Wednesday, April 13, 2011

GUEST COLUMN: "One Hundred Days in Office and There’s Much More To Do" by St. Rep. Combs

By: State Rep. Courtney Combs

When my colleagues at the Ohio House of Representatives and I started our work at the beginning of this General Assembly, we did so knowing that it was a very fragile time for our state and our economy. That’s why we immediately got to work on legislation that will improve Ohio’s business climate, preserve local jobs and small businesses, restore accountability to elections and government spending, as well as improve the safety and education of our communities.

In fact, the House has introduced more than 200 bills in our first 100 days of this General Assembly, an accomplishment that is leaps and bounds ahead of the progress of the previous General Assembly—when my party was not in the majority. A number of bills that will benefit the families and businesses of the 54th House District have either been passed or are currently making their way through the Legislature, and I’m proud of my contributions to these bills.

For instance I amended House Bill 2, the first legislation ever to require state government to undergo audits based on performance, in an effort to reduce redundancy and waste. The amendment I offered included the Ohio Department of Transportation as part of the first round of state agencies to be audited in this way. This is in addition to my work as a lead sponsor of House Bill 21, which is legislation to bring Teach for America to Ohio—improving our schools and attracting young, educated people to the state. I am thrilled that this bill has already passed the House and will soon be making a difference in the lives of students around the state.

While House Bills 2 and 21 are the bills I am most proud of thus far in this Legislature, I am continuing to work on many other bills, such as:

House Bill 24 – This is a simple piece of legislation that will have a tremendous impact on our most vulnerable population—those living in nursing homes. Currently, Ohio law does not require nursing homes to notify their residents of a sex offender living in the facility. This bill will close that loophole and require notifications for all residents of long-term care facilities in the state.

House Bill 25 – This bill allows the court to include companion animals in domestic violence probation orders and increases penalties for committing cruelty to a companion animal. It also requires a juvenile convicted of animal cruelty to undergo a psychological evaluation and therapy if convincing signs of instability arise, as is common in these juvenile offenders.

While working on these bills, I have also had the wonderful opportunity to guide many other pieces of legislation as part of my work on House standing committees during this General Assembly. As chairman of the Transportation, Public Safety, and Homeland Security Committee, I and my fellow committee members were able to pass legislation that honors military veterans and other heroic citizens who have given their lives to our nation. This includes naming streets, roads and portions of highways after those whose families and communities presented their stories to us.

Regardless of the many accomplishments the House has already reached this year, I know that there is a lot more that must be done. The creation of an agile economic development entity, JobsOhio, and the establishment of a regulatory reform program through the Common Sense Initiative were just a start. Although we have been able to supplement our economic-focused bills with other legislation that plays a great role in the day-to-day lives of Ohioans, we are by no means at a place where we can sit back and relax.

In the coming weeks and months, we will continue to focus on legislation that will help to revitalize Ohio’s economy and create jobs so that residents of Butler County will continue to do business and raise a family here. In addition to this, I will be playing an important role as vice chair of the House Subcommittee on Redistricting, which in addition to the state apportionment board, will examine the 2010 census results to re-draw all of Ohio’s state and federal electoral districts before the next general election.

I want you to know that I’m continually grateful to be representing you and your family at the Statehouse. If ever you have a question or concern regarding state government or would like to share an idea with me regarding how to improve Ohio, please do not hesitate to contact my office. Together, we can continue to improve upon the great state that Ohio already is.