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Legislature accomplished many things in 2007

My kindergartener recently asked me why this is the most wonderful time of the year. My faith tells me it is because the Christ Child was born, giving us all new hope for peace on earth and goodwill toward men. For my Jewish friends, it is a celebration of Hanukah and their tradition and faith.

Other religions view this as a sacred time of year as well. Yet, however you choose to celebrate the season, I hope it will be a time spent with family and friends, reflecting on memories past, while creating new memories for the future.

The holidays are also an important time of reflection — an opportunity to build on your accomplishments, while working to better yourself in the New Year. The past 12 months have been an exciting, hectic time in Columbus, as we welcomed a number of new faces to the Statehouse and successfully passed several key bills that are sure to have a tremendous impact on Ohio’s future. There is also much work left to do as we head into 2008.

The state saw a shift in power at the beginning of 2007, as Gov. Strickland and Lt. Governor Fisher were sworn-in and began the first year of their administration. This change at the top also had a trickle down effect on the overall atmosphere in the Legislature, which was evident during the state budget process. As Chair of the Senate Finance and Financial Institutions Committee, I particularly enjoyed working with the Governor and his staff on the budget bill, as well as the ranking minority member on the committee, Senator Dale Miller from Cleveland.

As in any budget, no one got exactly what they wanted, but legislators of both parties rallied behind the plan, initially passing it with unanimous support for the first time since 1926.

On the healthcare front, the budget did expand Medicaid for certain services and individuals, including low-income children, but resisted increasing coverage for adults.

I have introduced several bills this General Assembly that have already become law. For instance, Senate Bill 5, also known as the Home First Initiative, was amended into the budget. The bill gives senior citizens in nursing homes more long-term care options, while saving the state millions in Medicaid costs. Senate Bill 24 made needed changes to the state’s Job Ready Sites program to make it fairer to all counties who apply.

There is also SB 25, which would establish a Gold Star Family License Plate for military families. The bill has passed both legislative chambers and is now awaiting concurrence in the Senate, which should take place the first or second week of January. Finally, Senate Bill 250, which was amended into House Bill 372 and was signed by the Governor this past week, provides assistance to Ohio companies for worker training.

As you can see, the General Assembly has accomplished a great deal this past year, but it is important to realize that the things most precious to us —things like freedom, family and faith — do not come from the government. I know that there are Ohioans suffering and that many folks have faced personal and financial hurdles recently, but what makes this time of year so wonderful is that we can wipe the slate clean and begin again in a new year.

John A. Carey is a member of the Ohio Senate and represents the 17th District.