republicans come together to support good legislation. As voters we must make it known that we expect our leaders to include our input in the laws they make and that they should work in a bipartisan manner. This will ensure that good laws are passed that are in the best interests of every Ohioan. Best wishes for a blessed Memorial Day. Please join me in prayer for the heroes who gave their lives so that we might live free.
Sean Patrick Brennan
Sean Patrick Brennan