As your state representative, I am fully dedicated to addressing the problems that face the 96th House District and Ohio as a whole. Throughout 2011 and into 2012, the focus of the House has been on job creation to combat unemployment and boost our state economy. Recently, we have redoubled these efforts by reviewing and reforming workforce development in Ohio.

It is vital that our state support a smooth-functioning workforce development system. Our citizens need to have vocational and educational opportunities available to them in order to succeed in the job market. Furthermore, building a well-qualified workforce will strengthen Ohio's economy. All the job creation in the world will make no difference without effective workforce development.

To this end, the Ohio House Workforce Development Task Force recently held meetings throughout the state to gather relevant feedback and suggestions. At five separate hearings, 85 witnesses gave testimony praising certain aspects of the existing programs, while also drawing attention to weak spots where there is room for improvement. With this new store of information and expert knowledge, the House will begin to make necessary changes to ensure that the state workforce development system is working at top capacity.

In addition to our continued efforts to strengthen Ohio's workforce, the General Assembly has taken action to catch and prevent fraud. The waste and abuse of taxpayer money is a serious issue, and it is important that we have laws in place that help to detect fraud and deter it in the future. For these reasons, I am proud to say that Governor Kasich signed into law House Bill 66 at the beginning of this month. This legislation requires the Auditor of State to create a fraud-reporting system to root out the misuse of public funds by state and local public officials. The system will give citizens and public employees the chance to report instances of fraud anonymously.

These kinds of programs are a tried and true way to pinpoint fraud. According the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, nearly 50 percent of fraud that is found in public agencies is discovered through tips. Any individual worried about the repercussions that may result from reporting such important information also can rest assured that they will be protected under the provisions of House Bill 66. The bill gives state employees who file a report with the new system "whistle-blower protections," guaranteeing that they will not be subjected to disciplinary action or retaliatory firing due to their report. Including this provision in the legislation is vital to ensuring the welfare of employees who possess the integrity to share information on fraud. Moreover, it will lessen the fear and reservations that often stop workers from reporting fraud in their offices.

The steps that the House has taken in regards to workforce development and fraud detection will no doubt improve the delivery of public services and the general integrity of our government. As your state representative, I want to be sure that Ohio's government is fully accountable to you and your family. If you have any suggestions for more ways that we can better Ohio, please do not hesitate to contact my office. Your thoughts and opinions are invaluable as my colleagues and I continue our work in the Statehouse.

Rep. Landis may be reached by calling 614-466- 8035, e-mailing District96@ohr.state.oh.us, or writing to State Rep. Al Landis, 77 S. High St., Columbus, OH 43215.