Lawmakers returned to Columbus on Monday for the first day of a new two-year session with a Miami Valley legislator at the helm of the Senate.
Sen. Keith Faber, R-Celina, was elected Senate President for the 130th General Assembly and accepted the gavel from outgoing Republican Sen. Tom Niehaus of New Richmond, who is leaving because of term limits.
“I give my promise to speak honestly, to lead with integrity, to serve by example, to communicate with clarity, to respect this institution, its members, its constituents, and above all else, to learn by listening,” Faber told senators at the end of their first session meeting. Faber was elected to the House in 1999 and the Senate in 2007. He was elected to his first leadership position in 2009, serving as majority floor leader.
Faber positioned himself for the top spot as president pro-tempore during the last session. His district covers Darke, Mercer, Shelby, Champaign, Logan, Auglaize and Allen counties.
Republicans are in charge in both the Senate and House of Representatives: 23-10 in the Senate and 60-33 in the House. Other local leaders include Republicans Sen. Chris Widener of Springfield as president pro-tempore, the No. 2 spot, and Rep. Jim Buchy of Greenville as assistant majority whip, the No. 5 spot in the House.
Some new area lawmakers including Rick Perales, R-Beavercreek, and Wes Retherford, R-Hamilton, were also sworn in on Monday.
One familiar face also returned to the House.
Rep. Fred Strahorn, who previously served in the House and Senate, was sworn in to represent most of the city of Dayton in the House. Strahorn, a Democrat, won the seat in November. Democratic Rep. Clayton Luckie was forced to withdraw from that race after reports he was under investigation on criminal charges.
“I’m very excited to continue my service to the people of Dayton,” Strahorn said Monday. “I’m eager to make sure their voices are heard at the Statehouse.”
Lawmakers will reveal priorities for the next year at the end of the month, just before Gov. John Kasich releases his two-year budget plan. Kasich says the plan will tackle school funding and tax policy including a second try to raise taxes on oil and gas extracted from Ohio soil.
House Speaker Bill Batchelder, R-Medina, announced the House will broadcast finance committee meetings, where details of Kasich’s budget will be vetted first. The Senate changed its committee structure to better handle the heavy workload expected from the governor.
In his first speech as Senate president, Faber stressed collaboration with legislators on both sides of the aisle and extended an olive branch to Democrats on behalf of Senate Republicans.
“We look forward to working with you and doing good things together for Ohio,” Faber said.
Speaking with reporters later, Faber said he hopes the Senate can agree on a handful of bipartisan priorities.