New Ohio House Speaker Bob Cupp lays out his agenda: Capitol Letter

Rotunda Rumblings

Measuring Cupp: Jeremy Pelzer has a profile of Bob Cupp, the quiet but experienced new Ohio House speaker. Included is what’s on Cupp’s priority list through the end of the year (potentially repealing House Bill 6, passing a long-sought education-funding reform bill) and what’s not (Gov. Mike DeWine’s gun-reform package).

Mail time: More than 1 million Ohioans have requested absentee ballots by mail, a figure that’s already approaching the total 1.2 million mail-in votes cast for the November 2016 election, Andrew Tobias reports. Six counties — Athens, Lucas, Portage, Summit, Trumbull and Wayne, have already exceeded their 2016 totals. Five more counties, Franklin, Hamilton, Lorain, Sandusky and Wood, were at 90% or more of their 2016 totals.

Return to sender: In his capacity as top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan on Tuesday sent its Democratic chairman, Jerry Nadler of New York, a letter seeking a hearing “to examine the civil unrest caused by left-wing violent extremists in Democrat-run cities.” The letter he sent with several other Judiciary Committee Republicans also accused Nadler of minimizing “the violence in Democrat-run cities, calling the radical leftist group Antifa an ‘imaginary thing’ and Antifa violence a ‘myth that’s only being spread in Washington, D.C.’”

SWAT arrest: Columbus Police SWAT and the U.S. Marshals showed up to Assistant House Minority Leader Kristin Boggs’ property Wednesday to arrest her nanny for obstruction and the nanny’s boyfriend for the killing of a man in May. Boggs said she hired the childcare provider in the spring to help when the pandemic hit, Laura Hancock reports.

Coronavirus relief: As far as Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown is concerned, a coronavirus relief bill that Republicans plan to bring up for a Senate vote on Thursday is dead in the water because it would replace a $600 weekly federal unemployment supplement that expired in July with a $300 weekly payment that expires in December, reports Sabrina Eaton. Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman told reporters he’ll back the package even though it doesn’t contain everything on his wish list.

Wednesday numbers: The state tallied 973 new coronavirus cases and 26 deaths on Wednesday, Hancock reports. The total of new cases was less than the 21-day rolling average, though deaths were higher.

Shifting concerns: Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof said Tuesday he’s “frustrated” by how Gov. Mike DeWine’s coronavirus goals have shifted since March. “I think the administration has now shifted to trying to get to zero infections across the state, which is unattainable,” Obhof told Medina County commissioners, according to Carl Hunnell of the Richland Source. The Medina Republican also said while “it’s probably a pretty good idea to wear a mask,” he personally doesn’t “believe any level of government has the ability to tell you to do that.”

Bets are on: Ohio’s 11 casinos and racinos set an August record with $172 million in gambling revenue. This marks the fourth monthly record this year – every month the gambling houses have been open for an entire month, reports’s Rich Exner. The only time they fell short were when the casinos were closed for all or part of the months from mid-March through mid-June. The state gets about a third of this money in fees and taxes.

Speaker speaks: At a Lima rally for President Donald Trump, Cupp wasn’t quiet about what he called “the specter of lawlessness in the streets of our nation’s cities,” adding, “We are absolutely left in disbelief as Democrat mayors too often have turned parts of their cities over to the bullies and rioters.” Cupp was joined by the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., as well as Jordan and Ohio Senate Majority Leader Matt Huffman, The Blade’s Liz Skalka reports.

Special guests: The Cuyahoga County Republican Party has hosted a few higher-profile Trump surrogates this week. Ric Grenell, President Trump’s former ambassador to Germany and former acting Director of National Intelligence, was in Strongsville on Monday for an event hosted by the Log Cabin Republicans and the Cuyahoga GOP. On Tuesday, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem and Trump 2016 campaign manager and current Trump adviser Corey Lewandowski attended a Cuyahoga GOP fundraiser at the Union Club in Cleveland.

Veep in Zanesville: Vice President Mike Pence is set to travel to Zanesville next Tuesday for a “Workers for Trump” event, according to a Trump campaign release.

Offensive coordinator? Attorney General Dave Yost’s office is preparing to recommend that Ohio State University officials sue the Big Ten and member schools if ongoing negotiations fall apart. As Randy Ludlow of the Columbus Dispatch reports, Yost said OSU has an “excellent contract claim for several tens of millions of dollars in lost revenue” for violating contracts and illegal interference in a business relationship.

Expensive tastes: Since 2017, U.S. Rep. Mike Turner has spent more than $70,000 worth of campaign donations on hundreds of trips to restaurants and (occasionally) lavish hotels, according to Politico’s Ally Mutnick. Good-government groups suggested that Turner might be misusing his campaign funds, though the Dayton Republican called the story “a political hit job.”

Mark your calendar: A federal judge on Wednesday agreed to delay the HB6 bribery case against Householder and four allies until Oct. 30 to give the two sides time to prepare.

Full Disclosure

Here are five things we learned from the Feb. 17 financial disclosure statement filed by Monique Smith, the Democratic nominee for Ohio House District 16:

1. Gibson General Contracting, Inc. paid Smith $4,762.50 last year for general office work.

2. Her husband, Dan, works for Kiriworks, a company that helps businesses automate their systems and reduce paper use.

3. She has a retirement fund with the Public Employee Retirement System of Ohio.

4. At some point in 2019, Smith owed at least $1,000 to ED Financial Services, Capital One, and Nordstrom.

5. She reported no real-estate holdings other than her home, nor any gifts or reimbursements for travel or food in 2019.

On the Move

Fran Lesser is retiring as the executive director of the County Auditors Association of Ohio, effective Oct. 16. She will be replaced by veteran Ohio lobbyist Tom Pappas.


Goran Babic, Ohio Senate Republicans’ policy adviser

Sarah Cherry, Ohio House Democrats’ legal counsel

Straight from the Source

“I don’t know how you renounce comments that people say didn’t occur.”

– U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, telling the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Scott Wartman and other reporters Wednesday that he’s inclined to believe that President Trump didn’t say that Americans who died in war are “suckers” and “losers,” as sources told The Atlantic.

Capitol Letter is a daily briefing providing succinct, timely information for those who care deeply about the decisions made by state government. If you do not already subscribe, you can sign up here to get Capitol Letter in your email box each weekday for free.


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