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Monday, December 6,2010

Area state-level legislators take on leadership positions in next session

This area’s legislators in the Ohio Statehouse have now both secured leadership positions for the upcoming 129th General Assembly.

State Sen. Jimmy Stewart, R-Albany, was elected last week by his Republican colleagues to serve as the Ohio Senate’s majority floor leader.

Last month, state Rep. Debbie Phillips, D-Athens, was elected by the Ohio House Democratic Caucus to serve as assistant minority whip in that chamber.

Stewart said he is honored to have been chosen for the position.

“I look forward to serving with the rest of our leadership team as we continue our efforts in the Ohio Senate to make our state an attractive place for businesses to locate and create jobs as well as pass legislation that improves the quality of life for all Ohioans,” Stewart said in a release.

He is serving his first term in the Ohio Senate, having previously served three terms in the Ohio House of Representatives.

Stewart explained that the role of floor leader varies with whoever the Senate president is at the time, but his main function will be to work with the other members of leadership to rally votes in the chamber.

“One of the reasons I ran is that there are several members of our caucus that tend to have more moderate views on certain issues,” he said. “I think that was one of the reasons I was able to get quite a bit of support. I try to work for consensus, as opposed to just throwing bombs.”

He pointed out that some GOP senators don’t come from districts that vote overwhelmingly Republican. Some districts, he said, are much more closely divided politically, including his own.

“It’s important that our various members all have a voice at the table,” he said.

During this past General Assembly, Stewart has been serving as vice-chair of both the State and Local Government and Veterans Affairs Committee and the Environment and Natural Resources Committee. In addition, he serves as a member of the influential Senate Finance and Financial Institutions Committee, which helps write the state’s operating budget every two years.

This year the state faces a $6 billion to $8 billion budget shortfall that the Legislature and Governor-elect John Kasich will have to deal with before a balanced budget is due July 1.

Stewart will formally take on his role as majority floor leader when the 129th General Assembly convenes in January. He joins the majority leadership team of Senate President Tom Niehaus, R-New Richmond, President Pro Tempore Keith Faber, R-Celina, and Majority Whip Shannon Jones, R-Springboro.

Meanwhile, the Ohio House Democratic Caucus has elected Phillips as assistant whip for the upcoming session.

“I am honored to become part of the leadership team of my caucus,” Phillips said when her new position was announced. “Their confidence in me to help move Ohio forward is gratifying.”

She said the new position will allow her to become an even stronger voice for the interests of all Ohioans and for southeast Ohio in particular.

“We face significant challenges in the coming months, but I am committed to finding solutions that are both fiscally responsible and protect our most vulnerable citizens as we create new jobs and grow our economy,” she said.

The assistant whip is responsible for monitoring legislation and securing votes on the floor during sessions of the Ohio House.

Rep. Phillips joins the leadership team of incoming Minority Leader Armond Budish, D-Beachwood, Assistant Minority Leader Matthew Szollosi, D-Toledo, and Whip Tracy Maxwell Heard, D-Columbus.


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