TORONTO - State Sen. Lou Gentile, D-Steubenville, was guest speaker during the Toronto Ohio Chamber of Commerce's June 7 luncheon meeting at the North River Avenue Christian Church.
Gentile said he's been busy in Ohio politics as a freshman senator in the statehouse.
"We're had a really active couple of months," said Gentile, adding districts in Ohio recently have been rezoned. "My district will now encompass nine counties due to redistricting. I have an obligation to my constituents here, and I will be be busy visiting the other counties now in my district."
Gentile said he is a ranking member of the agriculture committee as well as a member of five other Senate committees.
"We just completed a pretty challenging and intense session," he continued. "We worked mostly on a budget review."
Gentile said he was disappointed the state budget didn't address two concerns - funding for local governments and the state's public education system.
"Our local governments are still struggling," he said. "Those issues were eliminated from the (corrections) budget."
Gentile said he also was active in crafting a new energy bill, particularly in legislation that would keep track of how many Ohio workers are being used in the emerging gas shale industry. Gentile said he also attempted to have an amendment added to the bill that would have required companies involved in the gas industry disclose where steel used in production originated.
"Unfortunately, that didn't get in (the final draft of the bill)," Gentile said. "We've got to encourage the use of Ohio-made products."
The use of county roads and other municipal infrastructure by gas drillers also was of major concern, said Gentile.
"It's been an issue a lot of people in Jefferson County have been pushing on," he said.
Gentile also said he'd introduced legislation to give temporary tax relief to some local manufacturers to help them survive, as well as training and benefits for laid-off steelworkers?
"I'm doing what I can to raise these issues," he said, adding he'd raised the issue personally with Gov. John Kasich. "My commitment is to these workers and my community."
Gentile said he supports the gas drilling industry, but he also wants to protect citizens from unscrupulous speculators. He added he's working on a program for those with new-found wealth due to gas drilling to invest some of those funds back into local entrepreneurial projects.
In other business:
It was announced the annual Robert Urich Memorial Run/Walk will be July 7, the same day as Gem City Days and the city's fireworks display. The chamber is seeking volunteers for the event. To volunteer, call Mike Biasi at (740) 537-2152.
It was announced Dani Swearingen was the winner of the chamber membership drive, and she is responsible for enlisting nine new members.
(Miller can be contacted at email@example.com.)