NEWS9 Special Assignment: Promises Kept? Representative Ron Ferguson
JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ohio — A decade in office and out. The end of 2020 marked the end of a pair of political eras in the Ohio Valley.Democrat Jack Cera finished his tenure representing the 96th district in Columbus, and Tom Gentile vacated his Jefferson County commission seat.
Both seats were contested and won by Republicans – Representative Ron Ferguson and Commissioner Tony Morelli.
We're digging deeper into Ferguson's first year in office and finding out if promises made on the campaign trail are coming true.
It’s the local businessman’s first election to public office.
And, like most candidates for office,- he campaigned on a platform of ideas -- a wishlist.
In speaking with NEWS9 before the election, Ferguson highlighted capitalizing on the valley's energy portfolio and getting the government out of the way of business as his top two priorities complicated by the continued pandemic.
First was energy.
“There are a couple votes, things that I proposed on the level of trying to make special car valves for other industries. What we really need is a free market approach. COVID really made that the pressing item of the day and that's why we needed to take care of that in 2021,” he said then.
"Nothing right now on energy. I think there's a lot more places. We need to make Ohio more generally business friendly.”
That was the other priority Ferguson named heading into his first year in office.
What has he done, specifically, to make Ohio more business friendly?
“We did a few things,” Ferguson said. “One is we reduced the state income tax. We need to do it further in the next GA (general assembly). Obviously, when people are making a decision of where they want to work, if you don't have to pay state income tax, it goes a long way.
“Should we ever fall into another pandemic that we shouldn't have, this government definition of what an essential business is. To me, an essential business is anything anyone is making their livelihood working at that business. We shouldn't be picking and choosing.”
When it comes to actual legislation, Ferguson has been the primary sponsor on three bills. Two have been introduced: HB532, which would designate part of Route 7 in honor of a Powhatan Point native killed in Vietnam. That effort was started by Cera while in office.
The other was HB498, which deals with adult use marijuana.
Passed as a primary sponsored bill was HB392, allowing ambulance transport of injured police dogs.
"Any time you get something driven from a local perspective where a constituent reaches out to you, that's a citizen legislature and that's what you should do. It was (Wintersville) Police Chief Art Fowler that reached out to me,”’
He's also attached his name to 51 bills as a co-sponsor, many dealing with eliminating mask mandates and vaccine requirements.
Back at the beginning of the school year, there were districts -- Indian Creek one of them -- where they had such a high number of outbreaks, they put in the mandate for x number of days and then let it go back to a choice.
Is that something Ferguson can get behind?
“I think the parent needs to be making the choice in our public school systems,” he said. “As much parent choice as we could possibly have, especially around the individual child and what the individual child is going to do.”
Ferguson called COVID the dominant issue in his first year.
What more should the state of Ohio be doing to combat the pandemic if we're not going to have mask mandates? If we're not going to have vaccine mandates? What more can be done?
“So, uh, I guess, maybe. What is it that you think that we maybe are lacking? You're out there a lot and you hear things. I haven't seen anything. Something a legislature has to do is listen. What, what do you think the approach should be for the 96th district?”
He said there’s been a generally feeling of fatigue around the district.
Ferguson also co-sponsored multiple bills legislating against the teaching of critical race theory.
“In Ohio, in general, I've heard some stories. Here in the 96th, there's been some national level training to our local teachers that I've seen first-hand, that teachers have shown to me, that they are being taught to teach these divisive concepts. Now, have they implemented them in the classroom yet? Not that I've heard. And that's a good thing. We should all be united in making sure it doesn't happen.”
Ferguson added his first year in office was everything he wanted it to be.
He's also encouraging constituents to reach out to him with any issues.
You can contact Ferguson here.