COLUMBUS — A West Central Ohio legislator has been called upon to help examine how Ohio determines its congressional district boundaries.
Sen. Matt Huffman, R-Lima: On Friday, Huffman and State Rep. Kirk Schuring, R-Canton, were designated co-chairs of a working group to review and reform Ohio’s process for congressional redistricting. According to a release from both the House and Senate, leaders of both the House and Senate Democratic caucuses have been invited to participate but have not yet selected a member for the panel.
The aim of the group is to review current law, consider any potential reforms, gather input from the public and make recommendations to legislative leaders by early December. The General Assembly would then decide whether or not to place a redistricting reform resolution before voters. The deadline to place any resolution on the 2018 primary ballot is Feb. 7, but the General Assembly can place a proposal on the ballot whenever it chooses.
The group is expected to begin meetings as early as this month.
Ohio House of Representatives
Rep. Craig Riedel, R-Defiance: On Wednesday, Riedel announced passage of legislation that would designate the month of May as “Drive Ohio Byways Month.”
Ohio has 27 scenic byways highlighting cultural, historic and natural attractions and encouraging tourism.
“This legislation will encourage tourists to seek out the byways around Ohio and help increase the promotional efforts of all that the state has to offer,” Riedel said. This bill will allow the state, especially areas like northwest Ohio with existing competition from surrounding states, to bring people to their tourist attractions.”
Also on Wednesday, the House passed House Bill 116, which would eliminate sales and use tax on eyeglasses, frames and contacts.
The bill is built on the premise that eyeglasses and contacts are a basic medical necessity, enabling many in the state to maintain employment and promote safety and mobility. Eliminating the tax would save taxpayers an estimated $29 million annually, according to a release from the House communications department.
Ohio is one of 14 states that imposes a tax on prescription eyeglasses and contacts. The tax has already been eliminated in Indiana, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
The House also passed legislation that would give the state legislature greater oversight of Ohio’s education plan under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015.
The bill would require the Ohio Department of Education to submit an ESSA-required written copy of the plan to each member of the House and Senate education committees no later than 30 days prior to implementation. The bill would also block implementation of the plan should the legislature file a concurrent resolution disapproving it.
All three bills will now go to the Senate for consideration.
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio: Brown announced that two bipartisan U.S. Senate Banking Committee hearings will be held in October concerning Wells Fargo and Equifax.
On Oct. 3, Wells Fargo President and CEO Timothy Sloan will testify about the company allowing millions of fraudulent accounts to be opened in customers’ names, as well as past practices of forcing unwanted insurance on auto loan borrowers, according to a release from Brown’s office. On Oct. 4, Equifax Chairman and CEO Richard Smith will testify about the company’s recent massive data breach affecting over 143 million Americans.
“Congress needs to stand on the side of working people, not Wall Street,” Brown said. “These hearings are about getting answers for the people we serve.”
Brown also joined several other senators in pressing Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta to question the administration on its failure to nominate a qualified administrator to lead the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), according to the senators.
“Everyone should be able to go to work each day knowing they will come home each night in the same condition and without experiencing any threat to their health and safety,” the senators said in a letter to Acosta. “Recent actions taken by OSHA under your leadership call into question whether the Administration shares this goal. The failure to nominate an individual to be OSHA Administrator is further indication that worker safety is not a top priority of this Administration.”
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio: On Thursday, Portman, along with U.S. Small Business Administrator Linda McMahon met with small business owners in Columbus to discuss issues relevant to running small businesses, such as the tax code, regulations and rising health care costs.
“I want thank Administrator McMahon for coming to Ohio, and joining me in listening to the concerns of our Ohio small businesses owners,” Portman said in a statement. “Today we heard from small business owners who are facing serious roadblocks to growing their businesses, creating more jobs and boosting wages. The government should be a partner to these small businesses, not an obstacle to progress by imposing higher taxes and burdensome regulations. Ohio is the proud home of more than 900,000 small businesses that employ more than two million workers. I will continue working with my colleagues in Congress and the administration to help Ohio’s small business owners and workers grow and thrive.”