We often hear and read news reports in which Americans emphasize that they believe the government is doing nothing for them. I've certainly empathized with this viewpoint many times over the years. But in regard to the state of Ohio this year, referencing a "do-nothing" government could not be further from the truth.

Now that the state operating budget has been finalized - filling the $8 billion budget gap without raising taxes - the first six months of my time as House speaker have come and gone. The summer recess from Columbus provides legislators with a great opportunity be even more in touch with our districts and come up with new and innovative legislation to pursue. But I'm very proud of what the Ohio House of Representatives has accomplished so far this year.

This has been a session focused on job creation and spending restraint. If I had to choose a word to highlight the actions we've taken, my answer would be "reform." The reforms we've enacted, especially in regard to business development, were not only capped off most recently with the new budget, but by the fact that legislation I sponsored was also passed to find ways of updating the content and structure of the Ohio Constitution through the Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission.

Republican members of the House are finding new ways of carrying out the state's business and making many of the long-overdue changes our state has needed. A terrific example of this type of reform is the collective bargaining legislation that was passed not long ago. Through this effort, we have found a way to restore control of the management of our tax dollars while providing our state's public employers with more flexibility. This ensures that Ohioans are getting a fair deal, while at the same time protecting jobs for our public employees and improving our schools and safety forces.

We can also save money by responsibly addressing the inadequacies of Ohio's criminal sentencing practices, which currently cause prison overcrowding and place a heavy fiscal burden on taxpayers. A package of reforms that the House passed will reduce recidivism and streamline Ohio's correctional system, making it more affordable and effective. With more sentencing options, from adjustable sanctions to various structured programs, we can save tax dollars by offering alternatives to incarceration for non-violent offenders who have the potential to be reintroduced to society.

But of course, when it comes to government, our voting at the ballot box is where it all originates. For this reason, some of our reforms have strived to modernize and streamline our elections operations while being cautious against fraudulent and unethical voting practices. We can do this through verifying our voter rolls, improving the verification process for absentee and provisional ballots, and updating our statewide standards on how elections are carried out. There are some issues included in the reform that are as simple as allowing voters to change their addresses online.

Ohio has a long tradition of striving for fair and honest elections. If these reforms do nothing more than provide an assurance of the sanctity of the ballot, then that's a pretty good thing for Ohioans to have.

Reforms like these require a lot of action and many hours of work - listening to constituents and focusing on the details that will lead to improvement. I believe that if we are to make a difference in these areas, what we do needs to be done right. During this General Assembly, it has been done right, and that's something that all Ohioans can be proud of.


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