Monday saw the swearing-in of Ohio’s 99 House and 33 Senate Members. Republicans dominate both chambers, 65-34 in the House, 23-10 in the Senate. Returning Senate President Keith Faber of Celina, in the state’s agriculturally powerful northwest quadrant, oversaw the swearing-in of first Republicans then Democrats. Faber is term limited and must look for a new job in two years. Many believe he has aspirations to be Ohio’s next attorney general when Mike Dewine completes his second term in 2018.
President Faber offered some presidential prerogative remarks on what Ohioans should expect the deliberative chamber to deliberate on. A faithful wingman to Gov. John R. Kasich, President Faber unleashed the word “opportunity’ as his key talking point about what the state will focus on going forward for the next biennium. Not surprisingly, the attorney and lawmaker cited the Ohio Senate as the “finest in the country,” and praised the staff for their role in operating it professionally and efficiently.
Recalling the oath of office he and other members took today, Mr. Faber said the oath was not “for a political party, or special interest group or special agenda, but to the people of state. The people who sent us here can also call us home,” he said from the dais of the ornate chamber that once hosted Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt, two Republican presidents with whom President Faber, and today’s Republican Party have little in common.
He said a lawmaker’s first and last allegiance should remain their constituents, advising them to spend 75-percent of their time in the district and 25-percent in Columbus. Preserve your integrity at all costs, he advised, reminding them to also respect the institution, for it’s “bigger and will be here longer than any of us.” He opined that “power has a funny way to feed arrogance,” encouraging his audience to “nurture their humility” by spending time in the district listening to their constituents. And despite the many differences between Republicans and Democrats, Mr. Faber said much was accomplished last session, as 90 percent of bills were bipartisan.
In his remarks, President Faber said “opportunity,” the new buzz word launched by the Kasich Administration last fall, will become a priority so that “each Ohioan can obtain their God-given potential.” Gov. Kasich routinely invokes the Lord into his policy ruminations, and Mr. Faber, who protected the governor from controversial issues like right-to-work, is following suit similar policy rhetoric. But opportunity, he said, doesn’t guarantee success.
What no doubt will turn into an increasingly contentious debate was further revealed today when Mr. Faber said Ohio should de-centralize education from state mandates, many of which come without funding, in order to free up local schools to make their own decisions. Faber wants to re-evaluate K-12 education, saying “money alone can’t improve the state’s education system.” What works in one place may not work in another, he said as his rationale for ending top-down Columbus control. Hewing close to Gov. Kasich’s philosophy that government was born with original sin and should be whittled down or hobbled, he said “centralized government doesn’t work” in many areas and it won’t work in education. He wants to deregulation K-12 education.
He also targeted the high costs of higher education, a fact that Ohio has struggled with over the years, as it continues to be more expensive in Ohio than in other states to obtain a college degree. He called on higher education institutions to lower their costs 5 percent. Faber said he wants state leaders to act with initiative, and be creative and innovative. Always be accountable, he ended. “Government is to serve people, not people serving government.”
In its first two official acts, unanimous votes approved salaries from Senate employees and mileage reimbursement for legislators. A joint convention of the House and Senate met to officially accept the election results from last Nov. 4. Faber announced an open house in his office.