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Guest Column: Committees: Where the work gets done

By KRISTINA ROEGNER State Rep. 37th District Published: February 19, 2017 12:00 AM
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Before an idea becomes law, the bill needs to pass both chambers of the legislature: The Ohio House and the Ohio Senate. From there, it goes to the Governor's desk for his signature or veto. While these steps in the process get the headlines, the bulk of legislative work happens during the committee process.

We have 21 standing committees in the Ohio House, as well as a handful of subcommittees. Each is comprised of anywhere from 13 and 31 representatives. The ratio of Republicans to Democrats on the committee reflects the ratio in the overall House, and every committee is headed by a chair and vice chair from the majority party and a "ranking member" from the minority party.

For as long as I've been in the legislature, committee memberships have been assigned at the beginning of every legislative term with members submitting their top choices for committee assignments. Then, the Speaker of the House uses those recommendations to ultimately determine who is assigned to each committee and who will be the chair of that committee. In January we are handed a slip of paper listing our committee assignments. The excitement is akin to receiving your class schedule for school.

The content of a bill typically determines the committee to which it will be sent. The first time that a bill is discussed (its first "hearing"), the representative or senator who introduced the bill provides sponsor testimony. The sponsor outlines what the bill aims to accomplish and why it should become law in Ohio. At subsequent hearings, proponents, opponents and interested parties are welcome to provide testimony to the committee. Testimony consists of a person standing at a podium before the committee and stating their position relative to the legislation. After the witness is done providing their perspective, typically they will answer questions from the committee members.

Anyone can come and give testimony on any piece of legislation. Even children are welcome and are often quite effective. We have had several students from local districts come to Columbus to deliver persuasive testimony on topics ranging from school funding, the Seal of Biliteracy, and the number of snow days. Although students might not be old enough to vote, you are never too young (or old) to have your voice heard. Once a bill has had several hearings in committee, it may be voted out of committee and then has a chance to come to the House floor for a vote. This process is replicated in the Senate as well. It is however up to the Speaker to determine which bills come to the floor of the House for a vote.

I received my Committee assignment requests for this General Assembly. I will continue my responsibilities as a member of the Public Utilities Committee and have the honor of chairing the Federalism and Interstate Relations Committee. Federalism addresses the founding fathers' belief there should be a balance of power between the federal and state governments. Specifically, the 10th Amendment of our US Constitution reads: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people."

I truly look forward to engaging on this timeless topic through the committee process. If you would like to learn more about the Committee process or if my office can be of assistance at any time; please do not hesitate to reach out to my office at 614-466-1177 or at Rep37@ohiohouse.gov.


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