Ohio House Republicans introduce legislation to repeal controversial bailout of nuclear power plants

Updated: Jul. 23, 2020 at 7:34 PM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WOIO) - A pair of republican members of the Ohio House of Representatives are introducing a bill to repeal House Bill 6, the controversial bailout of the state’s nuclear power plants now at the center of a bombshell corruption scandal.

“Not only because it was bad policy from the start, but because we need to reassure Ohioans that their representatives, be they democrat or republican, are truly working in their interest,” said Rep. Laura Lanese (R-Grove City).

She, along with Rep. Mark Romanchuk (R-Ontario), will co-sponsor the bill.

Federal investigators say the passage of the controversial legislation was helped by a phony social welfare organization, orchestrated by House Speaker Larry Householder.

They say $61 million was funneled through the organization to Householder and his associates, who in turn helped elect 21 members of the Ohio House of Representatives.

Nearly all of them voted in favor of the bailout.

“House Bill 6 was bad policy from the start,” Lanese said. “From the beginning to the middle through the end, this legislation has been tainted.”

Neither Lanese nor Romanchuk supported the bill.

Romanchuk was not at the Thursday news conference held in Columbus, where Lanese stressed the importance of coming up with a new energy solution.

“Many of my house colleagues are not against nuclear energy. We are part of the ‘all of the above’ policy. This is not about kicking out nuclear energy or destroying jobs,” she said. “I would like to see [that] we include a lot of the clean energy portfolio pieces that were part of the last general assembly’s legislation. Those were taken out in this piece.”

“We did have a lot of support for energy efficiency and renewable energy,” she pointed out.

Lake County Commissioner Jerry Cirino, who is running for state senate, said the rush to repeal the bill is too reactionary.

“I understand that, these allegations are quite serious. Certainly if true, they did impact the outcome of House Bill 6,” he told 19 News. “My job is to look out for my economic community here.”

The Perry plant is in Lake County and provides hundreds of jobs. The plant’s existence also provides tax dollars for the schools and senior programs.

“To throw the whole thing out and just leave these plants hanging is not a good thing for this community,” Cirino said, also referring to Davis-Besse in Oak Harbor.

To that end, Gov. Mike Dewine said on Thursday that he supports repealing the bill and replacing it with legislation that still saves the plants.

Less than 24 hours earlier, DeWine said he supported the policies of House Bill 6, despite the allegations surrounding its passage.

While Householder is the only elected official implicated in the criminal complaint, released on Tuesday by the U.S. Attorneys Office, there is speculation that others could be more deeply involved.

“I honestly don’t know,” Lanese said. “I’m hopeful that won’t be the case and that if that had been the case, the district attorney would have acted on that.”

Rep. Rick Carfagna (R-Genoa Twp.) also addressed media at Thursday’s news conference.

“I’m certainly concerned,” he said of the potential that house colleagues could be implicated. “We don’t know what’s left to be revealed out there.”

Carfagna, who also opposed House Bill 6, and supports the repeal, seemingly gave other members of the house the benefit of the doubt.

“I do want to stress, we have a number of freshman in this legislature that have been in office for less than two years. Public utilities is an extremely nuanced policy matter,” he said. “If you’re not on that committee, you’re following the guidance typically of your leadership and your speaker.”

Given the allegations that money from the alleged scheme was used to help elect candidates, Carfagna was asked about campaign contributions to those candidates.

“[Candidates] have people in a position to help [them] get elected and they help with resources and financial aid. That happens from time to time. But I can’t comment on what anyone knew or did not know or suspect,” he said.

The Ohio House of Representatives is not currently in session and as of now, there is no official timetable for when the new legislation could be brought to the house floor.

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