Ohio lawmakers interrupt break to settle energy bill’s fate


By Farnoush Amiri - Report for America/Associated Press



COLUMBUS (AP) — Ohio lawmakers planned to interrupt their summer break Tuesday to determine the fate of a nuclear bailout bill at the center of a $60 million federal bribery probe that shook the Statehouse earlier this summer.

The House and Senate will convene committee hearings in an attempt to move forward with bipartisan promises made to repeal the legislation that prompted a federal grand jury to indict former House Speaker Larry Householder and four of his associates in July.

The legislation at the center of the alleged pay-to-play scheme involving corporate money secretly funneled for personal and political use is House Bill 6, a financial bailout of two Ohio nuclear plants.

Householder, who was removed from his leadership post in a unanimous vote following his arrest, was one of the driving forces behind the legislation, which added a fee to every electricity bill in the state and directed over $150 million a year, through 2026, to the plants near Cleveland and Toledo.

The Glenford Republican has yet to enter a plea as he has struggled to find new legal representation. Householder has ignored or declined requests for comment.

Newly elected House Speaker Bob Cupp announced the creation of a new committee Monday tasked with addressing the future of House Bill 6 after the federal affidavit released July 21 cast doubt on the process by which the bill became law.

“Our goal is to have an open and thorough process for repealing House Bill 6 and replacing it with thoughtful legislation Ohioans can have confidence in,” Cupp, a Lima Republican, said in a statement commencing his first day of legislative action since becoming speaker on July 30.

Democratic lawmakers were quick to push back, blasting Cupp for “creating an unnecessary bureaucracy to complicate the process,” when a bill to repeal the legislation has already been introduced in the House.

“It is obvious now that the Republicans do not actually want to repeal House Bill 6,” Reps. Michael Skindell and Michael O’Brien said in a statement Monday.

The Democratic lawmakers, who introduced a bill to repeal the energy law days after the federal investigation was revealed, say their Republican colleagues are working to thwart their efforts to bring the proposed legislation to the floor for a vote Tuesday by requiring the signatures needed by members to be provided in person and not electronically.

In the Senate, GOP Sens. Sean O’Brien and Stephanie Kunze introduced in late July a bill to repeal and replace the energy law, which will have its first hearing Tuesday.

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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.

By Farnoush Amiri

Report for America/Associated Press