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Workforce development big issue for Baker, General Assembly

By Kevin Kelley

Westshore

Nan Baker will continue focusing on improving the business environment in the state during her third two-year term in the Ohio House of Representatives, the Westlake Republican said.

The former Westlake councilwoman defeated Rocky River attorney Andrew Meyer by a 58.3 to 41.7 percent margin in the Nov. 6 election. Baker, who served as a delegate for Mitt Romney at the Republican National Convention this summer, campaigned on making Ohio more business-friendly to attract more jobs. Meyer criticized what he called the “hyperpartisanship” of Ohio government under the leadership of Gov. John Kasich.

Baker’s margin of victory was not much different from the 60-40 victory voters gave her two years ago over Democrat and former state Rep. Jennifer Brady, who lost a bid to unseat state Sen. Tom Patton last week.

“I was pleased with the show of support,” Baker told West Life.

Baker said she hopes to be reappointed as chairwoman of the House’s Economic and Small Business Development Committee when the 130th General Assembly convenes in January.

“Workforce development is certainly going to be on the front burner,” Baker said. “As we bring jobs to Ohio, we want to make sure we have a qualified workforce, which is something we’re hearing from businesses that is lacking, so we certainly need to address it.”

Many companies say they need experts in information technology, Baker said. Other skilled labor positions, such as plumbers and technicians, are also in demand, she said. Lawmakers are challenging businesses to be more specific in their employee needs so the state can work with community colleges to provide training, she added. Cuyahoga Community College has already introduced courses in welding to train in-demand workers for jobs in the gas industry, she added.

The General Assembly will begin holding lame-duck sessions next week. Baker said she hoped the legislature will pass pending legislation she has sponsored, such as laws that would regulate Internet cafes and provide additional funding for rape crisis centers.

As for next year, the first six months will likely be consumed with the biennial budget process, Baker said.

“Most of our focus will be on balancing the budget,” she said.

Republicans enjoy a 59-40 majority in the current House. Their hold will be at least 58-39 in the next session, with the results of two House elections so close they will likely be decided by provisional ballots or by recounts. As Jim Siegel of the Columbus Dispatch has noted, reaching the 60-member mark would give the House GOP a supermajority, with the ability to place measures on the ballot and override a veto by the governor.

However, Baker said she didn’t believe that gaining the 60-member supermajority would significantly alter the character of the House, given that the governor’s office is also held by a Republican. Baker also said she hadn’t heard much talk about the potential benefits of having a supermajority.

 

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