Lawmakers hope Ohio voters won’t notice they’ve done nothing about House Bill 6

Ohio’s Republican-run House and Senate returned to the Statehouse Tuesday and said, in so many words, they need more time to think about repealing the $60 million Ohio purchase – House Bill 6. It requires Ohio electricity consumers to bail out two nuclear power plants.

State legislators seem to think they know better than voters do what’s good for Ohioans. That’s the same patronizing attitude that got HB 6 passed last year. When working Ohioans want something, the General Assembly’s reply always seems to be, “What’s the big rush?” But when the Powers That Be want something, General Assembly’s reply always seems to be, “Yes, sir!”

The U.S. attorney’s office for Southern Ohio has called HB 6 a “racketeering conspiracy involving approximately $60 million … to pass and uphold a billion-dollar nuclear plant bailout.” That alleged conspiracy led a federal grand jury to indict Republican ex-House Speaker Larry Householder, of Perry County’s Glenford, and four other Ohio political figures. Householder and the others are presumed innocent unless convicted.

HB 6 requires Ohio electricity consumers to bail out the Perry and Davis-Besse nuclear power plants, once owned by Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp., plus two coal-fueled power plants owned by a group of utilities, including FirstEnergy and American Electric Power Co.

New House Speaker Robert Cupp, a Lima Republican, sent proposed HB 6 repeals to a new House Select Committee on Energy Policy and Oversight. Otherwise, the repeal bills might have landed in one of two standing committees: Public Utilities (chaired by Rep. Jamie Callender, a Lake County Republican who co-sponsored HB 6; the Perry nuclear plant is in his district), or Energy and Natural Resources, chaired by Rep. Nino Vitale, an Urbana Republican with a zest for publicity.

Northeast Ohio Republicans whom Cupp named to the special House HB 6 committee are Rep. Mark Romanchuck, of Mansfield, who’s running for an open Senate seat that represents Medina and Ashland counties; and fellow GOP Reps. Dick Stein, of Norwalk, and Scott Wiggam, of Wooster. Romanchuck voted “no” on HB 6 last year; Stein and Wiggam voted “yes.”

Northeast Ohio Democrats Cupp named to the HB 6 committee are Reps. Kent Smith, of Euclid, and Casey Weinstein, of Hudson. They both voted “no” on HB 6 last year.

The state Senate’s HB 6 repeal bills were sent to the Senate’s Energy and Public Utilities Committee, chaired by Republican Sen. Steve Wilson, a Warren County banker. Wilson said in July that Householder had “breached the trust of Ohioans” but that HB 6 “was good public policy for the future of energy in our state, [and] I was proud to work on it.” Questions, ratepayers?

Perhaps General Assembly Republicans who voted for HB 6 – 42 of the House’s 61 Republicans, 16 of the Senate’s 24 Republicans – may bet the presidential campaign will distract anti-HB 6 voters. A presidential winner can bolster his or her party at the Statehouse. When President Donald Trump carried Ohio in 2016, Republicans captured 66 Ohio House seats, their post-1966 high-water mark. When President Barack Obama carried Ohio in 2008, Democrats – for the only time in the last 25 years – captured a narrow Ohio House majority, led by Beachwood Democrat Armond Budish, now Cuyahoga County’s executive.

Maybe HB 6′s Statehouse godparents are correct. Maybe Ohio ratepayers, distracted by the jugglers and clowns of presidential politicking, will forget about HB 6. Distraction’s worked like a charm in Washington. It could work just as well at the Statehouse; no shortage of clowns there.

This Labor Day, the real Statehouse priorities

Black Clevelander John Patterson Green (1845-1940) is the father of Labor Day. As a Republican member of Ohio’s House, Green won passage in 1890 of a bill establishing Labor Day as an Ohio holiday. (Congress made Labor Day a federal holiday in 1892.)

This Labor Day weekend, public officials will likely praise working Ohioans, praise that’s been well-earned. Meanwhile, U.S. median household income in 2019, the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey reports, was $61,937. In Ohio, it was 9% less – $56,111. Still, the General Assembly gives businesses sweet tax breaks and subsidies (and HB 6 is one). Ohioans work harder than ever – for less. At the Statehouse, who’s working for them?

Thomas Suddes, a member of the editorial board, writes from Athens.

To reach Thomas Suddes: [email protected], 216-408-9474

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