COLUMBUS, Ohio—Following the July arrest of then-House Speaker Larry Householder on a charge he oversaw a bribery scheme to pass House Bill 6, dozens of Ohio lawmakers quickly signed on as co-sponsors of bills to repeal the tainted energy law.
But months later, it’s still unclear what, if anything, the Republican-dominated Ohio General Assembly will do about HB6 before the legislative session ends in December and the public starts paying for a $1 billion-plus bailout of two nuclear power plants in January.
The main reason, lawmakers and observers say, is because – much like congressional Republicans’ unsuccessful attempts to repeal Obamacare in 2017 – there’s no consensus among GOP lawmakers on what, if anything, to replace HB6 with.
Some favor a straight repeal of HB6. Others think it should be replaced, and at least a few believe nothing at all should be done to alter it.
“They are all over the place,” said state Rep. Mark Romanchuk of Richland County about his fellow Republicans.
There are other reasons as well. Even Republicans who favor repealing and replacing House Bill 6 say they need time to study HB6, an enormously complex law that goes far beyond the nuclear bailout, and make sure that any changes they make to it won’t have unintended consequences for Ohioans.
Another factor is that the Senate appears to be leaving it up to the House to decide what to do, as HB6 originated in that chamber. And the House is led by Bob Cupp, a newly elected House speaker who is living up to his reputation for acting deliberatively.
“You’ve got Republicans in the caucus who think ‘This is all just going to blow over — if we just stonewall for long enough, people will forget about it,’” said state Rep. David Leland, a Columbus Democrat. “And then you’ve got people who want to do something, but they’re not sure what they want to do. And then you’ve got a speaker who doesn’t know what he wants to do. It’s a multi-faceted problem for the Republican caucus.”
Taking their time
After Householder and four allies were arrested in late July, Republicans and Democrats in the Ohio House each introduced bills to repeal HB6.
Soon after that, Cupp was elected and quickly formed a study committee to look into repealing and replacing HB6. But that committee has wrapped up hearings on the repeal bills until after Election Day.
The panel’s chair, state Rep. Jim Hoops, told reporters last week that concerns have been raised that repealing the law without replacing it could lead to unwanted consequences, and committee members want to hear more testimony before deciding what to do.
“You don’t want to react so quickly that you end up making a bigger mess,” said Hoops, a veteran GOP lawmaker who voted for HB6, during a separate interview last month.
Besides the nuclear bailout, there are a lot of other parts of HB6 that lawmakers have to decide whether to keep – including (among many other things):