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5/23/2011 Print Version > Chamber members get …

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Chamber members get legislativ e face time Print Page
By NICK POWELL
STAFF REPORTER
Published: Saturday, May 21, 2011 11:24 AM EDT

State Rep. Bill Hayes (R-Pataskala) and State Rep. Bob


Peterson (R-Sabina) spoke to a group of about 40 people Friday
at a legislative roundtable hosted by the Pickaw ay County
Chamber of Commerce.

“The roundtable gives our members the chance to sit with


their elected representatives and let them know what is going
on in their businesses,” said Amy Elsea, Chamber president. “We
get to voice our concerns and have these officials carry that
information back to Columbus.” Ben Vanhorn (left) and Dennis Franks of the
Pickaw ay-Ross Career & Technical Center
Hayes spoke Friday about a bill he introduced that would discuss issues w ith State Rep. Bob Peterson on
change the method school districts use to meet their state- Friday in Circleville.
mandated operational requirement.

House Bill 191, he said, w ould measure the length of a school year in hours instead of days, a formula
that would effectively end the need for calamity day limits.

In the event of a calamity day, school districts would just need to factor in the hours lost rather than
to try and make up w hole days, Hayes said.

Ohio law states that schools must be in session for 182 days per year, while Hayes’ plan would allow
for 1,050 hours in high schools and 960 hours in elementary schools.

A component of the bill also states that schools should be in session only between Labor Day and
Memorial Day, adding about two weeks to the summer tourist season, according to Hayes.

“I got the idea for this bill after a conversation w ith a (Buckeye Lake) boat storage operator in
Millersport,” Hayes said. “He told me that having schools start in August meant an early end to summer
tourism.”

The legislator noted that tourism in Ohio encompasses much more than the nationally-known
amusement parks and attractions.

“Summertime generates a great deal of revenue,” he said. “It is a crucial time because so many
businesses, all the way down to mom-and-pop restaurants and shops, depend on this particular time of
year for increased sales.

“And it also gives families an additional tw o weeks to schedule summer vacations or just spend more
time together before school starts,” Hayes said.

The next step for HB 191 w ill be Hayes’ sponsorship testimony on the House floor, which is expected
to take place on W ednesday.

“It’s got possibilities,” Hayes said of his proposed law. “But it w ill meet with some resistance, too. The
process will be long, and I don’t expect a vote will happen until the fall.”

Peterson, the other roundtable speaker, said Hayes is “right on” about how tourism is negatively
impacted when schools open before Labor Day.
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5/23/2011 Print Version > Chamber members get …

“We need good discussions on all elements of the bill,” he said after the roundtable.

Peterson said challenges facing businesses wanting to establish operations in Ohio include a
regulatory environment that is difficult to navigate and is slow, a burdensome tax structure and the
need for w orkers’ compensation reform.

“The workers’ compensation issue will be a major topic this fall in the House,” he said.

When asked by a roundtable guest about mental health programs, Peterson replied that state
law makers recognize the need for additional funding, but so many government entities deal w ith the
issue in their own venues that the issue becomes more complicated.

“We need a more coordinated approach to mental health care, and that w ill only come with more
collaboration by the involved parties,” he said.

Another department facing tough times lately is the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services,
according to Peterson.

“This agency has big challenges,” he explained. “It is serving more people each day w ith few er staff
and less dollars. More and more requests for assistance by families in need and the unemployed is
impacting the department’s w orkload.”

The biggest challenge for legislators in the coming w eeks is the state budget, Peterson said.

“Medicare plays a big part in that process,” he said. “More than 40 percent of the budget goes to that
program, and it has the biggest grow th, too.”

Peterson wasn’t comfortable quoting any specific budget numbers due to the sw ift adjustments made
in committee hearings.

“It is a challenge to keep track of the numbers when you see as many as four budget versions in a
short time,” he said.

Hayes surmised the state budget might be ready for confirmation as early as June 15, but Peterson
felt that target date w as a little ambitious. He said a date close to the June 30 deadline might be more
realistic.

State Sen. David Daniels (R-Greenfield), a third legislator invited to speak at the roundtable, was
unable to attend due to finance committee deliberations that required his attention.

The legislative roundtable has been hosted by the chamber of commerce for its members and guests
during the past three years, according to Elsea.

She said the roundtable approach to connecting w ith government officials is relatively unique to
Pickaw ay County.

“When I discussed this format at a state meeting, a lot of people said they w eren’t aw are of it,” she
said.

Bob Mabe, pharmacist and ow ner of the Circleville and Ashville Apothecary pharmacies, said the
law makers w ere “straightforw ard in answering our questions. They were pretty good at explaining
things in general terms.”

He said the roundtable is a good source of information to learn what issues the lawmakers are
dealing with.

“They have a lot on their plates,” Mabe said.

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