Things to pick up in Columbus this month

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The unofficial end of summer is also the unofficial beginning of the fall legislative session in Columbus.

Senators return Sept. 11 for a voting session for the first time since the end of June. While we were out of session for two months, there was still work to be done in Columbus. My summer schedule is just the opposite of my schedule the rest of the year. During the summer break I spend more time in the district and less time in Columbus.

Some formal duties require periodic visits to Columbus. I am required to attend committee meetings of the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review every three weeks year round. I use that day to schedule other meetings and work through the regular office mail and correspondence. On average I am in Columbus one day a week during the summer break.

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And while I have not had to spend as much time in Columbus during the summer, there was certainly enough work to do here in the district.

One of my challenges during the summer break is making the most efficient use of my time because of the size of the senate district. It includes all of Adams, Clermont, Brown and Scioto counties, and part of Lawrence County. It takes just under three hours to drive from one end of my district to the other.

And it seems as if whenever there is an activity I would like to attend on one end of the district, there is something equally important on the other end. The driving distance makes it impossible to get to both.

As busy as things get at times in Columbus, there is one major advantage of working from my Columbus office. Most meetings occur in or within a few minutes of my office. That allows me to get more done in the same amount of time as I would spend back in the district.

One of our first orders of business Sept. 11 will be a mandatory caucus meeting. That is an opportunity for the Senate Republican leadership team to brief members on the legislative agenda for the fall session.

Topping the list of topics for consideration is the review of electric deregulation. The governor announced some of his ideas last week, and that sets the stage for legislative discussions.

I am personally looking forward to this debate, as I have spent all seven years in the legislature serving on committees that deal with issues relating to utilities.

We will also resume discussions on some unfinished business from the spring session. High on my list is getting House members to pass my foster care reform bill, Senate Bill 163. I am hopeful that can be done in the first few weeks after we return to a regular schedule.

We will also pick up where we left off on my privacy bill, Senate Bill 6. This bill is intended to provide individuals with more control over their credit histories, and restrict the availability of personal information that is available on records on file with public agencies.

A few committees will begin meeting Sept. 11, but most will not resume work until Sept. 18. The committee schedule is not released until Thursday afternoon for the following week, so it is too early to tell what the full schedule for our first week back will be.

Sen. Tom Niehaus represents the 14th District.