By Rep. Craig Riedel

As the temperature drops and holiday celebrations begin, I start to reflect on the past year. As your state representative, I have been working hard at the Statehouse representing Defiance, Paulding, Van Wert and part of Auglaize counties. A majority of this year was devoted to passing the operating budget for Ohio, which, in addition to funding state agencies and departments, also allocates money for combatting the opiate epidemic, provides valuable resources for schools, and promotes an environment that encourages economic growth.

House Bill 49 is a fiscally responsible, balanced operating budget that prioritizes Ohio’s greatest needs. This 3,384-page document is a comprehensive two-year plan that, among other provisions, invests $180 million to fight Ohio’s drug epidemic through a multifaceted approach, including prevention, treatment, mental health, and workforce training efforts.

For our schools, the budget increases per-pupil funding from $6,000 to $6,010, and increases state foundation funding by $154 million in Fiscal Year 2018 and $120 million in Fiscal Year 2019. Ohio’s tax code is also simplified through this budget by reducing the number of tax brackets from nine to seven.

In addition to the state operating budget, I focused on legislation that benefits the court in Paulding County.

House Bill 215 makes the part time Paulding County County Court into the full-time Paulding County Municipal Court. The Paulding County County Court is a part-time operation meeting only three times a week. This has created a backlog of court hearings stretching weeks and sometimes months. By passing House Bill 215 and creating the Paulding County Municipal Court, we address this negligence and better serve the people of Paulding County. I believe that the courts are an integral part of our society and should have all the tools necessary to deliver fair and swift justice. Governor John Kasich signed House Bill 215 into law at the end of this year.

It is a pleasure serving as your state representative. Please contact me with any questions, comments, or concerns about these topics or any other state related issues. Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!