GREENVILLE — The Darke County Chamber of Commerce’s Legislative Committee hosted four local political leaders at a “State of the State” luncheon held Friday to update area businesses on what’s happening in Ohio’s legislature.
Speaking to chamber members were Ohio Senator and Senate President Keith Faber (R-Celina – 12th Dist.), Sen. Bill Beagle (R-Tipp City – 5th Dist.), Rep. Jim Buchy (R-Greenville -Dist. 84) and Rep. Stephen Huffman (R-Tipp City – Dist. 80).
The four men addressed a number of issues facing the state, including jobs, healthcare, and taxes.
Beagle, who has announced his candidacy to replace former U.S. Rep. John Boehner, told the audience about the state’s attempts to simplify the process for those seeking jobs and public aid.
“We’re trying to make things simpler, which as business people we can all understand,” said Beagle. “We’ve come up with a process of developing a common application, and it’s being piloted in several of the Ohio Means Jobs centers, so that someone doesn’t have to apply for certain types of benefits in certain types of places with different types of applications.”
Beagle also said that the legislature is looking at “co-enrolling” benefits applicants across multiple programs to avoid being shuffled from one agency to another.
“There’s no wrong door. We can get you enrolled in one place with a common application, with all the benefits you are eligible for in one place to make sure you are getting all the services you are entitled to without having to bounce around to different places,” he said.
Another state initiative is the push for a comprehensive case management program. Beagle described it as, “If you are somebody who is tapping public assistance, you may have multiple case managers for multiple reasons, so we’re trying to shrink that down to where you have one, common case management person who can cover all your areas and make sure you are getting the support you need across a variety of areas.”
Huffman spoke on a number of issues including the state’s budget.
“What I’m proudest about the budget is what’s not in the budget,” he said. “There was no increase on the [Commercial Activity] tax, there was no increase in the sales tax, and we still decreased your personal income tax.”
He also broached the subject of marijuana, coming on the heels of the failure if Issue 3 in November, which would have legalized the drug for both medical and recreational use in the Buckeye State.
“In the Ohio House we are looking to legalize medical marijuana in the state of Ohio,” Huffman said. “I’m confident under Speaker [Cliff] Rosenberg we will not legalize marijuana, where you can go smoke a joint because you have a bad back, or anything like that. There are 500 different chemicals in marijuana which can be extracted for medical purposes.”
“We’re trying to make Ohio a good place to practice medicine,” he said. “We’re number 47 out of 50 states in health outcomes, and I think that’s just absolutely horrible.”
Faber, who is running for Buchy’s House seat in 2016 due to being term limited as a Senator, told the group, “We’re doing something right. In fact, Ohio is one of the top ten job-creating states in the country.”
“We have now reduced Ohio’s income taxes by more than $5 billion,” he said. “Everybody who pays Ohio income taxes, everybody, as a result of this budget, will get a 6.3 percent reduction in your Ohio income tax rates. For those small businesses, people who create 70 percent of the jobs in the state — 70 percent — you will pay zero percent — zero percent — on your 2016 small business income for the first $250,000 you make.”
Buchy, who has announced he will not run for reelection in 2016, was the last of the four to speak. He said, “My fellow colleagues up here, ladies and gentlemen, let me tell you, everyone of us comes from the private sector, and when we talk about what we are doing to create jobs, what we’re really talking about is lowering the cost of doing business and putting more money in your pocket.
“You’re smarter with the money than we’ll ever be,” he added.
Buchy also spoke on the need for more agricultural education in the state, citing his push to create more Future Farmers of America (FFA) and 4-H programs, particularly in Ohio’s urban school districts. He also stressed the need for more agricultural instructors for these programs.
“We currently have 300 public schools in Ohio that have FFA. We’re 50 teachers short,” said Buchy. “There are another 300-plus public schools in Ohio that need and want to have FFA and 4-H. So we have to develop more teachers and programs for 4-H.”
Jeff Kniese is the Chairman of the Chamber’s Legislative Committee, with Perry Wahls as Vice Chair.
The Chamber’s Legislative Committee’s purpose “is to influence our elected officials in ways that will improve the ability of a business to compete in the worldwide economy and continue to generate income and jobs that will help to enhance Darke County.”
For more information about the Darke County Chamber of Commerce, visit the organization’s website at www.darkecountyohio.com.
Erik Martin may be reached at 937-569-4314. Join the conversation and get updates on Facebook search Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.