Hamilton County will have two new representatives at the Statehouse this general assembly — both are women, both are democrats from Cincinnati and both are ready to get things done in Ohio.
Rep. Brigid Kelly and Rep. Catherine Ingram are first time members of the Ohio General Assembly and were sworn in with other state representatives and senators into the 132 Ohio General Assembly on Jan. 3.
Kelly and Ingram are two of three Democrats and two of six representing Hamilton County in the house. The makeup statewide is far less equal, with only 33 of 99 representatives being members of the Democratic Party.
Republicans fared well in both houses in the November election, winning one more seat than in the previous state legislature in both the House and Senate. In order to get things done with the Republican majority, Ingram said she and other Democrats will have to reach across the aisle.
“Bipartisanship is not just important now; it’s always been important,” Ingram said. “The problem is, we keep talking about how we care about the same people. How is it that whether I’m a Democrat or Republican should make a difference? So absolutely bipartisanship, reaching across the aisle — whatever you call it. Coming to consensus and getting to the point where you can say ‘I can live with that. That’s what’s best for the people.’ Then you do that by whatever means you have to.”
Kelly agreed and said bipartisanship is always the best way to get results.
“At the end of the day I think that I am focused on doing work that creates more opportunity for people and their families to have a better life,” Kelly said. “I would hope and expect that a lot of other people feel the same way. It’s just about finding a pathway we can agree on to reach that goal.”
She hopes to live up to her campaign promises during her time in the statehouse, especially a promise she made to work on legislation about paid family leave.
“[Family leave] is something that can be really transformative for families because it’s an impossible decision to figure out if you need to forfeit a paycheck to stay at home because you’re sick yourself or with a sick child,” Kelly said.
Ingram wants to begin her work at 1 Capitol Square by supporting legislation introduced in the last general assembly by former Rep. Christine Kuhns, also a Democrat from Cincinnati, that addresses violence against women.
The bill unanimously passed the House in the 131st general assembly, but stalled in the Senate. In a bipartisan act, House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, a Republican from Clarksville, has said this bill will return to the House this session as House Bill 1.
She also wants to change legislation that she said has has created unnecessary food waste in her district, and hopes to make reforms to education while in office. Ingram said she worries about the incoming tightened state budget and what could potentially get cut.
“If you start doing something, you’ve got to stop doing something else," Ingram said. "The question becomes: What do you stop doing? Unfortunately, a lot of people think we have a bunch of freebies and a bunch of people are getting more than they deserve, so let’s take it from them, and that’s part of the problem. Who decides who that group of people is?”
Kelly wants to make sure her constituents know what she’s doing while in Columbus.
“One thing that we learned when we were knocking on doors is people don’t always know what is happening at the state level and with their state government,” Kelly said. “In order to make laws and pass policies that impact themselves and their families in a positive way, it’s good for them to know what’s happening.”
Rep. Bill Seitz, a Republican from Cincinnati, will again join the Ohio House of Representatives. He served in the House from to 2001 to 2009, reaching his term limit after four two-year terms. He then served in the Ohio Senate from 2008 to 2016, and reached the Senate’s two four-year term limit.
Term limits in the general assembly do not prevent senators or representatives from serving in the other house if they are unable to run for reelection for their current seat. It also does not prevent them from running for the same seat as long as they have sat at least one session out, which is why Seitz is back in the House.
The House will convene again on Jan. 25 to adopt both the Rules of the House of Representatives and the Legislative Code of Ethics. This will be their first session since the representatives were sworn in on Jan. 3.
Connor Perrett is a fellow in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism Statehouse News Bureau. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on twitter @connorperrett.