STATEHOUSE - 

Like most honest couples, my wife and I would readily admit that we don’t agree on everything. But we agree on enough, and think enough of each other, that we are going to spend the rest of our lives together.

The happiness of a marriage, where two people enjoy their commonality and find compromise where they have differences, is a pretty good model for public service.
 
I know that I can never expect 100 percent of my constituents to agree with me 100 percent of the time. That doesn’t mean we don’t think enough of each other to stay together, and I’m proud that the people of my district have chosen me to represent them in the Statehouse.
 
I also know that I can’t expect my colleagues in the legislature to agree with me 100 percent of the time. We all have unique perspectives, and the philosophical divide between political parties is natural and expected--but it doesn’t mean we can’t work together.
 
These common sense reflections probably seem harmless enough, but politics has become increasingly focused on beating the other side in the next election, with too little time spent working together during the period between November contests.
 
Working in an environment where discord and extreme ideologies are often rewarded has made elected office a lonely place for me at times, but I believe that I represent my constituents best when I work with my colleagues in a way that is professional and open-minded. After all, I represent all of the people of the 27th district, not just the ones who voted for me.
 
While catching up on some work in the office one night a few years back, I read about a national group called No Labels. This interested me, so I decided to read more about this group. When I read that No Labels believes in “fixing, not fighting” and “a new politics of problem solving,” I actually shouted out, “Thank God!” that night in my Senate office at the Ohio Statehouse— probably scaring the late-night cleaning crew. When I found out that No Labels was looking for state legislators to join their cause — and that they wouldn’t ask any of their members to check their beliefs at the doors — I was even more delighted to have discovered them.
 
Finding No Labels was like finding a friend in a place where you’re feeling lost. I’d been criticized by some for reaching out and working with my colleagues on the other side of the aisle. And, I don’t understand that way of thinking. I believe that by working together we have produced better public policy and ultimately, better served the Ohioans we represent.
 
Since finding No Labels, I’ve started working with students at the University of Akron who are developing a local college chapter for the group. I’m co-hosting a No Labels event in February with a House Democrat, Rep. Michael Curtin. Mike and I are inviting all of our House and Senate colleagues and hope that holding this meeting will help all of us start the new legislative session on the right foot.
 
No Labels has big goals. They want to elect a president in 2016 who is committed to solving problems--to fixing instead of fighting. They will be asking presidential candidates to agree to the development and goals of the No Labels National Strategic Agenda which seeks to:
 
•      Create 25 million new jobs over the next 10 years;
•      Balance the federal budget by 2030;
•      Secure Medicare and Social Security for another 75 years; and
•      Make America energy secure by 2024.
 
To gain the growing support of No Labels and their nationwide network of citizens and leaders, presidential candidates will need to devote their first 100 days in office to something that I think defines leadership: sitting down with the political opposition to find common goals, then finding the best ways to get there.
 
This is what President Reagan did — with House Speaker Tip O’Neill — when he was in the White House. President Clinton did it, too, working with House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
 
I can’t think of a better way to start 2015, and the next election cycle, than to sit down with my colleagues from all points on the political spectrum to discuss solving the most pressing problems Ohioans face right now. No legislator should have to abandon their principles to do this, and all Ohioans will be better represented when their elected officials stop fighting and start fixing. 

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