Ohio Senate leaders review 2014 session
This election year was a relatively slow year for the Ohio legislature as lawmakers spent most of the year campaigning. That changed in the last few weeks.
Several bills zipped through the lame duck session, but none in a more dramatic fashion than the last minute agreement on a way to change the process of drawing lawmakers’ district boundaries.
There were rumors of the resolution’s success and demise for days. And after 17 hours of negotiations on the last day the Senate met, at 4 a.m. a vote was taken and it passed with only one "no" vote.
Republican Senate president Keith Faber of Celina said the GOP and Democrats were able to separate needs and wants and bargained honestly with one another, dealing with things that he said had to be fixed in the resolution that had come over from the House.
“We didn’t let other things get in the way," Faber said. "I don’t think, Joe, we didn’t sit down and say, if you support this, we’ll do this bill for you. That wasn’t part of the negotiations on this issue from my perspective at all.”
Minority leader Joe Schiavoni of Youngstown said legislators felt they had to prove they could get things done on an issue that has become important to voters.
“President Faber and I, we’ll have our fights and we’ll have our disagreements and we have them all the time," Schiavoni said. "But in this particular situation we were honestly trying to put a good faith effort forward on all angles.”
Faber said 90 percent of the bills that passed were approved with bipartisan votes.
That was not true of a measure that allows hunters to use noise suppressors or silencers. Schiavoni said he voted against it because it lowers the training requirement for concealed-carry weapons permits from 12 hours to eight and expands reciprocity to visitors with licenses from other states.
“My concern is that if somebody from Arizona, which all you gotta do is sign a piece of paper to have your concealed carry is temporarily in Ohio, then we are now going to now honor their training, and there’s no training,” Schiavoni said.
A bill that Senators never got a chance to weigh in on was the so-called "Heartbeat Bill," which would ban abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat. It was brought to the House floor but failed by four votes. Faber said he is strongly pro-life, but said the bill’s backers knew it could endanger abortion restrictions already in Ohio law.
“And so the only thing I could figure out is that this is about somebody’s personal political agenda more than it is about the issue," Faber said. "And that always troubles me – whether you’re on the right or on the left, when you let your personal political agenda get in the way, you’re probably not doing good government.”
With a record 65 Republicans in the House in the next General Assembly, controversial bills like the Heartbeat Bill could come back. But Faber said he thinks his Senate colleagues will take the same approach to legislation that they always have.
“Now in the Senate I think that it’s important that the impetuous nature of the House sometimes be tempered by seasoned, deliberative processes in the Senate," Faber said. "So it’s all about your perspective. I’m sure we’re going to continue to do good government.”
Democrats will still be outnumbered 2-1 by Republicans in the Senate, but Schiavoni said his caucus is prepared.
“Being the minority, it’s something you have to make sure that you’re always on your toes," Schiavoni said. "You’re always ready for any and all things that come your way that you may have envisioned or not envisioned and that’s what we try to do here is we try to be flexible, we try to work hard and we try to get the job done for our constituents.”
Faber said what he calls education deregulation will be Republicans’ top priority in the coming months. Schiavoni said any focus on education has to include low-performing charter schools. But Faber said he wants charter school critics to also include low-performing public schools in their sites, which Schiavoni said should involve bringing in input from those who work in public education.