The incoming president of the Ohio Senate says he’s changing things up a bit. In an interview with Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles, Senate President-Elect Keith Faber explains he’s restructuring the Senate’s standing committees.
FABER: "What we're looking to do is to try and use the wealth of talent and experience that is in the Senate today on both sides of the aisle. Our senators -- even our incoming new members on the Senate side -- have a great deal of historical experience. And we want to make sure we can maximize that, and so we can use that to deal with the complex, complicated issues that are facing Ohio."
INGLES: "Tell me what kind of issues you intend to deal with in this General Assembly and how you're structuring this to better deal with those."
FABER: "Well our number one issue is going to continue to be jobs and economic development. And for that reason, we created a new workforce and economic development committee. The other thing we know is that this governor, Gov. Kasich, has decided that we are going to continue an aggressive agenda...looking at trying to do things that matter to improve Ohio. And we think that’s going to include a new school funding formula, a new higher education funding formula, tax reform and continuing Medicaid reform. For that reason, we are splitting out our budget committee into three subcommittees. I believe the House has five. We're adding three subcommittees to deal with those key issues: Medicaid, education and general government."
INGLES: "Are you working with Governor Kasich on that?"
FABER: "Well the Governor is working on his proposal. We have not seen detail on them other than to know they are coming. And so we anticipate that we are going to be expected and required to put the full experience of the Senate on those issues and so for that reason, we're doing something unusual on our subcommittees. We are going to add membership to them that are not able to be on the regular Senate finance committee. The Senate finance hearing room is only so big. And so instead of having nine members on those subcommittees, we are going to basically use the Senate as a whole and give them the opportunity to serve on those different areas."
INGLES: "So what difference is this going to make to the ordinary Ohioan who is looking in? Is it going to make you more responsive or what?"
FABER: "Yes, it should make us able to deal with more complicated, complex issues in a more streamlined fashion. The reality is, is that in the previous committee structure, most of these committees had the ability to deal with these types of jurisdictional issues. But by putting the specialization and the skills applied directly in this way, we are going to be able to include more members in the discussion-making process. And so that’s going to allow members and their constituents, by very nature, to have more direct impact on the committee process."
INGLES: "One of the complaints we’ve heard in the past is that there isn’t enough committee consideration of bills, that sometimes it’s completely thrown by the wayside, and that bills don’t get committee consideration at all. Are you trying to avoid those situations?"
FABER: "We are certainly trying to avoid that situation by making sure we have the ability. One of the problems you have in our organization like the Senate, which has relatively few members, is that sometimes senators are on too many committees that meet at the same time. So we anticipate that the committees will use an A-B-C meeting schedule to where they're not expected to meet every week. They're expected to meet when something is before them that's drawing the precedence of the committee. But from that perspective, we think that allows members to be in their seats doing committee work instead of having to be in 3 places at the same time. At least less time they'll have to be in three places at the same time. But we do anticipate that this certainly ought to enhance the ability for the public to give comment on things as they proceed through the Senate."
The opening day for the new Ohio General Assembly is Tuesday. Weekly committee schedules are set to be posted on the Ohio Senate’s website.