Strengthening the economy, cutting red tape

The new General Assembly is up and running. Members of the Ohio Senate have introduced dozens of bills and our committees are moving full speed ahead in their work.

A number of the Senate’s early priorities are focused on improving the economy. Government doesn’t create long-term job growth—private sector employers, entrepreneurs, and small businesses do. But government can help improve the economy by following policies that make our environment better for economic growth and private sector job creation.

We have stayed true to these principles during my tenure in the Senate. We have worked to create a pro-growth atmosphere by cutting taxes by more than $5 billion, passing significant regulatory reforms, and changing the way the state engages in economic development by establishing JobsOhio to work with job creators as they seek to expand or locate in Ohio. During that span we have seen Ohio’s unemployment rate cut in half, as Ohio’s private sector employers have added more than 560,000 new jobs.

The Senate will build on this progress in 2019, as we continue to move in a pro-growth direction. Our first priority bill, Senate Bill 1, aims to cut government red tape by 30 percent over three years. That number was not picked at random. A 2018 study showed that Ohio has more than 246,000 regulatory restrictions in its administrative code—nearly 100,000 more restrictions than the average state. We know that some regulations are necessary. We all agree that we should have health and safety standards, rules to protect the environment, and the like. Many restrictions do not serve these critical functions, and instead create unnecessary hurdles for Ohio’s small businesses. We do not need 100,000 extra restrictions beyond other states.

If enacted, Senate Bill 1 would be among the most sweeping regulatory reforms in modern Ohio history. It would get rid of unnecessary burdens facing small businesses throughout the state. It would remove unnecessary infringements on peoples’ liberty. The bill will hit the “reset button” for regulators and change their daily role. Instead of developing new regulations, they will focus more of their time on getting rid of red tape that is unnecessary or duplicative. They will think of new ways to maximize Ohioans’ freedom. They will work to repeal old rules that are inefficient or have outlived their usefulness.

These types of reforms are already working across the country. In one of his first major acts in office, President Trump issued an executive order requiring the repeal of two regulations for each new regulation that is proposed. It was a bold step, but it is working. It’s not an accident that the economy is growing, that job numbers are up, and that GDP growth is exceeding anyone’s expectations. Those are the natural results of pro-growth policies like tax cuts and regulatory reform. We should—and we will—follow such policies at the state level as well.

Senate Bill 1 is also just the first of the pro-growth reforms that the Ohio Senate is taking up this year. A few others in particular are worth highlighting. Senate Bill 8 will incentivize long-term investments in “Opportunity Zones,” which are economically depressed areas across Ohio in need of revitalization. There are more than 300 such federally-designated areas in Ohio—high poverty areas that would benefit from investment. Senate Bill 8 builds off of the federal designation by ensuring that money invested in Ohio Opportunity Zones stays in-state and improves conditions here at home.

The Senate has also introduced priority legislation to alleviate licensing rules that create unnecessary roadblocks to people earning a living. For example, Senate Bill 7 allows temporary occupational licenses to be issued to military spouses. Under this bill, spouses could cut through the red tape and continue employment in their field, and support their families, when a military spouse transfers to Ohio on active duty.

These are just some of the ways the Ohio Senate is working to improve our economy. If you have any thoughts about these policies, or any other issue facing the state, please contact my office. I can be reached by phone at 614-466-7505 or by e-mail at Obhof@ohiosenate.gov. You may also reach me by mail at Senate President Larry Obhof, 1 Capitol Square, 2nd Floor, Columbus, OH 43215.