Valley Democrats lose top spots on Ohio Legislature committees
State Rep. Ronald Gerberry, D-59
State Rep. Thomas Letson of Warren, D-64th
By David Skolnick
With Democrats no longer in power in the Ohio House, members of the Mahoning Valley delegation lost five House committee chairmanships.
Instead, the Valley delegation has only ranking minority members on three House committees. Also, freshman state Rep. Craig Newbold of Columbiana, R-1st, the Valley’s lone Republican, is the vice chairman of the education committee.
Newbold, who defeated Democrat Linda Bolon, the former House assistant minority whip, in the November general election, was also appointed as a member of the local government, and the economic and small business development committees.
New committee assignments were given Tuesday to Ohio House members. Republican leaders selected Republican members for each committee, and Democratic leaders did the same for their members.
Republicans control the House 59-40. Democrats had a 53-46 majority in the House last year.
The new Republican leadership of the House combined committees reducing the number from 27 to 17.
State Rep. Ronald V. Gerberry of Austintown, D-59th, was chairman of the state government committee last year. Gerberry is now the ranking Democratic member of the newly-named state government and elections committee.
Gerberry will also retain a seat on the education committee and will serve as a member of the local government committee.
Gerberry said the work of the new Legislature is going to be difficult.
“An $8 billion deficit in the budget means that many worthy programs will probably be on the chopping block as the governor and the General Assembly balance the state’s finances,” he said.
State Rep. Tom Letson of Warren, D-64th, went from chairman of the ways and means committee to being its ranking Democratic member.
Letson will also serve as a member of the insurance, judiciary and ethics; and state government and elections committees. On the latter committee, Letson will be the ranking member on the redistricting subcommittee.
State Rep. Robert F. Hagan of Youngstown, D-60th, lost the chairmanship of the transportation committee to being a member of the newly-named transportation, public safety and homeland security committee.
Hagan will remain on the health committee and is the ranking Democrat on the new retirement and pensions subcommittee. He’s also a member of the commerce and labor committee.
State Rep. Mark Okey of Carrollton, D-61st, is not only out as chairman of the civil and commercial law committee, he’s no longer on it. Okey is ranking Democrat of the agriculture and natural resources committee, and a member of the judiciary and ethics, and local government committees.
Sandra Stabile Harwood of Niles, D-65th, the former chairman of the judiciary committee, couldn’t run for re-election because of the state’s term-limit law.
Democrat Sean O’Brien of Brookfield replaced her. O’Brien will serve on the agriculture and natural resources; public utilities; and transportation, public safety and homeland security committees.
House committees are to begin meeting next week.