State Representative Tracy Maxwell Heard is making history in the legislature as a member of the only Democratic team to serve three consecutive terms in Leadership in the Ohio House of Representatives since the establishment of term limits.
Going into her fourth and final term in the Ohio House, Heard will again serve as Minority Whip during the 130th General Assembly placing her in leadership for three of her four terms having held the previous leadership positions of Assistant Majority Floor Leader and Majority Floor Leader during the 128th General Assembly. The later position had not been held by an African American since its first African American occupant, Representative William L. Mallory, Sr. some 15 years ago.
“It is a great privilege to have an opportunity to serve as a member of our Democratic Caucus Leadership Team for a third General Assembly. I am so proud to serve as Minority Whip alongside Leader Armond Budish, Assistant Leader Matt Szollosi, and Assistant Whip Debbie Phillips.”
Asked why she has had this distinction, “Leaders have to be willing to put themselves out there and do a little extra – usually a lot extra. I have said many times that this opportunity to serve in the Ohio House has been the best thing I have ever done professionally. Leadership is a further extension of that opportunity. Getting to do it with Armond Budish, Matt Szollosi and Debbie Phillips has made it a pleasure”
Heard says it has been the best and worst of times. “Budish, Szollosi and I came into Leadership the year Democrats took the majority back for the first time in 16 years. We had to learn fast and build quickly along with a new Democratic Governor and figure out how to work with and support our Democratic partners in the Ohio Senate who were still in the minority.”
Though an exciting time, Heard says it couldn’t have been a more challenging time coming in after the Republicans had been running the state for over a decade and in the midst of the most severe recession in a lifetime.
The Democrats were unable to hold the majority in the Ohio House, and were hit hard by the storm that took out countless Democrats across the country but they have remained relevant and delivered victories for Ohio’s citizens. Consider the fall of Senate Bill 5 – the Republican attack on collective bargaining and House Bill 194 – the Republican attack on voting rights.
“My personal successes this General Assembly have been in the area of sentencing reform with the passage of both House Bill 86 and Senate Bill 337 addressing the increasing expense of our current prison system, its absence of legitimate rehabilitation and the reaffirming the need to manage juvenile offenders separately from adults. Part two was addressing the obstacles to successful re-entry for returning citizens.
“This wasn’t work I intended to take on, it found me and I am so proud of not only the legislation we put forward but that we were successful at taking on a difficult subject in a bipartisan fashion. I am hoping we have established a new model of working together to ensure all voices are heard.”
Going forward Heard plans to focus on reintroducing two bills that are currently in play in this lame duck session but unlikely to reach a conclusion. House Bill 597, regarding juvenile custodial interrogation; and House Bill 263, closing the gun show loop hole. She further hopes to resolve the current obstacles in the Department of Administrative Services for minority businesses.
“I am hopeful that by the time I take my leave we will have addressed the challenges we have within minority inclusion since Ohio first established its set aside and minority business enterprise programs. We’ve never done it right, but I am working with everyone from the Governor to small businesses and contractors to implement the law we’ve had on the books for over forty years now.”
Heard said, “Though it is a great honor for our team to stand with the support of our caucus, as we move forward into the 130th General Assembly, I hope we are joined by the House Republican Caucus in the business of governing and addressing the legitimate issues and concerns of Ohio’s citizens in sincere bipartisan fashion. The races are over. Our responsibility now begins and that responsibility is to all our constituencies. We must be mindful that our oath is to govern to ‘the best of our ability as we shall answer unto God.’”