Members of the Ohio House Democratic Caucus for the 128th General Assembly unanimously elected State Rep. Matt Szollosi (D.-Toledo) from the 49th District to be Speaker Pro Tempore in January.
The Speaker Pro Tempore is the second highest ranking position in the House of Representatives. Szollosi, of Oregon, will serve alongside Speaker-elect Armond Budish (D.-Beachwood), who was first elected to the House with Szollosi two years ago.
The House Democratic Caucus consists of all the members and members-elect in the Democratic Party.
The Democrats, for the first time since 1994, have a 53-46 majority in the House as a result of the general election earlier this month. Before then, Republicans held a majority of 53-46 seats.
“Our new majority gives a new voice to the middle class,” said Szollosi. “We pledge to work in a bipartisan fashion…to represent our citizens well and bridge legislative gaps that will help our neighbors live better lives.”
Szollosi called his new statutory leadership role “one of the great thrills of my professional life.”
“Speaker-elect Budish and I are working very closely to craft an agenda that addresses the needs and concerns of all Ohioans. I am very confident that the leadership team our Caucus has chosen will be very effective in bringing the change our state desperately needs,” he said.
Szollosi was re-elected to a second, two-year term earlier this month. Szollosi, whose 49th District covers Oregon, Jerusalem Township, North Toledo and West Toledo, begins his second term January 5.
“My duties and responsibilities will be to oversee, alongside the Speaker, the functioning of the Ohio House of Representatives,” he told The Press last week.
The new House will have to work with the Senate, where the Republicans hold a majority of 22-11 seats.
“Our goal - the Speaker and I - will be to work closely with both the administration and the president of the Senate, to advance initiatives to help Ohio’s economy,” said Szollosi. “Certainly, being in control of the House will enable us to put forward initiatives of our choosing that we feel will be most beneficial to the greatest challenges we’re facing, which of course is the economy. I learned early on that it’s very, very difficult for a member in the minority party to advance legislation simply because of the partisan political environment in Columbus. So in order to put myself in a position to have the greatest impact on my district, I put significant time and effort into helping Democrats achieve majority status. In the process, I wanted to be in a position of strength and leadership to advance the interests of my district and our region.”
With a growing unemployment rate, Szollosi said the top priority of the 128th General Assembly will be to create jobs. He hopes the policies of President-Elect Barack Obama will also help stimulate job growth.
“We’re very hopeful that the state of Ohio will be able to draw significant federal resources from the next administration to help assist our efforts in terms of infrastructure improvements and job creation,” he said.
“Our unemployment rate in September was 7.2 percent. The October unemployment rate has not yet been disclosed. I anticipate it will be at least the level of September if not worse,” he said.
“Times are tough, and hopefully, with the new administration, the economic policies will change and the climate in the country will reflect those changes. Clearly, getting the housing crisis resolved is critical to turning around our economy and I’m very hopeful the new administration and new congress will act swiftly to put in place regulations that will allow current homeowners to remain in their homes and stimulate construction and new home sales,” said Szollosi.
“People in House District 49 want to work and earn a competitive wage with good benefits and provide for their families,” he continued. “The number one issue in my district, without question, is job creation. I will be intensely focused on working over the next several months to ensure that northwest Ohio draws its significant share of state resources through the operating and capital budget cycle, which will have a significantly positive impact on our local economy. I will continue to work aggressively with the Ohio Department of Development to steer resources into northwest Ohio, enabling our companies to grow and expand their businesses and to hire more people.”
Szollosi, as a member of the Financial Institutions, Real Estate and Securities Committee, discussed for several months finding relief for those who obtain high interest short-term loans from pay day lenders. He co-sponsored a bill last June that caps interest of pay day short-term loans at 28 percent rather than the 392 percent interest pay day lenders had charged for short-term loans.
Pay day lenders tried to get the bill overturned by getting a statewide issue placed on November’s ballot, but voters overwhelmingly defeated the measure and the bill remains in place.
“The interest they were charging people in need was outrageous, taking advantage of people facing serious economic circumstances,” said Szollosi.
Szollosi remains humble despite his meteoric rise in the House to the number two position after just two years in the House.
“I’m very appreciative to the people who have supported me, especially my wife Melanie, who is always with me every step of the way, and I look forward to working very hard to help the people of northwest Ohio,” he said.