Rep. McClain hears from Galion community

By Matt Echelberry

July 29, 2014

State Representative Jeff McClain (R-District 87) visited Galion on July 22 for a town hall meeting. It was scheduled for two hours, and with all of the questions and topics attendees brought up, the meeting lasted every bit of it.

Topics included gun rights, in which one attendee asked McClain to take a leadership role in making common sense reform; Ohio’s rollback on renewable energy; women’s reproductive health; and the initiative of health department accreditation.

In what was perhaps the most engaging portion of the discussion, one citizen brought up the fact that the government makes it too easy for people NOT to work because of unemployment and other welfare programs.

McClain responded that the state does need to change the incentives. He recalled that in one of his visits to Bill Stepro’s government class at Galion High School, he was asked how he got to where he is today. After explaining the various jobs he has worked over the years, starting with baling hay, one student said: ‘I wouldn’t do that. That’s beneath me.’”

He pointed out that work ethic is a generational issue.

Sean Leuthold, judge of Crawford County Municipal Court, added that public assistance programs are being abused. According to him, it is often used to finance drug use and drug dealing. He pointed out that many of the recent drug busts in the county had one thing in common: The offenders were on some type of public assistance.

“$10-15 million was spent on heroin in our county last year. It came from somewhere,” Leuthold concluded.

The discussion turned to how public assistance programs can be made more accountable, through required drug testing, proof of identification or using technology to track suspicious spending.

Speaking more specifically to employment needs, McClain noted that North Central State College is putting a satellite location in Bucyrus, with help from state funds. Also, legislators are constantly talking to educational institutions about how they are tailoring the curriculum to the needs of the workforce to give graduates the right skills for the job.

Also on the topic of drug abuse, Senate Bill 86 was discussed. Some were concerned about the short sentences that heroin dealers receive as a result of it. McClain emphasized the legislation was intended to clean up the “pill mills” that were fueling Ohio’s opiate epidemic; while opiate abuse has declined, addicts have moved on to heroin.

Leuthold suggested that the felony level for heroin offenses be increased in order to give judges more discretion on the sentencing. He added there are over 500 people in Crawford County who are on felony probation, and most are heroin-related cases.

That evening McClain received both praise and criticism. One citizen thanked him for his support of the developmental disabilities levy, but asked if more could be done. In Ohio, assistance is offered by each county, which has created an uneven level of service.

McClain responded that because Ohio is a Home Rule state, the down side is that it creates this type of imbalance. However, it is something the House needs to look at.

The criticism came as a result of his co-sponsoring House Bill 5. “That was a destructive thing to do,” a retired teacher told him. She asked if he planned to reopen discussions.

McClain said the state has no plans right now. He added that the problem was not in rural communities like Galion, but in larger cities. Despite some concerns, he maintained that collective bargaining was not going away entirely, and employee pensions were not part of the bill.

City Council President Carl Watt, who invited McClain to Galion, asked about the status of Local Government Funds.

McClain explained that when cuts were made to local government funding, the state had an $8 billion deficit. Counties and cities were forced to make extensive cuts over the last three-and-a-half years and the townships were especially burdened.

McClain said as a positive result, local governments are leaner and generally more efficient. Because the funding is tied to the state’s General Revenue Fund, it has increased as the GRF’s fortunes have increased.

Rep. Jeff McClain can be reached at his office at 614-644-6265.

State Senator Dave Burke, who also represents Crawford County, will visit Galion for a town hall meeting as well. It is scheduled for Aug. 26 at 6 p.m.