Sunday, July 25, 2004

White's Senate position onerous

New president likely to be Harris

By Jim Siegel
Enquirer Columbus Bureau

COLUMBUS - As he winds down his two-year stint as president of the Ohio Senate, Doug White says there are times he thanks God for the term limits that are forcing him to leave.

"I'm truly pleased with the privilege of having been president," the Manchester Republican said. "But to say it was a pleasure or that it was fun - it has not been."

While White is content to exit the president's seat at the end of the year, his good friend Sen. Bill Harris, who is expected to succeed him in January, has the potential for much more. He could conceivably serve as Senate president for six years - practically an eternity in this era of eight-year term limits.

Thanks to the timing of his mid-term appointment to the Senate in August 2000, Harris, R-Ashland, will not be term-limited until 2010.

Harris said his leadership style is more akin to that of White's laid-back, inclusive approach than the iron-fisted style of Richard Finan, the Evendale Republican who was Senate president from 1997-2002.

White, a southern Ohio farmer, wouldn't be surprised if Harris chooses not to hold the position for all six years.

"There are days when it's a joy," White said of the job. "But there are a lot of days it's awfully heavy for a sensitive man who cares for every person."

Harris doesn't talk like someone determined to spend six years as president.

"Even with doing an outstanding job my first two years, at my age I'm not trying to build a political power base," said the 69-year-old retired Marine.

His goal as leader, Harris said, is to include senators in top decision-making, "where all members can take ownership in the process."

Harris will take over as lawmakers prepare to craft a new two-year budget that, on paper, is an estimated $4 billion in the red.

Fights with the governor and House over budgets, guns and other issues have worn on White.

House Speaker Larry Householder positioned himself as the alpha dog in most debates between the House, Senate and governor.

"Dealing with the House was difficult at times, probably a little more than I expected," White said.

"I knew I would get my turn at the bat and I'd get three strikes like everybody else and it would depend on what I'd do when I got there," he said.

That time may come later this year. White and the Senate are taking the lead in pushing some major initiatives before the session ends, including civil lawsuit reform and campaign-finance overhauls.

Harris won't be dealing with Householder, who is term-limited.


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