Ohio House holds first House Bill 6 repeal hearing: Capitol Letter

Rotunda Rumblings

Talking it out: The Ohio House held its first hearing on Thursday for legislation that would repeal House Bill 6, the nuclear bailout bill that’s the center of a federal corruption probe. As Jeremy Pelzer reports, The Ohio House Select Committee on Energy Policy and Oversight heard testimony from sponsors of bills to repeal House Bill 6. GOP members rejected an attempt from committee Democrats to send the Republican-backed repeal bill to the floor.

New top doc: Dr. Joan Duwve, currently director of public health for South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control, will be the new director of the Ohio Department of Health, DeWine announced on Thursday. A former family physician and Ohio native, she previously worked for several Indiana governors and the Indiana University public-health school in Indianapolis. Per Tobias, Duwve is Ohio’s first permanent health director since Dr. Amy Acton resigned in June amid intensifying public criticism and harassment.

I’ll pass: Asked Thursday, DeWine avoided directly addressing the revelations from Wednesday that Republican President Donald Trump told Washington Post editor Bob Woodward on tape that he wanted to downplay the severity of coronavirus despite knowing the dangers, Seth Richardson reports. The recordings of Trump caused an uproar amongst his detractors, including Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown who – as the Columbus Dispatch’s Darrel Rowland points out is taking a bigger role in Democratic former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign – said Trump was gaslighting the public.

Summit rises: Summit County, which had been orange in last week’s coronavirus risk map, is now red, Laura Hancock reports. It joins five other counties in Level 3.

Jumping into the fray: The Trump campaign has intervened in several lawsuits over Ohio’s elections procedures, including on Thursday in a federal lawsuit challenging Ohio’s one ballot drop-box per county rule. Per John Caniglia, lawyers with Jones Day said in a court filing: “The Republican committees have a substantial interest in preventing changes to the ‘competitive environment’ at this late hour.” A judge set a Sept. 23 court hearing in the case.

Get your flu shot: DeWine, First Lady Fran DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted got poked on live TV with a flu vaccination in an attempt to spur others to get shots too. Meantime, the state reported 1,121 new coronavirus cases, higher than the 21-day average of 1,052.

Latest unemployment numbers: Both initial and continued unemployment claims fell again in Ohio last week, reports Jeremy Pelzer. For the week of Aug. 30 through Sept. 5, 17,983 Ohioans filed initial jobless claims, while 325,515 submitted continued claims.

Nay to ‘Ye: The Ohio Supreme Court has ruled against Kanye West in his effort to sue his way onto the Ohio ballot as an independent presidential candidate, Jeremy Pelzer reports. Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose was justified when he rejected West’s candidate paperwork due to a signature mismatch by West’s running mate, justices unanimously ruled. Republican operatives have been trying to get West onto the ballot in Ohio and other

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House committee holds hearing on repeal of bailout law

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The alleged corruption that led to passage of a nuclear plant bailout law and questions about whether the bailout was financially necessary demand the law’s immediate repeal and replacement, Democratic and Republican lawmakers testified Thursday.

Supporters of the energy policy contained within the law who worry a repeal throws the baby “out with the bath water” overlook the enormous problems with the law, said Rep. Laura Lanese.

“I would counter that what we have now isn’t bathwater, but mud,” Lanese told the House Select Committee on Energy Policy and Oversight, created to hear the repeal. “And once you have mud, you can’t cleanly separate the dirt from the water and still have confidence you got rid of all the dirt.”

At issue is the law passed last year and known as HB6, which would add a fee to every electricity bill in the state and direct over $150 million a year, through 2026, to the nuclear plants near Cleveland and Toledo.

The law is now at the center of a $60 million federal bribery probe that led to the ouster of former GOP House Speaker Larry Householder. Federal prosecutors in July accused Householder and four others of shepherding energy company money for personal and political use as part of an effort to pass the legislation, then kill any attempt to repeal it at the ballot.

Federal documents make clear the company was Akron-based FirstEnergy.

While FirstEnergy and its executives have denied wrongdoing and have not been criminally charged, federal investigators say the company secretly funneled millions to secure a $1 billion legislative bailout for two unprofitable Ohio nuclear plants then operated by an independently controlled subsidiary called FirstEnergy Solutions.

In addition to the corruption charges, there’s evidence that the plants didn’t need the bailout, said Lanese and fellow GOP Rep. Dave Greenspan. They noted that a FirstEnergy spinoff company announced an $800 million stock buyback in May, after the law was passed.

In addition, a portion of the bill also provided guaranteed profits for the company even if revenue dips, which could be worth $350 million to FirstEnergy and its subsidiaries, they said.

“The owner and operator of the nuclear plants has cash flow and is profitable today, months before the first cent from House Bill 6 is set to reach them,” Greenspan said.

In addition, by favoring nuclear energy over other clean energy options, the bill created winners and losers, Greenspan said.

Democratic Reps. Michael O’Brien, of Warren, and Michael Skindell, of suburban Cleveland, also testified in favor of a repeal. The effort has broad bipartisan support, including backing from Republican Gov. Mike DeWine.

Householder was removed from his leadership post in a unanimous vote following his arrest. He was one of the driving forces behind the energy law.

Householder remains a state lawmaker, has pleaded not guilty to a corruption charge and says he’s innocent and will fight the charge.

Newly elected House Speaker Bob Cupp and Republican committee chairperson Rep. Jim Hoops have

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Ohio House Bill 6 legislative opponents make case for repeal

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio state lawmakers made their case for repealing House Bill 6 on Thursday before a legislative panel, noting the scandal surrounding its passage and questioning whether the owner of two nuclear power plants needs the law’s $1.3 billion public bailout.

Republican state Reps. Laura Lanese and Dave Greenspan, as well as Democratic state Reps. Mike Skindell and Michael O’Brien, testified before the Ohio House Select Committee on Energy Policy and Oversight in favor of their respective bills that would repeal the controversial legislation.

HB6 has come under severe scrutiny since state Rep. Larry Householder (the former House speaker) and four allies were arrested for an alleged $60 million bribery scandal to pass the legislation on behalf of FirstEnergy Corp., whose former subsidiary – now a separate company called Energy Harbor – owns the Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear plants that stand to receive bailout money starting next year.

Lanese, who represents a suburban Columbus district, noted in her testimony that Energy Harbor, previously called FirstEnergy Solutions, moved earlier this year to buy back hundreds of millions worth of its stock, calling into question whether the company actually needs the bailout money in order to keep the plants in operation.

Greenspan, of Westlake, questioned in his testimony whether the word “bailout” should be used to describe House Bill 6, saying the money for the nuclear plants should instead be called a grant with no accountability.

“How many other Ohio businesses would like to qualify for a grant with those criteria?” Greenspan asked. “The answer is simple: All of them.”

Both Republicans also questioned a separate part of HB6 called “decoupling,” which allows FirstEnergy to impose mandatory fees from its customers in order to offset, up to a prearranged point, any loss of money it sees from selling less electricity thanks to its energy-efficiency programs.

In other words, HB6 gives FirstEnergy Corp. permission to charge ratepayers what’s needed to ensure it brings in $978 million per year – the company’s revenue in 2018.

Greenspan said that “simply put,” it ensures that FirstEnergy can charge the public so it “can always break even.”

House Bill 746 would repeal all of HB6. “We must have a clean slate to start from,” Greenspan said.

Skindell, a Lakewood Democrat who is sponsoring an identical repeal bill, House Bill 738, testified that “Legislation adopted by means of corruption, in and of itself, is corrupt.”

He continued: “The confidence and trust of Ohioans cannot be restored until there is a complete and immediate repeal of legislation founded in corruption.”

O’Brien, of Warren, called HB6 “corporate welfare” and “the worst energy legislation” passed by any state in the 21st Century.

One ongoing item of debate is whether HB6 actually saves Ohioans money.

HB6 proponents point to an analysis from the non-partisan Legislative Service Commission concluding that the law lowers Ohioans’ utility bills (by gutting the state’s green-energy mandates).

But Skindell said that argument is incorrect because it doesn’t factor in the savings the public sees from the

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House Committee Holds Hearing on Repeal of Bailout Law | Ohio News

By FARNOUSH AMIRI and ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS, Report for America/Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The alleged corruption that led to passage of a nuclear plant bailout law and questions about whether the bailout was financially necessary demand the law’s immediate repeal and replacement, Democratic and Republican lawmakers testified Thursday.

Supporters of the energy policy contained within the law who worry a repeal throws the baby “out with the bath water” overlook the enormous problems with the law, said Rep. Laura Lanese.

“I would counter that what we have now isn’t bathwater, but mud,” Lanese told the House Select Committee on Energy Policy and Oversight, created to hear the repeal. “And once you have mud, you can’t cleanly separate the dirt from the water and still have confidence you got rid of all the dirt.”

At issue is the law passed last year and known as HB6, which would add a fee to every electricity bill in the state and direct over $150 million a year, through 2026, to the nuclear plants near Cleveland and Toledo.

The law is now at the center of a $60 million federal bribery probe that led to the ouster of former GOP House Speaker Larry Householder. Federal prosecutors in July accused Householder and four others of shepherding energy company money for personal and political use as part of an effort to pass the legislation, then kill any attempt to repeal it at the ballot.

Federal documents make clear the company was Akron-based FirstEnergy.

While FirstEnergy and its executives have denied wrongdoing and have not been criminally charged, federal investigators say the company secretly funneled millions to secure a $1 billion legislative bailout for two unprofitable Ohio nuclear plants then operated by an independently controlled subsidiary called FirstEnergy Solutions.

In addition to the corruption charges, there’s evidence that the plants didn’t need the bailout, said Lanese and fellow GOP Rep. Dave Greenspan. They noted that a FirstEnergy spinoff company announced an $800 million stock buyback in May, after the law was passed.

In addition, a portion of the bill also provided guaranteed profits for the company even if revenue dips, which could be worth $350 million to FirstEnergy and its subsidiaries, they said.

“The owner and operator of the nuclear plants has cash flow and is profitable today, months before the first cent from House Bill 6 is set to reach them,” Greenspan said.

In addition, by favoring nuclear energy over other clean energy options, the bill created winners and losers, Greenspan said.

Democratic Reps. Michael O’Brien, of Warren, and Michael Skindell, of suburban Cleveland, also testified in favor of a repeal. The effort has broad bipartisan support, including backing from Republican Gov. Mike DeWine.

Householder was removed from his leadership post in a unanimous vote following his arrest. He was one of the driving forces behind the energy law.

Householder remains a state lawmaker, has pleaded not guilty to a corruption charge and says he’s innocent and will fight the charge.

Newly elected House Speaker

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House committee to hold 1st hearing on repeal of bailout law

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — House lawmakers planned a Thursday hearing to begin repealing and replacing a nuclear plant bailout law now at the center of a $60 million federal bribery probe that led to the ouster of the former GOP House speaker.

Newly elected House Speaker Bob Cupp, a Lima Republican, created the House Select Committee on Energy Policy and Oversight to consider a GOP-backed proposal to repeal House Bill 6 and revive the law it replaced.

The repeal movement began almost as soon as federal prosecutors in July accused former speaker Rep. Larry Householder and four others of shepherding energy company money for personal and political use as part of an effort to pass the legislation, then kill any attempt to repeal it at the ballot.


Householder was removed from his leadership post in a unanimous vote following his arrest. He was one of the driving forces behind the energy law, which would add a fee to every electricity bill in the state and direct over $150 million a year, through 2026, to the nuclear plants near Cleveland and Toledo.

GOP Reps. Laura Lanese and Mark Romanchuk introduced the repeal bill on July 23 — two days after a federal affidavit outlining the allegations against Householder and the others was released.

Householder has pleaded not guilty to a corruption charge and says he’s innocent and will fight the charge.

The bailout law must be repealed not only because it “was bad policy from the start, but because we need to reassure Ohioans that their representatives, Democrat or Republican, are truly working in their interest,” Lanese said when the bill was introduced.

Cupp and Republican committee chairman Rep. Jim Hoops have promised a deliberate approach to the repeal but one which won’t replicate the hours of testimony that led to the energy bailout. Democrats want a speedy repeal and say Republicans are unnecessarily delaying the process.

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Farnoush Amiri is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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