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Calfee NOW Episode 1 With Ohio State Representative Niraj Antani

On Episode 1 of Calfee NOW, Josh Sanders, Vice Chair of Calfee's Government Relations and Legislation practice group spoke with Ohio State Representative Niraj Antani (R - District 42). 

Topics Discussed Included:

  • Why Representative Antani decided to become an elected official 
  • The makeup of District 42
  • How bi-partisanship is a part of the state legislative process



View the recording.



Video Transcript

Josh Sanders:

Representative Antani. Welcome to Calfee NOW. Thank you for joining us today, really appreciate it. I know we are less than a month out from the election, so I know it's a very busy time. So really appreciate you joining us today.

Ohio State Representative Niraj Antani:

Thanks for having me.

Josh Sanders:

And what we're trying to do on Calfee NOW is really talk to officials, other folks who are very involved in what is going on here in Columbus and State government. And I think where I really want to start out is, why did you decide to sign up for this? Why did you decide to be an elected official?

Ohio State Representative Niraj Antani:

Yeah, sure. Well, I have always been very politically interested. My first political memory is when I was nine-years-old, the 2000 election, Bush V Gore. And staying up all night and watching the controversy of the hanging chads unfold. And I just remember that. But look, my parents came from India to the United States in 1978 and became citizens in 1984 and really believe, as do I, in the concept of the American Dream. And there are real issues at stake. This country and my community that I represent gave us the opportunity to achieve our American Dream. And now it's our job to make sure that everyone has that opportunity.

Josh Sanders:

That's great. Well, in speaking of your district and please talk about your current House district, obviously you're running for the Senate. What's the makeup of your district? What are some of the challenges you see there? What are some of the assets that it has? And what are you hearing from the folks there in the district?

Ohio State Representative Niraj Antani:

Sure. My district is the Southern suburbs of Dayton. It's a great suburban district. Obviously, there are different challenges for urban, suburban and rural communities. I do have a small portion of my district population-wise. Actually land-wise, it's pretty large, but population wise that is rural. But I've got everything from great manufacturers to great agriculture, to great high-tech businesses and healthcare and everything in between. And so it really is a good sampling of our community in Ohio and across.

Ohio State Representative Niraj Antani:

But again, right, I think that as a suburban legislator, you approach things perhaps a little differently than in urban or a rural legislator. And also as a Dayton area legislator, you approach things differently than as someone from the three C's or what have you.

Ohio State Representative Niraj Antani:

So I think that when you sit in the House chamber, it's easy to just think that, "Oh, well this is this one State rep and this is another State rep," but you really are a representative of your district, right? And every district is different, right? Those who represent the Cleveland suburbs are very different than those of us who represent the Dayton suburbs, but we've all got 120,000 people. And so, as you look across the chamber, I think it's important to remember that each legislator represents similar communities in that we're all Ohioans, but very different communities, as well.

Josh Sanders:

Have you found so far, in your time down here, this is what you expected? Has it been different than what you've expected?

Ohio State Representative Niraj Antani:

Yeah. I mean, I think that it is what I expected. The one thing, what I tell people that that was unexpected is, and I don't think I've seen Calfee do this, but others do, is that certain industries try to use the legislature as a tool over a competing industry, right? And that, to me, is not why we're here, right? We are not here to have one industry do better than the other. Our job is a fair and even playing field so that Ohio businesses can thrive and grow, right?

Ohio State Representative Niraj Antani:

But unfortunately, I think that some of what occurs here is certain industries, and I won't name them, but using the State House as a tool to make more money, instead of trying to even the playing field. And it's a lot different than if an industry has a problem, sure, of course our job is to fix the problem, but our job is not to give a competitive advantage of one industry over the other.

Josh Sanders:

Well, in your time here so far in the House, and as you head to the Senate, you have been one of the most effective legislator and really, across a broad spectrum, and I'm just thinking from the issues I've worked on you with. I think we've worked on issues from education, both higher and primary education, biotech issues, other health-related issues, free speech issues... I mean, you've run the gamut. Why or what has made you tackle so many issues? And then what have you found that it's made you be so successful and effective down here? Obviously you have 98 other members and not all of them get to pass bills or work on things. And just wondering what you found to be the key?

Ohio State Representative Niraj Antani:

Sure. Well, I like to say that there are three types of legislators, right? Number one, those who are extremely ideological and work on their ideology, right? Issues that affect our ideology. Number two is those who work on their personal agenda, right? They have personal beliefs and execute a personal agenda. And then lastly, which is what I try to do for the most part, which is to be a legislator for your community, right? For your district, right?

Ohio State Representative Niraj Antani:

Now, your district, of course, is going to face a gamut of issues. And that's how I try and approach. Of course, I'm ideological, I'm conservative and I'm a Republican. And of course, I have personal views and thoughts, but when the rubber hits the road, your job is to represent your community, right? And that's what I try to do. And that's how I try to approach everything.

Josh Sanders:

Obviously, the Republicans are in firm control, House and Senate. Obviously, the elections coming up. But I don't see that changing. You have been one who has worked with Democrats on issues when needed or...

Ohio State Representative Niraj Antani:

When needed.

Josh Sanders:

When needed, you've reached across the aisle, you've worked with your Republicans. Obviously we hear... Unfortunately I think Washington always gets all the attention and a lot of the work is really done on the state level. Do you see bipartisanship coming back? Do you see it as an important part of the legislative process? Especially with Republicans in such firm control here in Ohio.

Ohio State Representative Niraj Antani:

Yeah. I mean, I would say a couple of things, right? I'm willing to work with a Democrat on certain issues, and I have. But I am one, and this is not perhaps the most popular answer, but Republicans and Democrats exist for a reason. We do not agree, right? There are fundamental differences amongst Republicans and Democrats/ Republicans are pro-business, Democrats are not. Republicans are for cutting taxes, Democrats are not. Republicans are for personal freedom, Democrats are for group rights. And so there are differences, and I do not make any bones about it that I believe in those differences. I'm not a Republican just to be a Republican. I'm a Republican because I believe in our, our party's agenda and our party's platform.

Ohio State Representative Niraj Antani:

That said, where we can find common ground without compromising our principles and beliefs, we should, right? So I've worked with Democrats on police and community relations. I've worked with Democrats on taxes on tampons of all things. And so where we can agree we should, but not at sacrificing our principles. And I think sometimes we talk about bipartisanship and we encourage it and that's great, but we have to remember that Democrats and Republicans do not agree for valid reasons, right? Partisanship exists for a reason.

Ohio State Representative Niraj Antani:

And in my opinion, as a Republican, it is good that we have control of all of the levers of government at this point, right? And so I'm not for bipartisanship just for bipartisanship's sake. I'm for it when it makes sense and when it doesn't violate our principles.

Josh Sanders:

Well, I think you bring up a very good point. Partisanship is not a dirty word. It's, as you say, there is a reason for it, because there are definitely differences between the two parties.

Ohio State Representative Niraj Antani:

That's correct.

Josh Sanders:

As you head to the Senate, and all you've worked on in the House, are there items you're hoping either to... I'll throw it open to items you want to finish up yet this year, as we're kind of closing in general assembly, or things that you're looking to really get into come next year in the new general assembly, hopefully in the Senate?

Ohio State Representative Niraj Antani:

Yeah. I mean, of course, everything I haven't gotten done, I would still like to get done, number one. The second thing I would say is, obviously with the coronavirus, both on a health and economic side, there is a lot of work to do. And then the third thing I would say is, look, as you progress in your time, right, you learn more and you can do more, right? Are able to pass bigger bills, right? And more important policy and get more done for your district or what you believe in, or your ideology, what have you. And so that's my hope, right? As you know, your first term, you're figuring it out, your second term, this is my third term. And so I'm very much looking forward to the next year and also, frankly, to lame duck, to try to get a lot of things done.

Josh Sanders:

If I can add on something with the lame duck, obviously COVID has put a real pinch in Ohio's budget, and I think we're still trying to figure that out. Where do you see things heading on the business front? You've been, pro-business, very supportive of businesses throughout the state since this all started, really since your time here. What do we need to do to make sure people still have jobs and these businesses can survive?

Ohio State Representative Niraj Antani:

Yeah, I mean, I would say from a legislative standpoint, other than, than this balance of the health orders that, yes, we want to protect lives, but also to have a flourishing economy. The number one thing for me is that in this next budget, we must make sure that we hold the line on taxes. We cannot give up 1 cent on taxes. There are already efforts by Democrats in the legislature, calling for tax increases. And I voted against the gas tax increase last year, and I'm proud of that vote.

Ohio State Representative Niraj Antani:

And we have to hold the line on taxes. They're going to come for the small business deduction. They're going to come for the income tax. They're going to come for the sales tax. They're going to come for the CAT tax. They're going to try to raise every tax. And the number one priority collectively, must be to ensure that we hold the line on taxes.

Josh Sanders:

As we're kind of wrapping up here, do you have any closing remarks, anything I'd like to say to our audience who's going to listen to this at some point down the road, as we put this out there? Any final thoughts on what's happening in the legislature or in Columbus?

Ohio State Representative Niraj Antani:

I don't think so. Just thank you and look forward to continuing to work with you.

Josh Sanders:

Well, we really appreciate it. The relationship Calfee has built with you has been terrific. And as I said earlier, when you find a legislator who is willing to really dig in to a lot of issues, it means a lot to our clients. And I know it means a lot to your district. So thank you very much.

Calfee Connections blogs, vlogs and other educational content are intended to inform and educate readers about legal developments and are not intended as legal advice for any specific individual or specific situation. Please consult with your attorney regarding any legal questions you may have. With regard to all content including case studies or descriptions, past outcomes do not predict future results. The opinions expressed may not necessarily reflect the view points of all attorneys and professionals of Calfee, Halter & Griswold LLP or its subsidiary. Updates related to all COVID-19 government assistance programs are provided with the most current information made available to Calfee at the time of publication. Clarifications and further guidance are being disseminated from government authorities on an ongoing basis. All information should be reaffirmed prior to the submission of any application and/or program participation.

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