It is rare for freshmen legislators in the Ohio General Assembly to advance much of their agenda, because they must spend a lot of time learning the ropes of the legislative process.
But Rep. Matt Barrett (D-Amherst) and Sen. Sue Morano (D-Lorain) have been given opportunities that Barrett called "just shocking." When committee assignments were handed down, Barrett was chosen as the ranking minority member of the Civil and Criminal Law Committee and Morano the ranking minority member of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee.
Barrett, an Amherst lawyer whose district includes Huron, Lorain and Seneca counties, said he was told it is "very rare" for freshmen to get such an appointment and it might be one of the first times it has ever happened.
The ranking minority member of a committee is the counterpart to the majority chairperson, and is therefore able to mold the committee's debate. Committees are important because before legislation can be voted on by the Ohio House of Representatives or Senate, it must be passed out of the committee assigned to review the bill.
"I'm pleased with the assignment," Barrett said. "I'm excited to remind everyone in Columbus that (commercial) law affects everyone, not just big business, but families, small businesses and farms."
Morano also was happy with her rare selection.
"It's an honor ... I have always been an advocate for environment safety and environmental services."
Barrett said his top priority, in terms of general goals he would like to accomplish, is to cut some of the bureaucratic "red tape" and "fine print" and simplify the law for small businesses and family farms.
"I understand the need for oversight of huge operations," Barrett said. "But we need to change priorities to promote small business."
Morano said air quality was her No. 1 issue, closely followed by the preservation of Lake Erie. She also would like to explore ways to use the district's natural resources.
Barrett also is on the following committees: criminal justice; insurance; and public utilities.
Morano also is on the following committees: Education; Health, Human Services and Aging; the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (which reviews administrative rules proposed by Ohio organizations including state agencies, departments, boards and commissions); and the Ohio Retirement Study Council (which deals with public pensions).