Ohio Senate Democrats gathered in a statehouse conference room on Jan. 17 to discuss their priorities for the upcoming term. The assembly itself became a vivid visual reminder of the problems facing the minority. Seven Democratic senators were not even enough to fill the small table where they met.
Work from the minority
Minority Leader Nicky Antonio admitted they have an uphill climb ahead of them.
“Our minority status — which, by the way, was designed without fair districts — forces us, I think, to be more creative and more nimble and certainly more collegial and collaborative,” Antonio said.
She added that the dysfunction currently arresting House Republicans could create opportunities for the party.
“Maybe that means there are more things in the Senate that we can do when there’s dysfunction in the other chamber,” she explained.
The participants went around the table and shared their pressing questions for the upcoming term. Clearly, their ability to engage with members of the majority helps their prospects, and they have several irons in the fire.
Sen. Hersel Craig, R-Columbus, said he is working on capping insulin prices with Sen. Nathan Manning, R-North Ridgeville, and on changing eviction laws with Sen. Stephanie Kunze, R-Hilliard. Sen. Antonio explained that she is working with Sen. Steve Huffman, R-Tipp City, to end the death penalty in favor of life without parole.
Eternal democratic problems will bring this term back as well. They will push for anti-discrimination legislation, a minimum wage and school funding. Significant movement on any of these issues would be a huge achievement given the size of the minority.
They also plan small changes that they believe can have big results. Sen. Vernon Sykes, R-Akron, wants to expand the Minority Direct Loan Program to cover working capital, not just fixed assets or surety bonds, as it is now.
“Often minority businesses, small businesses have to pay higher loan rates,” he said. “It would give them access to lower costs, lower costs.”
Similarly, Sen. Kent Smith, D-Euclid, focused on the rate review provisions of the GOP-backed utility overhaul that stalled last session.
“I think we can cut that legislation and just move forward with rate review, mandatory rate review for investor-owned utilities,” he said.
Senator Paula Hicks-Hudson wants to adjust Medicaid provisions to include doula services. She also advocated a greater emphasis on urban agriculture.
“We’re not talking about community gardens,” she explained, “but we’re talking about urban agriculture that will also provide jobs, economic development and workforce development.”
Sen. Bill Demora, R-Columbus, argued that lawmakers should make it easier to age in place by lowering the cost of property taxes and health care for seniors. Meanwhile, Sen. Kathryn Ingram of Cincinnati described herself as an “eclectic” interested in it all.
This story was originally published in Ohio Capital Journal and republished here with permission.
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