COLUMBUS – House Democrats areonce again pulling back the curtain on the legislative tricks being used by House Republicans to circumvent the democratic process and prevent the repeal of the tainted House Bill (HB) 6 – the bill at the center of the largest bribery scandal in Ohio’s history and allegedly orchestrated by former Republican Speaker of the House Larry Householder.
Today, House Republicans ensured that no bills were brought to the floor thereby blocking floor amendments and votes. All legislative business was brought before the body in the form of conference reports. Conference reports can be brought up for consideration directly to the House floor, unlike bills and resolutions for third consideration which are required to be placed on the House calendar by the Rules and Reference Committee. Similarly, yesterday, the Finance Committee met for an “informal hearing” rather than an official meeting where Democrats were not permitted to offer amendments to a bill that would shortchange Ohio’s hardest hit COVID-19 areas of millions in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds.
“It is remarkable to watch the Majority Party twist themselves into knots as they find ever more creative ways to avoid our amendments to repeal House Bill 6,” Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) said. “To the everyday Ohioan, it could seem like Republicans are actually calling us back to work and doing something. But the only thing it seems they are doing is protecting their positions at the expense of tax payers.
Ohioans deserve a legislature that acts with integrity, conducting its business transparently and democratically, not hiding behind obscure Rules that silence discussion. Republicans need to stop these tricks and listen to the majority of Ohioans who want the legislature to tackle the issues most important to them.”
Earlier today, Attorney General David Yost filed a complaint in Franklin County Common Pleas Court that would prevent FirstEnergy and its successor-organizations from benefiting from the increased rates in House Bill (HB) 6 and prohibit the defendants in the case, including former Ohio Speaker of the House Larry Householder (who was present during House session today and voting on legislation), from holding an elected office or lobbying for eight years. Rep. David Leland (D-Columbus), Ranking Member of the Select Committee on Energy Policy & Oversight said:
“I hope this isn’t a distraction to give Republican leadership cover as they continue to stand in the way of a repeal of House Bill 6. We need to show that Ohio is not for sale... We need to Repeal HB 6 now!”
Right now, 80 percent of voters statewide want to repeal House Bill 6, and 58 of 99 House members have signed on to cosponsor bills that would repeal House Bill 6.House Bill 6 was heard six times in the Energy and Natural Resources Committee last year, and over 300 testimonies were submitted during that process.
House Democrats have put forth multiple efforts to quickly repeal HB 6 in order to help restore the public’s trust in the legislature, and have called the creation of the Select Committee on Energy Policy & Oversight an unnecessary stall tactic by House Republicans. Yesterday, Rep. Leland, Ranking Member of the Select Committee, called the recent obstruction efforts from Statehouse Republicans an attempt to run out the clock.
On Aug. 11, House Democratic leadership, including Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron), Assistant Minority Leader Kristin Boggs (D-Columbus), Minority Whip Rep. Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo) and Assistant Whip Rep. Richard Brown (D-Canal Winchester) filed a protest of the passage of House Bill 6 due to the serious allegations of bribery and pay-to-pay politics that were involved in the deliberations and passage of the bill.
On Aug. 28, Democrats announced they would file a discharge petition to bring bipartisan legislation to repeal HB 6 to the floor for a vote during session on Sept. 1. House Republicans aggressively worked to thwart the effort by requiring that signatures be done in person and not electronically like all other legislation in an attempt to keep the bill from being brought to the floor in a timely manner. On August 31st, Speaker Cupp created the Select Committee on Energy Policy & Oversight to further study House Bill 6, even though it was studied extensively last year.
Republican attempts to block the repeal of HB 6 came to a head on Sept. 1 when Speaker Robert Cupp (R-Lima) and House Republicans abruptly ended House session as Democrats readied to offer several amendments to repeal HB 6 on the floor. The session ended abruptly before making it even halfway through the scheduled calendar—an unprecedented move intended to block Democratic efforts to repeal HB 6.
On September 10th, during the first meeting of the Select Committee, Republicans voted to kill a motion to vote House Bill 746 out of committee. On September 16th, during the second meeting of the Select Committee, Chairman Hoops ruled a motion to move House Bill 746 out of committee out of order and adjourned the meeting. And earlier today, Rep. Casey Weinstein (D-Hudson) made a third attempt to discharge the Republican’s repeal bill from committee and was again gaveled down by the chair.