EATON – State Rep. Rodney Creech and Sen. Steve Huffman were the featured guests at the Preble County Chamber of Commerce’s State of the State Legislative Breakfast held Friday, May 14 at the Eaton Youth Center facility.
Before handing the program off to Creech and Huffman, Chamber Executive Director Leslie Collins welcomed those in attendance to the organization’s first in-person breakfast event since the pandemic forced shutdowns of such activities in 2020. “Welcome back to in-person, chamber events,” she said. “We have a little bit to celebrate this week, that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”
“It’s great to be here this morning,” Creech said to kick off the morning. “I’ve really been looking forward to this because you know, I work for you, as your representative. One of the things that I do when I go to Columbus is I represent you, and I think that is something we’ve had in the past and it’s something that we need now. In order to work for the people, you have to know the people. And I think everybody knows, with my past experience, that’s one of the things I love to do. I love to get to know the people and work for them, and you know I’ve had a lot of fun going over the district. You know [that] I know Preble County like the back of my hand.”
Creech said the past four months have been a learning curve as he’s discussed topics ranging from healthcare to schools.
“But there are so many topics, like the auto industry — I’ve never been involved in the auto industry — I’m a farmer and a business owner. A lot of these topics are in every meeting that I go into. I’m learning the entire time and I’m loving it,” he said. “Again, I’m just trying to represent our district at the end of the day. I go up there and it’s not what Rodney Creech thinks, it’s what the district thinks, and that’s one of the things that sometimes can be difficult because you’re different, You know your opinion may be different than the majority. I think the superintendents would tell you I know very little about education, so I’m leaning on our education people, and I’m going to go up and I’m going to represent our district at the state level for District 43.”
One of the highlights of the general assembly, according to Creech, has been House Bill 22, which expands the offense for obstructing justice, and Senate Bill 22, which limits Governor Mike DeWine’s powers regarding health orders.
Creech also highlighted House Bill 248, introduced by Rep. Jennifer Gross, that he says is “an awesome bill.”
“It’s about vaccine choice — choice is the key word — a vaccine choice and anti-discrimination bill, to again, protect our freedoms to do what you want to do and leave everybody else alone and if somebody doesn’t do what you do, it’s okay,” he said. “It’s a very, very good bill.
“A lot of these bills we’re putting in place for the future. There’s a mask mandate bill coming from [Rep. Jena Powell (R-Arcanum)]” he continued. “Why are we worried about a mask mandate bill when the masks are gone? The masks are going to come back. Eventually, they could. So, all we’re trying to do is look out for the people of the state and give you choice.”
Creech said other good bills have been passed, citing a Falconry bill that, while it does not impact many people, is still important to some.”
“Some bills are big, some bills are small, but they’re all important to somebody in the state. That’s kind of the thing that I’ve learned,” the freshman representative said.
Other bills being worked on focus on school zone issues, a Daylight Savings Time bill, an equal parenting bill, CDL tax credit bill and more, according to Creech.
Senator Steve Huffman, a physician, represents Ohio’s 8th District, which includes all of Miami County, all of Preble County, southern Darke County, and parts of Montgomery County including the City of Dayton, Trotwood, Brookville, and Farmersville. He previously served in the Ohio House for four years and was elected to his seat in the Ohio Senate two years ago.
“I have a lot more in common with Preble, Miami and Darke County than I do the City of Dayton and Trotwood,” Huffman said.
Huffman, a physician on staff at the Preble ED, said he works on a lot of healthcare policy. “But right now, we’re going through the budget — $72 billion over the next two years — and trying to figure out, you know, who gets what. Unbelievably, in this COVID crisis, our revenue has been pretty steady. You know, everybody thought with COVID over the last year, it would dip down. It has been held up by car sales — everybody going to buy cars with the extra money that they have.”
Recognizing U.S. Congressman Warren Davidson’s liaison Ben Thaeler in attendance, Huffman reminded those in attendance, “We need to separate things that are going on in Washington with what we do in Columbus, in the sense that, you know, they’re giving out money – and I know Warren’s not like this – in these trillion-dollar stimulus bills and all this stuff’s going on. Looking at the most recent stimulus, the City of Cleveland — just the City of Cleveland — is going to get $600 million. The rest of Cuyahoga County will get another half a billion dollars. The city of Lima will get $24 million, which is equal to their entire yearly budget to just spend. Some of this money is filtering down to the state, and they say well, the state can do what they want with it.
Huffman said he isn’t going to give the money back to the federal government, saying they would give it to California and New York.
“In the latest stimulus package, we’re going to get about $1.2 billion for the state. We’re going to turn around and spend about $600 million to pay down the unemployment compensation that all the employers are paying. So, the unemployment compensation, which was hit hard during COVID, is a closed fund, which means the State doesn’t have to put any money in — it is just fees from small businesses and employers,” he said. “To dig out of that hole would be very costly. There was a large loan from the federal government that if we don’t pay it, and if it’s not paid up by the first of the year, there’s going to be like a quarter of a billion-dollar penalty. So we’re going to start paying that down for the businesses. Then we’re going to take the other $600 million dollars and spread it out.”
Huffman explained he has a senate bill the governor would sign on Monday, May 17, which will use $125 million of COVID relief money for restaurants and bars.
“$100 million will go to bars and restaurants and $25 million to the hotel industry to prop them up,” he said. “It’ll be in grants of $10,0000 and $20,000 to get some of those restaurants back where they want to be, and some of the hotels throughout Ohio.”
Huffman said the budget has to be completed by June 30.
“The state budget is not about just about money. There is so much policy in there in that you have this idea, and you’re like, ‘Well, I don’t want to take the time and effort and make it separate.’ So you’re trying to get in into the budget, and it has nothing to do about financials or spending money. It’s policy about different things, be it education, be it law enforcement and things like that.”
Creech and Huffman took questions from the audience referencing agricultural issues, unemployment and others, and touched on topics including COVID, budgeting, the housing market, and the mental health and drug crisis.
Huffman said he agreed with Creech in being glad the mask mandate is going away. “But the second part of that announcement this week was getting rid of the $300 for the extra unemployment, which is, you know, why people aren’t going to work. We can’t find people to stimulate the economy. You know, even McDonald’s closes at 11 o’clock because they can’t find night shift. It’s just tough.”
Collins thanked everyone who attended the breakfast and cited plans for the Preble County Chamber of Commerce’s future in-person events, including the Chamber Classic Scholarship Golf Outing in August, Business Expo which will be held the second weekend of October, and the Annual Awards & Holiday Gala in December.
“Thanks as well goes out to the City of Eaton, Brad Collins, Daniel Gray and his staff for the use of the Eaton Youth Center,” Collins said following the event. “They’ve done a wonderful ‘freshening up’ of the facility with new light fixtures, painting, furniture and a little remodeling. It’s a perfect venue for events like ours, and I can’t thank them enough for the space.”