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New look legislature: Change at Statehouse could have implications for farmers
The New Year brought with it a new look in the Ohio General Assembly. More than two dozen new faces were sworn into the legislature earlier this month, with the House of Representatives switching to a Republican majority and the Senate gaining two Republican majority seats.
“We’re proud to say many of the new faces in the General Assembly were chosen by local Farm Bureau members as ‘Friends of Agriculture’ in the general election last fall,” said Ohio Farm Bureau Federation Director of State Policy Beth Vanderkooi.
They’ll be led by new Senate President Tom Niehaus, R-New Richmond, and new Speaker of the House, Bill Batchelder, R-Medina, both of whom Vanderkooi said have a wealth of experience and excellent voting records in regard to agriculture.
Both have already hinted at priorities for the 129th General Assembly, including an increased workload in a tough economic time.
Vanderkooi said solving the $8.4 billion state budget deficit will dominate priorities.
Last year, OFBF dedicated a State Budget Task Force toward suggesting ways to get the budget back on track. OFBF members voted on policy resolutions confirming how the organization would like to see the budget addressed. Such solutions include providing incentives to state and local government to implement cost savings, performance audits and bringing state benefits in line with those in the private sector.
OFBF’s Board of Trustees is expected to set the organization’s priority issues at its January meeting. According to Vanderkooi, some of these may include business climate issues, water quality issues (including, but not limited to those in Grand Lake St. Marys), livestock care, energy and transportation.
Among other priorities, the General Assembly is also expected to focus on a repeal of the estate tax (a long-time OFBF priority issue), workers’ compensation reform, regulatory reform and job creation.
“There is a lot of common ground with what is coming out of the General Assembly and what has been longstanding Farm Bureau policy,” Vanderkooi said. “We are excited to advocate on behalf of our members in 2011.”