Speaker of the Ohio House Cliff Rosenberger on his history, governing and crafting policy in Ohio


 “I’d never in a million years thought I’d be elected to the house, let alone elected Speaker,” Speaker of the Ohio House Cliff Rosenberger told the Campaign Battlegrounds class.

At 35-years-old, Speaker Rosenberger is the third-youngest Speaker in the history of the Ohio House and is currently the youngest Speaker in the country. Having just returned from a trip to China with other Speakers from around the country, Ohio House Speaker Rosenberger put his career trajectory into context describing his humble political beginnings in Clarksville, Ohio, a town with a population of 450.

“My grandfather always told me, it’s important to give back to the community. He made me run a town parade in Clarksville, and I thought ‘How could anyone be against anything you do in a parade?”  he told the class. Speaker Rosenberger learned quickly that even innocent exercises in civic engagement like parades become a discussion of resource allocation.

Speaker Rosenberger spent 12 years in the Air National Guard, interned with Karl Rove in the Bush White House and graduated from Wright State University. He was elected to the Ohio House of Representatives in 2010, representing Wilmington, Hillsboro and Waverly in southern Ohio. He assumed the office of Speaker in 2015 having been unanimously elected.

“You, as Speaker, are not only the head of the party for the House, but you also become a father, a wedding counselor and a lot of other things. You don’t choose who you serve within the Legislature,” he told the class. “However, 65 to 70 percent of my time is spent doing things administratively.”

Speaker Rosenberger suggested consensus and coalition building were of particular importance to his governing style. “You can go out and fight like heck with somebody, but it’s important to sit down with people too,” he said.

On the question of legislative redistricting reform, the Speaker said, “I think [Issue 1] makes the districts fairer. You’ve got an angry electorate – part of the reason is people don’t see their representatives enough.”

On the eve of Gov. Kasich’s State of the State address, where he called for redistricting reform for congressional districts, Speaker Rosenberger told the class, “We are looking at congressional redistricting now. We were waiting for the Supreme Court to make a decision in the Arizona case, and they did. However, comparing state redistricting to federal redistricting is like comparing apples to oranges.”

Ohio House Speaker Rosenberger also noted the similarities and differences of Ohio’s regions.

“In Southeast Ohio, there is a lot of rural poverty. They have a lot of food deserts. For instance, there is no grocery store in Vinton County. In Southwest Ohio, there are infrastructure concerns. Upwards of 150,000 vehicles a day travel across the bridge between Ohio and Kentucky – so there are infrastructure concerns and national security concerns as well. Northeast Ohio has a strong labor tradition with both Democratic leaning and Republican leaning unions. In Northwest Ohio, you have a similar dynamic with labor, but there are also questions on renewable energy out there with the wind farms. Central Ohio, the Columbus area, is a growing and modernizing town. LGBT issues and acceptance are important to the citizens there,” Speaker Rosenberger said.

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Ohio Turnpike Executive Director Randy Cole discusses self-driven cars, infrastructure policy, and leaving a legacy of good governance


“Within the next decade, we’ll see self-driven trucking units – probably with detachable cargo modules – carrying goods around the country,” Ohio Turnpike Executive Director Randy Cole told the Campaign Battleground class. “The major auto-manufacturers have all pledged to have a self-driving option for every car rolling off the line from model year 2020 on. There will be cars produced in the next five years that are driverless.”

Mr. Cole’s self-described career goal is to “make government more efficient through technology.” Prior to his appointment to the turnpike, Mr. Cole ran his own consulting firm, GovTech Solutions, dedicated to bringing technological efficiencies to government. Following GovTech, Mr. Cole joined State Auditor Mary Taylor’s Office as the Director Audit Services & Technology.

His time at the Auditor’s Office lead to an appointment to the Controlling Board as its president, where Mr. Cole worked as part of a large team to help close an $8 billionstate deficit, create a $2 billion state surplus, and expand Medicaid in Ohio.

“This year, our Medicaid costs in Ohio are a billion dollars below projections. We’re working toward paying for value [of medical procedures] instead of paying fee-for-service,” Mr. Cole told the class. Mr. Cole’s perspectives on government efficiency and budget policy give him unparalleled insight into infrastructure policy.

“Last year, we set an all-time record in the United States for vehicle mileage traveled,” he said, responding to a question regarding the state of America’s roads and highways. “On the Ohio Turnpike, we have 53 million trips – amounting to 3 billion miles – traveled annually.”

Though some states are experimenting with a “Roade Usage Charge” or millage-based tax, Mr. Cole maintains there will be other avenues for funding. “Tolling is a big part of the answer. It has to be. Funding solutions in the future have to include tolling,” Mr. Cole said. Even so, Mr. Cole notes that Ohio maintains, “near the lowest tolls for passenger and commercial vehicles in the Midwest.”

To be successful in politics, Mr. Cole suggests students “have thick skin, short memories, and a very close group of friends.” However, he was quick to remind the class, “There’s a difference between governing and politicking. Real governance becomes your legacy.”

Students and others are encouraged to follow Mr. Cole on Twitter @CRandyCole.