UT, MUO merger wins unanimous House backing


COLUMBUS - The precedent-setting merger of the University of Toledo and the Medical University of Ohio into the third-largest university in the state's budget stayed in the fast lane yesterday as the Ohio House unanimously blessed the union.

The bill next goes to the Senate, where the fast pace is expected to continue.

"It's never been a matter of legislators spending months and months trying to tell MUO and UT how to work together," said Sen. Randy Gardner (R., Bowling Green). "It doesn't surprise me there's been this kind of cooperation with the collaboration.."

The bill, sponsored by Reps. Mark Wagoner (R., Ottawa Hills) and Peter Ujvagi (D., Toledo), creates a single institution with a $650 million annual budget, 21,000 students, more than 6,800 employees, and more than $60 million in combined research dollars.

"It's good precedent for colleges and universities around the state to see that there are opportunities to combine resources to create efficiencies that can be reinvested in becoming excellent in what you do and provide a more affordable product," House Speaker Jon Husted (R., Kettering) said.

In terms of size of budget, the new UT will be third only to Ohio State University and the University of Cincinnati, which also have medical schools. The merger's backers are banking that the marriage will make the new and improved university a major player when it comes to research grants and job creation.

The merger is scheduled to take effect on July 1, but won't be truly complete until July 2, 2014, when the merged board of trustees will have been whittled from 17 members to nine.

Rep. Chuck Calvert (D., Medina), chairman of the House Finance and Appropriations Committee, defended the bill's rapid pace. The measure cleared the House less than a month after its introduction.

"Seldom has there been a bill submitted to the Finance and Appropriations committee that was so well thought out," he said. "Both the sponsors, Representative Wagoner and Representative Ujvagi, did their homework on this piece of legislation. Every question that was brought to the sponsors was adequately addressed."

Mr. Ujvagi noted the irony that the merger bill reached the House floor the same day that both the House and Senate honored the late Rep. James "Barney" Quilter of Toledo.

Mr. Quilter, who died in August, was credited with helping to create the then-Medical College of Ohio in 1964. He was the longest-serving speaker pro tem in House history, at a time when the chamber was controlled by Democrats.

Mr. Husted announced that a grove of pear trees and a granite bench will be dedicated in his memory at Maumee Bay State Park, which Mr. Quilter was also credited with helping to create.

The House yesterday also voted unanimously to set a 35-mph speed limit in all unincorporated areas of North Bass, Middle Bass, and South Bass islands. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Randy Gardner (R., Bowling Green), is headed for Gov. Bob Taft's desk.

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