State Senator Randy Gardner

The university & students add value to their communities, Gardner tells BGSU grads

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The sun shined down on Bowling Green State University graduates Saturday morning. For the first time since 2013, summer commencement ceremonies were held outdoors on university lawn. Since that time construction projects in the area had forced summer commencement into the Stroh Center. Now with the work on University and Moseley halls and the Kuhlin Center completed, graduation was moved back outdoors. “It’s beautiful,” said graduate Abby Paskvan, of Bowling Green. “I’ve taken so many pictures.” Others approved as well, though Diamond Hurt was concerned about temperatures expected to rise to 90. Dressed in her cap and gown she was already feeling the heat. In his remarks, graduation speaker State Sen. Randy Gardner (R-Bowing Green) praised university officials for “preserving these traditional buildings.” “They have not only protected our heritage and our history but inside they have modernized learning centers for our students.” BGSU President Rodney Rogers said the unprecedented renovation and building boom that the graduates had experienced during their time on campus was not over. Nearby the new College of Business is just starting to take shape with the expansion and renovation of Hanna Hall, and after that will come the renovation of the College of Technology. The graduation class had 942 degree recipients, including 364 receiving graduate degrees. During their time on campus, Rogers said, more than 1.5 million volumes, paper and digital, have been borrowed from Jerome Library. In that time, students have eaten as well 1.6 million meals at the Oaks Dining Center alone. Students have spent 2 million hours at the Rec Center. By making the commitment and graduating, they are adding value to the university, he said. “Make sure you have fun,” Rogers urged them. “And never stop learning.” The Economist magazine said that BGSU was the top college in the state for return on education, the equivalent of return on investment for a business, a fact noted by both Gardner and Rogers. “Not only will your BGSU degree be of value to you, but this university is becoming more than a value to others,” Gardner said. The majority leader in the state senate praised BGSU’s efforts to reach beyond campus to help the community. That includes its partnership with the county Committee on Aging to build a new senior citizens center in Bowling Green as well as a program at the Firelands campus to help train nurses to treat babies born addicted to drugs and to fight infant mortality. Gardner urged the graduates to do more than excel at their chosen careers. He cited a graduation speech given in 1990 at Wellesley College by then First Lady Barbara Bush. “You are a human being first and those human connections with spouses, with children, with friends are the most important investment you will ever make,” she said. Gardner concluded by saying: “I believe if you carry the spirit of Barbara Bush’s words with you, you will have real meaning in you life, and you will be of real value to others. Most of you are human beings with boundless potential to be of value to others.”  


Lawmakers quizzed on Lake Erie, school testing, gas taxes

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   When local officials had a chance to quiz their state legislators Wednesday, there were more questions than time for answers. Lawmakers were asked about some hot button issues like Lake Erie efforts, school testing, gas taxes, and the state’s growing rainy day fund. Fielding the questions were State Senator Randy Gardner and State Rep. Theresa Gavarone, both R-Bowling Green, plus Ohio state representatives Jim Hoops, Derek Merrin, Mike Sheehy, and Michigan state representative Jason Sheppard. Asking the questions were members of the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments, during the organization’s summer caucuses with state lawmakers at Penta Career Center. Acting as moderator was Wood County Commissioner Doris Herringshaw, current chairperson of TMACOG. Tim Brown, executive director of TMACOG, said the agency has a 50-year history of going beyond politics to solve problems. “We lay the politics aside, put the partisanship at the door, and talk,” Brown said. The first question was about state efforts to stop harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie. While actions already taken have been appreciated, the local officials wanted to know “What’s next?” Gardner acknowledged that the work on Lake Erie is far from over. “There is no misunderstanding that we’ve done all that we can do,” he said. “We can find a way to do more and do better. We must.” Gardner said he hasn’t given up on a proposal to create a clean water bond issue. “Quite frankly, we haven’t received strong support from the governor to go forward,” he said. But Gardner is hopeful the bond issue can be revisited next year. Sheehy said environmental groups are “tired of failure” as the state struggles to find solutions. “We’ve all been saying this a long time. More needs to be done.” School officials asked about state testing requirements for students. Gavarone said testing requirements have been reduced, but more needs to be done to get timely feedback to teachers and parents, so they know how to help students. Gardner added that any testing requirements that aren’t federally mandated need to be reviewed. “They should be questioned and scrutinized as to their value,” he said. The legislators were asked about the state’s role in helping with workforce development. While Merrin said it isn’t the state legislature’s job to help create workforces, Gavarone and Gardner both offered other perspectives. Gavarone said students should be exposed to construction trades early on. “Kids need to be aware of the multitude of paths available to them after graduation,” she said. Gardner agreed that four-year colleges are just one option for Ohio’s youth. “I’m for an all-of-the-above education policy,” he said, noting the quality apprenticeship and training programs in the region. However, Gardner also said that four-year degrees still offer students the best long-run success. He suggested that the audience Google to find unemployment rates based on higher education. “You will still see the unemployment rate go down and the wages go up,” with higher degrees, he said. “We owe our children to give them the best opportunities.” Local officials also wanted to know when state leaders are going to share in some of the wealth of the state’s growing rainy day fund. Gardner said he considers local government to be an extension of state government. “We should look at what…


Clean Lake 2020 Plan earns bipartisan support

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   A perfect storm of sorts has led to the latest effort to fight for the health of Lake Erie – including weather projections of a moderate to bad year for algal blooms. So far this year, the lake has been the focus of a federal court order, U.S. EPA emphasis, Ohio EPA impairment declaration and a less than ideal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecast. “All these factors created a sense of urgency that perhaps should have already been there,” State Senator Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green, said. And others in the state legislature seem to agree, showing strong bipartisan support in the General Assembly as a bill and a proposed statewide bond issue was introduced Wednesday in the Ohio Senate and House of Representatives. The Clean Lake 2020 Plan, introduced by Gardner and State Rep. Steve Arndt, R-Port Clinton, includes funding of up to $36 million in 2018 for efforts to reduce algal blooms through conservation practices and other Lake Erie initiatives. Also proposed is a Clean Water Ohio Bond Issue that would appropriate $100 million per year for 10 years after statewide approval by voters. Gardner believes that even those Ohio voters at the southern end of the state will support the bond issue since it involves help for more than just Lake Erie. The Ohio River has also seen its share of algal bloom problems. But the primary focus will be on Lake Erie, since an estimated 5 million people rely on the lake for drinking water, and tens of thousands of jobs depend on the lake. “That demands that the priority be on Lake Erie,” he said. The Ohio EPA’s declaration that the open waters of Lake Erie are impaired means little if the state doesn’t act, Gardner said. “The most important thing is – what do we do about it,” he said. “It’s what we do from now.” “Almost everyone realizes there’s a lot of work to be done to help the lake,” he said. One of the biggest factors in the algal bloom issue is something state legislators can’t control – heavy rainfall events. “It just means we have to be more aggressive and spend more on the right strategies to get it done,” Gardner said. The Clean Lake 2020 Plan has not only garnered bipartisan support in the state legislature, but also support from farm, environmental and business groups. They all seem to realize that since the lake is worth millions of dollars to the state, it’s worth spending money to defend it, Gardner said. But voters’ support will also be needed to provide long-term funding to fix the lake. “We’ve been reluctant to go to the ballot before now,” he said. The Clean Lake 2020 Plan includes the following provisions: Ohio State Sea Grant/Stone Lab: Capital funds of $2.65 million for research lab space and in-lake monitoring equipment consisting of real-time buoys and water-treatment plant monitoring devices. Healthy Lake Erie Initiative: Additional investment of $10 million (on top of the $10 million in the just-passed Capital Appropriations Act) to support projects to reduce open lake disposal of dredged materials into Lake Erie by 2020, as Ohio law requires. Soil & Water Conservation Support Fund: Funding of $3.5 million to support county soil and water conservation…


Randy Gardner to BGSU Faculty Senate: “We need to invest more in higher education”

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Ohio should increase its support for higher education, State Senator Randy Gardner (R-Bowling Green) told Faculty Senate at Bowling Green State University Tuesday. No one knows the difficulties of doing that more than Gardner, the Senate Majority Leader. “I think if we had the same level of education achievement in this state as the national average, we’d increase our tax revenues and productivity,” he said. “We need to invest more on higher education. Ohio has not kept up.” That came in response to a question from Megan Rancier, a senator from the College of Musical Arts, about his view of the possibility of greater state support for higher education. In a nod to the sensitivity of the issue, Gardner told the reporter in the chamber before answering that he hoped his pen had run out of ink. Gardner said that he wasn’t hopeful that more state share of instruction funding will be forthcoming because the state has given universities a way to raise more tuition through the freshman guarantee. Under this approach, which BGSU has adopted starting this fall, a university can raise tuition and fees for incoming students, but then those costs, including tuition, room and board, mandatory fees, and out-of-state surcharge fees, will be frozen for the student’s four years on campus. Gardner said he would have liked to have included some additional state support, so that the incentive for adopting the freeze would not simply be financial. Gardner said that Ohio has had the slowest growth in tuition in the nation over the past decade. Looking back to 2007, Ohio’s tuition was 150 percent of the national average. Now is closer, but still higher, than the national average, he said. Some efforts to reduce costs may be counterproductive “If we simply mandate lower costs without state support, it makes it more difficult to offer the same level and variety of courses and flexibility,” he said. That can mean a student not being able to schedule a course needed for graduation. “Some of these efforts actually work against students completing their undergraduate education in a timely manner.” If that student has to enroll for an additional semester, that will “practically” negate the savings from the tuition freeze and other cost saving measures. One element of the cost of higher education that’s been much discussed at the state level has been the affordability of textbooks. BGSU is considered a leader on controlling those costs. In one effort to address the issue, the Faculty Senate approved a resolution supporting elimination of the sales tax on books. Gardner indicated he wasn’t willing to support that yet. He said the proposal is getting pushback from localities that would lose money if the tax was eliminated. “There’s debate about whether that would be the best approach,” he said. “It’s a little more complicated than just looking at reducing the cost of textbooks.” Gardner said that some people in the state are losing sight of the value of higher education. All one has to do is search  online to find data showing  that getting a bachelor’s degree or higher correlates with higher incomes and better employment prospects. Not only does that translate into a better quality of life, but also increased tax revenues.  “You don’t hear that message…


State grants $1.6 million for new senior center in BG

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The news was worth a brief delay in the country fried steak as the lunch hour approached Monday at the Wood County Senior Center. “We’re smart enough to know to not get in the way of lunch,” State Senator Randy Gardner said to the seniors as he made the big announcement. The new senior center in Bowling Green will be getting $1.6 million from the state, secured by Gardner and State Rep. Theresa Gavarone, both R-Bowling Green. That amount is the largest state capital bill grant awarded in Bowling Green since at least 1992, Gardner said. “Wood County does a lot of things well. This is one of the hallmarks of Wood County,” Gardner said about the county’s senior agency. “This is one of the best organizations in the entire county.” “I am so thrilled to be in a position to work for you this way,” Gavarone told the seniors gathered for lunch. “It’s going t be a tremendous benefit to all of Wood County.” Other community projects in Bowling Green are also in line for capital bill funding. The Cocoon Shelter will receive $375,000 to help protect women and children from the dangers of domestic violence and sexual abuse. Two years ago, the Cocoon was given an $800,000 grant, adding up to $1.175 million in the last two capital budgets. The BGSU Forensic Program will be getting a $200,000 grant to help enhance the BCII Crime Lab’s forensic academic programs. The announcement of the senior center funding will help move along the proposed construction of the new facility in Bowling Green. “We are very, very excited,” said Denise Niese, executive director of the Wood County Committee on Aging. Last year, the City of Bowling Green gave 2.35 acres at 140 S. Grove St., to the Committee on Aging for a new building. The seniors had outgrown the existing building – which was considered state-of-the-art when the agency first moved in more than 35 years ago. After the land had been given to the Committee on Aging, the board set a stipulation that ground can’t be broken until the board has secured at least two-thirds of the dollars needed. At that point, Niese predicted it will be a three- to five-year process to complete a new senior center. But Monday’s announcement of the state funding has moved up the timeline, Niese said. “This moves us forward,” she said. “I would like to break ground a year from now.” Ben Batey, president of the Wood County Committee on Aging Board, said the total projected cost for the new senior center will be $4 million. “There’s still work to be done on a capital campaign,” he said. The goal is for that campaign to bring in between $800,000 and $1 million during the next eight months. The committee will then go through the Wood County Commissioners to finance the remainder of the project. “We all know our aging population continues to increase,” Batey said. “The elderly population is only going to continue to get larger, and we have to accommodate them.” The current senior center, constructed in 1913, was formerly the city’s post office. The structure did not keep up with the needs of its patrons. There are too many stairs, not enough parking,…


Redistricting makes May ballot – thanks to compromise

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   It looked as if Ohio’s redistricting reform might be doomed to failure – with opposing sides of the issue not budging. But on Monday, a compromise was reached that satisfied both political parties plus the League of Women Voters and other citizen groups which had been pushing hard for reform. Ohio Senate Majority Leader Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green, called the unanimous Senate passage of Ohio Congressional Redistricting Reform “pretty remarkable.” The compromise, he said, should help restore public confidence that state legislators can tackle controversial issues in a bipartisan way. “This historic, bipartisan vote is yet another example how state legislators in Columbus find ways to work together,” Gardner said. This afternoon, the Ohio House voted to support the bill. The compromise was reached just in time, since the deadline to get an issue on the primary election ballot is this Wednesday at 4 p.m. The proposed plan keeps the legislature in charge of drawing congressional district maps, but adds additional steps requiring minority party support to put a map in place for 10 years. Ohio’s current process allows the majority party to dissect counties and cities to create districts that favor the party in power. Under the current map, drawn by Republicans in 2011, the GOP holds 12 of Ohio’s 16 seats while only winning 56 percent of the votes. The plan establishes, for the first time, criteria for limiting the number of times counties, cities, villages and townships can be divided into multiple districts. Monday night the Senate voted 31-0 for a Senate resolution that would place the proposed constitutional amendment on the May primary ballot.  Gardner referred to the effort as a “major breakthrough.” Joan Callecod, a member of the Bowling Green League of Women Voters, was excited to hear about the compromise in the Senate. “It looks promising,” she said. “It’s a positive thing, anytime there is compromise.” The Bowling Green League of Women Voters has been advocating redistricting reform. Local members have been collecting petition signatures for a project called “Fair Districts = Fair Elections,” a non-partisan effort to place a redistricting amendment on the November 2018 ballot across the state. The ultimate goal was to get congressional district lines drawn so that the elections aren’t decided before the votes are cast. “The way it is right now, it just intensifies the divisiveness,” Callecod said last year as she and other league members collected signatures at the county library. “Under gerrymandering, instead of the voters choosing the legislators, the legislators chose their voters.” Callecod said Tuesday that she suspects the push by citizen advocacy groups helped convince the legislature to reach a compromise. “The legislature would not have responded the way they have without that,” she said. The League of Women Voters had wanted the district lines drawn by a commission rather than legislators. But at least the Senate proposal offers a second step that would involve a commission if the legislature could not agree on district lines, she said. Plus, the process will be conducted in the open, Callecod said. “There will be open hearings. It won’t be done behind closed doors like in the past,” she said. Senate Joint Resolution 5 requires minority party support for redrawing congressional district boundaries, including a set of new…


State legislators listen to some local concerns

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   State Sen. Randy Gardner and State Rep. Theresa Gavarone on Thursday talked about legislation aimed at school funding, violent criminals, drug trafficking, communication disabilities, and abandoned wells. All are efforts to make life better for Ohioans. But some local citizens wanted to know when the next cut in state funding was going to hit. Why was the state taking a share of municipal business income taxes? When can local governments expect state funding to be decreased again? And why are legislators focusing on issues that affect a small number of individuals when they ought to be tackling the big issues of education, health care, jobs and the economy? Gardner and Gavarone met with members of the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce on Thursday to present a legislative update. “Some of our best suggestions come from meetings like this,” Gardner said. First, the state legislators talked about some of their successes this past year: School funding on a smaller scale Senate Bill 8 allows school districts to get up to $1 million in state funding for items such as technology expenses, roof repairs, school safety or adding a classroom. The legislature is designed to help districts – like Bowling Green – which are too wealthy to get much state help for major building projects, Gardner said. Districts are not likely to participate in the school facilities funding program if the state share is 20 percent or less. “For those kind of districts, they’re not likely to accept the strings attached,” Gardner said. So this bill allows districts to access state funds for smaller expenses. “It is now law and available to school districts,” Gardner said. “A district like Bowling Green may be a strong candidate some day.” Sierah’s Law Senate Bill 231 was made into law after Sierah Joughin, a college student from Metamora, was murdered in 2016 by a man who had committed similar crimes in the past. The bill puts into place a law enforcement data base of people convicted of kidnapping and other violent crimes. Ohioans have long been able to find out if sex offenders live near them, but there has been no such data base for violent felons. “If law enforcement doesn’t know, the public doesn’t know,” Gardner said. “Sometimes minutes or hours matter.” Communicating for those unable to themselves House Bill 115 came about after a Walbridge woman shared with Gavarone concerns about her son who has autism and is able to drive. She worried that if her son was pulled over by law enforcement he might not respond appropriately to the officer. So the legislation sets up a voluntary registry for people who have communication disabilities. The confidential data base would alert law enforcement if they pull someone over with problems communicating, Gavarone explained. Giving addicts a better chance to quit House Bill 296 would increase the level of the offense for people trafficking drugs near a drug rehabilitation center. Gavarone said the legislation came about after a discussion with Wood County Prosecuting Attorney Paul Dobson. “Drug traffickers know their market,” so they see rehab facilities as ripe with potential customers, she said.  This change would give addicts trying to kick their habits a better chance to succeed. “When people take that step,” they are most…


Lawmakers pan Trump proposal to unplug Great Lakes initiative

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Two Republican lawmakers are condemning a Trump Administration proposal to drain funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Ohio Senator Randy Gardner (R-Bowling Green), the Ohio Senate Majority Floor Leader, in a statement Tuesday (March 7) stated: “If federal officials have new ideas to make sure our healthy Lake Erie efforts are more efficient and effective, then let’s get together and have that discussion. But a reduction of this magnitude is just not explainable and defensible unless it is replaced with a new strategy that can truly make a difference. Lake Erie is one of America’s great natural assets. I join many members of Ohio’s bipartisan congressional delegation in support of restoring these funds.” The president’s proposed budget cuts funding for the initiative from $300 million to $10 million. The initiative, which first received funding in 2010, supports projects aimed at reducing runoff from cities and farms, clean up toxic pollution in the lakes and combating invasive species, including the Asian carp The reduction in funding for the initiative goes along with dramatic decreases in appropriations for the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. U.S. Rep. Bob Latta issued a statement: “Protecting our Great Lakes is not only critical to the region, it’s important to the entire country. That’s why I authored the Drinking Water Protection Act, which was signed into law last Congress. It’s also why I’m also continuing to work on legislation to improve water infrastructure. “While Congress still hasn’t received the President’s official budget, it’s important to note that the document is the start to the Congressional budget process, not the end,” the statement continued. “Over the previous years, Congress has restored funding in its budget for the GLRI that the Obama Administration had proposed cutting.” The Obama Administration had proposed a $50 million reduction in funding to the initiative. Bowling Green State University political scientist Russell Mills said that a president’s budget proposal never gets through the congressional appropriations process intact. “What people really need to watch is what’s going on in the (House) Appropriations Committee,” he said. “That’s where the cuts will be made.” Mills said he expected the “draconian cuts” to the EPA and NOAA. Those, he said, are tied to those agencies efforts to combat global warming. The attack on the Great Lakes initiative, though, was surprising since it has had since its founding bipartisan support. The issue of Lake Erie water quality became critically urgent in August, 2014, when toxic algae made the water in much of the Toledo area undrinkable. The president’s budget proposal is more a statement of the administration’s positions and priorities, but in the House committees should get to work this spring with the aim of starting to write the actual bills in April and May. Mills, who worked on the budget at the Federal Aviation Administration, questioned whether those in administration even know what the initiative is. While this may be seen as a low-ball opening in a negotiation, Mills said, such a drastic proposal can undermine the credibility of the administration with Congress. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is good for politicians, he said. It’s a way for them to claim credit for being serious about water quality.


Students win big in Constitution ‘Jeopardy’ game

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   It’s not every day that kids get to shout in a library, or that a state legislator gets to pretend to be Alex Trebek. Just on U.S. Constitution Day, or in this case, the closest school day to the anniversary of Sept. 17, 1787, when the document was signed in Philadelphia. The Constitution Jeopardy contestants were excited, but well behaved fifth graders from Conneaut Elementary School. The game show host was State Senator Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green, whose previous position as a history teacher helped prepare him for Friday’s role. The setting was the Wood County District Public Library, in the same room that will be used in less than two months for local adults to elect their public servants. “This room makes me nervous, because this is where I get hired or fired,” Gardner said to the students. He asked the children if they could name his boss. The names started flying. The president? No. The vice president? No. The governor? “Some people think so, but he knows he’s not. I’ve told him that before,” Gardner said. After several other wrong answers, Gardner revealed the answer. “You are my boss. I’m required to listen to you.” The fifth graders may not have been prepared for that question, but once the Constitution Jeopardy game began, they could not be stumped. The categories consisted of topics like the founding fathers, checks and balances, branches of the government, the creating the Constitution. The students had no trouble naming the law-making branch of government; the third president, who was not at the signing of the Constitution; and the location of the Constitutional Conference. A history teacher at heart, Gardner could not resist throwing out a few of his own questions, asking the number of congressional and senate members. The answers may not have always been exactly what he had in mind. When asked about other items associated with Philadelphia, children named cheese steak and Hershey chocolate. As the Jeopardy game heated up, without the aid of dueling buzzers, the teams shifted to raising hands rather than shouting out answers. Arms shot up for those knowing the power of a veto vote, and the First Amendment as defender of freedom of speech and religion. The clue for Alexander Hamilton was aided with mention of the popular Broadway musical. Some questions were pretty easy for the fifth graders, like naming the first president. “If you would have gotten that wrong, we might have had to do demerit points,” Gardner said. Other questions even stumped the game show host, like how many of the 13 original states had to ratify the Constitution? That would be nine. Another tough question covered the additions to the Constitution, which of course, the students knew were called amendments. An audience member and former school board member, Ellen Dalton, had to help with this answer. It’s 27, if you’re wondering, with the last one added in 1992. The students knew the Constitution was written on parchment, not paper, and with a quill made from a feather. “You guys are smart,” said Maria Simon, head of youth services at Wood County District Public Library. Though this doesn’t happen to Alex Trebek, after the game it was Gardner’s turn on the hot seat. The students…