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Before he passed the gavel to his successor on Jan. 7, former Ohio Senate President Tom Niehaus recorded a farewell speech that put a positive spin on the Senate’s accomplishments under his leadership.
The 90-second speech touched on job creation, pension reform and bipartisanship.
"Unlike the gridlock in Washington, more than 80 percent of the bills we passed during this General Assembly had bipartisan support," Niehaus said in the online video, which was shared with reporters on Jan. 3.
Niehaus, a Republican from Clermont County, was Senate President for the 129th General Assembly, which included 2011 and 2012. Term limits prevented him from running for re-election.
Recalling that lawmakers debated many contentious issues the past two years, including collective bargaining reform, bills expanding gun rights, bills dealing with abortion and election law reform, PolitiFact Ohio checked out Niehaus’ claim of cooperation.
Niehaus spokeswoman Angela Meleca cited 191 of the 241 bills the Senate passed in the last two years that had bipartisan support. According to Meleca’s figures, the bills with bipartisan support represent just over 79 percent of the total bills passed.
Meleca said the Senate clerk’s office provided the figures and Vincent Keeran, the Senate clerk, confirmed the figures.
Bills were considered to have bipartisan support if the majority of Senate Democrats supported the legislation, Keeran said. With 10 Democratic senators, that means bills must have received at least six Democratic votes to be considered bipartisan.
Senate Democratic Leader Eric Kearney’s office did not dispute the figures. But a spokesman for Kearney said Democrats were not always included in shaping high-profile bills, such as Senate Bill 5, the attempt to restrict public employees’ collective bargaining power.
"A lot of the really important ones they push through probably didn’t" have bipartisan support, said Kearney spokesman Mike Rowe.
Rowe’s point is well taken – SB 5, for example, received zero Democratic votes – but Niehaus did not claim bipartisanship on specific bills.
Niehaus’ claim was that more than 80 percent of the bills the Senate passed had bipartisan support. The actual numbers showed about 79 percent had bipartisan support. But while Niehaus didn’t hit the number on the nose, the driving point behind his claim certainly is accurate.
The senator’s point was that the two parties worked together and avoided gridlock.And since the threshold for bipartisanship is that a majority of Democrats support the bill, there clearly was bipartisan support for a significant amount of legislation.
On the Truth-O-Meter, Niehaus’ claim rates True.
The Ohio Channel, "Special Message from Outgoing Ohio Senate President Tom Niehaus," Dec. 12, 2012
E-mail correspondence with Niehaus spokeswoman Angela Meleca, Jan. 3, 2013
E-mail and telephone correspondence with the Ohio Senate clerk’s office, Jan. 4, 2013
Telephone interview with Mike Rowe, spokesman for Senate Democrats, Jan. 9, 2013
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