Tuesday, January 8th, 2013
By William Kincaid
Faber to lead Senate
Republican expects education funding, Medicaid to be among budget battles
COLUMBUS - Republican Sen. Keith Faber of Celina was unanimously elected president of the Ohio Senate on Monday afternoon, becoming the first person from Mercer County to preside over the chamber since Thomas Godfrey in the late 19th century.
During the first day of the 130th General Assembly, Jim Hughes, R-Columbus, nominated Faber for president, calling him a dedicated, God-fearing, Christian family man who hasn't let his political office change him.
Surrounded by his wife Andrea and two children, Adam and Brooke, Faber was sworn into office by Ohio Supreme Court Judge Sharon Kennedy before he ascended the steps to the podium at the front of the chamber and ushered in his presidency with a personalized gavel crafted from Mercer County wood.
"It felt good," Faber, 46, told the newspaper afterward. " ... today was really the ceremonial part. It wouldn't settle in until tomorrow when we start making decisions and start taking action and start planning. I'm ready to get to that. Im ready to work." Faber, who has represented the 12th District since 2007, adhered to Senate custom and addressed his colleagues near the end of the session, immediately invoking Scripture and God and thanking the Rev. Doug Meyer, former pastor of St. John Lutheran Church, Celina, for delivering the opening prayer. He also recognized his constituency in Allen, Champaign, Mercer, Preble, Shelby and parts of Auglaize and Darke counties.
"I have the great honor of representing the leading agricultural district in the state, and I wanted to pay special tribute to them," he said.
Faber exhorted his fellow senators - Republicans and Democrats alike - to work together this year to balance the state budget, educate the children, build the economy, create jobs and make Ohio the greatest place in the nation to live, work and raise a family. He also talked of making bipartisanship a daily practice.
"This is not a moment for political rhetoric or policy pronouncements. It is a challenge to rise above the division and discord that defines so much of politics today and to set a new standard," he said.
Faber spoke with The Daily Standard in his palatial senate presidential office after session was adjourned for an exclusive interview.
When asked about upcoming budget battles, he named education, higher education, Medicaid and tax reform.
He talked about creating new sub-committees of the Senate Finance Committee to more closely reflect the complex issues contained in the budget. The General Assembly, in which the Republicans hold a 23-10 advantage in the Senate, will spend most of the first half of the year debating Ohio's spending blueprint.
"Most of us have served together for some period of time, some of us 10 years plus," he said. "And because of that, what I wanted to do was use (those) skills and those talents that we have in the Senate."
The subcommittees will better tackle the complex budget, he said.
Faber wants to make sure nothing is done with school funding that would adversely impact schools in his district that are educating kids at less than the state average cost per pupil.
"Most of the research shows that the No. 1 factor in success for students ... isn't the poverty rate of the community, it isn't how much you spend per pupil, it isn't the length of the school day; the No. 1 factor is the leadership within the school district," Faber said.
When asked about Grand Lake, Faber said he is very concerned about the unanticipated costs of things such as lawsuits involving the spillway and their impacts on improving the quality of the lake.
Faber said the lake is a state asset; however, it's important that a system be developed so that the local community can invest in it too.
"It's going to be real tough to ask people in Cleveland who are fighting Lake Erie issues as well to continue to sink millions and millions of dollars in Grand Lake St. Marys," he said. "And so one of the issues ... is going to be 'what are we spending the money on and are we doing something that has value?' "
Faber also said any such initiative such as Ohio becoming a right-to-work state likely would come from citizens, not the legislature.
"Most people have recognized that anything legislature passes in that area would end up on the ballot anyway," Faber said. "So most of us believe that it's better that that come directly from voters."
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